Saturday, January 30: Genesis 18- Bargaining for a bad town...

Abraham’s conversation with the Lord regarding Sodom raised an interesting question in my heart. Would I bargain with God to save a corrupt city, or country?

I focused on the conversation and what it told me about Abraham’s heart. Abraham’s benevolence and heart rattled me as I pondered this text through this lens.

I am afraid that my heart is much more callous. I’m afraid that I might relish the destruction of the wicked even if it cost innocent righteous people’s lives. Abraham was begging God to save a city filled with vile people for the sake of a handful of righteous people. That’s heart.

As I considered this, thoughts flashed to a friend, Peter, who is living in West Africa with the sole intention of being God’s light to people there. In some ways he is a modern day Abraham.

Through his life, Peter is saying, “God, these people, forgotten and bypassed, some of whom are vile, are valuable and worth caring for in the chance that my life can influence a few to connect with You, God.”

It is a radical way to live... pleading with God for the life of vile people for the sake of the influence of a few righteous people living among the vile.

This is just a seminal thought for me. I need to let it stew and steep within me, but it certainly is a new way for me to think about this story from Abraham’s life.

Lord, if this thought is of You, burrow deeply into my heart, change me from the inside out that my life will reflect more closely Your life. This is my prayer, prayed in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Friday, January 29: Genesis 17- The long wait.

Numbers and names caught my attention, Abram’s names in particular. Abram means ‘exalted father’ and Abraham likely means ‘father of many.’ Particularly in a culture where names are important, I wondered how it must have been for Abram to live all those years with the name ‘exalted father’ but yet not be able to father a child of your own. How that must have stung!

Then God almighty meets with Abram, promises again to make him into a great nation and changes his name to Abraham. Yet his only son, at this point, is the son of a maidservant and the Lord says that son doesn’t count! You will have a son with your wife, Sarai, now to be called Sarah. Abraham is 99 years old at this point and Sarah 90.

At this point I thought about the numbers and the ages. How many decades have Abraham and Sarah been waiting? Waiting for God’s promise??

Waiting is often difficult. Waiting, delayed gratification, is a life skill we must all learn. We have all seen children melt down, no longer able to wait for whatever… “I want a ___ fill in the blank.”

As adults we can mask our poor waiting skills better than children but many of us still balk at waiting. God made Abram wait… and wait… and wait. God sometimes makes me wait.

Be still, the Psalmist writes, and know that I am God (Ps 46:10). That is godly waiting.

Wait for the Lord, sings the Psalmist on another occasion (Ps 27:14 and other places).

Waiting is often when God does His work in us.

And so my thoughts of God spun this morning…

Lord, I am not a good waiter… I need help and strength in this compartment of my life. Help me, I pray. Amen.

 

Thursday, January 28: Genesis 16- God's promise, our way?!.

The conception and birth of Ishmael reminds me of the trouble we can create when we try to bring about ‘God’s’ promises through our means…

Abram has been promised heirs more numerous than the stars in the sky. What a great promise, but one that is hard to believe when you do not have even one child.

Troublingly, God’s timing isn’t often our timing. So Abram waits and I am sure tries to have a child with Sarai for 10 years! Nothing. Who wouldn’t be discouraged?

So his Sarai has an idea… how about a surrogate? “My female slave can carry your child, Abe”.

The plan sounds good until it happens and now the slave has given Abram a son, but Sarai hasn’t! Tension!!! Problems. Pain. Trouble.

Sarai and Abram’s trials mirror our human lot when we try to play God and bring about God’s will and promises through our ingenuity. What arrogance to think we can play God. And yet most of us do this to one degree or another throughout our life.

God, forgive me for all the times I tried to bring about Your will or Your promise through my effort. So often, Lord, this happens when I cannot wait for You any longer to work whatever it is You desire to work in order to bring about Your plan. Lord, give me the wisdom of the Psalmist who calls out to ‘wait on the Lord.’

Lord, help me to wait… expectantly, faithfully, wait when Your will is to wait. And, Lord, likewise, help me to rise up and go… expectantly, faithfully, go when Your will is to go. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

Wednesday, January 27: Genesis 15- God provides.

Faith to believe, to take God at His word. Even after 40 years, faith does not necessarily come easily to me. As I read this account I realized it didn’t always come easily to Abram either. I guess I am in good company!

