Monday, September 21, 2015

The Propaganda Devil

Monday   9-21-15  (Home in Modesto, California)

Scripture reading:   Dan 7-8    Ps 137    Luke 4

S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Luke 4:28-30 When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious. Jumping up, they mobbed him and took him to the edge of the hill on which the city was built. They intended to push him over the cliff, but he slipped away through the crowd and left them.  NLT

O.  Jesus had recently begun his public ministry and already had gathered much fame as a teacher and healer.  Now He returned to his hometown of Nazareth to minister to His own neighbors.  He chose His text from Isaiah 61 where the prophet described the ministry of the coming Messiah.  Then He rolled up the scroll and announced to the people that this prophecy was at this very moment being fulfilled before their eyes.  But this was too much for Jesus’ neighbors.  They had known Him as a humble carpenter’s son.  Who does he think he is?  Boldly identifying Himself with the Messiah!  When He suggested that the unbelieving Israelites had been overlooked by Elijah and Elisha... and gentiles had been blessed instead... that did it!  They mobbed Him and pushed Him to the top of a cliff intending to silence his voice forever.  But He gave them the slip. 

A.  Familiarity brings contempt.  It wasn’t Jesus’ neighbors that acknowledged who He was... it was His enemies, the demons.  In Capernaum a demon possessed man shouted Jesus’ true identity.  “I know who you are — the Holy One sent from God." (Luke 4:34)  Others, also demon possessed, yelled, “You are the Son of God.”  But He told the demons to be silent and cast them out. (vs 41)  The Apostle Paul also silenced a demon possessed girl who followed them constantly announcing, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved." (Acts 16:17-18)   If I want an advertising campaign, I don’t want to devil to be in charge of it.  It would be like a liquor brand sponsoring my daily devotional.

P.  Lord, Jesus, there are a lot of voices out there.  Many of them are great, honorable men and women of God ministering in their churches, on radio, internet and TV.  But when the devil starts telling the world what a great guy I am... I am headed for trouble.  I have to say, “Shut up, devil.  I don’t need your propaganda.” Everyone seems to seek for fame.  Jesus, You did many things that brought You fame, but it wasn’t fame You were seeking.  It was true followers.  I just want to be one of them.  Amen.


Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Treasure Chest

Saturday   9-19-15  (Home in Modesto, California)

Scripture reading:   Eze 47-48     Luke 2

S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Luke 2:18 -19 All who heard the shepherds' story were astonished, but Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and thought about them often.

 Luke 2:49-51 "But why did you need to search?" he asked. "You should have known that I would be in my Father's house."  But they didn't understand what he meant. Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them; and his mother stored all these things in her heart.  NLT

O.  I assume that Joseph was all business.  “Okay, let’s get the show back on the road.  We have already lost three days.”  He probably was thinking, “When I get this kid home I am going to teach him a thing or two about responsibility to his parents.”  However, Mary, was adding this action and strange excuse given by her 12 year old son, Jesus, to her treasure chest. 

A.  Mothers are like that.  They have treasure chests down inside their hearts.  They store things and open the lid frequently to stir around in there and just enjoy the memories.  There was Gabriel’s angelic visit whose message got her in trouble with her future husband.  There was her visit to her aged cousin, Elisabeth, up in the hill country.  There was a midnight visit from some excited shepherds kneeling in worship in a stable.  There were the words of the elderly Simeon and Anna in the Temple.  Years later Mary would open her treasure chest and share it with the historian, Doctor Luke.

P.  Lord, what do I have in my treasure chest?  Let me open the lid for a peek.  There it is!  The day 78 years ago when I opened my heart to receive You... It was the day You flooded me with Your love.  And there is the day I seemed destined to fall to my death on the rocks below a cliff in Oceanside, Oregon... and You gave me Your hand.  And the day I joined my life to my sweetheart, Frances.  Oh!  Just look down in there and stir around!  So many shining jewels!  Treasures!  And every one of them is a gift from You!  How can I thank You enough?!  I can only fall at Your feet again to worship the Giver of Life... abundant life.  Amen.


Friday, September 18, 2015

We need water!

