Saturday, September 23: Esther 1- Mark your words.

I found myself thinking about the king. What if every word we decreed was written into law and then could not be undone. (This will come up again later in the book with the decree against the Jews.) What an incredible onus we would carry if every word was recorded as law.*

I have read Luther’s Table Talk. Luther was so famous that people would join him for meals. They would listen to him discourse on whatever subjects surfaced and ask him questions on all manner of matters. Often someone would scribe what he said. Imagine someone making a permanent record of anything you said.

Apparently our presidents record many of the phone conversations and meetings… every word recorded for posterity.

Helpful words… recorded

Caustic words… recorded

Well thought-out words… recorded

Thoughtless words… recorded

Truthful words… recorded

Lies and twists of truth… recorded

Every word… recorded

I would probably be more embarrassed than overjoyed if all my words were recorded and known by others. I think knowing all my words were recorded would give me pause to speak more carefully, guarding my lips with special care.

While I do not have a constant recorder going, I do know that someday I will stand before my maker and He will have knowledge of every word spoken (But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. Matthew 12:36). Knowing this I still utter thoughtless words, lies and all manner of speech. Oh, the wretched sinner that I am.

Lord I am overwhelmed this morning by my sinfulness. I deserve nothing except wrath and yet You have lavished love, forgiveness, grace and mercy.  As overwhelmed as I was with my sinfulness I am more overwhelmed by Your lavish love.

May my lips sing of Your praise today and all of my todays. Though Jesus I pray. Amen.

 

*I realize not every word of the king was recorded and law, but this is where my thoughts went as I pondered the text as a doorway to my walk with the Lord.

 

 

Friday, September 22: Nehemiah 13- Diligence is constantly required.

How quickly sin can reenter life. In chapter 10 people willingly made vows of faithfulness to the Lord, now by chapter 13 they have fallen back into sin again. Certainly time has passed but…

I am struck by the tenacious relentless pull of sin. We are never safe from its tentacles. It pulls and claws at every one of us. It never lets up.

As sad as this account is, it causes me to realize that I am in a constant battle against sin. When I lower my diligence for a moment I am susceptible. Diligence is constantly required and still I fall!

As I sit this morning, I am so blessed that the Lord has provided the gift of forgiveness of sin when I succumb to temptation. Week after week in worship we remind ourselves that If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1John 1:9). What an incredible gift is the forgiveness for sin!!!

I had a second thought as I read this chapter. It came from verse 1 & 3: On that day the Book of Moses was read aloud in the hearing of the people and there it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever be admitted into the assembly of God, … When the people heard this law, they excluded from Israel all who were of foreign descent. 

I wondered, is it sin if we extend the reach of God’s law, making it more stringent than God required. In verse one God excluded Ammonites or Moabites, but the Jews excluded all who were of foreign descent. Hmmm, this just made me wonder… I have to ponder this more. Interesting how sin can creep into life in so many ways, some that even seem like I am doing ‘good’.

Lord, sin is so pervasive. It is an enemy I must be constantly vigilant again. Help me!  I feel like I am not strong enough to fight this enemy by myself.  So, Lord, I beg for Your help and strength to remain faithful to You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

 

Thursday, September 21: Nehemiah 12- Grand Celebrations.

The chapter concludes with a crescendo of celebration. Nehemiah and the leaders organized a spectacular gala of music, song and sacrifice atop the walls of Jerusalem, marking and honoring the completion of the walls. Jerusalem was now reestablished. The temple was up and running, The walls and gates surrounded the city providing safety and security.

God was faithful and His people were back. Punishment was over. Service can begin again!

The Lord was faithful still.

Those last words typed are important for all to hear. Yes, the Lord is faithful. He always has been and always will be. Grace and mercy flow to His covenant people. His Word once given is steadfast.

Thoughts shift to the New Testament and the words and promises of God therein. My heart lightens. God is faithful and it is good to celebrate…

When by God’s grace milestones are crossed and great endeavors accomplished… celebrate.

When God’s faithfulness is experienced, let people know… celebrate.

When God brings new life out of rubble… celebrate.

Bring people together and celebrate because the Lord is God and His love endures forever.

Lord, I bless You and thank You. I am not much of a celebrator… help me learn the delight of celebrating You and Your graces in life. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

Wednesday, September 20: Nehemiah 11- You are important to the Lord.

Some chapters of the Bible, like this one, are difficult for me to find inspiration and/or a devotional moment. Honestly, I do not care about the names of people who lived in Jerusalem.

Interestingly, God cares. God cared enough to put a full page of these names in His written Word. And over the millennia countless scribes cared enough for God’s Word to meticulously copy these names from one manuscript to another while preserving God’s Word for generations.

As I sit today, musing about all this, these thoughts are sparking a picture in me of how much God cares for you and for me.

Let’s be honest, my life is about as stimulating and inspirational as the names in the chapter. Oh, my life is important to me and these facts were important to the families repatriating Jerusalem. The blessing is both and is important to the Lord.

You are important to the Lord. I am important to the Lord. Even if we are not important to anyone else, we are important to the Lord and this is something inspirational for me.

God cares for you and for me and that is a great blessing… to me and I hope to you as well.

Lord, I marvel at Your grace and love. I am cared for by You. This truth blows me away. Little old me, a nothing in the landscape of the world and You care for me. I am so blessed.

Thank You, Jesus, for revealing this to me. In Your name I pray. Amen.

 

Tuesday, September 19: Nehemiah 10- Vows.

The people made vows to the Lord and sealed it with their names. All these [those whose names are recorded] now join their fellow Israelites the nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the LORD our Lord.

“We promise…

There is a power and permanence to a signature. Just the other day a couple came into the office to have our administrator, who is a notary, notarize some contracts they had to sign. Mortgages, adoption papers, marriage certificates, gym memberships all require our signature. Our signature makes them legally binding, that is until we break them.

Putting your signature on a document, vow or contract does ramp up its significance.

In a court room, witnesses don't sign a paper but they do ‘solemnly swear to tell the truth,  the whole truth, so help me God’ and this is recorded by the court recorder. Again the point is to solemnize the importance of the proceeding and bind one to his or her testimony.

I give something extra thought before I sign it…

Vows are significant.

