Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Make a difference ....

"Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him." - Malachi 3:16-17
Some people keep their most precious memories written down in a journal. Why? Apart from typical forgetfulness, we are encouraged with the easily read records of those who have shown us personal interest and care. It also reminds us of the importance of those who have loved us and shown friendship when needed. A book of remembrance is a legacy of those who have made a difference.
It's of greater encouragement to faithful followers of the Lord, when we read that He has a book of remembrance. To think, in the busyness of eternity and the consuming work of the kingdom, that our Lord pays attention and records us in a book of remembrance. It's certainly not due forgetfulness, so it must mean that our words and devotion to Him is important. Such is a treasured legacy, recording those who made a difference.
Did you give your all for the Lord this last year? Did words that you spoke lift Him up and promote the Kingdom of God? If there were, He heard them and recorded them in His book of remembrance. Are your New Year plans being built around the work and will of God? Will you speak of Him with boldness and holy devotion? Will you be part of His treasured legacy, by making a difference?


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Monday, December 30, 2019

Where is His honor?

"A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’" ~ Malachi 1:6
Yesterday morning at 9:57 a.m., during a communion service at the West Freeway Church of Christ, just outside of Fort Worth Texas, two people were killed and one critically injured by a shotgun wielding gunman. Texas Governor, Gregg Abbott said, "Places of worship are meant to be sacred". Once again, we find our society has lost any respect for life and places where God is being worshiped. If He is our heavenly Father, where is His honor?
There are so many ways to dishonor our Father in heaven. Israel despised the Lord's table with blind, lame and sick animals. These offerings wouldn't even be accepted by the local Governor, but the people expected the Lord to show favor and blessing. The level of abuse was further marked by congregations that wept and groaned because the Lord wouldn't accept the worship of faithless people. If He was a Father... where was His honor?
We find ourselves reading and following the words of Lord's prayer in our devotions and public services. Yet, has anything changed from the days of Malachi? Do we come to the Lord with meager offerings and unconfessed sins, expecting His blessings? Or are we only horrified when outsiders desecrate the church and endanger our lives? It's no surprise when a lost soul abuses the sacred, but when the people of God fail to worship their Father in heaven with a whole heart... where is His honor?

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Sunday, December 29, 2019

Our very best...

“Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways." - Haggai 1:4–5
After serving in five churches for over 43 years, I have come to certain conclusions. Many of the Lord's people seem to believe that the church is a place to bring used furniture, dishes and appliances. These "treasures" are given as if they were a king's ransom. All of these "gifts" are given as a result of new items being brought into private homes. No matter where I have served, there have been more than a few parishioners that have chosen to give God second best.
The tribe of "second besters" goes back to the days of Haggai and the rebuilding of the temple. Years of focused effort had been poured into the private homes in Jerusalem. The beautiful decorations and quality materials were carefully selected. But, the Temple of the Lord was placed on the back burner. The call of the Lord was clear and convicting... "Consider your ways". The Lord's work was not a priority to the returning Israelites, therefore they gave God their second best.
Now, when you venture into your church building this week, take a close look at the rug, drapes, tableclothes, and chairs. How long has it been since these "treasures" were replaced with new items? Stop and take a gander at the windows, doors and bathrooms. When were the rooms and floors refurbished?  The list can go on and on, but I believe that you get the point. It's time to consider our ways and give God our very best. 




Saturday, December 28, 2019

Why wait?

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn." - Zechariah 12:10
One of the saddest moments in any funeral service is when a wayward child weeps over the loss of their godly parent. I have known too many devoted mothers and fathers who have watched their children wander away from the Lord for years. Those final moments at the graveside just aren't the time to make things right ... repentance from a life of rebellion is best done sooner than later.
The day will come when Israel will be restored. One would think that great joy would prevail. But, the prophet tells us that it will be a day of mourning and bitter weeping. The years of rebellion and rejection will finally dawn on them and they will grieve over their failure to accept and honor their Messiah. As they will look upon the One they had pierced, they will most likely wish they had repented sooner than later.
Procrastination is a cruel task master. "I'll repent tomorrow, you say". But, when is tomorrow? When will you come back to the Lord and make things right? Family, friends and pastors pray and weep over you, and you still play the rebel. Why wait until you see those praying hands clasped across a cold chest at the funeral service? Why put off repentance, when it's best done sooner than later?

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Friday, December 27, 2019

Compassion...

