Friday, May 31, 2013

May 31, 2013 … Breaking Covenants Is Costly

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 151

Passage of the Day #1: 2nd Samuel 21: 1 [with verses 1-3] [NLT]  
1 There was a famine during David’s reign that lasted for three years, so David asked the LORD about it. And the LORD said, “The famine has come because Saul and his family are guilty of murdering the Gibeonites.” 2 So King David summoned the Gibeonites. They were not part of Israel but were all that was left of the nation of the Amorites. Israel had sworn not to kill them, but Saul, in his zeal, had tried to wipe them out. 3 David asked them, “What can I do for you to make amends? Tell me so that the LORD will bless his people again.” 
Contextual Study for today’s passage: 2nd Samuel, Chapter 21 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: Numbers 23: 19 : [When God promises, He delivers; but do we? ] …[NLT] 19 God is not a man, that He should lie. He is not a human, that He should change His mind. Has He ever spoken and failed to act? Has He ever promised and not carried it through?

  Reference Passage #2: Matthew 5: 34-37 : [Jesus gave His warning against false promises.] …[NLT] …  
34 But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. 35 And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is His footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. 36 Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. 37 Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.

My Journal for Today: Fellow Christian, … I hope all reading here with me realize that we serve a covenant making and covenant keeping Lord; and He expects us to keep our covenants (i.e., our promises or oaths) when we make them.

David discovered that his predecessor, Saul, had broken a covenant with God concerning the Gibeonite people and so David sought out the proper repentance and correction from God (see today’s highlight passage from 2nd Samuel 21. When we, as followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and involved with our life covenant with the Son of God, Who has fulfilled God’s covenant with His peoples, break our relationship with The Messiah, we can expect there will be repercussions. In other words, sin has consequences.

 In the case of David with the Gibeonites, the Lord brought a famine on the Israelites because of Saul’s sinful actions. David didn’t do it; but Saul’s sin carried over and had an effect on God’s people at a later time. And sin – or broken covenants in disobedience – can have delayed costs in our lives as well. For years I lived in a pattern of rebellion against God with my hidden lifestyle of habitual sexual sin; and those years of sin later had dire and lasting consequences on my marriage and my relationship with God. When that pattern of sin was uncovered by the famine in my marriage, I had to confess, repent, and to make it right by living my life by walking the walk of faith in repentance in order to restore my relationship with my God, allowing Him to heal my marriage and to serve Him, being covered by the grace He could once again pour into my life through His redeeming blood.

My friend, broken promises, especially those made in covenant to the living God, always will have consequences. So, if we’re living in a time of famine in our life, … perhaps a famine in our relationship with God, … maybe it’s a time to look deeply at how we’re living in our covenant relationship with our Savior and Redeemer.

 Is there some residual, unresolved stronghold of sin in our lives which requires repentance and restoration? Because if there is, we need to also remember that our God is a merciful and forgiving God; and He is long-suffering in His willingness to allow us to confess and be cleansed of whatever broken covenants might be causing the relational brokenness between us and our God [see 1st John 1: 9, which I hope you have memorized].

Take a moment and go to this You Tube link and see just how loving our covenant God is by viewing a video one of my favorite songs by Phillips, Craig, and Dean … He’ll Do Whatever It Takes! …  And then, my friend, we need to do whatever it takes to allow our merciful God to forgive us, cleanse us, and restore our fellowship with Him.

My Prayer for Today … Thank You, Lord, for being my covenant keeping God! … Amen

Thursday, May 30, 2013

May 30, 2013 … God’s Motives?

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 150

Passage of the Day #1: 2nd Samuel 22: 20 [with verses 19-20] [NLT]
 19 They attacked me at a moment when I was weakest, but the LORD upheld me. 20 He led me to a place of safety; He rescued me because He delights in me. 
 Contextual Study for today’s passage: 2nd Samuel, Chapter 22 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: Matthew 14: 28-31 : [Oh, we of little faith. ] …[NLT] …  
28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” 29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. 31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

Reference Passage #2: Proverbs 3: 5-6 : [Yes, again!] …[NLT] …  
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek His will in all you do, and He will direct your paths.

Reference Passage #3: Romans 8: 28 : [Do we really believe Him?] …[NLT] …  
28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.

My Journal for Today: How many times in our lives have we misperceived the motives of another and it caused great strain in our relationship with that person or broke down our ability to interact with him or her? And this especially happens when we think we trust someone; and then we perceive that that person’s motives are untrustworthy.

I’ve been called to lead a ministry to help Christian men deal with the after-effects of sexual sin in their lives; and you can imagine how the relational trust would be damaged in the marriage of one of these men, if/when a wife were to discover that her husband was deeply into internet p0rnography or having an affair.

And what about our relationship with God? Have you ever been in a place in your life when things didn’t go as you might imagine they should; and you question the motives of an all-powerful God in allowing these circumstances to transpire? I’ll bet you can think of a time or times when you stepped out in what you thought was faith; and life seemed to smack you in the face; and you wondered what God was doing. And then maybe you even backed off in relating with God because of your perceived mistrust of His motives.

I charge you to go deeply here into ALL of the reference passages to which I’ve either linked you or copied above and note at least two historical instances where two of God’s chosen one had his faith tested in a serious way and had to do a double-check to realize that God, in the face of some tough circumstances, still wanted to bring David or the Apostle Peter into a good place in their relationship with their Lord.

David had had to flee from Saul for those years; and finally in 2nd Sam. 22, from a song David wrote about these times, the future great King of Israel realizes that God really allowed all those years in the dessert to occur to bring him to a very special place (see the passage copied above).

Then there was that moment of faith and truth in the life-threatening storm, when Jesus came out to His men, floundering on the waters; and when Peter recognized who Jesus was, he had faith enough to ask Jesus to call him to come to His Savior on the waters of the storm; and we know what happened. Peter did step out of the boat at Jesus’ call; and for a moment of faith, Peter walked on water. Then he questioned Jesus’ motives; and Peter began to sink before Jesus rescued His disciple.

Remember the two other reference passages which I’ve copied above for your meditation. If I were to ask you if you believe that Prov. 3: 5-6 and Romans 8: 28 are true, I would bet that most, if not all of you, would declare that they are true because they are written into God’s word. I certainly believe they’re true; but then I recognize that there have been times in my life when my trust in God’s ways, especially when things are seemingly going wrong, have been seriously challenged. And in some of those times, I have to admit that I wonder if God really does cause ALL THINGS to work together for my good?

How about you? Do you trust God in ALL situations of your life … to desire to bring you from where you are to a better and safer place? Do you KNOW … ALWAYS … that God is allowing the bad circumstances in your life for a good purpose … HIS purpose?

David and Peter were finally able to come to this realization; and because of it, they were able to let God bring them through the valley of the shadow of death to a wonderful, safe, and secure place in their relationship with their God. Right now I’m in that place too; and it feels so good!

My Prayer for Today … Lord, thank You for bringing me through the valley of the shadow of death into this meadow of love and safety with You. … Amen

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

May 29, 2013 … True Followership

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 149

Passage of the Day #1: 2nd Corinthians 5: 15 [with verses 14-15] [NLT]
14 Whatever we do, it is because Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for everyone, we also believe that we have all died to the old life we used to live. 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live to please themselves. Instead, they will live to please Christ, who died and was raised for them. 
Contextual Study for today’s passage: 2nd Corinthians, Chapter 5 [NLT] … Go to this link

Reference Passage #1: 1st John 2: 5-6 : [Whose are we, really!?] …[NLT] … 
3 And how can we be sure that we belong to him? By obeying His commandments. 4 If someone says, “I belong to God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and does not live in the truth. 5 But those who obey God’s word really do love Him. That is the way to know whether or not we live in Him. 6 Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Christ did.

Reference Passage #2: Luke 9: 23 : [Yes, again!] …[NLT] … 
23 Then He said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow Me."

My Journal for Today: Okay … I’m challenged today in my study of Os Hillman’s devotional. However, in general, I think I came through with the true colors of followership as a Christian in meditating on those scriptures referred to above from my devotional today.

Yes, this morning, my devotional related a projection of the numbers and types of “disciples” who were followers of Jesus during His walk on earth. Hillman related that there were likely several thousand who followed Jesus as hopeful believers, desiring that He truly was the Messiah; but many of these fell by the wayside when Jesus died on the cross. Then there were likely several hundred of more die-hard followers, many of these likely witnessed Jesus after the resurrection; and many of these followed Christ with changed lives, some of them being martyred for their faith.