Israel vowed to follow the Lord. In reality this was a renewal of their circumcision vows and their priestly consecration for those who were priests.

These vows will not guarantee compliance but they do seal this moment of dedication and renewal.

I am wondering about vows I have made to the Lord and also about moments of dedication and rededication to the Lord. Those are powerful moments often sealed with a signature or a verbal statement to others.

Every time a new member stands before the church or a family comes forward for baptism we, the congregation, have an opportunity to renew our vows to the Lord as we make a vow to support those who stand before us.

Vows are important markers… and today I vow:

To be faithful to the Lord, to serve Him and Him alone as my Lord and Savior. To follow Jesus and to dedicate my life to His service. I vow to honor  God –Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit –with my living to the best of my ability. By God’s grace and through Jesus’ name I make this vow and prayer. Amen.

 

Monday, September 18: Nehemiah 9- Rededicating my life to Jesus.

Israel is at a turning point, the people are coming clean with the Lord. This isn’t simply an emotional response. The people have taken 3 weeks to consider their lives in light of God’s Word. They have gathered again, spent the morning in the Word and the afternoon in confession. Then the Levites rose and recounted Israel’s long history, a history of God’s faithfulness and their unfaithfulness. After all this time and thought we read: “In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites and our priests are affixing their seals to it” (38).

Thoughtful, honest confession and rededication to the Lord. What a glorious day and time!

When was the last time I (you) took time to make a thoughtful, honest rededication to the Lord?

Hmmm, I believe I have my charge for the day…

Will you join me in rededicating myself to the Lord?

Oh, Lord, You have always been there. It is I who have walked away time and again. Today I choose You. I name You as my Lord and Savior… again and still, I am Yours. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

 

Saturday, September 16: Nehemiah 8- Hunger for God's word.

This is one of those fascinating chapters for me as the people gather so attentively to the word of the Lord. I appreciate how everyone is involved Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priests and his fellow priest and the Levites who instruct the people in smaller groups. There is so much here to dwell upon.

But it was the small one syllable word ‘they’ that garnered my attention. Verse 1: all the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel.

It was the people who begged and asked for Ezra to read the Law to them.

This chapter represents a great move of God among His people. The people are not forced to listen to the Word, or coerced, or cajoled. They ask for it!

O that God’s people today would long for and hunger for and desire the word as His people did back on that day.

God’s word is our source of truth, inspiration, correction and blessings…

Lord, would You move again creating a desire for Your word in Your people. In every tradition and denomination, country and nation Lord, birth a hunger for Your word. Birth a desire to soak in Your word in order to live Your word more fully and completely until You birth Your new heaven and new earth and we reside with You directly.

Open Your word tomorrow among Your people and give the people attentive hearts to Your world as it is proclaimed around the world on Your Lord’s Day. I pray this in Jesus name. Amen.

 

 

Friday, September 15: Nehemiah 7- Faith during the mundane times.

This chapter had few, if any, sparks of devotion. The details recorded were pretty mundane without much direct spiritual importance. After reading, I reviewed it a couple of times, searching for my spiritual nugget for today. Still no sparks. Was it a spiritual battery dead?

I continued to muse…

My thoughts landed on the word ‘mundane’. A small flicker of insight began... so much of life is mundane. Morning ritual of shaving, brushing teeth, showering, doing the laundry, cooking, cleaning up, straightening the house, putting clothes and things away, yard work, mowing, weeding, fixing a broken this or that, paying bills, shopping, and on and on the mundane goes. Even many of the tasks at work are mundane, repetitive, and usual,,,,then there is commuting.

As I mentioned so much in this chapter is mundane, opening and closing gates, naming officials, and genealogical list of people and gifts… mundane, mundane, mundane. Yet God has included the mundane in His Word. Why? Historical record for sure. Additionally, this reminds me that the Lord is God of the mundane even as He is God of the spectacular and we, His people, serve Him during the mundane even as we serve Him during the special times of life.

So I began to wonder how do I serve the Lord.  How do I display the Lord and how do I honor the Lord in the mundane?

Attitude… what is happening within me during the mundane. Do I see myself as a Christ follower as I do these mundane tasks? What persona do I radiate when I am shopping or driving or folding laundry or washing dishes??? What do I think about during these time and are the things I think about honorable in the Lord’s sight. They don’t have to be “religious” in nature but are they honorable and good?

How do I treat others while I am working the mundane tasks of life? Do I treat others with dignity as God would have me treat them?

Questions of faithfulness during the mundane tasks of life kept rolling within me. I am just as much a Christ-follower during the mundane times and tasks of life as I am during the special. Does my faith shine during these times, even if there is no other person to see it shine?

Turns out the mundane nature of this chapter led to a rich time with Jesus. Isn’t that just like the Lord?! 

Lord, I thank you for the mundane… for most of the hours that fill life. I thank You because they are full with YOU. You are just as much present in the mundane as You are in those special moments. Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me bless His holy name.

Bless the Lord, O my soul during mundane and special times… let all that is within me bless His holy name. In Jesus’ name Amen.

 

Thursday, September 14: Nehemiah 6- The natural-ness of prayer.

But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands” (9b).  The three words, But I prayed, tackled my attention.

So much was going on for Nehemiah. The work was progressing, still the critical installation of gates needed to be completed, without them the town remained vulnerable. Knowing this the opposition turned up the heat. If the gates were not installed all the years of work were for naught. This was the project enemies’ last chance. They knew it and Nehemiah new it.

The stakes were high.

It is at this point that those 3 words appear in the account. But I prayed…

Prayer is an important weapon in the arsenal of God’s people.

Nehemiah had wisdom, leadership abilities, savvy, connections, integrity all of which were important. What set him apart for God’s work was that he believed in, worshipped and consulted with the Lord. Nehemiah knew where his strength came from so he regularly dipped his head to prayer.

At this critical juncture he prayed and God opened his eyes to lurking dangers.

A little later the story unfolds further and another moment of prayer slides seamlessly into the story. As Nehemiah’s narrative progresses we read, Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, my God, because of what they have done; remember also the prophet Noadiah and how she and the rest of the prophets have been trying to intimidate me (14). This moment of prayer fits so naturally in the telling of the story, an indicator to me that Nehemiah himself slid naturally into prayer. Prayer was a natural and normal part of his life. Certainly he may have had formal times of prayer but clearly he also moved in and out of relational prayer as his day progressed. This is a sign to me that Nehemiah lived in relationship with the Lord and conversations (prayers) popped up as naturally with the Lord as with an associate.