"And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” - Zechariah 7:8–10
We live in a world of class distinctions. You have the upper, upper-middle, middle, lower-middle, and lower class. Neighborhoods are broken up into economic stratas and the upper class communities are most often closed off to the rest of the world. People have a tendency to look down on those who have less wealth and abundance. With this attitude, charities have a great challenge enlisting generous contributers to care for those in need. Prosperity often dries up compassion.
The prophets of earlier days spoke to the prosperous, but they made their hearts "diamond-hard". (vs. 12) Zechariah brought a fresh call to "show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart" The Lord saw no place for class distinctions that ignored those in need. Prosperity should pour out compassion.
Where do you find yourself on the scale of prosperity my friend? In the larger worldwide community, if your annual income is $32,400, you are in the top 1% of wage earners. The definition of prosperity isn't the same everywhere, but when you are blessed by the Lord, how do plan to bless others? Don't allow abundance to give you a "diamond-hard" heart toward those in need. Your prosperity should always pour out compassion.


Thursday, December 26, 2019

Not by might...

"Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts." - Zechariah 4:6
The story of the tortoise and the hare is well known. An over-confident rabbit was sure that his ability would win the race. The turtle, on the other hand, just plodded along with great patience and beat the rabbit. Success requires more than obvious qualities.
Zerubbabel was facing the daunting responsibility of rebuilding the temple. The opposition and difficulties were overwhelming. Responding to the struggle with human strength would be natural, but the Spirit of God was the only way. Success required more than obvious qualities.
This moment gives us a timeless principle. Trusting the Lord in the face of life's obstacles can't be a halfway measure. Solomon put it this way in Proverbs 3:5... "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding." Success requires more than obvious qualities. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christmas Blessings ...

"The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing." - Zephaniah 3:17
On this Christmas morning we have so much for which to be grateful. Jesus, the promised Messiah, is a Savior who was born in Bethlehem, not by surprise, but was long expected.
Our Lord is all that the prophecy spoke of and more. He is God in our midst, mighty to save, and the quiet gift of love that laid down His life for His friends.
No matter what you may or may not find under the tree or around the table this year, you can have the greatest of all gifts. And, when you have Jesus as your Savior and friend, you have great joy with a new song, not only for Christmas, but for all year and all time. 


Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Deeper than the surface...

"Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places." - Habakkuk 3:17–19
Why does the Christmas season bring out good feelings toward others? They may come as a result of graciousness shown and gifts given. When we receive good things we tend to return blessings with great appreciation. But, do we have the same feelings for them in the absence of such kindness? Only if their care runs deeper than the surface. 
When the prophet saw the judgment of God on horizon, he prayed for revival. But, he knew that difficult days were coming. Trials would be overwhelming, and the needs of the people would grow with the absence of blessings. So, would there be reason to find joy in the Lord? Only when they realized that God's care ran deeper than the surface. 
In a similar way, we readily rejoice in the Lord when He pours out blessings. Our joy often springs from the daily and seasonal provisions that meet our needs. But, when all the good things cease and we have great want, we can still be strong and satisfied in the Lord... Because, His care runs deeper than the surface.



Monday, December 23, 2019

God is good...

"The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him."- Nahum 1:7
When family and friends bring a loved one into an intervention, are they good? A full blown, resistant addict would probably disagree at the time. But, when their life is turned around and they are clean for a while, they're grateful for good family members and friends. Good is complex.
Nineveh had experienced a great revival a century earlier, under the preaching of Jonah. But, as time passed, this nation returned to the gruesome and abusive ways of the past. While God brought judgment down on them, he still offered refuge to those who would turn to Him. In all of this the Lord was good. Good is complex.
When evil and destructive patterns are dealt with in our lives, we often resist. Our first thoughts tend to believe that God is being uncaring and unloving. But, when the Lord deals with sinful and ungodly living, He is good. And when He offers a refuge if we turn to Him, He is good. Good is complex. 


Sunday, December 22, 2019

Preparation...

"Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!” ~ Amos 4:12
During the last few weeks, there has been a great preparation for Christmas celebration. Gifts have been bought, recipes have been brought out, travel plans have been orchestrated and cards have been sent. We look forward to a restful and enjoyable time with family and friends. And, when December 25th comes we hope that our preparation was enough.
It was a much more sober note, when the Lord Almighty spoke to the people of Israel about preparing to meet their God. This wasn't a call for celebration or pleasant family dinners and gift giving. After a long process of prophetic warning and divine actions to bring repentance, there was no response. And when Judgement day came, their preparation could never be enough.
Christmas is a time to remember our gracious and redemptive Lord, with hearts of gratitude and praise. All because, the Babe in the manger came to suffer our punishment for sin. By trusting and receiving His provision for us, we have no fear of Judgement day.  And one day, as the redeemed children of God, we will meet our God with great joy, because HIS preparation was enough.

