Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Lead us not into Temptation

Jesus’ Blueprint for Prayer
“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one”
Every element in Jesus’ model prayer is focused on God and His glory. When we say “Father,” we acknowledge Him as source. When we say, “Hallowed be Thy name,” we acknowledge Him as sacred. When we say, “Thy kingdom come,” we declare Him as sovereign. When we say, “Thy will be done,” we regard Him as superior. When we say, “Give us our daily bread,” we acknowledge Him as our supplier. When we say, “Forgive us our sins,” we confirm Him as savior. Finally, we come to the last petition, “Lead us not into temptation,” which acknowledges Him as our shelter.
   The word “temptation” has a two-fold meaning. First, it can mean to tempt with the goal of causing one to sin. We know from James 1:13 that this kind of temptation never originates from God. James says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he himself tempt anyone.” Second, the word “tempt” can mean a test to prove one’s validity of faith. James addresses this issue in Chapter 1:2-3, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”
   David, the anointed of the Lord, was running from the grips of King Saul. He searched for a hiding place, a cave, a rock, a fortress, a place of safety and security. No permanent place was found. He finally came to realize that the only secure shelter was in God Himself. He expresses his faith in Psalm 62, “My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken.” (vv. 5-6)
   Who do you turn to when temptation and testing comes? Is the Lord Jesus Christ your solid rock? Do you hide under his covering wing? Jesus said to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

Prayer: Dear Lord, you are my place of refuge, my rock, my fortress.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Forgive us our Debts

Jesus’ Blueprint for Prayer
“Forgive us our debts, as also we have forgiven our debtors”
In our model prayer, after we have asked God for provision, we ask for pardon. “Forgive” follows “Give.” These two requests for daily bread and forgiveness are linked together by the simple conjunction “and.” In so doing, the need for food is placed on the same level with forgiveness.
   Praying for forgiveness of wrong doing – sin is paramount to an admission of guilt. Many falsely assume that being saved means – no more sin and no more need of forgiveness. Nothing could be further from the truth.
   In the Apostle John’s writing to believers he says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)
   Not only are we told to ask forgiveness for sins we have committed as believers, but we are to forgive those who have committed wrongs against us.
   Corrie Ten Bloom relates her experience on forgiveness in her book, “The Hiding Place.”
   When she met one of her jailers all the memories and vengeful thoughts ran through her mind. As he extended his hand, she found herself unable to lift her arm. She tried to smile. She felt no warmth for him. NO charity. She silently prayed, “Jesus I can’t forgive him. Give me your forgiveness.” As she finally took his hand an incredible thing happened. A warm love for the man sprang from her shoulder and traveled down through her arm to her hand that almost overwhelmed her. She realized that when Jesus tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.
   William Barclay paraphrases the petition to read: “Forgive us our sins in proportion as we forgive those who have sinned against us.”

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to forgive others to the same extent that you have forgiven me. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Give us our Daily Food

Jesus’ Blueprint for Prayer
“Give us our daily bread”
   The first three requests in Jesus’ Blueprint for Prayer deal with God’s glory (“Your name,” “your kingdom,” and “your will”; whereas, the last three requests deal with the family (“give us, forgive us, and lead us.)”
   The prayer request “Give us our daily bread” brings to mind the situation in regards to the children of Israel during their march through the wilderness of sin. They grumbled against Moses because of a lack of food.
   Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction.” (Ex. 16:4)
   They were being tested to see if they would trust God for their daily needs. No refrigerators or ice chests to preserve the “manna.” If they tried to gather more than one day’s portion, it would rot and grow maggots. God established rules for them to live by.
   Did you know that every kitchen and dining room table has rules? I definitely remember some rules my parents set down. We were to say, “Please pass the _____ followed by the words “thank you.” Another was “don’t leave the table until your plate is clean,” and have asked to be “excused.”
   My favorite table story is about the father with nine sons. The rule of his kitchen table was simple: Dad gets the last piece of chicken. If he doesn’t want it, the fastest fork wins. One night, as all ten eyed the final piece on the plate, a thunderstorm caused an electrical blackout. There was a scream in the dark, and when the lights returned, the dad’s hand was on the chicken platter with nine forks sticking in it.
   It was a wise practice at our table to all hold hands while thanking the Lord for the food. This prevents anyone from cheating. Watch out when you hear Amen!

Prayer: Dear Lord, how I thank you for continuing to supply our daily food!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Thy Will be Done

Jesus’ Blueprint for Prayer
“Thy will be done”
We are instructed to pray for the person of God, that His name be hallowed; for the program of God, that His kingdom will come; and for the purpose of God, that His will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven.
   We are asking that God’s will be done in our lives and in the world. Unfortunately, our prayers don’t always follow those principles. Instead, we pray for our own self-interests, and ignore God’s purpose. We ask God to change the world so we can get what we want.
   To truly pray “thy will be done” is to seek the heart of God. God has gone to great lengths to reveal His will and plan to us.
   Consider how He dealt with the two dispirited disciples on the road to Emmaus. These two guys made three mistakes that Jesus graciously turned into principles to help them determine His will.
   Mistake #1 – They disregarded the words of their fellow disciples. God often reveals His will through a community of believers. He speaks to one member of the church through another member.
Mistake #2 – They disregarded the Word of God. Jesus corrected this mistake by coming alongside and giving them a Bible study through the prophets. He revealed his will and purpose through the scripture. Doesn’t he do the same today?
Mistake #3 – They walked with God but didn’t recognize Him. The key to knowing God’s will is to spend time in his presence. When the two disciples finally recognized Jesus for who He was; he disappeared. They said to each other, “It felt like a fire burning in us when Jesus talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us.”
   Do you want to know God’s will and see His will done here on earth? Follow these three principles in prayer.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to spend time in your presence in prayer.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Your Kingdom Come

