Thursday, February 28, 2013

February 28, 2013 … Come Out of Babylon

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 59

Passage of the Day: Revelation 18: 4 [in the context of verses 2-5 [NLT] …  
2 He [an angel] gave a mighty shout, “Babylon is fallen—that great city is fallen! She has become the hideout of demons and evil spirits, a nest for filthy buzzards, and a den for dreadful beasts. 3 For all the nations have drunk the wine of her passionate immorality. The rulers of the world have committed adultery with her, and merchants throughout the world have grown rich as a result of her luxurious living.” 
4 Then I heard another voice calling from heaven, “Come away from her, my people. Do not take part in her sins, or you will be punished with her. 5 For her sins are piled as high as heaven, and God is ready to judge her for her evil deeds. 
Contextual Study of today’s passage: Revelation, Chapter 18 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: Matthew 22: 37 : [NLT] … [To any who are Babylonians, Jesus speaks God’s exhortation … ]  
37 Jesus replied [to the Sanhedrin], “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ [quoting from God’s word in Deut. 6: 5] 

My Journal for Today: Remembering that my devotional editor, Os Hillman, is writing to those he addresses in his workplace ministry, today he points out that God wants all, no matter where they work or live in life, to do what my journal entry is titled today … COME OUT FROM BABYLON.

And what is Babylon; … to which Hillman writes: “Babylon is a system of doing business. The stronghold of the workplace is mammon and pride. Dependence on money and misplaced trust are at the core of a Babylonian philosophy of life.” In other words, “Babylon,” biblically represents “the world” the system Satan has developed to draw non-believers away from Christ and to damage and/or weaken the witness of born-again believers. And noting The Revelation (i.e., chapter 18, verses 2-5, copied above), there will come a time when God will destroy “Babylon,” and God’s remnant, … the believers who have come out of Satan’s system, will be saved.

There was a time when Jesus was challenged by the Babylonian influences of His time, … by the Sanhedrin or religious leaders; and they asked him to give them what God had presented as the most important commandment (and that is to show them how God’s people can come out of Babylon); and Jesus replied (see above) quoting Deuteronomy 6: 5. And really that is the call for any of us today. God wants to save us from Babylon (i.e., Satan, the world, or our own fleshly hearts). He wants us to recognize that we are in “Babylon” if we are consumed by Satan’s world and relenting to our flesh. God wants us to repent and “come out of Babylon.” And if we do, we will be saved from God’s all-consuming fires which will ultimately consume Babylon.

What about it, dear one? Are you living and/or working in Babylon? If so, come out, repent, and walk with Christ into the freedom of salvation. And to that issue, the Apostle Paul, inspired by God, wrote Romans 10: 9-13; and if you BELIEVE, with all your heart, and have declared openly with your mouth, that Jesus is your LORD and Savior, you have come out of Babylon and are saved.

My Prayer for Today …Lord, thank You for leading me out of Babylon. … Amen

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

February 27, 2013 … Really Knowing God

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 58

Passage of the Day: Philippians 3: 10a [in the context of verses 8-11] [NLT] …  
8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ 9 and become one with Him. I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God’s law, but I trust Christ to save me. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 As a result, I can really know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I can learn what it means to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that, somehow, I can experience the resurrection from the dead! 
Contextual Study of today’s passage: Philippians 3 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: Matthew 14: 22-23 : [NLT] … [If it’s good enough for Jesus, shouldn’t it be good enough for me?] ... 
22 Immediately after this [i.e., the feeding of the thousands with a few fishes and loaves], Jesus made His disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake while he sent the people home. 23 Afterward he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while He was there alone. 

My Journal for Today: Years ago, a mentor asked me, “Bill, do you want your life to be blessed by God?” … Well, that was a no-brainer to answer. Of course, I wanted to be blessed by God! So, after answering affirmatively, he asked me what I was thinking and doing to bring Gods’ blessing. That one was not so easy to answer; and so, he taught me this chain of purpose.

 He said, “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 be blessed by God.” So, for me to live to be blessed by God, the first line in this chain should be my first goal in life? And I could see that it was TO KNOW GOD.

And in today’s Hillman devotional, the editor first points to the witness of the Apostle Paul to his beloved Philippian friends in this regard. And in Philippians 3: 8-10, copied above, we read how Paul had come to realize that the only way he (or any Christian) would experience the resurrection power of Christ would be to know Him deeply and intimately. So, that being true, what do we do, as Christ’s disciples, to REALLY KNOW our Lord?

Well, Jesus, Himself modeled the answer to that one; and I’ve copied one such time [from Matthew 14, also found in Mark 6: 45-46] when Jesus showed us, by His example, how to know God intimately; and in mediating on that passage, what can we learn about what it takes to really know God, the Father?

Jesus, during His earthly ministry, in setting aside His glory and majesty for a season of earthly time, knew that, in his humanity, He, though not losing any of His divinity, had to be totally dependent upon God, the Father, and rely on God, the Holy Spirit, to provide Him, as God’s Son, the power and direction to complete His earthly sojourn, which would lead to the cross. So, anytime Jesus needed direction, power, or renewal, He would go to be alone and pray (and sometimes fast as He did when He had to confront Satan in the wilderness (see Matt. 4 and Luke 4). And as I’ve said in my devotionals many times, and often need to be reminded personally, “If it’s good enough for Jesus, shouldn’t it be good enough for me?”

If Jesus needed to invest close, focused prayer time with God to know His will and to be able to glean His power from God’s Spirit, wouldn’t it be logical – especially since Jesus did so over and over again – that I follow my Lord’s example. That’s what Paul had discovered and was teaching Christians in the highlight passage above. Knowing God and ultimately receiving His blessing of empowerment depends on the depth of an intimate and abiding relationship with our Lord. And that – i.e, getting to know God – depends on spending deep and focused time with Him, … sharing openly with Him, … and being willing to listen to Him through His Spirit. And that my friends, will depend on our deep/abiding prayer-life where we, in solitude, reach out to commune with our God, sometimes even with fasting, to glean what He has to give us from His resurrection power.

That’s why my time here each morning – EVERY MORNING – in prayer, and delving into His word, is so, so important to me. I want to know my God as deeply and intimately as I can. And as I get to know my God,. through the discipline of my daily solitude and time in prayer and meditation in His word, I know that each day I’m here I’ll love Him more, obey Him more, leading to more in service to Him, … which will yield more of His blessings in my life?

So, I hope you’re here with me, … in this place, getting to know Your God more today than yesterday; and that you’ll be back to spend time with Him tomorrow to know Him even more intimately then. And just being here with Him today, is a blessing, isn’t it?

My Prayer for Today … Lord, my time with You is so sweet! … Amen

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

February 26, 2013 … Marching As To War!

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 57

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 6: 12 [in the context of verses 10-13]- [NLT] …  
10 A final word: Be strong with the Lord’s mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. 12 For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms. 
Contextual Study of today’s passage: Ephesians 6: 10-18 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: 1st Peter 2: 11-12 : [NLT] … [Staying on God’s road is tough! But it’s worth it for God’s glory.] ... 
11 Dear brothers and sisters, you are foreigners and aliens here. So I warn you to keep away from evil desires because they fight against your very souls. 12 Be careful how you live among your unbelieving neighbors. Even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will believe and give honor to God when He comes to judge the world. 

My Journal for Today: The Apostle Paul recognized that everyday as a Christian is a spiritual battle; and much of it is fought in realms we cannot see or comprehend (see today’s highlight passage). But we must recognize were in a battle and put on the armament God can provide for us to do battle each day. The contextual segment to which I’ve linked any reader here is usually referred to as Paul’s “full armor of God” exhortation; and it does relate the spiritual armor we can put on to do battle against our enemies (Satan, the world, and our own flesh); and it exhorts us to take up God’s Spirit sword (i.e, His word) to be able to do battle just as Jesus did in the wilderness (see Matt. 4; 1-11 and Luke 4: 1-13). And finally Paul describes the ultimate battle strategy; and that is taking the high ground of prayer.

My friends, we simply have to recognize that EVERY DAY in this life, we’re going to walk into a serious battle; and we have to be prepared and well armed if we’re going to be able to be victorious rather than to become victims. The Apostle Peter also alluded to this in the passage I copied for review, using a slightly different word picture, … that of being aliens wandering in a hostile land, doing all we can to live as did Christ so that others will see our victorious walk and God would be glorified.

