Sunday, October 31, 2010

2010 – October 31 – Prince of ... Division?!

BLOGGER’S NOTE: ... Last day of a very productive and enlightening month from my daily devotionals. I hope/pray that others who've been here with me or have experienced a similar charge of discipleship from the sharing of God's truth ... <'BB><

Study from God’s Word Parallel passages, primarily from Matthew, chapters 9-11, Mark 6, and Luke 9 about Jesus challenging, charging, and instructing His Disciples to go out in Galilee, two-by-two, and preach the Gospel and heal the people … Passage for Reflection: Matthew 10: 34 - 36 … NIV 34 [Jesus to His Disciples] "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn " 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law - 36; a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' [from Micah 7: 6]

My Journal for Today: Jesus had been prophesied to be the “Prince of Peace” [see Isaiah 9: 6]. So what do we make of Jesus calling Himself to be a “prince of division” in today’s highlight passage when The Messiah was charging, instructing, and sending out His disciples into the countryside to preach the good news of the Gospel and representing Him, Jesus, as THE Messiah? And we see this conflict as Jesus even quoted a contemporary of Isaiah, Micah, who had prophesied the division of the world which would occur when The Messiah came among God’s people. But Isaiah, as we read above, had prophesied The Messiah as the “prince of peace;” ... so which is it?

And the answer, of course, is BOTH. Jesus was the Lamb of God, who came as the Babe in a manger to become the giver of peace in his death and resurrection; but then again, He was also a Messiah who would set brother against brother, father against son, and nation against nation as those who believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord would be pitted against those who reject Christ’s Lordship.

And some of you, like I have, may have personally experienced this division which is precipitated when non-believing family members are confronted by those in their family who have given their lives, as have I, to Christ as Lord and Savior. I have a sibling who has yet to surrender her heart to Christ; and my being a Minister of the Gospel, as an open and publicly declared Christian, always presents a divisive force in our relationship. And there have been times when my sister is openly hostile, almost mocking of my faith, though she has been less so in recent years Oh, I’ve presented God’s plan of salvation to my sis; but she blatantly rejected all I had to share when the message of salvation through Christ alone was laid out plainly and directly for her.

Maybe you’ve seen this division in our world; and it’s impossible to ignore that the schism between Christian and non-Christian is becoming more polarized in our world with many religions, notably Islamic radicals, being hostile to the point of declaring outright terror and warfare against Christianity. And we see political forces, like the ACLU and others, trying to eradicate any open reference to “God” or “Christ” from the public or governmental arenas.

Yes, Jesus was right. His coming as the Messiah was a fulfillment of Micah’s prophesy; and He definitely is a force of division, calling attention to the truth and the reality that one must either accept or reject Jesus as The Messiah. And we, who call ourselves “Christian,” must go out, as declared by Jesus, into a field “white unto harvest,” to share the good news of Christ as the one-and-only Savior of mankind. And if we face what Jesus’ Disciples faced, resistance ... and even martyrdom, ... well then, SO BE IT!

Because those in God’s field, who’ve heard the good news of Christ, must make a decision; and decision sometimes come from division and clear choices. Is it YEA or NAY? ... We must choose. Is Jesus the prince of division or is He the Prince of Peace?!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, for me You’ve become my Prince of Peace, King of kings, and Lord of lords! Amen

Saturday, October 30, 2010

2010 – October 30 – Touched, or Being Touched?

Study from God’s Word See the various passages from the tree synoptic Gospel accounts of Jesus performing healing and resurrection miracles in The Daily Bible in Chronological OrderPassage for Reflection: Mark 5: 30 … NIV At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from Him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

My Journal for Today: Don’t you just love reading and meditating on the various accounts by the four Gospel writers about the miracles performed by Jesus, ... like the one in today’s text where the bleeding woman merely touched Jesus’ garment, and because of her faith the very power of the Holy Spirit came from Jesus to heal the woman.

I agree with LaGard Smith in his devotional entry for today that several questions enigmatically arise from this story; and theologians have likely devoted a lot of interpretation hours and writing about why Jesus didn’t know who the woman was or about whether it was the touching of Jesus which healed the woman or was it merely her faith? I’ll leave all that theological speculation to the scholars; but I personally identify with this women who was desperately seeking the power of God for healing. I also identify with other stories of how Jesus touched the lives of others and their lives where changed forever.

You see, my friend, I reached out to receive the power of God through Jesus a little over 25 years ago in my life when I finally was led to realize that I was bleeding spiritually, ... that I was spiritually blind, ... and that I was dead in myself. And like the stories of God healing the bleeding woman because of her faith, and the sight restored of a number of people being touched by Jesus, and the life of even the dead being restored by Christ because of the faith of their loved ones, my life was restored from spiritual death to life, ... my spiritual blindness was given sight, and my bleeding spiritual weakness was given strength when my brokenness allowed me to come to a place of seeking out the loving, healing, and restoring power of God through my faith in The Christ.

So, these biblical stories of historical witnesses to the power of God working in/through Jesus, The Messiah, have great personal meaning for me. For I was that woman who desperately reached out to experience the power of God. I was the blind man who allowed Jesus to give me sight. And I was that little girl who was given life when loved ones prayed in faith that Jesus give me spiritual life when I was a walking dead man.

And I finally came to recognize that no earthy force, no religion, and no self-directed choice was going to bring me the power I sought from God to heal and restore me. No, just like the bleeding woman or the blind man, I was given the opportunity to reach out in faith to Christ and seek His healing/restoring power. And my spiritual blindness and bleeding were healed. And God saw fit, through my own faith and the faith of others who had been praying for me for years to come to spiritual life from my own self-imposed deadness, I was graciously given eternal life. Just like the bleeding woman who was given the power of God, I am one who can attest personally to the power God which is there for any and all who come humbly and sincerely seeking His redemptive power.

I pray that any who read here can be - and are - witnesses to the power of God being imparted to heal and restore the bleeding, the blind, and the blatantly dead.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, You raised me from the dead to life. You gave me sight from my blindness. And You gave me power to overcome my weakness. And, in You, I live, move, and have my being. Amen and amen!

Friday, October 29, 2010

2010 – October 29 – Teaching with Kingdom Insight

Study from God’s Word Matthew, Chapter 13; Mark, Chapter 4; Luke, Chapter 8 … Passage for Reflection: Matthew 13: 52 … NIV He [Jesus] said to them [i.e., His followers/disciples], "Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old."

My Journal for Today: Have you ever wondered why Jesus so often taught His Heavenly Father’s “kingdom values” by using parables, ... those wonderful, but sometimes enigmatic stories our Savior used to teach, persuade, and relate what God wanted the people to learn and to use in their daily lives? Well, the reason Jesus used parables to teach can be found in His own words as he related to His disciples that his use of parables fulfilled the prophesies of the Old Testament (see Psalm 78: 2 and Isaiah 6: 9-10). But today’s text also relates one of the reasons Jesus used parables in sharing the importance of relating true KINGDOM VALUES when a teacher is teaching or relating God’s truth to His children.

Both of our daughters have Masters Degrees in elementary education; and they have certainly been taught to teach children the so-called THREE R’s, i.e., the basics of reading, writing, and math. And I’ve observed, with great pride, our daughters teaching in a classroom or as professional tutors; and their teaching techniques really get the material across to their students. However, it’s most interesting to see these two teaching “pros” teach our grandchildren, ... their own kids. Because they use life experience to teach, not only the principles of mathematics or language or other basic educational skills; but they also use everyday life in teaching their kids, our grandkids, the kingdom values Jesus taught His followers by using parables.

How many times, when you’re reading through the parables used by Jesus in the chapters of the Gospel writers, do you read the phrase, “... the kingdom of God is like ...,” which was followed by Jesus using a parable to teach some value to His followers or maybe to rebuke the Pharisees for being hypocrites. And so often the religious leaders didn’t have a clue about what he was teaching; but the common folks not only got it, but likely applied the teaching to their lives. Certainly we see that at least eleven of Jesus’ inner Disciples, and later the Apostle Paul, really internalizing Jesus’ teachings; because all but one, the beloved John, died the death of a martyr living and teaching kingdom values by sharing the message of Christ with the world.

So, the question arises in my mind, from my meditation on how Jesus taught, is whether I’m being the teacher I should be - or even the Christian I should be - as I live, model, and teach kingdom values to my family and others, especially as I live my life as a Christian, let alone as a “Christian” teacher. Am I imparting the values Jesus taught with His parables from the storehouse of my mind and from my experience to relate the treasures of truth which are God’s kingdom values; or am I keeping Christ’s light of truth under a bushel so that others cannot see those values and apply them to their lives?

So, having been given, by God’s Spirit, a gift of teaching, I’m convicted today to assess whether I’m doing what is modeled by Jesus and charged by His words in today’s text? Am I doing what our daughters are doing for their daughters, ... teaching and relating God’s truths, gleaned from God’s word, as they live their lives to impart/model truth for our grandchildren? I believe sharing kingdom values in these daily devotional entries is using my teaching gifts in at least one way. I just hope this, along with how I impart Godly values to my family and in ministry, will do what today’s text and Jesus’ model relates to me.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to live, model, and impart Your kingdom values to others, especially those closest to me. Amen

Thursday, October 28, 2010

2010 – October 28 – An Uncomfortable Calling

Study from God’s Word Luke 11: 37 - 13: 17 … Passage for Reflection: Luke 12: 32-34 … NIV [Jesus] 32"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

My Journal for Today: Ever hear the phrase, “... He wears his heart on his sleeve,” describing someone who easily and readily displays his emotions by his actions? Sure you have; but when it comes to our use of God’s providence (i.e., our finances), the issue Jesus strongly (and uncomfortably) points out in today’s reading is that we wear our spiritual heart on our sleeves when it comes to what we hold on to and what we do with God’s resources.

