HAVE I BROKEN MY WORD?…Psalm 93

You may be wondering–have I broken my word?  About what?  Let me ‘fess up.  I’m wading into political muck and mire!  No, not that!  I said I wouldn’t do that.

Actually, fear not!  No endorsements.  No hints even.  Nothing.  Parties I enjoy have more fun than the two duking it out as usual.  Their parties are partisan and predictable.  Nasty and boring!

No matter who prevails in any election, there’s one certainty you can hang your hat on.  It’s found in your Bible.  Psalm 93.  This psalm begins with a resounding chorus of ‘The Lord reigns…’  The English language doesn’t quite capture the decisiveness of the Hebrew.  The Hebrew would need an exclamation point or two after ‘reigns’.  ‘The Lord reigns!!’…unmistakably,  indisputably, unequivocally!

Psalm 93 goes on to use Hebrew poetic parallelisms to describe how great our God is.  Seas rise up.  ‘Seas’ mentioned three times, driving home the point of who’s in charge.  Thunder and great floods speak of our mighty God.  Two, three times over and it becomes crystal clear who is Lord of All and God Almighty.  Who towers above feeble man and woman.  No contest.  No polling and voting.  No ‘spin’ or platforms.  None of that.

Psalm 93:5–‘Your statutes stand firm; holiness adorns your house for endless days, O Lord’.  The Bible is our firm foundation.  His holiness, our challenge and call in life.  His house bears no scandal or shading of the truth.  And with Him we’ll find peace and love forever.

No promises left unfulfilled.  Not with our Lord.  Remember who’s in charge.  After all is said and done–‘The Lord reigns!!’

Father, we pray for our leaders to be godly people.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

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AN UNEXPECTED TWIST…2 Kings 5

I know some think the God of the Old Testament is vengeful, while the God of the New is loving and forgiving.  Any truth to this?  Look in your concordance to find how many times the word ‘love’ appears.    You’ll discover that ‘love’ can be found in more verses of the Old than the New.  Check it out!

In 2 Kings 5 we have an example of God’s love.  In the Old Testament!  Naaman, commander of Aram’s military, contracts a skin disease.  His Israelite servant-girl urges him to see the prophet Elisha, who will pray to Yahweh for healing

Aram rarely gets along with Israel.  They worship Baal, a false god here named Rimmon.  Naaman comes for healing, and Elisha prays for him, dipping him into the River Jordan.  He’s healed!  ‘Now I know that there is no god in all the world except in Israel (v.15).  He becomes a believer in Yahweh God alone.

I’m floored by verses 17-19–by God’s sensitivity and understanding.  Naaman faces a huge problem.  One of his responsibilities is to escort the King into the temple of Baal to bow in worship of this false god.

Such an unexpected twist.  Naaman only wants to worship the true God, but what can he do?  ‘Please Elisha– pray to God explaining my dilemma.’  Does God understand when we get into similar binds?  Stuck between a rock and a hard place?  The plight of the persecuted church.

What can we do?  Pour out our hearts to God.  He understands more than we realize.  Run to God.  He will cover you with His grace, mercy and peace.  What did Elisha say to Naaman?  ‘Go in peace’ (v.19).  God comforts us with His peace… and especially His love.

Thank you, Lord for your understanding.  Amen.

GOD’S TATTOO…Isaiah 49: 8-16

Isaiah 49:16– ‘Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands’.   What does that mean?  Some background.  When a child leaves home in ancient Israel, moving to some far off place, there’s the strong possibility  the parent’s will never see that child again.  The mother would tattoo onto the palm of her hand the name of that child.  The name remains permanently before her eyes.  No longer seen.  Never forgotten.

I was looking through old family photos.  Have one of great-grandparents Johann Adam and Christiana Fischer.  They appear quite elderly, standing near the blacksmith shop he worked at.   She’s tall.  He’s not.  They appear unpretentious and hard-working.

This is the only photo to remember them by.   My grandfather, Adam Fischer, left Germany when he was 14 to avoid the military draft.  He never returned home.  Only one old photo of them in his possession.  They never saw their son ever again.  Or he, them.

I feel sad writing this.  How would I feel never seeing one of our children ever again?  Devastated.  Heartbroken.  Bereft.  But this was not uncommon for immigrants many years ago.

Isaiah, in today’s passage, wants to reassure us that no matter where we are, no matter how difficult life becomes, the Lord is always with us.  Always concerned.  Like having a tattoo with our names on the palms of His hands.  Always before Him.  Close to His heart.

That’s where we are…at this very moment.  Close as close can be.  Isaiah 50: 10–‘Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.’

He has our names engraved on His hands, trusting Him when life turns awfully unhandy.

Lord, we know we can trust in you.  Amen.

BLEACHED WHITE AND BRIGHT!…Mark 9: 2-13

My great-grandmother was Eliza Jane Moore.  She emigrated from County Armagh, Ireland to the United States in 1888.   Such a lovely name–Eliza Jane.  In 1891 she marries another Irishman, James Gibson.  They have five children.  Only two live to adulthood.   One son dies of rheumatic fever at 14 months.  Another succumbs to smallpox at age four, while yet another with some kind of tumor at age 15.  After celebrating 10 years of marriage, James dies of smallpox.

