Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 – December 31 – God’s Universal Invitation

Study from God’s Word The rest of the Revelation to John and to all who read the conclusion of God’s book and His eternal invitation! … Passage for Reflection: Revelation 22: 17 … NIV The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

My Journal for Today: Dr. LaGard Smith, to whom I’m most grateful for his insightful devotional, The Daily Bible Devotional, from which Dr. Smith has taken his insights from The Daily Bible in Chronological Order, reminds me, and his other readers, of the joy we feel when we get an invitation to a very special occasion, especially one to which we had dearly coveted being invited. Maybe you can recall being invited to the wedding of someone you loved dearly. Maybe it was an invitation to someone’s retirement party, … a grand shindig honoring someone you wanted dearly to honor with your presence. But whatever the invitation in your memory, it brought joy to your heart when you opened it and read your name being added to the list of those invited.

Well, my friend, how about the invitation – from God Himself – in today’s highlighted text, … that invitation to all whose names are written in God’s Book of Life; and if you’re one of those, as am I, who knows his/her name is in that Book, reading God’s invitation to the wedding feast of the Lamb has to bring great joy and consolation to your heart.

BUT … and there’s one of those giant BUTS of contrast … you are only invited if (and that’s a whopper of an “IF”) you are one who’s openly declared, in faith, from your heart of hearts, that you’re a sinner whose sins have been forgiven by the blood of Jesus begin shed on Calvary and who has repented of those sins in humility to receive God free gift of His saving grace.

My dear one, … that invitation above, from Rev. 22: 17, is for YOU … if Jesus, The Christ, our Messiah, is absolutely your LORD and SAVIOR. And if that’s the case, I will see you at the wedding feast of the Lamb; and we’ll be sharing together at that eternal post wedding party in glory.

I hope you know that you know that you know that you know that you – ABSOLUTELY – are invited to the party of parties. Because, if you’re reading here, and you have doubts, I would exhort you to do what is declared to any who desire their name to be in God’s Book of Life, finalizing that by doing what the Apostle Paul declared in Romans 10: 9 – 13 [linked here]. And dear one, if you’ve done that, I’ll see you at the party!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, Your invitation has come to me in Your sealed envelope of assurance. I look forward with glorious anticipation to our wedding feast. Amen


Blogger Bill's Year End Note: ... To any friends who might be reading or interested, ... this is my last entry for the journaling I've been posting this year from my trek in my commitment to read through the entire Bible in 2010. And, ... only by God's enabling grace and a bit of my own tenacity, I've completed this discipleship task; above being my last blog for the year, utilizing the The Daily Bible in Chronological Order, edited by F. LaGard Smith, as well as his companion devotional book The Daily Bible Devotional.

For those who've been studying along with me this year, I thank you for your co-discipleship in this task. I've been encouraged that you'd help me out to be accountable for this somewhat daunting exercise. I've grown from this discipline; and you've encouraged me along the way. And for this, I'd like to thank you and wish you a very HAPPY NEW YEAR as we enter 2011.

This upcoming year, I'll be continuing to blog/journal my daily devotions in this place; but this year I've decided to go back to an "old friend" of mine, utilizing a powerful devotional book, which I’ve used before, Strength for Today, by John MacArthur . If you feel so led, I'd be honored and uplifted by having you follow along with me as I continue to pursue my deepening relationship with Christ through His Spirit.

Blessings from the Berry Patch into 2011 !!! ... Bill

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 – December 30 – The Pure Who Endure

Study from God’s Word Revelation, Chapters 14 – 19: 5 … Passage for Reflection: Revelation 4: 3 – 5 [underlined] … NIV 1 Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. 3 And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4 These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins. They follow the Lamb wherever He goes. They were purchased from among mankind and offered as first-fruits to God and the Lamb. 5 No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.

My Journal for Today
: All this apocalyptic imagery in God’s revelation to John can be mysterious and a bit overwhelming as we read and study this great Book of the Bible, The Revelation, especially trying to get its application for our lives today. But it’s important that we do our best, maybe with the help of teachers, like my devotional shepherd this year, Dr. LaGard Smith, to see how these writings, coming from God’s Spirit through John, having powerful messages we need to heed.

So, today we deal with that number of saints, 144,000, who were saved out of the great tribulation and are discussed in today’s highlight text. What do we glean from a study of their significance? Well, the answer is in why they are mentioned as special; and the explanation can be found in the portion of scripture today which is highlighted in bold and underlined.

My fellow readers, … these 144,000 who were those saved from the later heat of the lake of fire are protected by the Lamb of God because of their PURITY and their STEADFAST FAITH. These were the ones, in spite of the taunts and terrors of Satan and the Anti-Christ, remained sexually pure and followed Christ in the worst of the Great Tribulation, … right to the very end of time as man would know it.

And our application? Well, it’s brought out in today’s question by Dr. Smith, as he writes at the end of his daily devotional: ”In the battle to remain pure, am I overcoming or succumbing?” And that is the question so many in our world, as Christians, are dealing with right now, especially in a world where Satan has created many fortresses and weapons to prevent the lost from finding their way to Christ and for tearing down the testimonies of Christians and rendering their witness as ineffective or worthless.

Think about it. How many Christians, of whom you know, who have fallen prey to impurity, when they know that God calls for purity and devotion to His commands? Christian men are surrounded and enveloped by sexual temptations these days; and these worldly-fleshly superweapons, such as internet pornography, have been created as a tribulation of temptation to draw the attention of the lost onto the flesh and away from the Savior, as well as to draw the focus of Christians onto flesh and away from faith.

No Christian man in this world can be the man God intended for Him to be if he does the opposite of what Christ commanded (see Luke 9: 23), focusing on self and not following the Savior. And Christian men, in droves, are falling on the battlefields of sexual temptations and being rendered powerless as husbands, fathers, community leaders, and, most certainly churchmen.

No, it’s not the Great Tribulation yet; but we get a taste of what that horrible time will be like when we yield to selfish, flesh-driven, temptations and we choose to move away from Godly purity in our unfaithfulness. In these times in which we live, we, who follow Christ, need to become like the faithful 144,000 in those times of the Great Tribulation. We need to heed the call of Christ and deny self, take up our crosses daily, and follow Him … to the end.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, today and tomorrow, purity for Your glory is my focus. Amen

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 – December 29 – To Those Who Overcome

Study from God’s Word Revelations 8: 7 – 13: 18 … Passage for Reflection: Revelations 13: 10 … NIV This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.

My Journal for Today: Wow! Reading through Chapters 8 – 13 of Revelations can be – and for me, IS – a bit overwhelming with all the apocalyptic imagery involving the devil and his beasts which will bring horrible physical and spiritual oppression upon mankind in the great tribulation. And bringing all this into here-and-now perspective and application can be a bit daunting, to say the least. But this little verse in Rev. 13: 10, which is repeated, very close conceptually, in Rev. 14: 12 is reflective of why God gave John all these visions to write down for the churches in Asia-Minor of the day as well as for you an me.

Remember the seven letters Jesus dictated for John to send to the 1st Century churches, the intent of which, being canonized into Scripture, applies to any/all in the church today. At the end of each of the seven letters, Dr. Smith today helped me remember that there was a charge for the remnant of believers who had been scattered and were being persecuted in the world of that day; and that charge involved the challenge by God in today’s highlight text; and we – the church – are being charged to remain faithful with patient endurance; because our faith will be challenged by Satan, the world, and even our own flesh.

I challenge you to go back, as I did today, and read the end of each of the seven letters to the churches in Rev., Chapters 2 – 3; and you’ll read the promises of God for the believer “who overcomes and does [God’s] will to the end.” And you’ll see that each of the seven promises raises the specter of Dr. Smith’s poignant question to close his devotional today, which is, ”Do I have the depth of faith and commitment that would keep me faithful no matter what the consequences?”

Pretty good question as we close out the old year and enter a New Year, don’t you think?

Oh, we may not be dealing the level of horror and persecution as those 1st century Christians were facing; and we certainly are not involved with the terror Christians who were saved in the tribulation will face. BUT – the challenge for those believers, leveled in today’s highlight verse, is the same one which is put to any Christian today. Any type of physical, emotional, and/or spiritual circumstance, which causes us to reflect on our fears and challenge our faith, is going to call for us to exercise our faith and become OVERCOMERS.

What are you facing as we go into 2011 which gives you pause or maybe is terribly fearful? Are you dealing with cancer; or maybe you have a loved one who is? Are finances to a point of challenging your faith? Maybe you just can’t seem to conquer a recurring pattern of sin, which you know is an affront to God? What are our oppressive faith challenges going into 2011?

Well, no matter what our challenges or circumstances are, the book of Revelations was given to us, through John, so that we – God’s church – can realize that His ultimate promises will overcome anything Satan, the world, or even our own selfishness can throw our way. My fellow Christian, we can be overcomers; but we’ve got to become conquerors by believing God’s truth – such as His promises set forth in His word, … just as they are the Book of Revelations. If you cannot or will not lean, with faith, on God’s promises, my dear one, you are going to succumb to our spiritual enemies in 2011. But if you can – and will – determine to learn about and lean on God’s wondrous truth from His word, you, my friend are going to be more and more of an OVERCOMER into and through the New Year.

