THERE’S A FAMINE COMING…Amos 8: 11-12

We hear of famine around the world.  Drought causing food shortages, shrinking our wallets with higher prices.  Children suffering malnutrition.  Families struggling to make ends meet.  Famine and drought.  The Bible speaks of another type.

Amos chapter 8–‘…not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.’  He talks about  ‘the days (that) are coming…’ causing me to wonder if we’re not in those days right now.  Who knows?  God knows.  But our times seem to fit so well, unfortunately.  A drought and famine of hearing anything from God.

Our culture has pushed God to the edge.  Over-and-out completely looms on the near horizon.  Not even edges for Him anymore.  Allowed to hang around in old prayers, old lists of commandments, crosses in veteran’s cemeteries.  The rationale given runs like this:  ‘well, it’s just tradition and heritage, nothing religious about it.’  Really?  That offends me in a society easily offended by everything and everyone Christian.  There’s a famine coming!  No, it’s here!

A few years back I asked a professor from the Moody Bible Institute a question.  He was the last professor I had who was still teaching there thirty years later.  I asked him what differences he noticed in students then and now.  Of course, we were much smarter!  No, he didn’t say that!  Too bad!  What he did say was that students today know so little about the Bible.  What?  Did I hear what he said?  Wax build-up once again?  No.  If they, the cream of the crop, don’t know their Bibles, what about the average Christian living in a biblically illiterate society?

The famine has come.  Money, sexual variations with ad nauseum gender issues, politics run amok, terrorism and sectarianism make us all nervous and cautious.  All full of what leads to death and waste of precious life.  Amos 8:12 describes our thirsty, wandering, searching planet: ‘…but they will not find it.’  Find what?

The truth with a capital ‘T’, which resides in the Bible, God’s Word.  Best way to push back the drought and famine?  Dive into the Bible.  Immerse yourself in it.  Let its rain soak deep within you.  Plant its seeds in your heart and mind.  Push back!  Don’t give in.  Share the Word with others.  Push back!

Prayer:  Lord, help us to be people of the Word, your Bible.  Then we will have the showers of blessings you want for your people.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

REFLECTIONS OUT OF TIME 365 Daily Devotional Book Just Published!

Gideon House Books has just published my new book ‘Reflections Out of Time’, a 365(a bonus one is included for leap year at no additional cost!)Daily Devotional by yours truly!  Grab a copy for yourself.  Amazon.Com is carrying it along with other outlets.  In a few days an inexpensive e-book edition will also be available!  Would make a fine Christmas gift for someone you know.  Hope you enjoy it and thank you for all your support for the blog, which will continue as usual!  Blessings to you all as we reflect together on the things of the Lord!  John

QUITE THE CONTRAST!…Isaiah 32: 5-8

Who made up the jingle that goes ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me’?  Names will never hurt me?  Are you kidding?  Name-calling lingers in our memory-banks for decades and decades.   Watch what you say.  Wish I could take back some foolish names I’ve called others.  Very careful in my older years to watch what I say, and to quickly ask for forgiveness when I overstep my bounds.

You too?  Watch what you say?  Names can hurt worse than broken bones.  Feelings don’t heal as quickly.  I’m thinking of a name in the Old Testament of a man who acted foolishly in his life.  His name was Nabal.  His wife was Abigail.  When asked to help supply King David’s men, he summarily dismissed them without lifting a finger (1 Samuel 25).  ‘Forget it’, he barked.  His story didn’t end well.  He was foolish.  Nabal in Hebrew meant exactly that–‘fool’.

Turn to Isaiah 32.  The contrast of the fool and the noble.  Which would you rather be?  Foolish question!  The Bible says that the fool is a scoundrel. who plots all kinds of folly.   Has a heart for sin.  Relishes the next commandment to break.  The only thing he can’t resist is giving in to the next temptation.  He shakes his fist in defiance at godly things.  Flaunts rebellion.  Never satisfied with ungodly cravings.  Greedy and selfish, he could care less.  Wicked people plotting wicked schemes.  That’s what Isaiah says here in chapter 32, with all listed under the category of ‘nabal’… fools!

The contrast?  Between the fool and the noble?  It’s interesting.  The word for ‘noble’ in Hebrew is ‘nabiv’, having 2 of the same 3 consonants as ‘fool’.  Very close…but not a cigar!  Close… yet mirror opposites.  For ‘noble’ means someone who is magnanimous.  The ‘noble’ person is free with kindness and encouragement.  Giving and sharing.  The Hebrew carries the connotation of not only having an attitude of generosity, but a willingness to take a positive course of action.  Not only doing as I say, but also doing it!

