Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Shake My Church Building, God

Wednesday 1-28-15 (Home)   
Scripture reading:      Exod 21-22     Ps 12       Acts 4

S.  Acts 4:29-31 And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give your servants great boldness in their preaching.  Send your healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus."  After this prayer, the building where they were meeting shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. And they preached God's message with boldness.  NLT

O.  Peter and John had just healed a crippled man who had not never in his life.  The guy was now leaping and walking and praising God.  So crowds gathered around and Peter and John started preaching about the One behind the miracle… Jesus, the resurrected Christ. 

This jarred the religious leaders who only three months before had condemned, shamed, mocked, beaten and crucified Jesus.  They had thought that His few followers would never be ‘in their face’ again.  They had wiped Jesus out, totally destroyed this fake Messiah… silenced His voice forever. 

But what is going on in the temple now?  Thousands are pushing each other aside to see a 40 year old cripple jumping around.  And 5,000 men, plus women and children are praising God, convinced that this dead Jesus is really alive, the risen Son of God! 

“Let’s throw them in prison.  We’ve got to shut down this ‘halleluyah meeting’ right now!”   So into the middle of the crowd dash the temple guards, the same guys that had arrested Jesus a few months before.  They push aside men, women and little children and come upon an old familiar crippled beggar jumping around like a jack rabbit.  I wonder what they are thinking as they grab Peter and John and haul them off to prison. 

Now the Jewish religious leaders are huddled in their court room.  “What are we going to do with these followers of Jesus?  Everybody in Jerusalem knows by now that this beggar is healed!”  So they order the two Galilean fishermen, Peter and John to be brought out of their cell and to stand before them.  “Okay, boys, which one of you is responsible for healing this cripple?”  Peter has the fastest tongue.  “It wasn’t us, your honor, it was the living, resurrected Jesus, the true Messiah that you guys had crucified, killed and buried.  He rose from the dead!  And get this straight, all of you here in this court room, you can stomp the name of Jesus into the cracks in these stones forever, but if you want to be saved… there is no other name under heaven that can save you!” 

Shock!  Nobody slept during that sermon.  There is silence in the court room.  The high priest looks over at his chief assistant.  Everyone is stunned.  These uneducated country hicks are speaking with the same dynamic authority that Jesus did.  They whisper among themselves and arrive at a verdict.  “Okay, we’ll be nice to you boys this time.  We’ll just issue you a warning.  But don’t you ever again dare to preach in the name of this Jesus!  Never!  Got it?”  “Yes, we got your verdict, but do you think we should listen to you or to God?”  They roll their eyes and let them go.  A crowd of new-born followers of Jesus is waiting for Peter and John.  They report the verdict… and say, “So, let’s pray.”  Now you gotta go back and read their prayer again (above).

A.  How long has it been since I prayed that prayer with that same fervor?  How long has it been since we even gathered a group together to pray?  How long has it been since our church building shook under the power of the Holy Spirit?  How long since we had a prayer meeting that made us rise and run out to preach Jesus with boldness?  Let’s get back to the prayer meeting!  Maybe if we can get ourselves into trouble like Peter and John did, we’ll go back and pray.

P.  Yes, Lord, I know You are talking to me, not just “them”.  My heart cries out for a renewal of Holy Spirit empowered Pentecost in me and in our Assemblies of God churches.  It seems that we have forgotten how to pray together.  Most of our children and youth have never experienced a powerful prayer meeting.  Where are we headed, Lord?  Turn us back to seeking You and Your miracle power.  Then send us out to preach Your message with boldness.”  Amen.


God’s Big Treasure Chest

Tuesday 1-27-15 (Home)   Scripture reading:         Exod 17-20          Acts 3

S.  Ex 19:5-6  Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the nations of the earth; for all the earth belongs to me.  And you will be to me a kingdom of priests, my holy nation. NLT

O.  The Israelites are trudging through the desert, a huge company of more than a million ex-slaves. God has rescued them from the cruel hand of the Egyptians and now promises great things for them.  He wants to bless the entire world through Israel’s DNA.  He is marching them toward victory… to a land flowing with milk and honey.  He wants to make them into a kingdom of priests, His holy nation. 

Subsequently, however they will fall into idolatry and other sins.  God gives them dozens of opportunities to come back into His loving arms.  But their history rises and falls over the centuries leaving a trail of broken hopes and failure.  There seems little chance of the “special treasure” prophecy reaching fulfillment. 

Then the coming of Jesus brings new hope… not to make Israel into a perfect nation, but for God to use this little nation, “His own special treasure”, as the launching pad… to introduce His only Son, the King of all kings. 

At Pentecost God’s Holy Spirit sends out a little team of Jewish men, with the message of Christ’s sacrificial death and victorious resurrection, calling for repentance and acceptance of His love and grace.  New converts then spread the word, making disciples.  He is launching a spiritual kingdom… a kingdom without borders of rivers, mountains or seas.  In this way “all the nations of the world are destined be blessed.”

A.  How can I become a part of this heavenly kingdom?  Jesus announces that He is the door.  There is no other way.  My sins had blocked my way.  But Jesus took their blow in my place.  He canceled the power of my condemning sins with His sacrificial death upon the cross.  He arose from the dead, was seen by hundreds of his disciples for 40 days, then returned to His Father with a promise to return.  But when He left for heaven… He left the door open for me and for anyone, not only Israelites… young or old, educated or uneducated, of all colors, cultures all languages.

