God’s Word

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November 15/Weekend

Friday, November 15th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Read, Relish and React.

Have you ever read a passage of Scripture many times before and then just one time there is this (dare I say magical powerful) moment when during one reading you feel like you have been hit by a sledgehammer or that the light has gone on LED? It has happened to me many times before…today was another.

I’ve been reading through Isaiah the past couple weeks as I read through the OT. Yesterday I read the great Messianic prophecy of Jesus’ crucifixion found in Isaiah 52:13-53:12. This morning I read Isaiah 55. There is so much there, especially in things we say or hear but may not know where they came from.  Read slowly please:

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.” (v.6)

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (8-9)

So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (11)

“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” (12)  {Note: this one of the early worship songs by the Maranatha Singers}

Powerful words. Let God’s Word wash over you today and this weekend. Prepare yourself for worship this Sunday by reading and rereading these verses.

“Father, You said your word would not return void (empty). I’m trusting for that in my life today and this weekend.”

November 14

Thursday, November 14th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Saying vs Living.

The past few days I’ve been reading a book by Mary Jo Sharp called Why I Still Believe. It is subtitled “A former atheist’s reckoning with the bad reputation Christians give a good God.” Mary Jo’s basic premise is after her conversion to Christ from atheism, how could she reconcile the church’s poor representation of Jesus. Her husband became a worship pastor almost by default so she got hit first hand with hypocrisy. In fact, the day she came to church to make her commitment public, the pastor’s wife judged her on the dress she was wearing. No greeting but a disdained “looking down on her” look with the words that she needed to check her dress. There was too much cleavage. In another incident, an atheist friend of hers she invited to class asked some honest questions about creation/young earth/old earth and was rudely shot down by the teacher and the pastor. They had no idea who he even was.

Hypocrisy wears many coats and hats. And I suppose we all (definitely me) are hypocrites from time to time. I know for a fact my actions do not always match my words. To quote Mary Jo:

Hypocrisy requires a reference to a standard of moral conduct which a person verbally accepts, but then denies by their behavior. (p.149)

Here is my analysis of it:

Standard= the Bible, God’s Word

Claim= to believe the Bible

Hypocrisy= to say I believe but live opposite.

I confess. I am a hypocrite at times. I don’t want to be. But I am.  Sounds like Romans 7 doesn’t it? But I also know that cannot be a cop out or a “get out of jail free” card. Jesus’ harshest words were reserved for the Pharisees, the religious hypocrites.

“Father, Your Word is true. It tells me all I need to know to live a life of godliness and holiness. But believing it and living it are two different things. Help me not to live a life contrary to Your Word, Your standard.”

{Note: Mary Jo’s book is an excellent and easy read. She has taken a very difficult subject (the existence of God) as well as the hypocrisy she has seen and molds them into a fine book. I’d highly recommend it. And, in case you are wondering, she exposes the hypocrisy of the atheist beliefs as well}.

November 7

Thursday, November 7th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Answered vs Unanswerable.

Have you ever noticed there are some Scriptures which simply take your breath away in their breadth and scope of reach? I’m going to ask you to do something I’ve never done before-something I have already done. STOP reading this devotion and read Isaiah 40 first. Please. Oh yeah…be prepared to be awed.

READING ISAIAH 40

Thanks. Did you notice the rhetorical questions (questions asked but no answer expected)? Isaiah 40 is filled with them. List them. Verse 12.  Verse 13 (2 of them). Verse 14 (several). Verse 18. Verse 25.

But those alone are not enough. Look at the “Do you not know? Have you not heard?” questions. (Verses 21 & 23).

Anchoring all of this is a verse you may have skipped over (thanks to my “guidance.”) But now go back and read it. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever.” (V.8)  There’s the anchor!! God’s Word has been, is now, and always will be. His Word never changes. Why? Because it is God’s Word and He never changes. Trying to explain an unexplainable God and trying to understand all that means is like trying to answer rhetorical questions. You can’t answer it because it is too lofty. (Brain explodes here). I can only say, “I believe.”

“Father, words truly fail me. Try as I may I’m lost. Take these inadequate but humble thoughts and accept them as they are intended: praise and adoration of and for a matchless God.”

October 29

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Leading vs Following.

I am a leader. Least they tell me that. Maybe reluctant leader is a better description. It has taken me many years to come to that point. For so long I wanted to be seen as one, but I’m convinced leadership is not about a title or a position, but influence. For years, I thought I was “entitled” to be called a leader because of my title and position (Pastor).  I had to realize leadership is earned by wise choices and decisions and experience.

