Sunday November 27, 2022 – How do we do in life’s ‘taste test’?

Ephesians 4:1  As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

What constitutes a life worthy of our calling as a Christian?  What does such a life look like?  Is it a given that when we accept Jesus as our Lord we will live such a life?  Or, following being born again, are we required to play a vital role in its development?  Further, is the life to be lived a progressive thing – that it becomes more consistent with Scripture with the passing of time?

There are sinful behaviors we are set free from the moment we are born again.  Other things He deals with over time.  I’m reminded of stories of the coal miners in the great Welsh revival a century ago.  These men and women had their lives radically transformed. Drunkenness, stealing, cursing and other offences grew less.  It is told that the miner’s pit ponies became a problem.  The ponies were so used to being cursed and sworn at that they just didn’t understand when orders were given in kind, clean words!

The question then becomes what happens in our lives as the months and years and decades roll by?  Although the transformation in the miners’ lives was miraculous, it was akin to the Israelites leaving Egypt.  They were set free in order to become the people God wanted them to become.

Living a life worthy of our calling involves who we are and what we do.  It involves having a heart desire to love and please God which flows out of our rich awareness of His love for us and our gratitude for His love.  It entails being vigilant regarding our character, our thoughts, our intentions, motivations, attitudes and how we communicate with others.  These are the things that the Holy Spirit will continually address, help us maintain and transform over our lifetime.  They profoundly impact the quality of what we do and why we do it.

That desired quality is well illustrated by the experience of looking for good fruit in a market where the vendor will allow you to sample the fruit.  There is appearance, ripeness, texture and flavor.  It’s not a matter of the fruit just looking good and feeling right to the touch.  It must pass the taste test.  What a joy it is to bite into eye-appealing fruit that is ripe and sweet to the taste.  It’s like ‘a party in your mouth’ – to quote a dear friend of ours.  That is the experience we and others around us will have as we walk worthy of our Lord and His calling upon our lives.

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Saturday November 26, 2022 – True good and evil are not culturally determined

Hebrews 5:14  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

In Colorado Springs it sure is easy to know which way is west – and from that all the other directions are clear.  This is because the Front Range and Pike’s Peak are directly to the west of the city.  When facing the mountains, north is to the right, south is to the left and east is behind you.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it were that easy to tell good from evil – or right from wrong?

How do we know what is good and what is evil?  What is our basis for identifying such things?  Years ago I remember reading about an art forger who commented that one of the highlights of his ‘career’ was having art critics in Europe declare his forgery the original, and the original work of art the forgery.  Apparently, his forgeries were common enough that the critics got used to them.

We have this problem that the world has its own idea about what is good and evil.  Sometimes it seems that the biggest evil to the world is Christians making any kind of judgment that something is evil or wrong.  Isaiah addressed this problem – that we must contend with daily – when he wrote:

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,
who put darkness for light and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. (Isaiah 5:20)

Some things are so blatantly evil that they are like a Pike’s Peak– so big you can’t miss them.  But that isn’t the general way the enemy of our soul attacks us.  He tries to blur the lines and induce Christians to walk in pathways that lead to temptation – that present unrighteousness in attractive packaging.  We become familiar with pathways that have his ‘forgeries’ presented as the norms of ‘good’ behavior.  His goal is to have us reach a point where we affirm the forgeries and reject the ‘original’.  God forbid that we should call his redefined ‘acceptable’ behavior sin!

If we insist on accurately identifying evil as evil and good as good, the enemy of our souls will try to move us to becoming overtly judgmental of others.  That can produce a prideful blindness that is repugnant to God.  Remember the Pharisees were so concerned with sin they missed Jesus.  When we speak the truth, love must characterize our responses – always.

God’s word, the Bible, is our standard.  It identifies that ‘good and evil’ applies to behaviors, thoughts, attitudes, actions – every area of our lives.  God wants us to walk in righteousness and it is imperative that we learn to do it – and do it in the loving fullness that it entails.  This means we have to learn what His word says.