 But we can’t delude ourselves to think that we can coast or live this life casually, walking in our own selfish ways. If we do, we are going to be putty in the hands of a very powerful enemy, who wants to bring us down. Oh, most certainly, once saved, we are warriors who will be with our God in heaven; but in this fight, … in this journey called life, Satan, though he may not be able to have our soul, is actively and powerfully looking to take down or damage our testimony or witness. And he will do all he can to have us be lacking in vigilance and thinking that we’ve got this warfare in life knocked being Christians. Because if we take that blasé attitude, it’s like walking out onto a battlefield naked and without any weapons or battle plans.

But if we put on our full armor, and we carry a well-sharpened and practiced sword, and take the high-ground of prayer [EVERY DAY], we’re going to be just as victorious as was Jesus when He confronted His arch enemy in the wilderness. If we choose to do as Jesus commanded in Luke 9: 23, He is going to lead us through the minefields of life [see Deut. 31: 8]; because our Lord wants us to walk as Peter exhorted above; and He wants us to have the same victorious life He had when He won the ultimate battle with His arch enemy, … allowing us to be victorious in our life with Him … forever.

But will we be victorious on the battle field of today? Well, that depends on the armor we wear, the sword we carry, and the high ground we have taken in prayer. Do you have on your full armor, my friend? Are you carrying a well-sharpened and well-practiced Sword of the Spirit? And … are you holding the high ground of prayer today? If you are, you are headed towards victory today rather than defeat. If you aren’t … take heed from Paul’s exhortation above and get dressed for battle, … sharpen your sword, … and take the high ground today for Christ.

 "Onward Christian soldiers ... marching as to war!"

My Prayer for Today … Lord, I’m dressed for battle; and I’m here on the high ground, carrying Your sword; … and Holy Spirit, … I follow You. … Amen

Monday, February 25, 2013

February 25, 2013 … Fruitfulness in Suffering

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 56

Passage of the Day: Genesis 41: 52 - [NLT] …
52 Joseph named his second son Ephraim, [which means “doubly fruitful”] for he said, “God has made me fruitful in this land of my suffering.”  
Contextual Study of today’s passage: Genesis, Chapter 41 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: 2nd Corinthians 12: 7-10 : [NLT] … [Paul’s character was tested and extended by his time of suffering.] ...
7 … even though I have received wonderful revelations from God. But to keep me from getting puffed up, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from getting proud. … 8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time He [Jesus] said, “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me. 10 Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

My Journal for Today: If you’re reading along with me, fellow Christian, I’d almost bet that if I asked you to recall a time when you grew closer to and more like Christ than any other time you can recall, you would relate some testimony about a time of trial in your life. And that’s the point of Os Hillman’s devotional today from the story of Joseph in Genesis, who recognized God after 13 years of famine, where Egypt had been delivered and God had been glorified. And in today’s highlight passage, we see Joseph praising God after this time of trial by naming his second son, Ephraim, which in Hebrew means “doubly fruitful.”

I like what Os Hillman wrote about this in his devotional, which I’m using here this AM. He wrote, … ” Joseph was fruitful in two instances. He was fruitful during his time of adversity and in his prosperity. When God brings us into a time of suffering, it can be a fruitful time. It's rare for us to see the fruit during the suffering period. But know that the roots are going deep into the spiritual soil of our soul because of our pressing in to God during our time of suffering. This is producing a work in our character that cannot be seen until it finishes the process. Such was the case for Joseph.”

 And the truth of Hillman’s example and words above was also illustrated in one of my favorite testimonial accounts in the life of the Apostle Paul in the New Testament, … the story of God showing His grace to Paul in the form a very painful “thorn,” which was apparently given to Paul after he had had a spiritual mountain-top experience so that Paul would remain humble [see the copy of 2nd Cor. 12: 7-10 above]. And we also know from God’s word (see James 4: 6-7, and 1st Peter 5: 5-6, both passages quoting Prov. 3: 34) that God cannot pour His grace into pride; so, quite often His chosen ones are put through the fires of privation so that they, like the Apostle Paul, can be humble enough to recognize and receive God’s enabling/empowering grace.

So, if you’ve gone through – or are going through – some burning or painful trial … perhaps God is getting you ready for the most spiritually fruitful time of your life. Endure the struggle and praise Him for His building and transforming grace. … But if you feel like you’ve drifted far away from God and His grace seems so, so far away, perhaps this song (linked here) can help you see that God will do whatever it takes to bring you, through His grace, back to Himself. 

My Prayer for Today … Praise You, Lord, for any trial which reshapes me into Your image. … Amen

Sunday, February 24, 2013

February 24, 2013 … God’s Promise of Deliverance

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 55

Passage of the Day: Malachi 3: 14-15 [in the context of Verses 14-18] - [NLT] … 14 “You have said, ‘What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands or by trying to show the LORD Almighty that we are sorry for our sins? 15 From now on we will say, “Blessed are the arrogant.” For those who do evil get rich, and those who dare God to punish them go free of harm.’”
[God’s promise of mercy to the remnant of believers] 16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke with each other, and the LORD listened to what they said. In his presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and loved to think about him. 17 “They will be my people,” says the LORD Almighty. “On the day when I act, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient and dutiful child. 18 Then you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.”  
Contextual Study of today’s passage: Malachi, Chapters 3-4 [NLT] … Go to this link 

Reference Passage #1: 2nd Chronicles 7: 14 : [NLT] … [Yes, this is God’s great revival promise through Solomon upon the rebuilding of God’s Temple; but read God’s promise in the context of 2nd Chron. 7: 11-22 to see what happens when God’s remnant is impatient and/or disobedient.]  
“… 14 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.” 

Reference Passage #2: Romans 1: 18-32: [NLT] … Go to this link ... [When God’s people don’t attend to obedience to Gods’ word – here’s what happens!] 

My Journal for Today: Do you ever feel that those who’re unGodly or disobedient to God’s ways are overlooked and seem to be rewarded for their ungodliness? Well, God’s people, in the times of the Prophet Malachi, certainly felt that way; but if you read the passages from this OT Prophet above, you’ll see that God set His record of truth straight for His remnant of faithful; and God has a promise of deliverance for those who’re willing to remain in Him and continue – with the patience of faith – to follow His ways, seeking His will.

This was also the same message that God gave to God’s people through Solomon (see the readings from 2nd Chronicles above) after the rebuilding of God’s Temple, which was earlier in the history of God’s people. God promises to stay with the remnant of the faithful; but we must not forget God’s message to the unfaithful and disobedient as well, even down through the ages from Malachi into the New Testament, when Paul warns the believers in Rome (see the passage from Romans 1: 18-32 linked above) what God will do – or does – when His children persist in their unfaithfulness and disobedience.

And all of these messages – to the faithful and the unfaithful – summarized above … from the Old as well as the New Testaments, apply in this day as well as the times when God laid them out to a former generation of believers and unbelievers. And God’s plan for redemption has been meted out for eternity in the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, the “Sun of Righteous” spoken of in Malachi 4: 2, Who has come to set His faithful free and give them (us) the salvation He promised in Solomon’s day, in Malachi’s day, in Jesus’ day, and for all time.

If we know THE TRUTH (Who, of course, is Jesus), He will set us free! (see that promise of John 8: 32 - linked). So, I pray that we all know Him, and we are in that remnant of faithful who will one day be free to live with our Lord forever.

My Prayer for Today … Lord, help me to always be in the remnant of faithful, whom You have set free by Your “Sun of Righteousness!” … Amen

Saturday, February 23, 2013

February 23, 2013 … A Hunger To Follow – A Willingness To Lead

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 54

Passage of the Day: Zechariah 8: 23b - [NLT] …  
23 “This is what the LORD Almighty says: In those days ten people from nations and languages around the world will clutch at the hem of one Jew’s robe. And they will say, ‘Please let us walk with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’ ” 
Contextual Study of today’s passage: Zechariah, Chapter 8 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: 2nd Kings 2: 9 : [NLT] … [Elisha in seeking to be mentored and discipled by Elijah …] ... 
9 When they came to the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I can do for you before I am taken away.” And Elisha replied, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit and become your successor.” 

Reference Passage #2: Proverbs 27: 17 : [NLT] … [Truth about accountability and mentoring relationships …] ,,, 
17 As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend. 

Reference Passage #3: 1st Corinthians 11: 1 : [NLT] … [Paul was a mentor’s mentor!] ... 
1 And you should follow my example, just as I follow Christ’s. 

