FRIENDS, LEND ME AN EAR OR TWO!… Psalm 40

Thank you for ‘lending me an ear’, reading these daily devotionals.  We’ve covered many Bible passages,  reflected on varied experiences of life, being honest with each other about our walk with the Lord.  Today I hope you’ve enjoyed reading Psalm 40.  What grabbed my attention can be found in verses 4 through 8.

They talk about trusting God.  Hardly an original thought.  Urging us to steer clear of prideful people, who stray after so-called ‘truth’, veiled lies at best.  Focus your attention on what really counts, who truly matters–the Lord!  The One we love and who totally loves us.

We’re to tell others about His blessings that they are beyond counting.  Not enough hours in the day!   We’re told not to bring sacrifices and sin offerings, but rather to delight in obeying the Lord.  Not a ‘have to’, but a ‘want to’!  Not drudgery.  But a delight.  Am I there yet?  Must you ask!  Two steps forward, one back.  Not a straight line.  That’s me.

Verse six takes a hold of me.  Hard to translate from the Hebrew.  See where the psalmist says, ‘…but you have given me an open ear'(v.6)?  My translation(ESV) has a footnote, saying the original reads like this– ‘…ears you have dug for me.’  Meaning that God has opened our ears so we can truly hear Him.

Who said I have a hole in my head?!  Funny enough, that’s the idea.  On my own, can’t hear a thing.  So hard of heart and hearing.  He has to get out the cranial drill.  Then He bores away!  ‘Lord, give me ears to hear…’

To glean from Him in His Word.  To sit quietly, with book open on my lap eager to catch even one Word from my Master.  Ears open to Him.  Receptive and waiting.  Patiently keeping my mouth shut for the moment…to hear from Him.   He sounds so good.  Agreed?

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, that we can now hear you.  Help us to heed you.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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DREAM THE DREAMS OF YOUR HEART! …1 Kings 17

I love all those unnamed characters in the Bible.  Anonymous and unknown.  Here’s one, a widow in 1 Kings 17.  No name given.  Someone in need.  I’m glad for people who don’t demand their names be recognized, up in lights!  Do things for the Lord without cheers coming their way.  I’ve tried not to encourage my ego to run my life.  Would rather that others get the credit if done well for the Lord.  Me?  Wouldn’t you rather hear Jesus’ commendation ‘well done…faithful servant’?  I remember giving the homily at a Lenten service.  Unfortunately, the bulletin had my name preceded by the word ‘homely’!  And now speaking is the homely John Fischer!  Didn’t bother me, plus I’ve had lots of laughs for years now.

As long as the Lord knows who we are…that’s what really counts.  And trust me–He does!  Through faith in Jesus Christ, we become God’s children, now and forever.

Elijah is named in this chapter.  He’s hungry and thirsty, like everyone else in this woman’s city of Zarephath, north of Jerusalem, on the coast of Phoenicia.  Food is almost gone.  The Bible says that God has commanded this woman to provide for Elijah’s need of food and water(v.9).  When did God command her?  I can’t find that in this chapter?  Can you?  So, God has His ways.

Her only thoughts are survival, both for herself and her only child, a son.  One more meager meal and it’s all over.  Or so she thinks.  This man of Yahweh God asks her for something she has almost nothing left of.  She lives in a town that worships the god Baal.  The ruler’s wife is Queen Jezebel, who hates anyone worshipping Yahweh.  The command of God?  How?  When?  God has His ways.

Here’s where the story takes us deeper.  It tells us, without being direct, that God will work His ways even when we are unaware.  We may have no idea how God works.  None.  Keep your eyes wide open.  Pray for His will.  Go about your life planning what you’d like.  Dream the dreams of your heart.  Knowing that the Lord is at work to do His will through us…and others.  As long as we’re willing vessels, He’ll direct the course.  He will meet us along the way.  In unexpected places.  From unexpected people.  Get ready–surprises await!  God has His ways.