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Saturday, December 21, 2019

A little village ...

"But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days." - Micah 5:2
On August 6,1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. The nuclear device was named "little boy" and measured 10 ft. in length with a 28 in. diameter. The city was destroyed by the explosion with 70,000 buildings damaged or destroyed. Historic records estimate that between 90,000 to 146,000 people died. A sad but profound lesson was learned... Little things can produce big results. 
The land mass of Israel is a little more than 8,000 square miles and Bethlehem is a little more than 4 square miles. This ancient city was where Ruth the Moabite fell in love and married Boaz. It was there that David, the great King of Israel was born and cared for the family sheep. Then, some 700 years after Micah's prophecy the Lord Jesus was born there. This village had a rich history, and Micah saw a very promising Messianic future. A happy and encouraging lesson was foretold ... Little places could produce big results.
The history of redemption is deeply rooted in a small town named Bethlehem. It was in her surrounding meadows that sheep for the temple sacrifices were raised and it was there that the Lamb of God was born. From that birth came the sacrifice that brought salvation, rather than destruction, to all mankind. In a simple manger, in Bethlehem Ephrathah, God became man and the world would never be the same again, because ... a little village did produce big results.


Friday, December 20, 2019

Second chances...

"Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.”" - Jonah 3:1–2
Over the years we've known various people who were disappointed in a particular chain restaurant, who refused to go back. They not only refused to eat at the restaurant they were disappointed with, but they refused to eat at any other restaurant in the chain. I'll never understand how much we desire another time at bat when we fail, but how quickly we deny the opportunity to others. We need more people of the second chance. 
Jonah was a committed prophet of God until... the Lord called upon him to do something unthinkable. He was so displeased with God's plan that he decided to take a slow boat to Tarshish. After he failed to fulfill his calling, the Lord brought him through a revival meeting in the belly of a great fish. A prayer of confession and gratitude followed, but what next? The Lord didn't give up on him... He gave Jonah a second chance. 
The Lord won't give up on you my friend. Yes, you may spend a night or two in what seems like the belly of a great fish, but the Lord isn't finished with you. Our walk with God began with being "born again" or in other words... regeneration. It was a fresh start, a new beginning, a clean slate... and occasionally we need a fresh start all over again. Just like Jonah, we have a gracious, forgiving God who is in the business of giving second chances... Again, and again and again! 


Thursday, December 19, 2019

We've lost it...

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it." - Amos 8:11–12
BarNone, Chocodiles, PB Max, Reggie Bar, and Jello Pudding Pops are just a few popular snack foods that didn't stand the test of time. These culinary delights were found in lunch boxes across the country throughout the eighties and nineties, before disappearing from the shelves. Some only lasted four to five years before something else attracted young taste buds. I guess you could say it was a case of... use it or lose it.
Israel was about to face a similar problem, but in their case it was the Word of God that would be missing. Amos referred to it as a famine, likened to the lack of bread or water. After years of showing no interest in the Word, and ignoring the teachings found in the Word, the time had come when it wouldn't be found. They would seek it here and there, but since they hadn't used it, they were going to lose it.
We live in a country where Bibles are quite plentiful. Most Christian families have multiple copies on the shelf, tablet, phone and laptop. Yet, having many Bibles doesn't mean we have the Word of God. We have become a people who have the Word in hand, but not in heart. We too may be suffering from a famine of the Word because, since we haven't used it, we've lost it. 





Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Our songs...

"Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." - Amos 5:23–24
We are a people of songs. They express love, joy, dreams, as well as broken hearts. Over the years songs have also been used to send messages of political dissatisfaction or social rebellion. Those who write the songs are deeply committed to the message, but many who sing them may just like the melody. While it's easy to sing a song, but it takes thought to embrace it's message. 
Israel was also a nation of songs. David brought music to the worship of the Lord generations earlier and passed on the practice. Songs were a means to enter battles as well as celebrate the victories. They were intended to express their faith and bring praise to God. But, why was the Lord turning a deaf ear to their musical praise? Could it be that they found it easy to sing the song, but failed to embrace the message?
This condition is timeless. Any Sunday morning in any church in your neighborhood, there are people who sing with gusto, but live like the devil the rest of the week. As a matter of fact, these same people will argue and fight for their choice of music in the worship service. They have never understood that songs should come from a changed heart, before they come across the lips. It's always been easy to sing a song, but fail to embrace the message. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The package ...