Ahh, the power, the wonder, the natural-ness of prayer that springs from a relationship with the Lord.

Thanks, Nehemiah, for your example!

Lord, draw me close to You so that I grow in this natural-ness of prayer. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Wednesday, September 13: Nehemiah 5- Living above reproach.

Moreover, from the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, until his thirty-second year—twelve years—neither I nor my brothers ate the food allotted to the governor. …Furthermore, a hundred and fifty Jews and officials ate at my table, as well as those who came to us from the surrounding nations. (14,17).

Nehemiah went above and beyond to make sure his life was an example. To do so he lived above reproach, not accepting the governor’s portion and still feeding many at his table.

Too often leaders and people of prominence accept perks and at times flaunt privilege. Not so Nehemiah. He chose to live so that the average person would respect him and honor him.

Nehemiah sets a high bar to this day.

What does living above reproach mean for me in my life? For me it means living within my means. It means being transparent with my elders when a parishioner gives me something that might be beyond what that person would give anyone else. It means living in a way that if others emulate, the glory is given to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Living above reproach means living a life of integrity.

What does living above reproach mean for you? Think about it…

Lord God, may my life bring You honor and glory. Lord, may my life bring people into Your kingdom. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Tuesday, September 12: Nehemiah 4- Problems mount but the Spirit of the Lord in His people prevails.

The story of Nehemiah is the account of a leader performing a great work for God. Things will happen, opposition to the work of God will arise and leaders like Nehemiah must be willing to adjust to meet the present situation.

Nehemiah changed the work detail so that half worked and the other half stood guard. It slowed the project, but ensured safety. He established other safety protocols. His mind and ability to organize was constantly working.

The task was great and most of the people were not laborers, so as their energy flagged Nehemiah encouraged them. As he learned of plots against the project he planned, when taunts and ridicule came, he reminded them that the Lord was with them.

Nehemiah also worked alongside the people asking no more of them than he did himself.

As I consider Nehemiah I am encouraged. God puts the right people in the right spots to get His work done. People labored. Soldiers protected. Nehemiah led and prayed. The work progressed. It was difficult. Problems mounted but the Spirit of the Lord in His people prevailed.

So it is to this day… Problems mount but the Spirit of the Lord in His people prevails.

God has given us the great task of reaching the ends of the earth with the message of the Gospel. Making disciples of ALL peoples is the task of the Church. Yes, it means witnessing in our places and locations, BUT it also means going where the Gospel has never gone. Giving every people group an opportunity to hear about and respond to Jesus.

A church, the Church can never be satisfied sharing the Gospel and growing in its own community or region. We MUST have a global perspective, reaching out to the unreached so that every ethnic group hears the life-giving message of Jesus.

Wow, the Lord has taken me far from Nehemiah this morning as I sit with Him.

Lord, give me Your heart on this matter so that I orient my life around Your task and goal that disciples be made of ALL nations. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.

 

Monday, September 11: Nehemiah 3- Lord God, this work I am about to attempt is for You..

The rebuilding of Jerusalem was truly a community effort. Everyone pitched in (except for the nobles of Tekoa who would not put their shoulder to the stone). Artisans, priests, families and clans worked together and took a section of the wall and gates as their repair section.  What an amazing undertaking.

As the chapter began I was grabbed by the fact that the high priest Eliashib and his fellow priests dedicated their work before they began. Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set its doors in place, building as far as the Tower of the Hundred, which they dedicated, and as far as the Tower of Hananel (1).

There is no indication that any other workers dedicated their work before beginning and yet this simple gesture leapt off the page at me. It spoke to me of faith and faithfulness. Eliashib and his fellow priests made a statement, ‘God, this work I am about to attempt is for You’.

My mind spins with ways this insight speaks to me…

·         Beginning my day with ‘dedication’… Lord, the things I will do today are dedicated to You.

·         At the beginning of a trip –a vacation... Lord, the things I will do and enjoy are a gift from You.

·         At the beginning of a work trip... Lord, the work I am able to accomplish on this trip is for You.

·         Mealtime… Lord God, this meal is a gift from You, use it to fuel my service of You.

Meetings, projects, and so on can be dedicated to the Lord as one begins. What a wonderful simple thought.

Thank You, Lord, for the simplicity of this thought. As I begin my day today, the work of my hands I dedicate to You. In Jesus’ name and for the sake of Your fame, Oh, my God. Amen.

 

Lord, today is 911. Simply writing that name causes a flood of memories. Memories of 9/11/2001 and thoughts of all the things that have changed in this world since that day. I pray for my country that we could find our moorings in integrity, honesty and caring for all. I pray that the words on Lady Liberty would seep onto our psyche again.

I pray for peace… peace within our borders and peace outside our borders. I pray that I might be a man of peace, fueled by You and living for You. The only true peace is found in You, Lord. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.

 

Saturday, September 9: Nehemiah 2- Fear is not an enemy of faith; inaction is .

In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” I was very much afraid (1-2).

I never noticed the timing before. Chapter 1 takes place in the month of Kislev in the 20th year. Chapter 2 happens in the month of Nissan in the 20th year. Almost 4 full months lapse between chapters 1 and 2, such was the trepidation Nehemiah felt about the situation and his ultimate request to the King.

Fear is not necessarily an enemy of faith; inaction is. Nehemiah labored for 4 months with the pain he felt for Jerusalem. He prayed and mourned and obviously planned. Eventually his heartbreak showed on his face and the king noticed. This leads to the moment described above.

Fear welled up in Nehemiah, but fear didn’t cripple him and that is the key.

When we do something new for God fear often rises in us; it certainly does in me. In the moment of final decision does fear or faith win? Faith won in Nehemiah and he answered the king and laid out his plan and God gave success. The same scenario works to this day.

When faith wins in that moment of decision we step out following the Lord’s leading and God brings the success!

The issue is not fear or faith. The issue is does fear inhibit faith or just precede faith?