Wednesday   9-16-15  (Home in Modesto, California)

Scripture reading:   Eze 40-41    Ps 128    Rev. 21

S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Rev 21:5-7 And the one sitting on the throne said, "Look, I am making all things new!" And then he said to me, "Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true." And he also said, "It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega — the Beginning and the End.  To all who are thirsty I will give the springs of the water of life without charge!   NLT

O.  This detailed vision seems to include an invitation directed to all who are thirsty.  The refreshing springs of the “water of life” are offered free of charge.  I am reminded Jesus’ words to the woman at the well, (John 4:10) "If you only knew the gift God has for you and who I am, you would ask me, and I would give you living water." Also Isaiah 55:1 "Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink — even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk — it's all free! NLT

A.  I am thirsty this morning... maybe every morning... ready for a cool drink of the living water from the fountain.  I am invited and enticed to return to the fountain of the cool, clear water of life. 

I remember attending a Youth for Christ meeting at Benson High School when western cowboy singer, Tim Spencer, who founded “Sons of the Pioneers”, (with Roy Rogers and Bob Nolan) was singing and telling his personal testimony.  That night he sang their famous song, “Cool, Clear Water” and told his personal story.  He had chased the devil’s mirages for many years, but had finally discovered cool, clear water... in Jesus, the Source of Living Water.

P.  Lord Jesus, You know that California desperately needs rain.  This morning it is reported that 720 homes have been destroyed by uncontrollable forest fires in several areas.  Please send us rain again.  Families are forced to flee for their lives and watch their life’s savings destroyed by fire.  I pray for them. 

I was pleased yesterday at Golden Corral Restaurant when a waiter named Rafael, told me he would be carrying a large supply of prepared food to Sonora today for families that have been left homeless. 

But this morning I am craving a fresh drink at Your fountain of cool, clear, refreshing water of life again.   You always have an abundant supply.  Ah!  How refreshing!  I thank You for the fountain that is never exhausted.

There is a river
That flows from deep within,
There is a fountain 
That frees the soul from sin,
Come to this water,
There is a vast supply,
There is a river
That never shall run dry.

Sing over that baby

Friday   9-18-15  (Home in Modesto, California)

Scripture reading:   Eze 45-46     Luke 1

S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Luke 1:76-79  And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord.  You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins.  Because of God's tender mercy, the light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace." NLT

O.  Apparently Zechariah the priest had been both deaf and dumb for 9 months, since receiving the prophetic word from the Angel Gabriel.  Certainly deaf, for they had to use signs to ask him what he wanted to name the child.  But the moment he wrote, “His name is John” his tongue was loosed and I assume that his hearing was also restored.  Now this happy elderly father takes this tiny boy in his arms and sings this wonderful song (above) over him. 

A.  It seems like only yesterday that I held the first of our three little boys in my arms and sang over him.  What joy poured out of my heart!  We were living in a tiny trailer house.  I was attending Southern California Bible College and working two part time jobs.  We had only enough income to barely cover our expenses.  I was eventually able to purchase a used little baby carriage that had been repainted. Our little blonde haired Ronny was the joy of our life.  Why am I weeping helplessly?  Those difficult, but wonderful years are gone... forever gone.  I can only relive them in my memories.  Now my Ronny is 60 years old... and I still love him... and want to sing over him.  Maybe he will sing over me soon.

P.  Lord, if I could, I think I would encourage every Christian daddy and mommy to sing over that tiny child from the day of birth until they can no longer carry him or her in their arms.  Today I suffer for babies that are not wanted.  They do not have two loving parents. Instead of sensing love, these children are considered to be a bother by the adults that surround them.  They fly into a rage at the sound of their crying.  Oh Lord, have mercy on the children of addicts, prostitutes, evil men and women who themselves may have been born into hopeless homes that they are now imitating.  Help us to reach them... and by Your love and power, break the chains of that every-repeating generational curse.  In Jesus name, Amen.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

What have I been up to?

What have I been up to?  Just writing daily devotionals, posting blogs and working on my book?  Well, mostly, maybe.  Here’s a snap shot of this past week.  Enjoy! 

Labor Day was a great day at Neighborhood Church, complete with a church picnic and a water baptism service outdoors. 

Elisabeth Kazas (above) is one of my favorite little friends.  She has matured so rapidly in these last few years and pled with her parents to be baptized.  Most of those baptized were recent adult converts to Christ, but this little darling didn’t want to miss this chance.  I love this family.  I’ve got a lot of favorites J.