When we read Jesus’ exhortation, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,...” does that resonate with our sensibilities? What about if we turn that challenge around and say, “For where our heart is, there your treasure will be also?” >>> OUCH!!!

You know, it’s been said that if you want to know if someone is really a Christian, look at two things: ... his calendar and his bank statement [i.e., checkbook, credit-card statement, and/or online banking statement]. And there is much convicting truth to that, isn’t there? The former shows how we’re using God-given time [and to some degree our talents]; and the latter exhibits how we’re using God’s treasure.

And as I’m reading today’s passages, mostly Jesus speaking to the Pharisees and those who were following Him around the countryside (at the time of the Sermon on the Mount), His words challenge me to look at my own financial decision making, which reflects my heart as a Christian. And I’m at the very least uncomfortable and maybe more accurately convicted to realize that I still hold pretty tightly to MY money. Even calling it “MY money,” if I were to do so (which, in this case I don’t) would tell someone where my heart would be, ... wouldn’t it? Because it’s not MY money, ... is it? It’s God’s - all of it; and ALL should be used for His glory, ... shouldn’t it?

Dr. Smith writes for those of us reading here today: ”How glibly we speak of ‘disposable income,’ the money we have left over after paying out for rent or mortgages, utilities, groceries, and other ‘necessary’ items. What part of that ‘disposable income’ goes to meet the needs of the poor, instead of expensive vacations, big-boy toys, and fashion items?” >>> Again ... ouch!!!

This hurts! But the question will be - at least for me - what am I going to do with this pain of conviction I’m feeling here this morning? Will I change the way I use GOD’S resources (i.e., HIS time, talent, and treasures); or will I continue to wear a self-driven heart on my sleeve for all to see. My choice; isn’t it? ... Yes, my choice!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to find and display YOUR heart by the way I use YOUR bounty. Amen

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

2010 – October 27 – Asking All the Hard Questions

Study from God’s Word Many passages from the three synoptic Gospels, … chapters from the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke in The Daily Bible in Chronological OrderPassage for Reflection: Luke 7: 20 … NIV When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to You to ask, ‘Are you the One Who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’ “

My Journal for Today: It’s an interesting conundrum. … Why would John the Baptist, of all people, send his disciples to ask Jesus if He was THE ONE and only Messiah? John the Baptist had been the one who baptized Jesus in the Jordan and would have heard God in Heaven declare Jesus to be God’s only Son. And John was Jesus’ first cousin and had likely grown up, knowing that his “cuz” was super special, possibly even seeing Him wax eloquent in the synagogue or Temple. And who knows, Jesus may have snuck in a few little miracles along the way to give John an inside track in knowing Jesus as the Messiah.

So, why then did John the Baptist dispatch his disciples to ask that very specific question of this man Jesus, the followers of John asking, “Are you (Jesus) the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else? Well, … I believe that John, knowing that his time was short, sent those who had been following him to Jesus so that these disciples could become disciples of the One they should follow rather than following John. And I also believe that Jesus’ cousin wanted these close friends and followers to hear the straight stuff directly from the mouth of the Messiah.

And most certainly, Jesus didn’t disappoint, did He? No, [reading Luke 7: 18-23] the messengers from John the Baptist saw Jesus perform many miracles; and Jesus told them to take this message back to John, saying, “…The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”

Do you remember the scene in Luke 4 where Jesus went into the synagogue in Nazareth and read from the Scripture there … from Isaiah 61: 1-2; and then Jesus declared that in their hearing that very day, those there in the synagogue had seen the fulfillment of that prophetic scripture because the One Isaiah spoke of was right there in front of them, in the flesh, reading Isaiah’s prophesy. And in that passage (go back and read it), we read of God prophesying the mission of the Messiah … to preach the good news to the poor, to give sight to the blind, and to set free the captives. And when Jesus spoke the words he did to the messengers of John the Baptist in today’s text, they too would have recognized, being knowledgeable of Scripture, that Jesus was declaring Himself, by the miracles they had witnessed and the words He proclaimed, that HE was THE Messiah.

So, what are the questions that you want others to ask of Jesus? Wouldn’t you want them to pray and ask the Lord if He is real? Wouldn’t you want them to ask Him to save them? Wouldn’t you want them to ask God to reveal Himself to any who might have follow you or believe in you? Well, if you’re a Christian, certainly you want others to see what you have seen or to follow Jesus the way that you pursue Him (assuming, of course, you do). And John the Baptist was no different. So, he led his friends to Jesus and helped them to get the right answers to the right questions.

So, why don’t you join me here today, thinking about someone in your life whom you’d like to send to Jesus; and let’s pray that they will ask the right questions from their heart[s] and get the answers they need to receive from God’s Spirit, Whose ministry it is to reveal the Messiah and bring God’s answers to the questions they seek.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help others to see what I’ve seen and to know what I know … and that is YOU. Amen

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

2010 – October 26 – No Worries Today!

Study from God’s Word Matthew, Chapters 5 – 7 and portions of Luke 6 from which we read Jesus’ famous and beloved “Sermon on the Mount,” likely delivered to a crowd of followers on a hillside just outside of Capernaum … Passage for Reflection: Matthew 6: 34 … NIV 33But seek first [God’s] kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things [the essentials of life] will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

My Journal for Today:
Dr. LaGard Smith in his devotional entry for this date in The Daily Bible Devotional focuses on one of the teaching points Jesus emphasized in his Sermon on the Mount which was the focus of my devotional reading from The Daily Bible in Chronological Order today. And there is probably not one teaching from that great exposition about the kingdom of God where mankind transgresses any more than on the matter of stress, worry, or misplaced concern.

Who reading here with me this day would not have to admit – or confess – participating all too often in needless worry? And Dr. Smith asks a series of challenging questions which will likely nail you with conviction as much as it did me. He points to how many pills or drugs could/would be eliminated if we didn’t fret as much as we do. How many countless hours are wasted on worries about the stock market or the potential for terrorism in our world? How much of our health or well being is damaged because of our sinful worrying. And yes, my friend, it is sin we’re speaking of here, isn’t it?

And no, Jesus is not preaching about appropriate concern for you’re the well being of your kids or necessary planning for you to be a good steward of God’s providence. What our Lord is emphasizing here is the selfish – and yes, sinful – worrying and fretting that is birthed by our lack of faith in God’s providence and His love for His children. Do we really think God, our heavenly Father, is not big enough or caring enough to provide for His kids? So, Jesus was preaching to show His followers (and that includes you and me, I assume) that any time or mental effort we waste on worry is really a matter of choosing to focus on self rather than relying on our Savior.

And I’m not going to go off at length any more about this here this morning. I’m just going to take my conviction and be determined to move toward the reality and truth expressed in our Bible in passages like Isaiah 26: 3 … 1st Peter 5: 7 … and Proverbs 3: 5-6; because if I live in the reality of these truths, I will move toward God’s peace and away from any selfish, frivolous concerns or worry which stand in the way of a deep/abiding relationship with my Lord.
How about joining me today in a day of boycotting of self and resting securely in the love of God?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, today I rest in YOU and let YOU take control of my ship. Amen

Monday, October 25, 2010

2010 – October 25 – When Mercy Means More

Study from God’s Word See the Bible passages from the synoptic gospels selected for October 25 in The Daily Bible in Chronological Order, documenting a number of the Sabbath confrontations which Jesus had with the Pharisees and religious leaders over his interaction with sinners and his healing on the Sabbath, all of which were leading to Jesus being labeled as blasphemous and an agent of Satan … Passage for Reflection: Matthew 9: 13 [from Matt. 9: 9 -13] … NIV 9As Jesus went on from there [after healing the paralytic man lowered to Him through the roof], He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," He told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
10While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. 11When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"
12On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'[from Hosea 6:6] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

My Journal for Today:
Today, Dr. Smith in his chronological presentation of the account of the tax collector, Matthew, being called out by Jesus, we read an interested difference in the account of Matthew himself in the third person as “Matthew” [today’s passage above]. However, in the parallel accounts in Mark 2: 13-17 and in Luke 5: 27-32 [linked] both Mark and Luke refer to the tax collector as “Levi,” his given Jewish name; and Mark even refers to him as Levi, the son of Alpheus.

So, why is this important? Well, think about it. If you were Matthew, after being recognized and called out by Jesus, would you want to be known as “Levi,” which in Hebrew means “joined with the priesthood,” or “Matthew,” the Hebrew meaning “gift from God?” As a tax collector, Levi had joined in cahoots with many of the Jewish leaders, which you read about in the three parallel references from today’s Bible readings; and so the people would have thought “Levi” was an appropriate name for this tax collector, one of the most hated classes of people in that day, especially since he had connected himself with the religious leaders of that day. And so, Levi had dubbed himself “Matthew,” and that was the name that Jesus, Himself, referred to His new disciple, one who was about to become an Apostle. Levi wanted more to be known as “Matthew,” one who saves, rather than “Levi,” one who joins with the Pharisees.

