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August 5

Monday, August 5th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Man Worship vs. God Worship.

I’m not sure if today’s devotion will be a soapbox or not. I hope not. But after reading a passage of Scripture this morning, I have to speak up.

Today’s “modern” worship has its moments. It has its good moments; its so-so moments; and its really bad moments. I’m not speaking about the externals-the lights, fog, instruments, style of music, etc. No, those are all externals- unnecessary possibly, but still external. I’m speaking about the content. The songs we sing.

Some of them are really good, i.e. really honest-to-goodness worship songs. Songs which lift up the name of Jesus; songs that draw attention to Him and give game to His Name.

Some are so-so. There is a mix of praise with a dab or dash or dollop of “feel good” vibe.

There there are those which are really, really bad. Awful may be a more descriptive word. The lyrics are totally self-centered; all-about-me oriented; I feel good because you made me feel good type of songs. If I may be so blunt and use a word I can count on one hand as using before: they are God-awful songs. Much (not all) of what we have coming out of the music factories like Bethel, Hillsong, and Jesus Culture are in this vein. Besides that, they have some really bad theology.

What got me to this point this morning? Psalm 147.  Here you go: “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises (about yourselves?) to God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.” (v.1). “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” (v.5) But here’s the kicker: “His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of man,  but the Lord takes pleasure (wait for it) in those who fear Him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” (vv,10-11)

His pleasure is not in those who sing love songs where we aren’t sure who we are singing to or about. It is not in those who “play” at worship. It is not in those who repeat and repeat and repeat a stanza or two or three. And don’t get me wrong: I am not advocating going back to hymns. Some of them were awful as well. I am advocating songs which lift up the Name of Jesus; when there is no doubt who are singing about and to Whom we are singing.

“Father, may my lips sing your praise.  May my heart lift up Your Name- find its joy, meaning and purpose in Your Name.  And may I sing and speak and lift up the fame of Your Name.”

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I guess this does sound like a soapbox. I just think we need to be more conscientious about what we call “worship and praise” music. Songs of feeling good or songs which focus on me and my needs-while not totally illegitimate songs to sing-do not qualify as worship. I’ve said my piece. Now I will move on.  🙂

August 1

Thursday, August 1st, 2019

My title for this devotion is Isolation vs Companionship.

There is a foolish bent many people-especially men-have. They can go it alone. They don’t need anyone. A number of years ago there was a book called The Friendless American Male which focused on that vein of thought: men thinking they don’t need anyone. ‘Course that simply is not true.

We all need someone in our corner. As I was reading I Chronicles this morning, in a list of people which included military leaders, leaders of tribes, David organizing the priests and Levites, and a whole host of other lists, there are three verses I know I have read before (unless I skipped over them… 🙂 ), but saw for the first time today. Here is what it says:

Jonathan, David’s uncle, was a counselor, being a man of understanding and a scribe. He and Jehiel the son of Hachmoni attended the king’s sons. Ahithophel was the king’s counselor, and Hushai the Archite was the king’s friend. Ahithophel was succeeded by Jehoiada the son of Benaiah, and Abiathar. Joab was commander of the king’s army.  [27:32-34]

David had someone serve as counselor for his sons. David himself had a counselor (someone he deferred to).  David had a special and close friend. David was not isolated. He used others to help make decisions. Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

It all starts with God (according to that verse in Proverbs). But God also brings people alongside us who lend their expertise-whether it be that of serving as a counselor, a sounding board or someone to bounce ideas off of-or as a friend. No man is to be isolated or to live in a isolated environment.

“Lord, help me to gather around me people with wisdom and character and grace. People who are not ‘Yes’ men, but those who are honest and straightforward. Men who love You more than anyone else. Help me to find wise men to be my counselor and friend.”

July 30

Tuesday, July 30th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Defeat or Victory.