The Lord has already promised to make Abram into a great nation. Now God promises to be Abe’s shield and His ‘very great reward.’ It seems that the mention of reward reminds Abram that he doesn’t have a natural heir!

Clearly being childless continues to bring great pain to Abram.

I wondered if our pains are part of what keep us from taking God at His Word? I wondered if my pains, fears, hurts, failures keep me from taking God at His Word?

Wow, I step back for a moment and marvel how the great word to Abram can spark these wonderings and thoughts in me. We are complex aren’t we…

One profoundly touching aspect of this chapter is that God does not leave Abram alone in his fear or pain. God steps into Abe’s fear and pain to be with him. God also gives Abram the assurances he needs to believe.

My thoughts flipped back to my life… how often God provides what I need to overcome my fear and pain so that I too can believe.

The Lord God is so amazingly good!!!

Lord, my thoughts and devotions have taken some interesting twists today… landing on the wonder of Your presence with me. Lord, You help me believe! When I doubt or when pain and fear block faith, You don’t leave me in utter unbelief, You help me overcome my unbelief and move to belief.

You are wonderful and mighty, Lord. and I bless Your name!!!! Thank You for leading me into faith. I praise You in and through Jesus, my Lord. Amen.

 

Tuesday, January 26: Genesis 14- The power of family.

I know there is much more going on in this story, but Abram’s rescue of Lot calls out to me about the power of family… the good, positive and redeeming power of family.

Abram risks everything to save his nephew Lot. At the present time, Lot is Abram’s closest male relative so maybe Lot felt more like a son than a nephew. This last bit is speculation.

Nephew or surrogate son, Abram risks everything to rescue Lot.

I would do whatever I could to help my family, especially my children, if they fell on hard times. I cannot imagine doing less than everything I could for their best.

It hit me, this is the way God treats His family. When we were in trouble, when sin had us by the neck and God’s enemy was carrying us away, the Lord came to our rescue. But unlike Abram’s ‘happily-ever-after’ ending, our rescue cost God the supreme sacrifice, the life of His one and only Son, Jesus.

Jesus died on the cross rescuing us. Jesus gave His life so that we could be redeemed. That is LOVE and that is precisely what God did for us to demonstrate His love for us (read John 3:16, Romans 5:8, 1John 4, etc.)

I traveled a winding trail this morning but it led me to a familiar place… the arms of my loving God and my Savior Jesus.

I hope you know those loving arms, too.

Thank You, Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit for all You did to rescue me and the world You created. Amen.

 

 

Monday, January 25: Genesis 13- Remembering.

I noticed in this account that Abram builds another altar (18). In fact, early in the chapter, it locates a place between Bethel and Ai as, where he had first build an altar to the Lord (4). From this reference one cannot be certain that the original altar still exists.

This caused me to consider the building of altars. I’m sure there were many reasons and purposes… an act of declaring, a sacrifice of honor, an altar of remembrance, a service of reverence, and so on. One common thread is that they marked a moment or place and honored the god to whom they were constructed.

We don’t build altars today, but how do we honor and mark special moment, events or acts of our God today?

I am not sure I am very good at marking special moments… I wonder if I should be better at this?

It seems that every time Abram built an altar he was etching into his memory an important event with God. Overtime as the etchings accumulate Abram would have a library declaring God’s praises. And this library of memories would be a place he could go if times grew hard and he needed encouragement and strength.

Memories are powerful; good memories can motivate, bad memories debilitate.

Building a library of positive God-memories helps keep us strong in the Lord.

I am wondering how I might build ‘altars of memories’ to the Lord as Abram did? How might you?

Lord, thank You for this brief peek into Abram’s life and the thoughts it is sparking in me. Blessed by You, my Lord and my God. Amen. 

 

Saturday, January 23: Genesis 12- Sin traits.

Abram bursts on the scenes. At the end of chapter 11 he is only a slight mention as a son of Terah, now he is the focus of the account.

What an intriguing man he is.

At the beckon call of God, he sets out from Haran to a land the Lord will show him. This takes an amazing amount of faith. During his travels God speaks to him about the land and Abram builds an altar twice, a sign of faith and remembrance.

Due to a famine he heads down to Egypt, immediately this man of faith devises a plan to save his own skin, calling Sarai his sister rather than wife (a half truth at best).

