Monday September 16, 2019 – Seeing the rain and remembering 2010

Genesis 7:12  And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.

Hurricane Dorian has been the dominant news story in recent weeks.  Seeing the rain and flooding brought memories of May 2010 when we lived in Tennessee.  Today and tomorrow I am posting devotionals that I wrote at that time.

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Many of you might be aware that we have had a bit of rain here in Central Tennessee.  Here in Franklin on Saturday and Sunday we received over 26 inches of rain in about 36 hours.  Saturday the total was over 17 inches.  Never in my life have I seen rain come down like this in terms of length of duration.  It’s one thing to have a cloudburst for 20-30 minutes or for an hour and then see it let up.  But this was different.

Here in Franklin the cloudburst went on hour after hour after hour.  I vividly remember staring out the window in wonder and amazement at it. The stunner was that it just wouldn’t stop.  We talked with people from here and they had never seen anything like it in their lives.  This morning the news is reporting rivers at 10’, 15’, 20’ and 25’ over flood stage.  Fortunately, the sun is out here and over most of Central Tennessee.

I couldn’t’ help but think of Noah and the flood – and that God doesn’t like sin.  It is not the least bit difficult to believe that the flood happened just as scripture says.  I’m grateful for His promise to Noah that He will never again use a flood to destroy the earth.  The sign of that promise is the rainbow.  

The point is that God wants people to embrace righteousness not sin.  Out of His love for mankind, Jesus came to earth.  Through His sinless life, death and resurrection, we are offered the gift of life.  

Through faith in Jesus and obedience to His word we are enabled to live our lives in a way pleasing to God.  God isn’t pleased with the death of the unrighteous.  He wants all to come to a knowledge of the truth.  

Seeing the rain – thinking of Noah – then the flood – God’s judgment – God’s promise – God’s gift – relationship with Him through Jesus – living for Him – eternal life – what a wonder!!

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Sunday September 15, 2019 – Experiencing God by Dr. Henry Blackaby: an important lesson

Colossians 1:9  For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all
spiritual wisdom and understanding.

Back in the 1990s many of us were involved in Promise Keepers (PK) – a wonderful move of God among men.  In 1996 PK held a large conference for pastors in Atlanta and most of the pastors of St. Luke’s, the church we were attending in Akron, OH were able to attend.  While there, they were exposed to the marvelous study Experiencing God by Dr. Henry Blackaby.

In January 1997 St. Luke’s kicked off a church-wide 13-week study of Experiencing God.  Before the study, there were about 15 weekly home groups, during the study the number of home groups expanded to over 50.  It was truly an extraordinary experience for the entire church.

One of the most important lessons from Experiencing God is incorporated in today’s verse – and that is the importance of being filled with the knowledge of God’s will.  We each
have a tendency to focus on, “What is God’s will for me?” – a much more subjective and self-centered approach.  Unfortunately, this can lead to a lifestyle that is more about us than about God.  We become pre-occupied with ourselves rather than seeing the larger picture.

Our focus should instead be on knowing what God’s will is – for all believers – and doing it.  Doing God’s will is like Basic Christianity 101.  Through faithfully living out God’s will in our daily lives, God will make clear where He has unique things for each of us.  His specific will for ‘me’ is to flow out of a life centered on living a life pleasing to Him – being Christ-like in every situation.

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Saturday September 14, 2019 – Within His presence!

When I woke up this morning….

… the word ‘holy’ was there – in my mind.  It’s fascinating the way the Lord will give me a thought that when I wake up, it’s just there in the center of my mind, with an attraction to it that makes it undesirable to turn way.  Such thoughts stimulate curiosity, wonder and
excitement within me because I know the Lord has something for me to explore and be blessed by.  This doesn’t happen everyday, but when it does, I love the adventure it brings.

I think it’s accurate to say that for most Christians, ‘Holy’ is a word that is used today primarily in connection with the Spirit of God: the Holy Spirit.  Many of us love the old hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy” because it so wonderfully addresses the majesty and holiness of our God.  But this morning I was aware that the focus wasn’t to be upon how this word describes God but upon it’s application to us.

In looking through the Scriptures to discover the path to explore this with today, I was attracted to the prophecy given by Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, following the
birth of John.  He had been silent for months, unable to speak, because he didn’t believe the angel Gabriel when told about the birth of this son.  In the midst of praising God after informing everyone that the baby’s name was to be John, he was filled with the Spirit and began to prophecy how God had come and redeemed His people.