Names were very important in Jesus’ times; and we know of names being changed by God and Jesus to describe the true character of a follower. Studying “Abram” becoming “Abraham” in the OT and “Simon,” becoming “Peter,” in the NT are examples. But what we call ourselves when challenged as Christians today is just as important. Dr. Smith asks today in his challenge question: ”If I proudly wear the name ‘Christian,’ have I forgotten that it is a word signifying God’s great gift of mercy to me?”

And note what Jesus said from the above text, which confronting the Pharisees. He told them to go and see what Hosea had said in the Old Testament (see Hosea 6: 6), which foretold of the One Who would desire mercy more than any other; and that, of course, was Jesus, The Messiah, who proclaims in today’s text, for the Pharisees to hear then, or for us to read today, For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” And is not that the greatest act of mercy of all.

And so, just like Jesus called out “Levi,” who would become “Matthew,” He has called out yours truly, a wretched sinner, whom Jesus would rename “Saint,” and give me the mercy of His great gift of salvation, which He laid upon me when I repented of my sin and received His gift of saving grace.

Again, my friend … here it comes … HALLELUJAH!!!

My Prayer for Today: Yes, Lord, … HALLELUJAH … for renaming this sinner as “Saint” by Your shed blood and my faith in You as my Lord and Savior. And I pray that all who read here have received that same eternal gift. Amen

Sunday, October 24, 2010

2010 – October 24 – Fishing with Patience

Study from God’s Word Matt 4: 12-17 & Luke 4: 14-15 [Mark 1: 14-15]; Luke 4: 16-30; Luke 5: 1-10; Matt 4: 18-20 & Luke 5: 10-11 [Mark 1: 16-20]; Mark 1: 21-22 [Luke 4: 31-32]; Mark 1: 23-28; Mark 1: 29-31 [Matt 8: 16-17]; Mark 1: 35-38 [Luke 4: 42-43]; Matt 4: 21-25 [Mark 1: 39 & Luke 4: 44]; Mark 1: 40-45 [Matt 8: 1-4]; Mark 2: 1-5 [Matt 9: 1-2 & Luke 5: 17-20]; Mark 2: 6-12 [Matt 9: 3-8 & Luke 5: 21-26] … Passage for Reflection: Matthew 4: 21 – 22 … NIV 21Going on from there, He [Jesus] saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

My Journal for Today: Well, from my studies, led by Dr. LaGard Smith, from The Daily Bible in Chronological Order, I got a great example in the importance of biblical study in chronological order. Because when one reads today’s highlight text from Matt. 4: 21-22, a Bible student could conclude that these two fishermen, James and John, heard Jesus call to them and they promptly and impulsively turned away from family and their occupation and followed this itinerant rabbi, Jesus. But if one reads the Bible carefully and chronologically as I was led to do today, you get an entirely different picture of why these two simple fishermen were willing to leave their boats and their father and follow Jesus to become fishers of men.

Getting “the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey used to give us in his commentaries, is important; because in doing so we realize that the father in the boat was Jesus’ uncle, the father of Jesus’ first cousins, James and John, the so-called “Sons of Thunder,” who were sons of Zebedee, the husband of Salomé, who was likely Jesus’ aunt, the sister of His mother, Mary. So, getting at least part of the rest of the story, it’s not that James and John just left their dad and their occupation to follow a rabbi whom they didn’t really know that well. No, they had grown up knowing Jesus; and had likely experienced his incredible wisdom at a young age and probably had seen him perform miracles, like the great fish catching miracle, documented in Luke 5.

So, when Jesus called these fishermen to “come and be fishers of men,” … these men who were living in and around Capernaum, where Jesus had been living for some time, intimately knew the Man Who was calling them. They were probably close buddies; and they had very likely heard Jesus preach in the synagogue near Capernaum. So, when Jesus finally called these men out to follow Him closely as His disciples, they responded out of a deep faith which had been born out of relationship and experience.

And that brings up the application for today in our lives; because Jesus has called all of us to be fishers of men. We know of this calling as the “Great Commission” (and you’ve probably memorized – if not, you should – Matt. 28: 19-20). And we probably all have people in our lives that we’d like to call out, as Jesus did to these fishermen, to come and follow Jesus. But we’ve come to realize that it takes time - God’s time - to witness to some in our lives who reject the faith we’ve come to have in Jesus.

You know, in the business or hobby of fishing, those who fish will tell you that it takes a lot of patience to keep throwing the bait or the nets out to catch fish. Many times, when we’re fishing, and we’re faithfully, and with hope, casting out our bait over and over and over again … nothing bites. But then, after maybe hours of waiting, we throw out the bait, and bang, we’re blessed to feel a fish on the line; and we reel them in.

Jesus called His disciples to be “fishers of men;” and that’s what we are; and we need patience, just like I’m convinced Jesus had with James and John as well as Andrew and Peter, all of whom had likely been in close relationship with Jesus for YEARS before God, the Holy Spirit, used Jesus to reel them in to be fishers of men for God’s kingdom catch.

So, if you’ve got someone in your family or sphere of influence to whom you’ve been witnessing for years and praying for their salvation, … keep fishing from the relationship you have with that person. Have patience and keep casting out your testimony into the waters of your relationship; and know that when God’s timing is right, you – or maybe some other fisherman – will be able to reel in God’s catch. And HE will get the glory!!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me be patient as You use me to fish for Your kingdom and for Your glory. Amen

Saturday, October 23, 2010

2010 – October 23 – Saving the Best Till Last

Study from God’s Word John 1: 35 – 51; John, Chapters 2 – 4; Luke 3: 19-20 … Passage for Reflection: John 2: 9 – 10 … NIV They did so, 9and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now."

My Journal for Today: The word picture of Jesus’ first miracle has so many wonderful applications; but none more so, as reminded by LaGard Smith in his devotional for today, than in anyone’s marriage, which, of course, was the setting for this picture of how Jesus wants the institution of marriage to be preserved and honored. And this is also true as the New Testament pictures Jesus’ relationship with His Church … with the Messiah as the Groom and the Church as His Bride.

But back to the wedding at Cana and the miracle of Jesus turning water into fine, vintage wine when the wine had run out at the wedding. And we must remember that the wine running out would have been a social disaster at any 1st century Jewish wedding. Therefore, right here in His first miracle, Jesus shows that He is all about turning the worst of life into the best. And The Lord also turns the conventions of the world on their end; because by giving the couple and the wedding coordinator the finest of wines last at the wedding, Jesus shows that when one follows HIS WAY, they can have the best fruits of a wedding available to them even when the sweetness of the honeymoon wears off.

And as Dr. Smith asks to end his devotional today, and I rephrase, “if you’re married, is the marriage aging like a fine wine with the best coming last in your relationship and in life?” Because if all of us who are married – and really any single as well – were to do exactly what Jesus’ mother instructed the wedding staff to do, we would all have more sweetness later in the marriages and circumstances of aging.

Mary said, ”Do whatever He (Jesus) tells you?” And later Jesus Himself would utter much the same to His disciples, telling them to deny themselves and follow Him (see Luke 9: 23). Because if we do, Jesus’ Cana miracle can be repeated; and we can – in a marriage or in life – experience the bestest lastest (forgive my misspelling with the truth).

And may I give witness to the truth from Cana. My wife and I were married as selfish non-believers, even with a church wedding; and we wanted the best for our marriage. But the intimacy and the sweetness in our relationship went sour and dissipated; and it was only when we individually and collectively in our marriage surrendered our lives to Christ that He not only restored the wine of intimacy to our marriage; but He gave us the best for last; because now what we have in our marriage is far sweeter and far richer than what we had during even our honeymoon.

I pray for the same for you; and you can have that too … if … you just follow Mary’s advice and do what Jesus tells you to do in your marriage and in life.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, … praise Your Name … because You have given my wife and I such sweetness as our marriage ages and we set aside our selves and bring You evermore into our lives to give us the best for last. Amen

Friday, October 22, 2010

2010 – October 22 – No More Lame Excuses!

Study from God’s Word Luke 3: 1-6 [Mat 3: 1-3 & Mark 1: 2-4]; Matt. 3: 4-6 [Mark 1: 5,6]; Luke 3: 7-14 [Matt 3: 7-10]; Luke 3: 15-18 [Matt 3: 11,12 & Mark 1: 7,8]; Luke 3: 21-13 j[Matt 3: 13-17 & Mark 1: 9-11]; Matt 4: 1-11 [Mark 1: 12-13 & Luke 4: 1-13]; John 1: 19-34 … Passage for Reflection: Matthew 4: 3 … NIV The tempter came to Him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

My Journal for Today: Have you ever, as a Christian, been tempted to handle some personal challenge or circumstance by taking the route of the flesh rather than the Spirit and then disclaiming your choice by saying (or at least feeling), “I’m only human.” Common now, fess up!!

Well, perhaps you’re not like the one writing this entry. I certainly have done that, thinking, “Surely they don’t expect me to be like Jesus!” Well, the truth is that no one can be God in the flesh; and so, “NO!” … no one can be or do what Jesus did in the wilderness by resisting temptation as Jesus did as the Son of God; but the truth is that ANY CHRISITIAN can do what Jesus did in the wilderness and resist Satan, the world, or our own flesh, but utilizing the power Jesus has given us with His enabling/empowering grace and by using the same strategy modeled by our Savior in dealing with our common foe, Satan.