 Then there were the inner core of “Disciples,” those who truly believed and whose lives were totally changed in their total surrender to Christ in those days of the early church. The most obvious group of those were eleven of the twelve early “Disciples” chosen by Jesus Himself, with a few add-ons after the resurrection, one of whom, Paul, who ended up writing much of the New Testament. These latter were the followers of total surrender, … the “real-deal” disciples of Christ, … the followers who lived as Christ lived and were living examples of “Christlikeness.”

Today, Hillman asked his readers, me included, to which group of followers do we align ourselves? Are we part of the group who acknowledge Jesus as the Christ and hope He is truly the Messiah? Or are we those who’ve really had a life-changing experience; and we’re willing to stand-in-the-gap with our witness for Christ? Or, even more up-close-and-personal, do we identify our lives with that smaller group of disciples who walk-the-walk and live lives as followers of Christ of total surrender, walking with Him daily and living for His glory as His lights in the midst of the darkness of this world (see Matt. 5: 16)? Which are we … Hopeful and broken believerswanton and willful witnesses … or …sold-out, surrendered soldiers?

I don’t want to seem like a bragger here; but I’m casting my lot in the latter camp, though I must admit my self-classification as “sold-out” or “surrendered” may be challenged by others, like my wife, when I’m uncovered in moments of selfishness or self-pity, especially when times get tough. I can have momentary lapses of die-hard followership where I’m not the surrendered soldier I really want to be in my life. But I think my heart is one of surrender; and I choose to come here each day, seeking to surrender my mind and heart to the Mind of God in my desire to get to know My Lord and to be reshaped by His Spirit?

So, if you’re reading along with me here, identifying yourself as Christian, with which group of followers or disciples would you align yourself; and what is your honest evidence for putting yourself into that group? … 
1. Hopeful and Broken Believers – those who know they need a Savior but are followers seeking to find the Lord of life …
2. Wanton and Willful Witnesses – those who walk the walk of faith and are developing a closer and more abiding relationship with Christ daily …
3. Surrendered and Sold-Out Warriors - those who are on the front lines of daily spiritual warfare, fighting the fight of faith and using their Spirit-given gifts to glorify God by living willfully like Jesus.

If, from this classification, you’re moving from #1 to #3 in your life or maybe definitely seeing yourself in #2 or #3, PTL for your witness and your desire to be and live more like Christ today than yesterday and following Him more closely tomorrow than today.

My Prayer for Today … Lord, You know my heart; and You know where I stand in my walk with You; and I so desire to shine Your light more brightly today than yesterday and even more brightly tomorrow. … Amen

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

May 28, 2013 … God of Abraham, Isaac, AND Jacob

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 148

Passage of the Day #1: Genesis 50: 24 [NLT]  
24 “Soon I will die,” Joseph told his brothers, “but God will surely come for you, to lead you out of this land of Egypt. He will bring you back to the land he vowed to give to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
 Contextual Study for today’s passage: Genesis, Chapter 50 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: 1st Kings 18:36 : [Praying to the God of us all.] …[NLT] … At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command.

 Reference Passage #2: Jeremiah 33:26 : [Gods’ promise to us all.] …[NLT] … I will never abandon the descendants of Jacob or David, my servant, or change the plan that David’s descendants will rule the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Instead, I will restore them to their land and have mercy on them.”

My Journal for Today: Os Hillman’s mentor once asked him an interesting question to ponder: “Why often in Scripture is God referred to as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?” For example, when Elijah prayed to His Lord for intervention from His God, (see 1st Kings 18: 36 quoted above), he referred to The Lord as “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” and not just some generic reference to “The Lord.” … And when Jeremiah was making reference to God’s covenant promise to Israel in Jeremiah 33: 26, again the Prophet referenced the “descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” not just a reference to the descendants of only Abraham.

It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? And before I read all of Os Hillman’s devotional entry for this day, I meditated and pondered on the question myself; and maybe, if you’re reading along with me here today, it would be a good exercise to go off alone, before you read the rest of my blog, and see what thoughts God might give you.

[And now that you’re back with me if you did what I suggested …]

Hillman’s mentor gave him what I thought might be the answer to this brain teaser. > > > God’s word refers so often to God being the “God of Abraham, Isaac, AND Jacob,” because God wants us to see that He is the LORD OF ALL, not just any one patriarch of the faith to whom He (God) had made a covenant. If God’s word just referred to His promises by referring to Himself as the “God of Abraham” alone, it would put the character of Abraham on a pedestal as the only prototype father of the faith. But God’s promise and His covenant also came through Abraham’s son, Isaac; and then through a vastly different type of character in Jacob. Those three were all very, very different character types; and so, … God’s covenant was for ALL His people, not just one prototypical character type.

So, today as you ponder on what this really means for us now as children of God, some 3000+ years after Abraham first received God’s covenant, we need to realize that our Lord is the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and “__________.” And then you can put your own name into that blank, realizing and internalizing that all of God’s promises and His relationship of love is just as much for you – or me – as it was for an Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob type of believer.

My friend, our God is the GOD OF ALL; and He will always provide Bill Berry [and you, if you are in Christ] with the same promises and provisions which He promised to Abraham, Isaac, AND Jacob … and … Matthew, Mark, John, Peter, AND Paul; … and to any other believer who comes to a faith-relationship with the living God.

And as I leave you here, do I sense, from you, a loud “HALLELUJAH!!!” … just as I’m declaring it here in prayer this morning?

My Prayer for Today … Oh, Lord, my Lord, and the Lord of all who believe on Your Name, … HALLELUJAH; … You are the Lord of all!! … Amen

Monday, May 27, 2013

May 27, 2013 … Life = God’s Test

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 147

Passage of the Day #1: 1st Chronicles 29: 17 [In the context of verses 16-18] [NLT]  
16 “O LORD our God, even these materials that we have gathered to build a Temple to honor your holy name come from you! It all belongs to you! 17 I know, my God, that you examine our hearts and rejoice when you find integrity there. You know I have done all this with good motives, and I have watched your people offer their gifts willingly and joyously. 18 “O LORD, the God of our ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, make your people always want to obey you. See to it that their love for you never changes. 
 Contextual Study for today’s passage: 1st Chronicles, Chapter 29 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Passage of the Day #2: 2nd Chronicles 32: 31 [Please note the context in verses 24-31 - from link below] [NLT]  
31 However, when ambassadors arrived from Babylon to ask about the remarkable events that had taken place in the land, God withdrew from Hezekiah in order to test him and to see what was really in his heart. 
Contextual Study for today’s passage: 2nd Chronicles, Chapter 32 [NLT] … Go to this link …  ============

Reference Passage #1: Philippians 4: 11-13 : [Things going well – going poorly … It’s all a test.] …[NLT] …  
11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.

My Journal for Today: Philippians 4: 13 will forever be one of my favorite, life verses because God used that passage to bring me in brokenness to salvation. That’s a long story, which I’ll not relate here; but when you go back and see the context of that verse in the fourth chapter of Philippians, Paul was relating to his fellow Christians in Philippi (and to us) that he had learned to have strength (I.e., “spiritual prosperity”) no matter where he was in life … whether things were going well or going poorly.

And that is a lesson we all should learn … that life, no matter whether we find ourselves living in the trials of tribulation or in the presence of prosperity, is God’s way of testing our reliance on Him. However, when it comes to God’s life tests, God’s testing in times of prosperity, when things are really going well, may be God’s most challenging tests of faith. How about you? … When things are really going well and your living in times of God’s warm and fuzzies, do you find yourself feeling that you’re in control and you don’t need God?

In today’s two highlight historical biblical passages, referenced above, we see two of God’s great Old Testament heroes. In 2nd Chronicles 32 Hezekiah, one of God’s loyal kings, who had always been tried and true to God, became prideful late in his life; and when God came testing him in times of prosperity, Hezekiah failed the test.  And we know from history that Hezekiah’s progeny failed in ruling the Israelites, who lapsed into slavery to foreign powers.

With David, on the other hand, reading from 1st Chronicles 29, God blessed him late in his reign of king; and David came through God’s prosperity test with flying colors. And as you can read in the passage linked above, David gave God all the credit and the glory, asking that God bless his progeny, Solomon, with the opportunity to rebuild God’s Temple; and we know that’s exactly what happened in history.