Speaking of favorites.  Here is Florence, one of my favorite girl friends along with her daughter Julia.  They tell me Florence is in her high eighties, but she has not lost her beauty and her beautiful spirit.  She hardly ever misses a church service... although she has lost her hearing.

Then Wednesday through Friday morning I enjoyed the annual District Minister’s Retreat in Monterey on the beautiful California coast.  Worship was wonderful and our invited speaker, Jeff Lucas from England, encouraged and challenged us in our walk with Jesus.

On Thursday my pastor, Lance Lowell, and his wife, Tina, who were also at the Minister’s Retreat, took me to lunch with them on Fisherman’s Wharf.  Neighborhood Church of Modesto is blessed to have this dedicated couple serving as their pastors.  We are seeing a true move of the Lord with emphasis on prayer.

As long as I was at the coast on Friday afternoon, I drove the 50 minutes north to see my son, Ron and wife, Elisabet in Santa Cruz area.  Elisabet recently retired from her long time career working for the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC).  She showed me around her new administrative/secretarial job.  She loves working along with other Christians for Mt. Hermon Christian Retreat facility... a virtual paradise in the Santa Cruz mountains.   

Next we visited the famous Santa Cruz pier for lunch.  That is classy food, folks!  And from our window we watched sea-lions and dolphins playing in the ocean.  And even saw a huge whale surface in the distance. 

Later we walked further out on the pier and behold to our amazement the whale... or one just like it, surfaced within 100 feet of the pier which was loaded with tourists.  I happened to be enjoying a chocolate ice cream cone which was melting all over my hands... so I couldn’t grab my camera to capture it.  It looked like it was at least 50 feet long.  It surfaced very close to where two swimmers were doing the “swim around the pier” thing.  This was really an unusual show.  I have never heard of it happening before.  (Photo) Ron and Elisabet are watching sea lions playing under the pier.

Then came Sunday, the 13th... back in Modesto where I was privileged to minister in St. John’s Chapel of the Valley, Assemblies of God, once again with Pastors Rick and Sherry Baldwin... long time friends.  Check out Pastor Rick and his “up and coming” worship team. 

Felipe was really impressed with the cute kids.  He’s saying, Do you see what I see?!”

It is always seems worthwhile to give a brief message to the kids and then pray with them... just before they go out for their classes during the preaching.  
(Right: Praying with the kids.) 

I had sought the Lord for His “word” for the adults and He showed up in a precious way.  Pastor Rick invited me to join them at dinner along with a group of about 15. 

Then to close off Sunday night the entire Neighborhood Church had been invited and, along with others, filled every seat in the theater to see the new Christian film “War Room”.  It has a powerful message.  I recommend it highly.

Count-down... 9 days until I leave for ministry in Spain (Wednesday 23rd).  I will need your prayers as always.


Let’s talk about Jesus

Tuesday   9-15-15  (Home in Modesto, California)

Scripture reading:   Eze 38-39    Ps 145    Rev. 20

S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Ps 145:8-11 The LORD is kind and merciful, slow to get angry, full of unfailing love.  The LORD is good to everyone.  He showers compassion on all his creation. All of your works will thank you, LORD, and your faithful followers will bless you. They will talk together about the glory of your kingdom; they will celebrate examples of your power.  NLT

O.  We are visiting King David’s palace sitting around the pool and enjoying a tall glass of ice tea.  What do we talk about?  The nearest thing they had to professional sport heroes was probably “giant killers,” and famous warriors.  Most of those heroes probably met their death early on.  So what do we talk about?  Dave takes a sip of tea and says, “How about sharing stories of the wonderful works of God?” 

A.  I hurried to be the first at the Sportsman Barber Shop this morning.  The place fills up pretty fast and its “first come, first served”.  I was there at 7:10 AM before he opened.  My barber, Jim, showed up three minutes later.  The barber shop is a place to talk... like ice tea around the pool.  I found out that Jim was raised on a small dairy farm near Hilmar... and that his dad had died with ‘valley fever” when he was 9.  Then I told him about small dairy farm in Argentina.  We purchased it for our Teen Challenge program as a place for recovering drug and alcohol addicts.  We talked about the miracles at Faith Home Teen Challenge farm here near Turlock and about the wonderful works of a God that can take a destroyed life, chained to a life-controlling addiction and break every chain... giving a brand new start. We talked about real modern-day miracles!  The best kind of miracles... for they out-last our brief life-span... and reach into eternity.

