Month: September 2019

Weak Hands and Feeble Knees

pic of horse with mountains in the background

Just in case you didn’t get the memo, growing old may be the hardest thing you’ll ever do. I used to hold the hymn book for my wife, but no longer. I always knelt for morning prayer, but that’s no longer the norm. Aging brings on weak hands and feeble knees. Let me hasten to add that I have no complaints, and I am thankful for this season of my life.

100 Miles Away

Chapter 35 of Isaiah contains amazingly clear statements about the work of Jesus. There’s also compression of time in this chapter. Often what God’s prophets see is what is similar to what we see when we see the Rocky Mountains. They look close, yet they are 100 miles away. Still, we find great comfort in the passage of Scripture found in Isaiah 35:3-4. 

Isaiah 35:3-4 (ESV)

Strengthen the weak hands,
    and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
    “Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
    will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
    He will come and save you.”

Claim These Words

These words of the prophet may correctly be connected with Hezekiah’s speech in 2 Chronicles 32:7, and may also telescope to the earthly ministry of Jesus. Nevertheless, these words of God go beyond those two historical events; these words apply to all reconciled through the blood of Christ to God. You can claim these, quote these back to God, take refuge in their promise, and be at peace for surely Almighty God hears you.

Photo credit: Rennett Stowe on VisualHunt.com / CC BY

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Semicolon

semicolon

The first printed semicolon was the work of the Italian printer in Venice named Aldus Manutius the Elder in 1494. Manutius established the practice of using the semicolon to separate words of opposed meaning and to allow a rapid change in direction in connecting interdependent statements. 

A famous quote by Lynne Truss, (Eats, Shoots, and Leaves) states, “Just as there are writers who worship the semicolon, there are other high stylists who dismiss it – who label it, if you please, middle-class.” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semicolon

Who knew a semicolon had such a life!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your work in life was limited to things like arguing about the value of semicolons? Oh, I knew there was an easier employment path than the one I chose! Well, my negligent and reckless career decision is now a speck in my life’s rearview mirror.

Now, the modern use of semicolons is to join two independent clauses without using a conjunction like and. As an example from Grammarly.com: We can go to the museum to do some research; Mondays are pretty quiet there.

So how does a semicolon provide value to us in our walk with Jesus? “This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” – Romans 13:6-7 NIV

Christianity requires our full attention.

There’s no doubt that our walk as Christians requires our full attention. I find myself quickly sucked into Facebook memes that people send me. Some are pure entertainment, while others are funny but run contrary to the will of God.

Paying taxes and revenue are generally not too challenging for us, it’s those last two semicolon commands that trip us up.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mattimattila/

Show respect. Show honor. These two are not limited to when we are in the presence of a person. No, we need to do these two even when no one is around – that’s part of our character. It can be difficult when we read a meme or watch a video or see a caricature that is truly funny but is disrespectful or dishonors a person or people or a country or whatever.

We will be giving an account.

Romans 14:10-12 (ESV):

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
    and every tongue shall confess to God.”
So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Enjoy your reading and online activities but don’t let your guard down. Jesus is watching (really).

Feature Photo from Wikipedia

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Time Capsule

Picture of a two women, house, car from 1960

During the early 1960s I experienced a surprising burst of creativity and learning. Among other things, that’s when I learned programming, built a solar cell from scratch, built a rider attachment for self-propelled push lawn mowers, and attempted to build an ion engine (really). Oh, also, that’s when I tried out to play little league baseball and failed miserably.

Anyway, Dad, in his off hours, was a remodeler of our homes. We moved often and with each home Mom and Dad remodeled it to make the home their own and to make a profit when they sold it.

Two Small Steps for Mankind.

One small project Dad did during the early 1960s was to redo the steps from our house to our attached garage. Part of this remodeling included a small platform with two steps. That gave me the idea to make a time capsule. 

None of us thought “our time” would be all that interesting but I wanted to make the capsule and put it inside the platform. Mom said okay so I gathered a few things, put them in a box, and put the box in the platform.

Dad sealed up the platform and steps and that was the end of it. I’ve often wondered if anyone found it, and if anyone appreciated the stuff. 