Prayer:  Lord, we want to trust you in every aspect of our lives.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

 

 

WHO’S WATCHING?… Exodus 12: 33-51

Pay particular attention to Exodus 12:42–  ‘It was a night of watching by the Lord, to bring them out of the land of Egypt…'(ESV).  This passage describes the horrors of the ten plagues, all due to the stubbornness and sinfulness of Pharaoh.  He was supreme ruler, considered to be a god himself.  He loved big work projects with abundant slave-labor.  But God was leading His chosen people to their own land.  Pharaoh would not let them go.

Since God broaches no competition, He unleashes an ever-increasing barrage of destruction and death.   Pharaoh has the hardest of hard hearts.  As if to pay back Pharaoh for his order to drown all Jewish baby boys, the final plague involves the death of the first-born.  Circumstances are so bad in Egypt, beyond anything ever experienced,  that the Israelites are begged to leave.

To the Promised Land!  They must go in haste.  No time even for bread to rise.  Grab what you can, take whatever the Egyptians offer you.  Head for the desert.  Read again Exodus 12: 42.  Isn’t that remarkable?  During this dangerous escape, God’s people are never out of His sight.  This is the night of watching by the Lord.  To bring them out.  In safety.  Provided for.

When my boys were young, they both had paper routes.  Jonathan had an apartment building.   Dave a few blocks from home.  Some of the fondest memories I have of their growing up years involve delivering papers with them.  I would arrange my schedule almost every day, and off we’d go delivering the local newspaper.  We’d pick up some of their friends and always made it as fun as fun could be.  Often, we’d wind up at a local grocery store purchasing a dozen donuts to consume after deliveries were complete.  What are Dads for anyway?

Let me tell you something.  I was watching over those boys like a hawk.   The poor person who tried to cheat Dave out of his subscription money regretted that move big-time!  The dog that almost bit one of us had a field day chasing the Sunday morning paper all over the front lawn as I refused to let one of my boys(me neither!)get near that underfed mongrel!   I doubt my boys had any idea what my larger game-plan was.

Like the Israelites, fleeing for their lives, all the time watched over by their God.  Whatever desert we find ourselves in, we never go alone.  He’s watching.  He’s caring.  I love this verse in Exodus.  A night of watching by the Lord!

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for watching over us.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

BACK AND FORTH!…1 Kings 17

As I look back on my life, I see lots of two steps forward, one back; one forward, three back.  How about you?  A straight arrow for the Lord?  I certainly hope so, but I’m not holding my breath!  If I had been, sure would have saved me from all kinds of dead-ends and wrong turns in my life.

This widow from Zarephath discovers that the God of Israel is calling her to help one of His prophets, Elijah.  She notes that Yahweh is a compassionate God, answering her prayers for help, when her local deity Baal seems to be off on vacation having turned off his cell phone!  Maybe he also neglected to put new batteries in his hearing aides.

Her oil and flour never run out, even though the famine and drought are in full swing with no end in sight.  Her faith grows with each new blessing.  So would ours.  Who doesn’t love God’s blessings poured out on us?  But then storm clouds are seen on the horizon.  This unnamed woman’s son becomes deathly ill.  He’s getting worse with each passing hour.  ‘Worse and worse’, the Bible says.  And then comes the end.  He’s gone.  Her only child.  All those days of oil and flour seem meaningless to her now.  All the food in the world can’t bring him back.

She turns to Elijah, railing at him in anger.  ‘Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?'(v.18).  She fears that God is inclined more to punishment than forgiveness, revenge more than love and mercy.  In the past He’s provided well for them, but now her world has been shattered.  Causes her to question the Lord.

How about you?  Haven’t you had times when your faith seemed to melt away in the flames of trouble?  Has God shown an unwelcome side of Himself?  I don’t tend to blame God when life turns ugly.  I figure that I deserve whatever comes my way.  As if God has given up on me.  This also stunts my faith in the Lord.

What to do?  That’s the question.  Elijah takes those heartaches and headaches to the Lord in prayer.  Guess we should do the same?  Wrap your hands around those troubles, go into a corner of a quiet room and pour yourself out to Him.  When answers come, you’ll know it.  But it may take awhile as if God is developing patience and trust in reluctant followers, like me!  Wait.  Hang in there.  She says, ‘Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth(v.24).  You’ll know too!