I do hope you, a reader here, will have a HAPPY OVERCOMER NEW YEAR in 2011.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I declare my pursuit of overcomer faith in this new year. Amen

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 – December 28 – The Great Anticipation

Study from God’s Word Revelations, Chapters 4 – 8: 6 … Passage for Reflection: Revelations 8: 1 … NIV When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about a half an hour.

My Journal for Today: Reading Revelations can be revealing, to say the least. But sometimes the figurative language is perplexing; and I require help, like that of my devotional “shepherd” this year, Dr. LaGard Smith, as he guides learners, like me, through the truths encountered in God’s word, especially the tough going in a book like God’s revelation given to the Apostle John.

Today, I was wading through the early part of John’s vision; and he writes about the opening of those seven seals by the Lamb of God (i.e., Jesus) at God’s throne; and the opening of each of the first six is accompanied by incredible visions of heavenly activity or loud (and I mean REALLY LOUD) declarations or songs of praise by the angels, the Elders, and the saints in heaven.

But then, just before the opening of the seventh – and last – seal there was opened, there was silence, specifically documented, for whatever reason, as “a half-hour” of quietude. What’s that all about?

Well, Dr. Smith helps his readers, in his devotional for today, to remember some common phrases in our language, phrases such as “the calm before the storm” or “the eye of the storm,” which are word pictures depicting a calm of anticipation which occurs before some cataclysmic occurrence, when “all hell breaks loose.”

My mind has a bit of trouble grasping the enormity of the vision God gave to John about this heavenly scene just before God’s storm of wrath and judgment was about to come down to crush and punish evil in the world. Reading on in Rev. 8 for tomorrow, I’ll be reading about the trumpet judgments which followed the opening of the seven seals. But just before the seventh seal is opened, signaling “peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake, “ there is this pregnant pause of silence for a half hour.

And to my very limited mind, this is like one of those pauses in many of the psalms, called a “selah,” which as best I’ve been able to determine means to pause and reflect upon the significance or meaning of something before and something to come. So, in the psalms, we read “selah” pronounced after a stanza or passage, which apparently is a pause in the song so that the hearer can reflect upon what they’ve heard and anticipate what is about to be sung.

And that is apparently what happened in John’s vision of heaven when, just before the opening of the seventh seal and the unfolding of God’s wrath against sin and evil in the world, all of heaven paused in silence to reflect on what had happened to bring the world to that point and to take a brief and quiet breath, in the “eye of the storm,” before the storm of God’s wrath was signaled by the trumpets to come.

My friends, Dr. Smith, as he does daily in his devotions asks a momentous question today, which is, ”If God announces His coming with silence as well as sound, does the silence I experience lead to an awful dread or glorious anticipation?”

Only you can answer that FOR YOU; but for me, at this time in my life, which is a pregnant pause of relative quiet, my “selah” signals great anticipation of whatever God will bring for me; because as I’m in this “selah” in my life, I look to that time when I will be with Jesus; and because He has covered my eternal time with His blood, I will see Him face-to-face, working in His presence and worshipping Him for eternity.

Oh how beautiful is the silence of this moment.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, thank You for this time of quiet, … this eye in the storms of my life. Amen

Monday, December 27, 2010

2010 – December 27 – Lukewarm Faith

Study from God’s Word Revelations, Chapters 1 – 3 … Passage for Reflection: Revelations 3: 15 – 16 … NIV 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

My Journal for Today: As a Christian, you’ve probably read the letters to the seven churches in Asia-Minor which Jesus dictated to them through John; and you also know that these letters are warnings or exhortations for any church, or Christians, desiring to prepare or arm themselves against the onslaught of persecution the world was doling out in those times and/or can/will activate in our times. And the last of these letters has one of the most scathing exhortations and warnings, directed to Laodicea. And again, you probably know that the focus of Christ’s warning for the church was against Christians being lukewarm in their faith.

Apparently Laodicea had been a church where Christ had become their Lord and Savior. Yet, likely because of their wealth and worldliness, they had began to rely on their own resources and strength and had grown weak in their faith. And Jesus comes down hard on this church, thereby showing his tough love to any Christian who becomes lukewarm in faith by relying on self rather than on the Savior.

And Jesus’ attitude about such self-reliance and lack of commitment to Him is summed up in a very gritty metaphor in Rev. 3 where The Lord says that when He sees lukewarm “christians,” He simply wants to vomit them out because they make Him sick in the deepest recesses of His inward being.

I don’t know about you, dear fellow Christian; but I don’t want to be a disciple of Christ whom He wants to spew me out. I would not want to be the wretch my Lord feels He must retch to get rid of me. So, what Dr. LaGard Smith, the author of my devotional for today says is his “gut-wrenching” question is thusly: ”Is the intensity of my faith sufficient to help me overcome whatever trials and temptations might come my way?”

Jesus, writing through John to the Christians in Asia-Minor in those days, knew that these followers were going to be put through the fires of persecution and trial; and He wanted them to be purified by the fires, not burned up because they didn’t have the focus of faith and commitment necessary to come through those fires.

What about it, Christian? Do you see the fires of life as merely purifying fires, causing your faith to increase in intensity? Or, do you see them as destroying what little faith you have to be Christ’s disciple? So, if we desire to rekindle – or merely light – the fires of faith necessary to make it through the burning trials of life, what do we need to do?

And I have found that the key to the fires of my faith are in the degree to which I get to know my God; because, and many of you, reading along with me this year have read, to know God is to love God; … to love God is to obey God; … to obey God is to serve God; and to serve God is to receive God’s enlightening, enabling, empowering grace (i.e., to be blessed by God). Therefore, I believe one has faith rekindled by intentionally getting to know God, i.e., Christ, with devotion and discipline to dive in and be enveloped by His truth (i.e., His word).

Years ago, when my mentor showed me that faith is given to us by God, he also showed me that it is activated and increased by the degree of intentionality I put into pursuing the faith God gives to me through His sanctifying grace. Therefore, if I covet and pursue that grace, forcefully and intentionally, he showed me God would increase my faith. And oh, how true that is!!!

So, dear one, if you’re serious about relighting and developing a burning fire of faith in this New Year, I would exhort you to dive into the heat of God’s word and pursue, through diligent prayer, the deep and abiding fire of faith that God will give you, … the fire which will purify you and let God reshape you into His image. Don’t let Satan draw your attention away from getting to know God more deeply this year; and the best place to pursue knowing God and having him relight your faith is by diving in and staying in His word.

Your assignment: Go read and meditate deeply in the fire-lighting poem of truth in Psalm 119 [yes, all of it!]; and I guarantee that it will light your fire of faith for the New Year. Join me this year; and make it a year where we will be on fire for Christ!!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, light my fire; sustain my flames for You!! Amen

Sunday, December 26, 2010

2010 – December 26 – Surprising Antichrists

Study from God’s Word The Book of 1st John … Passage for Reflection: 1st John 2: 22 … NIV Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son.

My Journal for Today: When most Christians begin to talk about the “Antichrist” today, the image connoted is one of a very powerful and evil human who would assume control of mankind in the last days. But the Apostle John, who was writing to Christians in his three little letters late in his life, had a different, more generalized, idea of who represented the spirit of an antichrist.

John’s test of who could be categorized as an “antichrist,” involved several criteria; and he would have labeled anyone as an antichrist who, …
• denies the deity of Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God;
• claims to be “Christian,” yet refuses to obey God’s commands;
• claims to follow Christ, yet cannot or will not show love for other Christians; and/or …
• thinks he is saved and keeps on sinning flagrantly and habitually.

How about it? Did that catch anyone who is reading along with me? And right now, you may be thinking, as I am, “There’s a lot of people who will be sitting in the pews in my church next Sunday whom the Apostle John seems to be labeling as ‘antichrist.’ “ And in thinking that, you’d be right.

There are a lot of folks in our world today, some who may even call themselves “christian,” who flagrantly and habitually ignore God’s commands and sin against God; and my friend, if they died today without confessing and repenting of that sin, they would roast in hell for eternity. In John’s day, the Gnostics were false teachers who had conned many, thinking of themselves as disciples of Christ, who held onto antichrist doctrines, which led to them falling prey to worldly idols and lusts. But the Apostle stated clearly in his first epistle, that anyone could know he/she is saved if …
• he/she pursues Christlike purity and avoidance of sin, acknowledging/confessing/repenting of sin whenever it occurs, ... and ...
• he/she truly has a deep and abiding love for his fellow Christians, … and
• one who stands against anyone who denies Jesus was/is the Son of God and was/is our Messiah.

In fact, (see 1st John 5: 13 -linked), the Apostle wrote this first letter to help Christians have assurance of their salvation and to be able to recognize who, in the world of that time, were the “antichrists.” So, looking around in our world today, … whom would you identify as having the spirit of “antichrist?” They may not be that cataclysmic monster who will come to power in the last days; but they may hold a lot of interest and influence and be leading many, like a Pied Piper, to hell in their hand-basket of false teaching.

I think of some like the mighty TV guru, Oprah; or many of the self-help teachers who try to get people to elevate their self-esteem and imagine that they are the ones controlling this world. And of course, there are many religious people and sects who deny the deity of Jesus as The Christ, as in Mormonism, Buddhism, or Islam. Any of them carry or espouse the spirit of an antichrist; and they need to be recognized and their ideas discarded in the marketplace of truth.