"Yet even now,” declares the LORD, "return to me with all your heart,... You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame." - Joel 2:12, 26 
There are job opportunities that are just that ... a job. Then there are those special jobs that are worth their weight in gold. In such positions you go to work every day and fulfill the job description and go home. At the end of the week you receive your pay check. This is a simple wage earning process, but then you are given a retirement program, health insurance, profit sharing and access to the company car. All these things are yours because they are part of the package.
Yesterday we considered the process of Israel finding superficial satisfaction in great crops and abundant wealth. They were settling for the things of the world rather than a relationship with the Lord. As a result, they lost all the bells and whistles and faced hard times. Today, we are presented with the promised results of returning to the Lord. So, without the Lord, all they had was earthly stuff, but with the Lord they could have the complete package.
Consider the words of David in Psalm 103:2-5 ... "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s."  When we seek the Lord's forgiveness and redemption, and seek the Lord's love and mercy, we will always find His benefits to be the complete package.

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Monday, December 16, 2019

Settling...

"When they had pasture, they became satisfied; they were satisfied, and their hearts became proud. Therefore they forgot me." - Hosea 13:6 (CSB)
How many times do we settle for less than the best? We do this for a variety of reasons. Most often, we settle for less because we can't afford the best, but what about those occasions when we disagree with the experts about what is the best? Only to find out that we were wrong, and are left having to settle for less than best. No matter how you try to spin it, when you settle, you miss out on true satisfaction.
The twist to the passage above is found in the word satisfied. God's people found satisfaction, but in less than the best. On the surface they were satisfied with great crops and abundant wealth, but they were missing out on the greater blessing... because they had settled. When they forgot the Lord, they settled for less, and no matter how they tried to spin it, they missed out on true satisfaction.
What satisfies you my friend? A new car, house, job? Did that recent salary increase put you on top of the world? Or was it your recent promotion or relationship? All the above can be found in the temporal column of life. Whether things, or even people, when all our satisfaction is found in the momentary "good life", we're settling for less than the best. When we forget the Lord and make no place for Him in the equation, no matter how you spin it, you've missed out on true satisfaction.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Who's In Charge?

"At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” - Daniel 4:34-35
Of all the frustrations that one might experience in the work place, having more than one boss tops the list. The question keeps coming up ... "Who's in charge?" When we have to satisfy two or three people at the same time, our effectiveness and energy will eventually be lost. There's no ship on the high seas that has more than one skipper. When you fly over the holidays, your confidence is placed in the pilot. In other words, there's only one boss.
When the Lord poured out great blessings upon Nebuchadnezzer, He did so for His own purpose and glory. But, like so many people today, the source of the King's power was forgotten and he deceived himself into believing that he was the "big cheese". He failed to understand the simple adage... "give credit where credit is due". He also clearly forgot that there's only one Boss... And it wasn't him.
Someone once refered to a rather proud guy as "being a legend in his own mind". Nebuchadnezzer is more than an historic figure found in the Bible. He serves us as a sad example of how power can easily corrupt, and absolute power can corrupt absolutely. When we read that there is only one God, and we are to have no other god before Him, it's serious business. Why not step down from your little throne every morning, and yield to Lord who reigns forever (Psalm 146:10/Revelation 11:15). Because, there's only one Boss... And you're not him. 

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Brokenness...

"Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you." - Hosea 10:12 
Back in the day, when I was the appointed family landscaper, every year my father was determined to have a "Better Homes and Gardens" lawn. Well, that never really happened, but we tried. The first task, every spring, was to "break up our fallow ground". I would rake out every bit of old weeds and in the process break up the ground to receive oxygen, seed and water. Without broken soil, there was no hope for springtime growth.
Judah was like the long dormant soil of winter. It had been years since any confession or repentance was expressed. Decades had passed since any effort to seek the Lord was made. Hearts were so hardened that the messages brought by godly prophets simply bounced off the surface without any penetration. The first task needed was a time of spiritual brokenness. It was time to seek the Lord, and without broken souls, there was no hope for spiritual growth.
It doesn't take years to develop "fallow ground". It just takes one "winter of discontent" with the Lord, the Scriptures, the church and God's people. It just takes a few rounds of loving all the bells and whistles of the world, more than loving the Lord. One day we wake up and realize that our hearts have become hard and cold toward spiritual matters. Where do we begin to seek the Lord again? Confession and repentance (1 John 1:9) should lead the way, because without broken souls, there is no hope for spiritual growth.

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Friday, December 13, 2019

The damage...