I confess that I have experienced both fear inhibiting faith and fear preceding faith.  The Lord is using the example of Nehemiah to encourage me to choose the latter… fear preceding faith.

It is human and natural to feel fear at something new or different or big.  It is in those moments that I have to reach past my fear and grab hold of faith; believing God has called me to step out acting as I believe God would have me act.

Recognizing that fear often precedes faith is freeing….

Thank You, Lord, for this revelation of understanding. Fear does not mean I am bad or ill equipped or anything negative like that. Fear indicates I am human. In those moments of fear I need to reach down into the reservoir of faith and grab hold of what You put in me. Halleluiah, to You be the glory!

Thank You, Lord, for this realization. Now may I have the strength and courage to live it! Amen and amen.

 

Friday, September 8: Nehemiah 1- Disturbed by things that disturb God.

 

Knowing that the restoration of Jerusalem was underway, Nehemiah is shaken by reports from Jerusalem. He is so shaken he weeps much of the day when he hears the news and begins an immediate fast. Nehemiah acted as if there was a death in his family. They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven (3-4).

I don’t believe I have ever been as broken as Nehemiah as this chapter opens. The thought that rattled me was wondering if I have ever been broken by something that breaks the heart of God? It is not the external reaction I am wondering about but the internal pain.

Nehemiah was broken by the state of affairs his brothers and the city of his God were in. Again I wondered, have I ever been broken by the condition of my fellow Christian somewhere in the world or by the condition of the church. I am not sure I have.

Now is this because it is not my calling to fix or attend to something like this or is it selfishness and hardness of my heart? Ouch!

A final questions emerges.  Am I passionate enough for God and the things of God that I would be broken by something that breaks the heart of God?

As I sit this morning I see a passion for God in Nehemiah, a regular guy with a secular job. Nehemiah’s example invites me to let go the safe in order to see if God is leading me into some surprising faith adventure. As friend of mine often says, “Stay tuned...”

Oh, Lord, my God, break my heart with the things that break Yours. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen

 

Thursday, September 7: Ezra 10- Repentance of the heart.

It is one thing for the religious leader to be broken by sin of the people. It is another for the people to recognize their sin and be willing to repent. This chapter is the story of the people; they recognize their sin and are willing to repent and change. Halleluiah!

A significant aspect of the account that I recognized is that Ezra the leader did not force upon the people repentance. Other leaders saw in Ezra righteousness and were convicted of their unfaithfulness to the Lord. Their newfound faithfulness rippled out among the people until the people of God embraced their sinfulness and repented.

In fairness to the text, some pressure was exerted on the people by the leadership, but it wasn’t life threatening or unduly cohesive. Clearly God was at work. The priests presented the concern clearly and people responded.

Again the leaders were not heavy handed, but they were clear…

For life change to be real and true it must come from a heart convicted and willing to repent. Coercion leads to outward change but not the inward change that God desires.

Lord, I surrender to Your gaze. Examine me and point out my areas of needed change. I pray. In Jesus’ name. Amen

 

Wednesday, September 6: Ezra 9- Broken before God.

 

The stain of the people’s sin of intermarrying with the pagan people of the land hit Ezra hard. When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled (3). Appalled is a strong word!

He abased himself all day until the evening sacrifice and then he fell on his face before the Lord in prayer and confession.

I wondered, why am I not as deeply appalled by the sin of God’s people today? Why do I say little or nothing about the lack of faith in God’s church? The abortion rate and divorce rate is statistically the same for Christians as non-Christians. We are so much like the people of the world; we are virtually indistinguishable.  How can that be???

As I sit, I wonder how different am I.

I think it was Lloyd Ogilvie who first said, “If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you”?  I wonder would I be convicted.

Ezra’s jealousy for the Lord shames me…

Oh, God, forgive me, wretched sinner that I am. Through Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

 

Tuesday, September 5: Ezra 8- God of the big picture and God of the details.

As I sat back after reading this chapter, I pondered on the whole of the chapter. It is full of details. The Word of God named all people traveling with Ezra in this great wave of repatriation of Israel. Next came the search for Levites and the text names the families and the numbers of Levites who came. After that the chapter chronicles thoughts about safety during the journey and the parceling out of the offerings and articles of God to the families who will carry them to Jerusalem. The chapter concludes with everyone and everything making it to Jerusalem safely. It is all about details…

The Lord, I thought, cares for the details as well as the end results.

In life I hear the phrase, ‘The ends justify the means,’ but with the Lord that isn’t so. The means and the details are as important as the ends. Ezra had bragged on God that God would protect them, so it was important for him not to ask for armed guard for his travels. Neither could he buy mercenaries with the money given, so he prayed and then traveled. God came through.

A small detail about the trip, yet important enough to be recorded in God’s Word.

How we go about accomplishing the works of God is as important as the works themselves. God is honored in the details as well as the outcome.

This led me to the thought, how we live in the day to day is as important as the trajectory of our lives. God is not only interested in our doing good, but the manner of our doing as we do the good we know God would have us do…

Both the details of our doing and the end result matter to the Lord. How I live today and all of my todays, the character traits I exhibit throughout my days are important.

As a child of God and a follower of Jesus all of my life, the big picture and the details should honor my Lord.

May the words of my mouth, the thoughts of my mind and heart and the deeds of my hands be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and Redeemer. Amen.

 

Monday, September 4: Ezra 7- Ezra, quite a man of faith.

Today we finally meet Ezra, the man for whom the book is named. He is quite a man, one worthy of emulation. In verse 10 we read, For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.

Ezra had devoted himself to:

Study of the Law… he knew God’s Word. Ezra gave his life to understanding God’s Word. More than just reading it, he learned its ins and outs. He mastered its content and understood it.

Observance of the Law… More than understanding it he lived it. Some people know the word of God intellectually, they have a PhD, if you will, in the Word, but it does not affect their lives. Not Ezra, he studied the Word to live the Word. He OBSERVED the law.

Teaching the Law… Ezra has yet another layer, he teaches the law. He shows men and women how to understand and live the law. He reproduces faith in others, faith that will grow and last.

Additionally, not indicated in this verse, he is a priest of the Law.  Ezra is from the bloodline that administers the law and the rituals of the law in the temple. He offers the sacrifices of the priest.

