Sunday January 12, 2020 – Right and wrong, there is an objective standard

Isaiah 7:15 He (Jesus) will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right.

Right and wrong.  What is right – and what is wrong?  For the past few days I have been aware of this topic stirring within me.  Being able to identify right from wrong is very important for us.  We must recognize that it’s a requirement of our faith.  Who determines what right and wrong are?  Is it like beauty being in the eyes of the beholder – what is wrong in one person’s view might be right in another’s?  Further, what is the implication of identifying right from wrong?  Is there something required of us?

These and a lot more questions have been swirling within me.  This morning I looked up scriptures involving this subject and found myself surprised by how many there are – and their significance.  Today’s verse speaks prophetically of Jesus growing up and learning to reject the wrong and choose the right.  That alone makes it a critical skill for us to learn.

Given the impact of culture upon our lives, and particularly upon the church, it is far more critical than many of us might think.  It is something we must all become more aware of because it is so involved in our daily lives – with a much greater frequency than we might imagine.  In Exodus 23:2a the Israelites are admonished, “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong.”  What is the basis for determining the crowd is wrong?  A very important aspect of this whole process is added in Exodus 15:26, ‘He said, ‘If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes,”  There is an objective standard as to right and wrong.

One of the disconcerting things about this subject is the fact that an individual can be convinced he is right … and be wrong.  In Proverbs 12:15a it says, “The way of a fool seems right to him,”.  But in Proverbs 14:12 it says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”  We can be foolish and/or sincere and miss it.  Fortunately, we have His word and the Holy Spirit to teach us.  We simply have to respond and learn from Him.  This is more than a subject He wants us all to master – it’s a way of life.

To be continued…

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Saturday January 11, 2020 – Remembering what God has done

1 Chronicles 16:12  Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,

Raising 4 sons is an adventure to say the least.  (We are now getting our daughters the easy way.)  One of the guiding principles of our family life has been to build memories.  We did things together and in such a way that the activity or experience became a lasting memory.  I record special things in my journals, but Donna and I recall them and we talk about them when we are together as a family.

This is particularly important when it comes to our life with our Lord.  It is too easy for special experiences with the Lord to become kind of lost in the business of life.  The Lord, through Moses, warned the children of Israel many times about this,

“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” (Deuteronomy 4:9) 

Such memories sustain and build our faith – and the faith of others.  Our human tendency is to forget the memories, and to also forget the Lord who produced them.  Yesterday’s devotional about Donna’s encounter with the Lord as her Father was such a memory.

When we were living in Franklin, TN, our pastor Steve Fry, did a series on keys to healing – in our lives, our relationships and our world.  We were able to share with him about this experience where God healed the wounds in Donna due to the relationship with her earthly father. Donna became teary talking about this powerful experience with God making Himself known to her as her father.  Then she made a statement about this experience that I had forgotten.  She said, “This was the first time in my life where I felt like I was a daughter!”

While there is pain in what she lived through, it is so overshadowed by the wonder of who God is and what He did.  He settled within her the issue that she was His daughter; and that He was her Father!  This memory brought forth such a well-spring of gratitude and joy and wonder and passion.  Not just for what God did – but more importantly for who He is and who He considers us to be.

How good and important it is to remember the wonders and miracles He has done!

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Friday January 10, 2020 – Donna’s amazing experience with her Heavenly Father

Psalm 45:10-11  10 Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention: Forget your people and your father’s house.  11 Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.

Today’s verses are the beginning of a section of Psalm 45 (verses 10-17) that is very dear to my wife Donna and to me; to her because God used these verses so powerfully in her life; to me because God so touched the woman I love through them.  It is a section where God speaks to His daughters.

Donna’s father’s house was painful for her both as a daughter and as a woman.  Her daddy was an alcoholic.  Possibly key to that was the fact that when Donna’s older sister was 3 years old, she was killed when he accidentally ran over her backing his car out of the driveway.  Donna’s parents were married, divorced, re-married and re-divorced.  He was not someone who knew how to show love.