Prayer:  We trust you, Lord, and wait for your answers to all we’re praying about.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

THE SUN WILL COME OUT WHEN?… Exodus 17: 8-16

Who doesn’t love a good Broadway musical?  I’ve enjoyed dozens of the best shows.  Doesn’t have to be on Broadway either.  Can be a production by the local High School.  For those of us who live in the drizzly Pacific Northwest, we all love that hit song from ‘Annie’ entitled, ‘The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow’.  We need the optimism of that little orphan.  ‘Tomorrow…tomorrow…’ she sings with her head held high, waiting for the sunny day to arrive!

Reading from Exodus, we meet an autocratic leader, forbidding his cheap labor-force to leave, until God unleashes a torrent of plagues on the land and its leadership.  Terror fills the hearts of the Egyptians.  Death has the final word.  Check out those plagues and notice a certain word used over and over again in Exodus 8: 23, 29; 9:5, 18; 10:4.  These plagues were announced as warnings of what will take place ‘tomorrow’.

Why then?  Why not right now?  God is clearly giving the Egyptians and its Pharaoh time to think things over.  Not a lot.  Not forever.  But overnight.  Tomorrow is coming.  Time to repent TODAY.  Time to turn to God NOW for this is His moment of mercy and grace.

A short interlude to come back to Him.  To count the cost of disobedience.  Time for second chances.  Praise God,  He gives us this brief moment.  Unfortunately, for those who want nothing to do with Him, time is running out.  Tomorrow is coming sooner than they think.

Later in Exodus the word ‘tomorrow’ is used again.  In Exodus 16: 23.   God’s people are gathering daily food called ‘manna’.  On Friday the people were to garner twice the needed amount so that work would not be required on the Sabbath.  Tomorrow.  The Lord will provide.  Tomorrow.  He will.  Even a double portion.

Tomorrow involves faith to trust Him… for some of our prayers have yet to be answered.  Tomorrow is but a few hours more, just around the bend.  For believers, tomorrow is our time to be patient, praying and holding onto His hands.

The Son will come out… ‘Tomorrow’!

Prayer:  Lord,  we pray for those who need to repent and come to you.  For us, thank you for the hope of tomorrow.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

ISN’T THAT SOMETHING!…2 Samuel 17:17, Philippians 4:3, Revelation 3:5

I was reading 2 Samuel 17:17 and noticed two names mentioned that I knew nothing about.  Jonathan and Ahimaaz.  Jonathan here was not Saul’s son nor mine!  Who are they?  Know very little.  But they’re in the Bible.  There for a reason.

A few years back my wife and I drove east on one of our many cross-country road trips.  I’d always wanted to visit the town and church where I served as a summer pastor between Bible college and seminary.  Had been decades ago.   Was a dream to return to Emmanuel Mennonite Brethren Church in Onida, South Dakota.  Was only there for a brief summer, but the people made a lasting impression on me.

When we drove into town, it all came back.  We discovered that the church had planned a nice reception for us in their fellowship hall.  How humbling.  The pastor such a gracious man.  Sharing and eating went on for about two hours.  I loved all the reminiscing, until it dawned on me that absolutely no one there remembered me at all.  Not one.  They remembered the car I drove, a 1963 Bahama Blue VW Beetle .  The mobile home they rented for me.  But me?   Nothing!  How truly humbling!  I never forgot them.  For them, not even a faint recollection of you-know-who!

Guess who never forgets us?  Good answer…the Lord!  St. Paul writes–‘…my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life'(Philippians 4:3).  And in Revelation 3:5–‘…I will never blot out his name from the Book of Life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and His angels.’  When we accept Jesus into our lives, our names are written in God’s book of life.  That’s a living book.  One that grows larger with each new name engraved within its pages.

We’re never forgotten.  Never overlooked.  Never loved, then lost.  We can and do forget others, but not the Lord.  Jesus knows His own and we know His voice(John 10:14, 27-30).  Stay close to Him, cherished forever!  Remember– He won’t forget…you!