P.  Good morning, Lord!  I noticed that You were in the barber shop with us a few moments ago.   Yeah, I love to tell the stories of Your power, the glory of Your kingdom being established in the hearts of broken people.   A few days ago, at the church picnic I met Michelle, an ex addict.  She told me her awesome story.  She had been given up as a hopeless case.  In and out of jail.  She met and knew my son, Tim, since he works as interpreter in the Manteca Criminal Court.  Nobody could tame her.  She was lost... doomed!  Until she met You, Lord.  And today she is administrating a powerful organization to help release captive girls like she was.  I have met people that doubt God because they have never seen a miracle.  They just need about 10 minutes with Michelle and all their doubts will fade.  Thanks, Lord, for not giving up on us!  Amen.


When I was a kid, about a century ago, we used to sing a chorus: 

Let's talk about Jesus, the King of kings is He,
The Lord of lords supreme, through all eternity.
The great I AM, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Door,
Let's talk about Jesus more and more.

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Visit to the Valley of Remorse

Monday   9-14-15  (Home in Modesto, California)

Scripture reading:   Eze 36-37    Ps 110    Rev. 19

S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Ezek 37:1-3  The LORD took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the LORD to a valley filled with bones.  He led me around among the old, dry bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground.  Then he asked me, "Son of man, can these bones become living people again?  NLT

O.  The question at hand was, “Can these bones live again?”  There had been a great battle and Ezekiel was looking at what was left of an army of losers.  They had gone down fighting.  They had lost their battle.  Years had passed.  The vultures had long since abandoned the scene.  The prophet was observing sad history.

A.  Why does God ask me hard questions?  I would certainly have answered, “No way, Lord!  Look they are scattered.  Who knows which bones once belonged to which body?  Oh yeah... I guess You know.” 

I was 15 years old on a deer hunting trip with my Dad and friends in eastern Oregon.  I had hiked alone with my rifle for miles.  I was tired and bored.  On a lonely hillside I came across a heap of dry bones, bleached white with the sun, obviously from several cattle... skulls and all.  I decided to build a cow.  I arranged each bone in the place I imagined it should go... spread out on the ground... and then looked down at my work of art.  I had made a full sized cow.  I just needed Ezekiel to come prophesy to these bones.

P.  Lord, once in a while You take me to a valley filled only with memories of a lost battle.  I gave it my best shot.  I threw myself into my work.  I made some mistakes, but don’t we all?  I reached for the goal, but when You take me back to this valley of remorse, it is clear that I lost the battle.   Some dear people were injured.  My hopes were scattered and shattered.  They lie there, dry and bleached by the sun.  And now You dare to come to me with the question: “Can these bones live again?”  “Ralph, prophesy to these bones!”  “What?  God, there is no hope.  It is a lost cause!”  “What are You saying?”  “Prophesy anyway!... And watch what only I can do!”  Dry bones scream, “It’s hopeless!”  But You don’t give up, God.  You can put the puzzle together again.  You can add muscle, sinews, skin... and you can breathe life into my dead hopes.  You can make them stand to their feet... a vast army.  You are the Resurrection and the Life!  You are my Hope!  Amen.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Just a Reflection

Recently I was invited to perform in a public school with my little ventriloquist friend, Felipe.  I would have the liberty to present good morals as Felipe always does.  However there was one stipulation.  I was asked to “avoid” the mention of a certain word... a certain name.  I realize that the principal and teachers feel that their positions might be placed in jeopardy if someone was to complain... so it is not my intention to accuse them of culpability in this situation.  The issue is much bigger than the administrative staff of that school.

Perhaps I should have taken the opportunity to make the following speech:  (Although I assure you that I would never do so without giving them the courtesy of reading and approving it first.)

“Honorable Principal, Teachers and Students:

I have been invited here with only one word that I am not allowed to mention.  I have not been prohibited to curse God or use foul language, although I am sure that, as a minister, you felt confident that I would not do that.  I am quite sure that I would be allowed to speak at length, saying anything honorable about Mohammed, Buddha or Darwin.  But there is a name that I am prohibited to mention.  It is the name, and the only name, that prominently stands behind the great principles that created this nation, America the Beautiful.  It is the name used in the Book which is now prohibited to be taught in this school, although it is still the best seller of all time.  It served well for many years as the textbook of this nation’s first schools.  It could be found in every school library.  My parents and many of their peers learned to read from its pages.  Our courts had quotes from that book engraved on their walls.  Great presidents, like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln often quoted the sayings and principles proclaimed by the Person Whose name I am prohibited to mention. 