When Donna was 19, she had a marvelous salvation experience where God gave her an amazing vision of Jesus on the cross.   When she saw the blood dripping from his hands and feet  she knew he died for her.  Over the years her relationship with the Lord grew and she has been a blessing to so many.  But there was something the Lord wanted to heal in her and that happened in a woman’s conference in Canada back in the early 90s.  The Lord freed Donna of the hurts and wounds that lingered still as a result of her daddy not being a loving father – not being the man God intended him to be.

The Lord wanted her to have the joy and freedom that come from a healthy, vibrant view of Him as her Father; to receive His love and affection.  As part of that healing process, God spoke these verses to Donna as speaking to His daughter.  I vividly remember the tearfully, joyous phone call I received from her when this happened.  She was overwhelmed by the love from her Heavenly Father and with love for Him.  The pain from her daddy was gone.  In its place was the joy and wonder that she was a beloved daughter of the King.

God is a master at freeing us from whatever restrains us.  He wants us to know and experience Him as the loving Father He is.  If we have ‘stuff’ like Donna had, He will set us free too.

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Thursday January 9, 2020 – The mind-boggling wonder we have in God!

Habakkuk 3:19  The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.

I was trying to think of words to describe the wonder and reality of what we have in Jesus – and words just don’t and can’t do it justice.  Some thoughts that come to mind: “It’s too good to be true!”, “Pinch me I must be dreaming!”, “How can this possibly be?”, “Never in a million years….”, “This can’t be real!”, “I’m blown away!”

For me, the above also usually includes tears coming down my face because what I’m experiencing is so mind-bogglingly wonderful that the sense of gratitude within me is just overwhelming.  It also helps that I can be a bit emotional, but again, it never entered my mind that this even existed.  That we, individually and corporately, as the object of God’s love, could be so incredibly swept off our feet by our Lord!  And somehow it just keeps getting better the longer we are His and walk in His ways.

In the midst of good times and bad; tough times and easy; with plenty and with need; when His presence is all around us and when we feel like He’s nowhere to be found – it makes no difference.  He never leaves us!  He never stops loving us!  He envelopes us in His love and gives us the grace, the strength, the mercy, the resources to face whatever is in front of us.  Best of all, we are His!

If it seems to you that I am describing a land where you’ve never been, let alone live; allow the Holy Spirit to have His way with you.  Allow Him to undermine your doubts and unbelief and bring you into the wonder that He has for all of us – including you!

Remember the movie The Wizard of Oz?  It starts out as a black & white movie.  Then Dorothy wakes up in Oz and is stunned – as were the audiences that saw the movie – because Oz was in living color!  What was flat and dull became stunningly bright and beautiful.  Maybe you are viewing everything around you in black & white.  Respond to the Lord and His Spirit at work in you and He will open your eyes to see your world in His “living color”!

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Wednesday January 8, 2020 – John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer

Hebrews 1:3  The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Today I get to share with you a marvelous prayer that has really blessed me.  I first encountered it in a Confirmation Service at St Luke’s.  John Wesley, founder of Methodism, is the author and this prayer is still a vibrant part of the church that was influenced by his ministry.

John Wesley used this prayer with all of his ministers to signify their commitment to the task of ministry.  It was also used by the English Methodist churches in a service at the start of each year for “Renewing our Covenant with God”.

This prayer requires a genuine humility to pray it sincerely.  Let our hearts to be convicted if we are lacking in that regard.  It recognizes the reality of God’s claim on our lives and the attitudes our faith in Jesus Christ require of us.  Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being.  May we recommit ourselves to our covenant keeping God.  I pray that this prayer will be a blessing to you as it has been to me.

Wesley Covenant Prayer                                                                                                              I am no longer my own, but yours.                                                                                                  Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;                                                              put me to doing, put me to suffering.                                                                                             Let me be employed by you or laid aside by you,                                                                    enabled for you or brought low by you.                                                                                          Let me be full, let me be empty.                                                                                                       Let me have all things, let me have nothing.                                                                                     I freely and heartily yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.                                        And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,                                     you are mine, and I am yours. So be it.                                                                                         And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

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Tuesday January 7, 2020 – What God really wants from His people!