My Journal for Today:   Howard Hendricks, the Professor Emeritus at Dallas Theological Seminary, who just recently passed away, along with his son, Bill, wrote a highly recommended book about mentoring relationships entitled … As Iron Sharpens Iron: Building Character in a Mentoring Relationship. And this book, along with the Proverb for which the title comes, Proverbs 27: 17, quoted above, highlights a great truth about Christian discipleship; and that is: It’s more productive, in becoming like Christ, if one follows another, more mature Christian, who closely follows Christ. This is the essence of MENTORING relationships; and Howard Hendricks used to teach that one should [paraphrased] … be a Timothy to a Paul and then become a Paul to a Timothy.

The Timothy to Paul relationship is probably the best example of a young (i.e., lesser mature) believer, who willingly aspires to be more like Christ, following a more mature teacher toward that end. In the Old Testament one of the best examples of a willing and able teacher leading a younger believer toward Godliness can be found in the Elijah to Elisha relationship. In both instances a willing and teachable, but lesser mature, mentee was led by a willing and more mature (i.e., in the ways of God) teacher/leader to grow in Godliness.

Paul had expressed his willingness to lead others toward Christlikeness in the passage above from his letter to lesser mature, sometimes confused, believers [see 1st Cor. 11:1]. And Paul was confident and willing to lead other Christians toward Christlikeness because Paul knew that he was diligently and fruitfully following Christ himself. And the old Proverb, quoted above, states that “… iron sharpens iron,” which, of course, means that if one is serious about becoming more like Christ, it is best to follow someone in that pursuit who walks and talks like Christ.

The teaching example I’ve used for years to illustrate this is the question, “If you had to traverse a minefield, would you plunge ahead blindly, ignorant of the placement of the mines, or would you desperately seek to follow someone who knew where all the mines were placed?” … DUH!!!

And that’s what the Scriptures above are teaching. Elisha, as a mentee, wanted a “double portion” of what Elijah had to offer as a mentor. Paul was very willing to show other Christians, like Timothy or Titus, the way through the minefields of life because he (Paul) knew that he was following the Master mine-detector … Christ. And the iron of Elijah and Paul helped sharpen the iron of Elisha and Timothy into more solid and Godly followers of The Lord.

Iron does truly sharpen iron; and I pray that you, as I have in my life, have had a Paul to sharpen you in Christlikeness; and once sharpened in spiritual maturity and Godliness, I pray that you have led a Timothy, or two or three or more, to walk through the minefields of life, helping them to let their iron be sharpened on yours.

My Prayer for Today … Lord, thank You for the mentor whom You led me years ago to become more mature in following You; and then, thank You for leading other men to me whom I can sharpen in Your ways. … Amen

Friday, February 22, 2013

February 22, 2013 … Let’s Clean House Today!

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 53

Passage of the Day: Haggai 1: 4 [In the context of verses 2-4] [NLT] …  
2 “This is what the LORD Almighty says: The people are saying, ‘the time has not yet come to rebuild the LORD’s house — the Temple.’” … 3 So the LORD sent this message through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins?  
Contextual Study of today’s passage: Haggai, Chapter 1 [NLT] … Go to this link …  ============

Reference Passage #1: Matthew 5: 13 : [NLT] … 13 “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it useful again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless….” 

Reference Passage #2: Matthew 21: 12-13 : [NLT] … 12 Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the merchants and their customers. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the stalls of those selling doves. 13 He said, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a place of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!” [see also Is. 56: 7 and Jer. 7: 11] 

Reference Passage #3: Romans 12: 1-2 : [NLT] … 1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. 

Reference Passage #4: 1st Corinthians 6: 19-20 : [NLT] … 19 Or don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. 

My Journal for Today: Today Os Hillman, in his devotional entry, takes us back to the time [in about 520 BC] when a remnant of the Jews had returned from Babylon to Jerusalem; and Haggai was one of the designated Prophets to God’s remnant. And God, through Haggai, charged the people to get their spiritual house in order by rebuilding God’s Temple, … putting God’s will and the worship of God ahead of their desire to establish property and to build their own, secured homes.

And today the remnant of believers – i.e., the Church – is much like those people, slowly succumbing to the ways of the world rather than doing life God’s way (i.e., building His Spirit-willed temple in our hearts). When Jesus entered HIS TEMPLE on Palm Sunday on His way to the cross, He saw and grieved over the status of His Father’s House; and as we read above in the passage from Matthew 21, God, the Son, knowing what God had said (in Is. 56: 7 and Jer. 7: 11), the Lord let His grief and righteous anger loose and turned over the tables and cleansed the Temple.

Letting God’s Temple (see 2nd Cor. 6: 19-20 copied above) be turned over to the ways of the world is a bad place to be; and Haggai called out the people of God to get God’s House in order. Jesus called out to God’s children in His Sermon on the Mount (see Matt. 5: 13 above), calling for the people to be the salt of the earth, keeping their hearts pure (and salty) so that they could be strong witnesses in the world. And when the Lord witnessed God’s Temple being desecrated – for worldly good – when He was headed to the cross, He reacted to cleanse His Father’s House and make it right.

What about us, fellow believer? Have we let God’s Temple, i.e., the heart in which His Spirit resides, become a den of thieves? Have we let His salt in us become polluted and weakened by worldly pursuits? Have we fallen prey to what the Apostle Paul warned about in Romans 12: 1-2, … i.e., weakening our worship with worldly ways?

If so, we need to become salty witnesses. We need let God’s Spirit cleanse our Temple. And we need to rebuild His Temple as our priority in life so that He will be glorified by our worship rather than letting it become polluted and desecrated by worldliness.

I don’t know about you; but like Jesus, I’m in a house cleaning mood today. [Go to this link to be inspired by Jesus cleaning His Father’s house,]

My Prayer for Today … Lord, help me clean out Your Temple, ... my heart, ... today. … Amen

Thursday, February 21, 2013

February 21, 2013 … Our Donkey for His Glory!

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 52

Passage of the Day: Matthew 21: 2-3 [In the context of verses 1-5] - [NLT] …  
1 As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. 2 “Go into the village over there,” he said, “and you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them here. 3 If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘the Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately send them.” 
4 This was done to fulfill the prophecy, 5“Tell the people of Israel, ‘Look, your King is coming to you. He is humble, riding on a donkey—even on a donkey’s colt.’” [Zechariah 9: 9]
Contextual Study of today’s passage: Matthew, Chapter 21 [especially Verses 1-11] [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: Genesis 49: 10-11 [Jacob prophesies for his sons; about Judah, he sings …] : [NLT] …  
10 The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the Ruler’s staff from His descendants, until the coming of the One to Whom it belongs, the One Whom all nations will obey. 11 He ties his foal to a grapevine, the colt of His donkey to a choice vine.

My Journal for Today: Very soon, we’ll observe Palm Sunday at this time of year; and that Biblical story reveals a powerful truth about our witness for Christ in the world. The story in the New Testament is found in Matthew, Chapter 21, primarily verses 1-11 – linked for your review above. The story is also found in Mark 11: 1-11 and Luke 19: 28-44 and John 12: 12-19, showing the importance of this story to God, repeated in ALL FOUR of the Gospels.

And in this scenario, after the people had seen Jesus perform many miracles, especially the raising of Lazarus from the dead, the Lord asks His inner Disciples to go up the hill from the gates of the Temple, to Bethpage, a small village which was on the Mount of Olives. And in fulfillment of the prophesy found in Zechariah 9: 9, which is quoted in Matthew 21 and John 12, Jesus asks His men to procure a donkey colt from an unnamed believer there in Bethpage. The colt is gladly released by its owner to the Disciples, which is brought back for Jesus so that He might be carried – triumphantly – into Jerusalem through the gates to the Temple. In celebrating this time in the Christian calendar, we often think of that great image, depicted in the photo above, of the people declaring Jesus as their Messiah and laying palm branches before Jesus, Who rides the little beast of burden into the City of David.

The devotional question which Os Hillman asks of us today is … “Are we willing to give our donkey over to Jesus, witnessing our love for Him in a world which has already turned hostile to Him?” In Genesis 49, copied above, Jacob prophesied that from His son’s tribe, i.e., Judah’s, there would come One who would tie His donkey to a grapevine. And we know, from the truths of John 15 that Jesus is the Vine to Whom we must be connect to be able to witness for Him in a world which will, like the people on that hillside near Bethpage, turn hostile and want to kill Him from the culture.

Are we – dear fellow Chrristians – willing to give our donkey (i.e., openly give our all in the workplace of life) over to witness for Christ? Are we so connected to the “Vine of Life,” that we’ll give all that we own and all that we are to witness for our Messiah, … even if the people will ultimately cry for Christ to be crucified and eliminated from the culture. That’s what happened to Jesus, wasn’t it, after He entered the gates of the Temple? He became too much of a threat to the world and especially to its religious leaders; and the same people who were calling Jesus “Messiah” on Palm Sunday would be yelling for His crucifixion just a few days later.