In the midst of the prophecy is this description referring to the people of God, “To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our foes, might serve Him fearlessly 75in
holiness (divine consecration) and righteousness [in accordance with the everlasting principles of right] within His presence all the days of our lives.”  Luke 1:74-75 Amplified

What a picture!  God has delivered His people so that they might serve Him fearlessly in holiness and righteousness! – Within His presence all the days of our lives!! This picture is to describe us!!  In helping us understand this, the Amplified Bible gives the thoughts of divine consecration and living in accordance with the everlasting principles of right.  This is how our fearless service to Him – and our very lives are to be
lived out.

Peter writes wonderfully of this in his first epistle, “[Live] as children of obedience [to God]; do not conform yourselves to the evil desires [that governed you] in your former ignorance [when you did not know the requirements of the Gospel].  15But as the One Who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all your conduct and manner of living.”   1 Peter 1:14-15 – Amplified

Do we understand that this is not a burden to bear – but a never-ending gift to enjoy?  Let us renew our commitment to embrace the joy and wonder of living such lives.

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Friday September 13, 2019 – How must we respond to persecution?

Romans 12:14  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

What does it mean to be persecuted?  Can we think of a time or times where we believe we’ve been persecuted?  Do those experiences, if we had them, seem more like they fall in the categories of insult or disrespect?  Or, do they fall into the category of physical threat or intimidation?  Were our lives at risk?   Do we view persecution to be more of a general category where Christians as a group are ‘persecuted’ by being discriminated against?  Might the Supreme Court decision in 1963 banning organized prayer in public schools be an example of such ‘persecution’?

When it comes to persecution, here in the West, it’s a different world than that which many Christians deal with particularly in the Middle East, parts of Africa or the Far East.  Although currently in the West the radical escalation of institutional intolerance and rejection of Christianity is stunning.  I think it’s accurate to say we would prefer to be prohibited from publicly reading or displaying our Bible than to be arrested for having one. Likewise, we would rather be ridiculed for our faith than to be imprisoned and tortured.

Think of being forced to choose between Jesus and a son or daughter or spouse.  If you choose Jesus, the likelihood is that you will never see your family member again in this life.  This is happening today and has been happening for decades in other parts of the world.  Think of the 300 girls (nearly all are Christian) kidnapped by a terrorist group in Nigeria.

Persecution runs the gamut from being picked on or discriminated against to martyrdom.    The amazing thing is that our response to those who do the persecuting is to be the same – we are to bless them.  Hating them or cursing them isn’t an option.  Not even cursing under our breath.  This means that annoyance, anger, disgust and other ‘fleshly’ responses are off limits too.

I cannot help but think of two different scriptures that speak to this topic.  Jesus’ statement in Matthew 10:22 “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”  Then there is the wonderful attitude expressed by the Apostles in Acts 5:41 “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”

We must learn to bless those who persecute us.  We must learn to be the expressions of the Kingdom of God that He wants us to be in the face of opposition.  Our goal must be to do it His way – bless and not curse!

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Thursday September 12, 2019 – Winning when we lose

Proverbs 16:22a  Understanding is a fountain of life to those who have it,

Mistakes – Errors – Goof-ups – Bad judgments – Blunders.  They sure are all part of life.  In sports they would be called fumbles, strikeouts, errors, interceptions, turnovers, holding, off-side, interference, wild pitches, yellow cards, red cards, etc…  A very important principle applies to both categories (life and sports): when these things happen, the ‘game’ goes on – it doesn’t stop.

Continuing the sports comparison, our error or wild pitch or yellow card might cost us the game but losses are part of sports as well.  In major league sports I recall only once has a team gone undefeated throughout the entire season and won the championship (1972 Miami Dolphins).  Think about that: losing is normal – it’s a fact of life.

Losing is easier to take when we do our best and our efforts are error free.  Our opponent simply was better.  It’s harder when we believe we are the better team or the better player and we lose because of our mistakes.  The issue is learning do better – to improve – to make fewer mistakes – to learn from our mistakes.  Remember the adage “practice makes perfect”?  It has a much greater chance of being true if we recognize where we need to improve and practice doing it correctly.

A good memory I have is going to see our then 9 year old granddaughter Gabi’s soccer game.  The game ended in a 1-1 tie.  A few weeks earlier the opponent had beaten Gabi’s team 5-1.  On this day, Gabi’s team outplayed them except for the final score.  It was exciting to see how her team had improved. [Side point – I’m sitting here laughing because I just remembered the time when our oldest sons were little and playing soccer.  During one of their games we happened to look at our goal and there was no goal keeper!  Then we saw him behind the net picking dandelions!!!]

The Lord has given us His Spirit, Scripture, grace, mercy, forgiveness and a new life freed from the power of sin. They all are active ingredients in His provision for us to improve – become more Christ-like – live more error free lives.  He enables us to put our confidence in Him and participate wholeheartedly in life – to not get side-tracked by our failings.