Where are you today? Are things going really well for you in life? If so, BEWARE!! … God may have you in the midst of a pop-quiz of prosperity; and if so for any of us, I pray that all of us recognize, as David did in 1st Chronicles 29 or Paul did in Philippians 4 … that all comes from God … for God and His glory. And when things are going well for us, we should ask for God’s strength to be able to give Him the praise HE deserves for allowing HIS prosperity to reign in our lives as we use the good times to give HIM all the glory.

My Prayer for Today … Lord, I praise You for allowing so many wonderful things in my life; and yes, even for the challenges of tribulation; … for in Your strength I can live and do all things. … Amen

Sunday, May 26, 2013

May 26, 2013 … Hearing Him Speak

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 146

 Passage of the Day: John 10: 27 [In the context of verses 25-27] [NLT]  
25 Jesus replied, [to the religious leaders] “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is what I do in the name of my Father. 26 But you don’t believe me because you are not part of my flock. 27 My sheep recognize my voice; I know them, and they follow Me." 
 Contextual Study for today’s passage: John, Chapter 10 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: Psalm 116: 1-2 : [He hears us; … do we hear Him?] …[NLT] …  
1 I love the LORD because He hears and answers my prayers. 
2 Because He bends down and listens, I will pray as long as I have breath!

Reference Passage #2: Hebrews 11: 6 : [No one hears who doesn’t believe.] …[NLT] …  
6 So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him 

My Journal for Today: Do you hear God speak to you? … And you know, if you answered “YES” to that question in the Veteran’s Hospital where I used to work, they would consider admitting you to the Psych ward as delusional or psychotic.

But if you honestly ask that question of me, I would have to answer “YES;” and I’d be telling the truth. … No, I don’t hear God speaking to me in an audible voice; but I do hear Him speak to me … every day.

Have you ever been in a church service, and when the preacher is giving his sermon, have you ever had the thought that his sermon was being delivered directly to you … very personally and very directly? … I sure have!

Have you ever read or meditated on a passage of the Bible; and all of a sudden a passage which you had read or studied many times before takes on a whole new level of meaning or intensity? … I sure have!

My fellow Christian; when such things happen - and you know they do – it’s because God is speaking to the one who experiences such revelations. And they happen also because the one to whom God is speaking is listening – in faith. When Jesus, in today’s highlight devotional passage from John 10, was addressing the Jewish religious leaders of His day, … He rebuked them for their disbelief and their inability to “hear” what He was saying to the people because they simply didn’t believe He was speaking directly from His Father in Heaven.

As the author of Hebrews wrote (Heb.11:6, copied above), … we are not going to hear anything our God says if we don’t believe He is Who He says He is. Do you really believe that God hears you when you pray to Him? (see Psalm 116: 1-2) If you’re a Christian, of course you do! Well then, if you believe God bends down to hear you; why would He not speak to you?

And of course, He does! But are we listening with ears of faith? And believing God wants to speak to us, where are we going to hear Him. I don’t know about you; but I’m here, right here in this quiet place in my home, because I expected to hear my God speak to me through His word … right here today. AND HE DID! … And I’m telling you about it in this journal entry.

And it’s Sunday morning; and I’ll be going to my church home today to worship my God; and I fully expect that my Lord will speak to me through the words of my Pastor, whom I know and believe is a the anointed voice of God to His flock. So, I’m excited about going to church today; because I know that my God will be speaking to me there this morning.

But it’s been a good day already … because I have heard God speak this morning; and I know He’ll continue to speak to me; because I’m part of My God’s flock; and as one of His sheep, I can hear His voice. I will now pray that you can hear Him too.

My Prayer for Today …Lord, if anyone reads my words in this blog, I pray that they can hear You speak to their ears of faith as I have heard You speak to my “ears” this day. … Amen

Saturday, May 25, 2013

May 25, 2013 … My Goal Today

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 145

Passage of the Day: John 12: 24 [In the context of verses 24-26] [NLT]
24The 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. 26 All those who want to be my disciples must come and follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And if they follow me, the Father will honor them. 
Contextual Study for today’s passage: John, Chapter 12 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: Luke 9: 23 : [Yes, again!] …[NLT] …  
23 Then He said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow Me."

My Journal for Today: If you took a recorder out on the street and stopped people, who called themselves, “Christians,” asking them, “What’s your goal today?” … how many of them do you think would answer “Death?” Probably not too many, right?

But if you’ve read the highlight passage above, a word from Jesus, Himself, … the answer Jesus would be looking for if He was holding that microphone, looking for our main goal as a Christian, would be for His disciples to answer something along the lines, “My goal for today is to die to myself and to follow You, Lord!” Would that be your answer?

I can remember a long time ago I got hooked up with a Christian mentor; and on our first meeting, the retired physician, an Elder in my church, asked me, “Bill, what’s your main goal as a Christian?” And I didn’t really have an answer to the question; so he clarified the question further by asking me; “What are you going to do today that will make you a better Christian man?” And again I didn’t know how to answer; so he showed me a chain of discipleship which gave me the answer to those questions, … which I would give if you were to ask me today, “What’s your goal today as a Christian?”

He asked me if I wanted to be blessed by God, … to which I, of course, answered in the affirmative. Well, he then said, that God only blesses those who know Him; and he went on to teach me this chain of discipleship. 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, … my mentor showed me that the first and preeminent goal of every Christian, who desired to be blessed by God, would be to know God more today than the Christian knew Him yesterday and to know our Lord even more tomorrow than we, as a disciple of Christ, knew Him today.

So, if you were to ask me, what my main goal was as a Christian would be today, in the context of Jesus’ teaching above and what I’m bringing to the discussion today, I would say that it is my primary goal to … “die to myself and to know my God more today than I knew Him yesterday … and even more tomorrow than today!” Because the more I’m willing to die to myself and to know my God, I will live in Him and for Him more; and in doing that obediently, the more I will be blessed by my God.

That’s the reason why I’m here right now doing what I’m doing, … getting to know my Lord more today than I did yesterday; and I’ll be here tomorrow, getting to know Him more tomorrow then than I did today. And as I know Him more abidingly, I will love Him more intimately; and as I love Him more intensely, I will die to myself and obey Him more readily; … and as I serve Him more obediently, that will allow Him to bless me more than ever before.

So, how about it, Christian? What’s YOUR main goal today?

My Prayer for Today … Lord, help me to know You more today than yesterday … more tomorrow than today. … Amen

Friday, May 24, 2013

May 24, 2013 … Beware Our God-given Talents

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 144

Passage of the Day: Zechariah 4: 6 [NLT]  
6 Then he [God’s angel] said to me [Zechariah], “This is what the LORD says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the LORD Almighty.
Contextual Study for today’s passage: Zechariah, Chapter 4 [NLT] … Go to this link

Reference Passage #1: Proverbs 3: 5-6 : [Beware! … Lean not on our own understanding, talents, and fleshly strength.] …[NKJV] …  
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on our own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.

Reference Passage #2: Luke 9: 23 : [It’s like a broken record – the lesson we must learn from Jesus to deny ourselves and follow Him!] …[NLT] …  
23 Then He said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow Me."

My Journal for Today: Zechariah was one of three post-exile Prophets, whom God used to help the Governor of Judah, Zerubbabel, and the High Priest at the time, Yeshua, who were returning to Jerusalem from captivity; and it was the task of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi to give the Lord’s direction to God’s people and their leaders as they were led to rebuild the Temple and the walls around Jerusalem. And today’s message, which was given to Zerubbabel, through Zechariah, via an angel of the Lord, presents one of the challenging paradoxes of all time to believers.

And here’s the deal. God gives man physical abilities, emotional strength, and spiritual support; and yet, the Lord expects His disciples to choose to deny himself and follow God. How many times, in my devotional journal entries, do I end up referring back to the wisdom of Proverb 3: 5-6, which tells us NOT to rely solely on our own God-given mental abilities and to trust in God’s wisdom to guide us? How many times do I end up referring back to Jesus’ own command [from Luke 9: 23] for His followers to deny our own selfish desires and to follow HIM in living out our lives for God’s glory?