Life floods with challenges for Eliza Jane.  In a matter of twenty short years, she has left her Irish family and homeland.  Endures unrelenting deaths, accompanied by grief and loss.

Her eldest child is Margaret, my great aunt, who never marries, has no children and lives weeks shy of her 103rd birthday.  She spoke proudly of her mother, Eliza Jane, who made ends meet by taking in laundry from wealthy homeowners.  She was said to wash and bleach their linens whiter and brighter than anyone else had ever done.

I think of Eliza Jane when I read Mark chapter 9.  The story of Jesus’ transfiguration.  He’s changed in appearance, talks with Moses and Elijah, and hears the voice of the Father affirming His love for His only Son Jesus.  Mark records that Jesus’ ‘…clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them’ (v.3).

Jesus lightens our load of guilt and shame.  We live in a dark world, one made not a bit brighter by sin.  Jesus will help us see ourselves as we are.  That same light will cleanse, disinfect and illumine.  In Jesus, we’ve never looked so good!  In His hardworking hands, we’ll shine forever!

Thank you, Jesus, for being our light and life.  Amen.

I’VE ORDERED BOTOX!…Psalm 90

Yes, I’ve ordered botox!!  Why not?  After what I’ve been through?  My wife and I drive to the ticket area of Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia.  Hinting for a discount, I ask if they offer either a senior reduction.  Very nicely she says that they don’t, but would I prefer a ‘close to park’ pass so we could hobble into the gardens on our aged legs!

Then I get an invitation to my high school class ‘Our 70th Birthday Party’ bash in Florida next April.  70th?  Are we really that old?  To top it off, I’ve sent my photo, as requested, to the Moody Bible Institute’s Alumni Department where they will announce the publication of my daily devotional book.  Sue took a number of pictures of me.

Now you know why I’ve ordered Botox.  Not!  Psalm 90: 10–‘The length of our days is seventy years–or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away’.

Moses says: ‘… to number our days’ (v.12).  Cherish each one.  Make them count.  Determine to get closer to God, and we’ll find wisdom.

Pray to be satisfied and content with all the blessings the Lord has given.  Not focusing on what we don’t have or what could have been.  Forget rehashing all those sins we’ve confessed to God but still carry around.  When He forgives, He forgives.  I need to believe Him more and more.  You too?  Wisdom, even if a bit late, is well worth having!

 

For all your blessings, Lord, we thank you.  Amen.

 

CAN’T SEE THE FOR US FOR THE TREES!… Isaiah 53

You think my proofreading failed, don’t you?  Should be ‘forest’, not ‘for us’.  Let me explain.  Isaiah 53 is one of the Bible’s premier chapters.  Speaks of what the Messiah will do…for us.  Get it?  For us!

Verse 4 pictures the Messiah carrying our griefs and sorrows.  For us.  Where our sins are placed on a cross (v.5).  For us.  He was wounded.  For us.  Oppressed and afflicted.  For us.   No complaints.  No objections.  No excuses.   ‘…cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people’ (v.8).  For us.

Verse 10–‘…it was the will of the Lord to crush Him; He has put Him to grief…’  ‘…He poured out His soul to death…yet He bore the sin of many…’ (v.12).  For us.  When you look at the cross of Jesus, don’t miss seeing that it was all for us.

Some thoughts cross my mind.  One is the huge debt I owe Him.  However, my debt He paid…in full.   Now, it’s not so much what I owe Him, but how much I want to serve Him out of gratitude for all He’s done.

Another thought– must I still do my part to earn forgiveness?  Perish the thought.  Move forward by His grace and mercy, propelling you along, not looking back as Lot’s wife did, that salty soul!  More like what the Apostle Paul encourages–  ‘…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus…’ (Philippians 3:13-14).  For us…forward!

Thank you Jesus for dying on the cross to forgive all our sin.  Amen.

A NOSE BY ANY OTHER NAME!…Exodus 34: 1-7

My father had a rather good-sized nose!  He would often kid about it saying that when he had a cold, he got his money’s worth!  That was our Dad!  A great guy.  Someone you enjoyed being with.  Even with his large nose!  A person who can laugh at themselves is a joy.

Where am I going with this?  Exodus 34 is one of the most amazing chapters in all the Bible.  The Lord passes in front of Moses on Mount Sinai, proclaiming who He is.  How compassionate He is.  How gracious and giving.  Slow to anger, forgiving not only slight matters but also ‘…wickedness, rebellion and sin’ (v. 7).

What about my father’s nose?  None of your business!  Well, I guess it is, since I mention it!  One of the attributes of God is His being ‘slow to anger’.  Literally, in Hebrew language,  ‘long of nose’!  My father would agree!  The Lord is patient and long-suffering, slow to anger with ‘long of nose’.