Thankfully Jesus enables us to see our shortcomings and learn to from them.  We cannot stand around and mope about our mistakes, or when we fall short.  He enables us to get over it and stay focused on Him and stay involved.  Because of Him we are able to win even in life’s losses.

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Wednesday September 11, 2019 – 18 years ago 9/11

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;

Years ago my mother had a powerful experience with the Lord.  It involved the death of a good friend.  He was a younger man with a wife and a young son.  They attended the same
church with Mom and Dad and had been dear friends for years.  His wife had been Mom’s nurse when I was born.  Mom had a strong relationship with the Lord but she just couldn’t understand how this young Christian man could die and this family suffers such loss.

I remember so clearly her describing the experience afterwards.  She was downstairs in the basement doing laundry.  She was overcome with sorrow over the death of this friend and just couldn’t understand how it could happen.  He and his wife were so young; life was there to be lived with his family; how could this happen?

She was standing in front of the washing machine, tears coming down her face, repeating over and over to God, “I just don’t understand.”  Into that moment, the Lord spoke to her so suddenly and clearly, that she never doubted that it was Him.  He said, ‘Louise – You don’t have to understand.  You have to trust!”

This had an immediate and profound impact on Mom.  While she still didn’t understand, she turned to the Lord, and released it to Him.  In Him, the edge of the pain dissipated.  In Him, she found peace.  In Him, she found refuge.  She was no longer a tormented ‘prisoner’ of having to understand this death.  She was able to mourn in a healthy place.

Today we remember 9/11.  Eighteen years ago our world changed when we experienced this horrific attack upon our country – and occurrences of radical Islamic terrorism have become more frequent and widespread.  Ever increasing numbers of Christians are being martyred throughout the world.  This is all on top of our normal life difficulties.  So often we struggle with trying to understand events that happen.  Today’s verse is a powerful answer – not a cop-out.  Proverbs 3:6 continues, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.  We must look to Him in all things.

Tragedy occurs all around us: hurricanes, tornados, flooding, earthquakes, explosions, accidents, terrorism, crimes, unexpected deaths or injuries.  Life is filled with them.   Usually they are things we read or hear about. But, sometimes they are near and we or our loved ones are stricken.  Remember and pray for those in the Bahamas who were so devastated by Hurricane Dorian.  Hopefully we have made it a way of life to trust in Him.  If not, use those times to initiate a changed lifestyle of focusing on and trusting in Him.  He has a way of comforting and bringing life to us when we don’t understand.  He is our source of mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.  (Heb 4:16)

 

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Tuesday September 10, 2019 – Dealing with our leaks – and we can leak!

Matthew 13:16 But blessed are your eyes because they see and your ears because they hear.

Years ago a friend of ours named Paul bought a home that had been through a fire.  He was good at construction and was able to do most of the work himself.  The plumbing had to be redone for most of the house so he had a plumber friend come and handle all of that.  When the plumber was about finished he came to check out his work.  Paul was amazed by what happened.

As they were walking down the stairs into the large basement, the plumber stopped.  He asked Paul, “Do you hear that?”  They were both quiet and Paul didn’t hear anything.  The plumber said it’s over there and pointed toward a corner of the basement.  Paul asked him what was over there.  His friend said, “A leak” – as he motioned with his finger the timing of the drips.

Sure enough, when they got to the corner, behind a bunch of stuff, there was the leak.  Drops of water were falling to the floor at a frequency just like the plumber had indicated.  Paul asked him why he (the plumber) could hear them while Paul couldn’t.  The plumber responded, “This is my business.  I have my ears trained to hear such sounds.”

Typically, today’s verse is thought of in terms of recognizing or understanding God’s truth.  But today, let’s consider our lives to be the plumbing system of the house and the leak(s) to be the sinful behaviors that we allow to encroach into them.  (We can develop ‘leaks’!)

In difficult, stressful times it seems our blindness and deafness can increase regarding negative behaviors and responses in our lives.  We can get so overwhelmed by our circumstances that we lose sight of the stuff growing in our lives that is incompatible with our faith.  We have ‘leaks’ and don’t know it – and those leaks cause real problems for us and those around us.

No matter how overwhelmed we might feel, let’s stop to seek the Lord and ask Him to open our eyes and ears and enable us to see and hear the ‘leaks’ in our lives; and enable us to repent and repair them.  In difficult times, we can be ‘deaf’ to things in our lives that in quieter, less stressful times would not likely occur.  Remember, the more difficult the situation we find ourselves in, the greater is our opportunity to glorify Jesus with how we respond.

When the difficult times end, we will look back.  Hopefully it will not be with eyes of regret.  We have such opportunity to live righteously in the midst of difficulty.  I often think of Esther and Mordecai…”for such a time as this.”

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