When I became a Christian, God implanted His very Spirit, the same Spirit Who raised our Lord from the dead, within my “heart” (i.e., my spiritual being). And that indwelling Spirit allows me to be able to resist our spiritual enemies when I’m confronted in spiritual warfare. And my model, Jesus, in those two marvelous Gospel passages of Matthew 4: 1-11 and Luke 4: 1-13, showed us a battle strategy which will ALWAYS work in any of the only three forms of sin temptation the enemy can use to tempt mankind. And those three are (see 1st John 2: 16 [NKJV]). … the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. All temptation unto sin falls into one of those three categories; and Satan tried all three in his wilderness encounter with Christ, trying to get the Son of God, in His state of fully human limitations to use His Godly power to overcome the temptations He was experiencing in His in very human flesh.

So, what did Jesus do in his weakened flesh to combat this very powerful, but fallen angel? He did what any human can – or could – do. He wielded the very word of God, the “sword of the Spirit” (see Eph. 6: 17) to dispel the taunts of His arch enemy. He was tempted three times; and three times Jesus pulled out God’s truth from the Scriptures to wield against His enemy; and when all was said and done, Satan had to flee in defeat.

So, what does this show you and me as warriors in God’s army with Christ as our Commander and Chief? Well, Jesus himself has shown us how to confront any temptation from Satan himself and to dispel this enemy with the power which comes from/in His word. And so, any of us … me and you … can – and should – use this strategy to deal with the temptations of life.

I’ve been led by God’s calling and anointing to lead in a ministry to help Christian men who’ve fallen on the battle fields of sexual sin; and the Luke 4/Matt. 4 battle strategy is one we model, teach, and exhort all our men to use in battle. We want them (and I encourage you) to become skilled “swordsmen” in battle. And one cannot be an effective swordsman, wielding the Sword of the Spirit, without carrying that sword with him all the times, making sure it’s sharpened, and becoming well practiced in its use.

If you had to go to battle with a sword, would you be able to win against an effective swordsman, if you didn’t have a sword and he did? Don’t think that Satan doesn’t know God’s word. He even tried to use it against Jesus in the wilderness. But if we, as Christians, have the word of God planted deeply in our mind/hearts, we can do what Jesus did and wield it when tempted. God’s word certainly encourages us to do so in Psalm 119: 9-11, the passage I call the “9-11 power package" in Scripture. And beyond this, … how effective would you be as a swordsman if you were up against a skilled swordsman and your sword was dull and your enemy’s was well sharpened? … Duh! … And finally, how effective would you be if your opponent was well practiced as a swordsman and you had never practiced any sword skills to prepare for battle? … Again, … duh!

I think you can see where I’m going with this. I hope you do! Because God has given the Christian the sharpest and most effective sword imaginable to do battle with our common enemy. And yes, Satan is a very powerful enemy and one who is a well-practiced swordsman. But we can do battle and win against him or any spiritual foe. God has given me (us) the Sword of the Spirit, … God’s word. But that sword can only be as effective as I (we) make it by my (our) practice and developed skills in its use. We can – and will – dispel any temptation, just as Jesus did in the wilderness, by carrying, sharpening, and practicing our skills with God’s Sword – His word.

So, no more excuses that our flesh is too weak to do battle against Satan. Let’s all carry God’s sword and be ready for battle by sharpening our Sword of the Spirit; and being practiced and ready for daily battle (and the battles come EVERY DAY!). And like Jesus, let’s wield the sharpened blade of God’s word when temptations come our way.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I’m under the encouragement of 1st Cor. 10: 13 and Romans 8: 31 as I’ve come into your presence in my time with You today. Thank You, my Jesus, for my Sword [it’s sharpened and ready, Lord] so that I can do battle today in Your Name and for Your glory. Amen

Thursday, October 21, 2010

2010 – October 21 – That Wondrous Moment of Knowing

Study from God’s Word Matthew, Chapter 2 and Luke 2: 39 – 52 … Passage for Reflection: Luke 2: 49 … NIV 49 "Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" 50 But they did not understand what He was saying to them. 51 Then He went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

My Journal for Today: It’s interesting and compelling to speculate about those veiled first 30 years in the life of The Messiah, … our Lord, Jesus. And one may ask how much Jesus’ parents, especially Mary, recognized that their son, Jesus, was a prodigy like none other.

I’ve always been entranced by that wonderful Christmas song, Mary, Did You Know? [A YouTube version linked here], which poignantly probes the mother of The Christ, in song asking her just how much she knew about her Son when she looked into His eyes in that manger where the Christ was born. And in today’s verse, from the scene of Jesus being taken to the Temple, built by Herod, we even read of Jesus strongly challenging, almost rebuking, His mom, asking His mother why, upon realizing that Jesus had stayed behind as they traversed back to Nazareth, she, above all others, didn’t know where He was, … that she should have known He’d be in the house of His Father, … in the Temple.

And one can speculate as to whether this moment, the only age documented time in Jesus’ first 30 years, that Jesus, the son of Mary and Joseph, but more so the Son of God, was awakened to the reality that He was being led to be about the business of His Heavenly Father, even though He still had earthly parents, whom He should honor as well. And even though we don’t know the details from Scriptural or Gospel accounts, we know that Jesus stayed with His parents, where He likely became the leader in the home with His siblings and where His earthly father, Joseph, may have died, leaving him the eldest son to minister to the needs of the family.

But here in this Temple confrontation, we see the boy, Jesus, recognizing his coming of age; and those around Him marveled at how astute He was in the ways of God’s Law. We read of Jesus recognizing that He was here on earth to do the work of His Heavenly Father first, which would for about the next 18 years involve him honoring his earthly father, and his mother. He KNEW to Whom and for Whom He was living. And the question for us today, is DO WE KNOW Who we are and Whose we are?

Have each of us had that Spirit-led epiphany as Jesus may have had in that Temple at age 12? Do you know, my dear one, to Whom you give account for your being in Christ? And even more importantly, if you call yourself a “Christian,” have you fully, and knowingly, accepted your spiritual identity? Does God, The Spirit, reside in your Temple (i.e., your heart or your spiritual being)? And do others see that Temple residing in you?

Who we are, and for whom we are, says everything about our identity in Christ; and can you feel Jesus asking you, as I feel Him asking me today, … “Are you letting me live in you; and are you living for Me?”

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to KNOW You more so that others will KNOW You more. Amen

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

2010 – October 20 – Resting in Peace

Image #1 ... Rembrandt's - Simeon's Joy ...
Image #2 de Gelder's - Nunc Dimittis

Study from God’s Word Luke, Chapters 1 – 2 … Passage for Reflection: Luke 2: 28 - 30 … NIV 25Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28Simeon took Him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. 30For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31which you have prepared in the sight of all people, 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."

My Journal for Today: I revel with peace in reading, re-reading, and mediating from the story of The Christ’s birth, being foretold some 700+ years before the Babe born in Bethlehem by the Prophets Micah and Isaiah and others. And the unfolding of the birth story of our Messiah just gives me great peace, … especially knowing that this One, Who was born in a manger stall, was, … AND IS, my Savior.

I can just imagine what must have been felt by that loving Priest, Simeon, who had been promised by God to one day see The Messiah before he died; and then to take THE ONE in his arms from His mother; and to be able to declare his “nunc dimittis,” which, in Latin, means “now dismiss me.” And this moment has been depicted often over the centuries, in song and art, such as the photos attached here, the first one by Rembrandt and the second by his student, Arent de Gelder, depicting the joy felt by Simeon as he was allowed to hold the very Author of Salvation.

But do you realize, along with me here in this moment, that we can hold the same “Rest In Peace” joy felt by Simeon, Mary, Zechariah, Joseph, and others who were there to look into the eyes of the Baby Christ child. Yes, we can also “R.I.P.” as the old cartoon depiction of death, declares. Why? Well, we can rest in peace ecause we don’t need to fear death and can experience the ultimate in peace, KNOWING that Jesus was born as a Child, lived as a Rabbi, and died as a Savior so that I can live in His peace FOREVER. And so, right now, as I write this, I feel the same L.I.P. (“live in peace”) attitude which Simeon must’ve felt when that babe was placed in his arms.

I live in the peace of knowing that no matter what happens in this life, my forever has been shaped by that Baby who was born as the God-child and Who became the God-man, … the Lamb of God, Who was sacrificed for my sin on Calvary. Yes, Jesus is my “nunc dimittis,” giving me eternal peace and assurance that He has saved me from myself.

And here I am again, declaring “Hallelujah,” my Savior!!!”

My Prayer for Today: Yes, Lord, HALLELUJAH, … for letting me rest in peace in this life and eternally with You in glory. Amen

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

2010 – October 19 – Knowing One’s True Father

Study from God’s Word Matthew 1: 1 – 17; Luke 3: 23 - 38 … Passage for Reflection: Luke 3: 23 … NIV Now Jesus Himself was about 30 years old when He began His ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli, …

My Journal for Today: Today I’m led to continue my trek into the New Testament for this year by reviewing the two genealogies of Jesus, carefully documented by Matthew and Luke. And these listings are important for a Jewish reader, as well as for us Gentile believers, because they carefully and accurately record the kingly lineage of Jesus, from both genealogies, through the line of King David, where the lineage of The Messiah had been prophesied by several of God’s Old Testament prophets. And then Luke’s listing, which was more for all mankind than just directed to the Jews, went all the way back to Adam, documenting Jesus’ human line, … since God was sired by the seed of God’s Spirit rather than the human seed of Joseph. And so, that little phrase, ”so it was thought,” which I’ve edited in bold above from today’s text, so briefly – but aptly – points out that the people of the day assumed that Jesus was born of Joseph; but we now know differently, with the help of the Gospel accounts; … i.e., that our Messiah was given human life by the seed of none other than God, Himself.