It never ceases to amaze me how people can be so faithful in one moment or in one area of life and so fearful, afraid and non-faithful, in the next moment or another area of life.

Mr. Faithful, patriarch of the Israelite faith, lies about his relationship with Sarai and sacrifices her dignity to save his skin!

Self preservation is a subtly dangerous motivation.

I started to wonder, if I could fall into the same trap as Abram? Do I lack faith when my ‘life’ (reputation, honor, etc.) is on the line? I know as a teen I would ‘bend’ the truth like Abram to keep from getting in trouble. Is that trait still resident in me…???

Lord, search me and see if there be any wickedness in me. Purge me with hyssop that I might be clean, wash me that I might be whiter than snow. Lord God, Father of Abram, I pray to You through Jesus, my Lord. Amen.

 

Friday, January 22: Genesis 11- Life stories.

I found myself thinking about telling our stories. As I was reading this chapter I noticed in verse 10 that the lineage of Shem is named, Arphaxad, who was born 2 years after the flood. From this point on in life no one will have a personal memory of pre-flood days. Only telling and retelling and recording stories will keep the memory of pre-flood life alive.

How easily we can loose corporate memory. My grandparents died when I was young, I have scant few personal memories and very little was told about them in my family. Their stories of early 20th century life are virtually gone.

The same can happen to stories of faith and faithfulness. If we don’t keep the stories alive they will fade. Had Moses not recorded the few pre-flood stories in the Bible and the accounts of his ancestors prior to his birth, they would have been lost.

Had the apostles not given us the Gospels would we remember the saving work of Jesus today?

Telling life’s stories is a gift for generations to come. We can tell the grand stories and moments of the faith and our minor melodies of living out our faith. Telling God’s story and our story within His story (history J) helps keep the gift of faith alive…

What stories can you keep alive today?...

Lord, thank You for preserving Your story. I have faith today because You kept Your story alive and a friend shared Your story with me. Give me the grace to keep Your story going… that the world might know that Jesus is alive.

I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Thursday, January 21: Genesis 10- A whole bunch of names.

Well, there was no actions in my reading today, just a whole bunch of names. I sat wondering, “What do I do with a list of names? Where is the Lord in the midst of this???”

There was no immediate flash, no brilliant moment of inspiration. There was a growing sense that God was with me.

As I read, the list of names was senseless… by senseless I mean it didn’t grab my senses, much the way a list of statistics or numbers or a sea of faces can be senseless.

And yet to God those senseless names were individuals. God knew each person’s DNA. God knew their first day and their last day and each one in between. God knew siblings, parents, children, grandchildren and so on for each one. Where my eyes blurred over in boredom, God knew individuals.

Knowing a name and a story makes a BIG difference. I watched TV in horror as the World Trade Towers fell on Sept 11, 2001. I lived in Ohio at the time and NY seemed far away. A friend from Connecticut saw the smoke billowing from his hometown and attended 13 funerals, people he knew who died that day. In the 9-11 tragedy I saw a sea of faces; my friend saw personal friends.

Knowing and being known is a powerful connection.

In a flash I realized as the people in this chapter were known by God, so I am known. God knows my name… The words of Tommy Walker’s song sprang in my memory:

I have a Maker

He formed my heart

Before even time began

My life was in his hands

 

I have a Father

He calls me His own

He'll never leave me

No matter where I go

 

[Chorus]

He knows my name

He knows my every thought

He sees each tear that falls

And He hears me when I call

Check it out if you want to hear him sing it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXrAqE_tSmo

Lord, it feels good to be reminded that I am known by You this morning. I thank You for that. When I feel lonely You are with me. In fact, You are always with me. You never have and never will forsake me. Thank You Lord, God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Wednesday, January 20: Genesis 9- The image of God.

In the strictest way possible God says murder is forbidden, which will be codified later in the 6th Commandment. The Lord tells Noah and his clan,

Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind (6).

There is a loud discussion regarding the death penalty in my world these days. While I hold that in the background as I muse on this verse, I am drawn to the statement that the image of God is imbedded in humanity.

This is a profound thought. You and I display the image of God. No wonder Jesus expanded murder to include verbal violence (see Matthew 5:21-22). When we destroy another human being’s life, we have attacked the image of God. Isn’t this an attack on God Himself?

