Archive for April, 2009

25
Apr
09

BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE (4/26/09-5/2/09)

WEEKLY DEVOTION FOR WEEK OF 4/26/09-5/2/09

BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

“And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.”  Exodus 14:13

This verse is one that brings such promise and hope to God’s children, and is a favorite of mine when facing storms and adversities.

We are all familiar with the story of how the Israelites had been under Egyptian captivity and slavery for hundreds of years.  God sent a deliverer in a man called Moses, whose name means “to draw forth.”  God sent ten plagues before Pharaoh finally decided to let the Hebrews leave from their slavery.  As they left the land of Egypt, they headed for the shores of the Red Sea, Pharaoh has hot on their trail, as he had changed his mind.

Now, with the largest, most formidible army in the world on one side, a raging sea at their backs, and difficult terrain on the left and right flanks, God’s people started to mutiny.  But the prophet who the Bible calls the greatest of the prophets, speaks and tells the Isrealites not to worry.  Yet he says it so much more eloquently than any of us would have phrased it.  But look at how he said it and how he phrased it.

First, he told the people to fear not.  It is easy to panic when we can’t see a way out of the trouble that surrounds us.  And boy, did they have trouble on every side they looked!  But never forget that it was a simple shepherd boy who wrote “I will fear no evil, for thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”  “If God be for us, who can be against us.”  I have often said that when we have God on our side, we have the biggest daddy in the neighborhood to protect us.

Second, he tells them to stand still.  In today’s world, we do not have a lot of patience.  We have instant microwave meals in three minutes and drive through ordering.  We have overnight shipping and instant gratification.  Instead of waiting for things, we are used to having them right now.  Maybe we could all use a good dose of “stand still.”  We tend to jump into action to find our own solution instead of waiting on God and His own good and perfect time.  We need to remember that we are told “Be still, and know that I am God.”  When faced with trials and adversity, not only do we need to not fear, but we need to wait on God.

Third, he tells the people to “see the salvation of the Lord, which He will shew to you this day.”  Again, many times, we want to impatiently jump in and find an immediate solution.  But not only should we stop, but we need to look around for God to work.  Remember the disciples who were in a boat crossing the sea in John 6.  They rowed all night, up until around 3:00 in the morning.  They had to be exhausted, and their muscles screaming for relief.  But they were doing all they could: they kept on rowing and watching for Jesus.  When Jesus came, He performed three miracles at one time, fulfilling the faith for the appearing and saving of their blessed Saviour.

Finally, Moses informs the frightened Jews that “the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.”  When we are in the middle of trials, storms and adversities, it is so easy to focus on the mountains and how hard it is to climb them.  But the Lord implores us to focus on what He can do for us.  When we are telling God how big our storm is, we should be telling the storm how big our God is.

When you are between a rock and a hard place, stand back, and watch God roll up His sleeves and start to work!

 

19
Apr
09

SCATHING WORDS (4/19/09-4/25/09)

SCATHING WORDS

Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.   Proverbs 21:23

WEEK OF APRIL 19-25, 2009

My daughter was just turning five years old on our family vacation when a peculiar deal was being arranged with her seven year old cousin.  Sean, my nephew, had bought a bouncing ball from a 25 cent vending machine.  It was black with the number “2” centered on it like a billiard ball.  This cheap, little toy caught the attention of my daughter, KrisAnna.

Sean offered to let her have it for 50 cents.  KrisAnna explained that she did not have 50 cents, but she had a dollar bill.  Sean offered that he may let her have the ball for a dollar.  KrisAnna said, “Sean, I should give you two dollars since there is a ‘2’ on it.”  Needless to say, we all laughed hard at her Gracie Allen-like logic.  In one statement she had increased the original offer four-fold!

“If she had only kept her little lips sealed,” was my thought.

There was a saying during the second World War, “Loose lips sink ships.”  The same is true of born-again believers.

We are advised by the author of this proverb that if we can control our tounge, we can limit the troubles that we bring upon ourselves.  James further asserts that it is a hard organ to control (3:8).  In fact, James goes on to say,”If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain (1:26).”

Scathing words, indeed.

But how many times have we spoken too much, just like my daughter.  Or to take it further, how often have we damaged our witness by saying too much, not discerning when enough is enough?

It is a natural, worldly, knee-jerk reaction to lash out with words.  Many times, it is hard to restrain what we want to say like Auntie Em wanted to say to Mrs. Gulch in “The Wizard of Oz.”  But restraining our tongue and words is exactly what we are called to do.

How do we avoid that initial, knee-jerk, want to in lashing out in retaliation?  We must allow ourselves to always be controled by the Holy Spirit.  “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

Let us all commit this week to watch our tongue, and to keep it bridled.

10
Apr
09

LIVING YOUR RESURRECTION (4/12/09-4/18/09)

WEEKLY DEVOTIONAL

LIVING YOUR RESURRECTION

WEEK OF APRIL 12-APRIL 18, 2009

“Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?  But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen; And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.”  1 Corinthians 15:12-14

How many of us have an open tomb as a necklace charm instead of a cross?

