Monday, October 24, 2016

Just a Reminder....

     A week ago, I received a postcard in the mail reminding me that I had an upcoming dental checkup.  Since I had completely forgotten about this, I was happy to get this helpful note.  I put dates in my smart phone to remind me as well, but there are times when I forget where I laid my phone!  In truth, we all need reminders of appointments as well as other obligations that we have.  We are a forgetful people.
Peninsula State Park Door County, Wisconsin
     Throughout the book of Joshua, God tells the people to leave memorials so that they will remember His deliverance of them into the Promised land.  We read about one such memorial in Joshua 4:19-24:  "19Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth of the first month and camped at Gilgal on the eastern edge of Jericho. 20Those twelve stones which they had taken from the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. 21He said to the sons of Israel, “When your children ask their
fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ 22then you shall inform your children, saying, ‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground.’ 23“For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed, just as the LORD your God had done to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed; 24that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, so that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”  God did not want His people to forget what He had done so that they would worship and fear Him all their days.
     In the Psalms, we find many occasions where the mighty deeds of God are remembered.  Psalm 105:5-7 reads: " 5Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, 6you his servants, the descendants of Abraham, his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.
7He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth."  As we continue to read the Psalm there is a call to remember the bondage in Egypt and how the Lord delivered His people.  Recounting the blessings that the Lord gives helps us to remember His presence in our daily lives.  He never forgets His people, and He is always at work on our behalf even when we cannot see it.
     Perhaps the greatest reminders to us of His tremendous grace in our lives is found in the sacraments of baptism and communion.  Both are symbols of the covenant which God has made with us through the blood of His Son Jesus Christ.  Every time we witness a baptism or partake of the Lord's Supper, we are reminded of the new life we have in Him and His return.  He will come again to receive His bride, and this will be a day of great rejoicing.  Until then, we take part in remembering His precious sacrifice for us.
     When we are discouraged, sick, depressed, tired or otherwise overwhelmed, this is the time to begin enumerating the many ways in which God has touched our lives and blessed us.  He inhabits the praises of His people.  In my own life, I find that singing songs of praise to the Lord help to get my mind off the difficulties and focused back on God.  Likewise, I turn to God in prayer and begin praising Him for who He is.  Again, I feel such a relief when I remember Him who is the helper of my soul.
     This is what David did when He wrote the Psalms and sang to the Lord.  Indeed, he had many troubles, but he learned to look to God.  Some wonderful Psalms of comfort are Psalm 23, Psalm 91 and Psalm 139.  There are others, but these focus on the Lord's care for His own.
     Lets face it, we all need reminders on a daily basis for the things we need to do, but even more importantly, we need reminders each day of all that God has done for us that we cannot do for ourselves.  Look in God's Word, seek fellowship with other believers and pray without ceasing recalling His miracles in your life.  As we do these things, we will rise above this world and the trials that can weigh us down.  Selah!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Time for Prayer

     More and more as this election season drags on, I have found myself in prayer over the condition of our nation and the choices that are before us as voters.  I have lived during the administrations of 12 presidents and I have seen tremendous change in the morals and values of our country.  A drifting away from biblical principles which made this nation strong along with a diminished understanding of our founding documents has weakened the foundation upon which we were built.  The very things which 40 years ago would never have been discussed in polite company are now practiced openly in our culture.  Abortion on demand, disrespect for authority, murder, homosexuality, the break up of the family have all become symptoms of the deeper problem we all have - sin.
     In looking back in God's Word (the only GOLD standard for truth, behavior and life) to the book of Judges, one Scripture stands out clearly to me.  Judges 2:11-12:  "And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals.  And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt.  They went after other gods and among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them.  And they provoked the Lord to anger."  Since His people abandoned Him, God allowed plunderers and enemies to arise against them.  This brought cries of mercy from their lips, and in His graciousness, God raised up judges to save the people.  Unfortunately, once things got better, the people again did evil in God's sight.  This cycle was repeated over and over.  Why?  Sin is the culprit.
      Ever since the Garden of Eden, man and woman have been infected with the sin nature of Adam.  Jeremiah declared:  "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?"  Jesus said:  "18But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these things defile a man. 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander" (Matthew 15:18-19).  Indeed, our Lord never trusted Himself to man for He knew the heart of man.  Instead, He trusted Himself only to the Father and spent many hours in prayer as He walked this earth.
      While our situation in current history is different from ancient Israel, the root cause of our problems then and now comes from the fallen nature of man.  We can and should vote for those seeking office, but we must realize that they cannot save us from all our woes in this world.  There is no guarantee that they can deliver on the promises they make no matter how sincerely they assert their intent.  The only power that can redeem us and bring us peace and satisfaction is found in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  He made the perfect sacrifice through His blood and the offering of His life that we might be delivered from the bondage of sin.  Therefore, as the book of Hebrews tells us:
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).   He, alone, can be trusted to never leave nor forsake us.  God is sovereign, and we can depend on His guidance and protection.
     While I do not presume to know how this election will turn out, I do know that prayer is the key to peace.  It is His peace which passes all understanding when we come to Him in humble intercession for our nation.  He is able to turn hearts and lead many to come to Him for salvation. This is how our nation will be heart at a time as we pray and share our faith.
     As believers and citizens, we have a responsibility to cry out to God for those who lead us and for the present election to come.  Then, we must exercise our right to vote and leave the results up to God.  However, it does not end with this or any election.  Jesus Christ is our King who will come again in glory to rule, reign and bring justice to this earth.  Our citizenship is ultimately in heaven, but while we are here, we must storm the gates of heaven and pray for our nation that many will come to know and follow Jesus as Lord and Savior.  This is a time to pray. Selah!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

An Encouraging Word

SPECIAL NOTE:  I wrote this devotion in 2013 but I felt it is important for us to think on how we can encourage one another especially during these dismal times in our country.  We need to encourage each other daily or we can be overwhelmed by our political situations at present.  Be encouraged as you read this today.

