ABRAHAM’S FRIEND AND OURS 2 Chronicles 20 and John 15

Do you have many friends?  The older we get the more precious they become.  Ironically, that’s when we start to lose them.  Making new ones?  Hard as nails.  Pointedly difficult.  When we need them most, their numbers decrease.

One friendship we can count on above all others is with our Lord.  He’s our totally trustworthy friend.  Immovable in His caring for His own.  That means you…and me!  Makes a difference in our daily lives?  Should.

But does it?  To know He’s reliable and dependable.  Not fickle or competitively jealous.  Won’t drop us like a hot potato.  He’s our friend.  Jesus says–‘I no longer call you servants…Instead, I have called you friends…’ (John 15:15).  We are Jesus’ friends.

Here’s a question.  Can He count on us to be trustworthy and true?  To stand up for Him?  To be Jesus’ friend?

To be honest, sometimes.  At other times, I’m less than resilient.  Weak-kneed, lacking prayer and patience.  Sadly, not always His best friend as He is for me.  Don’t you wish you could be a better friend…to Jesus?

Abraham, the premier Old Testament patriarch, is far from perfect.  Read his story in the early chapters of Genesis.  Tells lies.  Gives his wife into someone else’s harem to save his own skin.  Somehow avoids ‘Divorce Court’!  Nevertheless, in 2 Chronicles 20:7 the author writes this–‘…of Abraham your (God’s) friend…’  Abraham is friend to God.  How wonderful!

Friendship.  Something mutual.  Give-and-take.  Two-way street.  A covenant bond, like marriage between a man and a woman.  Commitment.

Not of equals for God is the only perfect One.  He holds our hands, knowing full-well we need His constant help.  Even as imperfect as we are, He cherishes our friendship, such as it is.  That’s grace.  With gobs of mercy.  But we strive to be better.  Don’t we?

Yes.  And Jesus loves me enough not to leave me the way I am.  Wants to clean me up.  Wipe off the dirt and grime from my knees, which have wallowed in sin and shame.  Nudges me, stubborn old me, to grow up and mature.  To get out of my grubby, ungodly ruts.  Thank the Lord, He’s not done with me yet!

On top of that, He won’t abandon me.  He reaches out even when I’m in resistance mode.  After all, He’s my friend.  Yours too.  Stays closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).

We can count on Jesus.  Can He with us?

 

Thank you, Jesus, for your friendship.  Amen.

 

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‘LOVE MAKES THE WORLD…’ Psalm 136

The first musical play I attend is ‘Carousel’, starring a teenager named Liza Minelli, performing at the historic Papermill Playhouse in my hometown of Millburn, New Jersey.  The popular song in ‘Carousel’ is ‘Love Makes the World Go Round’.  A catchy tune with memorable words.  Love, at the very heart of this world, makes it go round-and-round.

Reading Psalm 136, I discover love’s source.  Who makes it happen.  Love, not only keeps the world spinning on its rotation and axis, but permeates the very air we breathe.  Rather than sing Carousel’s hit song, let’s delve deeper into the heart of God’s love, found in this psalm.  With me?

Immediately you’ll notice a refrain, repeated at the end of each verse.  Twenty-six times this phrase is sung by God’s people–‘His love endures forever’.  Every verse reminds us of God’s love.  Hard to forget when it’s said over-and-over again.  Love makes this psalm go round!

Not love on its own.  It’s His love that’s celebrated.  God’s love.  Disconnected from the Lord, at best you get a lesser form of affection.  A liking that rarely lasts for long.

But love, fused to God, clamped tightly to Him, embraces an eternal quality.  It comes from One who has no beginning and no end.  Therefore, ‘His love endures forever.’  An unbroken circle.

The Hebrew word ‘chesed’ (‘love’) is hard to translate into English.  Lots of synonyms come to mind.  Like faithfulness and kindness.  Covenant relationship and promise.  Commitment and loyal love.   ‘Chesed’ reaches to God’s highest goodness, though that’s merely the outer reaches of His love’s fullness.  And even that’s only the beginning!

‘His love endures…’  Even puts up with the likes of me…and you!  Now, that’s something!  His loving care outlasts our sin and shame.  When we get on our knees before Jesus, He never throws salt in our wounds.  Never keeps nagging us about our faults.  After all, He forgives AND forgets.  Something I’ve experienced in no one else, including and especially me.

‘His love endures forever.’  How long?  Forever.  That’s a long time.  As in never running out.  No final straw that breaks His camel’s back.  No.  Forever and ever…and beyond!