Satan has the world running rampant declaring evil good and wanting to condemn those who disagree.  We are surrounded by ‘forgeries’ and His word is the standard that identifies them and enables us to choose wisely.  This doesn’t happen by accident.  We must recognize that walking in righteousness requires focus, intentionality and training to do it His way.

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Friday November 25, 2022 – When is telling the truth optional?

Proverbs 12:22 The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.

Is it okay sometimes to not tell the truth or to deliberately mislead?  Are ‘white lies’ appropriate sometimes?  Are there ever situations where avoiding hurting someone’s feelings should take priority over telling the truth?  Are ‘half-truths’ okay?  What qualifies as dishonesty?

Have you ever done something like this?  You’re running late for an appointment – say 20 minutes late because you got busy and forgot the time.  En route to the appointment there is a traffic accident that delays you 2 minutes.  Upon arriving at your appointment, you apologize for being late and inform them you were delayed by an accident on the highway.  The impression you want to give is that your tardiness is due to something beyond your control – a highway accident – versus your own negligence.

Think of being asked the question, “What were you doing?”  Suppose you were playing or reading stuff on the internet instead of working; or watching an inappropriate movie; or visiting inappropriate websites; or looking at inappropriate magazines.  How truthful will our answer be?  This brings up an entirely different subject of “What is inappropriate?” which we will look at later.

Our God is a loving God.  But He also informs us of His view of actions and behaviors.  Today’s verse is rather unambiguous to say the least.  On the one hand He detests those who lie and delights in those who tell the truth.  Note that it isn’t just the lies that He detests – it’s the one telling them!  Conversely, He delights not only in truth but in the one telling the truth.

Here is today’s verse in the Amplified version, “Lying lips are extremely disgusting and hateful to the Lord, but they who deal faithfully are His delight.”  The point isn’t to bring condemnation, but to bring God’s word into play in an important area of our lives.  The world thinks nothing of lying.  The world would answer the questions in the opening paragraph with a resounding “Yes!”  Unfortunately, far too much of the world is roosting in the lives of Christians.

While it is unpleasant to ponder the idea that God might detest some things we are doing, it is redemptive if we turn to Him and ask for His help to change.  We are commanded to please Him.  A more redemptive view is that we “Get to please Him!”  What a blessing it is when His Word and His Spirit show us areas in our lives where we fall short.  He enables us to repent and change – to replace our unrighteous actions with righteous ones.  He doesn’t leave us to ourselves, but is committed to enabling us to live lives that bring Him delight.

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Thursday November 24, 2022 – The TRUE history of Thanksgiving!

Psalm 107:1  Give thanks to the LORD for he is good; his love endures forever.

A Politically Incorrect History of Thanksgiving

Posted: November 17, 2007
By Jonathan Falwell
© 2011

It was a bitter two-month sea journey the Pilgrims endured on their passage from England to Plymouth Rock. Upon landing, they gathered for a prayer service before setting out to build shelter. They were severely unprepared for the harsh New England winter that was approaching.

After that winter of 1620 killed almost half of their population, the Pilgrims were befriended by members of the Wampanoag Tribe. The Indians taught the naive colonists about fishing, planting and hunting, thereby ensuring their survival. When the fall of 1621 began to set in, they had reaped a bountiful harvest and preserved enough food to allow them to survive the coming winter, thanks to their Indian neighbors.

As an expression of their thanks to God, the colonists hosted a three-day feast to celebrate the harvest and the transformation of their fortunes from the previous winter. This meal today is thought of as the first Thanksgiving.

In the years to come during the fall, the governor of each New England colony would declare a day of Thanksgiving so that the people could prayerfully thank God for supplying their needs.

In 1777, the Continental Congress decreed that all 13 colonies were to jointly celebrate victory over the British.

Twelve years later, the first national Thanksgiving occurred. In the Congressional Record for Sept. 25, 1789, Elias Boudinot issued a resolution stating: “Resolved, That a joint committee of both Houses be directed to wait upon the president of the United States to request that he would recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer. …”

The resolution was delivered to President George Washington who wholly concurred with the request, declaring: “Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor … Now, therefore, I do appoint Thursday, the 26th day of November 1789 . . . that we may all unite to render unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection.”