This is quite a resume and one I can seek to emulate. I can pour myself into learning and studying the law. Like Ezra I can take what I know and put it into practice living God’s Word faithfully. I can also help people along the journey of faith… teaching and showing them by example how to live faithfully to the Lord.

God is reminding me I can be a mini modern day Ezra within my own sphere of influence… What a calling!

Oh, Lord, send Your Spirit that I might abound as an Ezra-like person for Your honor and glory, I pray. Amen.

 

Saturday, August26: Jude- The best defense.

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh (17-23).

Problems will come; false teachers and scoffers will try to dissuade us from the truth. Our best defense is to know the faith and be strong in it. Jude writes build yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love… Be merciful to those who doubt; save others…

Build yourselves up in the faith… work at it. Study to shew yourself approved (KJV) writes Paul in 2Timothy 2:15. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind is a similar thought from Romans 12:2. God’s Word reminds us over and over again to strengthen our ‘faith muscles’… read Scripture, meditate on Scripture and study Scripture.’

Pray, pray in the Spirit, speak with God, listen to God, follow the Lord’s lead, share your needs and listen for the Spirit’s response. Pray for strength to stand and wisdom to know truth from error. Don’t live your life on your own; live it in concert with the Spirit of the Lord.

Keep yourself of God’s love… stay connected with the Lord, especially when tempted to drift away. Remember God’s love and care and bask in it.

Reach out to others… don’t keep the faith to yourselves, use it to help others. Be merciful to those who doubt. Who hasn’t doubted?  Encourage those who doubt and wrestle with things of faith. Help them. Discuss with them in a gentle way.  Point them to God’s Word.

Save others. Share your faith through words and good deeds that others many see Jesus and be drawn to Him.

Jude packs plenty of practical faith living into these few words. God reminds me, “Now do it and in doing so, protect yourself from error.”

Hour by hour, Lord, show me how to live these practical words of faith and maturity. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen

 

Friday, August 25: Philemon- Friendship and relationships.

Paul prayed for Philemon, …that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ (6).

This verse spurred thinking about my friendships and relationships. Does hanging around me have a similar effect on others? Does the faith of others grow because they are somehow connected to me?

This is not an easy question to answer, partly because I do not know what is going on inside of other people. It is also hard to know because I do not see the other person throughout the day, in all manner of life situations.

However, on the other hand, some of what I just wrote is an excuse not to have to consider the opening questions that began today’s devotion. Does hanging around me have a similar effect?

I fear my “I cannot tell” is a cover up because I am concerned that the answer is really ‘no, not really’.

This is not good. I recall yesterday’s time in the Lord; be wise… make every opportunity… season conversation with grace. Maybe I am not living up to Paul’s injunction and my desires as best I can.

I believe I need to go into the ‘examination closet’ for some interior work…

How about you?  Does hanging around you help other people grow in Jesus?

Lord, it is too easy to close my devotional and get on with my day, in essence forgetting what we have been talking about this morning. I pray that will not be, but throughout today You will continue to speak with me about this and other areas of my life that need more maturity. Through Jesus, my Savior, I pray. Amen.

 

 

Thursday, August 24: Colossians 4- Make the most of every opportunity.

Always with a practical eye to kingdom living, Paul concludes with these words. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone (5-6).

How thoughtful and simple.

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders. How we act toward others says a great deal about who we are inside as people. Let’s be honest, what do you think of someone who is belligerent and unfriendly?  Have you ever stood in a shopping line or been stuck in an airline seat or been seated at a restaurant near someone who is caustic toward the server, attendant or check out person? It is uncomfortable and embarrassing, even when you do not know the offender. And if they are a Christian, any chance of sharing the love of Jesus is gone, caput!

Be wise… make the most of every opportunity Paul lives to be a witness. Being wise and kind and faithful is a first step toward faith living and faith sharing. His life, as has become apparent these last weeks, is all about living for Jesus and seeing the Gospel of Jesus spread throughout the world.

Paul’s example and teaching chides me to ‘amp up’ my living for Jesus. Making the most of every opportunity, seasoning my conversations with grace and living in such a manner that people wonder what makes me tic. That provides avenues for me to share my faith and love in Jesus.

Lord, conversation does not come easily for me. Help me to grow in relating easily with people so that I can shine for Jesus, be living wisely, looking for opportunities and speaking with grace. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Wednesday, August 23: Colossians 3- A new bucket list.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things (1-2).

Right out of the shoot this morning I began considering what it means to set our hearts (1) and our minds (2) on things above, where Christ is, seated.

Many people mention their bucket list, those things they want to do before they die. If my mind and heart is set on things above, namely Christ, then that should affect what I place on my bucket list. Right? It seems to me that our bucket list should be more than places I want to visit or novel experiences I want to undertake. Our bucket lists should include things for and about Christ and His mission that I want to accomplish

Well, honestly I have never thought about this. I do not have a bucket list in the first place. Maybe I should have one, if it is something that keeps me moving forward… moving forward in Christ that is.

So if my head and heart are set on Christ, what might that lead me to do?… hmmm

Fund Gospel advances on every inhabited continent?

Serving Christ and His church until my dying breath?

I am not a bucket list kind of person.  Continuing this will take some time. Ideas do not flood my thoughts.

How would setting your heart and mind on Christ shape your bucket list?

Lord, sit with me and help me examine my aspirations and through that lens help me see areas of my life that I still need to surrender to You. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Tuesday, August 22: Colossians 2- Christ and Christ Alone.

The words played in my mind like a song, “We will worship Christ and Christ alone…” That’s what Paul is saying in Colossians 2. Not human traditions (an apparent reference to Judaism and any other ‘works based’ approaches to God).  Not elemental forces (which today comes in the garb of New Age spirituality and other power from this world kind of Eastern or Native American spirituality). NO, for Christ-followers, it is Christ and Christ alone.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead (6-12).

Immediately the Lord began probing my life. Have I consciously or unconsciously adopted any add-ins to Christ and Christ alone?

Obvious ones like horoscopes, searching for the right Chi, filling my house with certain crystals, following the way of the Buddha, or checking in with a shaman, or tribal healer or…  or less obvious ways like seeking ‘portals’ where God is present or believing holy mountains or particular shrines are filled with God’s power.  These are ways elemental powers can creep into our lives.