This Valentine’s Day week, let’s celebrate God’s love that created the world, rotating it round-and-round on its axis,  running through every bit and morsel of our daily lives.  Yes!  ‘His love endures forever’!

 

Lord, thank you for your love which lasts forever.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

 

 

WHAT? NO YANKEE BASEBALL CARDS ALLOWED? Revelation 14: 6-13

Let’s talk about family.  Maybe not!  Wish I could report that our clan exhibits only peace and tranquility.  Not so.  However, we’re not alone, are we?  Hardly.

Sad to admit,  I’ve let down lots of family.  Please don’t ask them!  You may get an earful!  I’ve given big hurts through the years, with some of the same aimed directly at me.  I wonder about the greeting I’ll get at heaven’s family gates?  ‘Well done…’?  Or ‘what are you doing here?’

Consider  Revelation 14:13–“Then I heard a voice from heaven say,  ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’  ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.'”

When down-in-the-family-dumps, this verse is for you…and me.  In Jesus (here’s the key), when our time is up on earth, in Jesus we find ‘rest’.  And peace.  Burdens lift.  Sorrows cease.  Failures flee.  Sins given a swift kick-in-the-pants.  Joys dominate.

But only if you’re ‘in the Lord’.  In Jesus.  Being His.  Committed to the Son of God.  Born anew.  That’s you?

In addition,  we’re told that, if we’re in Jesus, we’ll bring something with us to heaven.  Like all my vintage Yankee baseball cards?  No.  Too bad Mickey, Whitey and Yogi!  How about my Hull Pottery ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ ceramics collection?  Sorry, Charlie!  No can do.

But something much better–‘…for their deeds will follow them’ (Rev. 14: 13).  Anything we’ve done for Jesus, even things tiny as a mustard seed (Luke 13: 18-19), will accompany us to Heaven’s gates and beyond.  Whatever they may be, they’ll all be welcome in Paradise.  Each and every one.  Big or small.  Accompanying us to Jesus Himself.

Good deeds for Jesus’ sake will go with us through the valley of the shadow until we see Him face to face.  Talk about the red carpet treatment!

The more we do… Well, you get the point!  And the more the merrier!

Thank you, Jesus, for welcoming us into your presence.  Amen.

 

 

KNOCK YOUR SOCKS OFF! Psalm 81

Where we used to live, a new tax was approved to upgrade local roads.  I wasn’t impressed with this costly project, and felt it was another boondoggle adding to everyone’s tax bills.  Called the mayor to express my feelings.  Rather bold, you say?  Not for me.  I can be a bear, especially if it affects my net worth!

The mayor instantly became defensive, leading me to conclude that this would be a wasted call at best.  And it was.  At the conclusion, the mayor assured me that, when all was said-and-done, this project would ‘knock your socks off!’  Really?  I’m ready.  It didn’t.  No socks came off.  Only gobs of shekels from my wallet each year!

Psalm 81 makes better promises.  Of God’s blessings galore.  Psalm 81: 10–‘Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.’  Verses 13 and 16–‘If my people would listen to me…you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.’  Gushing with blessings!  God loves to give.  He’ll knock our socks off!

His bounty costs us… nothing.  It cost Him… everything.  As in the death of His Son Jesus on the cross.  He did that exclusively for you and me?  Not quite.  All for His glory with side benefits coming our way.  Not just for us.  For there will be clouds of witnesses praising Jesus from every tribe and nation.  All for His glory.  For Him.

What God promises, He produces.  No ‘knock your socks off’ tax business with little to show but bare feet.  Not with our God.  He never lets us down.  We fail.  He never does.

It’s His promises we hold onto.  Not mine or yours or those of politicians.  His.  God’s Word alone.  Couldn’t get any better than that.  Could it?

 

Thank you, Lord, for being the ultimate promise giver and keeper.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

I CAN’T COUNT THAT HIGH! Psalm 71

Math is not my long suit.  The only ‘D’ grade I ever earn is in Junior High Algebra.  ‘D’ doesn’t mean delightful.  More like dunderhead!  Forget about trigonometry or calculus.  Avoid both like the plague.

Even though I was a successful financial planner for twenty years, with over 800 clients, yet I couldn’t count worth beans.  Didn’t have to with computers and calculators.  That’s best for clients…for sure!  As I can’t count that high!

I notice the same about the poet who pens Psalm 71.  Look at verse 15–‘My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure.’  The measurements– length and breadth, height and depth, of God’s saving work goes beyond measure.  See!  He can’t count that high either.

No one can.  Even though we hesitate to admit it, our knowledge is palpably limited.  Think we’re so smart.  So clever.  Have all the answers.