But one witness, the owner of that little donkey colt, who likely was giving all he owned, was willing to give his donkey over to His Lord. Are we willing to give our all in witness to our Lord and Savior, … yes, even if the world cries for Him to be eliminated?

I pray so!

My Prayer for Today … Lord, … You are my LORD; and I willingly declare to the world that You are MY MESSIAH; and I pray for the strength to give all that I am and all that I have for that witness, … even my donkey! … Amen

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February 20, 2013 … Seeing Thru God’s Eyes

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 51

Passage of the Day: 2nd Samuel 1: 12 - [NLT] …  
12 They [David and his men] mourned and wept and fasted all day for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the Lord’s army and the nation of Israel, because they had died by the sword that day.
Contextual Study of today’s passage: 2nd Samuel, Chapter 1 [especially Verses 1-12] [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: Genesis, Chapter 41 : [NLT] … Use this link ...  

Reference Passage #2: Matthew 5: 43-44 : [NLT] … 
  43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 

My Journal for Today: When we are persecuted or prosecuted by others, especially for things which are not our own doing or fault, what is our normal – very human – tendency? It’s to seek revenge, isn’t it? How many times do we see people on TV after a loved one has been murdered senselessly, when asked what they seek, they often say they “seek justice” … by having the killer put to death. So, are they seeking “justice?” No, … they’re seeking revenge, aren’t they?

Today, Os Hillman, led me to a great Bible story of someone who was able to see past his own selfish feelings and see life God’s way rather than his own. 2nd Samuel 1: 1-12, which you can be read today by using the link above, tells the story of David learning of Saul’s death; and as you can read, David’s reaction was not what the normal human reaction would have been. Saul, by pursuing David for years to kill him, had become David’s enemy; and in 2nd Samuel 1, David learns that Saul has died. But, … did he react in joy with feelings of release that his enemy was no longer there to pursue him? … No, … David wept, in genuine remorse, grieving that God’s anointed King had been slain (no matter how it happened).

This is an example of being able to see life God’s way rather than our own. Another story of how we can CHOOSE to set aside our personal feelings and see life God’s way can be found in how Joseph responded after he had been unjustly put in prison for two years by the false accusations of Potipher’s wife. In Chapter 41 of Genesis we read of Joseph seeking God’s perspective immediately upon release from prison and desiring to do God’s bidding rather than begrudgingly looking at life in the light of the “lost” two years of imprisonment. Joseph sought to see life God’s way; and God rewarded that perspective by giving Joseph the grace to lead Egypt into years of fruitfulness, which preceded the years of famine, from which Egypt was able to escape because Pharaoh followed Joseph’s Godly perspective rather than the normal human, selfish way of looking at life.

And then, of course, in my second reference passage of the day, (i.e., Matthew 5: 43-44, copied above) we read of Jesus’ perspective in this matter, as our Lord preached from that hillside near Capernaum in His “Sermon on the Mount,” about seeing life God’s way rather than from our own selfish perspective. Jesus preached that we should CHOOSE to see our enemies as lost … and pray for their deliverance and salvation, … rather than seeking revenge for them as we might normally do.

Where are we in our lives today that we might seek to see life – and others – Gods’ way, rather than sink into trying to see others through our own, selfish, eyes? Personally, I need to take this lesson to heart and pray for God to open my eyes to see more of life HIS way, rather than through my own eyes.

And to help you see life God’s way today, USE THIS LINK and go see/hear this You Tube segment of Kathy Troccoli singing her song, I Will Choose Christ … 

My Prayer for Today … Help me, Lord, even today, to see things YOUR way rather than my through my own, selfish, eyes. … Amen

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

February 19, 2013 … Where're We Headed?

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 50

Passage of the Day: Psalms 17: 14a [in the context of verses 13-15] - [NLT] …  
13 Arise, O LORD! Stand against them and bring them to their knees! Rescue me from the wicked with Your sword! 14 Save me by Your mighty hand, O LORD, from those whose only concern is earthly gain. May they have their punishment in full. May their children inherit more of the same, and may the judgment continue to their children’s children. 15 But because I have done what is right, I will see You. When I awake, I will be fully satisfied, for I will see You face to face. 

Contextual Study of today’s passage: Psalms, Chapter 17 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: Romans 12: 1-2 : [NKJV] …  
1  ... I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, … holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

My Journal for Today: When David, on the run from Saul, wrote the lyrics to Psalm 17, linked for your study above, especially Verse 14a the highlight verse for today’s devotional, he was in a somewhat desperate state of mind. And yet, here he was, pleading with God to keep his mind set on the Lord and for God to deliver him [David] from mind pursuits like those from the world, who were out to do him harm. David’s plea – for God’s deliverance from a pursuit of worldliness – is a good one for all of us as well.

When I read this morning and meditated on today’s plea from David, the Apostle Paul’s pleading for Christians in Romans 12: 1-2 (copied above from the NKJV) bubbled up from my memory immediately. Paul’s plea to and for Christians in his letter to the Romans is much the same in content as David’s plea for himself. David wanted to be protected from worldliness and a desire for the contentment that most in the world try to find in worldly power, wealth, possessions, or the pursuit of pleasure. David and Paul had come to realize that only the pursuit of knowing God and relating to the Lord deeply and intimately would produce fulfillment and contentment.

And so, … in the word (from God) in Psalm 17, or God’s charge through the Apostle Paul in Romans 12, we need to ask ourselves … WHERE ARE WE HEADED? ... Are we pursuing contentment as “carnal believers;” or are we in a headlong and dogged pursuit to know God, to follow Him, and to serve Him with ALL our might?

That was David’s pursuit. That was Paul’s pursuit. Is it ours?

My Prayer for Today … Lord, I want to know You … to follow You … and to serve You. Deliver me from the world which comes after me to do life their way. … Amen

Monday, February 18, 2013

February 18, 2013 … Our Weapons of Warfare

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 49

Passage of the Day: Joel 3: 9-10 [NLT] … 9 Say to the nations far and wide: “Get ready for war! Call out your best warriors! Let all your fighting men advance for the attack! 10 Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Train even your weaklings to be warriors….” 

Contextual Study of today’s passage: Joel, Chapter 3 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: Ephesians 6: 17b : [NLT] …  
17 … take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 

My Journal for Today: Today Joel, Chapter 3, Verses 9-10 is the passage which my devotional editor, Os Hillman, led me to read/study for this morning. And this passage means a lot to me. It is the alerting passage which any seeker after the ministry I lead, Battle Plan Ministry [BPM], will find at the heading of our BPM website. Go to this link –  and see our BPM call to arms.

At the time of this passage historically, the people of Judah, God’s people, had settled into a time of prosperity (in the 8th century BC); and they were turning away from dependence on God; and God called Joel to prophesy an upcoming judgment which would include an infestation of locusts and later an invasion of Judah’s enemies, the Babylonians. And in today’s passage, Joel is calling out the people to prepare for warfare by turning their instruments of harvest (i.e., plowshares) into weapons of warfare (i.e., swords).

Does anyone else, reading here with me this morning, see parallels with God’s people in Joel’s time and the people of this land now, who’ve turned to almost every man-made way of rejecting God in disobedience and rebellion? And God has been so merciful, just as He was for Judah, before their fall to Babylon. But in our times, like theirs, God’s people have become complacent and have turned away from His ways of doing battle.

And I think God, in our times, is calling us out just as He did through Joel to the people of Judah. And God is calling us – His people of this time– to rely upon His primary weaponry, i.e., God’s Sword (i.e., the word of God), instead of relying on money and political influence … as we’ve come to do in depending on man-man power rather than relying on God’s direction for our lives. God, through the prophesy of Joel, almost 750 years before Christ, is calling us out into the spiritual warfare in our day; and God wants us to turn our reliance from forces like money and politics into a reliance on the truth of His word to do battle against today’s forces of destruction (i.e., the locusts of financial collapse and the invasion of our enemies, such as those of Islamic radicalism).

We’re being called out for war in our times, just as Joel called out God’s people in Judah to prepare for battle. And I believe we’re being called to turn our reliance from human systems (such as financial power and political influence) into dependency on God’s sword of the Spirit … His word. That’s why, in our Battle Plan Ministry work, we do all we can to get our warriors prepared for the spiritual battles of every day life by becoming Spirit-trained swordsmen, … learning how to turn our plowshares into sharpened and practiced swords so that we can fend off the forces of evil in our every-day battlefields.