Rev 1:5-6 All praise to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us.  He has made us his Kingdom and his priests who serve before God his Father. Give to him everlasting glory! He rules forever and ever! Amen!” NLT

P.  Heavenly Father, it seems almost too easy.  We want to do something big and significant to earn our entry ticket.  But You have already paid for this ride.   I was among the “whosoever will” who were invited aboard.  As a little child I stepped into Your wonderful grace.  You sent Your Holy Spirit to guide, protect and carry me through those dangerous teenage years.  And as I began my adult journey, You never left my side.  You gave me a wonderful help-mate that loved You and loved me.  You have treated me like one of Your own special treasures

And now as I approach the end of my journey, I pray that until you come to take me home, you will use me to touch the lives of many more.  I pray that I may be an instrument in Your hands, encouraging hundreds of Your own special treasures; children, teenagers, youth and adults, not only to “step aboard”, but to enter into a lifetime of dedicated service for the advance of Your kingdom.  Help me fill your big treasure chest.  Amen.


Monday, January 26, 2015

A trembling weakling transformed

Monday 1-26-15 (Home)   

Scripture reading:         Exod 14-16          Acts 2

S.  Acts 2:25-28  'I know the Lord is always with me.  I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.  No wonder my heart is filled with joy, and my mouth shouts his praises!  My body rests in hope.  For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave.  You have shown me the way of life, and you will give me wonderful joy in your presence.'  NLT

O.  The same Peter that had denied that he even knew Jesus, was now standing and boldly preaching that Jesus was indeed the Messiah and that it was God’s plan all along that He should die and be raised from the dead and that salvation would be for all men who would believe in Him.  Something wonderful had happened to this man, Peter, and to the rest of this group of 120 men and women.  Peter was no longer the wimp that denied the Lord under pressure.  The promised Comforter had come and fearful, timid men and women became powerful witnesses, ready to give their very lives for Christ and His message. 

The Old and New Testaments are closely linked together.  I am amazed at how this rough fisherman could quote Old Testament scripture.  Here he is quoting parts of Psalm 16.  And he selects the central part of that quote to refer to Jesus Christ’s resurrection.  But the first and last parts of that quotation seem to belong not only to Jesus, but to Peter, himself, and to me.  Looking back at his personal failure, Peter can now shout boldly, “I know the Lord is always with me.  I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.” 

Peter was preaching about and applying this psalm to Jesus, yet like many of the Old Testament prophetic promises, they seem applicable to more than one scenario.  

A.  I especially love the final words of this Psalm 16:11 You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.” NLT.  

The year was 1970. I was traveling alone preaching in churches in Northwest California on the coast and staying with pastors Jim and Helene Hill, next-door to their church in Fortuna.  I was alone sitting at the church organ one morning just playing and worshiping the Lord.  I had my Spanish Bible on the organ directly in front of me.  It was open to Psalm 16.  I struck a C minor chord and began to sing that wonderful verse in Spanish.  A simple melody flowed like a fresh waterfall.  During the following couple of years I taught that melody in many churches in Argentina and Uruguay and just last month in Uruguay a pastor told me they are still singing it over 40 years later! 

Me mostrarás la senda de la vida.  
Me mostrarás la senda de la vida.  
En tu presencia hay plenitud de gozo.            
Delicias a Tu diestra para siempre.                 
Delicias a Tu diestra para siempre.”              

You Will show me the way of life
You Will show me the way of life
In Your presence there is fullness of joy. 
Delicacies at your right hand forever.
Delicacies at your right hand forever.

For years I have applied this verse to my personal life as God’s promise to me.  God will show me the way.  He will guide me down the path of life.  And He will be with me, allowing me the full joy of His divine presence… and all this with the promise of the delightful pleasure of living in His presence forever.

P.  Precious Savior, King of my life, I’ll never cease to be amazed at your power to transform a weakling into a daring servant of God.  How many times I have stood before a great crowd of eager listeners who were waiting for a word from You… trembling like a child?   Then I opened my mouth to speak and something happened.  All fear disappeared and Your Word seemed to flow like a fountain with Holy Spirit anointing.  I know that I am nothing but a wimp, Lord Jesus… yet You can lift me in Your hands and make something out of nothing.  As I look forward toward my next three opportunities for ministry coming now within a few days… I pray that, like Peter on the day of Pentecost, I may know that I am not alone and stand to speak Your Word with Holy Spirit anointing.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

¡Mi generoso ilimitado Dios!

Sábado 1-24-2015   Lecturas:     Éxodo 9-11       Lucas 24

Escritura:  Lucas 24:46-49 "Y les dijo:  Así está escrito, que el Cristo padeciera y resucitara de entre los muertos al tercer día; y que en Su nombre se predicara el arrepentimiento para el perdón de los pecados a todas las naciones, comenzando por Jerusalén.  Vosotros sois testigos de estas cosas.  Y he aquí yo enviaré sobre vosotros la promesa de mi Padre, pero vosotros permaneced en la ciudad hasta que seáis investidos con poder de lo alto."