Because of my time capsule I’ve always been drawn to stories about them. In fact, if you have the chance, make one. Even if you never learn of its discovery you will still have that memory to cherish.

The Most Amazing Time Capsule, Ever!

Without a doubt, the most well known and intriguing time capsule in all of human history is the Ark of the Covenant. Hebrews 9:4 tells us that the Ark contained “the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant.” That’s not a lot, but God chose these as memorials for the Israelites. 

The golden pot that held manna told the nation of Israel that God provides for His people even in the most desolate of places and dangerous of times. Aaron’s rod both attested to the priestly authority of Aaron and his lineage and testified against Israel that they should not challenge his priests’ authority. The tablets of the covenant were a reminder from God to His chosen nation of the Law which they had agreed to and thus to which they were bound.

The Ark contains messages from God to His chosen people and, for a time, it served its purpose, but it is lost to humanity. It is fitting that the Ark can’t be found for all that the Ark and its contents are complete in the person of Jesus Christ. “God with us” is our hope, our redeemer, and our mediator between God and people. The Ark of the Covenant’s purpose has been satisfied by Jesus.

However, we do learn in Revelation 11:19 (KJV) that the Apostle John saw God’s temple in heaven open, “and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple.” So that should answer all the questions about “where’s the ark?”

Since God considers time capsules worthwhile, I think He grins a bit when we make them. By the way, there may be a few other time capsules sprinkled throughout God’s Word. I will leave those for you to find! 🙂

Photo credit: twm1340 on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-SA

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God’s Beloved

Dust on a man's handds

First published on August 24, 2019 (I’m sick today)

We obey as a result of being God’s beloved

I came across an article I found interesting. The article is titled, “4 Ways Your Bible Points to Jesus.” In the article I read there wa a quote that gave me pause; I knew I needed to ponder the words. Here’s the quote: We obey as a result of being God’s beloved, not to cause God to love us. His grace toward us precedes, enables, and motivates our efforts toward holiness.Bryan Chapell

How amazing and how consistent Mr. Chapell’s words are with God’s message to us throughout the Bible. God always initiates, always provides, always loves. We do not obey God to cause Him to love us. We obey because He already has loved us.

Then there is God’s grace. The simple definition of grace is receiving what you did not earn. God’s grace equips us, His beloved, to attain the holiness to which He calls us (1 Peter 1:16). God’s tool house is full of every imaginable tool that we might need for us to move from where we are to being holy. He made them for us before we existed, and they exist for our asking, provided we use them.

God Acts Before The Facts

God has done all these things while we were still sinners. This fundamental characteristic of God to act before there is evidence of success is found throughout the Bible, and not only regarding humanity’s salvation. We find assurance of God’s compassion in our walk with Jesus in Psalms 103:13-14:

13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.

This is such an encouraging passage of Scripture. God knows how we were formed. He was there. He did the work. He truly knows you and me

Photo by Austin Ban on Unsplash

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Don’t we love a good mystery?

Child Detective

Don’t we all love a good mystery? When I scroll through Netflix, it is chocked full of them. The TV or movie shows may be categorized as SciFi or Drama or Action, but the stories are all mysteries with a thin veneer of Nexflix’s category layered over it.

In the Bible there are two very different kinds of mysteries, and it has nothing to do with their veneer. 

The mystery is not known until it’s known

The most common kind of mystery in God’s Word is the one where, in times past, there were hints and statements in the Scriptures that couldn’t be fully understood until God unveiled that truth. From that point forward, the fact is so undeniable it’s difficult to imagine anyone having been stymied with those passages of God’s Word.

For example, the truth that God always meant to call the Gentiles. People didn’t understand this until Jesus came and preached His Gospel. Before Christ’s earthly ministry, it was “a mystery – a concealed truth” – but once revealed, there was nothing hidden in it. This fact is confirmed in Colossians 1:26 (NKJV), “the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints.

It’s not known now and perhaps ever

The other kind of mystery that is recorded in the Scriptures is the kind of mystery that God reveals, but not entirely, not yet and perhaps never. 1 Corinthians 13:2 (NKJV) is an excellent example of this:

And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

How blessed we are to be living during a time when, through the victory of Jesus, so many of God’s mysteries have been made known. Sure, some remain veiled, but I think we have enough on our plates. We’re not living in a TV show. We don’t need to be trying to guess what God hasn’t revealed.