Jesus’ Blueprint for Prayer
“your kingdom come”
In our first request we asked God to cause that “his name be believed, feared, obeyed, and glorified.” Now in our second request, Jesus says to pray “THY Kingdom come.” Who’s kingdom is Jesus referring in the word “THY?”
   There are three kingdoms to consider. (1) The kingdom of this world, (2) The kingdom controlled by Satan (Eph. 2:2), and (3) the kingdom of God. A study of history will reveal that the first two kingdom rise and fall, but the third kingdom is permanent.
   Ancient history records that Egypt was once a powerful kingdom, but it fell. The same can be said of Syria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Historians tell us there were 21-22 great world civilizations that have come and gone.
   The Scriptures reveal that God is the author of history – it is His story. The history that he is writing ultimately leads to the return of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who will rule in righteousness when the kingdom of this world becomes the kingdom of our God and His Christ. (cf. Rev. 11:15)
   All through his earthly ministry Jesus preached about this spiritual kingdom to come. In Luke 4:43 Jesus said, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.” The word “also” indicates that preaching the kingdom of God was the central factor in his ministry.
   What are we asking God to do when we pray, “Thy kingdom come?” I believe we are asking God to cause his kingdom to grow both spiritually and physically. His kingdom grows in numbers “one soul at a time.” He has chosen believers to help in this process. His kingdom advances also as we increase in our submission to Christ.
   Do you daily pray, “THY kingdom come?” Are you increasing in your submission to Christ? Time is of an essence? Jesus is coming soon – come Lord Jesus. (Rev. 22:20)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to be diligent in praying souls into the kingdom of God.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Hallowed be Your Name

Jesus’ Blueprint for Prayer
“Hallowed be Your name”
In the model prayer, Jesus taught the disciples to say, “Our Father in heaven, HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME.”
   What’s in a name? The Jewish people chose names for their children in hopes the name would embody the personality or character behind the name. Early American Puritan followed the same practice. They gave their children names like Silence, Charity, Hope, Love, and Patience. Today, Christians give their children Biblical names such as Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, etc. with the hope their child would live up to the name. Even Jesus followed this practice as he changed the name of Simon to Peter. Simon was a shifty, impetuous, unstable, unlearned fisherman; whereas, Jesus wanted him to become Peter (meaning a “rock”).
   The words, hallowed be Your name,” are a reference to God’s character and person. To hallow means “to sanctify, to set apart, to make special.” The opposite of hallow is “to profane, to disgrace, to besmirch the name.” When we pray, “hallowed be Your name,” we are not only expressing reverence to God and calling upon Him to be God to us, but we are recognizing that he is Holy.
    Our focus on God’s character and holiness should be reflected in our inner life and in our prayers for others. Our prayers for others should not be limited to their deliverance from sin, but also that they would come to know who he really is – the God of holiness, grace, and righteousness. Once they fully understand who He is, they will hallow His name.
    The question is: will you allow God to be God in your life? Will you honor and reverence Him not only in your prayer life, but your behavior as well?

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to live a life of holiness that honors and reverences your name – “hallowed be your name” in heaven and here on earth. Amen!      

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Jesus' Blueprint for Prayer

Jesus’ Blueprint for Prayer
With the second phrase, “who IS in heaven” Jesus emphasizes the necessity of a firm foundation. The basis for this foundation is the character of God.
   The character of God is clearly seen in His dialogue with Moses at the burning bush. It is first seen when Moses sees a bush burning with fire, but is not consumed. Then God tells him to remove his sandals because he is standing on holy ground. Next, we see His character when God says to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM…” (Ex. 3:14) The “who is” and the “I AM” refer to the same person.
   We see in other Scriptures that God’s character is closely associated with establishing a solid foundation. The Psalmist said, “He established the earth upon its foundation, so that it will not totter forever and ever.” (Ps. 104:5) To Job God said, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (Job 38:4) Solomon stated, “God marked out the foundation of the earth” (Pr. 8:29)
   When Elaine and I built our first house on a hillside outside Hermann, Mo., we make doubly sure that the footing (foundation) for the house was laid well below the frost line. The entire weight of the superstructure rested upon that foundation. Thirty-six years have passed and the house is still standing.
   Our prayer life is not only dependent upon the character of “who God is,” but also upon the fact that he is firmly established in heaven ruling the universe. Nothing happens that escapes his attention. He knows all and sees all. It is assuring to know and believe that our God “who IS,” is in full control of all that takes place in heaven and on earth.
   Is your prayer life firmly established upon the character of God?  Just remember he is the God is the present tense.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you that we can begin our prayers with “Our Father who IS in heaven.”

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Our Father

Jesus’ Blueprint for Prayer
‘OUR FATHER’
After following Jesus for two years, watching him perform many miracles, listening to him teach and preach, spending time with him alone, and hearing him call on His Heavenly Father in prayer, they came to him and asked, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1)
   Jesus gathered them around him and gave them a prayer model or format to follow. He told them that a good way to begin prayer is to address God as “Our Father…”
   To a Jewish person who adhered strictly to the Law, the words “Our Father” would seem foreign, maybe even blasphemous. At no time during the Old Testament period would your ever hear a Jew using those words. Yet, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection , we are instructed over 275 times in the New Testament to address God as “Our Father.”
   The term our -- speaks of ownership. When you go to buy a car and pay the price, you become owner of the car. That’s what Jesus did for us on the cross. He shed his blood to purchase our redemption and we now belong to him. He is the owner of our soul.
   The term father – speaks of the personal relationship we have with the owner.  During my boyhood years when I needed consolation, comfort, or help with a problem, I went to my father. As my earthly father he loved and took care of my needs. Now as a believer I can go to my Heavenly Father in my hour of need.