But even more importantly, for Christians, … real, born-again Christians, … we need to know and hold on to the truth in such a way that we can recognize a counterfeit antichrist when we see/hear one in our world today. And I maintain that there’s only one way to become one who can discern the antichrists in this world; and that is to become so familiar with the truth that any antichrist liar can be easily discerned for whom they are. And that process involves what the author of Psalm 119 wrote about and the Apostle Paul espoused in 2nd Tim. 3: 16-17; and that was to be so immersed and covered in God’s word/truth that any lie or liar shines out in this darkened world without being able to be disguised.

What about it, fellow “Christian?” Are you totally confident of your salvation; and can you do what John wrote about in 1st John 4: 1, testing for the spirit of antichrist in the world and its leaders? If not, I would exhort any of us Christians to embark on a program encouraged by God to Joshua in Joshua 1: 8, digging in and staying in God’s word continually and daily … to the point that God’s truth becomes our standard and, as it declares, in Psalm 119: 105, it lights our way in life, revealing any antichrist for whom he is.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I thank You for Your way and Your will, clearly discerned in Your word. Amen

Saturday, December 25, 2010

2010 – December 25 – Focus – On Jesus

Study from God’s Word Hebrews, Chapters 10-13 … Passage for Reflection: Hebrews 12: 2 [underlined below] in context of verses 1 - 3 … NIV 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

My Journal for Today: “Focus!” That’s a real buzz word these days. And we sports followers especially see it as a quality exceptional athletes have to produce exceptional performance. An online dictionary has “focus” defined as concentrated effort or attention on a particular thing. Well, today’s highlight text charges Christians to focus (i.e., “fixing our eyes”) on Jesus; and in his devotional entry for today, in that it’s Christmas morning, LaGard Smith uses the very apt word picture of what Mary’s attention must’ve been like as she looked into the eyes of the child God’s angel had promised she would deliver, the One Who would save mankind. Can we just imagine what here “focus” must’ve been like as she looked into the eyes of Yeshua, The Messiah, … into the very eyes of God.

I can’t help but think about the words and sentiments of one of my favorite Christmas songs, Mary, Did You Know? - linked here. And to get myself in the mood and focus, I just went to God Tube online and pulled up that song [click on link] and heard these lyrics being sung by Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd ..

Mary, did you know … that your baby boy will one day walk on water?

Mary, did you know … that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?

Did you know, … that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, … will soon deliver you.

Mary, did you know … that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?

Mary, did you know … your baby boy will calm a storm with His hand?

Did you know, that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, … you've kissed the face of God.

Can you just imagine what this teenage girl’s “focus” was when she looked into the eyes of that baby; and then, being the only one at that manger scene, who would 33 years later would be at the cross, can we imagine what it must’ve been like for this same mother to “fix her eyes” upon Jesus, dying there at the hands of and for the sins of mankind? Oh, the joy she must’ve felt in that manger, looking into the eyes of Messiah, and the horror she must’ve felt when she fixed her eyes on, her Son, the Son of God, on that cross!

And Dr. Smith asks me (us) a pointed question from his devotional today, which I repeat here: ”Do my eyes merely glance occasionally at the person of Jesus, or are my eyes firmly fixed on every aspect of His divine person?

Now, by God’s word in today’s highlight passage and during this devotional time, I’m asked to determine … just what is my “focus” on Jesus? Am I “fixing my eyes” on Jesus as the primary “focus” of my life, as was Mary on her child in the manger and on that cross at Calvary? Or am I just brought to focus on Jesus casually and occasionally, maybe on Sunday mornings in church or when I go to a Bible study, or when, as an Elder/Minister in my church, someone brings a personal or spiritual question to me?

Do I “focus” on Jesus every day, during the moments of each day; or do I just look to Him only when my life goes into crisis mode or I’m taken, by force of habit, to fix my eyes on Him?

These are good and challenging questions upon which I will be focusing as we enter a New Year; and I will deal with them seriously. I hope you do too.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, allow me Your enabling grace to focus on You much more in and through this new year than I ever have in my past relationship with You. Amen

Friday, December 24, 2010

2010 – December 24 – Hope As an Anchor

Study from God’s Word Hebrews 6: 13 – 10: 18 … Passage for Reflection: Hebrews 6: 17, 19a [underlined in context] … NIV 17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

My Journal for Today: To what do you attach your anchor of faith and hope? In the 19th century, shipping was the primary method of distribution and commerce of the day; and a ship could not drop anchor unless the Captain knew that his anchor chain was solid … and when used, was attached to a solid rock on the ocean floor, especially when his ship encountered rough seas or heavy storms. In the 19th century, Priscilla Owen wrote a hymn, which has become a standard, entitled, We Have An Anchor; and the first verse and chorus go like this …

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift, or firm remain?

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.

And in this hymn, we have the essence of the hope we have that the anchor of our faith/hope is eternally affixed to the solid Rock, Who is Christ. And our Lord and Savior has given us the promise of His New Covenant, upon which we can attach our anchor of faith. God has sworn to us, by the shedding of His own blood and He demonstrated His truth by His resurrection, … so that we can be saved by eternally affixing our anchor of hope to Him. And when we do, He will bring our ship into eternal relationship with Himself in heaven. That is the promise … the Rock-solid promise of the New Covenant.

My friend, to whom – or should I say, “to Whom” – do you affix your anchor of hope? Is it the promises of man; or are you banking your eternity on the promises the world can offer? I doubt the latter; because no matter how good or strong another person or worldly institution in your life might be, that entity is fallible; and we could never put down our anchor of life, let alone the anchor to eternal life, and know, beyond doubt, that it would hold by depending on the promises of mankind. But when our anchor of faith is affixed to Jesus and His sacrifice as the Lamb of God, shedding His blood for the remission of our sin, we know that our anchor will hold eternally.

God’s word is solid; and His promises are His rock; and I don’t know about you, but my anchor line of faith is affixed to the Rock, and He will hold my ship through any storm, keeping me always and eternally anchored to Himself. I don’t have to depend upon the promises of man; because I only depend upon the promises of God through His word. And my anchor will always hold.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, my anchor of faith is affixed to You. You are my Rock. Amen

Thursday, December 23, 2010

2010 – December 23 – Of Milk and Meat

Study from God’s Word Hebrews, Chapters 1 – 6: 12 … Passage for Reflection: Hebrews 5: 12 … NIV In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!

My Journal for Today: Reading, studying, and meditating on the letter, by an unknown author, directed to all believers, but focused on Hebrew Christians, can be a tough, perplexing read for the immature disciple of Christ. However, for the mature, committed, and steadfast Christian, Hebrews is very straight forward and actually quite encouraging study. So, reading this book can be a measure of our maturity in the Christian faith continuum.

If you read Hebrews and you have a lot of trouble grasping its theology, its instructions, and its exhortations, you are likely, given the word picture of today’s highlight text, a babe in the faith, feeding on the milk given to little ones who cannot yet take in the meat God, the Holy Spirit, has for grown-ups in the faith. But on the other hand, if, in reading Hebrews, you are saying “Right on!” to what the author is writing; and you feel encouraged and uplifted in your faith by the teachings in this letter, you can take heart that you are more likely well along and growing in your faith, using the gifts that God has given you for His glory, and doing battle effectively against the enemies of our spirit, … Satan, the world, and the flesh.

Fellow reader, would you please allow me a bit of personal testimony? There was a time, years ago, when I read Hebrews; and it seemed very distant and almost in code. And at that time, in the infancy of my faith walk, the teachings of this Hebrew author just flew over my head. But now, when I read this epistle, directed to Christians (and not only Jews, but me too), I’m not only edified and enlightened by its contents, but I’m also encouraged and empowered by what God, the Holy Spirit, as it’s Author, is saying to and for me.

That’s not bragging, my dear one. It’s simply a realization that I’ve become a meat-eater as a Christian; and I not threatened when the Author of Hebrews warns Christians who fall away from the faith as being either lost babes who cannot grow in the faith or recalcitrant non-believers who have deluded themselves to think that they are really born-again, when in point of fact, as a southern friend of mine once said, “… they are as lost as a ball in high weeds!”

So, as you read the book of Hebrews, use it as a thermometer of the temperature of your faith. If you read this anointed letter and you just don’t get its message or you do not feel turned-on by its content, you are either not IN CHRIST and desperately need Jesus as your Lord and Savior, or you are still a babe in the faith who needs some help, by a more mature mentor or discipler, who can help you go from feeding on milk of God’s truth to being able to take in the meat of the faith.