Do we?  Not on your life…or mine.  Think of the scientific chaos theory of creation.  That all this marvel of God’s fashioning comes about by chance and happenstance.  How lucky can we get!  Talk about requiring faith?  That certainly does.  More than I can count on!

How about God saving His lost people?  How does that happen?  Sending His only Son Jesus to die for us?  Makes no sense.  Doesn’t add up.  I’d never do that.  Sacrifice either of my sons for ingrates who hate me?  No way.  Never.  Not a chance.

But He did.  For me and you.  Because of His love.  More than we can imagine.  A love we can count on, even though its measure is beyond calculating.

Don’t worry.  It’s not about me or you.  Or our limitations, which the Lord knows all about.  No.  It’s about His boundless love.  Agreed?

So what if we can’t figure it all out.  He knows and that’s all that matters!  Can always count on Jesus…no matter what.

 

Lord, thank you for your Son Jesus, our Savior, whom we can completely depend upon.  Amen.

 

PEOPLE TODAY Psalm 78

We moan and groan about people today.  Not ourselves, of course!  Others!  You know who they are.  Crass and getting worse.  Take a gander at television.  Maybe you shouldn’t.  Movies?  Have you seen new ones?  For us, maybe a decade ago, and what a colossal waste of time and money.

I’m now reading about a bunch of totally greedy botchagaloops.  Believe in numerous gods.  Never satisfied.  Always grabbing for more.  Money-grubbers.  Noticeably unhappy with nary a smile on their faces.  Scowls dominate.  Ungrateful like they deserve everything.  ‘I’m owed’.  And angry.  And entitled.  You know them.  No, not you, of course!  Or me, certainly!

By the way, what am I reading?  Just perusing Psalm 78.  What?  Yes!  Asaph pens this psalm.  He’s one of the leading choir directors of ancient Israel.  He knows the history of God’s people.  Warts and all.  Read the first thirty-one verses and you’ll note how little anyone has changed over the millennia.  No evolution in our spiritual lives.  Same old, same old.  More like devolution.

Mustn’t end of such a down note.  Read on.  Especially verses 32-39, and you’ll discover where our hope lies.  You know!  With the Lord.  With Him alone.  He’s the key as Jesus opens the doors to life in its fullness (John 10:9-10), which will be complete when we close our eyes to this world, opening them to Him in glory.

No matter what comes your way this year, whatever happens, remember this– ‘…God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer’ (Psalm 78: 35).  Time to stop whining and start becoming a wide-eyed believer in all the goodness God has for us in His Son Jesus.  Both now and then, here and there.  As in always!

Got that?

 

Thank you, Jesus, for making life worth living.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

DOING WHAT JESUS DOES John 10: 22-42

Happy New Year!  2019?  My, how time flies.  Whizzes by at lightning speed.  But I wonder about the future.  With all its uncertainties.  No doubt this new year will entail some doozies.  Either personally or in our families, with our finances and jobs, and certainly in politics.  Looking forward gives me the shakes!

In the winter, Jesus attends Hanukkah celebrations in Jerusalem’s Temple (John 10).  Cold days and nights.  But the hierarchy glows hot as you-know-what.  About Jesus.  And His miracles.  And His big mouth proclaiming blasphemy, or so they say.  His life dangles in mortal danger.  It hangs in the balance.

So what does Jesus do?  John 10:40–‘…(Jesus) went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days.  Here he stayed…’  Facing the future, Jesus goes back to where His earthly ministry begins (John 1).  A hint for you and me?

When fears and worries rear their ugly faces, head back to the Lord for His reassurance.  That’s where Jesus goes, putting His mind and soul at ease.  To where He hears John the Baptist announce that He’s the Messiah.  He’s God’s Lamb who will take away the world’s sins (John 1:29).  Also where the Holy Spirit anoints Jesus, mimicking a gently descending dove (1:32).  And where He hears most comforting words from His Father, who loves Him so much, that Jesus is ‘the Son of God’ (1:34).

When frightened and panicky, trust what the Lord has already promised.  When shaken to the core, hold on tightly to Him.  When wobbly with uncertainties, lean firmly on God.  Dig deeper into His Word.  Stay close by.  Heels dug in and unmoved.  For if so, terrifying winds will give up long before you do.

What’s ahead for you and me in 2019?  I know as much as you do.  Nothing, really!  But going forward I’ll try to gaze back for God’s strength just like Jesus does.  I’ll try.

Good enough for Him.  Good enough…  Well, you get the point.

 

We’ll stand with you, Jesus, all year long.  But only with your help.  Amen.