Prayer, Dear Lord, thank you for making it possible for me to address you as Our Father.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Jesus' Blueprint for Prayers

Jesus’ Blueprint for Prayer
Introduction
“Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1)
If you follow this series of devotions on my Facebook page, you will learn in what manner you, as a follower of Jesus, should approach the throne of God, and what should be included in your daily prayers.
   After spending two years with Jesus, witnessing his miracles, listening to him teach and pray, they came to him one day and said, “Lord teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” I find this a remarkable question! What would I have asked if I were in their place? Would I have asked, Lord teach me to preach like you do, or Lord teach me how to do ministry? Not the disciples! They wanted Jesus to teach them how to pray.
   Fascinating! Isn’t prayer one of the easier tasks for a believer? Haddon Robinson in his study guide on “Jesus’ Blueprint for Prayer” said, “Frankly, prayer has proven to be the most demanding discipline of my life. At different times I have found it strenuous, boring, frustrating and confusing. Over the years a solid prayer-life has been more intermittent than persistent.” I can certainly echo Mr. Robinson’s admittance.
   Jesus’ disciples had a tremendous advantage. Oftentimes when Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, they were with him. They listened to him pray in the garden, on a hillside, in front of thousands of people, in the wilderness, in the desert, and on a boat. Most if not all of Jesus’ prayers were done outside. We find no evidence of Jesus praying in a house or in the temple.
    I have found over the years that my most intimate prayer times have been outside walking along mountain trails, or sitting on a bank fishing, or up in a tree stand during hunting season waiting for daylight to arrive. The quietness and stillness bring a sense of solitude where man and God can meet.
   Is prayer high on your priority list, or just a mundane religious duty?

Prayer: Dear Lord, teach me your blueprint for prayer.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Stand Your Ground

Stand Your Ground
Scripture Reading: Exodus 14:1-14
But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” (Ex. 14:13-14 NLT)
A growling, snarling dog is charging. What should you do? One part of your mind says, stand still, but another part says, let’s get out of here. The dog appears to be in an attack mode, and as fear whelms up in your throat your feet seem to be paralyzed. Standing your ground in the face of threatening circumstances may be the hardest thing you’ll ever be called upon to do. It certainly was for the children of Israel.
     The children of Israel faced such a situation when they came to the Red Sea. The ground was shaking from the rumble of the many chariots racing toward them. They were terrified and complained to Moses. What shall we do? Where can we hide? They were caught between the sea and the advancing army of the Egyptians. They couldn’t go back even if they wanted to and the mountains and sea had them  hemmed in on all sides. All appeared to be lost. Moses called out to God and then commanded them to, “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.” I’m sure they must have thought, Are you serious Moses? Don’t you hear the rumble of the chariots? Can’t you feel the shaking of the ground under our feet? Stand still , you say! We are about to be overtaken and slaughtered and you want us to stand still. That’s ridiculous! You’re out of your mind. We want to run and hide except there’s nowhere to go. That’s what fear will do to a person. Fear paralyzes our minds. Only as we exercise faith can we move forward.
     What would you have thought? How would you have responded? The growling, snarling dog is getting closer. Can’t wait much longer! If I decide to stand still, I will have to exercise faith and trust in the Lord. That’s what the children of Israel had to do. The Lord God was testing their faith to see if they would rely completely upon him for their salvation. Finally, the Lord gave the command to move forward. This was another test of their faith.
     Our faith is being tested on a daily basis. How will we handle life’s struggles? Will we try to handle everything in our own strength? Will we rely upon our own abilities to see us through? Or will we be like the children of Israel and be willing to stand still and see how God works things out? Trying circumstances have a way of showing up at our doorstep. When our paycheck doesn’t come! When our child is sick! When we are misunderstood and falsely accused! When we face circumstances that threaten our security, do we reach out by faith and lay hold upon the promises of God, or do we allow fear to immobilize us?

     The Psalmist said, “But you, O Lord, are a shield to me, my glory, and the one who lifts my head high” (Ps. 3:3). Stand fast and trust the one who is fighting for you. The battle is the Lords.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Sharing Christ