And here was God, saying to Zerubbabel that he must carry out God’s will, NOT by his human force of will or human strength … but rather by relying on God’s Spirit to show His people the way and to give them the strength and direction to rebuild the Temple. I’ll tell you. This business of being able to discern what we, as followers of Christ, must do and what we must surrender to God’s will becomes one of the great challenges of being a disciple of Christ, doesn’t it?

 But staying in what I call, “surrender mode” to God’s Spirit and following HIS WILL for our lives, HIS way, from HIS word, becomes one of the greatest challenges of being a Christian. That’s so why you find me coming back here each day and doing all I can to glean the very mind of God from His word. I’m so vulnerable to my own selfish desires and trying to do things MY WAY.

Hence, I’m here again this morning, seeking to stay on track with God’s will; and follow God’s ways, by gleaning HIS direction from HIS word. How about you? … If you’re here reading this, … why are you here?

My Prayer for Today … Lord, keep me in surrender to Your will and following Your ways as I discern Your purposes through Your word. … Amen

Thursday, May 23, 2013

May 23, 2013 … Change From Brokenness

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 143

Passage of the Day: Genesis 32: 24-25 [NLT]  
24 This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a Man came and wrestled with him until dawn. 25 When the Man saw that He couldn’t win the match, He struck Jacob’s hip and knocked it out of joint at the socket. 
 Contextual Study for today’s passage: Genesis, Chapter 32 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: Proverbs 3: 5-6 : [And sometimes learning to trust God means a wrestling match.] …[NKJV] …  
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on our own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.

Reference Passage #1: 2nd Corinthians 12: 8-9 : [Our brokenness can allow for us to receive God’s transforming, sanctifying grace.] …[NLT] …  
8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it [the debilitating thorn] away. 9 Each time He 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.

My Journal for Today: Sometimes God has to allow for our brokenness in order for Him to make us over into the man [or woman] we need to become in His image. Today Os Hillman continues his illustrative use of God’s son, Jacob, who went from a self-indulgent con-man to a broken and willing leader of God’s people. But note how much it took, with years of trial and tribulation, and ultimately a wrestling match with an Angel of God (who just might have been Jesus Himself), with God needing to break him down physically and emotionally so that God could reshape Jacob into “Israel,” a new man. who could be used by God for God’s purposes and not the man who previously was a man who would do life in his own way and for his own purposes.

How often do I end up quoting Proverbs 3: 5-6 as a reference passage in my devotionals here; and I do so because learning to trust God and follow God completely and unselfishly, sometimes take God to allow Satan to buffet us or break us down, maybe physically or emotionally (or both). so that we can recognize how much we need God’s sanctifying and transforming grace to reshape us into the person God can use for His glory. Not only did Jacob have to wrestle and be broken by God to be transformed from “Jacob” to “Israel,” the Apostle Paul also had to go through in that great scenario in 2nd Corinthians, Chapter 12 where God had to allow Satan to give Paul some “thorn,” which ultimately Paul recognized was necessary for Paul to be able to be humbled enough to receive God’s power to cover his weakness. Why so often does God have to break us down before He builds us up into His own image?

What has God needed to do … or what is He doing now … to break your selfish nature down so that you can recognize your need to trust God completely and for you to recognize your need to receive His transforming and empowering grace? Sometimes it may take a wrestling match, producing a lot of pain in your life; but whatever it takes, it’s worth it … to recognize, in our brokenness, that we need and can receive God’s enabling and transforming grace.

My Prayer for Today … Oh, my Lord, pour your grace into this broken carcass, so that I can become the man You need for me to be. … Amen

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

May 22, 2013 … Moving Out

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 142

Passage of the Day: Genesis 30: 43 [In the context of verses 40-43] [NLT]  
40 Jacob added them to his own flock, thus separating the lambs from Laban’s flock. Then at mating time, he turned the flocks toward the streaked and dark-colored rams in Laban’s flock. This is how he built his flock from Laban’s. 41 Whenever the stronger females were ready to mate, Jacob set up the peeled branches in front of them. 42 But he didn’t do this with the weaker ones, so the weaker lambs belonged to Laban, and the stronger ones were Jacob’s. 43 As a result, Jacob’s flocks increased rapidly, and he became very wealthy, with many servants, camels, and donkeys.  
Contextual Study for today’s passage: Genesis, Chapter 30 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: Hebrews 11: 6 : [Faith to keep on keeping on.] …[NLT] …  
6 So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that there is a God and that He rewards those who sincerely seek him.

My Journal for Today: Yesterday my devotional for May 21, about Jacob’s journey away from his brother Esau, from whom he had stolen God’s blessing and Isaac’s birthright, we read of Jacob learning to be disciplined in seeking a closer relationship with God, even though he done an evil thing which brought about God’s blessing.

Well, in today’s devotional from workplace ministries, Os Hillman, wants us to see that God’s plan and His blessing on a servant’s life will play itself out in the life of the faithful. And Jacob’s story; and how God’s covenant plays out in his life, is a fascinating example of one staying patient and believing in God’s purpose and plan for the life of a true believer.

 Reading from the passage in Genesis 30, linked above, we see that Jacob patiently and purposefully lives and works for his uncle, Laban, for over 20 years; and Laban recognizes that the God of Abraham has blessed Laban’s flocks and his tribe because of Jacob’s presence there. So, Laban devises a way to keep Jacob around; but God has a different plan; and once again God uses Jacob’s fertile and conniving mind to come up with a clever (and really supernatural plan) to allow Jacob to become wealthy and independent and able to move on to carry out God’s plan for His people through Jacob.

And this story is a great example of God’s faithfulness to keep His promises and to bless those who seek out and stay true to GOD’S promises and in HIS timing for helping us to move on to carry out GOD’S will for our lives. That’s the New Testament lesson from Hebrews 11: 6, which I’ve copied above for our edification. And when we use what God has given us in the way of providence, i.e., time, talents, and treasures, for His glory and not our own ways and purposes, God will bless our lives in ways we could never imagine.

So our lesson today – at least the one I’m getting from this devotional – is to seek GOD’S way and stay true to GOD’S will, especially as He directs us through HIS word; and when we do, God will show the way.

 It’s the message of another great old song, to which I link you here  – and I hope that hearing this song on You Tube will help you see that God has a purpose for our lives – HIS PURPOSE – and if we seek out that purpose, He will show the way for us to follow in our lives.

My Prayer for Today … Lord, thank You for being my guide in life. … Amen

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

May 21, 2013 … God Awareness

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 141

Passage of the Day: Genesis 28: 16 [NLT]  
16 Then Jacob woke up and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it.” 
 Contextual Study for today’s passage: Genesis, Chapter 28 [NLT] … Go to this link

My Journal for Today: If you read along with me in this blog, I hope you have taken the time to read and meditate a bit on Jacob’s story after he was forced to flee from his family for what he pulled off in conning his brother Esau out of Isaac’s blessing and birthright. And Jacob, in Chapter 28 of Genesis, is recorded by Moses to have found a safe place in Bethel, where, in a quiet moment, He encountered God’s presence and direction through a dream.

And Os Hillman, in his journal entry for his devotional today reminded me that often we have get away from the stresses and strains of worldly living and establish an altar of solitude to be able to sense and be with God. It’s difficult, many times impossible, to be able to have an awareness of God unless we can consciously and intentionally find a place of solitude and quiet, away from the noises and demands of the world, to be with God. It’s what you might call your “quiet time;” and I don’t know about you, but I, like Jacob did in today’s highlight passage, have my altar of quiet where I go each morning to devote quiet time with God.

And here I am this very morning to be with God again in this quiet place in my mind and heart. I do hope you have such a place, totally away from the noisiness and stresses of the world to spend quality time with God each day … preferably in the morning … to start each day with an awareness and a special time worshipping, praying, and languishing in God’s word.

 I can’t tell you how many days that I have felt, as Jacob did, and I have felt (in today’s highlight verse), “… Surely the Lord is in this place.” In fact there’s a wonderful song to which I’ll link you here  – in this case sung by Daniel O’Donnell - which I pray captures the essence of your daily quiet-time with God. Because even his morning I have truly sensed God being here with me.