Then there are human traditions, whether they be things like certain feasts, which must be followed or praying in certain directions and at mandated times or the veneration of other human beings. When these forms and practices become rules and laws then Christ has been moved off the center displaced by these human teachings and traditions. When this happens we have ventured into dangerous territory.

God brought me back to verse 8: See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

I am left to wrestle with this thought and see if I have fallen prey in any way to human traditions or elemental spiritual forces…

How about you?

Lord, it is so easy, especially unconsciously, to add in other things to Christ and Christ alone. Keep me safe. Keep me pure by keeping me close to You and Your world. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Monday, August 21: Colossians 1- Jesus did it all.

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross (15-20).

What a description of Jesus. Oh, my, glorious staggering and supreme. Jesus, Creator of all things, holds all things together. Head of the church, firstborn from among the dead. Fully God and reconciler of all things through the cross. I scan back through this description and notice all uses of the word ‘all’ and one ‘everything’… It is clear Jesus is Supreme…

Following this description, Paul turns immediately to us. We are in trouble alienated from God, but Jesus who is Supreme over everything comes to our aid…

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant (21-23).

While Jesus is Supreme over us, He suffered and died for us. His physical death on the cross paid our reconciliation fee so that we can be holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. What more we could hope for or desire? Jesus has done it all.

We have but one task, to continue in our faith… to hold on and to stay true to Jesus. After all Jesus did for me, how could I not do that for Him?

Jesus, I put my stake in the ground… I stand with You. You are sovereign and I declare my full allegiance to You and You alone. Together with the Father and the Spirit, I will worship You, divine Trinity, as the one true God. Alleluia. Amen.

 

Saturday, August19: Philippians 4- The importance of getting along.

       How important is getting along in the church and being of one mind (which we learned from chapter 2 means being of one mind with Jesus)? It must be very important because Paul addresses two women, pleading for them to get along and for others to help them.

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life (2-3).

There is no doubt that these are women of faith. Their names are written in the book of life and they have contended at Paul’s side. In other words they are visible, faithful coworkers who are associated with Paul and his work.

Their association with Paul gives him some leverage and possibly even some responsibility to see if he can repair whatever the damage may be. This is precisely what Paul does.

First he calls on the two women to seek repair by following the principle he laid out in Chapter 2 … to be of one mind that is the mind of Christ.

Next he calls out to his ‘true companion’, whoever that might be, to help the women and for this person to seek the additional help of Clement and others if needed.

Paul is pulling out all the stops. Unity and these two women, repairing whatever damage lies between them, is that important!

Broken relationships, particularly those within the church, need attention…

Do you have any broken relationships that need repair?

Are you aware of any broken relationships in your fellowship? Now do you have an association, which might allow you to help effect repair? If you don’t have an association you can always pray for them. Unity is that important.

Lord, I pray for Your church. That we, the people of Your church, would seek to be of one mind –the mind of Christ. That we would repair damage and live as one people blessed by our God and beacons of light for You in our dark and hurting world. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Friday, August 18: Philippians 3- To know Christ.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead (7-11).

The context makes it clear that Paul is warning Philippians about falling back into the legalism of Judaism, and following the law as their source of salvation. Salvation is by faith not by law; attaining Christ, not living up to some human made law is the Gospel way. Paul’s deepest desire is to know Christ…

This strikes a chord in me… to know Christ. Knowing Christ personally and intimately is the foundation of faith. Paul says a similar thing in Romans 12:2, Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. The transforming of our minds –what we know and think about and how we see and process the world around us is what transforms us. So it is that Paul seeks to know Christ… an example for all of us.

Knowing Christ leads to living and doing for Christ! This is the faithful ‘order’.  To reverse these… to put the doing before knowing is a wide open door to legalism, which Paul warns against in Colossians and Galatians.

So back to me and my life… am I putting my heart and soul into knowing Jesus Christ?  Ingesting His Word and distinguishing His heartbeat, so that I can be listening for His voice and follow His lead?

Oh, Father, send Your Spirit that I might know Your Son, I pray through His name. Amen.

 

Thursday, August 17: Philippians 2- Of one mind.

       Sometimes when I read, I like to take out the extra modifiers and clauses that are part of the text so I can consider the heart of the sentence or paragraph. When I do this with the opening paragraph of today’s reading here is what I come up with.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, … then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. … In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus… (1-2, 5)

Paul is pleading with the church to be of one mind, in other words, to have the same mindset. But interestingly Paul is not instructing them to have his mindset. It is not that they must agree and think like Paul. Instead all the church including Paul should seek to have Christ’s mindset. Jesus is our Unifier and Jesus alone is our Lord. We should strive to be like Him.

And what was true for the Philippians remains true for me and all believers today.

Yes, we should be of one mind, but it is the mind of Christ, not the mind or anyone else. Following this plea Paul gives a vivid picture of the mindset of Jesus…

[Jesus] being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! (6-8).

Jesus willingly and sacrificially gave up everything so that we might be saved.

That is the mindset I am (we are) to have… to willingly and sacrificially give up anything and everything for others to know and grow in Christ.

Oh, God, I fall so short of this…. Forgive me. Restore me. Empower me to be like Jesus. Amen

 

Wednesday, August 16: Philippians 1- Pondering suffering for the Lord.

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have (27-30).

Paul seems to be saying to the Philippians that they are honored by Christ… and the honor is that they suffer for Him.

The concept of suffering for Jesus, as an honor, is so far from my thinking and experience, I am not even sure how to process this thought as I sit.

Yes, I spent 3 weeks in Nigeria this summer, but it was hardly suffering. Oh, there were lack of conveniences that I am used to –safe drinking water, A/C, healthy well balanced meals and other 1st world issues. When I got sick friends got me medicine within 24 hours and I was better in 48 hours, hardly suffering. And most of my summer has been a joy, eating produce from my wife’s vegetable garden, enjoying the beauty of our yard, having friends over to enjoy an evening swim in our pool, enjoying a 3-generation family trip in Europe. Honestly, I don’t know if I even understand ‘suffering for the Lord.’ In so many ways my life is so privileged.