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A Cluttered Mind

A cluttered room full of books

My wife and I taught each of our kids how to clean up their rooms. So what, you may be thinking. Well, for some reason, each of our kids reached a breaking point when they were overwhelmed by the mess in their room.

We would tell one of our kids to go clean their room. About 30 minutes later one of us would go into the bedroom and there our cherub would be, laying in their pile of stuff crying. The mess was so overwhelming that they had no clue where to begin.

Unfortunately, my wife and I have different approaches to room cleaning. They both work and kids easily understand both. I’ll give you my version since it’s the right one. 😉

Clutter, Clutter, Everywhere

I’d give our child time to compose himself or herself. I reassure our child, and then I’d have him/her gather everything that was part of the mess and throw it into the middle of their room. When the bed was cleared, all four walls accessible, and the closet door could be opened then I would sit in the middle of the mess. My munchkin was the goffer.

First, the trash went into a large garbage bag and was taken to our trash container. Next, we’d do the clothes and shoes. And that’s how it went. Category by category, we “filed” the stuff away until my child had a tidy, clean room. We both felt good once everything was where it belonged.

I learned about a cluttered mind from a wonderful pastor of our church when we lived on the west coast. He helped me understand the value of uncluttering my mind before I prayed. To this day I still try to do this, and every time I think of Pastor Dwayne. 

Sporadic Thoughts Shoot Thru Your Mind

A cluttered mind can be so wholly distracting that it becomes nearly impossible to pray. With a cluttered mind, as soon as you become quiet, then all these sporadic thoughts begin shooting through your brain. I don’t need to enumerate them, but you know. When you do finally reach the place where you can concentrate on prayer, you start thinking about praying instead of praying. 

When you start to pray, remind yourself that worry is worthless. Take time to honor the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob; the ancient of days. Of course, the best thing is not to let your mind become cluttered. That’s where Isaiah 26:3-4 comes in.

Isaiah 26:3-4 (ESV)

You keep him in perfect peace
    whose mind is stayed on you,
    because he trusts in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
    for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.

The phrase “whose mind is stayed on you” is a key to an uncluttered mind. The Hebrew for “stayed” is simply “supported” (סמוּך sâmûk) – shored up, braced, carried. 

Shored up, Braced, and Carried by our God

If we keep our minds shored up, braced, and carried by our God, then we will have less of a mess to clean up during our prayer time. Trust Jesus. Trust the work He has done for you. Go to the Father in the name of Jesus with the guidance and anointing of the Holy Spirit, and pray!

Photo by Darwin Vegher on Unsplash

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Give me the boot!

Person on edge of cliff dangling their boots

“Don’t look down!”, the actor says with quiet assurance. Well, within my limited experience, that is what someone says to a person precariously positioned on the edge of a precipice. 

Once, as a young man, when I was climbing a cliff with a couple of friends, my footing gave way, and I started uncontrollably sliding towards a precipice that had a vertical drop of at least 100 feet. At first, I wasn’t at all concerned. I was young and stupid. Oh, and I was always sufficiently agile to avoid any significant damage to my body.

A Boot Came Into View

However, as I failed time and again to secure a handhold, I became concerned. I slowed my tumble significantly, but still, I continued to fall. All of a sudden, a boot came into view. One of my friends had followed after me. He had secured a firm handhold and now dangled his leg down for me to grab. It worked. And yes, he exclaimed, “Don’t look down!”

Indeed, my friend snatched me from almost certain death. Likewise, as Christians, we are reminded to snatch the lost: “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.” (Jude 1:22-23 NIV)

How quickly our opportunities evaporate if we aren’t attentive to the Holy Spirit in our lives. If my friend hadn’t acted immediately, I probably wouldn’t be writing this devotional. Likewise, we must hear, assess, and respond in a heartbeat. How wonderful Jesus is to trust us in His work.

