You Need a Log

a small pond surrounded by trees

In the wilderness of Shur, the Israelites had no water. At Marah, they had water, but it was bitter (poisonous); so that they could not drink it. 

We find this account in Exodus 15:23-25 (ESV): When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” And he cried to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

God Leads us to Bitter Waters

There’s a great lesson (probably several) in this brief passage of Scripture. God often leads us to “bitter water,” not to be cruel but to use us for change.

Moses and all of Israel arrived where God led them, but what they found was unsuitable for them or anyone. Immediately all of the Debbie Downers began complaining. Wow, if you’ve ever been in a leadership role of any kind, you know how “helpful” whining and complaining is to solving problems!

We’re There for a Reason

Nevertheless, God put His people there for a reason. And He will do the same for each of us. Why? Because God chooses to use His children to affect change; to transform bitter waters into sweet waters. We are well equipped for these assignments because the Holy Spirit lives within us, and He intends to use us to point people to Jesus.

No, we don’t walk around with blessed logs that we’re to through into bitter situations (there’s a lawsuit). What God does is show us the tool, the instrument of change, the “log” that He has prepared to transform situations, problems, people that are poisonous into something wholesome, healthy, and refreshing.

Don’t Panic

Don’t panic, don’t join the complainers but pray, seek God’s will, ask for the Holy Spirit to show you the “log” that is needed and then act in faith and watch God work. When once you’ve experienced this, you will desire God to lead you to the next crises; well, maybe not, but you’ll sure be ready!

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The Testaments

As you may know, redemption is not a New Testament idea. Instead, what Jesus accomplished through His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension was the fulfillment of promises made thousands of years before His birth. If you will, take a moment and read this passage from Isaiah written about seven-hundred and forty years before Jesus was born.

The Redeemed Shall Walk There

Isaiah 35:10 (ESV emphasis added)

10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
and come to Zion with singing;

everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Doesn’t this resonate with the same truths proclaimed in the New Testament? Sometimes I fear we have built too high of a wall between the Old and New Testaments. 

Old Testament Scriptures

When Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV), by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” The Scripture to which Paul referred was the Old Testament, for the New Testament had not yet been written. In fact, 2 Timothy is thought to have been written around 67 AD (https://tinyurl.com/vo2kctx). Well before many other books in the New Testiment.

Get a Bible Reading Plan

If you get some extra time off from work during the holidays, make or download a Bible reading plan for next year. Be read for January 1, 2020. I believe all Christians everywhere will need an extra measure of grace next year.

Benediction

I pray: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. – Numbers 6:24-26 ESV

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Soul Insulation

people walking in downtown as it snows

As I recently mentioned, we bought a shed for my office. Getting the electrical installed was easy-peasy because we “have” an electrician that is reliable and affordable. However, we have struggled to get my office insulated and drywalled. It seems that my project is too small for anyone to bother with.

My wife and I are about ready to do this work ourselves. When we were younger, we’d already had the job finished. However, time is catching up with us, and our strength is waning. Still, I’m confident that God will make a way for this work to be accomplished.

Just as a house or office needs insulation to keep out the extremes of weather, so we as Christians need insulation to maintain a barrier between what the Holy Spirit is working within us and what our society is attempting to stifle within us.

Soul Insulation

One of the best spiritual insulators for our minds and souls can be purchased for free. It is be found in 

Philippians 4:8-9, Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

This passage of scripture gives us the insulation that we need to keep the world from chilling the Holy Spirit’s fire within us or overheating our passion for the work God has given us, which can lead to frustration and anger. 

Keep the Precepts of Philippians

Daily we need to keep the precepts of Philippians 4:8-9 at the forefront of our thoughts. If we do this, then the storms of life may buffet us, but we will remain warm and snuggly with God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Say Grace

Marines giving thanks before a meal

Many years ago, we were about to have breakfast with some friends when our four-year-old son announced, “We don’t pray over breakfast!” We’ve prayed over breakfast, and all of our meals since then.

The Bible documents several times when Jesus blessed the food before a meal. We see this when Jesus joined two of HIs disciples on the road to Emmaus on the day He arose from the dead. The Scripture states in Luke 24:30, “When He (Jesus) had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them.” 

Paul, too, gave us an example of giving thanks before a meal in Acts 27:35 (ESV):  And when he (Paul) had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat.