Prayer:  Lord, to know that we are yours keeps us on your holy path.  Secure and loved.  We want to follow you as your faithful children.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

BREAK OUT YOUR THESAURUS!…Proverbs 11

We all know people who can’t stop talking.  Yak…yak…yak!  How annoying can they get?  Never seem to take a breath.  So caught up in themselves that they may have no idea if anyone’s even listening.  Oblivious.  Indifferent and clueless.  On and on… about themselves.  An endless stream of words.  Anyone’s face come to mind?  Hopefully, it’s not mine!  Or yours!

When you’ve read Proverbs 11, you’ll have read many words.  But these are ones to pay attention to.  That will make life different for us.  Words to heed.  A life lived for God.  As I read this chapter, I kept writing down all the words that contrast a godly and ungodly person.   Took up half a notebook page.  For years now I’ve made it a personal habit to take notes on the Bible passages I’m reading that day for my personal devotions.  Time with God, noting what impresses me.  Like the Lord looking over my shoulder and pointing out a verse or two,  a word or phrase.  ‘Look at this,’ He says.  ‘Now, don’t miss that’.   A still, small voice within as I spend time in His Word.

Ever try it?  Taking some notes?  Paying closer attention to the leading of the Holy Spirit?  As I was writing down all the descriptive words used in Proverbs 11 for ‘the righteous’ and ‘the wicked’, I almost ran out of ink–upright…trustworthy…gracious…kind…generous…on and on.  Then for the other side–violent…godless…cruel…foolish…and on and on.  Thought I was checking out my two new Thesauri that I bought last Christmas!

What about these words Solomon uses to describe the godly and the opposite?   I know which column I want to be associated with me.  The righteous and godly!  Sometimes I slip to the other side, but no way would I want to hang around there for too long.  So, I confess my sin and God moves me to the right side of the column.  I’m discovering that these are not merely words, but a life.  And a life worth living involves more of godliness than the other side.

Here’s a sobering thought.  Look closely at verse 10– ‘When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness'(ESV).  My life is more than my own.  What I do affects others for a long time.  Can’t sluff off bad behavior as if it only affects me.  Much of what we do, and who we are, lasts a lot longer than we imagine.  That gives me pause.  With resolve… to follow the godly things in my life.  You too?

Prayer:  Lord, we want to stand with you.  To be godly people.  To follow you.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

AN ILL WIND IS BLOWING… Mark 6: 45-52

The disciples are in a boat on the Sea of Galilee after Jesus feeds well over 5000 people having only a small basket of fish and a couple loaves of bread.  Jesus has sent them off so He could get up on the mountainside to pray, spending time with God His Father.  What’s so bad about that?  Sounds fine to me.

But then, all heavens break loose!  ‘Who turned on the sky-fans?  We’re going down!’  Mark 6:48 says that ‘(Jesus) saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.’  An ill wind is blowing!  Friends of ours were visiting Israel near the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Was a nice calm day until the wind changed in the blink-of-an-eye, and a storm came barreling through.  Panic ensued.  People were running for cover.  Our friends were literally falling all over each other to find shelter.  Unfortunately, the wife twisted her body as people fell on her causing one of her hips to shatter, necessitating two major surgeries in two countries.  Certainly an ill wind blowing her way that day.

Have the winds turned against you?  No longer welcome but wild and ominous.  Then spend a moment in this story.  Jesus sees all that’s happening to His own.  The disciples’ struggles and fears.  He knows all about it.  Why does He allow us to grapple with the elements?  To battle with what appears insurmountable?  I don’t know.  I just know that He has higher purposes beyond my comprehension and understanding.  Answers I’ll not receive in this life.  Things I will need to accept by faith in order to move forward, not getting stuck in the unknown and unknowable.

What the disciples learn that day is, as spooky as life can be(they thought He was a ghost!), that Jesus cares.  He helps us.  Loves us.  We can trust Him even without any decent answers coming our way.  Ill winds will blow but Jesus is there for us. Tough times lose half their heft when we know that someone loves us and is there for us.  Right?

Jesus tells His disciples this–‘Take courage!  It is I.  Don’t be afraid.  Then He climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down'(vs. 50-51).  See what I mean?