My Prayer for Today … Lord, I so relish the time where I sense your presence each day. … Amen

Monday, May 20, 2013

May 20, 2013 … Mighty Followers of A Mighty God

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 140

Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 22: 2 [In the context of verses 1-2] [NLT]  
1 So David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. Soon his brothers and other relatives joined him there. 2 Then others began coming — men who were in trouble or in debt or who were just discontented — until David was the leader of about four hundred men.
Contextual Study for today’s passage: 1st Samuel, Chapter 22 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: Matthew 4: 18-22 : [Followers who became leaders.] …[NLT] …  
18 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—fishing with a net, for they were commercial fishermen. 19 Jesus called out to them, “Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people!”  
20 And they left their nets at once and went with Him. 21 A little farther up the shore He saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, mending their nets. And He called them to come, too. 22 They immediately followed Him, leaving the boat and their father behind.

 My Journal for Today: If you had an idea which could reshape the world, as did Jesus; and you needed a “few good men” to help you accomplish this task, would you have chosen the men Jesus did to be His inner core of Disciples?

David also had a tough task ahead of him from the highlight passage of today’s study; – to stay alive and become the anointed leader of Israel. However, there he was, running from Saul in the dessert with only a rag-tag bunch of cast-offs to follow him. But in the choosing and development of these two groups of followers we have a very powerful lesson to remember, one that a mentor of mine taught me years ago. Simply stated, it is this: … God can do extraordinary things with ordinary followers who are extraordinarily surrendered to a Super-extraordinary God. 

And that means that God can even use you or me to do incredible things to accomplish His purposes if we follow someone who is anointed to accomplish HIS will … in HIS way … in HIS time. So, in that regard, we have to ask a couple of pointed, pertinent, and powerful questions.  

#1 … No matter how ill-prepared for God’s glory we might be, are we totally and unreservedly sold-out to follow God into battle each day. … David never lost a battle with the men whom God sent him, even though, when they came to him they were anything but “mighty men.” But they were surrendered to follow David; and David was following God. Therefore, these rag-tag warriors became David’s “mighty men;” … following an anointed leader who reshaped the middle-east, and really the world, for God’s glory.  

#2 … The power of God’s followers is measured by the degree of surrender they have to a leader who is totally surrendered God’s will. … The disciples of Jesus, who changed the world, became powerful for God’s gospel because they were willing – ultimately – to completely surrender themselves to God’s anointed Messiah. When Jesus picked Andrew, Peter, James, and John out there on that beach near Capernaum, they would not have been considered mighty and highly qualified leaders; but when they were willing and able to surrender their wills to follow Jesus, they became the leaders God knew they would be.

So, we have to ask ourselves in this brief study, …  
1. Am I following leaders who are anointed by God and who are totally surrendered to God’s will and His kingdom? 
2. Am I fully and completely surrendered to be a Christ-follower, … a man or woman who is willing to be reshaped into a disciple of Christ, battling daily for God’s glory?

Because if we can answer these two questions with an unqualified “YES!” … we can become God’s “mighty-men” (or women), … disciples who can be trained by God’s anointed leaders to first follow God for His glory and then to be shaped into leaders for His kingdom.

 Have you heard Jesus call out to you, somehow and in some way, saying, “Follow Me?” Well, if not, go back to that ever present, oft repeated, call from Jesus in Luke 9: 23. Or go to His calling to all Christians from Revelation 3: 20; and stand in front of a mirror, imagining that Jesus is calling those words to you, – BECAUSE HE IS (or maybe He already has)!!

Now, ask yourself those questions above; and then seek to be willing to surrender and find the “YES” answers to both; and when you do find yourselves being in accord and affirmative to those questions, God will use you for His glory … maybe even today!

My Prayer for Today … Lord, You know my surrender. Use me today for Your glory! … Amen

Sunday, May 19, 2013

May 19, 2013 … Selling the Birthright

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 139

Passage of the Day: Genesis 25: 34 [NLT]  
34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil stew. Esau ate and drank and went on about his business, indifferent to the fact that he had given up his birthright.  
 Contextual Study for today’s passage: Genesis, Chapter 25 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: Matthew 6: 19-20 : [Our real inheritance.] …[NLT] …  
19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where they can be eaten by moths and get rusty, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where they will never become moth-eaten or rusty and where they will be safe from thieves. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be.

Reference Study for today’s passage: Romans 12: 1-2 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

My Journal for Today: When you read the story of Esau selling his birthright to his conniving younger brother, Jacob, do you ever think, with disdain, … “What a fool was this impetuous and foolish man!” How could he be willing to sell his part of the family inheritance for such a meager, worldly amount?

But before we judge Esau so harshly; don’t many of us do much the same thing when it comes to selling out much of our inheritance to worldly or Satanic influences? Think about it.

Just what is our inheritance in heaven anyway? Well, Jesus pointed us toward that reality in His Sermon on the Mount, didn’t He? (see Matt. 6: 19-20 quoted above) If we recognize what we are to inherit as a son or daughter of the King in heaven, should we not be doing all we can to store up imperishable, spiritual treasures for our forever with Christ in heaven by pursuing Kingdom treasures rather than falling prey to Satan’s or the world’s temptations of here-and-now earthly pleasures which will have no heavenly value at all?

So, one might ask, … “How do I pursue my inheritance and birthright as a born-again Christian?”

Well, Paul gave Christians, in his day, God’s exhortation for pursuing our Christian birthright; and I hope you have Romans 12: 1-2 memorized to be able to bring it up in your consciousness right now. If not, I’ve linked you to this passage above; and I charge you now to go to it, memorize it, and internalize it’s powerful directional content for living.

Because, … if we can live by God’s exhortation from Paul here and from Jesus’ discipleship command of Luke 9: 23 (which surely you have memorized by now as many times as I have copied it in my devotional journal entries), we, as followers of Christ, will be able to pursue more and more of our heavenly inheritance as Christians, rather than selling out our birthright to the influences of the world, Satan’s temptations, and our own fleshly weaknesses.

Pray that with me here this morning.

My Prayer for Today … Lord, help us to see clearly what You have waiting for us in glory and to pursue only those things which will be treasures for us in heaven. … Amen

Saturday, May 18, 2013

May 18, 2013 … Building on THE Rock

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 138

Passage of the Day: Matthew 7: 24-26 [NLT]  
24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and obeys me is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse, because it is built on rock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will fall with a mighty crash.”
 Contextual Study for today’s passage: Matthew, Chapter 7 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: Luke 6: 46-48 : [Building on the solid ROCK.] …[NLT] …  
46 “So why do you call me ‘Lord,’ when you won’t obey me? 47 I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then obeys me. 48 It is like a person who builds a house on a strong foundation laid upon the underlying rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against the house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who listens and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will crumble into a heap of ruins.”

  Reference Passage #2: 1st Peter 2: 4-5a : [Yes, Jesus is our cornerstone.] …[NLT] …  
4 Come to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by the people, but He is precious to God who chose Him. 5And now God is building you, as living stones, into His spiritual temple. 

My Journal for Today: I’m always amazed at the stories of how people in Southern California build multi-million dollar homes on the sides of hills, overlooking the beaches, … where, when the storms come, the houses come tumbling down the hillsides, because the homes are not built on solid ground but rather on sandy soil which cannot support the structure in the wet weather. When you see reports like that, don’t you want to say, “What were they thinking?”

Well that’s the word picture of Jesus’ teaching in both Matthew 7 and Luke 6 where the powerful “Sermon on the Mount” was reported by these two authors. In this famous teaching, Jesus was warning the people about a standard of living way beyond anything they had ever heard before. And they heard about how believers should live and how they would one day live together in glory.

 However, one of the most practical lessons Jesus taught the people during this sermon was a wake-up call to how they were living their lives; and the word picture “The Master” used in teaching this lesson was related by pictures of how someone should build their houses. And, most certainly, the picture was a clear one, wasn’t it? Because anyone hearing the teaching would (or should) see that it’s stupid, well, at least very foolish, to build one’s home knowingly on unstable sand, which would be subject to collapse in bad weather. No, … when one is building a home to last (or a life), we should build a solid foundation on solid rock, shouldn’t we?

And as Jesus was teaching then, just as He is teaching through His word to us right now, the following questions should resonate for us, to which I quote Os Hillman’s devotional entry for today: "Many of us find that we have given only lip service to God’s commands. We are faced with the reality that our foundations are not strong enough to weather life’s storms. How do we react when the trials come? Do we fret and worry? Do we take life into our hands? Do we respond inappropriately when we don’t get what we want? The Lord uses these times to help us recognize whether our foundations are sand or rock. Ask the Lord today if you have built on His rock. If so, you can be comforted to know that you can weather any storm that may come your way."