I used to take required continuing education classes and tests from a company called Noble.  To keep my securities and insurance licenses current in our state, you had to study for and pass difficult exams for fifteen credits every 2 years.  Needed to keep current in our business skills, so that we would do the very best job for our clients.   When it comes to godly living, I’d like to pass the Noble test for generosity and encouragement.  To do my best for Him.  Would be foolish to do anything less!  Passed your noble test yet?

Prayer:  Lord, we know how foolish it is not to follow you.  Give us your strength to be consistent.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

YOU’VE GOT TO HAND IT TO HIM!… Isaiah 62

Isaiah 62 contains gems galore!   More precious than diamonds, rubies and pearls!  Focus on verses 3 and 8.  They speak of the hand of the Lord.  ‘The arm of the Lord’ symbolizes His might and His presence with us.  As I read this,  I thought back to when we toured the city of Bethlehem, where Jesus was born.  Mary and Joseph came by donkey, we think.  We came by bus, we know!  Enjoyed the Church of the Nativity, where we descended down into a large rock-hewn cave, traditionally the birthplace of Jesus.  This church dates back to the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine’s mother, Helena, from the 4th century AD.

We walked Bethlehem’s streets, entering a favorite tourist shop where they sold olive-tree wood carvings.  You must know that my sense of humor is far from normal.  Some would say ‘twisted’ and they would not be too far off!  Walking the aisles, one of the sales people approaches me describing in great detail this figurine that is about 8 inches tall.  Not something I would be interested in buying, but wanting to be polite I listened.  By the way, the figurine had three arms.  All I could think to say to the salesman was– ‘you’ve got to hand it to him’!  Thankfully, I don’t think he got the nuance of my warped humor!

But that little figurine came to mind as I read this chapter from Isaiah.  Not in fun, but with encouragement.  How often in life do we need strength beyond our own?  For the twists and turns of life.  Like a friend dealing with cancer once again.  Another who is lonely in a new job in a new town with all new people.  Some in our family who need jobs and money to finish school, whose tears we’ve seen and shared.  This is where God’s arms are mentioned.  A tiny word in biblical Hebrew–‘yad’.  Means ‘arm’.

More than that.  Strength.  God’s strength.  Technically, it’s also used to identify the support structures that hold up the extremely heavy bronze basin in the Temple(1 Kings 7:35-36).  This free-standing font, filled with water, would topple over without the ‘hands’ supporting it on all sides.  So would we, without the Lord’s help.  You know exactly what I mean.  Life without Him would topple and crumble in disastrous flooding.  To rack and ruin.

When even daytime seems like darkest night, read Isaiah 62:3-4.  Let the arm of the Lord uplift you.  Share these verses with someone you know who needs a helping hand from our God.  He will help.  We’ll need nothing more…to hold us up!

Prayer:  Our Lord, how good to know that you are our strength and salvation.  We depend totally on you.  For Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

INTO DAVY JONES’ LOCKER!…Micah 7: 19

The Prophet Micah encourages his people Israel with word that God will have compassion of them once ‘again’.  God’s anger will not last forever.  The Lord is long-suffering and patient.  ‘Again’–He will have compassion on His people.

Even more good news comes their way.  Micah tells them that God ‘…will tread our sins underfoot…’  He won’t point His finger at them in accusation.  Or hold their sins over their heads.  Not rubbing their face in them.  No.  He’ll trample sins underfoot, blot them out, grind them into tiny dust that will blow away in the wind.  Sin–good-bye and good riddance.

I remember losing a good watch down the shore in New Jersey.  Where’s my watch?  Running in a panic back to where I last was at the beach, trying to find it.  Gone.  That’s my bad news.  Good news is that our sins are gone by the cross of Jesus Christ.  When we believe in Him, He ‘treads them underfoot’.  Gone, in this case, is good riddance!  Our sins?  Under His foot.  Thank God for His forgiveness!

Micah tells more, even better news.  God ‘…hurls all our iniquities into the depths of the sea’.  All of them.  Not only the ‘white lies’, the ones we think quite harmless.  No.  Even those we’ve never shared with anyone, except the Lord.  The ones that shame us the most.  Even them.