Observación:  Las palabras claves de Jesús en su final comisión: " en Su nombre se predicara" .  Debéis ir en mi autoridad y en obediencia a mi mandato.  "el arrepentimiento":  Este es el primer componente que ÉL menciona en su mensaje.  No es un mensaje que les gusta oír a la gente.  Nadie quiere oír que está equivocado.   Ahora "para el perdón de los pecados". ¡Por cierto que estas son buenas nuevas!  "A todas las naciones, comenzando por Jerusalén":  Este mensaje no se limitaba a los judíos.  Es para toda nación, comenzando con Jerusalén, pero no limitado a Jerusalén.   "Vosotros sois testigos de estas cosas"  Estamos en una posición única.  Tenemos el privilegio de haber experimentado personalmente aquello que vamos a predicar.  " Yo enviaré sobre vosotros la promesa de mi Padre."  No los estoy enviando solos.  El Espíritu Santo va contigo.   Esto era la idea del Padre.   Es Su divina Promesa.  ”Pero vosotros permaneced en la ciudad hasta que seáis investidos con poder de lo alto.".  Ahora tienen el mensaje.  ¡Vayan!  Pero quédense aquí hasta que...!  No nos pide que salgamos corriendo a la batalla sin la provisión celestial.  

Aplicación:  A primera vista parece confuso. "¡Vayan!  Pero quédense!  ¡Luego VAYAN!  Me recuerda de las luces del semáforo en el boulevard.  ¡Verde!  ¡Amarillo!  ¡Rojo!  Pero ahora verde otra vez!  Cuántas veces he visto verde desde casi un kilómetro.  Estoy apurado.  Siempre estoy apurado aunque tengo el día libre J.  Aprieto el acelerador y lo levanto a 80… luego a 90.  Le voy a ganar esa la luz!  Pero justo cuando me faltan solo 100 metros… la luz amarilla, y tengo que pegar un frenazo porque sé que después viene la roja.  Jesús me dice VE.  Regresa a la Argentina ¡Yo te envío! Y yo salto sobre mis pies para ir.  Pero, "Espérate un poco, hijo mío, aún no estás listo.  Tengo un regalo para tí.  Necesitas una renovación del poder de Mi Espíritu."  Y puede que sea horas o días más tarde...  "Ahora, levántate y ve.  Ve... guiado por Mi Espíritu, más lejos que antes.  Vete con más poder y confianza en Mi Espíritu Santo de lo que jamás hubieras experimentado antes.  ¡Vete!  ¡Y YO iré contigo!

Oración: Sí, Señor, yo te oigo.  Tú ya me has dado tanto.  Algunas veces pienso que mi copa está llena y rebosando.  ¿Pero aun tienes más para mí?  ¿Tienes algo nuevo y maravilloso para mí?  Me haces acordar de mi viejo profesor bautista de 82 años, el Dr. Milliken, en el Western Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary que una vez en privado contestó a mi pregunta.  "Busca el Espíritu Santo, pero cuando recibas Su bautismo, no seas como los pentecostales que piensan "Ahora lo tengo".  Después de una pausa agregó:  "No hay límites para los dones de Dios."  ¡Oh, Señor, hoy tengo hambre, me rindo a Tus pies... y espero. ¡Porque Tu eres mi generoso, ilimitado Dios!


Welcome to Paradise!

Friday 1-23-15 (Home)   
Scripture reading:    Exod 6-8        Luke 23

S.  Luke 23:39-43  One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, "So you're the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself — and us, too, while you're at it!" But the other criminal protested, "Don't you fear God even when you are dying? We deserve to die for our evil deeds, but this man hasn't done anything wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom."  And Jesus replied, "I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise."  NLT

O.  These two men had probably lived a life of crime.  It seems likely that they had worked together in their evil deeds.  That third cross, the one in the middle, may have been destined originally for another condemned criminal named Barabbas.  The three would have died like hundreds of other criminals and we would have never heard of them.  I wonder if Barabbas was standing at a distance staring at the cross where he has supposed to be hanging. 

The religious leaders who had condemned Jesus were having a party at the foot of the crosses.  “Hey, Jesus, You were in the business of “saving” people… if You are really the Son of God like You have been telling us, let’s see You leap off that cross and save Yourself.”  And all went into a fit of coarse laughter.  Now one of the dying criminals gets into the act and joins the chorus of soldiers and religious people mocking the silent Jesus on the cross. 

But this was too much for the other dying criminal.  Finally a single voice rings out among the noise… a single voice that defends Jesus.  And it is the voice of a dying criminal.  In a single sentence he admits his guilt and proclaims Jesus’ innocence.  But there is more.  Who, among this crowd, even among Jesus’ most faithful followers who were watching from a distance, who of them would allude to Jesus as a real King with a genuine kingdom at this moment?  This dying man believed that Jesus, Who was also dying still had a coming kingdom.  He believed in a life after death and he recognized Jesus as the King.  And Jesus promised him that in a few hours they would be together again.  “Welcome to Paradise!” 

A.  Have I visited the foot of the cross of Jesus recently?  Have I heard the mocking of the crowds of unbelievers?  Have I been surrounded by insults thrown at Christianity? And have I dared to speak up for Jesus?  The dying criminal had nothing to lose and everything to gain.  He was pinned to a cross, but he took a flying leap into faith in Christ the Son of the Living God.