Days of Thanksgiving were celebrated on varying dates throughout the nation for the next several years. It was not until 1863, following the 30-year effort of Godey’s Lady’s Book editor Sarah Joseph Hale, that a National Day of Thanksgiving was declared.

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared a National Day of Thanksgiving in hopes of bringing healing to a land that had suffered greatly in Civil War.

He set aside the last Thursday in November, declaring: “We often forget the Source from which the blessings of fruitful years and healthful skies come. … No human wisdom hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God. … I therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States… to observe the last Thursday of November as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”

In 1941, Congress established the fourth Thursday of November as a national holiday.

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to understand the Judeo-Christian history of our nation. Our forefathers were not uneasy about openly thanking God for His blessings or beseeching Him in times of trouble. Our nation is deeply rooted in Christianity and candid expressions of faith.

I urge readers across the nation to ensure that their children and grandchildren understand the Judeo-Christian heritage of our nation. There are many who wish to ignore and/or rewrite our history as our nation further embraces secularism.

I am thankful for this nation and for the God of the Bible who shed His grace on us, beginning with the landing of the colonists at Plymouth Rock.

Jonathan Falwell is the pastor of the historic Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., the church his father started in 1956

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Wednesday November 23, 2022 – If the little Hammond organ could have talked!

1 Peter 2:9  But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Years ago one of our friends named Ric was a pastor of a small church in West Virginia.  A pastor friend of his came to the church for some meetings.  As I recall, when the friend first arrived Ric and some of the members were showing him the church building where the meetings would be.  It was then that the friend spotted the little organ.

The church happened to have a small Hammond organ that had been there for years and the people didn’t think much about it.  Well, Ric’s friend happened to also be an amazing pianist.  Right then and there he sat down at that little organ and the music that came forth was beyond anything the members of that church had ever dreamed off.

They were stunned and amazed to realize that what they were hearing was coming from their ‘little Hammond organ’!  They had no idea that it was capable of such magnificent beauty and power.  Yes, the friend was a great musician, but this was coming from their little nondescript organ.

Let me borrow from CS Lewis a bit.  Suppose that little organ was alive and could talk like the animals and trees in Narnia.  My guess is that it would have been as stunned as those listening.  I can just see this little talking organ incredulously asking Ric’s friend when he finished, “How did you do that?!!!”  It had no idea what it was capable of until played by a master.  From that day forward, its whole world changed.

Today’s verse is not to intimidate but to inspire.  It is to thrill us with the glorious beauty of who we are and get to be.  Because of Jesus and our response in faith to Him, we are “…[God’s] own purchased, special people,…”.

Just as this little organ was the source of stunningly beautiful music when played by a master, so are we.  God wants each of us to understand that He is the ‘master musician’ in our lives.  He desires, “…that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (Amplified)

It is absolutely amazing what He can accomplish in and through us when we commit ourselves to Him.  We must understand who we are and what our destiny is from His perspective, not ours.  We are not to be content with mediocrity.  Because of Him, we are capable of excellence – and He is holding us accountable for it.

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Tuesday November 22, 20222 – The ‘Preen Gland’ of waterfowl

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Whether it is one task or situation or a slew of them, it is not unusual to find ourselves being confronted with anxiety.  Our situation can be so daunting we feel like the disciples in the boat in the midst of the storm:  we’re overwhelmed and Jesus is asleep.  Their focus was on the storm, the wind and the waves – rather than upon the fact that He was with them.  Then when they did cry out to Jesus, they were frantic.  How often do we do the same?

From reading today’s verse, it’s pretty clear that God knows about our tendency to become anxious.  From finances, to illness, to family issues, to jobs – our lives are ripe with opportunities for us to choose the wrong way to go when the ‘storm’ of anxiety comes.  But it’s important that we recognize that His prescription isn’t intended to be a ‘fire alarm’ – pull in case of fire – although it can still work that way.

