ALL WE NEED TO KNOW…1 Kings 17 and 1 Corinthians 4:1

Reading 1 Corinthians 4:1, I was struck by the phrase ‘the secret things of God’.  It reminded me of Deuteronomy 29:29, where Moses makes reference to God’s ‘secret things’.  The Bible provides us with all we need to know in life.  However, there is much we are not meant to know.  Secrets known only to God.  We have all we need to lead a godly life.  The rest is His.  We can trust Him with those ‘secret things’.  Agreed?

I love the story of the prophet Elijah and that widow from the town of Zarephath, located in a coastal region of Phoenicia,  northwest of Jerusalem.  Elijah has been cared for by God, fed by ravens bringing food to him by the Kerith Ravine, until its river runs dry.  God tells him to head up to ungodly Phoenicia, where He has commanded a widow to provide food and beverage for him.  Situated in the center of Baal worship, a false god if there ever was one.  Known for exporting oil and flour.  Both big cash crops.  Also, the home of Queen Jezebel, who despised anyone or anything having to do with the One True God, Yahweh.  Great place to hang out,  Elijah!

Even in Zarephath, food and water run out.  Baal must be angry or too lazy to provide for his worshippers!  Death is stalking at the city gates.  This poor widow has a few sticks and a bit of flour and oil for one last meal for her son and herself.  That’s it.  Soon the grim reaper will make his appearance.

At the city gate is where Elijah sees this widow and asks her for some food and drink.  Seems a bit nervy!  To feed him first of all, before even her own son?  He’s fortunate she’s too weak to give him a good punch in the face!  But Elijah tells her that the God of Israel will provide for them during the famine and drought.  He tells her not to be afraid.

This widow has a big choice to make.  To believe in God’s care… or not.  Take a chance on faith…or not.  How about you?  Something you need to trust the Lord about?  Of course, it’s scary stuff.  I’m still learning,  probably getting only a C minus for my grade.  But don’t drop out of His class!  He’ll take whatever tiny seed of faith we plant in Him, and yield what’s needed in His timing.

He loves us.  He will provide.  Don’t be a dunce!  Come to the head of His class!  Trust…

Prayer:  Lord, we choose to believe you.  And know that in your hands, we will be provided for.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

SO MUCH MORE!…Luke 5: 17-26

They came seeking help for their friend.  Friends helping a friend in need.  Unfortunately, when they got to the house where Jesus was speaking, there was absolutely no room.  Not to be deterred, they cart their disabled friend up to the roof, and literally dismantle a large section of it, lowering him down to the One they hope could heal.  Jesus sees the friend’s persistence, knowing that this adds up to faith in Him.  Jesus simply speaks the word and the man is made whole.  Amazing!  Unbelievable!  But we’ve seen it with our own eyes!  Yes, the man gets up on his two good feet, rolls up his mat that he used to lie on, and off he goes home, thanking God with each good step he takes!

Unfortunately, not everyone is thrilled.  The religious leaders smell blasphemy in the air.  Jesus not only heals this man, but declares that his sins are forgiven.  That’s going too far.  Only God can forgive sins.  Is that what Jesus means?  Really?  Absolutely!

The paralytic gets the use of his legs.  He seeks physical healing but gets much more.  That’s what happens when we encounter Jesus.  We come for a variety of reasons.   Why did you?  For me, I felt lonely and worthless.  A mediocre high school student.  I remember getting ‘B’s and ‘C’s mainly.  A few ‘D’s idly sprinkled here-and-there.  Had a few friends.  Not many.  Emotionally isolated, in the little upstairs bedroom, at my parent’s house.

That’s when a radio program acted like friends lowering me down in front of Jesus.  I never knew that He even gave one hoot about me.  That He cared?  Loved me?  Never heard that before…until a Sunday evening on the radio.   Jesus eagerly desired to be in my life.  Guess what?  I prayed.  He came to be with me.  Little old me.  I got companionship from Jesus, exactly what I needed.

But we get much more.  Think about all He’s given us since that first time we met Him.  All those blessings!  Immediately, I started getting better grades.  Now a child of God!  When I graduated from High School, I was a straight ‘A’ student.

Maybe I was worth something?  In Jesus, without a doubt!  Had new friends…in a new church where Christ was preached and the Bible taught.  He keeps giving…more and more.  More than we could ever imagine.  Much more…

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for all you’ve done for us.  We’re so grateful.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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.