And where do they go?  Into the deepest part of the sea.  I remember being on a Caribbean cruise approaching some gorgeous tropical isle, and was out on one of the decks along with everyone else on the ship.   The woman next to me, right against the railing, had the most amazing camera in hand.  It was high-tech and must have cost lots of bucks!  Not like the one I was carrying!  Passengers were pushing and shoving.  You guessed it–someone elbowed her from behind and that pricey camera went flying out of her hands over the railing straight into the depths of the sea, into ‘Davy Jones’ Locker’, never to be seen again.  Gone!

Our sins, in God’s hands, not pushed or shoved, but willingly, are tossed into the depths of the sea.  Glub…glub…glub…gone!  Don’t try to fish them back out.  Let them go…where God has sent them.  That’s not good news?!  It’s His very best!

Prayer:  Lord, we are amazed at your love and forgiveness.  And so thankful.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

WHAT A STRANGE STORY!…1 Kings 13

Talk about a strange story.  This is it.  What possible lesson can we learn from it?  Any ideas?  What comes to me is this:  whose voice do we listen to?  Whose word counts?

The story and what happened.  The Lord sends one of His prophets, one whose name is not mentioned anywhere, to King Jeroboam of the rebellious Northern Kingdom of Israel.  Jeroboam, to keep his people from worshipping in the southern holy city of Jerusalem, sets up his own worship centers, chooses his own priests, establishes his own holy days, and worst of all, creates man-made idols for the people to worship.  He’s as bad as bad can be.

This anonymous prophet gives due warning to Jeroboam, a chance to repent, turning back to God.  No way!  Not interested!   So, God allows Jeroboam a traumatic seizure of his hand, and then the altar to false gods shatters and turns to dust.  ‘Help!’, cries Jeroboam.  This prophet prays.  The One True God responds.  A healing occurs.  The king then asks the prophet to remain with him as his own religious guide.

But no, he can’t do that.  Verse 9 says, “For I was commanded by the word of the Lord, ‘You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came.'”  God is very direct with His prophet.  Clear as clear can be.  Go home!  Now enters another unnamed ‘prophet’, called ‘a certain old prophet’ (v.11).  Somehow he gets the other prophet to stay with him for a meal.  Not what the Lord had told him to do.   That cagey, old-goat had lied through his teeth, which were probably as false as he was!  Tattled to the first prophet that an angel had told him that he should stay for some food and drink.  Really?  Liar, liar, pants on fire!

Too bad neither prophet listened to the Word of the Lord.  How about you…and me?  Too bad when we listen to the voice of society more than the Word of God.  Too bad denominations cease hearing directly from the Bible.  Too bad when pastors tickle ears more than teach from God’s Word.  Too bad when the tide turns quickly on some moral issue and we float off to sea, drowning in the foam of current opinion rather than standing on God’s solid ground.   Too bad indeed.

Who do you listen to?  Whose voice counts?

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for your infallible Word.  May we read it and heed it as our commitment to you.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

TOO MANY VOICES… John 10: 1-6

So many voices bombard us.  Not necessarily human ones but information screaming at us from computers, I-phones, I-pads, laptops, Kindle Fire, Nooks and crannies!   Jesus voices to his disciples something they can’t figure out.  In John 10, He reminds them that He’s the good shepherd.  They are His sheep.  The only voice that ultimately matters in their life is His.  Get it?  They didn’t.

It’s such a vivid memory, renting a home in England, a manor house built in the 15th century.  Looking out the bedroom windows,  we could see lots of sheep grazing on our land.   We loved to watch their seemingly aimless activities.  Herd animals for sure.  One would take off and the rest would scamper along following close behind.  We would shake plum and apple trees, and they would come running to have an afternoon snack eating the whole fruit, pits and cores as well.  Crunch, crunch they would munch!  But if we got too close to them, off they would run in the opposite direction.

One day, the shepherd came to cart them all off… for mating.  I was relieved that it wasn’t for our dinner table!  He showed up in a medium-sized van.   They all came in a bunch, walking up the ramp, sardined inside with hardly room to breathe.  No sheep arguments.  No trying to bolt out the back.  They were content to follow wherever their shepherd wanted them to go.  Open fields or over-crowded van.  They were his.  His voice was all they needed to hear.  They knew his voice.  No doubt about that.