Before a Meal, I Pray

I spent a large part of my life traveling the world for my work. During those travels, I’ve eaten in some very sketchy places. So I sincerely pray before a meal. I have no doubt these prayers have saved me from significant discomfort. I believe this because of what the Scripture in 1 Timothy 4:4-5 (NLT emphasis added) states, “Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks. For we know it is made acceptable by the word of God and prayer.

Whether we “say grace” or “give thanks” or “ask God’s blessing” or “pray” before eating a meal, we are following the example that Jesus established. He set the precedent for us.

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A Good Name

man walking past a wall that has the word "good" on it

Do you remember when it was important for a person to have “a good name?” For you youngsters, I don’t mean having a name like Michael or Michell instead for Schweinestall (German for pigsty). No, a good name comes from possessing noble qualities such as being truthful, generous, trustworthy, courageous and so forth.

There are many accounts in the BIble of people that had a good name. One of those is found in Acts 10:22And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.”

Developing a good name takes years but it can be lost by a single inappropriate moral action. Mess up and to the back of the line you go. Thankfully, through confession and repentance Jesus forgives and restores but this isn’t synonymous with recovering a good name. A good name only comes with time.

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My Conversation with an Atheist

two men sitting outside chatting

Have you ever had a sit-down, over-coffee, conversation with an atheist? I’ve had passing conversations, but my most memorable chat was with a co-worker. 

We were on a business trip, and our boss was with us. The three of us had some downtime, so we holed up in an empty meeting room, checking email, and chatting. My co-worker turned to me and said he’d seen my website (an old website that I had) and had read some of my articles. Then he said, “Science has disproved that stuff. I believe in science, not a god.”

We had a cordial but unvarnished debate, while our boss listened. I was elated when I learned that my co-worker continued to read my articles after our discussion. 

The underlying problem with all arguments atheists make is that they speak as a created being against the existence of their Creator. It doesn’t matter what logic you build upon this fundamental fallacy; at some point, it all crashes down.

God summed up this atheistic argument in Isaiah 29:16 (ESV): You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?

As we walk through this anti-God world, we must be ready to defend the Gospel. These opportunities come at the most unexpected moments in our lives. But remember, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4 ESV)

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Stone of Proof

Doesn’t the title of this devotional sound like a spy novel? I read and listen to a lot of spy novels with Daniel Silva being one of my favorite sleuthing authors. Anyway, in every spy book, someone of importance is living in an evil country, and they want out. So, in these espionage books, that person ends up seeking asylum in America or Canada or England.

Well, the “stone of proof” is real and we can find it in Isaiah 28:16. Here’s the Scripture: therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’ – Isaiah 28:16

Jesus is the Stone of Proof

The cornerstone can be nothing other than Jesus, the promised Messiah.  Ephesians 2:20 and  Peter 2:6-7 validate this.

Christ Jesus, our Savior, is the “tested stone,” which means “stone of proof.” Jesus is the “stone of proof” because He succeeds in every test, and He tests all who come in contact with Him. He is either an asylum or a “stumbling block (1 Peter 2:7-9)”, according to the character of the person that touches Jesus. We see this in Luke 2:34-35 and Luke 20:18.

You are Important

No, you aren’t living in a spy novel, but you are someone of importance, and yes, you’re living in an evil world. And just like a good espionage book, you can seek asylum in Jesus. He is the Stone of Proof. He will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), and you can cast ALL your cares upon Him (1 Peter 5:7). When you need help, you can find refuge in Him. 

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Fight for Sight

semi-truck

One of the most significant challenges for my wife when she’s driving is having her vision blocked by semi-trucks. We recently were on a two-lane (i.e., one each direction) road that had lots of curves and hills, and semi-trucks. 

Since neither one of us could see around the bends or over the crest of the hills, it was nearly impossible to find opportunities to pass these slow-moving vehicles.

With the thought of our recent trip on my mind, I came across a magnificent comment by Christian author Jason Meyer. He said, “Discouragement keeps testing our vision. The battle against discouragement is really a fight for sight.”

God’s Vision

God’s Word is full of examples where a child of His struggles to see past the obstacles in their path so they can fulfill the vision God has placed in his or her heart.