Even back then not everyone was pleased with our liberty to speak His name.  There were always those that preferred another way of life.  But back in those days we had what we called “Freedom of Speech.”  We could tell it like it was... even while we understood that not everyone would be pleased with the content of our speech.  There were limitations, however.  Cursing and foul language were not “acceptable” in public addresses.  Today those same “unacceptable” words have become common in the speech of our children because they are allowed on the radio, TV and movie screens and the literature read by our children.  Our “new rules” are vehement about our “freedom of speech” to present and even promote practices and “life-styles” that, only a generation ago, were considered degenerate, contemptible and evil.  

Our freedom is only limited to the case of one word.  It is the name whose documented history, even in secular accounts, is confirmed more thoroughly than that of Nero or Alexander the Great. His birth and life divides our world calendar into Before and After,  Yes, His name is offensive to some. But by many it is considered to be the most important name, and even the most pleasant name that can ever be spoken by human tongue.  

I want to thank you for this opportunity to speak to this school.  I have done my best to comply with your regulations.  I have not mentioned the name of my best Friend, my Greatest Helper, the One I love and serve.  Thank you very much!”


My Felipe refused to attempt it

Sunday   9-13-15  (Home in Modesto, California)

Scripture reading:   Eze 33-35    Rev. 18

S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Ezek 33:30 "Son of man, your people are whispering behind your back. They talk about you in their houses and whisper about you at the doors, saying, 'Come on, let's have some fun! Let's go hear the prophet tell us what the LORD is saying!' Vs 32-33  You are very entertaining to them, like someone who sings love songs with a beautiful voice or plays fine music on an instrument. They hear what you say, but they don't do it!  NLT

O.  God is disappointed with His people, the Israelites.  They come to hear His holy word only for entertainment.  They cheer and applaud then go their way, satisfied as though they had enjoyed a good meal and make no attempt to live according to God’s instruction.

A.  Does not this have a familiar ring to it?  People want to be entertained.  Some preachers are much more entertaining than others.  They are the ones whose names appear on posters.  People buy tickets to their conferences and drive far to hear them.   Certainly it is no sin to be entertaining while presenting God’s message.  Jesus was one of the best examples.  People came from afar to hear Him tell His wonderful stories.   If entertainment were a sin, I would be the worst of sinners since I start off with my little friend, Felipe, and lots of fun and laughter.  Still I admit that I am uncomfortable with the amount of applause in churches directed toward us individual actors, singers and preachers.

I recently turned down what, at first, seemed to be an attractive offer to take my little Felipe to a public school.  They were promising me liberty to use my talents to speak good moral thoughts to their large group of children.  There was only one stipulation... and it was firm.  “Please avoid the mention the name of Jesus.”  My Felipe refused to attempt it... because Jesus is the heart and soul of his message.

P.  Lord Jesus, I just want to be like You.  I want to preach Your word in such a way that the hearers will want to come, but will not just be entertained.  I want their lives to be impacted by your message.  I want to them to sense Holy Spirit conviction.  I want them to surrender to Your will.  I want lives to be transformed by Your miracle working power.  Lord, please help me never to be satisfied with only entertaining my hearers.  Amen. 


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Why do I Worship?

Saturday   9-12-15  (Home in Modesto, California)

Scripture reading:  Dan 3-4    Ps 81    Rev. 17

S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Dan 4:34  After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever.  His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal.  NLT

O.  King Nebuchadnezzar’s armies had conquered basically all the world known to him.  He was, in his own eyes, king of the world.  He was walking on the roof of his palace worshiping himself when God stepped in and lowered him to the level of a wild beast.  Then after a long period, God restored his sanity and his kingdom. 