These words were written by Paul to a church that was in a mess doctrinally.  There were many false doctrines and beliefs that started to be taught and preached, and Paul had to make return visits to straighten things out.  This letter was the first attempt to set the record straight after planting the church at Corinth.

One of these false doctrines was that resurrection was impossible.  It is possible that Saducees were infiltrating the church to spread these false doctrines, for it was the Saducess who did not believe in resurrection, and that is sad, you see (Sad u cee).

But if we think of this scripture, many of us could be guilty of the same false doctrine.

Let me first point to an excellent article by Justin Lonas in this month’s Pulpit Helps magazine, published monthly by AMG International.  In this article, he says, “On the face of it, Easter seems like a straightforward celebration of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins.”  He goes on to state, “Sometimes we think of it as a happy ending to the ‘real story’ of atonement, but without rising from the dead, Christ’s work would not have been complete.”

Let’s face it, how many of us have an open tomb as a necklace charm instead of a cross?

Let us never forget to talk as much about the resurrection as much as we tell about the death.  If we don’t talk as much about the resurrection, we may be guilty of leaving out the most important part of the gospel.  His resurrection was prophesied, it defeated death and Satan, it brought greater glory to God and His resurrected body was witnessed by hundreds of people (1 Corinthians 15:5-8).

But perhaps the even most disturbing thing is our lives being a testimony of the resurrection.  Do our lives tell the story, and are our actions, motivations and deeds reflective of the new life acheived by His resurrection?  Or do we prefer to use the resurrection power of salvation as a “fire escape” and a license to live as we please?  “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. . . Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. . . For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord ”  Romans 6:2-11.

On this Easter Sunday, let us all resolve to make our lives dead to sin and alive to Christ, presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to God.  After all, it is our reasonable service, not our exceptional service…

04
Apr
09

TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH (4/5/09-4/11/09)

DEVOTION FOR WEEK OF APRIL 5, 2009-APRIL 11, 2009

TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”  Matthew 27:46

Whenever these words are read aloud in a message or in my private readings, I automatically begin to think of the anguish, pain and depression that our Lord was suffering at this moment.  I personally believe that in a way, as a unique experience in universal time, Jesus suffered as no individual ever has or ever will suffer.  He suffered physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

First, the physical anguish that Christ experienced was tremendous.  By the time He spoke these words, He had endured the scourging of the cat of nine tails, a leather whip with sharp pieces of rock, metal and glass at the end.  After He was whipped with it 39 times, He would have little, if any skin left on His back.  He had been beaten, either with fists, clubs or even kicked.  This would have caused broken bones, bruising, along with numerous cuts and contusions.  That would have taxed Jesus’ circulatory system and His blood cells.  His beard had been ripped out, probably causing the tearing of His skin, and the crown of thorns (with thorns likely 1-3 inches long) had forcibly been beaten into His skull.  Not to mention the pain of having nails driven in Jesus’ wrists and feet.  All these multiple beatings and assaults caused a tremendous loss of blood, which would incite weakness, dizziness, infection, and organ and heart failure.  As the master carpenter was nailed to a wooden crossbeam, every cell of every drop of blood proclaimed a love the likes of which the world would never see again.

The mental anguish which Messiah had to suffer is likely never to be surpassed.  Noone could ever even imagine the lengths to which His mental status was taken.  It is likely that Jesus’ central nervous system would have been thrown into overload.  I wonder if it is likely that He would have encountered a vasovagal reaction through it all?  The stabbing pain from the abuse of His nerve endings in his outer extremities from the nails and thorns, as well as whatever destruction of the nerves (and possible the spinal cord) in his back would be enough to make any of us scream or pass out from the pain.  And try to image what thoughts must have been going through His mind.  What would be going through your mind?  Would it be something along the lines of, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do?”

One could never imagine the emotional burden that Jesus Christ had to endure through this process.  What would it be like to have your own creation, which you had lovingly, carefully, “fearfully and wonderfully” designed and engineered, suddenly hate you so much that they would resort to putting you to death?  And don’t forget that just a few short hours before, He had been betrayed by one of His closest friends.  The rejection and hatred directed toward him would have been unimaginable.  Apparently, God could not even provide any help to His only Son, as it seems God the Father turned His back on God the Son when sin was imputed on Christ.  How would we feel, if our father, in our deepest, darkest, most needful moment of our existence, chose to turn his back on us?

Finally, the spiritual aspect of Jesus’ suffering had to be the most tragic, and the most difficult for Him to experience.  As Jesus hung on this cross, He who knew no sin, became sin for us.  He who was holy, pure, perfect and just became dirty, imperfect, corrupted and guilty.  He allowed God the Father to crush Him to satisfy the sin debt for us.  How spiritually devastating and painful this experience had to be!

On another spiritual note, if you will examine the Gospels, you will notice that every time Jesus addressed the Father, Jesus referred to Him as Father.  But this one time, the only begotten Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, He who was proclaimed to be the image of the invisible God, could not even call His own Father “Father.”  He had to call Him ”God.”   Even as I type these words, I am literally weeping and sobbing at the thought.