My country is growing more and more violent… in action and in speech. Defaming rhetoric pierces the election campaign and offensive comments fill the airwaves. It is commonplace to attack those who think, act or look different.

God must be weeping… God looks down and sees His image in all of us and as we fight and bicker we attack His image.

Our lack of care for the less fortunate is another way we disregard the image of God in others. We are making a mess of God’s creation.

My thoughts run from the generic to the specific…

How do I participate in this desecration of the image of God in other human beings? …

O, God, show me. O, Lord, open my eyes to my sin and failure to honor other people simply because they are endowed with the image of God. Amen.

 

Tuesday, January 19: Genesis 8- New beginnings.

Verse 17: Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.

Those last verses, parroting what God said after creation, echoed in my thoughts as a new beginning. Humanity had a fresh start.

My mind whirled with the idea of new beginnings…

Every day is a mini-new beginning. I get to rise and start afresh. I can experience God’s creation and life a fresh. I can restart relationships with others. Mornings can be new beginnings.

Professing faith in Jesus offers a new beginning as God wipes our spiritual slate clean and gives us a new heart. Ahh, new beginnings!

Confession and forgiveness offer new beginnings. God invites me to come to Him and confess my sin whenever and as often as I need (read 1John 1:9). Each earnest confession is graced with the gift of forgiveness… I can start over… new beginnings.

Every time I live into Jesus’ prayer, “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors (Matthew 6:12) I am offering and experiencing a new beginning. Relationships can be repaired and a new start granted such is forgiveness’ new beginnings.

New Year, which we recently experienced, offers a new beginning. There is something about the clean calendar of a new year that can lift the burdens of last year and offer hope for the year to come.

Humankind had new hope as Noah exited the ark…

This morning I pondered the many new beginnings that God offers us regularly throughout life. Question is… “Do I take advantage of them???”

Do you?

Think about it.

Lord, thank You for the fresh start of today. I pray that my heart can experience You and life anew today. That the wonder of knowing Jesus is real and fresh and enlivening today as it was that first day many years ago that I was ‘born again’ into new life with You. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.

 

Monday, January 18: Genesis 7- Aberration or root cause.

 

In a span of 6 chapters we have witnessed the creation in all of its variety and splendor… ‘everything is good’ (Genesis 1:31). And the degradation and breakdown into sin of humanity starting with Adam and Eve’s eating of the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:vv). Murder, and God only knows what else, followed (Genesis 4:ff) as the ravages of sin effect human existence.

With Noah and the flood story, God yells, “Enough!” Except for Noah’s small family band, God cleanses the human petri dish and with that action wipes the dish clean except for any sin that may exist in Noah’s family band.

Will sin generate again… indicating it is systemic within humanity or has sin been eradicated?

This question leaves us hanging as the chapter ends.

Sadly, I know the answer. All I have to do is check out the latest news. Murder, death, and mayhem fill the news cycles. Sin is very much alive and well devastating humanity once more.

Sin is systemic! It breeds within us like a nasty virus ravaging some, more than others, but infecting all.

Sin is systemic! It breeds within me like a nasty virus ravaging, infecting me.

Thanks be to God I live after Jesus. His blood, the antidote, spiritual heart surgery (confessing Jesus to be Lord, facing and seeking forgiveness for sin and walking with Jesus into newness of life) is the answer.

Have you made Jesus Lord of your life? Think about it.

Jesus, save me from myself… from the sin that lies within me. Help me to follow You with all my life. I pray in Your name, Jesus. Amen.

 

 

 

Saturday, January 16: Genesis 6- A very sad picture.

The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time (5).

The stain of sin from forbearers, Adam and Eve, in the garden was growing darker and darker by the generation. I sometimes think the same thing when I hear the daily news. How evil we can be… how evil we have become.

It is much easier to write this with the generic ‘we’.,, that way I don’t have to face the sin in me. But God wouldn’t let me off the hook that easily.

The Spirit’s voice penetrated my fa├žade. “Bill, your sin is part of the problem.” And I dropped to my knees (figuratively).

I need Your forgiveness, Lord, I prayed. Amen.