I also need to follow. That may take more humility than being a leader does. Therein lies my conundrum. I truly want to be a follower of Jesus. But there are times I am, or appear to be, totally lost. How do I know He is leading me in a certain direction?

“Though none go with me still I will follow.”

“Where He leads me I will follow.”

“I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord.”

Lyrics from song sung in church when I was a kid. But how do I know? I’ve not heard Him speak audibly to me. Don’t even think that happens today. But I also can’t say I’ve gotten clear direction from His Word either. And people? Well, you know how fickle and fallible people are.

Following is not so easy in several respects. From the humility standpoint. From the knowing standpoint. I guess the advice I got from a friend years ago when I was unsure which direction to go in is good: “Bill, choose one.  If it’s not wrong or sinful-even if if is not the best-God will not abandon you. He will walk through it with you.” That really is good advice. Advice I cling to when making a decision or following (blindly) seems to be the only alternative.

“Father, following is not easy, especially when the way is not so clear. but help me to trust You in all things. Lead me. Help me-give me wisdom-to know how and where to follow.”

October 28

Monday, October 28th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Traditions vs Life.

I recently preached through the letters to the churches in Revelation.  The church at Ephesus left its first love. The church at Laodicea was lukewarm.  Both can happen when traditions take the place of life.  What do I mean?

When traditions become routine and without meaning, life leaves.

When reciting a creed becomes more important than the heartfelt worship which is to take place, it has happened.

When reciting that same creed becomes more important than the Word it is supposed to be based on, it has happened.

When taking communion is just something we do, it has happened.

When singing songs of worship with no heart-no feeling- it has happened.

When attending worship is tied more to habit or routine, it has happened.

Example after example of this happening can be given, but the words of Mark 7 still ring true. “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vein to they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Verses 6-7)  A little later on in that same chapter, Jesus tells the people that it is an inside job.

“Father, may my heart not find itself going the way of traditions over heartfelt worship.  Help me to not allow traditions to become more important than life found in Your Word. Convict me if I am just going through the motions.”

October 25/Weekend

Friday, October 25th, 2019

My title is Questions vs Amazed.

My Scripture reading today was in Isaiah 10-11. I was not expecting what I saw in chapter 11. It leaves me with questions but also encouragement. The passage with questions will mean I’ll have to study it.

My question is 11:1-5. Is this talking about David, or Jesus, or both? I’ll be interested to find out. At first I thought Jesus. Then I thought David. Then I thought both.  Hmmmm.

The amazing part is verses 6-9. All the animals, natural enemies all, are peacefully with each other.

  • wolf dwells with the lamb
  • leopard lies down with a young goat
  • calf, lion and fattened calf together
  • little child will lead them
  • cow and bear shall graze
  • their young lie down together
  • the lion shall eat straw like an ox
  • nursing child will play over a cobra’s den
  • weaned child put hand in an adder’s den

As you can see they are natural enemies and yet they will be together peacefully. My initial thinking is this is in the new kingdom or this is just imagery of when Jesus reigns.

What do you think?

“Father, questions are always there. If I had or knew all the answers I wouldn’t need You or Your Word. Thanks for giving me an inquiring mind. May I always seek Your wisdom in all things.”

October 7

Monday, October 7th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Purity vs Promiscuity.

Not too long ago all the rage were purity rings. Dad would buy them for their daughters; have a ceremony; give them the rings; and get them to pledge purity until marriage. Even some celebrities who shall remain nameless and whose purity went the way of the dodo bird, took the vow and stated so publicly. It was a good idea-on the surface-but unless the heart of the individual was committed to it, the ceremony and the ring was just that-a ceremony and a ring.

There is no doubt we live in a sexually-charged age. Our culture is obsessed-yes I said obsessed- with sex. Even in light of the #MeToo scepter, the objectification of women has not stopped. If anything it has become even more insidious. Sin always finds the “level.” Like water which seeks its own level, so does sin, in this case, sexual sin. It was a problem in the biblical culture; it was a problem in the Corinthian church; and it remains a problem today.

Solomon knew the pull. In his own life, for sure. But he also knew the pull to his “son.” Let’s take it further- to any young man- and today we even have to include women. Proverbs 6 & 7 contain graphic descriptions of the wayward woman’s work but it also contains some vivid descriptions of the one who is caught. They are found in 7:22-23:

  • An ox goes to slaughter.
  • A stag caught fast until an arrow hits true.
  • A bird caught in a trap.

These follow the warning of looking out for the woman with seductive speech. Smooth, buttery talk worms its way into the heart of an individual until he/she gives into something they said was preposterous, something they said “I will never do.” The solution is found in Proverbs 6:20-23. Not easy but essential. Not easy but doable.