Photo by Andrew Ly on Unsplash

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God Cares

Sparrows

Sundays seem to be busy days. Locating the shoes you only wear on Sundays, making sure you’re smartphone is charged, and finding your church Bible all see to be allotted for the last five minutes before heading to church. (Am I the only one that has a separate study Bible from my church Bible? My church Bible is also a substitute for a filing cabinet.) Anyway, Sunday mornings can be quite hectic, especially while you’re raising a family.

If you can, take a moment and rejoice in our Lord with me, from Psalms 36:6-7

Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

Our God Cares

I like what the Pulpit Commentary says about verse six: “The providential care of God for his creatures is another of his leading characteristics, and one especially deserving man’s attention and gratitude. It is a form of his loving-kindness.” And we find these words from Jesus in Luke 12:6: Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 

Our God cares. He cares about the really big things like the condition of this world which He crafted. And God cares about small things; He cares for all the creatures He created which includes my cat, Max. God is beyond our ability to comprehend but He is not beyond our reach. He is never more than a prayer away.

Photo by Adam Muise on Unsplash

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Drifting Away

Neon sign that says "Drift In"

God crossed my path with a man; I’ll call him John*, that was going to commit suicide. His wife was in the hospital dying, he had several young kids, no money, and no job. He had lost all hope. 

He came into the Christian outreach where I helped out and wanted prayer before he ended his life. Everyone in the office gathered around him, and we prayed. God moved upon him. The presence of God was palpable. John’s heart was changed. He didn’t kill himself. He went back to his kids. Later, when we checked on him, his life had turned around, and he saw hope. 

Fresh Start

God deeply desires a fresh start for anyone that has drifted away from Him. Jesus even chases after those that wander. “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost?” – Matthew 18:12 (ESV emphasis added)

Jesus gives so many opportunities to those that wander. He calls for the apostate (backslider) to repent and come back. The Holy Spirit provides the wanderer with an awareness of their sin and the immediacy of deliverance. 

Drifting Away

Drifting away from Jesus has always been a temptation. We even find this problem addressed in Hebrews 2:1-4 (ESV) Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Our question to anyone that has drifted away from the truth of God’s Word should be this: will you neglect so great a salvation? For us, we must never forget that fervent prayer (James 5:16) within God’s will is unstoppable.

Photo credit: a nameless yeast on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

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Because God is Able

Young People Praying for a man

I still have a LinkedIn account. I enjoy it because it enables me to stay in communication with so many fine people with whom I’ve had the privilege to work. Of course some, like me, no longer work but we still try to stay in the loop with the careers in which we invested so much.

To help busy professionals, LinkedIn helps us (wink) write our quick thank-yous, congratulations, and so forth by guessing what we’d like to say and filling it in for us. I don’t remember the event but yesterday LinkedIn filled in for me, “Sending you good thoughts.” What does that even mean? That’s like saying, “I’ll keep you in my thoughts.”

Content-Free Messages

Sending them or keeping them, good thoughts are but a few of the terms I call “content free” messages. In our society content-free messaging is a necessity. We can no longer risk saying something meaningful for it will certainly be misinterpreted, misrepresented, or miserably received. Being in management I heard many presentations that were entirely content free. Those are valuable skills. 😉

Thankfully, I can talk with my Father without fear of a misunderstanding or a fear of reprisal. Yes, it’s true that”…the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:6 ESV) However, these are signs of His love and care.

The thing that’s rolling around in my head is this: Isn’t it amazing what a prayer can do? As a Christian my new life began with a sinner’s prayer. From that prayer came a miracle which caused me to be reborn. And each day, as I pray, my trust in the God who answers prayer includes trust in the supernatural work of God for He has said:

“so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” – 
 (Isaiah 55:11 ESV)

Prayer changes things because God is able

George Müller

There was a man named George Müller. He lived in England during the 1800’s and is remembered for living completely by faith in the one true God. During his life he cared for 10,024 orphans and built 117 schools, all accomplished by God, alone. 

Müller’s successes are well known. What isn’t so well known is that he prayed for the salvation of his life-long best friend but his friend never turned to Jesus. However, on the day Müller died his friend received Christ Jesus, not because of Müller’s death for the friend was unaware of Müller’s passing. It was just God answering prayers in miraculous ways.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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