Sharing Christ with Others
Scripture Reading: Matthew 9:27-38
Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. (Mt. 9:36 NASB)
Have you ever struggled to turn a conversation to spiritual things? I look upon every meeting as though it were an appointment set up by God. To me, the easiest way to connect with people is to get them on the subject of travel. Here’s an example:
     I met a friend at Walmart and he said, “I’m bushed. I just spent a week at an International Conference in North Carolina.” I responded, “I know what you mean. I just came back from prison.” His questioning look gave me the opportunity to tell him about our mission trip to Angola State prison in Zachary, La. Of course, there was more to the conversation, but you get the idea. If you have done Christian service assignments there is always an opportunity to share your spiritual service with others. Just get the ball rolling and let the Holy Spirit direct the conversation and you’ll be amazed how doors open to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
     The biggest hurdle that I have found in sharing Christ is the fear of rejection. What if someone shuts the door in your face? What if they totally reject what you are saying? Be polite! Thank them for allowing you to bring up the subject of Christ. Do not be discouraged. The Holy Spirit knows when a person is ready to listen to the gospel. Trust in his timing. Try to end the conversation on an amiable note. There may be other times and opportunities down the road to speak to that person again.
     Jesus used lots of different ways to get the attention of people. On the seashore he sat in a boat and taught them about his relationship to God. On a hillside he proved who he was by using the multiplication five loaves and two sardines. At a gravesite he used life giving powers. At a wedding he used six water pots of water. On the road to Emmaus he used the Old Testament Scriptures. In the Temple he used a whip. On one occasion he put a coin in a fish’s mouth, and on another occasion the hem of his garment got a woman’s attention. He even used a sycamore tree to get Zaccheus’s attention. In the final analysis, what do all these different ways and means tell us? Simply this, there is no one set method of sharing Christ with others.
     Whenever you go out into your mission field, ask the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your thoughts and conversations with those you meet. Every person you encounter is an appointment waiting to happen. Be prepared to give a reason to every man for your faith in Christ.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to be like the Apostle Paul who said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ because it is the power of God unto salvation…” (Rom. 1:16a)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Open Letter to the Lord

Open Letter to the Lord
Scripture Reading: 2 Kings 19:14-28
After Hezekiah received the letter and read it, he went up to the Lord’s Temple and spread it out before the Lord. (2 Kings 19:14 NLT)
Can you hear and feel the threatening tone, the arrogance, the utter disdain directed toward Israel’s God in the letter from King Sennacherib of Assyria. It was enough to put a chill down your spine. It sounded like disaster was about to strike. What a dilemma!
     What would King Hezekiah do? How would he react to this dilemma? Would he give in to temptation and take the deal? Let’s apply the situation to our own dilemmas! How do we deal with the dilemmas of life when they occur such as: a child who is hopelessly handicapped and can’t speak or take proper care of himself. It may be through no fault of his own, nevertheless, the burden of responsibility hangs over our heads like a cloud. We may ask, “Lord, will I ever be free of this burden? Will there ever be a time when he/she will be able to live outside the home? It is a supreme test of the depth of our love and commitment. At times, we may be tempted to throw up our hands in despair and cry out, “How long, O Lord, must I bear this burden?” I wonder, “Was that how Hezekiah felt?”
     God saw the open letter full of accusations, false promises, and blasphemous words and sent a message through his prophet, Isaiah saying, “His armies (speaking of Sennacherib) will never enter Jerusalem to shoot their arrows. They will not march outside the gates with their shields and build banks of earth against its walls. For my own honor and for the sake of my servant David, I will defend it” (2 Kings 19:32,34 NLT).
     The Scriptures tell us, “That night the angel of the Lord went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian troops. When the surviving Assyrians woke up the next morning, they found corpses everywhere. Then King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and returned to his own land. He went home to his capital of Nineveh and stayed there.” (2 Kings 19:35-36 NLT ) Later he was killed by two of his own sons, who then escaped to Ararat.
     What kind of dilemma are you facing today? Is it in a tangible form, such as a threatening letter? Is the situation taxing your faith? Are you in need of wisdom, courage, or direction? Write it on a piece of paper. Spread your open letter on the floor, and bow before the Lord in honest, pleading, persistent prayer.

Prayer: Dear Lord, you know the dilemma I face. You know that I don’t have a solution. You alone offer rescue from desperate situations. I come to you first, not as a last resort.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Sharing Christ

Sharing Christ with Others
Scripture Reading: Matthew 9:27-38
Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. (Mt. 9:36 NASB)
Have you ever struggled to turn a conversation to spiritual things? I look upon every meeting as though it were an appointment set up by God. To me, the easiest way to connect with people is to get them on the subject of travel. Here’s an example:
     I met a friend at Walmart and he said, “I’m bushed. I just spent a week at an International Conference in North Carolina.” I responded, “I know what you mean. I just came back from prison.” His questioning look gave me the opportunity to tell him about our mission trip to Angola State prison in Zachary, La. Of course, there was more to the conversation, but you get the idea. If you have done Christian service assignments there is always an opportunity to share your spiritual service with others. Just get the ball rolling and let the Holy Spirit direct the conversation and you’ll be amazed how doors open to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
     The biggest hurdle that I have found in sharing Christ is the fear of rejection. What if someone shuts the door in your face? What if they totally reject what you are saying? Be polite! Thank them for allowing you to bring up the subject of Christ. Do not be discouraged. The Holy Spirit knows when a person is ready to listen to the gospel. Trust in his timing. Try to end the conversation on an amiable note. There may be other times and opportunities down the road to speak to that person again.
     Jesus used lots of different ways to get the attention of people. On the seashore he sat in a boat and taught them about his relationship to God. On a hillside he proved who he was by using the multiplication five loaves and two sardines. At a gravesite he used life giving powers. At a wedding he used six water pots of water. On the road to Emmaus he used the Old Testament Scriptures. In the Temple he used a whip. On one occasion he put a coin in a fish’s mouth, and on another occasion the hem of his garment got a woman’s attention. He even used a sycamore tree to get Zaccheus’s attention. In the final analysis, what do all these different ways and means tell us? Simply this, there is no one set method of sharing Christ with others.
     Whenever you go out into your mission field, ask the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your thoughts and conversations with those you meet. Every person you encounter is an appointment waiting to happen. Be prepared to give a reason to every man for your faith in Christ.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to be like the Apostle Paul who said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ because it is the power of God unto salvation…” (Rom. 1:16a)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Passing on Blessings