As a pastor I can’t recall the last time I spoke on ‘suffering for Jesus.’ And that is probably because I haven’t.

I am struggling to know what to do with this idea of suffering for Jesus. I know we are not to go and look for suffering, as if it is a human work to earn God’s delight. The self-flagellation of ascetics in the past, I believe, is a distortion of the Gospel and a biblical understanding of suffering for Jesus.

My culture and country tolerates the Christian faith, so I am not hampered in any way from practicing my faith at home. Like I said, I am not sure I understand ‘suffering for the Lord.’

So here I sit this morning, wondering what to do with God’s Words on suffering… no answers; many questions.

Father, even as I struggle to understand this idea about suffering for Jesus, I know that Your presence is always a safe place. A place to be myself with all my failings… Your love, You say, covers a multitude of sins. I am so grateful for this. Lord, whisper those things I need to know about suffering. I will trust You and live for You, empowered by Your Spirit, as well as I can. If suffering comes my way, I pray for strength to honor You in the way I suffer. And if suffering is not in Your divine plan for my life, then I pray for strength to honor You in my life of blessing. Either way and every way I seek to honor You, my Lord and my God –Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Tuesday, August 15: Ephesians 6- Will you pray for me.

Paul the great apostle, church planter, pioneer and missionary asked the church of Ephesus to pray for him. Paul asked them to pray, not for his health, or his wellbeing but asked them to pray that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should (19-20). That’s a man of faith, that’s a disciple-making disciple.

I am humbled by Paul’s dedication to God’s cause, humbled yet strengthened.

As I sit and read and ponder, Paul lifts my aspirations… to be a man of faith and a disciple-making disciple.

Will you pray for me that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Oh, God, give me an army of intercessors who will pray for me like the Ephesians prayed for Paul. Through Christ and for the sake of Gospel advance in this world, I pray. Amen.

 

 

Monday, August 14: Ephesians 5- Find out what pleases the Lord.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.… and find out what pleases the Lord.… Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is (1-2, 10, 17).

This grouping of verses caught my attention. Together they call me to press into God’s way and to live into God’s example. 

I was particularly taken with verse 10; find out what pleases the Lord. As I pondered that thought it hit me, it is not always obvious to me what pleases the Lord. My corrupted human heart does not automatically lead me to God’s way. I must constantly be measuring my natural inclinations against God’s Word to see where I am in line and where I am out of line with the Lord and His way of love.

Diligence, exploration and even some trial and error are three descriptors that come to mind as I ponder the idea of finding out what pleases the Lord.

Diligence… I must work at this. Like a profession in any field, I must hone and develop habits. I need to spend the time to master the attitudes, to match my heart beat with the heartbeat of God.

Exploration… what pleases God will not come naturally to me. So I must explore new ways of living. God’s Word is full of new ways. The end of this chapter highlights a new way of marriage so different than the human way. I must explore God’s new ways.

Trial and error… this will mean I have to try new ways of living. I don’t expect that my initial forays into God’s new ways of living will always be correct or best. And as life changes and I enter new seasons, I will continually need to adapt and grow. Thinking about the example of marriage, loving my wife as Christ loved the church requires different actions and attitudes at different times. First married, with young children, with teen children, both working, empty nest, each season has its own actions that please the Lord.

I’m back to the words find out what pleases the Lord. What does that mean for me today? How should I act today in order to please the Lord?

This is a question I need to learn to ask myself daily, maybe even hourly….

Lord, I am yours, You bought me with the price of Jesus’ blood. I need the work of the Holy Spirit in me to live up to Your example of love and to find out what pleases You. Please grace me with Your Spirit that I might please You and live for You. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

Saturday, August12: Ephesians 4- Living a life worthy of your calling.

This chapter begins Paul’s ‘so what.’ What affect should the Christian faith have on a person’s life? The Christian faith should affect the entirety of one’s life; how we speak to others, how we treat others, what we believe and how we treat people inside and outside the faith.

No part of a person’s life is unaffected by faith in Jesus… or at least that is the way it is supposed to be. I love the instructions regarding stealing. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need (28). Not only are they supposed to STOP stealing, but they are to find work, not simply to support themselves and their family, but so that they can help people in need.

WOW… the Christian faith pushes a person far beyond being good and doing the right thing. Faith in Jesus gives us new eyes to see life differently and a new heart that longs to make the world a better place.

As I typed that last line, it was as if God began asking me, “How are you doing, Bill, with making your world a better place? Are you taking care of those in need? Are you being kind to others?” The questions kept coming. God is asking me how faith in Jesus is changing my life.

How is faith in Jesus changing your life?

Think about it… there is plenty of fodder in this chapter to use as a plumb line for your life.

God, thank You… thank You that faith is practical. Problem is God, I still need so much help living into the depth and reality of faith in Jesus. Help me please, I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Friday, August 11: Ephesians 3- Confidence through Jesus Christ the Lord.

The wonder, power and amazing gift of Jesus Christ burrowed into my soul as I read and then contemplated verse 12. In him [Christ Jesus our Lord] and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

Through faith in Jesus I can approach God who is sovereign over all things freely and with confidence… confidence that God will receive me.

Confidence that God looks forward to my entering His presence…

Confidence that God will listen to my pleas, cries, conversation, joys…

Confidence that God will always have time for me…

Confidence that God will receive me as He receives Jesus His son…

Confidence that God will forgive any of my sins…

My confidence is not in myself, rather it is in Jesus, my Savior and Lord. 

This statement by Paul reminds me of what the writer to the Hebrews writes in verse 4:16: Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

We have confidence that we will receive mercy and grace when we enter God’s presence.

What a gift this is… access to God and confidence that when we enter His presence we will receive mercy and grace… Wow, what a gift and it all comes by faith in Jesus.

Today I marvel at God’s goodness found in Jesus, my Savior! What a great morning with the Lord!!!

Oh, God, thank you for the blessings that are ours in Christ Jesus, our Lord… You are so good, Lord, so good!!  I bless You and thank You. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.

 

Thursday, August 10: Ephesians 2- Jesus Christ is the answer.

His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit (15-18).