I’ll leave you to ponder these challenging thoughts and to evaluate how the foundation and structure of your life, as God’s Temple, is being built. Because we now know that only building our lives on the living Cornerstone, i.e., Jesus Himself, will provide us with the solid foundation upon which our temple must be built (see 1st Peter 2: 4-5a copied above).

 My Prayer for Today … Lord, I take the building plans from Your Word and build my life, knowing that I’m building on THE ROCK. …

Amen Audio PS: Take a few moments, if you’re at your computer, and be linked to a wonderful Gaither rendition of Vestel Goodman and others singing the old classic, Rock of Ages, which certainly applies to worship God as our Rock forevermore – Here’s the link to God Tube to listen and worship.

Friday, May 17, 2013

May 17, 2013 … Under Authority

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 137

Passage of the Day: Matthew 8: 5-10 [NLT]  
5 When Jesus arrived in Capernaum, a Roman officer came and pleaded with Him, 6“Lord, my young servant lies in bed, paralyzed and racked with pain.” 7 Jesus said, “I will come and heal him.” 
8 Then the officer said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have You come into my home. Just say the word from where You are, and my servant will be healed! 9 I know, because I am under the authority of my superior officers and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this or that,’ they do it.” 
10 When Jesus heard this, He was amazed. Turning to the crowd, He said, “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all the land of Israel!  
 Contextual Study for today’s passage: Matthew, Chapter 8 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: Romans 13: 1-4 : [God establishes and institutes authority and governments for our protection ] …[NLT] …  
1 Obey the government, for God is the one who put it there. All governments have been placed in power by God. 2 So those who refuse to obey the laws of the land are refusing to obey God, and punishment will follow. 3 For the authorities do not frighten people who are doing right, but they frighten those who do wrong. So do what they say, and you will get along well. 4 The authorities are sent by God to help you.

My Journal for Today: Every day I get emails and web-links which exhort me to read articles or opinions which are inflamed against our President or railing against one government action or another. Often they bother me; and often that bothered state upsets me further because, when I do read some of these op-ed pieces or personal opinions expressed on Facebook or via email, I agree with them and find myself disrespecting the Office of the President or one of his appointees, rather than having disrespect for the man in that position of authority.

In other words, I’m disrespecting an office which was established by God and filled by His authority rather than taking into account, as we’re charged by God’s word in Romans 13 [see above] to recognize and obey our government officials – UNLESS they order us to do something which is directly in disobedience to God Himself in His written word.

That’s why the story of the Roman Centurion and his faith in Jesus becomes so revealing and personally convicting. This man was desperate; and he fully understood the concept of authority, exercising it everyday in his role as a Roman Centurion. In the highlight segment of Matthew 8, linked for your study, the centurion openly declares his understanding and willingness to surrender to Christ’s authority. He had come to Jesus because he had full faith in THE Authority under whom Jesus was able to operate. And Jesus was so impressed by the faith of the Centurion, He complied immediately and relented to the request of the Roman soldier, healing the man’s ailing slave.

Sometimes I wonder if I fully understand and have faith in the authority of our President, whom so often I find myself in political disagreement. Do I really understand that President Obama, no matter how much I disagree with his politics, is our President because he was allowed into office by none other than God?  Do I understand that the Office of President and our government has been established to watch over and protect me and my family? Now, does being in compliance with my government, as I’m instructed to be in Romans 13, mean that I’m to do unGodly or unbiblical things if so ordered by our President or under the laws of the land? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

But I do need to recognize that God put or allowed my President into office, and as long as I’m not being called to make unGodly choices, I must respect His office and comply with the laws of the land. I need to understand that all power comes from God and we all are to be compliance with that Power – in faith!

My Prayer for Today … Lord, help to realize and recognize from Whom all authority is derived. … Amen

Thursday, May 16, 2013

May 16, 2013 … Sowing In Tears

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 136

  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.
Contextual Study for today’s passage: Psalms, Chapter 126 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: Romans 12 – Use this link : [When our feelings take us down, we must – in faith – choose to use our gifts to plant seeds which lift us up.] …[NLT] …

My Journal for Today: Dear fellow Christian; if you’ve ever read along in this blogspot with me and you happen to be here today, PLEASE PAY ATTENTION!! What I’m about to write and you’re about to read, having been given to me from God’s Spirit this morning, could change … maybe even save … your life. Yes, I know … that’s a big claim, especially since I haven’t written anything yet; … now let me put into digital thoughts what I believe God has given me to share this morning.

When we’re feeling way down-and-out, … maybe even severely depressed, … perhaps wracked in grief or anger about some emotional, or maybe even physical, pain, what is our “natural” tendency? Well, … our very human reaction to feelings of anguish, anger, or angst is to strike out and even try to strike down the source – or at least what we perceive to be the source – of our down-trodden feelings. When we’re feeling way low, we have a tendency to try to do something to relieve the pain or to quell the anger; don’t we? Sometimes to relieve the pain, especially the emotional pain, we take some substance, maybe a pain-killer. Often when we’re feeling the pain of loss, we strike out by trying to turning away or walking away from what we FEEL is the source of our anger or loss. Perhaps that might mean turning away from some relationship or if our anger is directed at God, turning away from Him or His word or His church.

But what God is telling me this morning as His prescription for pain, anguish, or sorrow, is way counter-intuitive. In today’s highlight passage from Psalms 126: 5-6 God’s Spirit, through the writing of some Psalmist who was likely writing about God’s people returning to Jerusalem after their exile in Babylon, exhorts believers to sow seeds of JOY in the midst of tears.

Yes, I know; … one wants to cry out, “WHAT?!!” … And this morning, being in some degree of pain myself, my reaction as I meditated on this passage was to ask, “Okay, God, I need a little more of the “how to” if You’re asking me to choose to sow joy seeds of joy when I’m feeling very un-joy-full right now. But the more I was able to separate my mind from my feelings in today’s time in prayer with God and trying to apply God’s truth [i.e., His word], God’s Spirit began to show me what He meant by this prescription for dealing with painful feelings.

What God is saying, and I’m writing here, is that He wants us to overcome the fickleness of feelings by sowing seeds of action IN FAITH; and this response to our feelings, which so tend to drive us inward into selfishness, takes a real act of faith and will to move us outward, rather than inward, when we’re feeling so down and out. And the more I was able to get out of myself and into God’s truth, remembering the exhortations of Paul from Romans 12, linked above, I could see what God wants us to do – in faith – when our feelings seem to have us captive to selfishness and depression.

So, if we’re FEELING down right how, how can we sow seeds of joy – in FAITH – to overcome our own sense of hopelessness? Well, as you can read in Romans 12, if you know your Spirit-imparted gift or gifts, God wants us to reach outward and use that gift or those gifts for His glory. For instance, when you’re feeling somewhat down, if you were to CHOOSE to exercise your spiritual gift of encouragement and encourage someone who needed to hear that encouragement, what do you think would be the reaction of the person being encouraged; … and equally, how would you FEEL when you saw how encouraged the person was when you had you CHOSEN to encourage them? Duh! … It’s not rocket-science, is it?

Think about it. If you have a gift of service and you serve someone, what will be the reaction of the one served? They will FEEL lifted up; and will it lift you up to see their gratefulness in being served? Of course, it will! If you have the gift of mercy; and you reach out to help someone who needs God’s mercy, what will be their predictable response; and won’t you feel lifted up when you see that the person, whom you chose to reach out and help, receive God’s love through you.

I have the Spiritual gift of teaching; and here I am writing – as a teacher – about something which could take you – or me – from the depths of despair to the heights of spiritual joy; and what do you think my FEELINGS are right now as I imagine what could happen in your life if you implemented or applied these truths in your life. You guessed it! It lifts me up just to imagine how the application of these teachings could change your life. So, just choosing to use my Spirit-imparted gifts here this morning in writing these words has lifted me up. … Are we getting it?!!

So, think about it, my friend. How can you sow some seeds of joy today – in faith – to receive the God-enabling grace which will follow your choice to sow God’s love and His joy even when you’re feelings are in the dumpers. Why don’t you just give it a go? If you’re a bit low and your gift is service, go serve someone! If you’re gift is giving, give something to God’s kingdom. If your gift is leadership, lead someone, … onward on to God’s path of righteousness.