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children." - Hosea 4:6
Every state has traffic laws and most of those laws are the same where ever you go. Such signs as "Stop", "One Way", "Yield", and others are placed for the welfare of every driver. The meaning of these signs is listed in every driver's manual. So, when someone drives through a stop sign and hits another vehicle, is it from a lack of knowledge, rejection of knowledge, or forgetting of knowledge? No matter what the reason, the damage is done.
Hosea records a message of rebuke from the Lord, due to the unfaithfulness of His people. The priests who were entrusted with the Scriptures failed so miserably that there was "no knowledge of the Lord in the land" (4:1) The Word of God was readily available for teaching, but it was unknown, untaught and long forgotten. As a result, God's people were destroyed. No matter what the reason, the damage was done.
We are a people greatly blessed with a wide range of Biblical resources. There are many churches that faithfully teach the Bible and many Bibles accessible to us in print and digitally. In addition, there are a vast number of Study Bibles to help the reader understand. So, when someone chooses to live in sin and destroys their life and others, is it from a lack of knowledge, rejection of knowledge, or forgetting of knowledge? No matter what the reason, the damage is done.


Thursday, December 12, 2019

Helping the lost...

"And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever." - Daniel 12:3
There is a real sense of satisfaction when we help someone find the way to their destination. The most meaningful way to provide direction is when we take the time and lead the way. Why do we find joy in such an effort? Probably due to those occasions when we were lost and needed help. There's no GPS that can take the place of the personal guidance of a good Samaritan. And there's no greater accomplishment than helping the lost find their way. 
When prophetic Scriptures come to fulfillment and bring about the coming Kingdom, who will be the most honored? As the scene is explained to Daniel, emphasis is placed on those who who were spiritually wise in choosing eternal life. Along with the wise, are the givers of direction. Many will shine because of those who turned them to righteousness. And there's no greater accomplishment than helping the lost find their way... to God. 
Everyday we meet someone who is lost. They may not know it yet, but they need someone to show them the way. It doesn't take a seminary degree to give directions. And, when we do, we find great joy. Paul the apostle wrote.. "For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy." (1 Thess. 2:19) Remember, there's no greater accomplishment than helping the lost find their way... to God

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The quality of mercy...

"O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy." - Daniel 9:18
"The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath."  - The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I
As William Shakespeare worded this plea in his play, the characteristic of mercy was beautifully stated. This defense given for the merchant Antonio, explained that mercy blesses the one who gives and the one who receives, it's mighty, majestic, and divine. And, it was well noted in a that without mercy, no one would see salvation.
Now, why didn't this successful and high ranking prophet of God appeal from a life of personal righteousness? His record of total faithfulness and ultimate sacrifice could have been used to provide leverage in prayer. But, he confessed, early in his prayer, "To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him..." Daniel’s prayer was both forthright and totally contrite, fully resting on the mercy of God, without which he couldn't be saved or forgiven. 
This lesson begins with our first step of faith with God, as Peter the apostle mentions in 1 Peter 1:3...."Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." Then, all along the journey... “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love." (Psalm 103:8) So, don't try to go it on your own, because without His mercy no one can be saved or forgiven. 


Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Superior Orders...


"When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously." - Daniel 6:10
Between November 20,1945 to October 1,1946, a number of military tribunals took place in Nuremberg, Germany. The surviving leadership of Nazi Germany were tried for the crimes committed in the holocaust and other war crimes. The repeated excuse for such crimes against humanity was "We were just following orders." This was a defense referred to as "Superior Orders". But, they failed to recognize the ultimate "Superior Orders" of God.
Daniel was informed of the "Superior Orders" of King Darius..."whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions." (vs 7). Still, he had a prayer practice like King David of old... “Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice." (Psalm 55:17) While Daniel understood the Kings order, he continued with his daily prayers because he recognized the ultimate" Superior Orders" of God. 
Your life is filled with authorities in every corner. You are also surrounded by peers that challenge and often threaten you to take an ungodly path. "Superior Orders" come at you day by day with conflicting demands. If you fail to comply you might lose your job, friends or family ties. So, what should you do as a Christian? Peter the apostle provided the answer in Acts 5:29... "But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men."" We are expected to recognize the ultimate "Superior Orders" of God.


Monday, December 9, 2019

Scales...