Actually this was the model which Jesus showed us (see - thru these links - Matthew 4: 1-11 and Luke 4: 1-13) when He had to do battle with His arch enemy, the Devil, in the wilderness. My friends, if relying upon God’s word and using it to battle with our spiritual enemies was good enough for Jesus, it certainly should be good enough for all of us. We are God’s army; and we are being called out for battle today; and I hope – nay, I pray – that we’ve become … or are becoming … Spirit-empowered swordsmen for Christ in order to battle against our Spiritual enemies daily.

My Prayer for Today … Every day, Lord, I come here to sharpen my sword and get ready for battle; and I know that You are here, Holy Spirit, as my drill-instructor, to prepare me as I practice with Your Sword. I follow You into battle today, Lord … and everyday. … Amen

Sunday, February 17, 2013

February 17, 2013 … It’s a GOD THING!

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 48

Passage of the Day: John 3: 11 [NLT] … I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony.  

Contextual Study of today’s passage: John 3: 1-21 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: Matthew 5: 16 [in the context of verses 14-16]: [NLT] …  
14 “You are the light of the world — like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. 

My Journal for Today: Why is it that we Christians are so drawn to biblical stories like David defeating Goliath or God using Moses to part the Red Sea? That’s an easy one to answer, isn’t it? … It’s because we see God so readily in the stories of faith about common men doing such uncommon deeds. We see God being witnessed in the lives of people just like you and me.

But when many non-believers hear about or read those same stories, they dismiss these accounts as “legends” or “myths,” don’t they? They just can’t read reality into these historical, eye-witnessed accounts; and they have to dismiss them as mythical to protect their own reality which claims that there is no God. Jesus was having that problem when He encountered a Jewish religious leader, Nicodemus, in a garden one night; and in today’s highlight passage above, we read Jesus telling this man, who wanted to believe, why Nicodemus was having so much trouble believing. The Jewish leader just couldn’t see reality in the truths to which Jesus was giving testimony.

You know, Jesus wants others to see His Father in the witness of our lives. He said as much in His Sermon on the Mount … in the reference passage I’ve copied above, Matthew 5: 16. The question is, “Do others see God shining His light through our decisions, actions, or testimony?” In other words, what about our lives declares Christ living in and through us, … through the testimony of our choices or our actions. Oh, perhaps we’re not giving witness to God by parting the Mississippi River or slaying a God-hating monster with a sling and a pebble; but is there anything in our lives or our testimonies which shines Christ’s light so brightly that others just might see Christ instead of you or me?

That question rang out loudly for me today, having to answer it for myself; and I can recall, not too long ago having to do a cardboard testimony in our church. That’s where, on one side of a large card-board placard, we were asked to write and display some element of our lives which had changed so much that others could see God in our cardboard testimonies. We wrote the BEFORE on one side and the AFTER on the other. And if you want to see what a cardboard testimony is like, check out this You Tube link  … and maybe you can think of how your cardboard testimony would shine God’s light for others to see how Christ has changed you. Oh, your testimony may not be as dramatic as the bible stories of David defeating Goliath or Moses parting the Red Sea; but it still can be a strong witness of God working through YOUR life in a way that only God could to transform and save.

For me my cardboard testimony reads as follows …
BEFORE CHRIST“Addicted to PORN for 22 years”
AFTER CHRIST“Addicted to GOD’S WORD for over 22 years”

Others seeing or hearing that testimony may not believe me; but NO ONE can tell me it’s not true!!

What – from your testimony today - shines God’s light so brightly that others can only see Christ in your life … or perhaps they will have to deny Him? But you know that your story is a “God thing!”

My Prayer for Today … Lord, thank You for what You did to create my cardboard testimony of change. … Amen

Saturday, February 16, 2013

February 16, 2013 … Winning in God’s Warfare

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 47

 Passage of the Day: 2nd Corinthians 10: 4 [underlined below in the context of verses 3-6] [NLT] …  
3 We are human, but we don’t wage war with human plans and methods. 4 We use God’s mighty weapons, not mere worldly weapons, to knock down the Devil’s strongholds. 5 With these weapons we break down every proud argument that keeps people from knowing God. With these weapons we conquer their rebellious ideas, and we teach them to obey Christ. 6 And we will punish those who remained disobedient after the rest of you became loyal and obedient. 
Contextual Study of today’s passage: 2nd Corinthians 10 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: Ephesians 6: 10-13 : [NLT] … {Every day is a battle. So, put on your armor, take up your sword; and do battle in Christ’s Name.} …  
10 A final word: Be strong with the Lord’s mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. 12 For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms. 13 Use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm. 

Reference Passage #2: 2nd Timothy 1: 7 : [NLT] … {We don’t have to be afraid of our spiritual enemies.} … 
 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 

Reference Passage #2: Proverbs 23: 7a : [NKJV] … {How we think about a matter is how we’ll deal with that issue. We become how we think.} … For as he [i.e., any man or woman] thinks in his heart, so is he. … 

My Journal for Today: As a fellow Christian reading along with me here, I pray that you have internalized the reality that we’re in a battle every day of our lives. And God’s word teaches – and I have realized – that these issues and battles I face every day are far beyond my human abilities and strengths to handle them. But I also recognize and lean on the truth of 1st John 4: 4b, “…because He Who is in you [and me] is greater than he who is in the world.” 

When I finally came to realize in my Christian life, as Paul taught Timothy (and all Christians in 2nd Tim. 1: 7, quoted above), that I don’t have to fear my very powerful spiritual enemies, … that I can deal with life with God’s power of love and the self-discipline HE provides for me, … I began to walk in victory in my life. Was it still a battle every day? Of course it was … and is! But I don’t have to be a victim in these battles we call life. I can walk in victory; … because God has given me the armament and the weapons to do battle … and to win!

The Apostle Paul wrote about those armaments and weapons in that famous passage in Ephesians 6: 10-18. I hope you’ve studied those teachings in depth; because when you fully understand the truth and implications of that passage, you’ll recognize how you can do battle with God’s defensive weaponry, along with His powerful offensive weapon, the Sword of the Spirit, and then with God’s primary battle strategy of taking the high-ground of prayer and holding it for Christ. The winning strategies for spiritual warfare are all right there in that passage.

We Christians do have THE POWER on our side, don’t we? And we don’t have to be victims any more. God wants us to be VICTORS in His Name and for His glory. But as long as we see ourselves as victims and we THINK of ourselves as defeated, Satan has us – by our own surrender – right where he wants us … trying to fight the flesh, in the flesh. And we’ll never be winners with that battle plan.

We have to fight Satan and his spirits with THE SPIRIT. And the primary battle ground is going to be in the mind. Above I quoted one of the most powerful truths in the Proverbs (see Prov. 23: 7a, translated best in the NKJV above) … the truth that we become what we think. And if we think of ourselves – truly believing – that we are covered in Gods’ full armor. If we believe – in our hearts – that we’re carrying God’s well-sharpened and well-practiced Sword of the Spirit. And if we know we’ve taken God’s high-ground for battle in our Spirit-surrendered prayer, we will be victorious as we face Satan, the world, and our own deceitful hearts.

If you’re reading here, I hope you’ve taken the high ground for battle with your prayer in the Spirit this morning. I hope you know that the defensive armor you’re wearing is strong and that you’re fully covered for battle. And I hope you know you’re carrying a well-sharpened and practiced Spirit-Sword, just as Jesus did when He confronted His arch enemy in the wilderness (see Matthew 4 or Luke 4).

We can – and we will – be victorious in battle when we know how – in our minds – to do battle here in the earthly realm, with God’s Spirit and His angels fighting with us in the Spiritual realm. Personally, today, I’m fully dressed for battle; and I carry the Sword of Truth, sharpened and practiced for battle; and I’m already on God’s high-ground of prayer. How about you? Let’s go do battle together for Christ today!

My Prayer for Today … Lord, as I step on to another battlefield this morning, I’m dressed and ready. I carry Your Sword; and I’ve climbed Your high ground in prayer. Let’s do battle together, Lord, in Your Name and for Your glory. … Amen

Friday, February 15, 2013

February 15, 2013 … Becoming a Joseph

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 46

Passage of the Day: Psalm 105 [underlined below in the context of verses 17-19] [NLT] …  
17 Then he sent someone to Egypt ahead of them — Joseph, who was sold as a slave. 18 There in prison, they bruised his feet with fetters and placed his neck in an iron collar. 19 Until the time came to fulfill his word, the LORD tested Joseph’s character

Contextual Study of today’s passage: Psalm 105 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: Romans 8: 28 : [NKJV] … {So often this verse comes up as reference for our lives, doesn’t it?} … All things work together for the good of those who love God and are the called according to His purpose 

My Journal for Today: Have you ever wondered why God, in His Bible, devoted so much time in Genesis to the story of Joseph? And even David, when he was reviewing the trek of Israel’s history in Psalm 105, featured in today’s devotional, devoted a significant portion of his lyrics to Joseph’s life as well, including the portion about Joseph’s imprisonment after the incident with Potipher’s wife (see also Genesis 39).