And I will pray below that you join me, guided by God’s Spirit, to be able to take in some of the great and juicy cuts of meat found in God’s truth, … devouring it, and becoming stronger and stronger in your faith.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray that any who read here are feeding on the meat of Your Word, gleaning the nourishment it offers for our growth and completion in You. Amen

PS – Blogger’s Note: To any who read this: … Please take note of what I’ve just written today. And please take this the right way. What I just wrote today is way above me. I just wrote that, without any editing, very rapidly, in one sitting; and I’m not smart enough to write about Godly matters with the degree of rapidity or clarity exhibited above. What I’m saying is, … occasionally, God answers my daily prayer (before every devotional) to reveal His truths to me and to lift me up with my reading/study of His word with a resounding “YES!” And today was one of those days. So, I praise God for what He gave me to write today; because it’s clearly is way above my ability to journal in this way; and so I exhort you to read it with a bit more than just a grain of salt taking away what God may have for you. … Thanks for this little extra note of understanding.Bill B

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

2010 – December 22 – So Many Virtues, So Little Time

Study from God’s Word Peter’s entire 2nd letter, written to the same churches in Asia Minor as his first epistle … Passage for Reflection: 2nd Peter 1: 5 – 7 [underlined], with verse 8 added for context in study … NIV 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

My Journal for Today: I became a Christian when I was 39 years old; and I really didn’t get going in my discipleship and growth until about five years thereafter. For those first few years, I was a real “babe” in Christ; and yes, I was exposed to a modicum of teaching and integration into the local church where I had become a member. However, it was not until I connected with a strong mentor, a Godly man, who was a strong follower of God’s word, that I began to grow in my faith, i.e., to take on many of the virtues and character qualities listed by Peter in this passage from his second letter.

In fact when you read, study, and meditate on this passage presented by Dr. Smith in his devotional for today, I hope you are inspired, as am I, to do a self inventory of your own growth by using this progressive list from God’s Spirit, written by Peter for any Christian to see how that one might stack up in their Christlikeness. And that’s what this was for the readers, or hearers, of Peter’s second letter. He was, like Paul did to the Galatians in Gal. 5: 22-23, presenting a list of qualities which would be attributed to Christ so that the disciple, reading or hearing them, could use them as a self inventory, just as Paul had instructed the Corinthians in 2nd Cor. 13: 5 to periodically test themselves (i.e., ourselves) in the faith to see how they’re (we’re) developing, … if we are at all.

Dr. Smith asks us, as his readers today, ”Can I see as much demonstrable growth in virtue since my spiritual rebirth as my physical growth from the day I was born?” In other words, when I used God’s pop-quiz, such as the one from Peter today, and I’m totally honest in looking at the qualities of Christlikeness from today’s text, as well as Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit in Gal. 5, we need to ask ourselves if we’re growing in Christlikeness or are we stagnate in our walk as a disciple of Christ? And if the latter is the case, what should we be doing, as we look forward to a New Year as a Christian to launch ourselves with the goal of becoming more like our ultimate role model, Jesus?

A few years ago, for the ministry I lead, I developed a method of doing a self rating and analysis to help any Christian, like myself, to do a 2nd Cor. 13: 5 inventory, and then to identify weak areas in one’s Christlikeness index so as to set goals and develop a growth program in discipleship. Let me refer you to this discipleship tool should you want to try it out. And since I’ve used this tool for myself, I stand ready to help any Christian disciple to help him/her grow in Christlikeness. I’m only an email away >>> You can access the inventory tool, by clicking on this link. The instructions on the use of the tool are there; but if you need help using it, email me; or call me at our ministry number which is listed via “about us/contact us” on our ministry website at this link.

But, I hope we all keep close tabs on how much we’re growing in Christlikeness, so that when Christ does come, or we die before that happens, we’ll be as ready as we can be for our glorification into His likeness in Heaven.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me grow into Your likeness and keep growing thereunto. Amen

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2010 – December 21 – Warding Off Alien Invaders

Study from God’s Word The entire letter from Peter (i.e., 1st Peter) to Christians in Asia-Minor in his day, which was a time when Christians were being severely persecuted by non-believing Jews and the Roman authorities under Nero … Passage for Reflection: 1st Peter 2: 11 … NIV Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires [“fleshly lusts” in the NKJV], which war against your soul.

My Journal for Today: Today’s reading from the first letter Peter wrote to persecuted Christians in Asia-Minor and more specifically the highlighted text for today, chosen by Dr. Smith in his devotional, mean a lot to me. I have been called to lead a ministry, called Battle Plan Ministry - website linked here, which is primarily for Christian men who have fallen on the spiritual battle fields and surrendered to the flesh [i.e., sexual sin] rather than stand for the righteousness of Christ. And in today’s text, Peter is warning Christians, who feel like they are alien warriors fighting the good fight of Christ in a strange and perverse world, to abstain from the very natural desire to succumb to the fleshly ways of the enemy in this alien world.

Yes, as Christians, we’re definitely not residents or citizens of this world. When we become truly born-again Christians, we become aliens to a world which has been occupied and ruled by Satan; and we’ve also become warriors for Christ because of Him choosing to set aside His glory to come among us, to live, to minister, and to die as the Lamb of God for our sins. So, when we really/truly receive Christ as our Commander in Chief, we become alien warriors who always must be on guard in following the steps of our field Captain, the Holy Spirit, who shines a light on our path through this hostile land.

And Peter was trying to enlighten, encourage, and empower Christians who were under severe attack in the arenas of battle in Asia-Minor (as well as any Christians today who feel the attacks of our spiritual enemies). Surely you recognize, fellow Christian warrior, that you’re in a battle every day of your life; and we have natural weaknesses [not the least of which is our own spiritual being – see Jer. 17: 9]; and as warrior enemies, we are vulnerable to the strategies/ploys of our enemy, Satan, who has established some serious beachheads and developed some very powerful weaponry, all designed to bring down Christian warriors in battle.

And even our allies in the Church have become either naïve to our situation or complacent as fighting agents of our Lord. Too many in the church have become double-agents, claiming allegiance with Christ, but wearing the uniform of the world and following all too comfortably its lead. Dr. Smith’s challenging question for today is directed to any Christian warrior in this alien world. He writes, ”What success am I having in abstaining from the sinful desires hurled at me as a believing alien in a hostile world?”

It pains me to see many Christians becoming easy prey for Satan and his sophisticated ploys, using his very certain power, as he does battle to attempt to render the witness and testimonies of alien Christians null-and-void in this world. When we surrender and fall to the world, we have no power of witness in this world. And God has given us that warrior power, as well as the charge to use it as His witnesses. [see Acts 1: 8]. And, my friends, His power, when we choose to follow it and use it, is always greater than that of the enemy [see 1st John 4: 4]. But as alien soldiers in God’s army, we have to CHOOSE to receive/use the enabling/empowering grace within us as we CHOOSE to follow the Savior rather than self or Satan. The operant word – in caps there – is the crux of the matter. It’s always a matter of CHOICE.

Hey, my fellow alien warriors, how’re doin? I pray that we all fall in line behind our Commander and Chief, Who Captains our army, following Him into battle every day.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, You and my Captain; I follow YOU; I fight for YOU!! Amen

Monday, December 20, 2010

2010 – December 20 – Choices … Friendships

Study from God’s Word Reading two traveling letters, the books of James and Jude, written to the church written by these two brothers of Jesus, who were trying to get the persecuted Jewish Christians to remember God’s covenant and to remain faithful in spite of the persecutions of the world … Passage for Reflection: James 4: 4 … NIV You adulterous people,[a reference to adulterous Israel – see Hosea 3: 1] don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

My Journal for Today: Reading the books, i.e., letters, of Jesus’ brothers, James and Jude this morning, if one cannot see the relevance of Scripture to our world today, that person would have to be a non-believer or a foolish Christian who has been duped by the paganism or carnality of worldly pleasures or materialism; and unfortunately this is a very common failing evidenced in the church and Christians today.

Dr. Smith makes the relevant case that today’s parents will try to get their kids to recognize the truth that “bad company corrupts good character;” yet, these same parents often will take up deadly close friendships with the world and allow worldly values to corrupt what God’s word teaches us. Let’s get right to Dr. Smith’s closing devotional question today (with one little addition from me): Do the decisions I make reflect a greater friendship with a faithful God or with an ever-so-fickle friend [the world]?”

Dear one, I don’t trust myself; and I acknowledge the truth of Jeremiah’s warning in Jer. 17: 9, which tells me how weak my human heart (i.e., my very HUMAN being) is; … and that I have a heart which is deceitful beyond measure. James and Jude recognized this; and they were writing (i.e., preaching) a message of warning to all Christians; yes, to those in the first century after Christ, but also to all Christians in any generation who could be deceived that we followers of Christ cannot be wooed and won by the world away from the truth which is found in God’s word.

More specifically, we see these two letters throwing up a loud warning against trafficking in worldly and fleshly pleasures and expecting us, as Christians, to be able to have a deep and abiding relationship with Christ. NO WAY! It simply cannot happen; and that is what today’s highlight text almost yells out in warning to the man or woman of “the Way,” … i.e., any follower of Christ.

So, my fellow Christian, let’s be honest and ask ourselves the question raised by James and Dr. LaGard Smith today: Are we cavorting too closely with the materialism of the world and trying to have one foot following God’s truth [i.e., the Bible] and the other foot pursuing the lured values of the world? And can we not see that such dualism will split us in half and take us away from Christ’s simple (but, oh so difficult) charge (see Luke 9: 23) to deny self, to take our cross (of Christ) daily, and to follow our Lord?