P.  Dear Jesus, You are the giver of hope and assurance.  Your words let me know that there is life after this one comes to an end.  And to an evil criminal who confesses his sin and his faith in You in his dying moment, You can promise a paradise.  Certainly his life did not merit paradise.  Your word lets us know that none of our good deeds can make us worthy of spending an eternity with You.  Lord, just like that unworthy criminal, I place my hope and trust only in Your sacrifice for me… and I am confident that You will remember me, when You come into Your kingdom.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

He turns and looks at me

Thursday 1-22-15 (Home)   

Scripture reading:    Exod 3-5        Luke 22

S.  Luke 22:59-62 About an hour later someone else insisted, "This must be one of Jesus' disciples because he is a Galilean, too." But Peter said, "Man, I don't know what you are talking about." And as soon as he said these words, the rooster crowed.  At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered that the Lord had said, "Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny me three times."  And Peter left the courtyard, crying bitterly. NLT

O.  Peter was doubtless the most outspoken of the 12 apostles of Jesus.  He was the quickest to defend Him with a sword.  He had boldly declared that he was ready to die for Jesus.  Probably partly due to his bragging about being willing to die for Him… instead of running away like ten of the other disciples, Peter, along with John, follows the crowd that had taken Jesus captive… but at a distance, out of sight.  The apostle John knew the High Priest so he had entrance into the courtyard.  When Peter got there John arranged for him to enter into the courtyard, too.  (John 18:15-17)  Now, standing amid the guards, servants and enemies of Jesus, 

Peter wants to go un-noticed.  He might have imagined a possible scene, like some guard yelling, “Hey, here is Jesus’ right hand man!  Let’s grab him, too!”  So he hides in the shadows.  But leave it to the girls… one of them speaks out.  “Weren’t you one of Jesus’ friends?”  “Not me, I don’t know the man.” One!  A little later Peter was getting cold and a group of servants and guards were warming themselves at a fire.  Peter tries to go unnoticed as he approaches to warm his hands, but the firelight shows his face.  “Hey, this is one of this man’s group!  Isn’t that right mister?” “Who?  Me?  I don’t know who that man is?”  Two! Later someone adds, “You are lying.  Your Galilean accent gives you away.”  Peter reverts to his old language habits like when the fish nets got tangled and torn.  He blurts out some swear words and says, “Listen, I don’t know what you guys are talking about!” Three!  Right on time the rooster crows.  

Jesus has his hands tied behind his back, one of the guards has just smashed him in the face.  (John 18:22)  Important people are screaming accusations and threats at Him, but He hears the rooster crow… and turns and looks at Peter.  Through the haze of foul words and accusations, through the angry crowd that separated them, their eyes meet for only a few seconds.  But that look… that look said more than 100 words.  Peter turns and escapes out of the courtyard and into the darkness.  Tears pour down that rugged fisherman’s face.  He hated himself.  He was a hopeless failure.  Jesus had renamed him, Peter the Rock.  But now he knows he is a useless wimp.    

A.  Have you been there?  I have.  Yes, I have.  I hate to admit it, but I have.  And the tears still pour down my cheeks as I think if it.  Useless wimp!  Failure!  And all my Jesus does is He just looks at me.  He does not shout condemnation.  He does not point the finger.  He just looks.  His look is enough.  I run into the darkness to weep bitterly in repentance.  Oh, you thought preachers never have to repent?  I can’t speak for others, but this one has to.  

Peter’s failure gives me hope.  After His resurrection Jesus makes a special effort to restore and strengthen Peter.  Jesus did not give up on a weak, lying failure named Simon Peter.  So I know, He will not give up on me!

P.  Oh!  Savior, I have promised to plant the seed of my life fulfilling Your mission.  Like Simon Peter, I too have made a commitment to be willing to die for You.  But sadly like Peter, under pressure, I have sometimes failed to speak up for You when surrounded by the enemy.  But You turn and look at me.  I sense shame, but feel your love, compassion and mercy.  Your grace flows like a river when You just look at me.  Justice would throw me away as useless.  Your look is a call to tears of repentance, cleansing and a fresh start.  May my promises to die for You not just be empty words.  May I carry Your message to the lost and needy until my dying day!  Amen.


It’s a tunnel, not a cave

Wednesday 1-21-15 (Home)   

Scripture reading:    Exod 1-2    Ps 88    Luke 21

S.  Ps 88:1-5 O Jehovah, God of my salvation, I have wept before you day and night.  Now hear my prayers; oh, listen to my cry, for my life is full of troubles, and death draws near.  They say my life is ebbing out - a hopeless case.  They have left me here to die, like those slain on battlefields from whom your mercies are removed.

Ps 89:1-2  Forever and ever I will sing about the tender kindness of the Lord! Young and old shall hear about your blessings. Your love and kindness are forever; your truth is as enduring as the heavens. TLB

O.  King David knew what it was to fall into deep depression.  The entire Psalm 88 is a cry of despair. 

A.  Why would he be inspired to write a song about it?  Why would the Lord of Heaven allow this lament to be found right in the middle of His Holy writings?  Perhaps it is to let the despairing soul know that he or she is not alone.  The greatest of God’s servants passed through dark tunnels of depression and finally came out on the other side victorious.  In fact the very first verses that follow after David’s psalm of despair, Psalm 89:1-2, start with a shout joyous victory. 