Personally, I think Joseph is highlighted so much, as was the life of Moses, because they are examples of what it takes for God to prepare special people for specially called ministries or missions in life. And Os Hillman’s question in his devotional teaching today … ”Do you want to be a Joseph? … rings loudly to Christians today because it certainly looks like we’re headed toward some economic and cataclysmic famine in the world; and we’re going to need men like Joseph or Moses to deliver God’s remnant of believers. But I’m not going to get prophetic here. I just want to reflect on how God often prepares the right person for His purposes in any segment of His history; and that preparation very often is through privation or problems.

Both Joseph and Moses were led through segments of their lives before they came into prominence and power where they had to endure a lot of challenging and problematic circumstances, which God used to prepare them to handle the faith challenges they were to face to become God’s leaders for God’s people in rough times. Joseph, as we read in Psalm 105 and Genesis 39, was led, by his own Godly pursuits and choices, into prison, where his two years in shackles trained him to have great compassion and wisdom beyond his years when he came into power under Pharaoh upon release from prison.

Perhaps God has you going through some shackled set of circumstances in preparation for some future task where He can use you for His glory. That’s why, when we encounter some rough patch in our lives, especially one which is not brought on by our own misdeeds or ungodliness, we should look to the future - in faith - and do all we can to see that God is preparing us – as He did Joseph and Moses – to be His servants for some future task (big or small) which will glorify our Lord.

I pray we all become Josephs in the midst of our trials to see us through until we can become Josephs for God when we have the opportunity to do so. We must always – and I mean ALWAYS – have faith that Romans 8: 28 is absolutely true ALWAYS for the Christian; and God ALWAYS knows what is best to prepare us for His purposes in our future … even if that means going through some shackling set of circumstances for a season of our life.

My Prayer for Today … Lord, I accept Romans 8: 28; but I pray that I can be prepared to deal with its truth when I’m dealt a Joesph set of circumstances in my life. … Amen

Thursday, February 14, 2013

February 14, 2013 … Seeing Jesus In the Storm

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 45

Passage of the Day: John 6: 21 [underlined below in the context of verses 16-21] [NLT] …  
16 That evening His disciples went down to the shore to wait for Him. 17 But as darkness fell and Jesus still hadn’t come back, they got into the boat and headed out across the lake toward Capernaum. 18 Soon a gale swept down upon them as they rowed, and the sea grew very rough. 19 They were three or four miles out when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified, 20 but He called out to them, “I am here! Don’t be afraid.” 21 Then they were eager to let Him in, and immediately the boat arrived at their destination!  

Contextual Study #1 of today’s passage: M 14: 22-33 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Contextual Study #2 of today’s passage: Mark 6: 45-52 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: Romans 8: 28 : [NKJV] … {True; … but do we really believe it when we are in the midst of a life-threatening storm?} … All things work together for the good of those who love God and are the called according to His purpose 

Reference Passage #2: Romans 11: 36 [in the context of verses 33-36]: [NLT] … {Whom do we turn to in the midst of our storms?} …  
33 Oh, what a wonderful God we have! How great are His riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand His decisions and His methods! 34 For who can know what the Lord is thinking? Who knows enough to be His counselor? 35 And who could ever give Him so much that He would have to pay it back? 36 For everything comes from Him; everything exists by His power and is intended for His glory. To Him be glory evermore. Amen.  

My Journal for Today: Today is Valentine’s Day and it’s going to be a sunny day here where I live. And on this special day, many of us will do all we can to focus our love and attention on the one person [or maybe a small group of family or loved ones] whom we love dearly. And we’ll lavish our love in tangible ways, like the giving of cards, flowers, and/or candy. Yes, we’ll want to show those special persons our attention and love, won’t we?

But what happens to that focus of love when we’re cast into a life-threatening storm? Are we able to focus on that one we love, maybe our beloved spouse in the midst of financial trials which could threaten losing our house? Perhaps we’re fighting cancer; and it’s so hard to show our love to our spouse when our personal boat is out on the waters of potential disaster. We humans were not created to focus our attention on more than one thing at a time. Oh, we might be able to multi-task a bit when the external circumstances are smooth-going; but put us in the midst of a life-threatening storm; and it’s hard to focus beyond our fears at anyone or anything else.

The photo I’ve attached above is familiar to you, I’m sure. It’s the depiction of Jesus and Peter out on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus came walking out on the waters to the boat where the disciples were in the midst of a rip-roaring, life-threatening storm. You know the story from Matthew 14, Mark 6, or John 6, where Jesus had sent His men on to the lake to travel from Bethsaida, where he had just fed thousands with a few fishes and loaves, to Capernaum. And in the midst of the storm, Jesus came out to the men, walking on the water; and they couldn’t recognize Him. But when He called out to them, Peter, of course, being able to recognize Jesus, got of the boat to go to His Lord (as in the photo). And finally, when the men in the boat recognized Whom Jesus was, as in today’s highlight passage, the men, being able to see their Savior, gladly invited Him into the boat; and when they did, the storm was quelled and they miraculously seemed to appear at Capernaum.

It’s one of the great teaching stories in the New Testament; and it illustrates many things. First, it shows that our Lord many times will test our faith by sending us out into storms or allowing us to be engulfed in some really bad stuff (i.e., stormy circumstances), elements which really test our ability to look for and/or to see Jesus.

When we’re in the storms of life, our human hearts, especially when engulfed by fear, will look to self first and often we can’t see Jesus, who will always be there with us in the midst of our storm. When we’re in the midst of some personal – maybe even, life-threatening – storm, our faith in passages like the ones from Romans 8 and 11 above, are so tested that we just have trouble seeing Jesus (i.e., “The Truth”) out there walking on the waters of our storm, calling to us to step out of the safety of our boat (i.e., our comfort zone) and to come to Him on the waters of our storm. He’s always there in the storm; but we just have so much trouble believing it; and then, even more trouble stepping out of the boat – as Peter did – to walk, … in faith, … to our Lord, … the One Whom we should always be looking for first in the midst of our storms.

Perhaps, as we read this today together, we’re in a storm; and if so, we need to ask ourselves … Where are my eyes? Are they on the storm or am I trying to look out from the storm to find Jesus?” 

My Prayer for Today … Oh, my Lord, thank You for always coming to me in the midst of my storms. … Amen

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

February 13, 2013 … God’s Two Steps To Success!

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 44

Passage of the Day: John 14: 21 [NLT] … 21 “Those who obey My commandments are the ones who love Me. And because they love Me, My Father will love them, and I will love them. And I will reveal myself to each one of them.” 
Contextual Study of today’s passage: John, Chapter 14 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: Deuteronomy 4: 29 (in the context of verses 27-29 : [NLT] … {But are we really searching for The LORD – with ALL our heart?} …  
27 For the LORD will scatter you [Israel] among the nations, where only a few of you will survive. 28 There, in a foreign land, you will worship idols made from wood and stone gods that neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell. 29 From there you will search again for the LORD your God. And if you search for Him with all your heart and soul, you will find Him. 

Reference Passage #2: Jeremiah 33: 3 [NKJV] … {But are we REALLY seeking for God’s remarkable secrets?}…  
2 “The LORD, the Maker of the heavens and earth—the LORD is His name—says this: 3 Ask Me and I will tell you some remarkable secrets about what is going to happen here.” 

Reference Passage #2: Hebrews 11: 6 : [NLT] … {But are we REALLY – SINCERELY - seeking Him?} …  
6 And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him. 

My Journal for Today: Os Hillman is right. We live in an era where mankind is searching for the keys or formulae for success. There are those who pursue 12 steps to recovery or read from success gurus to find the seven keys to success. So, what about us Christians? Has God given us any of HIS KEYS TO SUCCESS? And if you’re willing to take in, believe, and apply what God’s word says from the passages I’ve cited above (as well as other passages like Joshua 1: 8, Luke 9: 23, and all of Psalm 119, any Christian can find and activate God's two-step method of being personally and spiritually successful.