Take careful note here, my dear one, and see where your path is leading. Because if it is pursuing friendship with the world, we will be lured by the sirens of materialism and pleasure-seeking onto the rocks of death and darkness and we’ll never be able to foster the friendship offered by Christ by being obedient to Him and following Him in the friendship He and only He can offer.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I want to follow You and to stay away from the lures the world uses to divert and distract me. Amen

Sunday, December 19, 2010

2010 – December 19 – Making a Good Finish

Study from God’s Word 2nd Timothy: Paul’s entire 2nd letter to Timothy, often considered his last will and testament … Passage for Reflection: 2nd Timothy 4: 7 … NIV I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

My Journal for Today: How many people, in studying the Bible, have impressed you who started well in the faith but could not sustain their early courage and strength. Certainly there was David, who showed such promise and courage, dealing with Goliath in faith as a youth, then taking years to handle the assaults of Saul. He was truly God’s warrior and later God’s King. But, in his later years as King, he fell to temptation with Bathsheba, even to the point of having a dear friend murdered to cover his sin. Then there was David’s Son, Solomon, who was given, by God, more human wisdom than any other man; and he built the great Temple for the Lord. BUT, later in his life he also fell into foolish and fleshly living.

Think of all the contemporary Christian leaders who couldn’t sustain the “good fight.” There was Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, and Ted Haggard. And yes, all of these men, as well as David and Solomon, after their individual falls and folly, confessed and repented and experienced some degree of restoration in their lives; but they could not seem to sustain their faithful warfare against the flesh, the world, and the Devil during their life trek as a believer, falling prey … especially to their own fleshly desires.

And it was Paul in this final letter to his protégé, Timothy, speaking out strongly with exhortations and warnings to avoid the desires of the flesh (see 2nd Tim. 2: 22); and as he wrote to Timothy (and all Christians) in today’s highlight text, to do what Paul felt he had done as a warrior for Christ, … i.e., to finish the race and keep the faith. Paul may not have started well in his life, being the former persecutor of Christians; but once he let Christ into His heart, Paul was one who definitely finished well.

The question raised by today’s challenging devotional – at least for me – is: … Do I let discouragement or cynicism creep into my mind/heart to the point that it weakens my resolve to finish well as a warrior in God’s army? God has charged me (see Luke 9: 23, Acts 1: 8, and Matt. 28: 19-20) to keep-on-keeping-on in the faith, becoming and remaining strong as His witness and His warrior. Dr. Smith pointedly asks today: If I ever start slipping into a mode of cynical discouragement, what new vision can I capture to keep me going?

And these are questions we all need to have a battle plan to confront? I’m certainly no David or Solomon with regard to courage or wisdom. I’m no Paul or Peter when it comes to my evangelical zeal. But I am Bill Berry; and I have the same Holy Spirit in my heart Who raised Jesus from the dead and Who came into my heart to enlighten, enable, and empower me the same way He did those so-called “giants of the faith,” who some how fell in their faith and became victims rather than victorious. I have been called by Paul’s exhortation to Timothy (and, by extension, to me) to stick it out and finish the marathon we call the Christian life, … to fight the good fight all the way to the end for Christ. And I learned a long time ago from a mentor that anything we’re called to do by God, He will enable us to do it. The question – for me – is, will I stay in surrender mode and let Him?

So, I have a battle plan; and my plan is to march onward using the same plan which God gave to Joshua when this warrior for God’s way was down after Moses’ death [see Joshua 1: 1 – 9 - linked here]. And I charge you to go back and meditate on the charge and challenge – i.e., the battle plan – which God gave to Joshua to stay strong and carry out God’s plan with success; and you’ll see that God promised Joshua that he could cross the Jordan and take the promised land IF he would just believe God and stay in His book of the Law (which we now have in expanded form in our Bible).

God’s plan for Bill Berry to “fight the good fight” is to do what I’m doing right now; and stay in God’s word, daily, believing that my Lord will give me all that I need, through His Spirit, to fight the good fight and to win in my own personal race to the end of this life, … giving me a running head start into the next.

What about you? What’s your plan? And will you finish the race the way God is calling you to finish? >>> Oh, and I’ll say to you here what Paul said to his followers (see 1st Cor. 11: 1, which I’ll paraphrase here, … “Come on, follow me; because I’m following Christ!”

My Prayer for Today:
Lord, I follow You to the tape. I will finish with You. Amen

Saturday, December 18, 2010

2010 – December 18 – When Scruples Become Unscrupulous

Study from God’s Word The entire letter from Paul to Titus … Passage for Reflection: Titus 1: 15 … NIV To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.

My Journal for Today: Reading the title above, it may seem somewhat nonsensical. We generally think that “having scruples” is a good thing when it denotes one pausing or having doubts about what is perceived to be bad choices or behaviors. But just because someone balks at behavior cannot automatically be judged as GOOD scruples, especially when the judgments are based upon ignorance, miscalculations, or miscommunications.

In today’s highlight text, Paul was warning his protégé, Titus, who was in Crete dealing with a number of Jews who were teaching spurious doctrines about Judaism which perverted the concept of grace in The Gospel. Therefore, their “scruples” had become unscrupulous; and they were confusing the believers in the church in Crete, teaching that they, especially the Gentiles there, must conform to Jewish religious traditions as a sign of their salvation.

Today, in his devotional, LaGard Smith, asks, "Are my high standards of virtue matched by an equally high sense of God’s grace?" And this is always a balancing act for Christians, isn’t it? How do we maintain Godly truth and exercise Godly grace simultaneously? Jesus was the model of balance when it came to truth and grace; and we, as His disciples, certainly strive to emulate His balance. BUT to say the least; … it can be tough at times!

In today’s socio-political arena, we see those living the so-called “gay” lifestyle and claiming it is normal and healthy. And there are people, calling themselves, “christian,” who scrupulously claim that these people are behaving abominably; and these “christians” will not have anything to do with those who call themselves “gay christians.” And where in all of this finger pointing and hate-speech is God’s grace being exercised? Is this not an example of “scruples becoming unscrupulous?”

Where is the love and the grace of God being exercised when so-called “christians” point fingers at misguided homosexuals, calling them “queers” or “faggots?” How will God’s truth be heard or received when our scruples, as Christians, make the light of truth invisible to those who need it so desperately? And also, … how can the light of God’s truth be visible when, because of excessive grace, it’s never taken from under a bushel and shone, …again, to those who so desperately need it? Oh, the dilemma of seeking a balance between grace and truth!

As Dr. Smith writes, "… the danger is either being so “grace-filled” that we relegate all scruples to the realm of personal opinion; … or – like those Jewish legalists [with whom Titus was dealing] – being so lacking in grace that we call “unclean” what God has made clean."

But, you are probably asking, at this moment, how does that statement apply to the situation of dealing with homosexuals in our world today? Because, as your scruples [and mine] may dictate, homosexuality is so clearly a sin-ridden lifestyle; and so, how can we, as Christians, therefore show God’s love, in witnessing truth to lost people who are living as homosexuals and still try to witness the truth and light of God’s word to them?

And that my friends is one of those ever potent and powerful conundrums of our day; and though I’d like to pontificate Godly wisdom and clear direction here, my fellow Christian; I’m afraid you’ve latched on to the wrong teacher/Pastor here. I’m still trying to walk that social tightrope and find the right balance these days. And when I get all the answers, I’ll be right here to tell you about them.

Until then, I’ll keep trying to grow into Christlikeness and be as much like our Lord was in dealing with sinners who were lost and living in the darkness of their own sin.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me be like You, shining Your Light into the darkness of this world, yet always standing in/for the truth. Amen

Friday, December 17, 2010

2010 – December 17 – Working Out for an Eternity

Study from God’s Word The entire letter from Paul to Timothy – 1st Timothy, Chapters 1 – 6 … Passage for Reflection: 1st Timothy 4: 7 - 8 [note highlight text in bold/underlined] … NIV 7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 9 This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance.

My Journal for Today: “No pain, no gain!” You’ve heard that trite, but true, old saying when it comes to physical exercise. And no one, who is intelligent, denies that all of us should be committed to maintain the physical temple that God has given each one of us. And Paul even recognized this when he was writing to the young evangelist/pastor of the church in Ephesus, Timothy, whom he regarded as his spiritual protégé. But Paul also exhorted Timothy to recognize, even more than the discipline of physical exercise, that all Christians, especially called leaders, anointed by God to lead His church, should put any even higher, eternal priority on maintaining the disciplines of the faith. Hence, we read Paul’s instruction to Timothy in today’s highlight passage to do all that it takes to maintain a regimen of spiritual discipline which models Christlikeness and exhibits the preparation with which all of us should be preparing for the heavenly life to come.

Dr. Smith is right-on today, when he writes, ”Considering that even the best toned bodies will eventually die and decompose, exercising the soul must surely take top priority.” And he says that when it comes to decisions we make on what we must do to maintain good bodily, emotional, and spiritual good health, we should prioritize those disciplines which give us eternal rewards above all other disciplines.

I often ask people whom I teach if they brush their teeth every day; and then I ask how many floss. Fewer people do the latter everyday; but almost everyone reports brushing their teeth daily. And everyone who does either discipline knows why they are doing it … to prevent tooth and gum decay. But when I ask how many – in a given class or audience – have a rigorous workout in God’s word and in prayer EVERY DAY, even though Christians know that this is a good and Godly thing to do, few report being committed to maintain this eternally important discipline of the faith. Dr. Smith asks, as his motivating application question, today: ”How can I hope to be fit for eternity if I shrink from the painful routine of stretching myself spiritually?” … Ugh! No pain, no gain!