What does that mean?  Hebrew people picturethe body’s blood travelling from the tip of your toes to the end of your nose.  A long journey.  Apt picture of someone with patience and a long-fuse.  If God were otherwise, we’d all be toast in a matter of seconds.  Me first!

But God hangs in there with us.  Waits for us to come to our senses, turn around and run to Him for salvation found in His Son Jesus.

I’m glad I had a father with a large nose.  I’m really glad I have a Heavenly Father with a ‘long nose’ of patience, compassion and understanding.  Aren’t you glad also?

Lord, for your loving patience, we thank you.  For Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

LIKE CORNSTARCH!… Colossians 3: 9-14

Cornstarch?  It was Christmas that I received a Chinese wok.  Soon I took a couple classes in Chinese cooking, even one taught by a famous chef in New York City.  That wok of mine was put to work!

Chinese cooking often has an smooth sauce that binds everything together.  What creates that binder is cornstarch dissolved in water.  That slurry will connect all the flavors and spices neatly together without bring attention to itself.

So what does this have to do with the Bible?  Good question!  Paul says that Jesus’ followers are ‘…being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator’ (Colossians 3: 10).  This ‘renewal’ involves lots of change– all to look more like Jesus.  Then in verse 14– ‘…love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony’.   Love is the great binder.  The cornstarch of our Christian life!

We’re all different.  Some have lots and lots of money.  Some barely scraping by.  Some of one political persuasion, some another.

Too bad you can’t all be like me!  Wouldn’t that be a boring world?  Just a rhetorical question.  God has gifted each one.   For His glory.  As unique creations of the Lord.  Each one gifted.

Does that sound self-centered?    Like that horrid bumper sticker–‘It’s all about Me!’  Dare not stop there.  Needs some cornstarch…of love.  Of caring and kindness, compassion and putting yourself in someone else’s moccasins.

Love will bind all together.  I sound like I know what I’m talking about.  I don’t.   Need to work on this as much as you do.  To be more loving and forgiving.  Gracious and kind.  Big words that I want to be even bigger in my heart.  Join me?

Lord, bind us together in your love.  For Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

PHANTOM FEELING!…1 Corinthians 5: 6-8

My English cousin Arthur was a great cyclist.  He rode for miles with his mates.  One day he barely missed being hit by a car causing him to veer off the road, throwing him off his bike, landing on the ground on a pointy rock which lodged in the base of his spine.  He never rode again.  Never walked on his own without the help of calipers and crutches.  I remember him telling me that when he looked down at his legs on the ground that day, they felt like they were still up in the air.

Many paraplegics have a similar experience.  Called ‘phantom feeling’.  They can still feel their damaged limbs in positions contrary to what their eyes see.

That phenomenon came to mind as I was reading what the Apostle Paul wrote:  ‘Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast–as you really are. (v. 7).  He says that sin can take off like wildfire.  Like rapid-rising yeast.  He says to get rid of it.  Find the sin, name and confess it, and move on as God’s forgiven children.

Only God can get rid of our sins.  He did that by sending Jesus to die on the cross for us, which brings salvation and forgiveness.  The old yeast is thrown out and a new batch is made.

Paul says ‘…as you really are’.  But so many times I don’t feel it.  Phantom feeling.  Forgiven… yet carrying around that load of guilt as if Jesus did nothing for me.  Nothing.  Still toting my sins on my shoulders.  Phantom feeling.

Shouldn’t we start to believe the Lord?  Get rid of the old yeast.  Be the new…’as you really are’.

Lord, thank you for forgiving me.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

THOSE SECRET THINGS…Deuteronomy 29:29

 

When doors have closed in my life, God has opened new ones.  When old windows come crashing down, He puts in a brand new Thermo Pane storm window.  But sometimes it feels like He’s far away, as if on vacation or holiday, having wound tight the ‘clock’ of creation only to walk away, letting it wind down all on its own.

One of the names for God in the Old Testament is ‘Immanuel’, ‘God with us’.  Literally, ‘with us…God!’  He’s with us.  Lots of things are with us in life.  Illness, disappointment, failed marriages.  Lost jobs, financial mistakes, church denominations flailing out against the Bible.

When one or more of the above apply, we need to keep reminding ourselves that God is with us.  Keep repeating ‘with us…God!’  He’s with me.  ‘Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.’

The Bible.  That’s exactly where we find out about Jesus.  Not by hearsay or rumor or certainly from the news media…but from His trustworthy and authoritative Word.

I love this verse–‘The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.'(Deut. 29:29).  Much of life we’ll never figure out.  Questions remain unanswered.  He’s not going to tell us everything.

What we do have is His Word.  Everything we need you’ll find between those pages.  When I had lemons, I had no idea if I’d later find lemonade on God’s menu.  But what I did know is that I could trust Him.  Maybe you need to reach out…to Him, who is with us.  And to the Bible.

Keep repeating ‘with us…God!’  ‘With us…God!’  Get ready to enjoy some lemonade!

Lord, thank you for your Word.  Amen.