Yes, our feelings about our earthly father are significant, aren’t they? Some people reflect fondly on their biological fathers. Others do not. But how we think about our fathers often – if not most of the time – has a lot to do with how we think about God. But HIS-tory and God’s word tells us that we can all have a Heavenly Father who loves us and cares for us with infinite love when we choose to become a son or daughter in Christ, becoming, by our faith and God’s gift of salvation, part of the spiritual lineage of God Himself. Dr. Smith, who daily has a question to lead his readers to ponder his daily devotional and the section of God’s word which we’ve read for the day, asks today, Who has been the greater influence in my life, … my biological father or my heavenly father?”

And that is an important question to ponder; because if we’re letting our attitude of our earthly father deflect or detract from our relationship with our Heavenly Father, God is not preeminent in our life; and we need focus our earthly relationship – and most certainly our eternal relationship – on Jesus, making Him the focus of our lineage, both now and forevermore. When you received salvation from your faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross to save you from your sins (and prayerfully you have!), your spiritual lineage was established with an eternal, Heavenly Father, Who has made you a son or daughter of His forever. And we’ll read later how Jesus wants us to focus now – and forever – on that relationship so that He can guide us through this life and into the next.

Again, we must declare, HALLELUJAH, which I think we’re going to be doing repeatedly as we go through the New Testament as we close out the year, 2010.

My Prayer for Today: Praise You Lord [!], for bringing me into the line of the King of kings and giving me Fatherhood from Heaven. Amen

Monday, October 18, 2010

2010 – October 18 – God Wrapped in Flesh!

Study from God’s Word Matthew 1: 1; John 1: 1-18; Luke 1: 1 – 4 … Passage for Reflection: John 1: 14 … NIV The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

My Journal for Today: And now, in his devotional attempt to bring a chronological representation of the gospels and the New Testament, which Dr. Smith posits must involve some degree of scholarly and rigorous interpretation, my year through The Daily Bible in Chronological Order in the New Testament begins; and in John 1, as well as Matt. 1 and Luke 1, God’s readers into His word are introduced to the “God-man,” which is a concept I agree with Dr. Smith may be almost impossible for the human mind to fully comprehend. But being seekers after truth and an understanding of our Lord, we must try to grasp Whom this man Jesus was as the human incarnation of God Himself.

I like Dr. Smith’s creation of the concept of a “squirkle” to illustrate the difficulty to grasp the concept of “God-man.” When we say “square-circle,” we’d say that such a concept is an oxymoron. So, we might create a label to describe something which, by human logic, seem inexplicable. So, Dr. Smith takes “square-circle” and turns it into a “squirkle.” And, Dr. Smith is exactly right when he declares that calling Jesus the “Incarnate God,” may be the ultimate oxymoron. How does one reconcile the truth that Jesus, or as He was divinely dubbed, “Emmanuel,” was 100% man, born of Mary; but He was also 100% God, sired by God’s Spirit to become a man in the flesh. And with my limited mind, I find understanding this, with perfect clarity, to be infinitely more difficult than visualizing a “squirkle.”

But believing that Jesus was whom (or what) the Apostle John wrote about in today’s highlight verse may not be something in can fully wrap my mind around. But having the gospel writers give an account of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, allows me to become somewhat of a “squirkle” myself. You see, John wrote about THE Son of God, Whom, as the Word, became flesh, i.e., the God-man. And because Jesus did what the later Apostle Paul wrote about in Phil. 2: 6-11 [go study it!], I can do what Paul later described in Romans 10: 9-13 [linked for you] acknowledging that I will never be like Jesus, co-eternal with The Father, but by believing that Jesus is THE Son of God, I can become A son of God by believing in Him as THE God-man Who came to be the Incarnate God so that, again, I can become A son of God. And knowing, in my heart, that Jesus can, because of His death on the cross and my belief in His resurrection, raise me to be eternally with my Savior, … the God-man.

Wow! It may be somewhat of a “squirkle” concept to my mind; but it is truth to my heart. And it may be somewhat of a mystery to my limited understanding, but knowing and believing in the truth of the gospel accounts and being able to grasp their truth, in my heart-of-hearts, I KNOW that I will be one day raised from the dead (or taken before death) to be with my Savior. This was God’s promise from His gospel; and it was witnessed to mankind in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of God’s very Son, Jesus, … The Christ.

Join with me; … say it! Respond to this journal entry with a resounding … HALLELUJAH!

Or if you can’t believe in Jesus as “The God-man,” as I do, please contact me (email: ); and let’s explore this “squirklism” for yourself and for your eternal future.

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

Sunday, October 17, 2010

2010 – October 17 – The Influence of Secular Thinking

Study from God’s Word [More readings on the history of the transition between Old and New Testament times] … Passage for Reflection: Colossians 2: 8 … NIV See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

My Journal for Today: Dr. Smith brings forth, in today’s devotional study/entry, those times between the Old/New Testaments, which gave rise to “I”-dolatry, an emphasis on intellectual and/or secular values which drew worship away from the one, true God and put it on the individual, personally, and the world, collectively.

When the ancient Jews, who had been the focus of the Old Covenant, were under the theocracy of God’s rule, even though there were times of rebellion and disobedience of God’s law, at times God sent His children prophets and leaders to draw them back to Himself; but those transition times, which brought the rule of the Greeks and Romans and their diversions of pagan idolatry, God was going to need the final, key element, of His redemptive plan, the introduction of His sacrificial Lamb into the world, to bring His family back to the reality of Whom they should worship, avoiding the deceptions of the world, which played into the basic sin nature of mankind.

But even the injection of THE SAVIOR into the world has not yet brought about the complete submission of mankind to God’s will and His ways. Two millennia after Jesus, the God-man, walked the earth, was crucified and raised again, mankind, probably as much or more now than ever, has turned to “I”-dolatry by allowing the ego of self to divert his attention away from the truth of God (in His word) or the reality of a Savior Who still lives in the presence of His Spirit and His Church to draw mankind to His kingdom and His eternal glory.

Smith’s compelling question from today’s reading is thus: Despite my deep faith, how much of my thinking is unwittingly both secular and idolatrous?” And when one, as I have mediated on this question this morning, really becomes vulnerable and honest to answer this question, we have to realize that Jeremiah nailed it in the book by his name when he stated the warning [in Jer. 17: 9], … “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

My heart, and yours too, is so very susceptible to the lures Satan will use by using our desire for self-control to draw our focus away from Savior control. Even those of us who’ve given our hearts to Jesus Christ are weak of heart and we can so easily allow our selves to get side-tracked from THE Way, God’s way, onto the road to self awareness, self gratification, and self actualization.

Think about it, … you know that having a deep, abiding, and disciplined DAILY devotional life is one of the keys to staying on God’s path [see Prov. 3: 5-6] and letting God’s word guide our life [see Psalm 119: 9-11]; … BUT … how often do we let self-directed distractions or diversions get in the way of a DAILY decision to spend time in prayer and productive time with God, studying, meditating, and reveling in God’s word. And what is it that diverts our attention? Well, my guess is that we could all nail the answer to that question without much trouble.

We too often let our Jer. 17: 9 hearts, deceive us into thinking we have a license, because of our tough, worldly schedule to take a vacation from the discipline of working time in our daily schedule with our Lord in God’s word? How often do we let the distractions of the world and the “tyranny of the urgent” draw our focus off of a morning “quiet time” and onto our “to do” list for the day? How many times to we let sensual or self-fulfilling temptations draw our hearts off of Savior and onto self?

Common now, … be honest! And if we are, most of us are letting Satan, the world, and our own hearts dictate our choices rather than doing what Jesus commanded His disciples to do in a passage I would hope all who read here have memorized. … Christ Own words ring our bell of conviction in Luke 9: 23, which says in the NKJV, which I have memorized, Then He said to them all (i.e., a large group of Jesus’ followers), if anyone would come after Me, let he deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”

Are we following Him DAILY when we choose to abort our morning devotional with job-directed thoughts which take us away from our morning quiet times? Are we taking up the crosses of our life daily, by thinking more about how we can get ahead rather than how we can stay on God’s path in life? Are we denying self by seeking out pornography, chat rooms, or Facebook on the internet rather delving deeply into God’s word and being in surrender to God’s truth?

Personally, … I know the results of both of those pursuits; and my friend, I choose to pursue my Savior and do all I can to stay away from my own “I”-dolatry as I trek through this life. How about you?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, keep shining Your light brightly on my path, Your path, in Your word; and I will follow! Amen

Saturday, October 16, 2010

2010 – October 16 – The Importance of Scripture

Study from God’s Word [More readings on the history of the transition between Old and New Testament times] … Passage for Reflection: 2nd Timothy 3: 16 - 17 … NIV 16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

My Journal for Today: Though Dr. LaGard Smith, the Author of the devotional book, The Daily Bible Devotional, in his readings from The Daily Bible in Chronological Order does not have his readers today reading from the New Testament quite yet. No, … for today’s devotional, Dr. Smith has drawn out one of the most important verses in all of the New Testament when it comes to our reliance and interpretation of the New Testament as “SCRIPTURE,” with our New Covenant belief that the New Testament, along with the Jewish Old Covenant, as canonized in the three centuries after Christ’s death, has become GOD’S VERY WORD, i.e., His inerrant truth from which we can place our eternal trust and rely upon The Bible for guidance in our lives as Christians. And if you’re reading here; and you cannot believe that The Bible, as it has been constituted and canonized, is absolute truth, then you need not be reading along with me further. In fact it would be a waste of time for you.