Right now, at this very moment, as we close out 2010, I’m convicted that I need to be doing more to keep fit with regard to my bodily health by getting in the swimming pool and swimming laps more often than I’m currently doing. It’s an aerobic exercise I can do even though I have pretty bad hip arthritis. I need to remember and exercise more regularly and rigorously to maintain the physical temple God has given me (take note of 1st Cor. 6: 19 – 20 - linked).

But though I need to more finely tuned as to my prayer regimen daily, I can report here – for accountability purposes – and being regarded as a “Pastor,” Elder, Minister, and teacher in my church, that I do keep a rather rigorous daily discipline of maintaining my devotional studies in God’s word … EVERYDAY, … because I know just how vulnerable I am to spiritual lethargy and inertia when/if I were to break my discipline and “take a vacation” from my daily devotional routines.
Anyone who has followed me, by reading here, knows that I do prioritize my time to insure that I report my devotional journal daily by blogging what God has given me in my spiritual “exercise” for that day. And I’m bragging only here on my God, Who ALWAYS enables me to do what HE calls me to do.

So, as we close out 2010 and enter 2011, I will make a covenant commitment to God and anyone reading here that I’ll be rolling out every morning – usually early – to pray and to dive into God’s word, seeking the spiritual success God promised to Joshua (and to me) if he (and I) would meditate on God’s word day and night, i.e., everyday [see God’s promise for any/all of us in Joshua 1: 8 - linked].

I guess it’s a matter of whether we believe God will do what HE says, if we do what we should be doing in exercising our spirit. So, if we desire to be successful and prosperous in doing what God would have us do, the charge – by Paul to Timothy as well as God to Joshua and all of us – is out there for us to carry out. >>> BUT, … how many of us will do so?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I believe Your promise and have experienced its outcomes as I’ve read through Your word, cover-to-cover, this year; … help me to KOKO in the exercise of my Spirit-led disciplines this next year and beyond in the time You give me to prepare for eternity. Amen

Thursday, December 16, 2010

2010 – December 16 – Excellent Thinking

Study from God’s Word The entire letter to the Philippians … Passage for Reflection: Philippians 4: 8 … NIV Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

My Journal for Today: For years I’ve had this word picture, which I try to live by and use to teach the need to intentionally overcome the impurities of life by filling my mind and heart with what Dr. Smith today calls “excellent thinking.” The picture is based on the proverbial truth of Proverbs 23: 7, which in the NKJV reads, As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.

In other words, we become what we allow our minds (and thereby our hearts) to be filled with. And it is this premise, from today’s highlight text, which Paul is addressing to two women in the church in Philippi, with whom Paul had a deep and long-lasting love relationship from his trips there in the past. These women, Euodia and Syntyche, because of their conflicting ideas, were splitting the Christians in Philippi; and Paul, in his letter to the church, was exhorting these two and his fellow Christians to get their act together … to become united in the thoughts and ideals influence by none other than Christ; … in other words, “excellent thinking” in Christ would lead to excellence of united action.

Back to my word picture. It is of two clear beakers, one filled with clear water and the other filled with black ink. I picture a person taking the ink-filled beaker and dropping just a few drops of ink into the beaker of clear water. What will happen? Well, of course, the clear water begins to become murky because of just a few drops of ink. And that, my dear one, pictures what we confront from our minds being influenced with the many droplets of thought we get from Satan, from the world, and from other people influenced by the flesh, all of which will continue to cause our minds/hearts to become impure by dropping as many droplets of impure images, ideas, and impressions into our minds. And to the extent that our minds become clouded by the fogginess or impurity of thought, we will make impure or inaccurate choices. As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.

But again back to my word picture, … in reverse. If you have a beaker, clouded to some degree by ink, how long do you think it will take one, pouring clear water into that murky beaker, to make it clear and pristine with pure water again? Yes, I’m sure you can see it taking quite a bit of time and discipline, pouring clear water into that murky beaker to clean up the murkiness cause by allowing some ink into what used to be a clear beaker. And therein you have Paul’s exhortation in Phil. 4: 8, for the Christian to do all he/she can to pour “excellent” (i.e., Godly) thoughts, primarily from the well of clarity which is God’s truth (i.e., Scripture), into his/her mind so that that person’s heart will be more readily influence by God’s will and His way in living.

I would hope that I need not go on here for you to get God’s point here from Paul in Phil. 4: 8, which is that we can’t expect to make clear choices from unclear minds; and we can’t expect to make clear, Godly choices if we allow our minds to become impure by taking in the murky, impurity the world will bring into our minds by all the means Satan now has available to him to cloud our minds and hearts to influence our choices and behavior.

So, I ask today: What are we doing in a disciplined and daily manner, to avoid exposure to impure thoughts, images, or ideas and to allow God to pour His pure ideals from His word into our minds that we might have “excellent thoughts” influencing our ability to make excellent choices? Personally, I’m driven to continue to do what I’m doing every morning, by pouring as much of God’s word into my mind as I can so that I might do what Paul exhorted to Philippi in Phil. 4: 8 or what God charged Joshua to do in Joshua 1: 8 or what the author of Psalm 119: 9-11 wrote in his love-song about God’s word.

What is your plan to promote excellent thinking and Godly action?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, You’ve convicted me to KOKO in Your word to purify my mind and bring me to excellence of action to glorify You. Amen

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

2010 – December 15 – Deadly Spiritual Warfare

Study from God’s Word The entire letter from Paul which we traditionally attribute to him writing as a Roman prisoner to the church at Ephesus, i.e., Ephesians, Chapters 1 – 6 … Passage for Reflection: Ephesians 6: 12 … NIV For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

My Journal for Today: Isn’t it interesting that today many people, especially young people, can imagine – or even obsessively play games – in “cyberspace,” living as an avatar and trying to overcome the evil warriors they see in the cybernetic world of their computer; YET, they cannot – or don’t choose to – believe that there is a world of truly powerful forces, which we cannot see, but live in the spiritual realm to do battle and to be a force against God in our spiritual lives.

To depict the reality of this spiritual warfare, which goes on even as I type this, Paul exhorted the Ephesian Christians, and you/me by extension, to be ready for and arm ourselves, spiritually, for the warfare which we all face everyday in this life, depicted by today’s highlight text. But then Paul goes on to portray the armament, weapons, and strategies we need in our daily battles with our spiritual enemies, … Satan, the world, and our own flesh, … formidable foes against which we must be prepared.

To help us do that, Paul painted a word picture of the “full armor of God” in Ephesians 6, which are those elements of defensive armament such as the belt of truth (our integrity), the breastplate of righteousness (our purity), the sandals of peace (our surety), the shield of faith (our certainty), and our helmet of salvation (our sanity), all of which, when properly worn, protect us against any/all of our spiritual enemies in the daily battles we’ll face in life.

Then we must take up our only offensive weapon against these spiritual forces and that is the sword of the spirit, which in Eph. 6: 17, we read is the world of God. And just as Jesus used this same weapon as the God-Man (see, Matt. 4 or Luke 4) against His spiritual arch-enemy, Satan, we can – and must – wield a ready, sharpened, and practiced sword, wielding it as God had charged Joshua as His warrior in Joshua 1: 8 or as the author of Psalm 119: 9-11 said he had to use God’s sword – i.e., God’s word – as his weapon against his own sinfulness.

And finally in this passage of Ephesians 6, we read of the primary battle strategy we have as Christian warriors; and that is taking the high ground, which is prayer. If we don’t use our prayer strategy at all times in life (see 1st Thess. 5: 17), we will be fighting the battles from the lowlands with our enemies taking the high ground. BUT … anytime we wear our full armor, and take our sharpened and well-practiced sword to the high ground in prayer, we will be in a position to not only do battle effectively, but to win against our enemies just as Christ did against Satan on that mountaintop in the wilderness (again in Luke 4 or Matt 4).

I hope you’re well versed and well dressed for today’s battle, my dear one. Because to deny that you’re going to be in a battle or to dismiss all of this as biblical fantasy is playing right into the hands of our spiritual enemies, many of whom, as Satan, are far more powerful than are we with our deceitful hearts (see Jer. 17: 9). Everyday I get ready for battle by dressing myself, mentally and spiritually, checking to determine if any of the elements of my armor are weak, being sure that I have my sword sharpened and ready for battle, and going to the high ground in prayer to get myself into the posture and place I need to be for battle.

How about you; are you ready for battle today?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, my armor is in place; and I carry Your mighty sword. Now, I’m here on this pinnacle of prayer, ready to do battle. And I follow You, my Captain, ready to be victorious in Your Name and for Your glory. Amen

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

2010 – December 14 – Higher Hearts, … Higher Minds

Study from God’s Word Both Letters to Colossians and to Philemon, written while Paul was a prisoner in Rome … Passage for Reflection: Colossians 3: 1 – 2 … NIV 1 Since, then [upon receiving Christ as Lord; see Col. 2: 6], you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

My Journal for Today: The third chapter of Paul’s letter to the Christians in and around Colosse, Laodicea, and Hierapolis, delivered by Epaphrus, who had been a missionary there, is very edifying and convicting for me. It speaks, as Dr. Smith brings out in his devotional today, of moving from lower, worldly, values, which, before Christ, we lived so easily as non-Christians; and moving to the higher, Godly values which come so challengingly to Christian living. As it is depicted in Colossians 3, it is “putting off” the old and “putting on” the new. It is moving from the lower, sin-directed life to the higher, Savior-directed life.