But don’t let your feelings – and Satan’s use of those feelings – wrap you up with a paralysis of analysis and cause you to go inward in selfishness rather than outward in Christlikeness. Because when we CHOOSE to reach outward – IN FAITH - to share God’s love or His grace with others no matter what we’re feeling inwardly, God will pour Himself into those choices; … and what is sown in tears of anguish will become tears of joy.

My Prayer for Today … Lord, help me to sow in faith what is needed from me to see Your love and grace flourish where those seeds are sown for Your glory. … Amen

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May 15, 2013 … Dealing with the Baggage of Life

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 135

Passage of the Day: Judges 11: 29 [NLT]  
29 At that time the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he went throughout the land of Gilead and Manasseh, including Mizpah in Gilead, and led an army against the Ammonites. 
Contextual Study for today’s passage: Judges, Chapter 11 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: Romans 8: 28 : [A tough past is likely God preparing His faithful for a tough future.] …[NLT] …  
28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them

My Journal for Today: Got any baggage that you’ve had to carry from your past in dealing with your present or future challenges? Perhaps you were abused growing up or you had parents who were into substance abuse. Maybe you had to overcome an addiction of your own, … perhaps, like me, it was an obsessive-compulsive weakness to sexual sin. Or maybe you regret having had an abortion or having to deal with the memories of being rejected by your family or your school peers.

Whatever it was, … carrying, or dealing with, past baggage as we go through life now – or into our future – is tough. And we may even be Christians who believe the truth Paul wrote about in Romans 8: 28. But, … it’s still tough dealing with past baggage; isn’t it?

However, today’s highlight Bible passage from Judges, Chapter 11, about Jephthah, whom God chose to lead Israel was a man who certainly had to deal with a lot of baggage from his up-bringing. He was fathered by his daddy’s affair with a prostitute and rejected and sent away by his half-brothers because of it. But Jephthah became a street hardened warrior; and later when Israel was under attack by the Ammonites, God chose Jephthah to lead His people to victory.

 So, are we dealing with some tough issues from our past in trying to move ahead and be a warrior for God in today’s raunchy world? And are these baggage issues weighing us down; or have we been able to jettison them and see that God has used them to prepare us for the here and now … or for the future?

Perhaps you’ve read my testimony and how God used my 22 years of youthful disobedience and rebellion, deeply into habitual sexual sin, to break my spirit and allow me to see and receive my Lord’s saving grace. And then there was my recognition that God had taken me through that gauntlet of a sinful past to prepare me to lead a ministry – HIS MINISTRY – to reach out and help believers who desire to walk free from habitual sexual sinful patterns of behavior. And now He has brought me to a place where I’m an Elder in my church and co-founder of Battle Plan Ministry, where I’m given God’s opportunity to serve Him by helping others walk in the freedom and purity God desires for all His disciples.

I pray here that we all know and believe that ALL things, yes, … even a checkered and burdensome past … can work together for God – God’s good – as we march forward in the life God has purposed for us as His children.

My Prayer for Today … Lord, help us to carry the burdens of our past as tools to build our future for Your glory. … Amen

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

May 14, 2013 … Relational Closeness Requires Intentionality

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 134

Passage of the Day: Isaiah 50: 4-5 [Now that’s attitude which produces relationship! ] [NLT]  
4 The Sovereign LORD has given me His words of wisdom, so that I know what to say to all these weary ones. Morning by morning He wakens me and opens my understanding to His will. 5 The Sovereign LORD has spoken to me, and I have listened. I do not rebel or turn away. 
Contextual Study for today’s passage: Isaiah, Chapter 50 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: Proverbs 3: 5-6 : [Trusting takes intentionality.] … [NLT] …  
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths. 

Reference Passage #2: Luke 9: 23 : [Discipleship begins with self-denial and daily discipline.] …[NLT] … 
 23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow Me. …”

My Journal for Today: The Prophet Isaiah had a deep and abiding relationship with His Lord; and the key to that relationship can be found in the short passage from Isaiah’s journal which Os Hillman quoted in his devotional entry for today. And it doesn’t take a rocket-scientist or a Ph.D. in Hebrew Studies to see that Isaiah was close to God because the Prophet chose to be close to God.

Now, I know that reads like circular logic and in some respects it is; but that circle began with Isaiah’s CHOICE to spend quality time daily with His God and to CHOOSE to be open to understanding God’s will and following the word of his God. And taking some time to meditate on Isaiah 50: 4-5, copied above, the two passages which I quote most often in my DAILY devotional time each morning, Luke 9: 23 and Proverbs 3: 5-6, bubbled up into my consciousness again. Hence, I’ve copied them above … yes, AGAIN; but I hope you have these two memorized and internalized.

Do you want to have a deeply close and intimately abiding relationship with God?

Well, if you answer that one, “NO,” then you’re in the wrong place, being here with this, humble, disciple of Christ. I CHOOSE to be here every day, CHOOSING to pray to my God to give me more of Himself for me to know Him though His word. I CHOOSE to be here, every morning, not because of legalism; but because I trust that my God wants me to know Him more intimately, to seek Him more diligently, and to follow Him more closely than I did yesterday. I CHOOSE to be here DAILY because I know that the closeness of my relationship with my God depends on my intentional will to pursue that relationship and glean as much from my chosen time with my Lord as I can each day that you find me here, trusting that my God, through His word, will reveal His will to me so that I can follow Him more closely in His ways.

Again, I ask: Do you want to have a deeply close and intimately abiding relationship with God?

Because if you do, it begins with your CHOOSING to spend time with God; and that time will have to be deeply invested in prayer, begging for God to show Himself to you and abidingly choosing to delve deeply into God’s word, the primary source of His willingness to reveal Himself to you. And when you do that, willingly and intentionally, God will do His part in being closer and closer to you each day.

So, it’s up to our own will, isn’t it; … to CHOOSE to trust Him to be there for us in His word so that we can be closer and closer in our relationship with Him daily. And so, if you know me well enough; … I’ll be here tomorrow, … CHOOSING to get to know my God more intimately than I did today by being in His word.

My Prayer for Today … Lord, thank You for revealing more of Yourself to me today in Your word. … Amen

Monday, May 13, 2013

May 13, 2013 … My “To-Do” List Today

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 133

Passage of the Day: James 14b [In the context of verses 13-15 ] [NLT]  
13 Look here, you people who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” 14 How do you know what will happen tomorrow? For your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” 
Contextual Study for today’s passage: James, Chapter 4 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: Ecclesiastes 1: 2-8 : [Does our life have any real meaning? ] …[NLT] …  
2 “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “utterly meaningless!” 3 What do people get for all their hard work? 4 Generations come and go, but nothing really changes. 5 The sun rises and sets and hurries around to rise again. 6 The wind blows south and north, here and there, twisting back and forth, getting nowhere. 7 The rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows again to the sea. 8 Everything is so weary and tiresome! No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.

My Journal for Today: Somebody once asked, “If you knew that tomorrow you were going to be with Jesus in heaven, would it change your ‘to-do’ list today?”

And while you reflect on that question, let me tell you a very true, … very recent, story which reflects on the photo I’ve attached today.
Click on photo for larger view

One week ago, a beautiful lady was volunteering her time to work the reception desk at our church on a Sunday morning. My wife went up to Corrine Smith that morning and got a brochure from her. She smiled, as she always did, and was very helpful, as she always was, when she volunteered her time quietly for her Lord every Sunday morning at that reception desk. Corrine was the picture of well-being that morning; but after church that day, she got in her car, pulled out of the church parking lot to go home, drove about 300 yards down the street, had a massive heart attack, left the road, and as you can see in the photo, hit a tree. The paramedics arrived soon there after and found her dead at the wheel. She had likely gone to be with Jesus before she ever struck the tree. But the thing is, … even if Corrine had known that she would be in the arms of Jesus on that May 5th Sunday, … Corrine would have likely been smiling and volunteering her time to be at the reception desk, doing what she did every Sunday morning.

There are two reflections from God’s word this morning. One from Jesus’ brother, James, in James 4: 14b, should get us thinking. Really our life is like a morning vapor, isn’t it? Here like a fog; and then gone tomorrow. I really don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring; so, when I look at what I’m going to do today, will it in any way have any lasting impact on God’s kingdom?