Because, … I believe that the Bible, as it has come to be established by God Himself, over time and history, is SCRIPTURE; and it is, in my belief, absolutely inerrant and reliable for all truth that I need to live my life and for all others to live under its authority. Therefore, as Dr. Smith has described what happened historically in the transition during the 400+ years of transition between the Old and New Testaments as well as how, in the times after Christ’s death, the Apocrypha was rejected by those in the reformation times, we now have all of God’s work in establishing His word as HE would wanted it constituted. So, if you do not believe, in reading here, that the Old/New Testaments of our currently established Bible is what Paul said to his protégé, Timothy (and to all Christians as well) in the highlighted passage for today, then you need not, and probably should not, be reading further as I journal what I believe to be absolute truth from God’s Word, … The Bible.

I think of the quote from Mark Twain, who was a funny man; but he had a tragic viewpoint about the veracity of the Bible. He is quoted in his book, Letters From The Earth, espousing the following view of The Bible: It is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies. That viewpoint of God’s very word, my reading friend, tragically, at Mark Twain’s death has this humorist confronting a horrible reality when he comes before the very God Who has brought His truth, through history, and into the life of all mankind as we know it in the Bible. And Samuel Clements now will live forever in the hell he rejected as truth. … For sure, … not funny for this “funny” man.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray that all who read with me here believe implicitly and explicitly that the Bible is Your word, completely and utterly established by You through mankind for us to know You and live by Your truth. Amen

Friday, October 15, 2010

2010 – October 15 – A Four-Hundred-Year Silence

Study from God’s Word [Readings and study from overviews of The Apocrypha] … Passage for Reflection: 2 Peter 3: 4 … NIV 4They [scoffers who appear in the “last days”] will say, "Where is this 'coming' He promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation."

My Journal for Today: Today, my devotional leader/author, F. LaGard Smith, jumps forward, in his devotional, launching into the New Testament in The Daily Bible in Chronological Order by quoting from Peter’s second Epistle, where the Apostle was reminding Christians to be faithful and avoid complacency or waning to worldliness; and, in spite, of the affliction and confusion they were facing under the oppression of the Romans, Peter exhorted believers to be faithful and wait for the second coming of our Messiah, who had shown Himself as God by dying on the cross, being resurrected from the dead, and ascending into Heaven to become our intercessor until He comes again. [see 2nd Peter 3: 1 – 10 - linked here]

But in his readings for this date, Dr. Smith highlights the historical period of the transition between Old and New Testaments, … that period of about 400 years where there was relative silence and waiting for the Jewish Messiah to appear. And reading from other non-conical historical records or delving into the Apocryphal writings, we read that the Jews became very confused and somewhat cynical, very likely asking the question of why to hold faithful to God’s Law and expectation of a Messiah after four centuries of God’s relative silence.

And that type of “WHEN” question certainly could be raised by New Covenant Christians, … could it not? And we have a relative “silence” of two millennia to voice our question. We Christians await the Lord’s second coming; but the more orthodox and faithful Jews are still waiting for His first arrival. Wow! … That certainly does take faith, doesn’t it? But God, in His own timing, apparently desires that His people, the Jews, and we Gentiles grafted into His family, wait for Him patiently and faithfully; because He desires that many more come to Him in faith [see 2nd Peter 3: 9 from linked passage above].

FAITH is the operant concept here. God has always, as evidenced by the Old Testament I’ve been reading and studying this past year, desired for mankind to honor His Covenant with His people. And faith is evidenced by mankind, being ever faithful in waiting on Him to show His love for His children, especially in His coming among us as the Lamb of God. And now that we transition from the Old Covenant to the New, we, who are privy to the unfolding of history (“HIS story”) in the New Testament, are even called to a more patient waiting period than these 400 years where the covenant of Abraham and the prophesies of God’s called prophets were unfolding for God’s people to await the coming of their Messiah.

But now we Christians know – by history and evidence – that the Messiah was God’s Son, Jesus; and our New Testament is the “Gospel” record of His coming, His life, His death on a cross, His resurrection, and His ascension, having chosen Apostles and disciples to carry on His gospel message to the world as well as His charge to go forth in witness to His Name and His gospel truth (see Acts 1: 8 and Matt. 28: 19-20).

So, in the next months, until the end of this year, I will continue to expectantly read His New Covenant and to pray to grow in my faith to be patient and let God’s timing and His will dictate our Lord’s second coming.

When will it occur? >>> I don’t know. Will it occur? … ABSOLUTELY !!!

My Prayer for Today:
Lord, please come soon. We need the fulfillment of Your promises. Help me to be faithful as I wait on You. Amen

Thursday, October 14, 2010

2010 – October 14 – From Birthright to a New Birth

Blogger’s Note: Today is my last day of daily study in the Old Testament; … tomorrow it’s off into the New. And it reminds me of the promise in a paraphrase of 2nd Cor. 5: 17the old has gone, … the new is coming!

Study from God’s Word
1st Chronicles, Chapter 4 - 9 … Passage for Reflection: 1st Chronicles 5: 1 2 … NIV 1 The sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel (he was the firstborn, but when he defiled his father's marriage bed, his rights as firstborn were given to the sons of Joseph son of Israel; so he could not be listed in the genealogical record in accordance with his birthright, 2 and though Judah was the strongest of his brothers and a ruler came from him, the rights of the firstborn belonged to Joseph) - …

My Journal for Today: Today is my last day of study in the Old Testament from The Daily Bible in Chronological Order, with my devotionals being led by Dr. F. LaGard Smith, the Author of The Daily Bible Devotional. Tomorrow we will turn to devotionals from the New Testament; and I’m excited about that. Thus far this year, it has been a rewarding and discipline-building exercise to go through the Old Testament – in chronological order; and I’m looking forward with expectation to branching off into the New Testament for the remainder of 2010.

And this last highlight verse from the Old Testament today is a most interesting reference, imbedded in the chronicles listed in God’s Old Covenant where all of God’s people were so carefully listed. In today’s verse we read this parenthetical reference to REUBEN, the firstborn of “Israel” (i.e., Jacob), whose birthright was altered and given to the sons of Joseph rather than Reuben, who had wickedly squandered the birthright due to his unworthiness in the way he treated Joseph. But Reuben’s loss was our gain as Gentiles; because what we read in that little parenthetical description above, pictures how God would give His birthright and glory from His kingdom from His “firstborn” to any/all who are willing, as was Joseph, to receive this birthright from another – later – “Joseph,” who would come in the form of the Son of God, The Messiah, to save, not only those who were promised the birthright (i.e., the Jews) but also those who would believe in and receive God’s glorious grace-gift of salvation.

Pardon me, while I intervene here with what my heart is feeling in this moment, by saying, a resounding, “HALLELUJAH!!!”

But Dr. Smith’s sobering question to close his devotional entry for today, rings like a clarion bell of truth, when he asks: ”Am I living worthily of the glorious inheritance I have been promised (in Christ)?” And immediately God’s Spirit, from my past disciplines of Scripture memory, bubbles up in my consciousness that exhortation from Paul to the Christians at Ephesus, these challenging words: (see Eph. 4: 1 – 2) … As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. And this returns me to Smith’s poignant question, … “am I worthy” of the calling of what I call myself – i.e., “CHRISTIAN?!”

I pray – and I do so pray today – that I am being true to my inheritance of one who has given my life – as much as I’m aware (see Romans 12: 1-2) as a living sacrifice to my Lord and Savior, Jesus, … the One who came and died, as I’m about to study onward into the New Testament for the rest of this year.

For those who’re reading and meditating along with me, I hope you’re as expectant as I as we move into the study of the life and times of the One Who came to us as God’s Lamb, to live, to die, and to be re-glorified to sit at the Right Hand of the Father, interceding for those of us who’ve come to know Him as Lord and Savior.

My Prayer for Today: Oh, LORD, My God, how Glorious is Your Name!!! Again … I shout out … HALLELUJAH!!! Amen

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

2010 – October 13 – The Allure of Health and Wealth

Study from God’s Word 1st Chronicles, Chapters 1 – 4 … Passage for Reflection: 1st Chronicles 4: 10 [with some context] … NIV 9 Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, "I gave birth to him in pain." 10 Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, "Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain." And God granted his request. … 41 The men whose names were listed came in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah.

My Journal for Today: Today Dr. Smith lifts a passage from those dull, but very important, genealogies from the Books of Chronicles, … a passage which was made popular in a book by Bruce Wilkinson, entitled The Prayer of Jabez, … a book which became very popular, and somewhat controversial, some years back.

As LaGard Smith points out in today’s devotional message, one must be careful to avoid some of the contentions Dr. Wilkinson made about using this prayer, which seems to fit right into the proponents of the “health/wealth” gospel proponents of recent times. And I agree with Dr. Smith. Who would not want to pray to God for an increase in wealth and for protection from pain? And of all the names simply listed in the genealogies of 1st Chronicles, as Dr. Wilkinson highlights, why would God see fit to chronicle the prayer of this man Jabez, whose name in Hebrew apparently means “pain ridden?”