“Father, staying pure- in mind, heart and actions- is a challenge these days of ‘anything goes.’ Help me to be pure, to stay pure, to think pure, to live pure. And help me do that by tying your Word around my heart.”

October 4/Weekend

Friday, October 4th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Clear Conscience vs Guilty Conscience.

I’ve been reading slowly and digesting as slowly John MacArthur’s short book called Remaining Faithful in Ministry. It is subtitled “9 Essentials for Every Pastor”. There has been some very valuable information passed on (not just for pastors but for all Christ-followers). In what I read today I gleaned the following:

That is the value of keeping a pure heart (Paul’s response in 2 Cor. 1:13 to false accusations). It doesn’t matter what comes at you; if your conscience is clear, no accusation sticks. The conscience is a gift from God. It’s like a skylight or a window, not a lamp. In and of itself, it’s not a source of light, but when kept clear and illuminated by God, the conscience let’s in that light-even in a world of darkness. Conscience is an invaluable tool for revealing our true motives. A clear and biblically informed conscience will either accuse or excuse us, depending on whether we are guilty or innocent. (p.37)

That’s correct in what it says. But what if we do something so much our conscience no longer has the ability to discern right from wrong? What happens if we do something so often we are no longer able to see it as wrong?

That is a problem, but there is also a solution. It is found in a daily submission to God and His Word. It is grounded in the daily desire to be holy. Did not Jesus Himself not say, “For out of the heart comes…?” Submission on a daily basis is necessary for me to keep an active and clear conscience.

“Father, help me to find myself going to You and Your Word for my direction. May my daily strength and guidance be found in You. Please help me keep my conscience pure.”

 

August 30/Weekend

Friday, August 30th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Remembering vs Forgetting.

I’ve been reading the book of Ezra the past 3 days in my Quiet Time. While the beginning of it is rather dry with a list and number of exiles, there are several turning points:

  • Ezra 3:11- “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”
  • The response of King Artexerxes to the letter about the rebuilding of Jerusalem and his negative response. The rebuilding stopped.
  • But King Darius changed that and made the decree that the rebuilding happen.
  • In chapter 7 Ezra is sent to teach the people the Word of God. Artexerxes changed his mind. (I don’t know the timeline but was he the same king ruling when Queen Esther approached him? And when was this?)
  • Today’s reading was a stab. After Ezra’s leading brought about reform and repentance, word came to him about the intermarriage of priests to the foreigners. The people confessed their sin and abandoned the intermarriage. Even a list is given of those who did!

Returning to Jerusalem was a great gift from God. Even Psalm 126 shows that. But with that return came some heart-wrenching decisions. Yes, there was joy. Yes, there was laughter, singing and recognition of God’s work. But there was also the need for remembering what was to be. Not a dead book at all…Ezra…but a book filled with joy and caution and warning.

“Father, help me not to forget that along with joy also comes a word from you about faithfulness. I need to remember who you are but also that you want faithfulness.”

August 21

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

My title for this devotion is The Battle is His vs The Battle is Mine.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed. Things come up; things pile on; we get to feeling ourselves being weighed down; we are soon unable to move. Whether it be real or imagined, it just gets too much. At that point, we have two choices. Carry the burden and fight the battle ourselves or say, “God, I can’t do this. It is yours.”

We will say the latter is the right choice. And it is. BUT saying and doing are two different things. It is easier to say, “Here Lord” than to actually do “Here Lord.”

A good example of this is found in 2 Chronicles 32. Hezekiah was king and he had been THE man. He brought renewal and reform to Judah. He restored God to His rightful place of prominence. Hezekiah brought sweeping reform-both materially (tearing down altars, etc) and spiritually (renewing the Passover, feasts, worship of God, etc). But in chapter 32, it is all put to the test. Would Hezekiah’s plans be thwarted? Would his commitment be seen as a “say” or a “do”?

Sennacharib king of Assyria invaded Judah and came against the cities to make them his. Jerusalem was one of them. Hezekiah and his people made all kinds of preparations and had to listen to Sennacharib blaspheme God. Big time. But in 32:7-8 Hezekiah tells the people, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him…With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.”

Were those just words or did he truly believe that? He believed them. He and Isaiah (the prophet) prayed and cried to heaven and God sent an angel to fight the battle and Sennacharib went home in disgrace. It was so bad even his own sons killed him.

God’s words are true. Proverbs 21:31 says, “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.” Hezekiah says, “Yes indeed! I can attest to that!” 

Question: Can I?

“Father, this battle is yours. My sword is feeble and over-matched by my enemy’s. But help me to let you fight my battles. Help me to trust you as Hezekiah and Isaiah did.”