 

Friday, January 15: Genesis 5-Consider your life course

In this chapter we have the lineage of humankind from Adam to Noah. Every three verses or so we read of another generation. In a predictable formula we learn of generation after generation.

When A was xxx years old he became the father of B. After that A lived yyy years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether he was zzz when he died.

In this otherwise repetitive chapter, there are two surprises…

Verses 22-24 of Enoch: After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

Verse 29 of Lamech: He named him Noah and said, “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed.

I pondered these surprises.

Regarding Enoch: I mused, we have an opportunity to chart our life course. Most people will marry and have children. Beyond progeny, what is the legacy of our lives? Enoch determined some how, some way to walk faithfully with his God. This was THE distinguishing factor of his life. Enoch walked faithfully with God. This set him aside from all the others listed in today’s chapter.

I wondered what set me apart from the others in my family lineage?  More directly, Enoch’s added line challenged me to live my life for the Lord God as Enoch did. Actuarially, I have 3+ decades of life remaining, more than enough time to create a ‘faithful to God’ legacy.

Lord help me to do this, I pray. Amen.

Regarding Noah: I mused about names. Certainly in ancient days names spoke of a person’s destiny and/or character much more so than today. Be that as it may, as a “William,” a name which means ‘conqueror’, I pondered how I might live into that name. The desires that rose up in me were not to be some kind of land or peoples’ conqueror. Instead I thought about being one who conquers fears, faults and obstacles on the way to living faithfully to the Lord.

Lord, my heart rejoices with the thought of making a difference for You. How can I do that, Lord? How can I best be used to live for and serve You faithfully? In and through Jesus, my Lord, I pray. Amen.

 

Thursday, January 14: Genesis 4- Life in our sin riddled world.

You cannot open an internet news site, listen to TV or radio news, or pick up a paper/news magazine without being assaulted by crime, violence, and killing. Mass shootings in the US are way too common. I confess that I am becoming numb to violent deaths. I wonder, what is our world coming to???

Then I open my Bible and the first story after the fall –the introduction of sin into the fabric of human life –and what do I read? Cain killing his brother Abel. And then before the chapter closes Lamech, Cain’s great grandson, boasts to his wives:

“Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times” (23-24 bold mine).

Violence is escalating. Plus Lamech has two wives… while not expressly forbidden it seems to be against the blessing of marriage God gave in Genesis 2:24.

Life, viewed through one lens, is the story of sin, which can be understood as disregarding God’s best for life here on earth.

The violence I see in the news might be more violent than I see in Genesis 4, but Genesis 4 is only the beginning… and the seed of sinfulness is just germinating.

Thinking about the news and reading these Biblical accounts makes me realize how much I (we) need a change of heart. Somehow the selfish madness that would kill others or rob others to advance ourselves has to be bleached from us. And in the millennia since Cain killed Abel only God, giving us a new heart through faith in Jesus, can provide the bleaching we need. And this side of eternity even the new heart God gives the converted can and does lapse into deep dark sin…

This last thought makes me realize how much I need God for my continued life reconstruction with much forgiveness along the way.

O, Jesus, I am so sorry when I let You down, when I hurt others through my own selfish sin. Forgive me and change me so that I truly grow more like You! In Your name Jesus, I pray Amen.

 

Wednesday, January 13: Genesis 3- God's perfect world unravels.

Adam and Eve could not stop themselves from the singular NO God established. They ate the forbidden fruit!

The serpent sowed doubt in the command God gave and that tiny opening allowed him to undermine any conviction they had to remain faithful.  They took and they ate and sin corrupted human life from that day forward.

Doubt… “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman (4). That tiny speck of uncertainty allowed wrong thoughts to enter.

Doubt… “Did God really say…? Does God really mean…? This smallest of thoughts ruins lives to this day.

My thoughts turn inward… where do I continue to doubt? Where do I continue to NOT trust? Where do I think, “Ah, it is no big deal”? These are places where sin continues to reign in my life, where the effects of the fall live with mighty fury in my life.

It is my sin, your sin, Adam and Eve’s sin that necessitated Jesus’ coming to be the final answer for sin… God’s ATONEMENT!

Jesus didn’t make sin stop in His followers lives, He paid for it!

O, God I stepped into sin with my forbearers, Adam and Eve. I continue to step into sin every day I live. And You still love me! And You have saved me! And You opened my eyes to embrace what You have done for humanity. Thank You Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit. Thank You!!! Amen.