Exodus 19:4  ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.

What do we think of when we consider the historical record of the Israelites’ journey from Egypt to the Promised Land?  There are so many things that catch our attention: Moses, the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, miracles, manna, grumbling and complaining, the golden calf, repeated testings, God’s dealing with their rebellion, the spies, Korah & Dathan – the list goes on.  But what is behind it all?

Today’s verse contains four words that speak volumes to us if we but have the ears to hear.  These words are the explanation that God gives to Moses of what He was doing through the whole process.  Specifically, He was speaking of all of the Israelites:  “…(I) brought you to myself.”  Do we understand how earth shaking that statement is?

God wasn’t primarily interested in having a people that would be an example to the world.  He wanted a people that were in intimate relationship with Him.  He wanted a people that would treasure the love He gave them and respond with love in return.  At best, the Israelites that left Egypt, responded with words, not love (actions).

God provided the Israelites with repeated opportunities for them to respond in faith.  Unfortunately, they repeatedly failed.  One moment they could be acknowledging Him and the next they would say or do things that revealed He was totally forgotten or irrelevant.  Do we understand that He deals with us the very same way?  Our faith – or lack of faith – is reflected daily through our thoughts, attitudes, words and actions. 

Think about God’s reaching out to us.  Do we see that responding to God’s gift of Jesus is so much more than verbal or mental assent; or an outward veneer of behavior?  How far reaching is our commitment to Christ in impacting our lives?  Do we understand that this depends on our perception and understanding of what God wants from us – and becoming passionately committed to giving it to Him?

A powerful and sobering reality is revealed in Hebrews 11:16 where God is talking about His people of faith: “…Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.”  Look at the world around us.  So many claim to be Christians but their lives are inconsistent with such a claim.  Their actual lives are proclaiming that they are not followers of Jesus!

Each day, the life we live, is a living testimony of what our relationship with God is all about.  What does our testimony say?  Our new life in Christ Jesus enables us to demonstrate and reflect our genuine and growing love for Him.  We must understand that this is the mechanism that God uses to bring us to Himself.  This is why we were born-again!

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Monday January 6, 2020 – The impact of fear on our perception of reality

Exodus 16:2-3  2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

I find this situation, described by today’s verses, to be a serious warning of how our perception of true reality can be negated by fear.  Here are a people that have been slaves in Egypt all their lives.  They had been in misery, crying out to the Lord for deliverance.  Then God responded!  Through Moses incredible miracles were performed – witnessed by them all – that resulted in their freedom.

Capping everything off was the Red Sea experience that occurred just a short time earlier.  When they saw the Egyptian army approaching they had this same negative response.  They complained that it was better to be slaves in Egypt than die in the desert.  The understanding that God was setting them free and dealing with Pharaoh and the Egyptians was lost amidst their fears.

Then they witnessed God’s stunning intervention to secure their freedom.  The angel of the Lord kept the army at bay over night while the Red Sea parted.  They experienced walking through the parted waters and then witnessed the waters consuming the pursuing army upon Moses’ command.  Great was their celebration of this event.

Then three days later, when they ran out of water, they complained and witnessed the miracle of the bitter water becoming sweet.  Unfortunately, this next difficult situation (of today’s verses) brought about an even worse negative response.  All they had witnessed was once again forgotten!  They hadn’t been set free; God wasn’t with them; they were all victims about to die; their situation in Egypt was desirable.  They even found it preferable for God to have killed them in Egypt than for them to starve to death in the desert.

If only they had recognized their true situation and responded with, “The Lord didn’t set us free to kill us in the desert.  Let us call upon the Lord and He will provide.”  The Lord provided them with test after test; giving them repeated opportunities to respond with faith rather than unbelief.

We must recognize that God does the same with us; He allows test after test in our lives affording us the opportunity to respond with faith.  How are we going to respond to the difficult situations we face?  Do we see ourselves as potential victims of circumstances or are our perceptions faith-based and trusting in God?

To be continued…

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