ALL FALL DOWN!…Psalm 133

When my sons were very young, we played a game where I held them securely above my head and made believe that they were falling while I’d sing ‘all fall down’ (ending on a high note!).  They loved it as much as each of our grandchildren have!  Laugh and laugh… always wanting more.  Sure enough, we’d do it all over again.  ‘All fall down’!

Today’s psalm only takes a few minutes to read.  Beginning at verse one, hear praise for God’s people living in unity–‘good and pleasant’ as much today as in the time of King David, who composes this song.

Unity, like precious oil, anoints the head of the one dedicated to God’s service.  The oil runs down, first over the head, then the beard, finally the collar and robe.  All fall down!  Verse three speaks of dew on the tallest mountain in Israel, Mt Hermon.  Dew runs down the hills surrounding Jerusalem and Mt Zion.  All fall down!

David concludes by praising the Lord for commanding these cascading blessings, producing life that never really ends.  All running down from God.  Descending from Him.  Bestowed on us, His own, at His initiative.  Nothing of our achievement.  No use claiming credit.  All fall down!  All from our Lord to us as His gifts.

What could be better than to thank Him for His many gifts?  All fall down… from His grace, mercy and faithful love.  All given.  None deserved.  None earned.  No boasting on my part.  None whatsoever.  None for you either!

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving, knowing from whose hands come all our blessings!  All fall down!

Lord, thank you for giving us so much.  Especially for your only Son Jesus.  Amen.

 

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PAY YOUR DUES!…Psalm 65

A recent letter demands that we pay our dues…or we’re out!  Whether it’s that road service/map group or old-age organization, they want what they’re owed.  Pay your dues!

Is that what I read in Psalm 65?  Not really.  But dues are owed…to the Lord.  No reminders will come in the mail or phone calls hounding for payment!  Don’t send a check or use a credit card…or bitcoin!  Nevertheless, dues are due!

Merely praise the One due all our gratitude and love.  And nothing ‘merely’ about it, when thanks come from deep within our hearts.  Gratitude becoming part-and-parcel of our being.  Nothing forced.  Nothing phony.  Dues-paying believers in Jesus know who deserves all our appreciation.

Psalm 65: 1–‘Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion, and to you shall vows be performed.’  Told you so!  God is owed all our praise.

But when I pray, asking for the Lord’s help, and He graciously responds, sometimes it takes me way too long to say ‘thank you’.  Why?  I don’t know.  Am I so greedy for the answer, that I forget who gives it?  Probably.  Am I so ungrateful that when the answer arrives, I imagine that luck really brings it?  Hope not.

So I remember to thank Him.  That may mean 10 minutes after the fact; but, hopefully, not two days later.  Hardly a burden to say ‘thank you, Lord’.  To show love to the One who loves us so much.  That’s not too difficult, is it?

Make the effort.  Do what’s right.  Thank the Lord from the bottom of your heart.  A holy habit this Thanksgiving.  He’s certainly due that…and so much more!

Prayer: We thank you, Lord, for everything.  For Jesus…especially.  Amen.

 

IN THE GARDEN!…Acts 2: 1-12

Communication remains a hot topic.  Texts, tweets, and ‘the cloud’.  Information technology a huge employment field.  Communication.

In Jerusalem, on Pentecost, a miracle occurs.  People speak languages not their own, while others can understand them.  Communication flourishes.

When my wife and I are in Jerusalem, we experience something similar.  We’re completing a two week tour of Israel.  Love every minute except for being constantly on the go.  Bags outside our hotel room by 6am.  Breakfast at 6:30am.  On the bus by 7:15am.  We anticipate this, arranging for a week on our own at a hotel near the Damascus Gate.  On our own!  No early rising!  Breakfast at our leisure!  Luggage stays put in our room!

One day we walk to the Garden Tomb, which has none of the added statues or street vendors crowding and confusing the sight.  Peaceful and meditative.  We had a memorable communion service there the week before with our group.  But now– on our own!