P.  Dear Father, can it be that we are not capable of fully appreciating our grand victorious life without some experiences that carry us into the depths of despair?  It seems that those who have suffered the most and have finally come through their darkness into light are those that best communicate Your love and Your joy.  I thank You Lord, for the light at the end of the tunnel.  You let us know that there is always hope.  Your word says, “Weeping may go on all night, but joy comes with the morning.” Ps 30:5 NLT  Hallelujah! 

So, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”  (Phil 4:4 NIV)  Because it’s a tunnel, not a cave!

Let the Stones Cry Out!

Monday 1-19-15 (Home)   

Scripture reading:      Gen 47-48       Ps 10       Luke 19

S.  Luke 19:37-40  As they reached the place where the road started down from the Mount of Olives, all of his followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen.  "Bless the King who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven and glory in highest heaven!"  But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, "Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that!"  He replied, "If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!"  NLT

O.  Jesus always had a remarkable answer for the religious people that criticized Him and His followers.  “Silence this crowd of enthusiastic men, women and even little children and these stones (and there were many) will burst into praises!”  And once Jesus had gone to the cross, come back to resurrected life and ascended into heaven, these same men did everything they could to silence the voice of every enthusiastic follower of Jesus who sang praises to His name.  Many, like Saul the persecutor, hauled them off to prison and stood by to approve their death sentence. 

A.  The Apostle Peter writes, “…you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5-6 NIV)  We have become the living stones that worship God.  Man has done some remarkable feats with stones.  The Egyptian Pyramids are one example.  But only God can make stones sing His praises.  And some among us were once God haters, as hard as a stone, but they are now standing before the throne singing His praises.

P.  Thank You Lord!  You can make stones sing!  No wonder that my heart bursts into song as I look up toward You.  May the criticizers never silence this living stone!  May my voice be reserved for Your worship!  Blessed be the King!  Amen.
Note:  My late younger sister, Joyce, wrote the words and music to a wonderful chorus, almost like an anthem: (If you are a musician I encourage you to play the music shown below.)
Blessed be the King
by Joyce Solomon (Sheet music below)

Blessed be the King.
Oh praise our great Redeemer!
All the stones would now cry out
If we should hold our peace.
Let our voices ring
Our grateful thanks we offer
To our Lord Who washed away
All our iniquities.
Sing praises!  Sing praises!
Exalt the Lord Our God!
Sing praises!  Sing praises!
Exalt the Lord Our God!


Getting Ready for Greater Things to Come

Friday 1-16-15 (Home)   Scripture reading:    Gen 39-41         Luke 16

S.  Gen 41:1  Two years later, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing on the bank of the Nile River.  NLT

O.  How long is two years?  It’s a very long time if you are locked away in a horrible dungeon with no hope of ever escaping.  We don’t know how long the young Joseph was in that prison before the cup-bearer and baker were imprisoned there with him.  A year? Two? Five? More?  There is one factor in this story that I never noticed before.  Potiphar, the captain of Pharoah’s guard, who had purchased and now owned Joseph, apparently had the king’s prison for special offenders directly below his own mansion.  I wonder if this devilish woman, Potiphar’s wife, ever went down there to flash hateful looks of revenge at Joseph.  At any rate Joseph’s future is looking pretty bleak.  He is a gifted, honest young man and probably Potiphar, himself, may have been responsible for putting him in charge of all the other prisoners.  

I suppose that Potiphar, in time, doubted his wife’s story, but had no other recourse than to keep Joseph in that dark basement.  Joseph had a glimmer of hope when he asked the king’s cup-bearer to remember him when he returned to king Pharoah’s service.  But now two more long years had passed and nothing had happened to bolster his hopes.  Still he went on with life, serving his master, Potiphar, the best he could, as though he were serving God Himself.  God was getting him ready for greater things to come.

A.  How long, oh Lord?  How long?  How many times have we struggled with our faith as we wait for an answer from God?  The great chapter eleven of Hebrews, lists many of the ancient “faithful ones” and adds “All these faithful ones died without receiving what God had promised them, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed the promises of God.”  Heb 11:13 NLT  God was getting them ready for greater things to come.

P.  Oh Lord, obviously many of Your most faithful ones never saw Your promises fulfilled during their lifetime on this earth.  Still their faith did not waiver.  They looked forward to a city where You, their faithful God, was Builder and Maker.  Jesus, You have given me a wonderful, fruitful life in two hemispheres.  But many of your dear people lie still caged in their prison.  Some lie anchored to a bed of pain.  They may feel useless.  Lord, don’t let them lose their hope.  May their prison make their faith in You become stronger than ever.  May they know that the best is yet to come.  If You could lift Joseph out of his dark dungeon to a life of luxury and purpose… we can all trust You to lift us into Your purposes both in this life and in our eternal forever.  Every day in our dungeon can be 24 hours more of personal preparation for the day when You will lift us up… up… up into the beauty of Your divine, eternal purposes!  God, You are getting us ready for greater things to come!

“Burn Her!”