Hillman’s word picture is a good one. It’s like seeking diligently trying to tune in to God’s radio signal with one of those old AM radios. You ardently turn the tuning dial, seeking out God’s frequency to hear from Him; and as long as we allow the static from Satan, the world, and our flesh to interfere with the signal, we won’t be able to clearly hear what God has to say. However, when we REALLY and SINCERELY do what it takes to tune into God’s station, we will find it and it comes through loudly and clearly – primarily through His word.

 But that’s only half of God’s formula for success. The other half is wrapped up in Nike’s old catch-phrase, ”Just do it!” Many times we hear God clearly; and we know what He’s asking us to do; but then we drift off into following our flesh, the world, or Satan, … doing life any way BUT God’s way.

So, what is God’s formula for success? Pretty simple really, if you’ve taken in those passages of truth I’ve laid out above.

STEP #1 … Seek God with ALL our heart! … Are we? What is the evidence of our being totally sincere about seeking for God’s will and His ways? Are we digging deeply into God’s word to find His ways of success as Joshua 1: 8 and all of Psalm 119 direct us to do? Are we devoting significant time to know God intimately?

STEP #2 … FINDING GOD’S WILL – and - JUST DO IT! … And again, are we? Many Christians know what God’s word teaches – His absolute truth? But knowing it is one thing – doing it is another. If we’re willing to seek after God will and His way, He will make sure we find Him; and He will willingly yield His true way? But as God’s word says, that way is narrow and sometimes harrowing; and quite often, even knowing God’s way, we’re just not willing to follow it.

 As today’s highlight verse, from Jesus Himself, as well as Luke 9: 23, we clearly have The Lord’s formula for Spirit-led success; and it’s is really quite simple; but simple is not always – in fact, it is quite seldom – easy. Jesus wants us to seek Him – voluntarily, intentionally, and sincerely. That’s tough enough. But then once we tune in to His frequency and we hear Him clearly, the next step – JUST DOING IT – is even tougher. I guess it all boils down to how badly we want to know God and follow His two-steps to success, isn’t it?

But with God, nothing is impossible, is it? So, if we want to seek out God’s way … and we choose to do it, … the results are worth anything we need to do to find the Lord and live in Him.

My Prayer for Today Lord, I want NOTHING but Your will!! I’m here today seeking more of Your ways for my life. And hearing You clearly, help me to just do it Your way. … Amen

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

February 12, 2013 … Me Versus God – Who wins?

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 43

Passage of the Day: Jonah 2: 8 {underlined in the context of Jonah 2: 7-10} [NLT] …  
7 “When I had lost all hope, I turned my thoughts once more to the LORD. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple. 8 Those who worship false gods turn their backs on all God’s mercies. 9 But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows. For my salvation comes from the LORD alone.” 10 Then the LORD ordered the fish to spit up Jonah on the beach, and it did.  

Contextual Study of today’s passage: Jonah, Chapter 2 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: Ecclesiastes, Chapters 1-2 [NKJV] … Use this link … 

Reference Passage #2: Proverbs 3: 34-35 : [NLT] … {Oh how easy it is to forget this truth in our humanity!} … 34 The LORD mocks at mockers, but He shows favor to the humble. 35 The wise inherit honor, but fools are put to shame! 

Reference Passage #3: Hebrews 5: 8 [in the context of verses 7-8] : [NLT] … {If even Jesus had to learn this lesson in His humanity, no wonder it’s a tough lesson for us to learn.} … 
7 While Jesus was here on earth, He offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the One who could deliver Him out of death. And God heard His prayers because of His reverence for God. 8 So even though Jesus was God’s Son, He learned obedience from the things he suffered. 

My Journal for Today: Yesterday, if you go to my journal blog at this link - - you’ll see that I wrote of “being the fool,” explaining that the Hebrew language had specific descriptive words for various kinds of foolishness in human decision-making. And one of those was the fool who just wouldn’t listen to God, totally rejecting His will and His ways and pursuing self-directed desires. Jonah was such a fool, at least for some of his life; and when you read Jonah’s journal in the Bible book by his name, you see where rebellion against God’s took him … right into the belly of a big fish.

Even Solomon, given all the wisdom that a man could be given by God, when he wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes, came to the conclusion – after years of living life in pursuits of selfishness, idolatry, and vanity – that pursing self over Savior in life was pointless and purposeless. Both of these men came to recognize the truth which Jonah wrote in today’s highlight passage from Jonah 2: 8 that those who pursue anything other than God and His will (i.e., those who pursue idols) will end up forfeiting God’s grace and His mercies. …And my friend, that’s a big price to pay for pride, wouldn’t you say?!

And the real shocker on this lesson [see it in also written by Solomon in God’s word in Prov. 3: 34] is that even Jesus, in His humanity had to learn God’s lesson of humility as we read in Hebrews 5: 8. Now, Jesus, of course, didn’t have to go the way of Jonah or Solomon, in prideful, rebellious living to learn the lesson of Jonah 2: 8; but in 30 years of God’s preparing his Son for the Lord’s earthly ministry, God, the Father taught His son through the challenges of life Jesus faced, to always look to the Father for guidance. And Jesus did; and from His life and suffering, we can be assured that this lesson is a hard lesson to learn; and from the lives of Jonah and Solomon and yes, even Jesus, we can expect that suffering is most often the way that God gets our attention so that we can learn that obedience in pursuing God’s way is much more productive … and much less painful … than pursuing our own way over God’s.

Pursuing selfish ways over God’s ways is JUST PLAIN FOOLISHNESS; and we all, too often, have to learn the lesson of Jesus’ command of Luke 9: 23 (oh, how I hope you know that one by heart) through the lesson of self-inflicted pain rather than just following God’s will on the front end and receiving His enabling grace.

So, … as we read these truths today; are we going to just believe God’s word and obediently follow God’s will, … OR … will we have to be thrown into the belly of some “whale-of-a-trial” to learn that pursuing vane pleasures or self-directed purpose will be painful?

Our choice!!

My Prayer for Today … Lord, I do choose Your way; but if I somehow choose mine, I do want Your lesson in humility; … but please have mercy on this old fool. … Amen

Monday, February 11, 2013

February 11, 2013 … Being the fool!

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 42

Passages of the Day: Proverbs 1: 4, 7, 22-23, 31-32 [NLT] …
 4 These proverbs will make the simpleminded [Hebrews = “peti”] clever. They will give knowledge and purpose to young people. … 
 7 Fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. Only fools [Hebrew = “eviyl”] despise wisdom and discipline. … 
 22 “You simpletons!” [“peti”] she cries. “How long will you go on being simpleminded? How long will you mockers relish your mocking [Hebrew = “luwts”]? How long will you fools [Hebrew = “keciyl”] fight the facts? 23 Come here and listen to me! I’ll pour out the spirit of wisdom upon you and make you wise. … 
 31 That is why they must eat the bitter fruit of living their own way. They must experience the full terror of the path they have chosen. 32 For they are simpletons [“peti”] who turn away from me — to death. They are fools [“keciyl”], and their own complacency will destroy them. 

 Contextual Study of today’s passage: Proverbs 1 [especially note verses 4, 7, 22, 31-23] [NLT] … Go to this link … 

  Reference Passage #1: Proverbs 17: 21 [NLT] … It is painful to be the parent of a fool [Hebrew = “nabal”]; there is no joy for the father of a rebel. 
Reference Passage #2: Proverbs 17: 21 [NKJV] … He who begets a scoffer [Hebrew = “nabal”] does so to his sorrow, And the father of a fool has no joy. 
Reference Passage #3: Proverbs 17: 21 [MSG] … Having a fool for a child is misery; … it’s no fun being the parent of a dolt.

My Journal for Today: Have you ever encountered someone and their actions or decisions caused you to think, “What a fool?” Well, when I reflect on being a fool or my own foolishness, at times I wonder why God puts up with me. I can be “SO THE FOOL” as the kids would say today.

 Actually Proverbs, Chapter 1 is all about God – our Father – wanting to turn us – His children – from fools into Godly wise children who glow closer and closer to following Him and becoming Godly-wise in the process. Through Solomon, writing as to his son, we see a father trying to get his young, immature son to grow into Godly wisdom and make choices which avoid foolishness and express true wisdom.

 But as Os Hillman points out in his devotional today, the Hebrews in their language had several types or levels of “fools” which they described; and all of those Hebrew descriptions for “the fool” can be found in the book of Proverbs.

 The first level is the naïve fool (Hebrew = “peti”), which is the immature, naïve, or ignorant one who just doesn’t have a clue or who acts without really considering the consequences of his/her actions. But immaturity, when one is teachable, can yield to maturity and better judgment over time and with good mentoring, parenting, or counsel. This was King David when he made serious mistakes; but he had a heart after God’s will; and in brokenness over his mistakes David was willing to take ownership, repent, and change.