It prescribes a way of life and the establishment of a relationship that will enable us to live in peace while in the midst of stormy situations.  We are to live the verse day by day.  Think of a college student who doesn’t really study all term and then crams like crazy for the final, versus the student who has faithfully studied day by day throughout the term. Both might do well on the final, but one has chosen wisely and the other hasn’t.

Each day, the Lord wants us to be looking to Him.  He cares about us and the situations we face and wants us to become confident of that.  A very helpful illustration comes from nature.  Waterfowl have a tiny oil-secreting gland located at the base of their tail known as the uropygial gland or ‘Preen Gland’.  When a duck is preening, as we have all seen, its head and beak are spreading this oil over its feathers. This oil helps to maintain the luster of the feathers – but more importantly it makes the outer feathers waterproof.  Without this protective barrier, a duck’s feathers would become water-logged.

Praying and presenting our requests to Him daily with thanksgiving is His wisdom for us.  Doing this develops a protective barrier for us and is an antidote to becoming ‘water-logged’ with anxiety.  Through these actions He also enables us to become so much more aware of His working in our lives.  Our confidence in Him becomes strong resulting in appreciation and gratitude.  Thankfulness becomes the reality of our lives.

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Monday November 21, 2022 – Tasks and relationships – which has priority?

1 Corinthians 14:1a  Follow the way of love…

This morning I woke up thinking about one of the more important and useful concepts that I became aware of in Grad School.  God has used it ever since to give me insight and help me in my daily life.  It involves tasks and relationships – two things that fill our lives.  Each day is filled with tasks to do and many of them involve working or interacting with people.

In a class, we grad students took a test that measured our personal orientations to tasks and to relationships.  When the scores were graphed we each discovered a picture of how we functioned in such situations.  At one end of the spectrum were those whose preeminent concern was the task.  Whether big or small, it had to get done.  If it meant sacrificing relationships, so be it.  Relationships were irrelevant to getting the job done.

At the other end of the spectrum were those who placed preeminence upon relationships.  No task was so important that it would warrant sacrificing relationships.  When these individuals are confronted with situations where they have to choose between a task and a relationship(s), the task won’t get done.  They don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or create an unpleasant situation for themselves or anyone else.  They back away from tasks where they perceive a risk to relationship might exist.

Then there was everyone in between where they reflected a mix of task or relationship priorities.  The goal was to be in the middle where both tasks and relationships are important.  Such individuals find ways to get tasks done while preserving and strengthening relationships.  They don’t sacrifice the task for a relationship and they don’t sacrifice a relationship for the task.  Both are important and vital.

This seems to be the way of love that we are called to walk in.  God’s Word and the leading of His Spirit enable us to find the balance that preserves relationships while getting tasks done.  Sometimes they might be painful even when done wisely in love, but the way of love produces righteous fruit – both in us and in others.  Think of the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

In all situations we want to glorify the Lord.  We want our lives to accomplish His purposes and reflect His life within us.  The way of love enables us to do that day by day and His Word tells us how to do just that.  It’s up to us to embrace it.  The way of love enables us to transform situations that seem to be ‘Lose-Lose’ or ‘Win-Lose’ into Win-Win’.  Tasks get done and relationships are strengthened.

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Sunday November 20, 2022 – The wonder of faith

2 Corinthians 5:7  We live by faith, not by sight.

Isn’t it amazing how different life can appear when seen through the eyes of faith?  I look back over my life and see so many situations where things happened that I struggled with at the time.  But later events would prove that those experiences were blessings not curses.  In fact, some of the greatest experiences I have ever had came about because of earlier disappointments where I was prevented from doing what I wanted to do.

In the midst of defeat, despair and disappointment comes hope because of faith.  In the midst of opportunity, blessing and prosperity comes gratitude and acknowledgment of His blessing because of faith.  When we read the Bible we see so many examples of people experiencing life – its ups and downs.  Some respond well – others don’t.  The constant is that God is at work in and around them.  The Lord wants us to understand that He does the same things with us.