We sit down on a low wall gazing at all who walk by.  Always fun to ‘people watch’ in a new place.  To our right a group of German-speaking tourists gather, whose pastor gives a brief meditation.  Beyond them we notice a large African group.

The Germans start singing a praise song.  The Africans chime in in their own language.  As they walk in front of us, we decide to chime in.  Different languages.  Lifting praises to our risen Lord Jesus.  Singing from our hearts a language of the One Spirit!

In Jesus, we’re given unity.  Oneness.  May not understand the words, but the feeling is as clear as can be.  Jesus bridges life’s gaps and gulfs!

Thank you, Lord, for unity in Jesus.  Amen.

IT DOESN’T SOUND FAIR…Matthew 20: 1-16

It doesn’t sound fair to me.  Jesus’ story about workers getting the same wage as late-comers, who only put in a few hours at the most.  Others are out there in the blistering heat for countless, grueling hours.  Muscles aching.  Shedding pounds.  And yet those who barely show up receive full pay.  Does that seem fair?

Am I being a tad calculating?  Looking at the clock, making sure someone doesn’t get what I think they don’t deserve?  Do I miss Jesus’ point?

It’s not about who gets more than they deserve.  But maybe it is?   Do I deserve God’s love and forgiveness?  How about His abundant mercy and grace?  Deserve them?   Or His blessings?  I can’t even count that high!  What about salvation that will usher me into Heaven with incredible glories indescribable?  Or that family of believers I’m adopted into?  Deserve all of the above?

Looks like I gain more than I’m entitled to, doesn’t it?  Late in the door… yet fully welcomed.  All mine when I have nothing to offer Him.  Nothing at all (Isaiah 64:6).

The point of this parable?  I’m saved by His goodness alone.  Jesus does it all.  Everything.  All He asks for is some thanks.  A responsive, repentant heart that wants to live for Him.  He knows we’re made of clay.  Fallible and broken.  All due to sin, which He’s taken care of by His death on the cross.

I’ve discovered that I’m that late-comer in the fields!  Begrudge Jesus His mercy and love?  Are you crazy?  No way.  I’ll praise Him ’til the cows come home!  Or better yet, ’til we all get to Heaven!  And that’s when Thanksgiving really begins!

Thank you,  Jesus,  for all your blessings.  Amen.

LIFE AT ITS BEST!…Psalm 116

When is life at its best?  Any ideas?  When family gathers for the holidays?  Or when they go home?  Possibly some of both!  Or when that raise comes through?  Or that long-planned-for vacation finally arrives?

Psalm 116: 8-9:  ‘For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.’  The psalmist describes life at its best…in relationship with the Lord.  You knew I’d say that, didn’t you?!

For life without the Lord leads to a dead-end street, a cliff to nowhere forever.  None of us wants to go there.   And we pray for those we love, and those we don’t, to find the road to Jesus.  A burden to share God’s mercy and forgiveness.  That’s loving someone else.  Wanting the best for them.

So many times I’ve run after this or that, looking for the best in all the wrong places.  Know what I mean?  Settling for the good.  Even for the better with God’s best not reached.  A bigger church.  Better benefits along with a fatter salary.  More investable dollars to pump up retirement.  Somehow, the best remains elusive.

Until I begin Old and New Testament readings in my Bible.  Every day.  Along with prayer as a conversation with a best friend.  Getting involved in church and one unashamedly biblical.  Giving more to godly causes.   Sharing Gospel tracts as opportunity knocks.

Have I arrived yet?  Living the best at this very moment?  Not quite, but I’m much more focused on the road I’m travelling…with Jesus!  As this psalm says–‘I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living’ (116:9).  Happy trails!

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for giving us yourself.  Amen.

 

GOOD SOIL!…Mark 4

Amazing what good soil does for plants and trees.  We’ve been working compost into our garden soil ever since we moved to our new home.  The results?  Quite evident!  Rich, lush soil makes all the difference.