 The second level of “the fool” is what the Hebrew language describes as “eviyl” or “keciyl.” This is the fool who won’t listen to wiser advice or counsel. It is the hardened fool, who, even when he’s hurt by his own choices or actions, just doesn’t get it; and he continues to plow ahead in his foolish ways. Hillman used King Saul as his teaching example of this hardened fool. Saul let his pride drive him to reject God’s teaching; and he simply would not relent from his foolish treatment of David.

 The third level of THE FOOL is found in the Hebrew concept of “luwts,” which is the cynical or mocking type of foolishness. This is the person, really from the second level described above, which makes an open and flagrant display of his selfishness and foolishness. This is the hardened “fool” who wants to mock God or others openly and publically, … willing to loudly display his very personal and selfish positions.

 All of these Hebrew concepts of “the fool” are used and described in Proverbs, Chapter 1, which you can review with the link I’ve provided above. But there’s one more flagrant level of foolishness, which the Hebrew language would use the term ”nabal,” which can be found in Proverbs 17: 21, which is copied above from the NLT, NKJV, and the Message for your study. And any parent who’s experienced parenting a child who just doesn’t or won’t “get it,” knows what this verse is teaching. It is simply personal hell when a kid or mentee simply won’t listen and plows ahead – sometimes into very dangerous waters – ignoring the warnings and teachings of a parent who loves the child and wants the best for that foolish child doing foolish things.

 If you’ve ever tried to disciple, teach, or parent a “fool” of any of these types, you know that sometimes you just have to let that foolishly immature person go on his or her own for a season; and give them over to the care of an all-knowing and all-caring God as well as to the devices of Satan in order to teach that younger, more immature disciple, the ways of God. As Os Hillman put it in his devotional today [and I quote]:

  “I have found that it is helpful to try to understand if people are teachable. Are they simple fools, those who make mistakes but seek to learn from them? I can work with those people. But if I sense I am working with a hardened fool, I know I should not spend much time on that person. Jesus did not spend much time trying to convince the rich young ruler. He presented truth, and let him make his decision. Some people must get broken before they can become simple, more teachable, fools. Sometimes it is simply better to let Satan chew on people until the ground is fertile enough to present truth to them.” 

Well, if this lesson today was a mirror, did you see yourself anywhere here? I sure did! And if so, what type of fool are we as we look into God’s mirror of truth in Proverbs, Chapter 1? Personally, I know I can be my own worst fool at times; but I pray that I can be or will be a “teachable fool,” one who has a heart for God’s will and tries every day to find God’s ways from His word. That to me is the greatest preventative medicine one can take to avoid foolishness. So, here I am today trying to avoid my own tendencies toward foolishness and to pursue the wisdom God has for me in His word.

My Prayer for Today … Lord help me, when I’m “the fool,” to at least be a teachable fool, … one who still seeks after Your ways, doing all I can daily, to find Your will for my life from continually being in Your word. Teach me, Lord, to be more Godly wise today than yesterday … and even more so tomorrow. … Amen

Sunday, February 10, 2013

February 10, 2013 … So valuable we must die!

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 41

Passage of the Day: Psalm 116: 15 (in the context of verse 14-16) [NLT] …  
14 I will keep my promises to the LORD in the presence of all his people. 15 The LORD’s loved ones are precious to him; it grieves him when they die. 16 O LORD, I am your servant; yes, I am your servant, the son of your handmaid, and you have freed me from my bonds!  

Reference Passage #1: Psalm 72: 14b (in the context of verses 12-14) [NLT] …  
12 He will rescue the poor when they cry to him; He will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them. 13 He feels pity for the weak and the needy, and he will rescue them. 14 He will save them from oppression and from violence, for their lives are precious to him. 

Reference Passage #2: Matthew 10: 29-31 : [NLT] … {God SO loves His chosen ones.} …  
29 Not even a sparrow, worth only half a penny, can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. 30 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to him than a whole flock of sparrows. 

Reference Passage #3: John 12: 24-25 : [NLT] … {We must die to self before being made alive in our spirit.} …  
24 The truth is, a kernel of wheat must be planted in the soil. Unless it dies it will be alone—a single seed. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. 25 Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who despise their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 

My Journal for Today: What a paradox! God loves those He created for Himself SO MUCH [see today’s highlight verse above as well as the cross reference passages] that they must die to self before they live with Him forever.

Jesus said it in the word picture He created for His disciples just before He was to go to the cross (see John 12: 24-25 above). A seed cannot grow into the life it was intended to have until it first dies in the ground and blossoming into life as it was intended by God to flourish. And it was true of Jesus, Himself, … dying on the cross, that we might live in Him for eternity. Isn’t that the glorious gospel truth of Johns 3: 16, which I’m sure you know by heart as a cross reference here as well.

There’s really not much to write here to journal about this paradoxical truth. God loved me – a rank sinner – enough that He let His Son die for me; and now because I’ve been willing to die to self – in faith – by believing in Christ as my Messiah and my Lord, I am born again in the Spirit to live and be with my Lord for eternity. I pray you have too; … and if so, let us lift a loud “HALLELUJAH!” in praise to our Savior.

We only need ask ourselves if we have truly died to self; because if we have humbled our selves enough to believe in faith and repent of our sinful nature before the living Christ, and we have died to self in that faith, … we have been reborn in the Spirit to live with our Lord forever.

Enough said! Done deal!! … Again, “HALLELUJAH!” 

My Prayer for Today … Lord, I pray that all who read here with me have died to themselves in faith and now live with and for You as we worship You with our lives and wait to join You in glory. … Amen

Saturday, February 09, 2013

February 9, 2013 … Sow In Tears … Reap In Joy!

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 40

Passage of the Day: Psalm 126: 5-6 [NLT] … 5 Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. 6 They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.

Reference Passage #1: Romans 7: 18 : [NLT] … {One way to sow seeds; … seeds of self pity and sin. } …  
18 I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can’t make myself do right. I want to, but I can’t. 

Reference Passage #2: Romans 8: 5-6 : [NLT] … {Another way to sow seeds; … seeds of love in the Spirit. } …  
5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 6 If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace. 

My Journal for Today: Everyday, as Kingdom planters, we go out into the fields of the Kingdom to plant seeds. And quite often we go out to confront a world full of hurt – maybe even personal pain. So, we’re out there planting seeds in tears, just as Psalm 126: 5-6 posits. But in these circumstances we have a choice as Christian seed-sowers. We can either plant seeds of self-pity and sinful selfishness; or we can plant seeds of Spirit-filled joy and selflessness. And if we do the latter, as the Psalm reports, we will return from the fields with a harvest of joy.

That’s what the Apostle Paul was trying to communicate in his description of two types of life attitudes; and he used himself as an example in Romans 7 as a seed-sower of self-pity – the “woe is me” Christian. See this example above in my reference citation from Romans 7. But there is another way to be out there in God’s fields, planting seeds of life in God’s kingdom soil; and that is the Romans 8 model of seed-planting … the Spirit-led, Spirit-empowered, seed-sower.

Everyday in the ministry to which God has called me, I deal with men who are almost overwhelmed by their own past patterns of selfish sin; and it’s all too easy for them to choose to sow the seeds of life in self-pity and sensuous selfishness. But they discover that even in the midst of such overriding feelings of self doubt, when they CHOOSE to sow seeds of faith, reaching out to plant seeds of hope, such as helping others or seeking after God’s will and His way through His word, they will ultimately come back from the fields with a harvest of fruitfulness.

Everyday we can choose to sow seeds from the flesh (see Galatians 5: 19-21) or we can choose, as Christians, to sow to the fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5: 22: 23); and even when we go out in tears, rejecting the temptation to sow in the former way, and rather, sowing seeds of fruitful faith, we will come back from the fields with a harvest of love, joy, peace, and all the other fruit of the Spirit as well.

It’s our choice today, as God’s seed bearers. … Will we go out and sow with a Romans 7 attitude; or will we choose to sow our seeds with a Romans 8 attitude? Will we be seed planters in the manner of Galatians 5: 19-21 or will we sow seeds of Spirit-led fruitfulness from Galatians 5: 22-23?

Personally, … I’m going to do all I can … today, … even though the fields cry out weeping, to come back, after my seed-planting with a harvest of joy. How about you?

My Prayer for Today ,,, Lord, help me to plant Your seeds of hope today; and Holy Spirit, give me the seeds of Your ministry to plant into the lives of others. … Amen