     One thing that I enjoy doing more than anything else in this world is to encourage someone.  I have always loved people, but when I became a Christian, the Lord enlarged my heart and vision to reach out and encourage others.  It fulfills my calling and gives me joy.
     We all have different gifts from the Holy Spirit it is true.  However, each of us is called to encourage, build up and edify one another in the Lord.  The Bible tells us that times will get harder and that we should  encourage one another.
     Paul, the Apostle, wrote a second letter to the Corinthians after he had chastised them in his first letter for all the dissension and problems they had allowed.  In this second letter, it is easy to see his love for these people and his concern for them.  He even opens his own heart and allows us to see how God used someone in his life to encourage him.
     2 Corinthians 7:5-7 reads:  "For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side:  conflicts without, fears within.  But God who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus; and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in  you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more."
     These are words of encouragement that Paul wrote to the Corinthians.  He wanted them to know that it wasn't just the coming of Titus that helped him through depression, and difficulties.  It was the words which Titus encouraged him with...that the Corinthians truly wanted to see Paul again.  What good news to this man who had taken them to task for their behavior in Christian matters!
     Encouragement has a ripple effect almost like throwing a stone into a quiet pond.  When we tell someone encouraging things, they in turn will spread this to others.
     To give you a personal example, I was talking with a friend recently, and she mentioned the name of another lady whom I had not seen in a while.  I told her how much I respected and admired this woman.  Some time later, she had a chance to see this lady and she passed on my words of encouragement.  I received a note in the mail a week later from this woman who thanked me for my kind words to our mutual friend.  What a pleasant surprise I had!
     By the same token, we can also pass along negative statements, gossip, or other things which I assure you will inevitably find its way back to a person being discussed.  The choice of either encouraging or discouraging others is always ours.  However, the results of each are quite different.
     In the Scripture, the Corinthians told Titus how much they loved Paul which encouraged Titus as he saw their changed heart.  Then, Titus told this good news to Paul which carried the encouragement on. The letter Paul wrote to them sent that encouragement and love right back to them to bless them.  It was a circle of blessing.
     Whom can you encourage today?  We have people all around us in our homes, neighborhoods, communities and churches.  We need to remember to lift them up with words that bring encouragement to their spirit and build their faith.  As we do this, encouragement will return to us as well.  Selah!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Sound of Silence

     Somewhere in my busy day with telephones ringing and people talking, I find myself thinking of the many times when I would sit in the pasture behind our barn on a large root-bench of a huge oak tree.  The only sound was the babbling of the Little Turkeyfoot Creek that ran through our property and the soft breeze blowing through the trees.  Even as a child, I cherished these times where I could sit and contemplate the beauty around me in silence.  No words.  Just the quiet rhythm of life and a time of refreshing quiet where I could actually hear myself think.  This is something very rare in our noisy world today.  Yet, I believe that God wants us to be able to have these moments where we cease talking and simply listen to Him.
     Psalm 46 talks about God being our refuge and our strength (vs 1) and ends with this powerful injunction from the mouth of God in verse ten:  "Be still and know that I am God...."  Throughout the short Psalm, the sovereignty of God is seen over all the affairs of men.  He holds the power of the Universe and we can find shelter under His wings.  There is nothing more to say or do.
      How wonderful it is to steal away if only for a few moments each day to sit silently in God's presence looking into His Word and allowing this to speak to our hearts.  Taking time to do this on a regular basis is far more refreshing than spending hours on our Facebook page or watching some empty TV drama.  Jesus made certain to take time away from the crowds to sit and commune with His Father.  In this way, He set an example for us to follow.
     Between our work world and the election campaigns, most of us are overwhelmed by the cacophony of voices all vying for our attention.  Even reading a newspaper can disturb our souls.  With so many different ideas pulling at us from every angle, it is easy to despair.  I often feel that the media enjoys stirring up controversy in order to sell their paper, but we must remember that our peace comes from God alone.  Why?  Because He clearly establishes His rule and reign over us we can trust and rest in:  "Be still and know that I am God."
     An all powerful, all knowing, everywhere present Creator is our refuge in this noisy, busy world in which we live.  He alone has the answers we seek, and He calms us with His tender touch.  The best picture of this is seen in Psalm 23 which tells us that God leads us beside the "still" waters and restores our soul in the green pastures.  Reminds me of our pasture area.
     Remember to take time out of every busy, noisy day and get alone with God.  Simply rest in His presence and enjoy the beauty of His holiness.  Confusion leaves our thoughts when we let God sort out all the details.  Reading the paper informs us but reading His Word transforms us into the likeness of His dear Son.  Selah!