TO THE WORD! Isaiah 8: 11-22

From ‘Les Miserables’ by Victor Hugo comes the cry–‘to the barricades!’  To battle.  Stand up for what you believe in.  Don’t roll over and play dead.  Be bold.  Speak your peace, even if it stirs up quite the contrary.

We live in contentious times.  Everyone taking sides, and being rather nasty about it.  I remember the ’60’s race riots, when I’m a student at Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute, as acrid smoke of burning buildings billows in the air.  Or Vietnam War controversies.  A president resigning.  Political candidates and religious leaders shot and killed.  My being the 2nd birth date chosen in the lottery for the Vietnam draft.  The only lottery I’ve ever won!

Such is life.  You have your own story.  Could go on and on, but let’s cancel the pity party!  As the new year approaches, let’s not go to the barricades, but to the Bible.  One of the best decisions I’ve ever made (and I’ve made a few in my lifetime!) is to decide without flinching, without making lots of excuses, without allowing unnecessary interruptions, without heading to the barricades, but running headlong to the Bible!  As in reading it all year long.  All of it.  Its entirety.

Isaiah 8: 19-20–‘…should not the people inquire of their God?  Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?  To the law and to the testimony!  If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of days’.  Here’s the point.   Why waste time with ‘dead’ things.  With colossal wastes of time, which fritter away what can never be reclaimed.  You know what your ‘dead’ things are.  I know mine.

Why not make your commitment today to spend quantity and quality time with your Lord Jesus in God’s living Word.  From January 1st until December 31st.  I’ve never known anyone, anywhere, ever who regrets time with the Master.

To the Bible!  All year long.  Cover to cover.  Genesis to Revelation.  Ready?  Set?  Go!  To the Word!  Happy New Year!

 

Lord, we look forward to time with you in your Word all year long.  For Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

MARY’S CHRISTMAS Luke 1: 39-56

Christmas Day is right around the corner.  Are you ready?  I usually get shopping done as early as possible.  Our poor daughters-in-law bugged for grandchildren’s gift ideas, as I start inquiring around the 4th of July!  Truly!

The virgin Mary starts her preparations early.  After discovering that a miracle pregnancy occurs, she hightales it out of Nazareth, spending many months with godly relatives, Elizabeth and Zechariah.  Elizabeth also is expecting a ‘blessed event’.   She carries John the Baptist.

So, Mary settles in for the long haul.  Did her relatives wonder if she’d ever go home?  Probably not.  People in that culture make hospitality their priority.  My asking the question says something about me, however!

Mary’s Christmas begins with one of the most beautiful songs in all the Bible.  Theologians called it the ‘Magnificat’, from Latin language, for Mary’s soul ‘magnifies’ the Lord.  Her song tells us much about Mary herself.  At a time when females have little access to literacy or education, Mary is versed in her Bible.

The ‘Magnificat’ (Luke 1: 39-56)  is soaked in the Old Testament, especially the Psalms.  She knows her Bible.  Her parents have made this possible.  Certainly not required in her society.  She would have been well respected in home, family and village without any formal education.

But Mary aspires for more.  She wants to know her God and her Bible.  Mary’s Christmas will be girded in Scripture.  Bound secure by her Lord’s promises.  Think how her life will be topsy-turvy for as long as she lives because of this child.  Not an easy life.  Not at all.  But Mary trusts her Lord.  Her ‘…spirit rejoices in God my savior…’ (Luke 1:47).  Mary’s Christmas will be merry because God is centered in the marrow of her being.

As the day arrives this week, open your Bible to Luke 1:39-56, and read of Mary’s Christmas.  Bathe in His Word.  Saturate in Scripture.  No skimming allowed.  Forget the speed-reading.

By the way, why not recall how much the Lord has given you…and me…this day of Jesus’ magnificence.  Mull it over.  It’s not easy in this confused, cluttered, muddied and muddled holiday.  Try, as best you can, to pivot toward God’s great gift…Jesus!  He’s worth the effort.

Merry Christmas!

Thank you for Jesus, our Lord and Savior.  In His name.  Amen.

TIME TO ORDER ‘REMINDERS FOR DAILY DEVOTION’ E-BOOK

New Year’s day is only two weeks away.  I hope you’ve had a chance to order my recently published daily devotional entitled ‘Reminders’.  A new message for everyday of the year.  Would make a nice gift for someone you love.  Someone you’d like to see grow closer to Jesus in their daily walk.  Someone in need of a word of encouragement during difficult times.

You can order your copy today on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play and Kobo.  All but Kobo allow you to purchase a copy as a gift.  Just note the ‘Buy for Others’ tab and make a lasting gift that travels with them wherever they go.  Digital copies are very versatile indeed!

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, healthy New Year.  Wow~2019!