That’s similar to what Jesus says in this parable.  Familiar story?  He tells of a farmer who spreads seed indiscriminately.  Some seed land on the pathway.  Low probability of success as birds easily spot and eat them.  Jesus says that’s what Satan does with those who only hear, who exhibit nary a root.  Here today, gone today!

Other seed fall on rocky soil.  Difficult for roots to grab hold.  Shallow.  No depth.  At the first sign of trouble, the plant withers and dies.  Here today, gone tomorrow!

Still other seed take root among weeds and thorns.  A competitive environment with scant chance of success.  As with those who worry too much or pinch the almighty dollar or whose sins become much too tantalizing, they’re choked by their own corruption.  Unfruitful.  Eventually going nowhere.  Here today, gone the day after tomorrow!

What about that last seed and soil, of which we’d like to be?  ‘Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce  a crop–thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown’ (Mark 4:20).  Did you notice something?  Hearing God’s Word never is enough.  Must put it into action.

Plant the seed in good, rich soil…and things will happen.  Abundant crops.  Varied yields.  Fruitful.  Here today, here forever!  Good soil.

Your good soul, nurtured by and in the Word of God, produces godly successes in diverse multiples!  An amazing harvest is coming your way!  Ready?

Lord, make us good soil, hearing and acting on your Word.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

SUCH A FOOLISH MAN!…Daniel 5: 17-23

For years now our grandchildren have called me ‘Silly Papa’.  The name fits like a glove.  Would rather be called silly than an old fool.  Belshazzar, in the Book of Daniel, certainly earns the unfortunate and unenviable moniker of ‘fool’.   How do I know?  Read Daniel 5: 22-23.

Daniel mentions that Belshazzar doesn’t humble himself before the Lord.  He knows better, but ignores any good sense he may have had.  He defiles the holy implements stolen from God’s Temple in Jerusalem, and uses some as common liquor goblets.  To top it off, he worships material things instead of  ‘…God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored’ (v.23).  Foolish man.

Our next breath is from God’s hand.  Foolish to claim it’s mere oxygen, for it’s graciously provided by the Lord to those who love Him… and those who don’t.  Everything comes from God.  Everything.  It’s the wise who recognize this, praising and thanking Him for all His gifts.  Is that not the smart thing to do?  Smart car.  Smart phone.  How about being a smart, grateful Christian?

Belshazzar doesn’t even recognize that the road he’s on is paved by the Lord–‘…whose are all your ways…’ (v.23).  Self-reliance takes on a different slant for the believer.  Minute-by-minute, His ways are the highways we travel.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Work hard.  Put your nose to the grindstone.  Stop being lazy.  But wake up to the fact that over, under, next to, and throughout every aspect of our lives, you’ll discover the Lord’s hands.  I’d have it no other way!  His love…His care…His forgiveness…His support…  Need all I can get!  Do I hear an ‘amen’?

Thank you, Lord, for all your blessings.  For Jesus mainly.  Amen.

SHEPHERD OF THE SHEEP…John 10: 1-16

With an audible sigh of relief, we pull into the driveway of the Old Manor House in Droitwich, England.  We made it even though driving on the ‘other side’ of the road!  For the next two months, our home is to be one built in the 15th century.  When Henry VIII divorces Catherine of Aragon, he gives her this estate as part of the settlement.  If walls could speak!

Gazing out the living room windows, we notice dozens of sheep roaming within an abandoned Roman moat, preventing them from knocking on the front door!  Farther off is the 18th century’s Hammond’s Bridge, which allows horses and farmers to cross the Birmingham-Worcester Canal.  We enjoy the ‘narrow boats’ traversing the canal as people relish a riparian holiday!

But what of those sheep?  In early morning, they can be found lying down under apple and plum trees.  When one gets up, they all do.  Off they go, performing their incessent chomping, bleating and wandering.  All kept safely within the fenced-off fields by their shepherd named Rob.