“‘TEKĒL’—you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient." - Daniel 5:27 (NASB95)
Most Americans find that when they are weighed on the scales, they are found excessive. This is why they will avoid scales at any cost. These well designed instruments of revelation are only desired when one is prepared to discover the truth. You can fool yourself for only so long, but when your doctor weighs you on the scales, reality comes to light.
The Lord had previously chosen to bless Nebuchadnezzar with power and success. But, his audacious pride brought him to his knees before the Most High God. Sadly, his son failed to learn from his father's experience... "And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven." (vs 21-23) When weighed on the scales of God, reality came to light.
The selfish and sinful misuse of the Lord's blessings, without gratitude and  repentance, will eventually catch up to us. Paul the apostle put it this way..."For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth... For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened." (Romans 1:18, 21) Why wait for the scales of God to bring reality to light?


Sunday, December 8, 2019

Resolve...

"But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs," - Daniel 1:8–9
The New Year is soon approaching and with it will come many resolutions. Some will be to exercise more, while others will be to eat less. Most of these resolutions will last just long enough for the water to get hot. By March the treadmills will start to gather dust and bakery business will be booming again. Maybe we don't fully understand the meaning of "resolve".
Daniel was a young man of Biblical faith and understood the importance of obedience to God. It didn't matter that he was living in a foreign country with little possibility of ever returning home. The record tells us that "Daniel resolved" and he followed through to the letter. There was no question that resistance at such an early time could have been life threatening, but he stayed on course. Daniel fully understood the meaning of "resolve".
What are you willing to resolve for the Lord this coming year my friend... increased prayer, daily Bible reading or regular witnessing? The study of Daniel should help clarify your plans and strengthen your efforts to succeed. You will notice that the Lord gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of his unbelieving captors. If you take steps to improve your spiritual life and service, the Lord will give you the grace to succeed. But, do you fully understand the meaning of "resolve"?

Saturday, December 7, 2019

The "Who" of Hope...

"Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” - Daniel 3:24–25

Every Labor Day weekend, when I was growing up, we watched the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. It was entertaining and quite inspiring. We looked forward to the last few minutes of the show when Jerry would emotionally sing "You'll Never Walk Alone". The message was one of hope to all the MDA children that struggled with the disease. But, the lyrics never mentioned the "Who" of the hope.
The incredible story before us today centers on three men of strong conviction. They ended up in the worst situation imaginable and there didn't seem to be any way out. Simply put, their plight was hopeless. Then, everything changed when they were no longer "walking alone". They were filled with hope and delivered by "Who" of the hope. 
Hope is an inspiring and encouraging word. Songs and books of all kinds have been written about hope. We couldn't possibly face hard times without hope. Paul the apostle spoke often about hope, as in Romans 15:13... "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." But, most importantly, he knew the "Who" of hope... Do you? 



Friday, December 6, 2019

Jehovah Shammah...

"The circumference of the city shall be 18,000 cubits. And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The Lord Is There.” - Ezekiel 48:35
We live in a lovely mountain community with a wide variety of homes tucked away in the woods. As you visit the area you will find well crafted signs posted at the entrances of many homes. There will be family names of course, but quaint references such as "cove", "hollow", "haven" or "retreat" are often found. Such names elicit inviting and pleasant thoughts about the location. Sometimes a name says it all. 
We've been reading through the dark and distressing history of Israel's drifting from God and the devastating results. The final chapters have shown a steady movement toward a promising future restoration. After all the predicted details of rebuilding and spiritual healing were given, a well crafted name was needed. And, "Jehovah Shammah" - "The LORD Is There" says it all. 
Do you have a quaint well crafted sign posted at the entrance of your home? The truth is, we all have a sign at the door of our lives. Some signs say "buzz off" or "beware". Other signs are more inviting, but the sign that says "The LORD is There" is the one that says it all. 





Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Source ....

"And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.” - Ezekiel 47:12 
What kind of water do you drink? Is it right from the tap or are you the type of person who chooses to indulge yourself with bottled water from exotic places? Today you can find water on your local grocery store shelf from Norway, France, England, Germany, Italy, and even the FIJI islands. You can choose from sparkling mineral water to natural artesian water. You might enjoy the water that Elvis Presley drank or the H2O that the race horse Secretariat loved. Whatever your choice, it's the source of the water that makes it unique.
The passage presents a beautiful view of the promised millennial kingdom of Christ. A day is coming when our Lord will reign on earth as King over Israel. The Temple will, once again, be a place of worship and great blessing. A river will flow from that Temple and it will bring rich provisions for all God's people. And, the days of apostasy and godlessness will have passed away. Wherever this river will flow, it will bring life, because it's the source of the water that makes it unique.
You can look for water in a bottle or quench your thirst in many other ways, but there's only one way to satisfy the thirst of your soul. Jesus said ...“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38) Why choose water that leaves you thirsty moments after you drink? Why not take from the river of life, because it's the Source of the water that makes it unique.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Making a Difference ...