But this devotion should not, and will not dwell only on the tragedy.  Because in the midst of all of this tragic anguish, there is a triumph.  Through the vicarious suffering, we have a victory.  Just before Christ “gave up the ghost” and died, He proclaimed, “IT IS FINISHED!”  This magnicent proclomation says more than it appears on the surface.  The Greek word for this statement is teleo, which was the same word which was written on a bill of debt after it was paid in full.  Praise God, my sin debt was paid in full on the cross.  Just as Chris Tomblin wrote in his wonderful song, Amazing Grace-My Chains are Gone, “My chains are gone, I’ve been set free!  My God, my Savior has ransomed me!  And like a flood, His mercy reigns.  Unending love, amazing grace.”

Tragedy and triumph.  Amen!

04
Apr
09

THERE IS HOPE (3/29/09-4/4/09)

DEVOTION FOR WEEK OF MARCH 29-APRIL 4, 2009

THERE IS HOPE

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”  Psalms 30:5

My wife has been in the hospital recently, in a world class facility that is five hours from home.  The reasons for her hospitalization in such a dramatic fashion are too numerous to describe, but it has been a trial.  I have not been going to a hotel to spend the night, but rather I sleep somewhere in the hospital to save money and be near to her.

One early morning a week or two ago, I got to her room as the sun was beginning its daily approach to the horizon.  No lights were on in the room, her door was shut, and I pulled a chair over to the window to look outside and pray.

The sky was painted in various shades of orange that dissolved into blues and purples.  There was a hint of a few clouds that scattered just above the ground, creating a beautiful scene as they caught the light of the sun.  Just about the place in the sky where the orange turned to blue was a crescent moon, still shining its light for the last moments of the night.  I continued to watch as the daylight of the sun chased away the darkness, making the moon to disappear.

As I sat and watched in wonder during my prayer time, I thought that the cycle of the day routinely taking over the night has happened without fail for thousands of years.  God is in control of the rising and setting of the sun, and He makes sure it rises again the next day to take over the darkness.

How wonderful it is to know that God is in control when we endure trials and tribulations.  Everything that surrounds us in the middle of such chaotic storms may seek to destroy, but God has His hand on us, and is not surprised by anything that happens.  Thank God He is in control.

Not only is it a blessing to know that we have hope in knowing God is in control, but it is so encouraging to know that the darkness of the night cannot last forever.  Just as the moon seemed to hang on for all it was worth, the light of the day overcame its influence.

David made this similar observation in regards to trials and troubles when he wrote, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”  Life’s afflictions might try to hang on, but the light will surely eventually chase away the darkness.  Praise God for his promises!

04
Apr
09

SEVENTEEN LETTERS OF POWER (3/22/09-3/28/09)

DEVOTION FOR WEEK OF MARCH 22-28, 2009

SEVENTEEN LETTERS OF POWER

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  Genesis 1:1

Genesis is the book of beginnings.  In the first few chapters of Genesis, we meet the first humans, learn of the first sin, meet the first family, read about the first worship service and witness the first murder.  But the most important “first” is the first mention of God.

Many books have been written about apologetics, or proving the Christian faith and belief in God.  Fine authors such as C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel have written excellent books laying out their argument for Christianity.  But of all the volumes that have been written, none can compare with the first 17 letters in our English version of the Holy Bible: “In the beginning, God…”  So powerful are these words that they were read during a Christmas Eve transmition from outer space.  They have also been printed on a USPS stamp with a picuture of the earth.

The power of these words is that they introduce God without question, apology or proof.  No proof is required as the Holy Bible assumes that God exists from the start.  There is no need to prove it, and the matter is not up for debate.  There is no allowance for political correctness in these words, as they speak the unabashed, undeniable truth:  God was already in existence, and always will continue to exist!

Not only are we introduced to elohim [Hebrew for God] who forgives, provides and promises, but we immediately learn of his creative power.  In His intelligence, knowledge, wisdom and power, He designs, engineers and creates a universe.  And He does it all with His voice!  From nothing, He makes everything.  From chaos, He designs the cosmos.  From a void, He creates a fullness.

We eventually learn that He creates mankind.  He first created the heavens and the earth and all that is in it for our pleasure.  He created man in His own image for His pleasure, so that we can walk with Him and talk with Him as our friend.

After so much sickness in my first wife’s life, we finally went on vacation to the beach about two years before she died.  We got to steal away for a few minutes for a walk, one on one and alone.  We got to talk, laugh and enjoy each other’s company, one on one, with that special relationship that God intended us to share.  It was glorious.  We had missed it so much, and it was time well spent.

God wants that kind of relationship with us.  If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your saviour, why don’t you visit the Salvation page to learn how you can become a spiritual child of God.  If you do know Him as your saviour, and haven’t had that sweet walk with Him on the beach in a while, why don’t you resolve to change that today?




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