He wants us to ‘see’ Him in everything.  This is not due to eyes of sight, but of eyes of faith. I find that when everything starts going wrong, I immediately know that God is somewhere in the middle of it, and begin to look for Him.  An initial negative reaction is replaced by the realization that God is there; we are not alone and things are not at all what they seem.

Faith leads to prayer and seeking Him to provide wisdom and understanding.  Faith causes us to use His word as our guide in how to respond whatever the situation.  Faith affirms our desire to trust the Lord and glorify Him in any way that we can.  Faith is not static – it is like a muscle that can be exercised.  The more we use it, the stronger it becomes.  Faith is the antidote to defeat.  Without it, we cannot please God.

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Saturday November 19, 2022 – Two sides of the same coin

Revelation 1:17-18  When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

Have we ever thought of what our response would be if the Lord took us to heaven in the Spirit as He did the Apostle John?  I imagine the nature of the encounter with Jesus could take on many forms.  I wonder if John ever thought about such a thing happening – and if he did, did he think that his response upon seeing Jesus would be to fall at his feet as though dead.

Of all the apostles, he is the one identified as having a special relationship with Jesus.  He is repeatedly described as the ‘one whom Jesus loved’.  That doesn’t mean that Jesus didn’t love the others; it’s just that John’s relationship with the Lord had a special love element of closeness in it.  For me, that is what makes his response in this encounter with Jesus so stirring and provocative.

We tend to think along the lines of Jesus warmly embracing someone (one of His own) who goes to heaven and encounters Him.  Sort of a welcome home, like the father greeting the prodigal son.  Joy and gladness just overflowing – and that might be the way it normally occurs.  But here we have something very different.  Does our understanding of God and the relationship that we have with Him include the aspect of what is revealed in this verse?  Can we see ourselves responding to Jesus as John did?

The fear of the Lord and the love of God are two sides of the same coin.  Jesus’ first words to John after falling at His feet as though dead were “Do not be afraid.”  It’s vital that we understand that although we are recipients of God’s love and are His children through faith in Jesus, He is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings.   In Revelation 5:11-12 John gives this glorious description:

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they sang:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”

This is our Savior and Lord.  He is the One who died for us and rose from the dead.  He is the One who loves and treasures us so; the One that we have the incredible privilege to love each and every day of our lives.  May we fully embrace His ways so that our lives do just that!

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Friday November 18, 2022 – Meeting Jesus is just the beginning!

1 Peter 1:8  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,

This morning I am still overflowing with joy over the wonder and thrill of what Jesus does – and has done – in our lives.  Yesterday’s devotional seemed to just trigger an eruption of that joy.  It recounted how God used my friend Andy and me in His plan of drawing this young Muslim man to Jesus.  The experience of that flight was priceless, but then to receive his email of him finding Jesus!  It just tapped into the wellspring of gratitude and joy that I have for my own experience of finding Jesus.

I’m sitting here writing this, grinning and basking in the inexpressible and glorious joy that Peter writes of in today’s verse.   The joy for this young man and the joy for my own encounter with Jesus are still just engulfing me.  And those salvation experiences are just the beginning!

Becoming a follower of Jesus is not a one-experience life!  If our testimony is simply recounting what God did in our lives years ago, we are missing the mother lode.  Yes, my encounter with Him 54 years ago was astounding.  It’s like the rock of Gibraltar in my life – it is huge!  But that was simply the transforming invitation to ‘come in’.  It’s like the Lord saying, “If you thought that was good, that is merely the foretaste!”

We belong to Him, and as His family we get to experience the treasure of His Word, His ways, His love, His protection, His presence, His provision….  It just goes on and on.  He also surprises us, delights us, disciplines us, prunes us, tests us, comforts us, confronts us, encourages us….  Best of all, we get to experience Him.

Hopefully, this triggers joy within you and the refreshing that comes from remembering the wonder of our God.  But if it doesn’t, hopefully it will spark your active pursuit of Him.  His plan for all of us is for our lives to be filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy because we belong to Him.

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