 

Tuesday, January 12: Genesis 2- Caring for our world.

My heart was attracted to verse 15: The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

From the moment of creation, before the fall and the entrance of sin into the world, humankind was given the task of working and caring for the land.

Work, labor, particularly caring for the earth we have been given, is part and parcel of being human.

In these opening scenes the bounty of the earth provided humanity’s food needs. And to this point nothing has been said about clothing or shelter as a need. So the land produced everything needed for life. And man and woman were to care for the land and to work it.

The basic meaning of ‘work’ in the context is connected with tilling or working the land (see verse 5). Humans were to tend to the land, till, cultivate, maybe prune, things like that.

“Caring for” on the other hand seems to carry the flavor of watching out for, maintaining, keeping (as in keeping the law). It has a bit of a protectorate role.

There is a great deal of talk these days about global warming. And the Pope’s encyclical on caring for the earth (which I have not read yet) attempted to put look at global warming and other environmental issues through a Biblical God-focused lens. Pope Francis is not the first to do this, just the most prominent.

It seems that Genesis 2 offers a God-oriented Biblically connected and inspired lens for people of faith to examine our care for the earth.

As I sit with the Lord this morning, I have no intention of solving the various world dilemmas regarding the environment.  However, God does seem to be asking me to face my responsibility as a human, created in the image of God, and made for working and caring for the land God has given us.

I need to consider how I treat my environment. Do I waste precious resources? Do I abuse the earth with careless living? Do I do what I can to protect it… recycling, choosing less harmful products and so on? Do I feel a responsibility to maintain the earth in good order or am I living as if I can squeeze out whatever I want from it and then discard it?

My thoughts and eyes are on the practical… how can I, as one human, care for, protect and maintain the earth God has given us?

Lord, thank You for the gift of life on our planet with its beauty, variety and provision. Give me eyes to see how I can care for it and maintain it as Your steward here preserving it for generations to come, until Jesus returns and makes all things new. In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, I pray. Amen.

 

Monday, January 11: Genesis 1- The beginning.

I became engrossed in the story as I read on a pitch black early morning. In the span of a few verses, the story moves from only God to God plus world and heavens and life. An amazing transformation brought into being through the voice and command of God alone.

“Let there be…” and there was.

I sit staring and pondering those 3 words, “Let there be.”

That is all the Lord God needed to create.

I tinker in my wood shop. I have built tabletops and turned dozens of bowls on my lathe. Everything I have ever made took time, energy, tools, and skill on my part. Additionally, I needed the actual wood material plus metal fasteners, various sanding grits and then different kinds of finishes depending upon use. Also there was space in my shop and electricity for my tools and lights and heat during the winter months. Countless people invented and produced everything I needed so that I could ‘create’ the wooden items I produced!

All God needed to do was speak, “Let there be.”

I sat in awe. I marveled at God’s greatness.

What a gift that God would put His story on paper so that people could know Him.

I am awed, amazed, delighted and humbled by His greatness and my smallness.

I bow in thought and prayer to the One who made everything…

O, God, You are great and mighty. You are sovereign and over all. You are Lord. You are God. You are everything! Praise be to You, Lord God, Creator of all things. Praise be to You. Amen and Amen.

 

Saturday, January 9: Titus 3- The gospel in a couple of sentences.

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone (4-8).

As Paul winds down his commissioning letter to Titus, he offers a Gospel summary to seal his call to faith and obedience.

We are saved, not by our own righteousness or goodness, but because of God’s kindness and mercy. God cleaned us through the work of Jesus, applied to our lives by Holy Spirit. Grace flooded our lives and we became heirs to the hope of eternal life. Because of this we are to devote ourselves to doing good!

The Gospel… through belief in Jesus we are shown mercy and grace, are adopted into God’s family, and given an eternal inheritance.  And because God is with us we now can and should live lives of good toward others…

I am so thankful that God saved me by His grace and action and I know that God will see me home by His sustaining power in my life through the agency of the Holy Spirit.

Thinking about this I am wondering what I might do today to thank and love God back for all the love He has poured into my life!!!

Do you know the saving love of God activated through faith in Jesus Christ?

I hope you do… if so, praise God for His love and serve Him with your life.