Wilkinson contended, in his book, that this prayer was highlighted because God wants us to pray to Him often and regularly for well being. However, if this is the case, as Dr. Smith posits, though our Savior prayed for God to lift His “cup” of suffering, why did God not honor that request from the Son of God Himself? And why, when people like the Apostle Paul (in 2nd Cor. 12) pray for relief from pain and suffering, … like Christians in 3rd world countries must be praying daily, … why does God not lift their suffering from them? Paul prayed and prayed that God would lift his pain from “the thorn” which God allowed Satan to visit upon him. And we could ask why Christians in China are praying daily that American Christians experience MORE suffering so that God will bless us with his enabling/empower grace more readily? Tough questions … but good questions, for sure!

And in answer to these questions, perhaps, as Dr. Smith points out, we can get a hint to the answers from the name of “Jabez,” which, as I pointed out, meant “man of suffering or pain” in Hebrew. Perhaps God knew that this man, Jabez, whom we see was a very honorable man in God’s eyes, needed relief from his painful destiny because he was not equipped to handle such pain. We know that Jesus healed many as He walked through his God-Man ministry in the 1st centrury; but Jesus didn’t heal all the blind and diseased and pain-ridden souls who came into His purview.

When, in faith and as instructed by James 5: 13-16 [linked], our church congregants come to their Elders, whom I happen to be one, for healing prayer, as instructed by God’s own truth, … we Elders pray for healing with expectation, as we’re instructed by God’s word. BUT, … we know that only God knows which of these faithful ones will be healed in this life. But beyond this, … we do know that God is going to give all of these faithful ones healing and relief from any pain, WHEN HE DECIDES to do so … in this life or in the next.

Hence, there is nothing wrong with the prayer offered by Jabez for his own life, or for ours, for that matter. The only thing will be what his or our expectation is and how/when God is going to answer such a prayer. God will hear any faithful believer who prays to Him … for anythingat any time. But how and when God answers that prayer will always be within God’s will and God’s timing. If that was true for the Son of God Himself, it’s surely true for all of us; and it was, most certainly, true for Jabez.

God answered with a resounding “YES” for Jabez; but tomorrow when I pray, as I do often, for relief from the severe arthritic pain in my left hip, God may see fit to say “YES, … NO, or … BE PATIENT, Bill.” And again, I have Christ’s own instructions, through Paul, that “God’s grace is sufficient” for any suffering I may humbly bring to my Lord; and my humility in dealing with that suffering may be just what I need to reach out and become what God desires for me to become. … But, as Jabez and the Apostle Paul prayed, I do pray that He would grant me release from my pain soon. But if He doesn’t in this life, I know He will in the next. And that’s good enough for me.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, take away this hip pain; or give me the strength to deal with it and use it to grow closer to and more like You. Amen

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

2010 – October 12 – How Shall We Be Remembered?

Study from God’s Word Nehemiah, Chapters 11 – 13 (especially the latter passages) … Passage for Reflection: Nehemiah 13: 22 … NIV Remember me for this also, O my God, and show mercy to me according to Your great love.

My Journal for Today: When one reads what was chronicled by Nehemiah (probably by a scribe or maybe even Ezra), Chapter 13 reads somewhat like a eulogy. In this last chapter of the historical book by his name, Nehemiah has written about a number of failures by God’s people, which he discovers after he had returned to Susa and had been released by Artaxerxes to go back, possibly permanently, to Jerusalem to be the permanent governor. And when Nehemiah returns, to his chagrin, he discovers that the people, in the time he had been gone (we don’t know how long) had desecrated the Temple, began intermarrying with the non-Jewish peoples again, and were not observing the Sabbath properly. And in a historical picture of the Messiah, Who would come to cleanse the Temple some centuries later, Nehemiah was enraged and struck out against God’s chosen people with righteous anger.

And apparently identifying with the heart weakness of these people, in today’s highlight passage in Neh. 13: 22, we read of Nehemiah praying to God for the Lord to have mercy on him, remembering what he had done to cleanse the Temple and set the people on a path which could/would honor God. I can almost read Nehemiah’s mind, possibly remembering the words of Jeremiah, who had come before him with the prophetic description of the deception in any man’s heart (see Jer. 17: 9). I can imagine Nehemiah, returning to Jerusalem again to see the Temple desecration and the worship of idols again, and saying to himself, something like, “There, but for the grace of God, go I;” and then taking righteous action to cleanse the Temple and drive the people to follow God’s law.

And yes that would be the “M.O.” of our Messiah as well, who would come into His Father’s house centuries later to see similar desecration and idol worship, grieving at the hearts of God’s people, and then overthrowing the Temple tables and dispelling wickedness from His Father’s House.

How about you and me, if you’re reading with me here? Do we see desecration in the Temple of our own hearts; and are we angry enough – with a righteous anger toward our sinfulness – to strike out and cleanse our own hearts and rid our own lives of idol worship as well as become more vigilant about guarding the walls of our hearts – i.e., God’s Temple – against the onslaught of evil in our world?

Will we be eulogized when we go to be with Jesus, by someone saying, “This man was driven, Lord, to honor You and to maintain the Temple of his heart pure to honor You and shine a light for all to see Your glory.” That, most certainly, is something I would want said at my home-going. I pray that it will.

What about you? What do you want said to God and to the world as your life is honored when God brings you home?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, may my life be a pure worship for Your glory. Amen

Monday, October 11, 2010

2010 – October 11 – The Joy That Comes from Grief

Study from God’s Word Nehemiah, Chapters 8 – 10 … Passage for Reflection: Nehemiah 8: 10 … NIV 9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, "This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep." For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. 10 Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." … 12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.

My Journal for Today: These chapters, which I was led to read today from the Book of Nehemiah chronicle one of the most glorious times in the annals of God’s chosen people. In these chapters we read of God’s truth being brought forth by the reading and re-reading of God’s Word in His Law. We also read of the grief and repentance of the people for their acknowledged sin; and finally we read of the celebration of God’s hope which the people are reminded will rest with their coming Messiah. And it was the reading and study of God’s word which kindled this revival.

We, who have sinned against God and His Law; and as we know (from Romans 3: 23), is all of us, ,,, we need to know that we’ll never really experience the joy of God’s redemption and deliverance from sin unless we recognize, acknowledge, and grieve over that sin.

Dr. Smith, at the end of today’s devotional entry, asks one of his probing questions: ”If my worship experience (and that’s how I live life in/through my relationship with Christ) is less than ecstatic, could it be that I have robbed myself of joy by failing to grasp the seriousness of the sin from which I have been saved?” And I maintain that one really cannot or will not be able to grieve over their sin, repent by walking to/with Jesus, and experience the joy of their salvation unless they internalize God’s truth from His word. In other words, we, who believe in and have received God’s salvation, will only live out the joy of our salvation – if - we know God through His word. This truth is aptly summarized in Romans 12: 1-2 by the Apostle for God’s people; and in this truth we see that our joy of being a living sacrifice for God can only come when we separate ourselves from the world’s wisdom and internalize the truth of God to show us God’s good and perfect will.

That’s why God’s people found joy AFTER they had heard and internalized God’s word being read to them by Ezra, Nehemiah, and the Levites. And that’s why those of us who believe in Christ and have received His saving grace, must let God’s word and His truth permeate our being so that we can – like these Hebrews who rebuilt Jerusalem and the Temple – celebrate who we are in God’s family. We Christians need the revival which God’s people experienced in Nehemiah, Chapters 8-10; and I hope we’re all celebrating the joy that can only come when God’s mirror of truth is held up for us and we grieve, seeing ourselves for whom we are in Christ and pursuing Him through our living worship.

My the hope of Christ give us joy!!!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I celebrate You with the worship of my life, knowing what I have done and from whence You have saved me. Amen

Sunday, October 10, 2010

2010 – October 10 – Leadership with Integrity

Study from God’s Word Nehemiah, Chapter 7, then 11-12 … Passage for Reflection: Nehemiah 1: 2 … NIV 2 I put in charge of Jerusalem my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah the commander of the citadel, because he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most men do.

My Journal for Today: So, I’m reading on in Nehemiah, and in Chapter 6, we read that the walls for the city had been miraculously rebuilt in just 52 days, a remarkable feat; but then again, those of us who know and believe in God Almighty know that nothing is impossible when God has called one to a task. As my mentor used to tell me, “God’s calling will always come with His enablement.”

But what now for Nehemiah, this great leader who’d been called by God to lead a contingency of God’s people back to Jerusalem to rebuild those walls. Well, now that the walls are rebuilt, Nehemiah, being the leader he is, realizes that there is need for organization of the people and to promote resettlement of God’s great city, … the City of David. And so, he feels a second calling on his life … to utilize his obvious spiritual gifts of leadership and administration. Now the task is to get the right people into the city from those who had been living outside the walls and to establish organization and re-establishment of the Jewish traditions of the priesthood and let God’s order prevail again in the Temple city.

So, one of his first orders was to appoint his brother, Hanani, along with one other Jewish leader, Hananiah, as chief of the gatekeepers, which would have been like appointing his brother as the co-sheriff of Jerusalem, a very critical position. But why his brother? Doesn’t this smack of nepotism; and maybe it would, if we didn’t have Nehemiah’s own explanation for the appointment? But it would not be terribly surprising for anyone who knew Nehemiah to realize that he would elevate his brother, Hanani, to a position of leadership, because it had been Hanani who had brought the news of the walls needing repair back to Susa when Nehemiah was the cup-bearer for Artaxerxes (see Neh. 1: 2).

But beyond this emotional and familial connection, Nehemiah, in today’s highlight text tells all that he chose his brother to fill this critical position because of the spiritual integrity of Hanani. And a man in Nehemiah’s position, as Governor of God’s Holy City, being able to trust the integrity of any of the city leaders would have been one of the main criteria for Nehemiah selecting that man into leadership.