Today I bare my soul to share with you my personal devotional diary:  Thursday 1-15-15 (Home)   

Scripture reading:  Gen 37-39     Ps 7     Luke 15

S.  Gen 38:24-25 About three months later, word reached Judah that Tamar, his daughter-in-law, was pregnant as a result of prostitution. "Bring her out and burn her!" Judah shouted. But as they were taking her out to kill her, she sent this message to her father-in-law: "The man who owns this identification seal and walking stick is the father of my child. Do you recognize them?" NLT

O. Tamar had been promised to Judah’s son, Shelah, but Judah later withdrew his promise apparently leaving her shamed and unable to ever marry another in that culture.  So she devises a plan.  She disguises herself as a veiled prostitute and sits at the city gate of a little town where her once-to-be father-in-law, Judah is passing by.  He falls for the trap and has sex with her.  She successfully conceals her identity and insists that he leave his personal identification seal and his special walking stick with her until he sends a sheep as payment.  Judah sends servants with a sheep to pay the local prostitute and recover his seal and cane, but all the neighbors say this town doesn’t have a prostitute.  So Judah says, “Okay, whoever she is, let her keep my cane and seal!  No big deal.” 

Three months later the report comes to Judah that his once promised, but jilted daughter-in-law, Tamar, is pregnant from prostitution.  Judah shouts, “Take her out and burn her for this evil deed!”  As they grab her to take her to her death, she produces Judah’s seal and cane and tells them, “The owner of these items is the father of the child in my womb!”  Snap!  Judah was caught in the trap.  He was as guilty as she! 

  Does anybody need a plot for a novel or a movie?  There are lots of them in this the very first book of the Bible.  Oh! How quick we are to see the guilt and sin of other people and how blind and defensive we are of our own.  Jesus went to the heart of the issue with only a few words in John 8:7 “All right, stone her. But let those who have never sinned throw the first stones!" NLT

P.  Lord, why am I so judgmental when I see other ministers of the gospel caught in the trap of sexual sin or monetary fraud, leaving an ugly blot upon the name of Christianity?  Am I so perfect as to be their judge?  Am I, like Judah, quick to send them off to be burned?  If You, my God were to open my brain and display before the whole world my every evil thought and deed, would I not slump away and hide in shame?  Oh!  How I thank You, Lord, for Your cleansing power and precious promises!  You say, “Come now, and let us reason together… Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isa 1:18)  You say through Your servant, John: “If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. (1 John 1:8-10)  I praise You, my Savior!  I only confessed it to You and You have forgiven me.  You have cleansed me.  You have placed it all under the blood, Your precious blood.  Today I plead the blood over my thoughts and actions.  Keep me under the blood.  Protect me!  And may I never shame Your Holy Name by evil thoughts or actions!  I confess.  I am only a sinner, saved by grace!

When I was a child we used to sing this great old song:  
Only a Sinner Saved by Grace by James Gray  
(I just found it again in my Pastor William Booth-Clibborn’s old songbook, Victory Songs No.4. and went to the piano to play and sing it… and to praise God!  I am saved by His grace!)

Naught have I gotten but what I received;
Grace hath bestowed it since I have believed;
Boasting excluded, pride I abase;
I’m only a sinner, saved by grace!
Only a sinner, saved by grace!
Only a sinner, saved by grace!
This is my story, to God be the glory
I’m only a sinner, saved by grace!
Once I was foolish, and sin ruled my heart,
Causing my footsteps from God to depart;
Jesus hath found me, happy my case;
I now am a sinner, saved by grace!
Only a sinner, saved by grace!
Only a sinner, saved by grace!
This is my story, to God be the glory
I’m only a sinner, saved by grace!
Tears unavailing, no merit had I;
Mercy had saved me, or else I must die;
Sin had alarmed me fearing God’s face;
But now I’m a sinner saved by grace!
Only a sinner, saved by grace!
Only a sinner, saved by grace!
This is my story, to God be the glory
I’m only a sinner, saved by grace!
Suffer a sinner whose heart overflows,
Loving his Savior to tell what he knows;
Once more to tell it would I embrace
I’m only a sinner saved by grace!
Only a sinner, saved by grace!
Only a sinner, saved by grace!
This is my story, to God be the glory
I’m only a sinner, saved by grace!

"And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner."


My Today’s Personal Devotional: Wednesday 1-14-15 (Home)   
Scripture reading: Gen 34-36 and Luke 14

S.  Luke 14:23-24  Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full.  NLT

O.  Invitations had been sent out with anticipation.  The date and time was set.  The meal was hot and the tables decorated.  But what is this?  No one shows up!  So now cell phones are ringing reminding the invited guests that all is ready.  But everyone is consumed with their daily activities and refuses to come.  The first guy had recently invested in 40 acres and needed to check the fences.  Another had just purchased a brand new 210 Ox-Power tractor and was anxious to crank it up.  One couple preferred a quiet evening at an expensive restaurant before leaving for their honeymoon in Hawaii.  All are “legitimate” excuses.  Life is busy, you know.
So the master of ceremonies calls together his team and sends them out again, this time to bring in the crippled, the poverty stricken, the sickly and the blind.  A motley, ragged group now sits on cushy chairs formerly reserved for the elite. 

But still seats are vacant.  “Okay, boys, hit the streets.  Run with the news!  Go down those dirty back alleys and don’t miss the little shacks of the slaves out behind those huge country mansions.  Urge them to come… for my banquet is waiting and ready for them.” 

What a banquet!  “Silence, please!”  The master of ceremonies now addresses the unlikely crowd.  “Moments ago you may have been sitting beside the road with a tin can, hoping for the sound of a coin.  Or you may have been a confused youth with no hope for the future.  Today you are sitting where kings and princes were invited to sit.  Why are you here?  Others did not appreciate their invitation.  They refused to come.  They showed no interest in the Kingdom of God.  You are here because you believed my messengers and responded to my invitation.  Please bow your heads.  Let us pray.”  