And Paul writes to these Christians in Asia-Minor (and to us), when we die to self, we must be raised to the newness which is life in Christ, which is the life unto which we witness in Baptism, being raised from the depths of sinfulness to a life of victory and freedom in Christ. Dr. Smith, challengingly asks much the same question of his readers (i.e., me today), ”Just how high has my spiritual life soared since I first died to sin and rose to a new life in Christ?”

I don’t know about you; but, bragging only about my surrender to God’s Spirit, this born-again believer [i.e., yours truly], has become a poster boy for the life exhorted by Paul in Colossians 3, or perhaps also 2nd Cor. 5: 17, which I hope you have deeply implanted in your heart’s memory. Let me quote it from my NKJV memory verse: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

What about you? Have you put on the newness, which is available to any born-again Christian, by receiving and “putting on,” by God’s enabling grace, the new Spirit-empowered life provided by your Savior and Lord? Anybody who really knew the Bill Berry, BC (i.e., before Christ), would testify to observing an angry atheist who was deeply involved in obsessive/compulsive sexual sin. But those who now know the Bill Berry, AC (i.e., after dying to self and being raised again in Christ), will give witness to a man driven (by God’s Spirit) to obsessively and compulsively know and serve The Lord. Yes, …, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new

So, in doing my self-directed, God-inspired, inventory today, I ask myself (and you ask yourself), “Am I daily moving higher and higher in mind and spirit, putting on the newness Who is Christ, and setting aside the lower, corrupted self, unto which I must choose daily to die?” Or, “am I holding on to the old, sin-driven self, which goes lower and lower as I choose self over Savior?”

My Prayer for Today: Lord, today I choose to die to me and put on You. Amen

Monday, December 13, 2010

2010 – December 13 – Nourishment for Life’s Storms

Study from God’s Word Acts, Chapters 27 – 28 … Passage for Reflection: Acts 27: 35 – 36 … NIV 35 After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. 36 They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves.

My Journal for Today: Today’s highlighted text by Dr. Smith in his devotional will have little meaning unless you know or have studied the context from which it is taken. So, I exhort you to go back and read Acts, Chapter 27, where Dr. Luke recounts the voyage in an Egyptian vessel where the Apostle Paul and his Roman guard, along with Luke, were making as Paul was being taken to Rome to stand trial there. As you will read, the ship encounters a horrible storm, into which Paul had forewarned the ship should not set sail. However, they did; and Paul has an opportunity – by God’s divine intervention in the storm – to save all the men aboard IF they follow his lead and stay on board even though the ship is going to be destroyed.

You know, I’ve read that account before; and I’ve read the highlight passage before; but until, with Dr. Smith’s help, today, I had never seen how the meal Paul shared with the ship’s crew was a picture of the “last supper” with all the spiritual ramifications involved in that meal of remembrance and cleansing. It’s really a wonderful picture of how all of us are in the vessel of life where The Lord is our Captain. And our life vessel is going to go through storms at some point on our voyage; but how our ship traverses the storm will have everything to do with how we feed daily on the Bread of Life.

And we need to take heart, as Christians on God’s vessel of life, that God is going to bring us through the storms of life - IF and when we’re willing to remember our Lord’s way and partake of His Bread of Life [i.e., His word]. It’s easy for us to forgetfully or fearfully avoid doing this daily, just as the men on the Egyptian ship had done on the fateful voyage into their storm. But Paul reminded them to remember to follow God’s way and to take the “bread of life” in remembrance of The Lord. And they did; and they were saved.

Dr. Smith’s discipleship question for today is as follows: ”How can I survive life’s storms if I do not partake regularly of both the Bread of Life and the memorial by which I remember Him?” And I don’t think that question refers to how often we, as Christians, take communion as much as it reflects on how much and how regularly we feed on God’s truth from His word. If we do not seek a remembrance of God by partaking of the “Bread of Life” daily, how can we expect to weather the storms of life?

I’m going to leave it there today. It’s a lot to take in; and I personally was edified greatly by today’s message. I hope you were too.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, as I take in your “Daily Bread,” You keep me on course on this journey through life’s storms. Amen

Sunday, December 12, 2010

2010 – December 12 – Sharing Our "God Story"

Study from God’s Word Acts, Chapters 24 - 26 … Passage for Reflection: Acts 26: 28 … NIV Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”

My Journal for Today: The scenario I studied from Acts 24-26 today, has Paul imprisoned in Caesarea by the Sea for more than two years; and he’s given the opportunity to witness his testimony and the Gospel message to several of his captors of Roman authority. Today’s verse is documented by Dr. Luke from Paul’s witness to the Roman appointed King, Herod Agrippa II, who had come down to Caesarea from Jerusalem for Paul’s hearing.

And the lesson here is how much of our attention, time, and testimony should be taken by evangelistic witness to non-believers (i.e., the lost) in our sphere of opportunity or influence. And Dr. Smith, from today’s devotional entry, remembers the exhortation of Jesus, Himself, to His disciples, whom He was sending out to share the Gospel in the countryside surrounding Capernaum, where Jesus was residing and teaching at the time. In Matthew 10: 14 we read Jesus’ words, ”If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.”

But here is Paul, in prison, and he has an audience with someone in civil authority, someone who is duty and time bound to listen to Paul’s witness; and Paul pulls out his best verbal guns to share Christ with the pagan king of Judea. And how he shares Christ with Agrippa is a great lesson for anyone who desires to share our faith with others. Paul simply gives the king his testimony, telling how Jesus entered and changed his life forever; and that is a lesson for any of us who desire to share Christ with others in our lives, especially those whom we love dearly and, in our perception, are lost.

We need to first have the opportunity and the invitation to share. As Jesus taught His missionary bent disciples, if someone is not willing – or able – listen to us share the Gospel, we need to move on, and use God’s providence of time, to develop or shape opportunities with others. But when the circumstances of life and our relationships with others give us the chance to share Christ with a lost one, as it was presented for Paul to share with Agrippa, we need to use our personal testimony of our Christ changed or transformed our life as the primary evangelistic approach. I have a story of how Christ changed my life when I was willing/able to receive Him into my life. You, as a Christian, have your story; and someone who’s lost needs to hear our story.

I used to think that I needed to trumpet a barrage of Scriptures at someone when I shared the Gospel with a lost person; but many people are “turned off” when they hear God’s word being spouted out at them, especially when they’ve given the listening license to someone to share their faith. But I’ve learned – by experience and example, like Paul’s story from today’s text – that it’s best to share my testimony in simple, brief, and clear word pictures, … my story of how Christ came into my life and changed me forever. Anyone with anti-Christian biases or negative stereotypes can argue with biblical references or pro-God arguments. However, NO ONE can argue with a testimony!

No one can argue the truth of me simply telling my story and my giving witness to the truth of how God changed me from an unbelieving agnostic to a believer in what Christ did for me on the cross. No one can argue with my story of how God broke my chains of sex addiction and gave me the power to resist those obsessive and destructive desires. And I also had to come to the realization that I’m not the one who will save the lost person with whom I’m sharing Christ. That’s God’s (i.e., the Holy Spirit’s) business. My charge is only to do all I can to have the opportunity to share my story with a lost soul; and then I simply leave it to God to take that person to the place where that dear lost soul can be humbled to receive the free gift of grace being offered by Christ.

So, we need to be convicted and directed by God’s Great Commission (which I hope you know from Matt. 28: 19-20) to devote our life opportunities to share the Gospel – from our own life experience – with those who will open the window of opportunity for Christ’s light to shine into their darkness by our testimony. And I hope and pray (below) that He will even give me such an opportunity today or into my future to do so. And here’s also me praying that God gives you that opportunity as well.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, as I do so often, I pray that You give me opportunities, maybe even today, for me, and anyone who reads here, to share our story of how You changed us forever. Amen

Saturday, December 11, 2010

2010 – December 11 – Accommodation or Appeasement?

Study from God’s Word Acts 21: 17 – 23: 35 … Passage for Reflection: Acts 21: 26 … NIV The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.

My Journal for Today: Reading today’s highlighted text, it could seem that Paul is going against his stance that he needs to be “all things to all people” [see 1st Cor. 9: 21-23 - linked here] in order to win them to Christ.

In a sense, though, that’s exactly what Paul is doing in today’s verse, going through the Jewish purification ritual to show “his people,” the Jews, that he is like them when it comes to pursuing the Law. Yet, as we see in the chapters I was charged to read/study today (i.e., Chapters 21-23 of Acts), Paul stood his ground with regard to His Gospel ministry; and, in the face of being stoned to death by the Sanhedrin, he preached Christ crucified to these Jews.