After a thrilling chapter in Psalms-chapter 139-which in my book may be one of the most exciting chapters in the whole book, he ends with some very familiar words: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” [Verses 29-30]

What powerful verses those are! They stand even stronger when considered in the context of the whole chapter and also what is coming. Previously the psalmist has talked about God knowing us frontwards, backwards, up one side and down the other (a little poetic license there). Then he writes about how God knew us before we were born and how important His thoughts are of us. We have no other response other than to say, “Search me, O God.”

But as I read chapter 140 the other night, my eyes went to a logical presentation. I’m not sure why my eyes see things that way. 🙂 There are some words which stuck out to me. 

  • “Deliver me, O Lord, from evil men.” [verse 1]
  • “Guard me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked.” [verse 4]
  • “Grant not, O Lord, the desires of the wicked.” [verse 8]

I’d say the psalmist took seriously the threat of those who were his enemies. He wasn’t asking for acceptance of his plan to walk alongside them. He wasn’t making any plans to give into them. No…he was asking for God’s strength and protection as he fought. He was praying for God to provide a “way through” the fire. “Deliver me. Guard me. Grant not.” I think inherent in these words is a resignation to God of his weakness and need for supernatural intervention.

If I can say it this way: maybe the psalmist is praying that God will snatch defeat out of the lion’s jaws and bring about victory for him.

“Father, thank you for your steadfast concern and stand with me. Whenever I feel overwhelmed and to the point of defeat, bring me into your rest and into your arms of safety and allow you to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. FOR IN YOU, I AM VICTORIOUS!”

We make our way home today with a moving truck and Jo driving mine. If you think about it, prayers for safety would be appreciated.

July 29

Monday, July 29th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Do vs Done.

One of the hardest things-I think-for many to grasp is the relative “ease” to obtain salvation. There is in many of us this feeling like salvation can’t be that easy; there has to be something I must do. So we get into this whole works and earning my way into salvation. We find ourselves in a game we play of “If I do this, this and this then I will be more acceptable to God.”

But that kind of striving takes away the sheer joy of unearned salvation. It’s like at Christmas time. Let’s suppose you as a parent or grandparent give your child/grandchild a present but say, “Now, you can have this for the price of $20 or (name your price) or even $1! No matter how you look at it, that is not a gift. A gift is not something that has to be paid for-no matter how much or how little.

I’ve heard it put this way:

Salvation is not a matter of what you do; it is a matter of what has been done.

Our salvation is not dependent on what we have or can do.  Our salvation is dependent on what Christ has done. The Bible is clear: “By grace you have been saved through faith. It is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone can boast.” [Eph.2:8-9] I like that last phrase. Actually, the whole thing but that last phrase tells me two things: 1) I have no reason to boast about my goodness; and 2) neither does anyone else. My good works; their good works; will not endear me or them to God. I have nothing to brag about.

“Father, thank you for changing the word from ‘do’ to ‘don’t.’ Thank you that my salvation, or anyone’s for that matter, does not rely on how good I am. I have no reason to boast. I’m a sinner saved by your amazing grace.”

July 25

Thursday, July 25th, 2019

My title for this devotion is My Wondering vs His Purpose.

When I was growing up, one of the questions teenagers asked was, “What am I here for?” I don’t know if that was a question asked by teens before that time or if the ’60s brought that question to the forefront. The ’60s was an age of upheaval and of being unsure of things. So we often asked “What is my purpose in life?” As I recall a parachurch ministry had a tract based on that question: “God has a wonderful plan for your life.”

As I was reading I Chronicles I read the section (Chapter 17) of David’s desire to build God a house. He was somewhat embarrassed that his house was better than the house where the Ark was and God’s presence was. He thought one of his purposes in life, especially after having his own house built, was to build a better house for the Ark. But Nathan took God’s words to David that building Him a house was not his purpose. His purpose (to make a long story short) was to be king. To act like a king. To fight like a king. To rule like a king.

In Psalm 138:8 it says, “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” David knows whereof he writes. He knows God will fulfill His purpose for me because David saw it in his own life. And no matter what it is God sticks with me. “His steadfast love endures forever.”