Passing on Blessings
Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 4:9-14
But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren. (Dt. 4:9 NLT)
A few years ago I was challenged by a friend to pass on the blessings bestowed on my life by God’s grace to others. The verse quoted above affirmed that that was what God wanted me to do. After much prayer, I decided this was sound advice and picked up the pen. I began by sending notes of encouragement to friends at church. After awhile God motivated me to write a monthly letter to each of my children. I called them Abraham’s Musings. Each month for a period of a year I shared with them what God was doing in my life, and passed on his blessings to them.
     Inspired by the response to this venture, I spent considerable time writing my autobiography. I entitled the book God’s Unfolding Plan. In it I explained how I came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and the various twists and turns I experienced in finding the meaning to life. God blessed this effort, and not only did I receive healing for past unresolved family issues, especially with my father, but others who read the story testified to similar results.
     This writing experience was followed by writing life experience stories which were printed in such publications as Country Magazine, Good Old Days, Looking Back, and Reminisce Extra. Writing has had a therapeutic value in my life, and I hope in the lives of those who read the stories.
     Like Martin Luther King, I had a dream! My dream was to share the word of God with individuals in an effort to draw them closer to Christ. In order to fulfill this dream, I began to write Bible based devotions that tied in with personal experiences.. I endeavored to share with others the challenges, obstacles, twists and turns, and the portions of Scripture that God used to help me overcome. My first devotional book entitled A-Z Daily Devotional Journal was published in 2010 and a second volume entitled Let Jesus Start Your Day will come off the press in a few weeks. 
     I find that recalling experiences from the past (sixty years) and sharing them with others keeps me closer to the Lord. As I read and study God’s word, memories flood my mind as to how God helped me overcome the obstacles and struggles of life. Hopefully I can translate those victories into words that will help someone else who may be struggling with their faith and walk.
     You too can pass on God’s blessings to others. Give it a try.

Prayer: Dear Lord, continue to pour out your blessings, and help us share them with others. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Hurry Up and Wait

Hurry Up and Wait
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 40:28-31
“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Is. 40:31 NKJ)
One thing I learned early during my enlistment in the U.S. Navy is the truth of this off repeated statement—hurry up and wait. Time after time we marched down to the mess hall for chow only to have to wait. During graduation exercises, we had to wait in formation for two hours before passing in review. It was a very hot day and several of the men in my platoon passed out. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, and one that I definitely do not want to repeat. It seemed to me that the military operates on the hurry up and wait principle.
     Much the same holds true in civilian life. No one likes to wait, whether it’s in a long line at the grocery store, or at the airline ticket counter, or for a family member to get ready for church. I have a friend who was always late because his wife took forever to get ready. He would threaten, “I’m going to leave without you,” but it never seemed to help.
     Waiting is tough, especially since we are living in such a fast paced society. Instant gratification seems to rule the day. People want it NOW! How many times have you drummed your fingers on the steering wheel while waiting in a traffic jam? When a vehicle breaks down and traffic is reduced to one lane, cars and trucks back up for miles waiting to get past. Yes, waiting is tough, especially when it comes to the big issues like: waiting to be seen in an emergency room of a hospital, waiting to hear about a job interview, waiting for a tow truck after a breakdown, or waiting for an answer to an urgent prayer.
     God doesn’t always answer our prayers when we think he should, or in the way we desire, but he always answers. The answer may be positive or negative, or he may say—wait. Our part is to trust him when the answer is delayed. God’s timing is always perfect, and he has our best interest in mind.
     Do you think it was easy for Abraham to have to wait thirteen years before realizing the promise of a son? Was it easy for Noah to wait for rain to come? How did David handle waiting seven years to become king? What were Mary’s thoughts while she waited for the son of God to be born? The Scriptures tell us that they all continued to trust in his perfect timing.
     Have you been praying about an important issue and found God silent? Are you doing like David, “I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry.” (Ps. 40:1 NLT)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to waiting patiently for your answers to my prayers. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Broken Heart

A Broken Heart
Scripture Reading: Genesis 6:1-22
“Now the Lord observed the extent of the people’s wickedness, and he saw all their thoughts were consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them. It broke his heart.” (Gen 6:5-6 NLT)
Unholy alliances between fallen angels and the sons of man brought about giants who were known as “renown.” These supernatural beings were evil and ravaged the earth to the extent that God was sorry that he had created man. The Bible says, “It broke his heart.” (Gen. 6:6)
     The evil was so widespread that God decided to wipe out the human race. Noah was the only righteous man that found favor in the eyes of the Lord. A broken heart leads to disastrous results.
     Years ago my wife and I visited the famous Longwood Mansion in Natchez, Mississippi. The construction of this unique octagonal shaped plantation home began in 1861, but was never finished because of the Civil War. When war started the workers dropped their tools and joined the Confederate army in the fight against the Union. The inside of the house was never finished except for the basement which was completed by local workers after the war.
     According to various internet sources Dr. Haller Nutt died of a broken heart when Union troops ravaged his plantation despite the fact that he carried papers identifying him as an important Federalist. The story is told that his wife, Julia, later sued the U.S. Government over this issue and won a large monetary reward that she used to send all their children to college.
     A broken heart, shattered dreams, lost wealth and loved ones can cause a person to take drastic actions even bringing harm to themselves and others. We have seen reports of young people taking their lives because of bullying, and soldiers committing suicide due to the extreme pressure and stress of military conflict.
     In the video, Home Alone 2, a “pigeon lady” in New York Central Park isolated herself from society because of a broken heart when she was left standing at the altar. When young Kevin McCallister encouraged her to make friends she said, “I don’t want my heart broken again.”
     Have you ever experienced a broken heart? Perhaps you lost your favorite pet, or best friend, a loved one, or a longtime business partner. How did you handle the loss? Who or what did you turn to for solace?
     God is the one person who understands our grief. He knows what separation means? While on     the cross Jesus said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Turn to him for comfort.