"They shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean." - Ezekiel 44:23
When our grandson was a little younger, he expressed interest in what his two dogs were eating. He didn't understand the difference between people food and doggy food and thought the little K9 nuggets were yummy. Thankfully he was quickly discovered and corrected in his culinary choice. Well, even adults need a little help in food selection, as we find "best if used before 12/04/19" on many of our grocery items. Knowing the difference should make a difference.
From the very early days of Israel's history, the spiritual leadership was charged with the instruction of God's people. The wording was quite similar our passage in Ezekiel ... "You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the LORD has spoken to them by Moses.” (Leviticus 10:10-11) The Lord knew that people needed clear direction in distinguishing right over wrong because... knowing the difference should make a difference.
On a much more personal note, can you really distinguish between God honoring activities and dishonoring? Do you prayerfully read the Scriptures and listen to Biblical preaching with an intention to discern between good literature, internet surfing, movies, and even friends from bad? Once you come to a conviction about some unworthy practice or relationship, are you willing to eliminate it from your life? Knowing the difference should always make a difference.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Come near...

"And he said to me, “This chamber that faces south is for the priests who have charge of the temple, and the chamber that faces north is for the priests who have charge of the altar. These are the sons of Zadok, who alone among the sons of Levi may come near to the Lord to minister to him.” - Ezekiel 40:45–46
Our world is full of restrictions. We used to visit the statue of liberty anytime we wanted without notice. Now we have to have an appointment and background check. Only an approved few can visit this historic monument. It's the very same policy with visiting the White House or Buckingham Palace. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone were allowed to come near?
The Temple restrictions that we read about are based on the holiness of God and reverence of those who approached. Just a select group of levites were chosen to minister to the Lord. Any others would be in danger of a quick death. Those were times of select mediation for the many by a few. Wouldn't it have been nice if everyone were allowed to come near?
In a blessed contrast, we live in a day of open doors with the Lord. Jesus said in John 6:37, "...whoever comes to me I will never cast out." This invitation is further encouraged in Hebrews 4:16 with these words... "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Isn't it nice that everyone is allowed to come near? 



Monday, December 2, 2019

To know Him ...

"So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD." - Ezekiel 38:23 
On Christmas Eve, 1914, just five months after the outbreak of war in Europe, a most unusual event took place. British and German troops began singing Christmas carols to each other across the battle lines. In the early hours of Christmas morning, German soldiers left their trenches and came over the British troops to wish them a Merry Christmas. The event was the last of it's kind to occur during the war, but for a moment in time the world knew the reality of God.
In a very different way, the Lord's dealing with the enemies of Israel was intended to bear witness of a great and holy God who alone was the LORD.  This message was being sent to a world lost in a quagmire of dominance and war. The Lord was dealing with every nation under heaven to draw attention to Himself as the only answer for mankind. In the midst of turmoil and confusion He set His glory and justice before them, that they might know the reality of God.
Why did the Lord leave the disciples behind when he ascended into heaven? Why has there been the presence of God's people in every generation and country? Whether during war or peace, in wealth or poverty, in city or jungle, God has had a witness. Was that witness intended to only build churches, hospitals or other ministries? Or was it to achieve something greater? The living testimony of God's people has always been intended for the world to know the reality of God.

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Sunday, December 1, 2019

New Life ...

"And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” ...  So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army." - Ezekiel 37:3, 10
 Our son Joel is now serving as a Federal Prison Chaplain at Fort Dix, New Jersey. After much prayer and heart searching, he was led of the Lord to enter this most challenging ministry to men who might never see freedom again. While the rest of society sees these inmates as "lost causes", Joel sees them as lost souls in need of a Savior and new hearts. When someone might ask, "can these bones live?", Joel is confident that by the power of the Lord, even the dead can live.
The condition of Israel seemed hopeless. They were dried up and lifeless, yet as the process moved forward, the bones took on life and an exceeding great army rose from the dead. Ezekiel didn't know where to begin, but when he said, "O Lord GOD, you know", he believed that the Lord's power could bring life to dry bones. The message to God's people was clear; when He makes a promise and begins a work, He will most definitely bring it to completion...even the dead can live.
No matter how dry your bones may be today, there is hope in the Lord my friend. He is in the business of taking totally dead souls and giving them a "new birth". He also takes those who have slowly dried up spiritually, and gives them a breath of new life. Our Lord is the God of second chances and there's no hopeless case with Him...even the dead can live.