If not… please reach out to the Lord for His love, forgiveness, grace and mercy…

God, thank You for reaching down with mercy and love and saving me… saving everyone who calls on Jesus. I praise You and I love You. Amen.

 

Friday, January 8: Titus 2- Right belief and right living.

It becomes perfectly clear why Paul laid out such a high standard for church leaders in chapter 1, they have to speak into the lives of all the faithful. Paul gives Titus clear instruction on the kinds of things to speak into the lives of older men and women and younger men and women, free and slave alike.

Faith in Jesus touches every human station in life. Different stations have different pressures and pitfalls. Paul directs Titus to speak truth to the heart of the matter which includes a broad spectrum of people in the church.

I am struck by how practical and behavior oriented Paul’s directives are. People who think Christianity is only about what a person believes will be shocked at Paul’s clear words in this chapter. Absolutely, believing the truth in Scripture is critical, but according to Paul (and Jesus and the New Testament, for that matter) belief goes hand in glove with action, living, deeds.

I am reminded of the greatest commandment: to love God with heart, soul, mind and strength and love neighbor as self… belief and living!!!

Lord, today help me to live in such a way as my faith in You is visible… plainly visible. Amen.

 

Thursday, January 7: Titus 1- Thoughts on church leadership.

An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. … he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. …hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it (6-9).

Church leadership is equal parts, solid mature faith and exemplary living. With church leadership, integrity in all areas matters.

In governmental politics, one’s personal, sexual ethic and interpersonal demeanor are not as important as political savvy. History is full with good leaders who are personal philanderers.

But in the church, this should not be. How a person lives is an indicator of her/his heart… is it surrendered to the Lord or not? So lifestyle and demeanor are important with church leadership.

Paul, however, is clear that what one believes is of equal importance.

Church leaders, though imperfect like everyone else, are to exemplify both the teachings and the ethics of Jesus. Like the faith itself, church leaders are to be people of both heart and head, surrendered to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

O, God, this morning I pray for church leaders everywhere… I pray for leaders of integrity, of belief and life. Men and women who embody the faith and who exemplify a life radically devoted to Jesus. In His name, I pray. Amen.

 

 

Wednesday, January 6: Psalm 87- to belong to God.

The Psalmist glories in God’s home on earth, Zion the city of the great king. To be registered among those born of God’s city, to be a child of the great city is to be a child God, the Psalmist delights in his heritage as one of God’s own…

I found myself marveling at the wonder of being God’s, a child of God’s family, born again into God’s house, adopted into God’s family.

There is no better heritage.

Born into slavery to the evil one, God rescued me. Destined for Gehenna, God saved me. The Lord opened wide His arms of love and welcomed me into His abode and family. Nothing I did warranted this grace. It was pure love and grace and mercy on God’s part.

Like the Psalmist, my heart begins to sing…

Praise to You, Lord, God, my Savior and my God. You welcomed me into Your house and home, You welcomed me into Your family. You gave me a new name and a new future… You prize me with Your love and offer me more than my heart could ever have dreamed of.

I sit this morning… full of thanks for the One who loves and saved me… Praise be to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of glory, my God. Amen.

 

Tuesday, January 5: Psalm 86- A psalm for my birthday.

As I sat today, I mark my 60th birthday, 41 of my years I have consciously been walking with the Lord. While I have grown in faith and godly character over the decades, much growth is still needed for me to be a fully devoted follower of Jesus.

The mid-section of David’s Psalm resonated with me. It offered a prayer I could, should, would pray. It is likely a prayer I can pray for the remainder of my life.

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;

give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.

I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart;

I will glorify your name forever.

For great is your love toward me;

you have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead (11-13).

If David, a man after God’s own heart, prayed this prayer and taught others to pray this prayer, certainly I would be wise to pray this prayer.

Teach me Your ways, Lord… I have so much still to learn about integrating faith into how I live. It is one thing to have head knowledge; it is an entirely different ball game to weave that knowledge into practical living. Even after 4 decades I have much to learn from the Lord.

I will praise you, Lord, my God… to verbalize praise for my Lord does something within me. Speaking the name of the Lord, blessing God for who He is or what He has done, brings a calm, a joy and a steadfastness into my being. Praise blesses God, but it also steels me in my journey of faith.