And surely we recognize, as did Nehemiah, that he could only trust men in leadership who feared and revered God. And Nehemiah had not only seen how his brother Hanani had traveled all the way from Jerusalem to Susa to bring the news of the broken walls to Nehemiah; but he surely had seen his brother in action while the walls were being rebuilt (though we don’t know all these details). Nehemiah had seen Hanani’s reverence for God in action; and now he needed a man to be an overseer of security for the city; and his brother was an obvious choice.

As Dr. Smith puts it this morning in his devotional, ”One’s lack of integrity begins with one’s lack of a relationship with God. Lying only happens because of what is underlying.” And the opposite is true, of course. One’s veracity and strong moral character are measured by the depth of relationship one has with God Almighty. And Nehemiah knew he could trust his brother because Hanani, as Nehemiah put it, “… feared God more than most men do.” And I’ve learned over years of personal growth and ministerial experience, that one can really only trust the integrity of another who has a deep and abiding relationship with Christ; and that is generally measured the spiritual fruit in his life (see Galatians 5: 22, 23) and the discipline and depth of that believer’s daily devotional life.

So, I repeat the question put forth by Dr. Smith for our personal examination, another of those LOOK IN THE MIRROR questions. He writes, ”Am I a person of such integrity that God Himself could fee comfortable putting me in charge of some special task, however lowly?”

So, let’s look in the mirror of truth and answer that one!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, as Your child, You know I love You and fear You; … so, dear Lord, ... choose me! Send me! I want to serve You in any way YOU desire. Amen

Saturday, October 09, 2010

2010 – October 9 – Workers Prepared for Battle

Study from God’s Word Nehemiah, Chapters 4 – 6 … Passage for Reflection: Nehemiah: 4: 17 – 18 … NIV Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, 18 and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked.

My Journal for Today: Today I was taken, in my Bible reading in The Daily Bible in Chronological Order, to a passage that means a lot to me from the 4th Chapter of Nehemiah, … the story of how Nehemiah implemented a wall-building and battle strategy which was the epitome of spiritual multitasking. He convinced the builders to also become vigilant for attacks and to wear their armor and carry their swords at all times, even when they went out for water (and some think that this phrase in Hebrew, verse 22 of Nehemiah 4, could mean even when they were in the shower or out, taking a leak – don’t you just love God’s sense of humor in the Bible).

In other words, the workers, who were working for God’s project, i.e., His task of building the walls of God’s
Temple, were to not only to be workers, but they were to be ready warriors as well. And that is the same picture that the Apostle Paul used when he penned the famous spiritual warfare passage in Ephesians 6: 10 – 18, exhorting God’s people, the Christians, to ALWAYS be wearing the full armor of God [Eph. 6: 13-17a and carrying the sword of the Spirit [Eph. 6: 17b] so that God’s army, we Christians, can be vigilant and stand against our spiritual enemies (i.e., Satan, the world, and our own flesh) whenever the battle come to us, … which it will on a daily – even momentary – basis.

Those of you who follow my devotional blogging probably know that I lead a ministry called Battle Plan Ministry [BPM] [website linked here] for Christians who’re dealing with past patterns of habitual sexual sin. In our BPM discipleship training, we put a heavy emphasis on the battle strategies taught by Nehemiah and by the Apostle Paul, … that we MUST recognize that we’re in a constant – daily, even momentary – battle with our common spiritual enemies (again, Satan, His world, and our own flesh); and we MUST be constantly vigilant, wearing the full armor of God and carrying a well-sharpened and well- practiced sword of the Spirit (which, of course, is God’s word). Without this armament and weaponry, we would be extremely vulnerable to some very powerful and ever-present spiritual enemies who want to take us down in battle. Satan knows that he cannot have the soul of a Christian; but if he can take away the validity of our testimony and weaken the witness of a warrior for God, he can render the Christian almost useless in the warfare any Christian stands for in battle.

Therefore, we need to take up the strategy Nehemiah used and the Apostle Paul advocated in our daily spiritual task of building up the walls around our “temple,” which is, of course, our own hearts, since that is where God, the Holy Spirit, resides. And I have it on good authority, i.e., nothing less than God’s own word, that when we do become trained and experienced Christian warriors, always wearing His full armor and ever carrying a sharpened and well-practiced Sword of the Spirit, we can – and will – become like our model in battle, Jesus Christ, who showed us how to do battle in those powerful encounters with Satan (read about it in the first verses of Matthew 4 or Luke 4). Yes, I know that Satan was dealing with God in the flesh in his encounter with Christ in the wilderness; but Jesus showed all of us how to be prepared and how to do battle with our arch spiritual enemy.

We have to be – as Jesus was – on the high ground for battle, being covered by prayer in the Spirit (see also Eph. 6: 18); and then we need to ALWAYS carry and utilize our only offensive weapon against our enemies when we’re confronted by spiritual warfare; and that is to whip out and wield the sword of the Spirit, i.e., God’s word. But this implies that we are well-practiced and have well-sharpened our swords; and that implies getting God’s word deeply into our hearts (as you can read about in God’s prescription for our dealing with God’s word – i.e., see Joshua 1: 8 and Ps. 119: 9-11); so that we can whip out that sword at any time, as Jesus did in the wilderness against Satan, and wield the one weapon which our spiritual enemies cannot handle, … and that is the truth of God.

I could go on with this a lot more, as I do in being the “drill sergeant” and discipleship leader for BPM. But all of us need to heed Nehemiah’s builder/warrior strategy in today’s highlight passage. So, my dear one, if your armor for defense is not tuned up and being worn – all the time; and … if you’re not an accomplished swordsman with God’s word; and, … if you’re not continually on the high-ground with prayer, in the Spirit, you’re going to find yourself vulnerable on the battlefields of life, my friend. Oh how I hope you pray with me that we can all become ready wall builders and spiritual warriors for God as we rebuild the walls of His temple, … our very hearts.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to be ever ready for battle, wearing your full armor, carrying Your well-practiced Sword, and going to the high ground of prayer daily for the battles I know I will encounter as I keep rebuilding the walls of Your Temple, … my heart. Amen

Friday, October 08, 2010

2010 – October 8 – When Body Language Speaks

Study from God’s Word Nehemiah, Chapters 1 – 3 … Passage for Reflection: Nehemiah 2: 1-2 … NIV 1 In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before; 2 so the king asked me, "Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart."

My Journal for Today: This is a most interesting interaction between King Artaxerxes and Nehemiah, the Hebrew who was the King’s cupbearer and the man who would soon go to Jerusalem from the Persian palace in Susa to lead the effort to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem. It’s obvious that the king and his cupbearer had a close relationship, because Artaxerxes picked up quickly on Nehemiah’s acute depression by noticing his confidant’s body language.

You know, … it is said that body language makes up over 90% of communication (see Borg, John. Body Language: Easy Lessons to Master the Silent Language. Prentice Hall, 2008). That’s why communicating by email or reading blogs often masks the inner feelings and emotional burdens being carried by the communicator. Right now, it’s unlikely that most of you are discerning enough to pick up on my “mood.” Most wouldn’t have a clue that I’m still reeling from having a colonoscopy yesterday. But last night my wife looked into my eyes some six hours after the procedure, and she picked up on some body language clue, … enough so to come over and feel my arm, … and the body contact told her that I had a low-grade fever; … and I did. My wife knows me. She knows when I’m up and when I’m down. She knows when I’m in balance and when I’m out of balance.

And, … though we’re not talking about a marital relationship between Artaxerxes and Nehemiah, the body language being communicated by Nehemiah after he had learned of the city of Jerusalem being unprotected and without walls, told Artaxerxes that the king should attend to the needs of his abiding friend, Nehemiah. And as we read in the “rest of the story,” the king did so.

In his devotional for today, Dr. LaGard Smith, the author, uses a cartoon character to illustrate that body language and the perception of same, is a powerful way to relate to a friend, a spouse, or a close associate. He brings up the image of Casper, the friendly ghost, which perhaps some of you readers of my age can remember. Smith points out that the cartoonist was able to show when Casper was happy by his facial expression and bouncy demeanor. And when Casper was down, his expression and his droopy shoulders revealed he was in a funk. All good cartoonists can relate the mood of their characters by depicting their body language; and we’re no different.

My wife last night was able to minister to my needs – physical and emotional – by noting that my eyes weren’t right. And we could probably do a better job of relating to our loved ones by being more discerning as to their body language. I also think that many times when we notice that others in our life experiencing a “downer,” by picking up cues from their body language, we miss the opportunity to engage them about our perceptions and become ministry helpers in their lives. And there’s no better way to witness to a lost friend or associate when we note and recognize that we, in our relationship with that person, perceive them to be “not right” in some way. Most of the time, people don’t like to SAY how they’re feeling; but when a friend or colleague recognizes they are down and acknowledges same, they will open up; and often this can trigger an opportunity to share honestly – via words – how we might help that person. And who knows, how that kind of relational bridge might lead to the opportunity, at some time in the future, to share how Christ has helped lift us up and change our lives.

So, what I’ve gleaned from this lesson today is to be more aware in picking up on the body cues of those around me and responding with genuine Christian love when I discern that this someone is hurting outwardly or inwardly.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, give me heightened discernment to see the body cues of those around me and the courage to ask if I can be a vessel of Your Spirit for this dear one. Amen