The new people of God… In Jesus Christ God reconciled people who were at enmity with God and brought peace into the previously fractured relationship. Jesus accomplished this through the cross. The cross settled the score. It paid the price. It ransomed our pardon. It brings any person –Jew or Gentile –into to right relationship with God.

All who are in Christ are new creations, the old is gone and the new has come. In Christ we are God’s family and we can call God our Father, Abba.

Faith in Jesus is the difference and the answer to our broken relationship with God. The result of faith in Jesus is that we now have peace with God… Alleluia.

Jesus, thank You for bridging the gap and providing the way back into relationship with the God. Praise be to You, Lord and Savior Jesus. Praise be to the Father and the Spirit as well. Amen and amen.

 

Wednesday, August 9: Ephesians 1- Overwhelmed by God's blessings.

Reading in the New Testament provides a breath of fresh air for me. The story of the kings was growing tedious with the judgments and problems coming on Judah toward the end.

Ephesians opens with outstanding truths…

Some of my friends complain that my sentences are often run-on sentences.  That may be fair and true but Paul was a master of the complex sentence. The NIV and other translations make him more easily readable.

Did you know that verses 3 to 14 is one sentence. I have placed the NIV translation below. I didn’t change the NIV’s punctuation. Be that as it may,  I invite you to read this incredible statement of Paul, understanding it as one continuous sentence…

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory (3-14).

I am breathless reading this… we were chosen before creation to be adopted as sons, heirs of the promise, to receive every spiritual blessing. Oh ,my, and this is just the start of Paul’s amazing word.

I went back and read it again…I cannot possibly absorb all of what he and the Lord are saying in these words. We are marked and sealed by God the Spirit. Our redemption is guaranteed by the Spirit. I soak some more, overwhelmed by God’s blessings.

Lord, Your Word blesses me. I feel so honored and loved. I am amazed by Your grace and love. I bless You and pray to You in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Tuesday, August 8: 2Kings 25- Disobedience reaps its unfortunate reward..

The end comes. I really don’t know what to think or write. The destruction of the Temple, deportation of the people and the fall of Judah is a sad day in the story of God’s people. Disobedience reaps its unfortunate reward.

I don’t have any deep inspiration… sad days are sad days. Disobedience gets tiring to process. God’s judgment is a real deal and it will not be ‘fun’ when the Lord unleashes His judgment on those who have rejected Him.

Sadness wells over me as I think about the many people who have not put their trust in Jesus. Their judgment will be even worse than what Israel faced when God sent them to Babylon.

Oh, God, I offer myself to You to be used to help people come to know You. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.

 

Monday, August 7: 2Kings 24- A warning to everyone.

Sad times. Sad words… It was because of the LORD’s anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah, and in the end he thrust them from his presence (20).

When I was a child there was a TV show called ‘Lost in Space.’ The young boy of the family had a robot who used a phrase whenever he knew the son to be in trouble. The robot’s phrase was something like this, “Warning, Will Robinson. Warning...”

This chapter and particularly verse 20 cries, “Warning, fill in your name. Warning.” God’s anger had grown and grown. For decades, even centuries Judah continued to turn her back on the Lord. He called and called to them through the prophets but they refused to answer. Finally the Lord said “Enough. My judgment will come.”

Few words are more frightening that the last ones of that verse, he thrust them from his presence. It was the presence of God that protected them and defined them. Years ago Moses refused to go into the Promised Land if God withheld His presence (check out Exodus 33:12-15). Such was the power and importance of God’s presence. And now that presence was gone!

This stands as a warning to us all. There comes a day, we know not when, when God will say, ‘enough’ and judge each of us. On that day we will either be His or He will stop calling and thrust us from His presence… forever.

God is impressing upon me the importance of following Him, of remaining faithful to Him. I want to follow the Lord out of love and devotion… but a little fear –fear of being thrust from His presence –is some additional motivation to stay true to the Lord.

What do you think?

Oh, God, I would not want to live one day without Your presence. I don't know what is around the future bends in the road of life. But I know that I can and will face anything that comes if You are by my side. I need You, Lord, and I love you, Lord. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Saturday, August 5: 2Kings 23- To have the heart of Josiah.

Even though all the good Josiah did as king was undone by his son, Jehoahaz, I choose to ponder and meditate on the life and reforms of Josiah, King of Judah.

Josiah was an amazing king. His faithfulness is unparalleled in the history of Judah and Israel for that matter. Once the Book of the Law was found he was scrupulous in following it. What the text says of the Passover he celebrated likely could be said of his entire reform and reign. Neither in the days of the judges who led Israel nor in the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah had any such Passover been observed (22). As near as I can tell he cleaned up everything, reaching all the way back to the faithless practices that Solomon introduced. Josiah even went beyond the order of Judah to clean up Bethel and Samaria in Israel.

Compelled by faith in the Lord, he took on every evil practice in Israel and brought them into submission to the Lord.

Lord Jesus, Father, Holy Spirit, I ask for the faith and fortitude of Josiah to do what is right in Your eyes, no matter the cost. Period. Amen.

 

Friday, August 4: 2Kings 22- The blessing of God's word.

How far Judah has fallen that the Book of the Law had to be found. That means it was lost and the inference of the text is that it has been a long time since anyone, much less the king and priest, had read the Book of the Law.

No wonder Judah and Israel fell so far from the Lord; they were no longer guided by God’s Word. Tradition and the memory of the priests, yes, they had these. However, how easy it is to slip from the actual meaning and teaching of the Word to what I recall the Word says.

Even with the Bible at hand I slip and fall regularly. If I didn’t have the guidance of God’s Word, oh my, would I be in trouble. Such was the case for Judah and the sinfulness of their practices show that the Word was missing.

It is all too easy to own a Bible but let it collect dust on a shelf rather than read it and study it so that it’s life giving truths affect our lives.

If you are reading this blog and the Bible chapter it is built upon, then you are taking a big step toward keeping the Word of God in your life…

Keep reading, keep listening to God’s Word and keep altering your life to conform to its teaching. This is what God is saying to me today…

How about you? What is God saying to you through this chapter of the Bible?

Lord, Thank You for Your Word, it truly is a light to my path and a lamp for my feet. Bless You, Lord, for providing Your written Word. I pray this with thanksgiving, in Jesus’ name. Amen