The atheist and evolutionist is often an unaware worshiper.  His is a religion of self worship.  “I created myself, all by myself.  It took me 53 million years, but here I am now.  Look!  I am king of the world.  Don’t come to me with fairy tales.  I have reasoned my Creator unnecessary. ”

A.  Why do I worship God?  Does He need my worship?  Are not the vast angelic beings, who do a better job singing in God’s choir, sufficient?  Does He need me to add my little guitar and my squeaky voice to theirs?  I have concluded that He encourages me to worship Him, so that I will recognize my place in this great universe.  When I worship God, I am not only acknowledging His greatness, but my own lowliness.  The very fact that I can reason is a gift from my Creator.  

P.  Dear heavenly Father, I thank you for the privilege of worship!   I love music, especially the kind that lifts up Your name.  I love to sing Your praises.  I enjoy recognizing my blessings as gifts from Your throne.  Who am I to be even acknowledged by my Creator?  But Your Son, Jesus, teaches me that You are big enough to even take notice when a tiny sparrow falls.  Your greatness takes in even the meditations of my mind. 

And You, my very big God, are inviting me out to dinner with You.  Rev 3:20-21 "Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends.  NLT  Awesome!  How about today at 1 PM?  Amen.


And He is my Friend

Friday   9-11-15  (Monterey, California District Minister’s Retreat)

Scripture reading:  Dan 1-2     Rev. 16

S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Dan 2:27-28 
NLT Daniel replied, "There are no wise men, enchanters, magicians, or fortune-tellers who can tell the king such things.  But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and he has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in the future.”

O.  King Nebuchadnezzar had threatened to kill all his best wise me and sooth-sayers if they couldn’t come up with a dream that he had “dreamed and forth-with forgotten” and interpret the meaning.  It was an impossible situation and Daniel and his three friends were considered wise men and got word that they were going to all be executed... in fact the executioner came to carry out the task.  Upon hearing the impossible demands of the king, Daniel went to God and pled for a miracle.   Daniel and his friends had a divine secret... “But there is a God in heaven.”  And although he doesn’t say it, he implies, “And He is my Friend.  God and I are well acquainted with each other.  We are close.”

A.  Now that is getting too scary.   I don’t want to have a powerful official knock on my door and tell me to follow him to my execution.   I too have trembled before life-threatening situations... although not so spectacular as Daniel’s... and had to rely on the glorious fact that “there is a God I heaven and He is my friend!”  Daniel made it clear that his God was not one of these little polished dolls on a shelf.  He was reigning in heaven... a position higher that that king’s throne.  In other words, “Oh King, I have heard from a higher authority than you and here is His message to you.”  About that time I think the king was sweating.

P.  Yes, Lord, You are in heaven.  You have the final authority over and above all the rulers of this earth.  Does this mean that You will rescue me from every evil scheme of the enemy?  It does not.  When I read the stories of some of Your most faithful servants in Hebrews chapter 11, how some were sawed in two and suffered much, I realize that You do not always promise to come to my rescue.  But You are my friend and You do promise to be with me until I come to the end of this earthly road.  And that is enough to carry me through!   Amen.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Detour: Turn, Danger Ahead!

Thursday   9-10-15  (Monterey, California District Minister’s Retreat)

Scripture reading:  Lam 3-5     Rev. 15

S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Lam 3:22-27  The unfailing love of the LORD never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction.  Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day.   I say to myself, "The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!"  The LORD is wonderfully good to those who wait for him and seek him.  So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD.  And it is good for the young to submit to the yoke of his discipline.  NLT

O.  Jeremiah has described vividly, complete with tears, the total destruction of Jerusalem and the horrible condition of the few survivors.  He has been faithful to the Lord as His prophet, yet he is suffering along with his people.  He remembers better days of long ago.  He seems to be starving with the others.  All is lost... Yet sitting in the middle of all this rubble, Jeremiah writes these words of hope based upon his concept of a just, good, loving, faithful God.

A.  Would my faith hold up in similar circumstances?  I don’t ever want to try to find out. 

P.  Lord, when a nation ignores Your Words and despises Your warnings... and when it falls under Your strong hand of judgment, unfortunately the minority of righteous may suffer along with the rebellious.   I cannot remove myself from the destruction that surrounds me.  And even if I were spared, I would suffer for others that I see suffering around me.  I think my heart reflects Your heart in this.  For You say, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!”  (Ezek 33:11)  How much better it would be for our national leadership to humble themselves along with many of our people and cry out in repentance... and "turn" before judgment falls.  Lord, help us see and heed your warnings, “Detour”... “Turn” there is danger ahead.  Amen.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Heavenly Tunes

Wednesday   9-9-15 (Home in Modesto)

Scripture reading:  Lam 1-2   Obadiah     Rev. 14

S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Rev 14:3  This great choir sang a wonderful new song in front of the throne of God and before the four living beings and the twenty-four elders. NLT

O.  God loves music.  He is the Author of it.  Now a choir of 144,000 voices is singing a new song before the throne of God.  Awesome!

