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Staying with God

King Asa was the leader of the southern Kingdom of Judah. The Chronicle author, under inspiration said "he did what was pleasing and good in the sight of the Lord his God. He was an adamant follower and because of that he removed foreign altars, pagan shrines, smashed sacred pillars, and cut down Asherah poles. His alternative to all these idols was to "seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and to obey His law and His commands" (2 Chronicles 14:4). Asa and his kingdom enjoyed a long period of peace because the Lord gave him rest from his enemies which allowed him to build up the fortified towns throughout Judah, a great example of a Ronald Reagan principle, peace through strength. His army consisted of 580,000 well-trained fighting men but he also recognized that no one but the Lord could help the powerless against the mighty. An Ethiopian named Zerah attacked with an army of 1-million men and 300,000 chariots. So Asa deployed his smaller army to fight, and cried out…

One Shining Moment

Have you ever had one of these? This is a time that everything went right. Your speaking, listening, answering questions, promoting positive thoughts, and even the little things came together like puzzle pieces fitting into place. It was a shining moment when you felt on the top of the world. During the Israelite conquest of their God given territory called the Promise Land the armies had to fight many battles. Joshua had encouraged the tribes of Reuben, Gad, the half tribe of Manasseh who already possessed their territories on the east side of the Jordan River to be the lead warriors for the other tribes. They fought along with the rest of the Israelites until they received their inheritance on the west side of the Jordan River and then were allowed to return to their own lands. There were 44,760 capable warriors, all skilled in combat and armed with shields, swords, and bows. In one instance "they cried out to God during the battle, and He answered their prayer because they trust…

Friend or Foe

In times of war it is often hard to determine who is a friend and who is a foe. Neither one is always wearing the uniform of their country and may even be in disguise. That makes it difficult to trust anyone who you encounter. And the question is usually asked, "Are you friend or foe?" You and I have friends and foes. It may not be easy to recognize which is which without some further investigation. That seems sad to say but sometimes a friend in appearance and words is really a foe. In fact, internally we can be a friend or a foe to ourselves. Have you ever done something that caused you pain? You were certainly not being a friend to yourself at that point. David's storied life allowed him to come across many friends and foes. His first wife, Michal the daughter of Saul, was a good friend at the beginning. She loved David and covered for him against Saul's guards who came to get him at their home. But later on she became a foe, ridiculing him for dancing in the street…

Detestable

Not normally bantered about, detestable describes an odious, abhorred, and intensely disliked moment. It identifies an horrible evil that is suggested to be okay but is really morally and ethically wrong. Solomon in his wisdom said, "Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent—both are detestable to the Lord" (Proverbs 17:15; 18:5). King Ahab, the ruler of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, illustrated this truth in his life in two crisp moments. He was faced with a war against Ben-hadad the King of Aram who had mobilized not only his own army but thirty-two other allies to attack Israel with him. God came to King Ahab through a prophet and told him how to gain the upper hand over these attackers. Victory was achieved and Ben-hadad retreated to Syria. However, the next spring he was back again with an even more powerful force. God came to Ahab and promised victory again, which He delivered on, but King Ben-hadad retreated to a nearby town and decided to humble himself and …

Praise Daily

How much praise do you give to God each day? What would it look like for you to perpetually be praising the Lord? As the psalmist completes his message about the Word of God, he says, "I will praise you seven times a day," and later, "Let praise flow from my lips" (Psalm 119:164, 171) When you begin to think about the times he has mentioned, it doesn't seem so hard to achieve. Consider you are up at 6am and go to bed at 10pm which would be a 16 hour day giving you 8 hours to sleep. That in itself would make for a more restored life but the psalmist includes praise to God as of upmost importance suggesting it be done seven times a day. What would that look like in your schedule? Think about it at 6am when you wake, then obviously at 8am at breakfast, certainly around mid-morning at 10am, and spending a quiet moment in praise before you eat your lunch. Can you believe it, you are already 4 praise times into the day. So, 3pm rolls around and you take a moment mid-af…