Prayer: Dear Lord, my heart grieves for those who are suffering the loss of a loved one or friend. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Screaming Demons

The Screaming Demons
As Jesus was climbing out of the boat, a man who was possessed by demons came out to meet him. As soon as he saw Jesus, he shrieked and fell to the ground before him, screaming, “Why are you bothering me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Please, I beg you, don’t torture me!” (Luke 8:27-28)
The encounter of the demon possessed man and Jesus provided another opportunity for Jesus to show forth his power and authority as the Son of God. The man’s name was Legion which revealed that he was controlled by as many as two thousand demon spirits.
   Take notice that the demons spoke through the man and recognized immediately who Jesus was namely, “The Son of the Most High God!” They were also aware that he had the power and authority to send them to the bottomless pit, the place of eternal punishment, and begged him not to send them there. Instead, they pleaded for him to allow them to enter a herd of pigs. Giving them permission, the herd of pigs stampeded down a cliff and drowned in the sea.
   The question for us to consider is: Why did Jesus allow them to enter the herd of swine? What lessons was he trying to teach to the disciples and people in the area? Here are few suggestions:
First, if the herd of pigs belonged to the Jews, Jesus’ action would be a rebuke because they were forbidden from eating or keeping unclean animals such as swine (Leviticus 11:7).Second, if the herdsmen were Gentiles, Jesus’ action showed them the malice of the evil spirits under whose influence they lived. Third, Jesus’ action revealed, to the huge crowd that was assembled, his power and authority over creation and the demon world.
   The townspeople who came were awestruck, but unrepentant and wanted Jesus to leave which revealed the hardness of their hearts and desire to remain in sin. On the other hand, the healed man who was clothed and sane begged to follow Jesus. Instead, Jesus sent him back home to tell them the wonderful things that happened.

   Have you been changed? If so, are you telling others about the changes that have taken place in your life since Jesus saved you? 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Seeking Magi

The Seeking Magi
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem…” (Matthew 2:1a)
What do we actually know about the Magi?  Were they just a bunch of astrologers? Were they magicians or sorcerers? What was their nationality? Where in the east did they live?
   There is much about these guys that we don’t know, but the little bit that we do know reveals to us a group of people who truly believed in the coming Messiah.
   Who were these guys? They are correctly called Magi in the bible. The Magi were a tribe of eastern people who go way back into antiquity. They were the tribe that was given the responsibility of being the religious leaders—the priests of the culture. It was their job to study the holy books, study the stars, interpret dreams, and advise the kings.
   Racially, they were from a tribe of people called the Medes. The Medes lived in the area now called Iraq and Iran. You can trace their lineage all the way back to Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees. Remember it was the Babylonians who captured Jerusalem and took the people captive. One of these was Daniel who became an official in Nebuchadnezzar’s court. Later when Medo-Persian Empire captured Babylon, Daniel became a member of the Medo-Persian court. In that court were Medes who were a part of a ruling religious tribe known as the Magi.   Isn’t this amazing? Daniel had contact with the Magi over 500 years before Christ was born.
   After Daniels success in interpreting the king’s dream, he was made the chief Magi, the head of all the wise men in Babylon. What’s so amazing about all this? Here’s my point! Daniel a Jewish exile was placed by God in the same court with Median Magi for the purpose of teaching them about the coming Messiah. For 500 years the Magi were looking to see how the God of Daniel would send the Messiah. Make no mistake, these guys were VERY powerful. They were basically the “king-makers” of their time.

   God was working behind the scenes throughout history preparing the way for Jesus’ arrival. When He arrived—the Magi sought him out—to worship Him.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Bob Delaney: The Star in the East

Bob Delaney: The Star in the East: The Star in the East “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship Him.” ...

The Star in the East

The Star in the East
“Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship Him.”  (Matthew 2:1)
What was the Star in the East?
There are many explanations about what the star seen by the Magi in the east was. Some say it was a supernova, which is an exploding star which shows up as a new, very bright star. Others have suggested that it could have been a comet or a meteor. One theory even holds that the star was actually the conjunction of Saturn, Venus and Jupiter, in which all three planets line up to make what appears to be one very bright star.
   Here’s another explanation about the appearance of a star shining over the birthplace of Jesus that is plausible, but might surprise you.
   Keep in mind that the Magi saw what appeared to be a star or bright light from where they lived in the east. When they arrived in Jerusalem and discovered that the King of the Jews was born in Bethlehem they made haste to go there. Matthew 2:9 says, “Once again the star appeared to them, guiding them to Bethlehem.” Is it possible for a real star to move? (No!) They are fixed in space. What could the Magi have possibly seen?
   Do you remember the story of the shepherds in Luke 2:9, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them.” What do you think the “glory of the Lord” looks like?
   Throughout the Old Testament the glory of the Lord was called the Shekinah Glory of God. How did God’s glory appear back then? In the journeys of the Israelites, it appeared as a pillar of fire and a cloud, and moved from place to place. When it appeared to Moses it was so bright that he couldn’t look upon it.
   The Magi saw a supernatural phenomenon that specifically led them to the house where Jesus lived. They came with a specific purpose—to worship Him.