Ponder the Scripture that God raises in you about your fight for sight. Is it the two spies, Joshua and Caleb, from Numbers, chapter thirteen, who brought back a good report and believed that God would help them succeed? Perhaps your thoughts went to the tax collector Zacchaeus, from Luke 19:1-4, that climbed a tree to see Jesus. My thoughts went to Luke 8:43-48 (NLT):

A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding, and she could find no cure. Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped.
“Who touched me?” Jesus asked
Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.”
But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” 

I can see this poor woman in my mind’s eye. Weakened by the loss of blood, and with a crowd so large it pressed in on our Saviour from every side, no doubt she would catch a glimpse of Jesus and then lose sight of him.

Press On

How easy it would have been to give up her vision. In her heart, she knew that her healing would come if she could touch Jesus, even the hem of His garment. And she did! And she was! And this event has been remembered for two millennia for Christ Jesus’ compassion and her determination.

What vision has Jesus given you? Do you sometimes become despondent because that vision’s fulfillment is so hard to see? And God, sometimes you may struggle even to see God in the vision which He gave you. Take heart! The vision hasn’t vanished, for God completes what He starts.

Ask Jesus, right now, to move some obstacles out of the way so that you can catch sight of that vision; so that you can see Jesus in that vision. Just as the woman with the issue of blood, Jesus isn’t far from you. Press in. Receive His power.

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Hey, You’re the Leader

African-American child wearing a t-shirt with the words future leader

A few years ago, after a school reunion, my wife set up a Facebook page for her high school class. There had been a site set up for the reunion, but, since they had all connected on Facebook, she thought she’d try to keep all the classmates connected, till the next one.

On her page, she gives recognition to classmates’ birthdays and other life events and maintains an “In Memoriam” page for members when they pass away.  Her classmates seem appreciative of her efforts,

From a Member to a Leader

She built the Facebook site thinking she could be “in the background,” like she’d been at school. Because of how Facebook works, every post she made as the administrator of the site showed up as one of her posts. One classmate recently made an interesting comment to her, saying, “You were mostly an unknown in high school, but now you’re the most visible member.”

She cringes at that visibility, and the thought that she is a “leader” because she runs the site. But, this opportunity that landed in my wife’s lap is how God works. Now read this account of Paul in Acts 27:31-32,35:

Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” So, the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away… After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat.

How God Works

There’s an exciting progression here in Acts 27, regarding the shipwreck. Paul lives a holy, humble life that they witnessed. God gave supernatural insight to Paul, which Paul shares with the crew. Paul does not pull back from the leadership that God gave him with the crew and with the Roman soldiers. In fact, God engendered Paul to people of authority. And, when things got tough, it was Paul, and the God Paul served that they trusted.

For the centurion to not kill all the prisoners, as Rome law called for, but to trust Paul, even over the sailors, is an excellent testimony to the rapid credibility Paul gained with the people on the ship. 

God gave Paul opportunities to demonstrate God’s love, long-suffering, and miracles, so the centurion, especially, put his trust in Paul and the God Paul served. Paul has already established a “witness” to these men. So, giving thanks in front of them was a logical continuation.

Hey, the Leader is You

God still uses this same process with His children. You may be just a member of a Sunday School class, or Parent / Teach association, or perhaps a member of a local book club. If a severe problem arises – lack of funds, theft, loss of a leader – don’t be surprised if God selects you to lead the members out of the difficulty.

Your consistent walk with Jesus, openly, so other members see Him in you lays your ministry’s foundation. Your acute awareness of the Holy Spirit’s voice in you will enable you to hear God’s guidance for you. And your confidence in God’s willingness and ability to deliver your cohort from damage, danger, or loss enables you to pray fervently, so they see their victory is from the God you serve.

Be ready at all times, for you never know when God’s call will come to you.

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Cockle Burrs

cockle burrs

Recently, my wife and I met with her best friend from high school. My wife’s friend lives on a farm, so she has all manner of animals, one of which is a large airedale that lives outdoors.

When this large dog came lumbering up to us, we could see that cockle burrs filled her fur. It was challenging to find a place to pet the beast without tearing our flesh! It seems the dog had decided to play in the thickets. 

Pulling Cockle Burrs

As we talked, my wife’s friend meticulously pulled each burr from the dog’s fur. Watching her, I realized that the dog required help, for the animal was unable to remove these painful burrs herself.

That reminded me of Galatians 6:1 (NLT):
Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. 

There may be times when we have a sin with which we cannot overcome without the help of a Christian brother or sister. Other times we may be that brother or sister that a fellow Christian needs to overcome their sin.

If you’re in a situation like the one I just described, remember to “be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.”

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