Assignment

Assignment This word can bring up memories of the classroom or a job. We had assignments necessary to complete if we were to pass the class or get a paycheck. These assignments required specific action to be completed. Jesus alludes to an assignment in a story referenced in the book of John. A curious verse in John 9 states, "We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the One who sent us" (9:4). This statement needs some context. John, as an author with a message, links together seven miracles and six discourses to prove Jesus as the Messiah in his Gospel. He declares it his purpose in writing in John 20:31, "These are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name." In this sixth miracle, Jesus healed a man born blind. This is the only miracle he performed that addressed an issue previous to birth. He came out of the womb blind. Those around the i…

A True Friend

What are two of the most important characteristics of a true friend? We could say, "A person who stands up for you," or "A person who will loan you money," or "A person who ____________" (you fill in the blank). There are many characteristics of a true friend but here are the two most important. First is an unfailing love for you that continues throughout your lives together. That covers a lot of ground since love enters into a lot of decisions in friendship. We can see from 1 Corinthians 13 that "Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." This last sentence examples the second important characteristic of a true friend. It is their faithfulness. Th…

God's Letter and Song

God's Letter and Song   Imagine yourself in a fox hole in Europe or an island of the South Pacific during WWII and you received a letter from home. Wouldn't you read it over many times to get just a touch of being home? Now think of what comes to mind when you hear a familiar melody sung on the radio or played from Pandora. That melody brings back old memories you cherish and so you mediate on them while the song plays on and maybe you even sing along. Music and letters are two great ways of communicating. They express so much and we take it all in. Did you know that God wrote a letter and a song? Yes He did. The letter is the Bible and the song is written down by Moses in Deuteronomy 32. He said, "Write down the words of this song, and teach it to the people of Israel. Help them learn it, so it may serve as a witness for Me against them." (31:19) So Moses wrote it out and later recited the entire song publicly to the assembly of Israel. It had these parts: ·A request to …

Be Careful!

I'm sure as a parent you said this to your children and I'm sure as a child you  heard this from your parents. It is not a challenge to take lightly. It shows the parents love for their child and concern for the possibility of danger lurking nearby. Sometimes it was accompanied by the statement, "Here take my hand." This request from the parent helped the child be aware and also feel protected. Over nine times in Deuteronomy 11-12 Moses tells the people to be careful and adds additional words like, "be careful to obey every command," said several times and stressing obedience to the laws God had given them, "be careful. Don't let your heart be deceived," suggesting that deception is possible if you are not vigilant, and "be very careful never to neglect the Levites…" making sure that those who worked at the Tabernacle and cared for the all that God had designed for worship were included in the community. Being careful is being watchful…

Appropriate

What does it take to appropriate something into your life? I mean how can you gather something into your soul and have it stick there for the rest of your life? Moses at the end of his life wrote a remembrance book for the people of Israel. Deuteronomy means second law and emphasized all the principles that God shared throughout the wilderness wanderings essential to remember as the people went into the Promise Land. He said, "Listen carefully, Israel. Hear the decrees and regulations I am giving you today, so you may learn them and obey them!" (Deuteronomy 5:1) Here we find the process of appropriation. First they had to hear. That meant opening their ears to the truths presented. But sometimes we hear but do not hear, if you get what I mean. The sounds go into our ears, they are turned into words, we recognized them as words but we let them fly in one ear and out the other. So, something more than hearing has to take place and it is listening. To listen is to make a conscio…

Balaam, The Rest of the Story

King Balak of Moab wanted to curse Israel and three times asked Balaam to do it, but each time Balaam blessed Israel. Frustrated Balak acted just like Balaam did when his donkey kept diverting from the angel of the Lord who was standing in front of them on the way. Balak verbally beat up Balaam three times. Balaam becomes the donkey that takes the beating but talks back to make Balak aware of a larger context including God. This experience left Balaam without any reward and Balak without any curse on Israel. But we see indications in a later passage that Balaam didn't go home. He counseled Balak and the Midianites aligned with him in another way to defeat Israel. The book of Numbers says, the Midianites were the ones "who followed Balaam's advice and caused the people of Israel to rebel against the Lord at Mount Peor" (Numbers 31:16). Balaam showed Balak how to trip up Israel. He taught them to use their women to entice the Israelites into sin by eating food offered t…