A.  Some of us like the old songs, the hymns and choruses that were sung when we were younger.  They bring back wonderful, spiritual experiences of our past.  But the Lord enjoys new songs as well and I am learning to enjoy them, too.

In my early years of ministry I served, among other things, as music director.  In Orangevale we developed a choir of about 30 voices.  I had some good sopranos, altos, a few good baritones and one very good deep bass.  It was a volunteer choir, of course, and my most faithful man was Brother Marifield.  He was a dear brother that could not carry a tune.  I needed him just to encourage other men to be faithful, too.   I loved what I was doing and so did my choir.  Once we sang in a great “Choir Congress” held at Bethel Temple, Sacramento (Now  Capital Christian Center) and our little choir literally brought the house down.  They were fine-tuned and perfectly synchronized.   I immediately thereafter was offered a position of music director in a large church in Los Angeles area.  But God was calling me us another direction and we opted to serve as pastors in the little mountain town of Colfax... where, by the way, we started another choir.

Music is fun.  Leading worship can be exhilarating.  What would it be to lead a choir of 1,000 voices?  I sang in Billy Graham’s 1,000 voice choir, led by Cliff Barrows in Portland when I was 18.  It was thrilling.  But a heavenly choir of 144,000?  That’s going to be awesome indeed!

P.  Lord, we cannot even imagine the music of heaven.  David had his harp, I’ve got my 8 string lap steel guitar.  I asked you to let me take it with me, but I heard You say You’ve got me something better up there.  I can’t wait!  It’s gotta be good!  I used to sing a lot, but my voice isn’t as young as it “use-to-was”.  What’s that?  You are saying that You have a new and better voice for me, too?  Well, I guess I keep squeaking and plucking and worshiping You with all I’ve got... until that day.  Music is fun.  And I know You like it to... for You invented it.  And everybody said, “Amen.”


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

You Can’t Just “Pass it on.”

Tuesday   9-8-15 (Home in Modesto)

Scripture reading:  Jer. 42-44    Ps. 48     Rev. 13

S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Ps 48:9-11  God, we meditate on your unfailing love as we worship in your Temple.  As your name deserves, O God, you will be praised to the ends of the earth.  Your strong right hand is filled with victory.  Let the people on Mount Zion rejoice.  Let the towns of Judah be glad, for your judgments are just.  NLT

O. This psalm is written in a time of prosperity and safety.  Apparently Solomon’s temple was complete and worship there was being carried on regularly, perhaps around 930 BC.  The city of Jerusalem was safe in the hands of the God of loving care that they worshipped.   They felt that they were safe now and forever. 

But we leap ahead perhaps less than 300 years.  Corrupt political leaders had led Jerusalem’s growing population to totally forsake the living God, to desecrate His temple and fill it with their own ideas of religion.   It was a day of “anything goes”... “choose your personal ‘truth’”.   “Anything goes” that is... anything except the worship of the One True God which was too unyielding and confining.

A.  After decades of preachers calling for a return to the living Creator God and of these preachers being mistreated like enemies... finally God withdrew His hand of protection from Jerusalem and the glorious city was totally destroyed. 

What had happened?  Pure godliness and truth cannot be mechanically passed on from generation to generation.  Each of us and each of them must have our own personal encounter with God!  Anything less leads to a formal, culturally accepted religion that spawns atheism in the hearts of its youth.  And these youth will rise in political power to attempt to stamp out anything that smells of a true relationship with God.  History repeats itself 2,600 years later... in 2,015.

P.  Oh Lord, sometimes I feel like I am aboard a sinking Titanic.  America the Beautiful seemed so secure under Your care!  You were named with honor by our political leaders.  They often quoted from Your Holy Book.  They stood for truth. 300 years have passed since our forefathers landed on these shores to create a nation that honored You... and now in my lifetime I have witnessed this nation crash to the depths of officially rejecting You.  Yesterday I turned on my car radio and heard the Star Spangled Banner being played.  It took me back to my childhood when I was a part of Christian nation “under God.”  And I weep.  Is it all gone forever?  Will my grandchildren survive the onslaught of atheism?  Only if they have their own personal encounter with You and against the rising tide of evil, maintain a deep relationship with You.  So be it!  Amen.