   Are you spending time worshipping our Savior King this Christmas season?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

No Room in the Inn

No Room at the Inn
“And she gave birth to her firstborn son, and she wrapped him in clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Lk. 2:7)
Every good story has a beginning, a conflict or tension, and an end. The story of the birth of Jesus began with Joseph and Mary making an arduous journey from Nazareth to the city of David, Bethlehem. No one has to tell us what a difficult trip that must have been, traveling over mountain paths littered with stones, pitfalls, and crevices. It would be a strenuous task even for a healthy person; yet God brought Mary, laden down with a nine month old pregnancy, safely to Bethlehem.
   When they arrived the conflict of the story begins. They went from inn to inn and all they found were “no vacancy” signs. One innkeeper in particular told them in a not so friendly tone “there was no room for them in the inn.”  You can’t blame him too much because the little village was overcrowded with people there to pay their taxes. The tax was levied by Caesar Augustus to help defray the expenses of his two hundred and fifty thousand man army.
   A study made by the University of the Holy Land describes for us the architecture of the family home at the time of Jesus’ birth. The most common dwelling was a courtyard home which was multi-leveled. A lower room or cellar was used as a storeroom. In the hilly areas like Bethlehem, a cave adjacent to the courtyard might often be adapted for keeping the family’s prized animals sheltered at night. The average nighttime temperature during the early winter season would range from thirty-four to fifty-five degrees at night. This cave-like area would provide protection from the cold, thieves, and predators. The main living area, partitioned into several sections, was on the upper level. It had a work and kitchen area, where the children often slept, and a separate bedroom for the parents. In Luke 2:7 the Greek word kataluma can be translated either “inn,” or “guest room” and may have referred to this room in the family home.
   No doubt by the time the Magi arrived at “the house” (Mt. 2:11) where Jesus was living, the family would already have been moved upstairs.

Prayer: Dear Lord, you are so gracious in providing a cozy place for Jesus’ birth.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What's in a Name?

What’s in a Name?
“And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  (Matthew 1:21)
Names are special and given for specific purposes!
   Take the name given to the newborn son of Mary. God told Joseph to name him Jesus. In the Hebrew it is the name YESHUA, which means “salvation.”  Jesus emphasized this purpose on more than one occasion during his earthly sojourn. He responded to Zacchaeus’s promise to give half of his wealth to the poor, and four times as much to the people he might have overcharged in taxes by saying, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a son of Abraham. ‘And I, the son of Man, have come to seek and save those like him who are lost.” (Luke 19:10 NLT)
   The prophet Isaiah gave the newborn child another name: “All right then, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’). Isaiah 7:14 NLT).
   Immanuel is certainly a special name! The meaning behind the name Immanuel (God with us) has been a source of hope to people from ages past clear up to the present time. God with us not only signifies the eternal presence of God among us, but assures us that God is fully in control of all things including our world and our life.
   Parents down through the ages have given their children Biblical names. Names that stand for righteousness, integrity, and truth. I think it is safe to say that there is not a name in the Bible that has not been used by someone.
   The Puritans made particular use of Bible names to mark their children as differed from the godless masses. They even used strange names like “patience, desire, resolved, love, purity, joy, and praise-God.” 
   What was behind the name your parents gave to you?

Prayer: Dear Lord, there is no other name under heaven more special than JESUS.   

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Fullness of Time

The Fullness of Time
“But when the fullness of the time has come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, so that he might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Gal. 4:4-5)
What does the Apostle Paul mean when he says that Christ would be born when the “fullness of time had come?”  Perhaps he could have stated it in another way, “When the time was right.”  This leads us to ask, “How did God set the stage on Earth for the birth of His Son?”
   We have often heard it said, “Timing is everything!” This is not only true of the things that happen in our present age, but it was true in the days leading up to the birth of Messiah Jesus. What specific events took place that made the birth of Jesus the right time?
   In order for the birth of Jesus Christ is be effective and reach the maximum number of people, there had to be a universal language. God used the Roman Empire to make this possible. We need look no further than the inscription placed on the cross which said, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” We are told in John 19:20, “Therefore many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, (some translation say Aramaic) Latin and in Greek.” What does this tell us?
   Latin was the legal language of the Roman Empire while the Greek (Koine) was the international language that most people used. The Hebrew or Aramaic was the local language that both Jews and Gentiles could read and understand. This reveals that God was working behind the scenes preparing the world for the intrusion of the gospel through the birth of Jesus Christ and his ultimate death on the Cross.
    Another factor involved in the phrase “fullness of times” was the explosion of the population. At the time of Christ’s birth an estimated 300 million people lived in the known world. About 1 percent (3 million) of them were Jews, with about 50,000 living in Jerusalem.   

   Yes, “timing is everything!” God saw to it that “when the time was right” a Savior would be born who was and is the “King of the Jews!”

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Perfect Gift

The Perfect Gift
“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect.”(Mt. 5:48)
I wonder if other people encounter the same problem that I do every Christmas. That is, finding the “perfect gift” for someone who seemingly has everything. My wife is a very difficult person to buy for. She can’t find dresses or shoes that fit her petite frame. She is not big on jewelry or make-up. Perfume is not high on her list. What am I to do? How can I find that “perfect gift”?
   God gave us his perfect gift in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ. Born in a stable (or cave) with nothing but straw (or hay) for a bed, no obstetrician or nurse to help with delivery, the task of cutting and tying the umbilical cord fell to either Joseph or Mary herself.
   What kind of gift can we give Jesus seeing that he is perfect and has everything? The Scriptures state, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens, and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16 NASB) So, what kind of perfect gift can I get for one who is perfect?
   Not to be outdone, God has given us a list. It is found in Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” God wants you and me to exercise justice, kindness (love), and humility.
   There are two aspects to justice: (1) Inward character of right and goodness, (2) outward actions that show it. Love or kindness involves our willingness to show mercy to others. Both justice and love are connected and operate together—never independently of each other. (See Psalm 84:14; Dt. 10:18; Zech 7:8-10) Humility speaks of submission and honor. This is our ultimate purpose in life.