Prayer:  We trust you, Lord.  No matter what, we’re going to believe in you.  In His name.  Amen.

 

TIME FOR A BREAK?…Mark 6: 30-44

You know the story of the feeding of the five thousand men along with thousands of women and children.  A very familiar miracle story.  But there’s more going on around the edges of this story, which caught my attention today.

Jesus sends out His followers to teach about God’s Kingdom and to heal those in need.  When they return they gather around Him telling about their adventures in those local villages.  With people coming and going, everyone needy and demanding, the disciples had absolutely no time for themselves, not even to grab a bite to eat.   Tired, worn-out, famished,  Jesus tells them to ‘…come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest'(v.31).

Doesn’t that sound good?  Like what the doctor ordered?  What you need at this moment?  Getting away from phones, television, politics(amen!), work, family, money.  Oy vey, already!  ‘Jesus, that’s for me!  Help!’  That’s what I saw around the edges of this story.

Come away by yourself.  Warts and all.  Even that baggage you’ve been carting around on your shoulders, stuff from the past that’s still bugging you.  Bring it all to Jesus.  Time for a break.  Some rest for the weary.  Open your Bible and read a psalm.  Not one about our enemies but more like Psalm 23, or of praise in Psalm 100.  Be comforted and pampered.  Bask in Jesus’ care.  Rest in the Sonshine.

Come away with Him.  To a quiet place.  Can you find one?  For rest and nourishment.  What Jesus did for them years ago, He’ll do for you and me.  Hear Him calling?  ‘…come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest’.  Sign me up!  You too?

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for times with you.  Hearing from you in the Bible.  Speaking about our concerns in prayer.  We love you.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

THE INCENSE, THE CLOUD AND THE VEIL… Exodus 30:1-10, 33:7-11, 34:29-35

Remember that gruesome scene in the film, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, where the evil Nazi opens the cover to the Ark of the Covenant, totally melting in the presence of God?  Made quite a mess of himself through his pride and arrogance!

As gripping as that scene is, it tells a tale of warning to all humanity.   Seek to be in the presence of Almighty God?  Be careful.   All hell could break loose.  I’ve been reading the Book of Exodus for my devotions.  Led me to think about three instances recorded by Moses.  The incense, the cloud and the veil.  All three of them keep God’s being at a distance from his people.  To separate us from Him.

Incense fills the air with thick smoke.  The cloud is filled with God’s glory but blocks vision of the Almighty.  The veil was used by Moses to cover his head and face, which glowed and glimmered after he had spent time with Yahweh God.  The people would not see the reflection of the Lord on Moses’ face.  Covered…for none to see.  But why?  What’s the point?

I’ve been mulling over these thoughts in my mind.  Why not see God face-to-face?  What’s so bad, after all?  Could this have gone back to what happened in the Garden of Eden?  Paradise lost.  Eden left behind.  Due to the sin of both Adam and Eve.  We’ll forget the blame-game they played.  The finger-pointing.  The ‘He made me’, ‘She made me’ excuses.  The equality of sin.

The ‘Fall of Mankind’ has left an indelible print of death on each of us.  No mistaking it as we look around at the fallen world we live in.  Or as we honestly gaze in the mirror of our own lives.  What do you see?   Sin-scarred, we are in grave danger if we find ourselves in the presence of God, who is holy and true through-and through.  We would melt away.  Evaporate.   A soul, forever separated from the God who created us.

God knows all about our being made of clay, soil and dust.  Fragile materials at best.  Here’s where the incense, the cloud and the veil come in.  They are His mercy.  His protection from harm that His presence may bring.  What seems unreasonable and unnecessary, is actually His love and care for us.

What God wants is our trust.  I’m going to thank Him today that I can’t see Him directly!  Sounds odd to say.  But it’s true–He’s protecting me.   But there will come a day, in eternity, when we’ll know the truth of 1 Corinthians 13: 12–‘For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face…'(KJV).  What a day that will be!  Amen?

Prayer:  Holy God, we bow before you in humility.   In Jesus’ name.  Amen.