When Solomon, whom God had given so much worldly wisdom, had lived his life, he looked back on it; and in writing the Book of Ecclesiastes, he reflected with remorse, discontent, and disdain on how he had blown it, … not living as God had really intended for his life. And when you read the Book of Proverbs, especially Chapters 1-9, and see how wise God had made this son of King David; and then read the Book of Ecclesiastes, written some years later, one has to be impressed by how much King Solomon decidedly wasted his life, living it in disobedience and selfish pursuits.

Stop! … Look back! … Pause! … Reflect on today! Will what you do today be part of God’s confrontation with you, being a born-again Christian, if you were to meet the Lord there, in heaven, tomorrow? Would He be reflecting on what you’ll do today when and if He were to say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” … Or would He even say that based upon what you will do today?

I don’t know about you; but my “to-do” list just changed for today. And my “bucket list” for tomorrow has changed as well.

My Prayer for Today … Oh, Lord, help me to see my life through Your eyes and see where You’re leading me, so that what I do will be a reflection of Your “to-do” list for my life. … Amen

Sunday, May 12, 2013

May 12, 2013 … Kingdom Purposes

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 132

 Passage of the Day: Psalm 144: 4 [In the context of verses 3-4 ] [NLT] 3 O LORD, what are mortals that You should notice us, mere humans that You should care for us? 4 For we are like a breath of air; our days are like a passing shadow.
Contextual Study for today’s passage: Psalm, Chapter 144 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

Reference Passage #1: 1st Corinthians 15: 58 : [Making life have meaning for eternity!} … [NLT] …  
58 So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. 

Reference Passage #2: Luke 4: 18-19 : [If it’s good enough for Messiah, it’s good enough for God and way good enough for mankind, … a restatement of the prophesy of Messiah’s earthly mission from Is. 61: 1-2] … [NLT] …  
17 The scroll containing the messages of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him, and he unrolled the scroll to the place where it says:  
18“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, 19 and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” 

My Journal for Today: Walk up to the edge of the ocean with a tea cup in your hand. And if your life were all you can fit into that cup when compared with the expanse of the ocean’s volume in terms of eternal value, what value would your life be, … fitting into that little cup?

Well, if that life where dedicated to the mission of God’s kingdom, no matter how small it was compared with God’s eternal kingdom, it would not have been in vain (see 1st Cor. 15: 58 copied above). And we can know that our life has as much eternal value as possible in this life by seeing if our life fits somewhere in the mission statement of our Messiah, which was prophesied for Him over 700 years before He was born on earth and restated by Jesus Himself to God’s people when He announced that He was Messiah and that He had come to earth to fulfill Messiah’s mission.

Go back and read what Jesus declared was His mission by reading and mediating on Luke 4: 18-19 which Yeshua, HaMashiach, read from God’s word that day, reading in the Synagogue from Isaiah 61: 1-2, and declaring that on that day the people had heard and seen the fulfillment of those words. It was a mere tea-cup of a moment; but in the reading of those words of promise from God, if the people were to match their lives to what Jesus read to them; and if they were to see their lives somewhere fitting into that mission statement, they would be able to say that their tea-cup of a life would have kingdom value.

 So, what about our lives as we try to take a tea-cup’s volume to the ocean? When you read Luke 4: 18-19, do you find what we do day-after-day-after day fitting into Jesus’ mission statement? Are we preaching the “Good News” to the poor of heart? … Are we helping to release those captive to their own sin to walk free in Christ? … Are we living to help the spiritually blind to see God’s path in life? … Or … are we helping the downtrodden to walk free from the oppression of their spiritual enemies?

Because, if we are doing nothing to fit into those kingdom purposes, our lives, which fit into that tea-cup of volume, have little meaning. However, … if we find ourselves, and what our lives are all about, fitting somehow into the mission statement Jesus stated for Himself as Messiah, then whatever we do has great value for God’s kingdom; and we need to keep on keeping on, no matter how small the tea-cup of our life appears to be in comparison with the vastness of God’s ocean of eternity.

My Prayer for Today … Lord, You fill my cup everyday with Your purpose. … Amen

Saturday, May 11, 2013

May 11, 2013 … It’s a “God Thang!”

Daily Berry Patch Devotions in 2013 - Day 131

Passage of the Day: Daniel 10: 8 [In the context of verses 7-9 ] [NLT]  
7 I, Daniel, am the only one who saw this vision. The men with me saw nothing, but they were suddenly terrified and ran away to hide. 8 So I was left there all alone to watch this amazing vision. My strength left me, my face grew deathly pale, and I felt very weak. 9 When I heard Him speak, I fainted and lay there with my face to the ground. 
 Reference Study for today’s passage: Daniel, Chapter 10 [NLT] … Go to this link … 

 Reference Passage #1: 2nd Timothy 3: 16-17 : [Which part of “ALL” do we not understand?] …[NLT] … 16 ALL Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. 17 It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.

Reference Passage #2: Isaiah 55: 11 : [Which part of “ALWAYS” do we not understand? ] …[NLT] … 11 It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it ALWAYS produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.

My Journal for Today: Do you believe in a personal, all-powerful God, who loves you and desires to relate to you? … Well, duh! … Of course you do; or you wouldn’t be here reading what this humble Christian has to write this morning, would you?

 So, if I were to say that I had a personal revelation of truth; and I wanted to pass it along – directly from GOD – directly to you, would you listen to me? I guess that’s a matter of how much you trust me, wouldn’t it be? But if you did trust me, IMPLICITLY, and I were to say to you that I had a life-altering revelation from God Himself, it would be time to pay attention to me, wouldn’t it? Well, I do; … so PAY ATTENTION!! As they say here in the South of the USA, “It’s a God-thang!”

Today, my devotional editor, Os Hillman, used a story about Daniel getting a “God-thang” message from God Himself in a time of personal confusion and when Daniel was in a desperate place, seeking for God’s guidance. You can read about it by using the link above to Daniel’s book, Chapter 10. I hope you’ve done that.

Daniel was really strung out to hear from His God; and he went into desperation mode in this seeking posture, diligently fasting and praying, … desiring to hear directly from His Lord. And the Prophet did!

What if I told you that today, right where you are, you can seek God’s presence and receive a word, HIS word, directly from the God in Whom you’ve placed your trust? That this very morning, you (“_____” fill in the blank with your name), can have a “God-thang” moment, where the LORD of all speaks directly to you? Would you believe me?

Well, if you’ve read the reference passages which I’ve brought to bear on today’s journal entry above, you know where I’m headed, don’t you? Because if you believe what the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy in 2nd Timothy 3: 16-17 is truth – God’s truth; and you believe that what God said, through Isaiah in Isaiah 55: 11, is true, they you’ll believe me when I say that anytime you choose to get alone with God and delve desperately into God’s word, seeking His revealed truth, You will be getting a word directly from the God Who loves you, … from the God Who desires to give you His truth for YOUR life, … and from the God Whose word goes forth ALWAYS for His purposes and never comes back void.

So, if we believe that is true; then why aren’t we delving deeply … EVERYDAY… into the word of God … with the desperation of a Job in Chapter 28 of his journal, … with the belief of a Joseph when he was in prison in Babylon, … and with the confidence of a Paul and a Peter after they saw the resurrected Jesus? Why don’t we have the faith of a Daniel, who knew that his desperation search for a “God-thang” from His God would be rewarded by a certain touch and the presence of God from his search.

 I hope you have come in a quiet moment, to be here with God this morning and you KNOW that your search into God’s word will DEFINITELY prepare you for your life today … because any word from GOD’S WORD will never come back void in your life; and He’ll be there for you, giving you His will and His way from His word … EVERYDAY the you come here seeking Him through His truth.

 As we say here in the South, … “It’s a God-thang!!”

My Prayer for Today … Oh, Lord, my God, I’m here with You this morning; and I’ve heard from You – directly from You – through Your word, I am blessed! … Amen

Blogger’s PS: This morning, when I woke up, … I knew what I was going to write in my blog here today … BEFORE I ever read Os Hillman’s devotional entry. Other than God’s Spirit intervening to give me my blog this morning as a “GOD-THANG,” I can’t explain the timing of this revelation. And whether you believe me or not, will be a matter of your trust in me, won’t it? But no matter what you believe, I know what I know; and what I’ve written above is a reflection of a “God-thang” moment. And I hope it helps to give you your own “God-thang” moment after you read this. …<'wrb><