Monday, September 7, 2015

When the final whistle blows... We Win!

Sunday   9-6-15 (Home in Modesto)

Scripture reading:  Eze. 29-32       Rev. 11

S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Rev 11:15-17  Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices shouting in heaven: "The whole world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever." And the twenty-four elders sitting on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped him. And they said, "We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the one who is and who always was, for now you have assumed your great power and have begun to reign. NLT

O.  The Apostle John has been arrested, judged and condemned to a sentence of isolation, imprisoned on the island of Patmos for the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He has witnessed the unjust powers of a world controlled by mere men.  Now in his vision windows open into future events when God, the Father will subdue these powers and the whole world will become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever.  God is saying to His servant John.  “Fear not!  Hang in there!  We win!”

A.  I enjoy watching America football with my friends.  How many times we have watched and cheered until... until our team, that was doing so well, has now fallen behind.  Now we have grown silent and hesitant.  But then in the final last few seconds, when the enemy team and its fans are already celebrating their win, our quarterback risks a long pass into the end zone... Touch-down!  The final whistle blows and... we win!  Nobody has to lift us from our couch or deep chair.  Even the most feeble among us join us as we leap up... and shout the victory. 

So “Hey, Brother John... yeah, you over there on the island of Patmos...  It looks like your team is losing right now.  But don’t worry.  Hang in there!  It’s not over until the seventh and final trumpet blows.  And we win!”

P.  Lord, the last book in Your Bible is full of images that I cannot always interpret with clarity.  But, amid Your description of terrifying wars, and black clouds of smoke that blot out the sun and moon, hail, lightning and thunder and much more... Your main message comes through loud and clear:  “We win!”  You, Lord...  the same Jesus that was beaten, crucified and buried.  You rose from the dead... And You will triumph!   I am glad that I am not just in the stands cheering... I am privileged to be a player on the winning team!  Praise God!  Amen.


The Destroyer Strikes

Monday   9-7-15 (Home in Modesto)

Scripture reading:  2 Kings 25  2 Chron 36   Jer 40-41   Rev 12

S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  2 Chron 36:19-21  Then his army set fire to the Temple of God, broke down the walls of Jerusalem, burned all the palaces, and completely destroyed everything of value.  The few who survived were taken away to Babylon, and they became servants to the king and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power.  So the message of the LORD spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled. The land finally enjoyed its Sabbath rest, lying desolate for seventy years, just as the prophet had said.  NLT

O.  King Nebuchadnezzar’s cruel Babylonian army chased and mercilessly murdered almost everyone in sight in Jerusalem... men young and old, the sickly and the healthy, women and little children... and then destroyed and burned down the entire city.  One can only imagine the horror of it all. 

The Lord God in His great mercy, had pled with the residents of the city for decades through the prophet Jeremiah, but instead of repenting, they had mocked him and imprisoned him to silence his voice from their streets.  

A.  I wonder what was in the heart of these destroyers that made them want to kill people that were no threat to them and burn down what was left of the beautiful temple of Solomon that had already been stripped of its gold, silver and bronze.  Why did they not stop until they had burned down all the palaces and private homes and worked hard to destroy the city walls entirely?   The army was obeying the orders of their commander, Nebuzaradan, but why?  Why destroy every semblance of civilization? 

P.  Dear Father in heaven, today you are looking down at the earth You created and hearing political leaders curse Your name and drag Your Gospel of love and compassion in the streets.  Today in the USA Kim Davis is behind bars for holding firmly to Your teaching on marriage.  Given the opportunity... men, driven by the evil destroyer, Satan, display today the same brutality of those of thousands of years ago.  When will You intervene?  Did I hear You say You are giving us now ample time for repentance?  Yes, Lord, but I plead for Your intervention soon.  If not, it seems we may self-destruct, leaving only ashes where once fourished people, animals, trees and flowers, the work of Your artistic hands.  We are now capable of destroying it all, leaving only burned out ruins, like Jerusalem of old.  God help us!  Rev. 22:20 “Amen.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”