At the “amen” a live orchestra strikes up the background music while uniformed waiters carry steaming hot delicacies to each table.  A blind beggar is seated by a slave worker and they begin to chat.  Soon the sound of many happy voices fills the room as they share their good fortune. 

With this story Jesus is addressing the Jewish folk who were the initially invited ones.  He is announcing a new “open-door-to-everyone” policy. 

A.  I was not born into a Jewish family.  My name was not visible on page one of the list of those classy people invited to sit with Jesus at the table.  I had no pedigree.  I was a “nobody”.  But a messenger of the King came running and invited me to the King’s banquet table. “Who?  Me?  Is this a joke?  It is for real?”  I grab my best coat and run to find my place at the table of the King of King’s. 

P.  Lord, this morning I sat in wonder as I enjoyed rich fellowship at Your banquet table.  Okay, so it was just a breakfast… a regional minister’s breakfast, but to me it was a banquet… not because of the delicious food, but just for the privilege of sitting with royalty… Your kind of royalty.  You have promoted each of us from the dust of the streets to the honor of princes, princesses, kings and queens.  They are my friends… my peers.  I can talk with them although they serve in important, high-ranking positions.  I am a “nobody”, but now, in Your company, Jesus, You have elevated me to become “somebody”.  Lord, You have a way of bringing us up from the lowest level and seating us alongside Your special royalty.  Thanks, Lord.  Life is delightful!



Tuesday 1-13-15 (Home)     Gen 31-33       Luke 13

S.  Gen 33:4 Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him affectionately and kissed him. Both of them were in tears. NLT

O.  Jacob had cheated his twin brother, Esau, and had fled for his life since Esau was plotting to kill him.  Now many years later Jacob is returning home fearing that Esau will not only kill him, but his two wives, and his children as well.  When he hears that Esau is coming to meet him with 400 armed men.  Jacob is terrified.  But he was very shrewd and sent gifts for Esau of sheep and goats and camels ahead of him, hoping to break Esau’s anger. 

That night Jacob, left alone before crossing the river, had an unexpected visitor… a “Man”.  They wrestled all night long in the darkness.  Somehow Jacob realized that he was struggling with God Himself… and finally as it was dawning he cried out, “I will not let You go until You bless me!”  Jacob left that place a different man.  Not only did God change his name from Jacob (a deceiver) to Israel (one who struggles with God), but God pulled Jacob’s hip out of joint and left him limping heavily probably for the rest of his life.  The new Jacob, from then on called Israel, went on to meet Esau.  Esau ran to meet his limping brother.  They embraced and tears of repentance and forgiveness flowed.

A.  Frances and I, on a brief visit from Argentina, had just driven 700 miles from California to see her mother and other relatives.  A heart-breaking shock awaited us when we returned to her old home.  We approached the familiar backdoor where Frances had grown up expecting a warm welcome.  We knocked.  Her step father, who had always received us kindly, opened the door.  “What do you want?” he demanded angrily.  We stammered out, “We have come home to see you.”  “Well, now you have seen me, good-bye!” And he slammed the door in our face. 

We turned away in total shock without Frances being able to see her mother who was inside.  As we drove away we were both in tears.  Neither of us had any idea what had come between us.

Frances’ father had passed away when she was 12 years old.  There were 8 children to feed and her mother was working long hours in the shipyards to support them.  She met and married a man that had a solid job and could pay off the debt on the house and support the family.  He had suffered a very harsh child-hood and run away to a cruel world to make his own way as a youth.  He was not a drinker.  He had many good qualities.  However, perhaps due to his harsh treatment as a child and to his battle to survive as a runaway youth, he often treated his step children harshly.  But that had been left behind many years before and we had always gotten along with him well. 

Through other relatives we found out what apparently was troubling him.  I had offended him several years earlier when I had asked him to drive my car chauffeuring my son’s bride to their wedding atop Mount Tabor.  I had thought that he would be honored to do so.  But he refused… and then refused to come to the wedding even though he practically worshiped Ron’s bride, Elisabet.  

Now, several years later, I was told that he had been deeply offended that I had been the one to ask him to drive her, instead of my son, Ron, or Elisabet, the bride herself.  Apparently he felt that I had breached protocol, taking my son’s place in asking him.  This was probably true, but I had done so ignorantly and had no idea that I had offended him.

We returned to Argentina heart-broken that Frances had not been allowed to see her mother.  Together we prayed about it and determined to win her father-in-law back.  We purchased a birthday gift in Argentina and sent it to him.  We sought every opportunity to send him a nice card, a note or a gift.  And we prayed for him. 

Years later on our next furlough we approached the back door of the house with fear.  But this time Frances’ mother opened the door and her step-father came and greeted us warmly.  He seemed to be a changed man.  From that date forward he was always very kind to us and our family.  Frances’ mother passed away first, but until her step-father’s death, whenever we told him how much we loved him, he would reply that he didn’t deserve it. 