“Father, You are true to Your Word. You promised it. It shall be. Fulfill our purpose in me. Fulfill your purpose for me. I know you will bring it to completion and finish what you started. [Phil.1:6]. “

July 23

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Understanding vs Obedience.

I was reading this morning (as rain fell effectively stopping my 6:00 bike ride) and ran across a phrase:

Understanding can wait; obedience cannot.

Boy, I had to stop and chew on that! How many times has God asked me to do something and I’ve not understood but did it anyway? I can’t say I’ve always been the most willing participant in some of what I was to do. Move to a new place. Being asked to leave a ministry with a deadline of when to be out.

Then I read something in 2 Chronicles that stopped me dead in my tracks. In verses 10-14 it says, “So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the commands of the Lord, and also consulted a medium (my note: the witch of Endor), seeking guidance. He did not seek guidance from the Lord.”

In I Samuel 15 Samuel confronted Saul about his lack of obedience with these words: “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to do than the fat of rams.” In other words: “Saul, I don’t really care about your lame excuse to sacrifice animals. What I do care about is your obedience and you messed up.” (Sorry: loose paraphrase)  🙂  Seems Saul had an issue with obedience. And he certainly had an issue with understanding God’s desire!

So do I at times. God doesn’t always expect me to understand but He does expect me to be obedient. As a take off from yesterday’s devotion (July 22), no matter how long or “up in the air” I am, He wants my obedience. Understanding may wait; obedience is now.

“Father, I don’t have to understand all things. I DO have to be obedient. When issues come I don’t understand, help me to be obedient and trust your goodness.”

 

 

July 22

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

My title for this devotion is Calm Waiting vs Anxious Waiting.

One of the hardest things to do-at least in my mind-is to wait. For years I have said that God has three answers to our prayers: Yes. No. Wait awhile. We aren’t too fond of the No because that means we have been denied. We like the Yes because that means God has “agreed” with us about our need. It’s the “wait awhile” that is sometimes hard to accept.

David Rupert, in his new book Living a Life of Yes says there are three kinds of dreams: Fulfilled (Yes). Denied (No).  And Delayed (wait awhile). The same thing said about answers to prayer can be said about dreams.

The delay-wait awhile-is tough. God’s promise to Abraham took 25 years to happen! Look what happened in the interim due to Abraham and Sarah’s inability to wait.  They weren’t very good at it.

Neither am I. Maybe that’s why Psalm 131:2 spoke to me: “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within.” A weaned child is being fed. He is content.  I was struck by the words “calmed and quieted my soul.” So much of patient waiting relies on that…something I’m not very good at from time to time. But. need. to. get. better. at!

“Father, help me to learn to calm and quiet my soul. Help me to see your hand in my ‘wait awhile.’ Help me to wait calmly and quietly as you work. Help me to allow you time to unfold your plan.”

I will be in Ohio for most of this week bringing our job cleaning Jo’s sister’s apartment to an end. Next Sunday we drive there to load a Penske truck on Monday to bring things home. I will post this week as I have time and internet (she does not have it in her apartment).  Your prayers would be appreciated.

July 18

Thursday, July 18th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Reliable vs Unreliable.

Each day we practice faith without even taking note of it. Each morning I get up to shower. I turn the faucet on believing water will come out.  Every morning I sit at my kitchen table to have my Quiet Time. I don’t investigate my chair before I sit down. I don’t get down on my hands and knees and run my chair through a checklist to see if it is “sitworthy” or not. I put the key in the ignition of my truck without saying, “Okay truck! Will you or won’t you start?” I have faith that my shower will flow with water; the chair will hold me up; my truck will start. I depend on those objects to be reliable, especially because they have given me no reason not to.

However, the story would be different if my shower had a history of being cranky; the chair was getting kind of wobbly; and there had been a time or two recently when the turn of the key brought only a click. The unreliability of an object determines my faith.