Jesus calls Himself the ‘good shepherd’ in John 10:14.  His followers are His sheep.  He cares for them, even giving His life for them.  As I watch our English sheep and their shepherd, I’m reminded of Jesus’ daily care for us.  All the time.  24/7.  365 and one more for leap year!  Even fencing us in with His Word… for His glory and our good.

His fenced moat for safe roaming.  Not to confine us but to secure and guide us.   There never will be a time when He’s not intimately caring for us.  Unlike the hired hand, Jesus is our good shepherd.  He’s paid for us with His life so that we would never be alone.  Never.

I’m so glad!  Aren’t you?

Thank you, Jesus, for making us your family.  Amen.

 

THAT DREADED NIGHTMARE…Daniel 2: 24-49

Quite the nightmare King Nebuchadnezzar suffers with.  He dreams of a tall, stately statue.  Of himself?  Could be.  He’d love that.  Egotist.  Egregious self-absorption that’s never satisfied.  You get the point!  Could be why this dream so disturbs.

The statue’s monumental collapse shocks and staggers.  What’s going on here?  God has a message for all kingdoms and nations, rulers and leaders–they will come… and go.  Hitler’s 1000 year Reich lasted a mere decade.  Many of us fear for our nation’s future.  Leader after leader disappoints and frustrates.

Like that statue in the king’s dream.  Shatters and crumbles in front of his sleepy eyes.  From gold to silver, bronze to iron, toppled by a rock aimed directly at its feet of clay.  Things don’t always get better.  From gold to iron runs a downward slope, from the cherished to the cheap.

No wonder the king is so unnerved!  He should be.  God has big news–this world has nothing to hold onto.  A mere stone hurtles toward the puffed-up, hoi-poloi.  That stone hewn from God’s mountain.  A man-made statue crumples upon its impact.

The dream uncovers that ‘…God in heaven will set up His own Kingdom that will never be destroyed…It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will last forever’ (Daniel 2:44).  ‘It’ being God’s Kingdom!  Get it?!

This world is not my home.  I’m just a-passing through.  As believers in Jesus, we are citizens of a kingdom ruled by God Himself.  It will never be destroyed.  It will last forever.  We have His Word on it!  That’s good enough for me!

Thank you, Lord, for promises made and kept.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

IS THAT WHAT JESUS MEANS?…Daniel 2: 24-30

Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar is tormented by horrible nightmares.  He’s shaken to the core.  Now both dream and its interpretation must be replayed in his presence or the lives of all the court ‘wise men’ will be on the chopping block, including Daniel and his three friends, who ask for the Lord’s help.  God responds.  All lives now spared.

Something baffles me.  Among Babylon’s ‘wise men’, probably only Daniel and his three friends worship the true God, Yahweh of Israel.  These four have been selected out of the Jewish exiles as the very best and brightest.  Hand-picked, best-in-show, blue-ribbon winners!  The other ‘wise men’ worship pagan gods, even bowing in obeisance to the king himself.

So, who cares what happens to those pagan astrologers?  Probably my attitude if I were Daniel.  After all, wouldn’t they be getting what they deserve, those faithless heathen?!

Daniel 2:18–‘(Daniel) urged them to plead for mercy, from the God of heaven…so that he and his friends might not be executed along with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.’  Okay, they were concerned about their own skin!  Of course.  But for others as well.  Even those who espouse a contrary message.  Even enemies of the Lord.

Daniel wants God’s help also for them.  After all in Exodus 23:4-5, the Mosaic Law says, ‘…if you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him…be sure you help him…’  Who do you help?  Only fellow believers?  Hardly.  Like what Jesus says in Luke 6:27-28–‘But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.’

‘…you who hear me…’  Do I hear Jesus?  I’d rather not sometimes.  To care and pray for those who hate me and my Lord?  Is that what Jesus means?  You figure it out.  I’m working on it…with much room for improvement.

Jesus, you ask me to do tough things.  Please help me.  Amen.