Well, who of us deserves to be loved?  Not me!  “God shows His great love for us in that while we were still sinners in rebellion against Him, He sent His Only Son to die for us at Calvary.” Romans 5:8

P.  God, you loved us when we were unlovely sinners.  And your love was so great that you gave Your Only Son for us.  I am sure that when You are blasphemed and shunned by those that You love so much… Your tender heart has been broken again and again.  Centuries ago Jacob sent gifts ahead of him to soften the anger of his brother.  God, I have no gift to send ahead of me to soften the anger I deserve.  All that I can offer You is my love.  So today I fall before you and cry out, “I love You!  I love You, Father.”   

The other side of the road

Saturday 1-10-15 (Edmonds, WA)   Gen 25-26    Ps 3   Luke 10

S.  Luke 10:30-37  Jesus replied with an illustration: "A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes and money, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. "By chance a Jewish priest came along; but when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by.  A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. "Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt deep pity.  Kneeling beside him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with medicine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.  The next day he handed the innkeeper two pieces of silver and told him to take care of the man. 'If his bill runs higher than that,' he said, 'I'll pay the difference the next time I am here.'  "Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?" Jesus asked. The man replied, "The one who showed him mercy."  Then Jesus said, "Yes, now go and do the same." NLT

O.  Two men, both religious, one a priest and one a temple assistant, took one look at a beaten, perhaps dying man and made a wide berth to avoid getting too close to him.  “The other side of the road” allowed them to pass without the injured man’s pleading eyes and deep groans of pain reaching their hearts. 

A.  Many of us live on the other side of the road.  We practice looking the other way when hungry, suffering, mistreated people of other races are accidentally placed in our pathway.  We justify ourselves down in our hearts.  We say to ourselves, “He should go out and get a job.”  Or “If I give him a dollar he will probably spend it on drugs, liquor or cigarettes.” We are really good at looking the other way.  We have chosen to live on the other side of the road.  Some tell us that more than half the people of the world lay beaten and bruised and many are dying of starvation.  We find a way to justify our lack of attention and participation.  What did that unfortunate man really need?  He needed one thing that the true doctrine of Jesus can offer.  Love!  “Oh!” someone will argue.  “These kind will take advantage of your expressions of love.  They will deceive you, manipulate you, misuse you and harm you.”  Unfortunately they are probably right.  Jesus came unto His own people.  Yet although He overflowed with love and compassion, His own people refused Him, beat Him, and killed Him and placed his crushed body in a cave.  Even knowing what awaited Him, that did not stop His kind of love.  His love was the kind that gives it all and when there is nothing left to give, gives His life for the ones He loves.  Maybe we cannot cure all the needs of the world, but when we are made aware of the needs of others… we can make a choice to draw near and seek a way to help.  The Samaritan man did.

P.  Oh Lord, I preach to myself.  Sometimes they seem to be standing at every signal light with outstretched hands or little handwritten signs.  I am good at making excuses.  Too busy… have an appointment… no change on me…  Lord, You have heard them all.  I dare to ask you for a heart like that good Samaritan man.  He risked his time and wealth to help a man of a despised race.  No repayment… nothing, but a story written forever in a book… not a book, but The Book.  What is that You are saying, Lord?  You are right now writing the story of my life?  


Solid Gold Bracelets

My Personal Devotional  Friday 1-9-15 (Guesthouse, Tumwater, WA)     Scripture reading: Gen 23-24    Luke 9

S. Gen 24:29-31  Now Rebekah had a brother named Laban.  When he saw the nose-ring and the bracelets on his sister's wrists, and when he heard her story, he rushed out to the spring, where the man was still standing beside his camels. Laban said to him, "Come and stay with us, you who are blessed by the LORD. Why do you stand here outside the village when we have a room all ready for you and a place prepared for the camels!"  NLT

O. This is a great story indeed.  A servant is sent on a long journey to bring back a young bride for Isaac.  God led him to Rebekah… a sweet, beautiful teenager who, with no arterial motive, offers to water his camels.  She comes back to her home with classy bracelets of pure gold and a gold nose ring. She has a brother named Laban.  This is the first mention of this fellow in the Bible.  When he sees the shining gold and hears her story, he leaps up and dashes out to meet the donor and invites him in.  Many years later Laban shows his colors again when he cheats his nephew Jacob multiple times for material gain.

A.  The sight of shining gold makes a lot of people jump… yes, even some pastors.  Quick as a wink they, like Laban, jump up and run to the donor.  “Come on in!  Sit here!  We knew we liked you the moment we saw you!”  (… and your gold-plated Cadillac in the parking lot. J) “This is just the church for you!”  Now I must ask myself: Did I jump that quickly last week to greet that family that looks like they live on food stamps?  Brother James has a word for “Pastor Laban” and for you and me.

James 2:1-4  My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim that you have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people more than others? For instance, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in shabby clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, "You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor" — well, doesn't this discrimination show that you are guided by wrong motives? NLT

P.  Well, Lord, I am sure glad that I am not like Laban, or like that other pastor over there.  I have pure motives.  I do not discriminate… II… What is that you are saying, Lord?  Oh, You are telling me I have too many “I”s in my prayer?  Lord, You know my heart better than I do.  Help me open the door for the divine scrutiny of Your Holy Spirit… and crushed beneath the weight of my own evil, self-centered heart, to plead for forgiveness and mercy.  Change me.  Let me see people as You see them and regardless of their status welcome them into my life as You would welcome them… with open arms.  Amen