As Jesus said–‘…the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.  A stranger they will not follow…’ (John 10:3-5).  How could His own not understand (v. 6)?  The disciples often didn’t.   Why is it that I don’t so many times?

Maybe we’re not listening?  Maybe we’re hearing voices which we need to block out?  Maybe we should spend more time focused on His Word so we can clearly hear His voice?  Maybe we should turn off the television or some of those digital devices and spend time talking with Jesus in prayer?  Maybe?  No doubt about it!  Time to go now.  I hear His voice calling…

Prayer:  Lord, we want to hear your voice above all others.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

DISTANT AND WHAT?…Micah 7: 18-20

Who wouldn’t enjoy reflecting on God’s forgiveness?  How He loves to free us from our sins.  After all, He’s crazy about us!  He gladly lets go of our waywardness.  His anger is but for a moment, not lasting forever.  God loves us so much that He puts our sin far away from us, after we’ve come to Him with genuine repentance and humility.  We hear that ‘…(He) delights to show mercy’ (Micah 7: 18).

If it were me, I’d forgive reluctantly, with lots of strings attached, requiring words of ‘thanks’ from your mouth to my ears!  Not our God!  He delights to forgive us, His inheritance(v.18).  He lives to forgive.  Quite the different attitude between the Lord and little old me!  Comes as no surprise!

Verse 19 says that God has a great big heart of compassion.  He feels for whatever we’re going through.  A passion to get close to us, not only during good times but at all times.  Good parents crave to be near their children and grandchildren.  Could God want any less of us, His own?

I remember taking a social mobility test years ago for a job I not only wanted but needed.  Had no idea what the test questions were leading to, what they were concluding about me.  No idea, silly me!  But I was honest and answered all those weird questions about how I would handle a certain situation.  How I’d best like to use my free time– playing cards or reading.  What did this test reveal…about me?  My social mobility?

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on paper.  Must be a mix-up.  Had someone else’s scores.  They said I was ‘distant and aloof’.  How dare they!  I’m going off by myself and they can go fly a kite!  Distant and aloof, my foot!  Don’t bother me!

Well, I got the job anyway and did quite well.  Who knows?  Maybe I am a bit distant and aloof, but what I do know for sure is that God is not.  He’s filled with compassion.  Feelings for us.  He loves us and loves to be near us.  Remember, He’s never far away.  Never!  He passes that test every time!

Prayer:  We are grateful, Lord, for being close to us and loving.  Who could ask for anything more?  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

PIANO LESSONS!…1 Corinthians 15: 1-11

No, I didn’t take piano lessons while growing up.  My parents had an electronic organ in their living room, which my father loved to play as best he could.  When they upgraded to a better organ, the store salesman talked them into my taking lessons from him.  Organ lessons.  I can still play, but only with chords printed above the musical notes.  Rudimentary to say the least.  Not a pretty sight or sound!

Recently, we attended a private piano concert by a second year music/piano major we’ve known since early childhood.  His… not ours!  My, how he played that instrument!  It was magical.  The piano he played must have been well over a hundred years old.  Beat up, ugly finish, scratches from top to bottom.  This young man sat on a stool borrowed from a harp player.  Makeshift…yet it seemed like he had played this borrowed instrument all his life!  Old and tired piano, he made it sound new and alive!

He said that his final piece was most challenging.  More advanced than what he had previously played for us.  This number required a page-turner for the sheet music.  His sister had been helping with that task.  But for this composition, he called for his father’s help.  Said that his father knew the music, and could better keep up with turning the sheet music.

As he was playing, with his father turning pages, I thought of the help our Heavenly Father gives us.  He can because He knows all about what we’re going through in life.  He should.  He’s the author of life.  He wrote the book.  It’s about Him and His creation.  He understands because He made it.  Every bit of it.  Father knows best.

As the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians: ‘… by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain.  On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me'(15:10).  Like this young piano player, work hard.  Practice.  Apply yourself.  Do it.  Then do it again.  Work harder.  Knowing that it is the hand of the Lord that moves the pages we’re playing the musical notes off of.  Jesus’ scarred hands offer good help with whatever page of life we’re on.

Lessons from this piano recital?  We’re not alone as we trudge through life.  Not at all.  Our Father goes with us.  He’s experienced…we’re novices.  He knows the way.  He turns the pages.  He gives us strength while orchestrating harmonies in our discordant lives, helping us to play the last note, ending well for Him!

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for always being with us… to help us.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.