A Good Beating

As Israel was camped east of the Jordan on the plains of Moab, Balak the king of Moab showed concern that the Israeli army would be too powerful for his military to defeat. So, he gathered recommendations on who to call to curse Israel and give him the upper hand. Balaam, a soothsayer, claimed to be able to foretell the future, and was the name that led the list. He was living in the land of Pethor just a few miles south of Carchemish about 400 miles north. His fame grew over the years in a time of no radio, TV, or satellites. Balak sent a team to convince him to come and curse Israel. He refused. So, Balak sent another larger and more distinguished group of officials to influence him to come. Balaam considered their request and asked God what he should do. That led to a discussion with God where permission to go was granted but only if he would abide by what God would tell him to do. Agreed, Balaam jumped on his favorite donkey which he had ridden all his life and started the long jour…

Trust

When was the last time you stared up at clouds or ran around in the rain they dropped on you? You may wonder, "Where is this Today's Word going?" Clouds are evaporated water from the earth's surface and come in several different forms, i.e. cirrus, stratus, cumulus and more. The highest clouds can be almost four miles above the earth. Remember that plane ride and takeoff which eventually brought you through the clouds and from your dark rainy day to a bright sun lit sky? The sun was up there, you just couldn't enjoy it until you rose above the clouds. Now, consider a second question. How far is it to outer space? Keep tracking with me, it will all make sense soon. Sixty-two miles above sea level lies what is called the Karman Line. It was named in honor of Theodore Von Karman who was a mathematician, aerospace engineer, and physicist who worked in the fields of aeronautics and astronautics, and who is responsible for many key advances in aerodynamics, notably supe…

Thanksgiving

Today is not Thanksgiving Day but today should be a day of thanksgiving. What do I mean by this? In the fiftieth psalm, the writer explains that God does "not need the bulls from your barns or the goats from your pens" (Psalm 50:9).  He owns the animals of the forest, the cattle on a thousand hills, the world and everything in it. The psalmists objective is to identify the greatest sacrifice we can give to God, and that is thankfulness. He directs us to "make thankfulness your sacrifice to God" (50:14). And further states that "giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors Me" (50:23). God seeks worshipers and one way we worship is to be thankful. Ungratefulness reveals darkness in the heart. It expresses a selfishness that keeps from recognizing anything good outside of yourself. And, withholding your thankfulness does not honor God. It deprives Him of being first in your life, in fact He made that the first of the Ten Commandments when He said, "You…

Godly Cause

Have you ever heard that it can be a righteous cause for a nation to go to war against an enemy? Through the twentieth century this reason was given as America went to war against other nations and entities. Germany was seeking world domination, communism sought to enslave nations against their will and radical ideology sought to conquer peoples. So America gathered its forces to battle these rogue nations and false ideologies. But how can it be a godly cause? Let's reflect on the time of the three kings of united Israel: Saul, David and Solomon. A psalmist speaks about war and its godly cause. What prompted the writing of Psalm 45 may be a mystery to us today but obviously the writer was stirred to patriotism. He wrote, "Beautiful words stir my heart. I will recite a lovely poem about the king…" (Psalm 45:1) He went on to say, "In your majesty, ride out to victory, defending truth, humility and justice. Go forth to perform awe-inspiring deeds!" (45:4) Here is t…

Remember

How quickly do you forget the good things that have happened to you? It seems that it is much easier to remember the bad things than the good. Our lives are a continually flowing stream and as you move along memories dim and you forget the good that has happened. Is that because pain cuts into the memory far more deeply than does the good? Might be so. As Jesus was crossing over the Sea of Galilee he overheard his disciples arguing about not bringing enough bread with them. Jesus stepped into the conversation with these words, "Why are you arguing about having no bread? Don't you know or understand even yet? Are you hearts too hard to take it in? You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears—can't you hear? Don't you remember anything at all?" (Mark 8:17-18) Quite a rebuke. This must have left them silent as Jesus challenged their ability to be a community and not blame each other for the simple act of not bringing enough bread. He also challenged them to the greater …