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Saturday, November 30, 2019

Don't mess with the Name...

"I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came. Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came." - Ezekiel 36:21–22

Identity theft is a serious problem today. Great care is made to protect our wallets, credit cards and computers. The misuse of our names can mean the loss of all our possessions and future  financial credibility. Our name is not just who we are, but what we are, and ultimately, it's our very legacy. So, "sticks and stones, can break my bones" but don't mess with the name.
The Lord says ... "I have concern for my holy name". He isn't concerned with identity theft. It's all about the honor that He is due. It's about living before a watching world in a way that is worthy of His name. Israel was called to be Jehovah's inheritance and the apple of His eye, but they trampled His name under foot by their misconduct. His name was not only who He was, but what He was, and their lifestyle simply ... messed with His name.
So, how does this apply to you and me? From the day we place our faith in the Lord for our salvation, we become "Christ Ones" or Christians. We move through our daily activities identifying as a child of God. We call upon our Heavenly Father in prayer and we also invite others to believe in Him. But, when we choose to speak or act in a way that dishonors our Lord before a watching world, we are profaning His name. We may even use His name flippantly with such phrases as "Oh, my God". We are called by His name and if we fail to honor Him with our conduct...we're messing with His name.


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Friday, November 29, 2019

Doing it right...

"The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them." - Ezekiel 34:4–6
Job descriptions are really important. They aren't written just to give management reasons to fire someone. These simple paragraphs of defined expectations provide clear guidance for a productive business. In most cases they express the desire and heart of the owner for future success. Doing the job right has lasting value.
The spiritual care for God's people is not a business endeavor. It's something of far greater importance and the shepherds of Israel failed in their calling. It involved far more investment of life than they were willing to give. The job description demanded compassion, sacrifice, and total involvement in the lives of God's flock. The spiritual health of the Chief Shepherd's sheep has always been his heart's desire. Doing the job right has eternal value.
Whether it's a pastor, elder, deacon, Bible teacher or a spiritual leader of any kind... the job is singularly focused on the spiritual welfare of God's flock. If you have been called of the Lord and have accepted such a roll, your job is important. It's not an easy task, but it's one that shares the heart of the Chief Shepherd. Give it all your compassion and sacrifice...and love them like Jesus. Doing the right job has eternal value.


Thursday, November 28, 2019

The Hidden Hand...

"I will give it into the hand of a mighty one of the nations. He shall surely deal with it as its wickedness deserves. I have cast it out." - Ezekiel 31:11
Historians view the rise and fall of nations as the work of great or weak leaders. They attribute the success or failure to political wisdom or military strategy. Some nations force their way, while others buy their way into greatness. Whether rise or fall, history concludes that human effort is only the cause. The Hidden Hand is ignored. 
Sidon, Tyre, Assyria, Egypt and Babylon.... all nations of power and worldwide influence. Leaders came and went, battleground victories were many and generations passed by like the morning frost. Was their success or failure a matter great armies or international alliances? Only one cause supercedes all others... The Hidden Hand of the Almighty. 

Before you give yourself to anger, frustration or downright disgust over political leadership or national disfunction, remember the lesson of history. All mankind and every nation is a part of... His-Story. God has always ruled in affairs of men. He alone gives "into the hand of the mighty", He alone "casts out" the proud despot. Nothing happens apart from the Hidden Hand of the Almighty. 


Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Spoiling a good thing...

"You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you." - Ezekiel 28:14–15
Imagine that you've planned to make a scrumptious souffle for the Thanksgiving meal. You choose the best butter, finest flour, fresh milk, free range eggs, cream of tartar, ground salt and pepper. Every ingredient is selected with care, but you discover that you mixed in a rotten egg. What does that it matter? After all, everything else is  in excellent condition. No one will really notice?? ... It doesn't take much to spoil a good thing. 
The picture portrayed by Ezekiel calls the readers attention to the real source of evil in Tyre ... Satan himself. Such perfection, such wisdom, such beauty, and he was blameless in all his ways until, one little thing went rotten. Unrighteousness, in the form of pride, was found in this angel, which led to corruption and violence. In the end, this anointed guardian cherub came to an appalling and dreadful end. It doesn't take much to spoil a good thing.
How about your estimate of yourself my friend? Do you occasionally look in the mirror and think how blessed the world is to have such great person as yourself? Have you ever wondered how your company, neighborhood, church, or family could possibly survive without you? Confession, repentance and renewed humility will be needed to avoid an obvious fall from such delusions. The proud heart quickly forgets that... "from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever." (Romans 11:36) It doesn't take much to spoil a good thing.