The late Bible teacher Stuart Briscoe once said, “Faith is only as valid as its object.” My faith is in One who has proven himself faithful and trustworthy.  I’ve been reading 1 Chronicles this week in my QT. I thought Leviticus and Numbers was bad! They have met their match. 🙂  The first 8 chapters (where I am right now) will rival any section of Leviticus and Numbers for the snoozefest of the year award. Oh man, has it been tough. But I have tried to keep my attention by looking for names I remember. I’ve run across Jabez; the kingly line of David and Solomon; an almost verbatim account of a section in Matthew 1 (Jesus’ lineage). I have run across Judah and Tamar’s son, Perez, but there is no mention of Zerah. There was a clan of linen workers and potters, the latter who were in the king’s service. I read how even some of the mighty warriors gave in to the culture’s influence and broke faith with God. There were more people to see.

Long story short (sorry): no matter how “boring” this section has been, I have seen God’s Word come true. He said it, it happened. “These are the consequences.” “This is my promise. It will be.” My faith is in God’s trustworthiness. As it has been said, “Have faith in God, not faith in faith.”

“Father, you have proven yourself over and over to be trustworthy. In all things. At all times. May my trust be in who You are and have proven to be, rather than in the idea of faith. I have no reason to doubt you.”

July 17

Wednesday, July 17th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Being Asleep vs Being Awake.

As an exercise person, I know one of the essentials to effective exercise is recovery. Allowing the muscles time to recuperate is critical to being on top of my game the next ride. (Since I cycle that is my go-to thought). Did you know one of the most critical elements to recovery is not a protein drink or eating right afterwards or stretching, although they are all important, but something we do naturally? It is something we do and have done since the day we were born. S-L-E-E-P. That’s right. Sleep. Proper rest. Being an effective athlete and thinking sleeping 3-4 hours a night is enough is not going to cut it.

As a follower of Christ, sleep is important. Exhaustion is one of the enemies of clear-headed, sharp thinking. There is no virtue in being bleary-eyed and unable to function. No one can go for long periods of time with sleep deprivation.

EXCEPT GOD. In fact, He needs none. How about I just let the Scripture state the truth: “I life up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” [Psalm 121:1-4]

He neither sleeps nor slumbers. Just as important: He never gets tired either. I need sleep. I get tired (even more and quicker as I get older). But I have the assurance that as I rest, God is alert and never sleeps. That gives the promise of safe and restful sleep since He does all the “worrying” for me.

“Father, thank you for the assurance of You staying awake and being alert while I sleep. Please give me the rest I need to continue fighting the battle for you.”

July 9

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Nonchalance vs. Excitement.

What kind of attitude do you have toward God’s Word (GW)? How do you approach His Word? As I read today in 2 Kings 15-17, an overwhelming sadness hit me. But, at the same time, an incredible awareness of the patience of God toward His faithless people also crept in. At least until He’d had enough. Then enough was enough.

It is easy to read large sections like that; to read of the faithlessness of the people; to read of the long-suffering patience of God, and to get jaded. But I don’t want my approach to GW to ever get jaded.

Nor do I want to approach it nonchalantly. Psalm 119:18 says, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” The right approach to GW starts with a prayer for open eyes. Whether that be open eyes to see its truths, or open eyes to be receptive to its teachings, the first approach to understanding is to ask for open eyes to see.

I think a second necessity is to enjoy GW. 119:24 says, “Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.” There is something to be said about an eagerness approaching GW rather than a drudgery. Or even a nonchalance seen in a “whatever” approach.

A third necessity is a clean heart. 119:29 says, “Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law!” Sin is a barrier to learning. That barrier needs to be broken or at least lowered so GW can do its thing. When the clean heart is evident, the desire to seek becomes stronger. Psalm 119 also uses words like “I have chosen” [v.30] and “I cling” [v.31] to describe what I see is a hunger for GW.

Finally, one of my favorite verses in this chapter is verse 32: “I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart.” Physically, an enlarged heart is extremely dangerous. Spiritually, it is a by-product of love for GW. But it can also be dangerous. Who knows what can happen when God enlarges the heart!

“Father, Your Word is life to me, to all Christ-followers. May I never take a nonchalant approach to Your Word. Bring Your Word to life as I read it with open eyes. Enlarge my heart.”