So, what are we to learn from these passages as Christians charged by the Great Commission to share our faith with all people, no matter what their sinful lifestyles might be, no matter their religious persuasions, and their cultural taboos? Dr. Smith points to the truth that it doesn’t mean that Christians are to worship along side Muslims in their Mosques. It doesn’t mean that were to go into a bed with a prostitute to show her (or him) the way to Christ. BUT, … in Smith’s words, "… it does mean that we are to build whatever bridges we can so as not to offend religious sensitivities, in particular, in a bid to win hearts and souls for the Lord.”

And this is tough in today’s pluralistic and relativistic world, isn’t it? To some, especially staunch and mature Christians, we may appear being overly appeasing and accommodating as we do all we can to share our testimony or witness for Christ with those living in sin. And there will be times when we cannot accommodate truth in our attempt to exercise grace. I think of the schism in today’s world over how to witness and show God’s love for those who are practicing and living the homosexual lifestyle. How do we, as Christians who try our best to show God’s love for all people, show our love for homosexuals and still maintain the truth that practicing homosexuality behaviorally is an abomination in God’s eyes? How can we build bridges and share the love of God, with God’s grace, and still maintain God’s truth in these arenas of witnessing our faith?

I don’t know about you; but I’m convicted by Dr. Smith’s closing and challenging question, as he writes, ”What extraordinary steps have I taken lately to win some soul to Christ?” That one rumbles uncomfortably for me; and I let you deal with it on our own as well.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray that You set me up with divine appointments so that I can show Your love through my testimony to the lost. Amen

Friday, December 10, 2010

2010 – December 10 – Laying Down A Life

Study from God’s Word Acts, Chapters 20 – 21 … Passage for Reflection: Acts 21: 13 … NIV [Fearing for Paul’s life if he were to go to Jerusalem, his travel companions in Caesarea exhorted Paul to refrain from going there, lest he be bound over to the Romans and killed.] 13 Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14 When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”

My Journal for Today: Do you remember what Jesus said to His followers about being His disciple (quoted in Luke 9:23)? Quoting in the NIV: Then He said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Paul certainly was not have been on that hillside in Capernaum when Jesus declared what it took to be His disciple; but reading today’s highlight text, shows that he was willing to follow Christ wherever the Spirit of God would lead him, … yes, even unto death, following in the Spirit-led footsteps of His Lord, Who had walked that path to Jerusalem Himself.

What about it, my fellow Christian? Are we signed up, calling ourselves “Christian,” to deny even our own lives if that’s what His direction calls from us as His disciples? Sure, if we – somehow – knew that we had to die for someone dear to us, maybe a spouse, our kids, or maybe even a dear friend, I would bet that we’d do it if we knew that we could jump in front of a bullet and take it instead of our love one. That’s what Secret Service agents are willing to do for our President; but if you knew that tomorrow could possibly be your end on this earth for following your Lord, would you walk that walk of discipleship?

There are many examples in the Bible of that type of faith. There was Daniel and his three young friends in the Old Testament; … there’s Phillip, the first recorded martyr in the New Testament; and as history would record, ten of the original twelve inner-core Disciples died a martyr’s death, as did the Apostle Paul, late in his missionary journeys. These were followers of The Lord who were willing to follow Him anywhere and everywhere He would lead, even if they knew it might be their death.

And I would expect that many of us, reading what I write here, would say, “Yes, if the circumstances presented themselves in my life, I would do what Paul did and follow Jesus even unto death.” But, what about the challenging question posed by F. LaGard Smith in his devotional for today? He writes: ”If I think I’d be willing to DIE for my faith, were I actually put to the test, am I equally committed to the even greater challenge of truly LIVING for my faith?”

And knowing God’s challenge to us by God, through Paul’s exhortation to believers in Romans 12: 1-2 [linked here], I’m convicted and committed to live up that challenge. What about you?

My Prayer for Today: I want to be a LIVING SACRIFICE for You, my Lord. Help me; lead me; empower me. Amen

Thursday, December 09, 2010

2010 – December 9 – The Powers That Be

Study from God’s Word Romans, Chapters 12 - 16 … Passage for Reflection: Romans 13: 1-2 … NIV 1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

My Journal for Today: After reading/studying through the first 11 chapters of Paul’s epistle to the Romans, Paul gives them (and us) the basics of Christian theology. But then, the Apostle shifts gears in the later chapters of his epistle, giving the Roman Christians (and all of us in God’s word) some very practical lessons in how to apply God’s truth to our lives in this world. And some of those truth teachings can be pretty hard to handle; and, I believe, none more that today’s highlight text on being submitted to earthly governments.

Maybe you don’t have trouble applying Romans 13; but at times I do; and Dr. Smith, in his devotional for today points to some of the questions I have had. I can certainly buy into the concept of God being sovereign in His omniscience and omnipotence. I can see that God has plans for mankind that we may not be able to grasp at any given time (that’s the truth of Isaiah 55: 8-9. But when we read Romans 13, how do we even remotely grasp and apply these truths when we see governments established (by God’s sovereignty and providence) involving totally anti-God agents like Hitler, Stalin, or Idi Amin, let alone jokers leading countries these days like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the current and absolutely despicable President of Iran.

Yes, I can see how God, in history, used tyrants like Pharaoh, in the time of Moses, or misguided fools like Pilate, who were providentially used by God for His plan of deliverance of God’s people and the salvation of mankind. But … but … but …; am I to say that my God actually and providentially installed governments which are so radically opposed to any God, let alone the God who went to the cross to redeem us from ourselves?

Talk about a difficult word. But Jesus declared (in Mark 12: 17), “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s,” which I know includes taxes, humble service, and yes, even the honor Caesar is due as the duly installed and providentially established government of God. But does that mean I’m to be subservient to a government requiring me to follow unGodly laws? … Well, there’s where the submission to government authorities ends and our allegiance to God stands forth. Even Jesus said that, though we are to honor our parents, who gave us birth or are the God ordained leaders of our homes, when it comes to the hierarchy of authority, we’re to look to God first, even if it means turning away from the allegiance we have to our parents [see Matt. 10: 37].

In other words, when it comes to dealing with governments and human governing authority, we are to give them their due as far as they give honor to the God Who gave them the power they have. But when those authorities, even parents, misuse or abuse that authority and set forth rabid, anti-God policies, rules, or laws, it is our given allegiance to follow God even if it means standing against the laws or rules of man.

How we exercise such judgment and application of truth will determine how we interact and honor (or dishonor) the God-established government under which we currently serve. Personally, I hate to see some of the policies being set forth by our current government; but IF I don’t see CLEARLY that these policies are unGodly, I will – according to God’s truth in Romans 13 - honor the laws of our President, Congress, and Judges. That’s God’s way; so it should be mine.

My Prayer for Today: Tough word today, Lord; but it’s Your truth; and I will follow it. Amen

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

2010 – December 8 – The Blame Game

Blogger’s Note: Since this devotional came on my birthday, I think God was pointedly directing His Spirit-led wisdom to me this morning. But maybe some of you can identify as well.

Study from God’s Word Romans, Chapters 9 - 11 … Passage for Reflection: Romans 9: 19 … NIV One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist His will?”

My Journal for Today: Paul’s pointed rhetorical question [in today’s text], directed to Jewish Christians questioning God for allowing Gentiles into God’s family, points to one of the most intriguing of all Christian conundrums. And that is this: If God is sovereign, and He is; then how can I be blamed for my sinfulness when HE created me this way?

As Dr. Smith points out today, anyone, very naturally, who is accused of something they did not do, will retort: “Hey, it’s not my fault; why blame me?” And that is behind our wondering why God holds me accountable for my sin when He created me, a sinner. What’s up with that anyway?

And the answer is that, like Adam and Eve, God did create me; but, also like Adam & Eve, God didn’t create me to sin. He created me to glorify Him by choosing not to sin when He created me with the free-will to choose His way or my own. Do you get it?

It’s not God’s will that we became evil because of Adam’s (and Eve’s) sin. No, He created me to glorify Him by choosing His will and His way of doing life; and to avoid my own. And being sovereign, God is the potter; and He can form me any way HE sees fit. And if I happen to have certain predispositions to sinful living or choices, that’s simply the way I was created. And some are created in such a way that sinful living or choices come much easier than it does for others.

And so, should we, sinful creatures, harangue at God, saying, “God, why did you make me this way?” Or should we say, “Lord, show me how, given the way You made me, I can glorify you by living the way You have willed all mankind to live?” I think the latter is the better option, don’t you?

So, if we have a “thorn,” which God created us to have or allowed Satan to give us (perhaps unwanted same-sex desires, or an ‘addiction’ to pornography, or gluttonous eating desires), it might be wise for us to go back and meditate on Romans 7: 14-23 and/or 2nd Cor. 12: 7-10, where Paul described his own weaknesses and fleshly hang-ups; and where he wants us all to see that no matter how we were made and whatever weaknesses we have, “God’s grace is sufficient” for us to rise above our recognized weaknesses or proclivities and honor God with our Spirit-led and Spirit-directed choices to overcome our selves and honor God with our free will.

Chew on that one for awhile, my friends, especially any of you who are feeling like God is giving you an unfair disadvantage by the way He made you. We need to get over it [i.e., the self pity] , my loved ones; and get on with God’s plan for our lives.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, forgive me if I’ve ever blamed You for the way I am or the way I choose to sin against Your will. Amen