For great is your love toward me… Every ounce of faith I have started with God’s love toward me. God moved toward me long before I ever thought of moving toward Him. God’s love toward me quickened my dead heart to love Him in return. Over and over again in my life God’s love has delivered and saved me. God’s loving kindness is sweeter than honey and more precious than rare jewels!

Today on this milestone day of my life, I dedicate my life with renewed vigor to the Lord who is peerless among all gods.

Lord God Almighty, teach me Your way, that my faithfulness will grow

Give me an undivided heart, a heart that fears Your name.

I will open my lips to praise you, my Lord and my God.

I will praise You with all my heart and I will glorify Your name with every fiber of my being forever.

For great is Your love toward me.

You have delivered me time and again.

Your love toward me has never wavered, even when my faith and love toward You has wavered.

My 60 years You have always been there, these 41 years I have walked with You.

Lord, all the remaining days of my life I pledge to You, my Lord and my God.

Amen and Amen.

 

Monday, January 4: Psalm 85- A two-edged prayer for my land.

As today’s Psalm drew to its conclusion, I found myself praying it for my country and my world…

I will listen to what God the LORD says;

he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—

but let them not turn to folly.

Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,

that his glory may dwell in our land.

Love and faithfulness meet together;

righteousness and peace kiss each other.

Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,

and righteousness looks down from heaven.

The LORD will indeed give what is good,

and our land will yield its harvest.

Righteousness goes before him

and prepares the way for his steps (8-13).

This is a two-edged prayer… while I long for and pray for the love, peace, goodness and blessings in the final 4 verses, I must also pray for (and work toward) the call to reject folly and return to faithfulness embedded in this Psalm.

I want God’s blessing on my homeland, but can I expect God’s blessing if we, as a nation, are living in ways that are antithetical to His ways?

People in every time and every land want the blessing of God but without the responsibility to live in ways that honor Him.

And this leads me right back to prayer…

Lord, I pray for myself, the people of my country and people of the world… break us of our wanton sinfulness and bring us home to You.

Help me this year to live more faithfully to You and in so doing, share Your way with others. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen

 

Saturday, January 2: Psalm 84- A great way to start the year.

My heart delighted as my eyes lit on the words of this Psalm. How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God (1-2).

What a great way to start the New Year to yearn for the Lord… to cry out to the Lord. I just want to pray…

Lord, may this year mark dramatic growth in You. May my heart be stirred and my will conformed to be more like You. Give me the strength to be counter-cultural; living Your values, not mine or my world’s.

Lord, lead me not into temptation, help me resist the press of the world to fit into its mold, rather transform me by the renewing of my mind. Call me to higher heights and deep trust in You.

I dedicate 2016 to You, Lord. May my living for You be obvious to others. This I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Friday, January 1, 2016: Psalm 83- A prayer for enemies.

Happy New Year

This turned out to be a very unusual New Year’s Day reading and meditation.

I found my thoughts rumbling over various terrorist events of 2015 as I read the words of this Psalm. Images of ISIS, Boko Haran and other terror groups’ evil outpourings filled my thoughts. I wanted to pray this prayer against them. Get them, Lord. Beat them up, Lord!

There was also a strong temptation to nationalize this prayer, praying against my country’s enemies, but I resisted that since the USA is not equivalent with God’s people like Israel was in OT times.

Setting aside nationalistic motivated prayers, I returned to those who seek to advance their god above the Lord God almighty and I prayed with the Psalmist his closing line: Let them know that you, whose name is the LORD— that you alone are the Most High over all the earth (18).

I am reminded of the words of a missionary from Nigeria who has seen first hand the terror of Boko Haran. He said to the effect, “We must remember that our true enemy is not the Muslim extremist… that person is blinded by Satan, who is the real enemy.” 

Yes, these militants do violent things and inflict much pain, but just imagine the testimony if they truly converted to faith in Jesus.

So, Lord, I pray for the victims of terrorists, that Your comfort and love might be felt by them in the midst of their pain. And, Lord, I pray for these militant extremists that You let them know that You, the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth. Convert their hearts, sent someone to them with the message of Jesus.

Lord, I pray for this New Year, that You would break my heart with the things that break Your heart… lead me to a deep, more committed faith in You, Jesus. This is my prayer, prayed to and in Jesus’ name. Amen.