Kind to the Poor

What have you ever done that would help the poor? Some possibilities would be, help to build a Habitat for Humanity home, donate your time or dollars to a homeless shelter, give clothing and furniture to a Goodwill or other kind of second-hand store, travel to a foreign country to help people as a nurse, doctor, aid worker or to share the Bible with them? All these could be considered being kind to the poor. Now, what is to follow is not a reason for doing these things but it gives us an understanding of how much God appreciates people who do help the poor. For they put up with the struggle to just have food on the table, clothing on their children, and a place to shelter. God honors them with help and honors those who help them with blessings. In Psalm 41:1-3 David speaks about this: "Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor!" "The Lord rescues them when they are in trouble." "Protects them""Keeps them alive.""Gives …

FRET Conscious

Are you a fretter? The dictionary defines “fret” as “to worry,” “be vexed,” and my personal favorite, "to wear away by gnawing.” It is a picture of living in the present tense and letting circumstances and people get to you. The psalmist said, “Don't worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong.” (Psalm 37:1) Being fearful of or envious of evil persons gnaws away at our hearts and focuses all our attention on the immediate. It affects the attention we can give to God because we are flooded with fretting. Illustrations are given to further explain how quickly what we are focused on will disappear when it says, "For like grass, they soon fade away. Like spring flowers, they soon wither."(37:2) Later the psalmist says not to "worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes." (37:7b) Here there seems to be an “irritation” with their success by us. And once more it says that fretting leads “only to evil,” (37:8). FRET can be made into a…

Discipline's End

Just a year after our son, Andrew, was born, we were living in a rental home preparing to move to Portland, Oregon. Andrew was a curious one-year old and one afternoon when Debi was preparing dinner, he wandered into the kitchen and over to the trash can. As his little hand reached out to touch and get into the trash, Debi said, "NO!" That made him move away for a moment but something, whether smell or color, drew him back again. This time he was a second ahead of his mother and going for the junk. She saw him and slapped his hand. It brought a surprise to his face and a little murmur to his lips and a new lesson was learned. Don't mess with the trash! I know all this because I was videotaping him at the time…still have that scene preserved for future use. That incident always reminds me of my own struggle with sin. It seems I get caught in the act by God and He says, "NO!" But I go back. He ends up slapping my hand. It hurts for a while but often I return and t…

The Godly

Previously we have share the saga of the wicked as revealed in Psalm 36. Now we view the position of the godly as explained in Psalm 37. These two peoples, the wicked and the godly, are like the sheep and the goats Jesus talked about. The sheep are drawn close to him, the goats are sent away into eternal fire. Their thoughts, actions and final ending places are at opposite ends of the spectrum. They are the difference between trusting in the Lord and rebelling against Him. Let's see what the psalmist says about the godly: ·"Better to be godly and have little than to be evil and rich." (vs. 16) ·"The Lord takes care of the godly." (vs. 17) ·"The godly are generous givers." (vs. 21) ·"The Lord directs the steps of the godly." (vs. 23) ·"I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread." (vs.25) ·"The godly always give generous loans to others, and their children are a blessing." (vs. 26) ·"The Lord…wi…

The Wicked

How will you know wickedness when it rises up around you? We are a long way from knowing righteousness today. The words and activities that are now normal seem reasonable but that's because our standards are adjusted. Ethics and morality are challenged and a liberal interpretation of all actions now rules. We would call that situational ethics because what's right and wrong is determined by the subjective context where the action took place. Give all who believe this a large piece of baloney which is usually made up of the afterthoughts of the meat industry including organs, trimmings, end pieces and more. It is fake meat illustrative of the fake ethics and morality. However, God allowed the curtain of wickedness to be pulled back for the psalmist in Psalm 36. He saw the heart of the person given over to it. Here is what he discerned about the wicked: ·Sin abides deep in the heart of them. It "whispers" to them, convincing them of their way. It is their counselor, teac…