   Are you willing to give God these perfect gifts? They must be genuine and useful. God will be looking to see them practiced in your thought life, family life, work life, and friendships. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Unwanted Gift

The Unwanted Gift
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.” (Mt. 1:18-19)
Have you ever received an “unwanted” gift? How did you respond? Did you give it back or hide it away where no one could see it? Did you trash it? What do you do with an “unwanted” gift?
   Joseph of Nazareth came face to face with a similar problem. He had chosen a young Jewish girl to be his wife. A formal contract was drafted between families and was considered legally binding. Many cultures enforce stiff penalties for breaking the marriage contract. In Jewish tradition, for instance, breaking the contract is considered to be equal to divorce.
   When Mary came to Joseph and said, “I am pregnant,” a huge problem surfaced. I’m sure Joseph did not want a child out of wedlock. What would he do? What could he do? By Jewish law, if Mary were unfaithful and found to be pregnant with child by a man other than her husband she could be taken and stoned to death. When the news came Joseph was stunned, but being a righteous man he decided rather than disgracing her he would dispose of the “unwanted gift” by “sending her away secretly.”
   Before Joseph could execute his plan, an angel appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:20).
   Joseph obeyed the messenger from the Lord and the marriage was consummated. The “unwanted gift” now became a “wanted gift.” That which he wanted to cast aside as unworthy turned out to be Jesus, the Savior of the world.
   Aren’t you glad that God saw to it that events turned out the way they did? We received a Savior, and God was glorified. I can’t think of any better gift than that.

Prayer: Dear Lord, how we thank you for your glorious gift, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Unexpected Gift

The Unexpected Gift
“He took with him Mary, his fiancĂ©e, who was now obviously pregnant.”(Lk 2:5)
Have you ever received a strange gift? One that was a shocker—totally unexpected!
   It happened to me one year while teaching fifth and sixth graders. Children love to give a gift to their teacher at Christmas; a hankie, a tie, an ornament, or pen and pencil set. But on this occasion I received a shoe box wrapped in (newspaper comics). It felt rather heavy and rattled when I shook it. My curiosity was rising by the minute. It was given to me by a student from a very poor family. As I opened the box, I steeled myself for the unexpected. Inside was a small bundle of black coal. Without hesitation, I smiled and said, “This is the most practical gift I’ve ever received.” Little Jimmy gave me the most valuable possession he could find in his home.
   When God gave us His Christmas gift it took people by surprise and came in a totally unexpected manner.
   Who would have expected a Holy Righteous God to choose a young virgin teenager to bear his long awaited Messiah? When the angel Gabriel came to Mary at Nazareth he said, “Greeting favored one! The LORD is with you.” (Luke 1:27) This greeting caught Mary by surprise and she was confused and disturbed. I’m sure she wondered, “What kind of greeting is this and what does it mean?” Fortunately, Gabriel didn’t leave her in that state of mind, and said, “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.”
   Was Mary shocked at this unexpected announcement? Yes! Did she consider herself worthy? No! Did she wonder, “Why me?” Don’t we tend to utter the why God question when the unexpected happens? To think that God would entrust his most valuable possession to an inexperienced young teenager baffles the mind.
   What will you do with the unexpected gift of Jesus Christ this Christmas? Will you keep his Messianic birth to yourself or share it with others?

Prayer: Dear Lord, praise your Holy name for giving us your Messianic gift.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Miraculous Gift

The Miraculous Gift
“All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel! Which means, ‘God is with us.’” (Isaiah 7:14 NLT)
To all mothers near and far: Do you remember the day your doctor confirmed your pregnancy? Do you remember the long wait as the new life grew within you? Do you remember as the day drew near how the expectation grew?
   As a father, I remember all too well the events, the nervousness, the fear of that fateful night. My wife did not have the usual cramps that signaled oncoming labor. She complained of a back-ache and pain, but didn’t seem able to gauge the contractions. I became anxious and decided it was time to head for the hospital. I drove like a crazy man down Natural Bridge Boulevard in a steady rain. I dodged in and out of traffic as my wife sat moaning beside me. I raced into the emergency entrance of the Normandy Osteopathic Hospital as attendants came out with a wheelchair. Before I could even sign the admittance papers, I heard a shrill cry from the adjoining ER room. Wow! A five pound, four ounce baby girl was born. Our Christmas baby was born six weeks prematurely. My first reaction was a huge sigh and the words, “It’s a miracle baby!”
   I wonder what the first words were that Joseph and Mary uttered when their baby boy was born. Did they consider Jesus to be a “miracle baby?” After an arduous four day eighty mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, Mary would be close to exhaustion. It’s a miracle that Mary did not have her baby on a cart along the road just as I almost had our baby in the car traveling to the hospital. But God overshadowed them and saw to it that all prophecies surrounding the Messiah’s birth were fulfilled. (See Gen. 49:10; Isa. 7:14; 9:6; Micah 5:2; Jer. 23:5)
   The birth of the Lord Jesus Christ was a Miraculous Gift brought about by the supernatural power of God.

Prayer: Dear Lord, we thank you this Christmas for your Miraculous Gift of salvation through the death, burial, and resurrection of the lord Jesus Christ.