Saturday, October 31, 2015

Truth, when not spoken in love, falls on deaf ears.

Saturday   10-31-15  Home in Modesto

Scripture reading:    Job 22    Mark 7-8

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

S.  Job 22:21-25 "Stop quarreling with God! If you agree with him, you will have peace at last, and things will go well for you. Listen to his instructions, and store them in your heart. If you return to the Almighty and clean up your life, you will be restored. Give up your lust for money, and throw your precious gold into the river. Then the Almighty himself will be your treasure. He will be your precious silver!  NLT

O.  Job’s friends, his “comforters” in his time of disaster and sickness proved to be more like “prosecutors.”  Here, his good buddy, Eliphaz the Temanite accuses him of hording his wealth while his neighbors were suffering need.  He does not produce evidence of this, but assumes it to be true.  Job has in fact gone totally bankrupt, but Eliphaz is sure he is hiding some gold somewhere.  “Throw your gold in the river.  Then the Almighty Himself will be Your treasure.”

A.  I am sure that there are some of us that could benefit from Brother Eliphaz’s advice.  These guys had some good concepts, but they had not yet heard Jesus’ words, “Judge not that ye be not judged.”  (Matt 7:1)  Much of what they were preaching were true principles, but they were probably more applicable to themselves than to their friend, Job.  Truth, when not spoken in love, falls on deaf ears.

P.  Dear Jesus, may my conversation, my preaching and yes, my writing, too... be always ‘truth, presented in a spirit of love’.  You said, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17 NIV  Later You commissioned us with, “ my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” (John 20:21) KJV

Dear Lord, next week as I travel to El Salvador to preach Your Word to a multitude of adults, youth and little children, help me to minister ‘Your message’ with ‘Your passion’, ‘Your anointing’ and ‘Your integrity’... all saturated in ‘Your divine love’.  Amen.


Friday, October 30, 2015

She added murder to her to-do list.

Friday   10-30-15  Home in Modesto
Scripture reading:    Job 21    Mark 5-6

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

S.  Mark 6:20  ...Herod respected John, knowing that he was a good and holy man, so he kept him under his protection. Herod was disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him. NLT

O.  John the Baptist had been arrested and was apparently already in prison when King Herod would call for him to come entertain him with his powerful preaching.  But John was not one to beat-around-the-bush.  He went to the heart of the issue.  “Herod, it is illegal and sinful to take Herodias, your brother’s wife.”  Herod took the hit and laughed it off, but Herodias was listening and added murder to her to-do list.

A.  Governor Felix often called for his prisoner, the Apostle Paul, to hear him.   Apparently we preachers make good entertainment for some bored leaders.  But when Paul’s message touched his sinful soul, Felix would order him back into prison.  And when John the Baptist’s preaching touched his illegal woman... sparks began to fly.  It cost him his head. 

What am I learning from this?  Preaching the blunt truth can be dangerous?  Yes.  And you might be able to get by criticizing the man at the top, but don’t touch his woman!

P.  Lord Jesus, I admit that I don’t feel called to publicly reveal a list of the sins of my high ranking leaders.  Down deep in our hearts most of us already know we are sinners without parading our dirty linens in public.  However, in recent years it has become popular to openly boast about one’s sinful life style... and encourage young people to try it.  What a wicked world!  John the Baptist’s message spoke to sinful issues of his day, but he preached a way out through true repentance openly expressed by water baptism.  Jesus, Your Gospel breaks the chains of sin, offering forgiveness and cleansing... a new beginning to unworthy sinners through Your completed work on the cross and Your resurrection.  May You always be the heart of my message to a lost world!  Amen.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Caution: When a liar speaks truth

Thursday   10-29-15  Home in Modesto

Scripture reading:    Job 20     Mark 3-4

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

S.  Mark 3:11-12  And whenever those possessed by evil spirits caught sight of him, they would fall down in front of him shrieking, "You are the Son of God!" But Jesus strictly warned them not to say who he was.

Vs 21 When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him home with them. "He's out of his mind," they said.

Vs 22 But the teachers of religious law who had arrived from Jerusalem said, "He's possessed by Satan, the prince of demons.  NLT

O.  Jesus was the talk of the town.  In fact people had come walking from as far as 35 miles away to see His miracles.  Everybody had an opinion about Him.  His own brothers, didn’t believe in Him until after His resurrection.**  They accused Him of being out of His mind and tried to snatch Him and take Him home.  The religious elite classified Him as demon possessed.  The only ones that had Him figured out correctly were those that harbored evil spirits.  They would fall down in front of him shrieking, "You are the Son of God!" But Jesus did not appreciate their screaming, shut them down and cast them out.

A.  Even when the Devil, the Father of lies**, speaks the truth it is intended for evil.   There is a lot of truth in Mormonism, Jehovah Witnessism, Hinduism, Buddhism and a hundred more “isms”... but those truths are designed to capture ignorant souls and distract them from the Truth with a capital “T”.  Jesus identified the Truth when He made the declaration:  "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”  John 14:6 NLT 

P.  Lord, may I not become distracted by the evil that surrounds me that often speaks “truthful words” with the design to lure me into nets of lies.  May I be able to always recognize Your “Spirit of Truth” for You said, When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. John 16:13  So Guide me, Oh Thou Great Jehovah!  Amen.


**John 7:5 “For even his brothers didn't believe in him.”  NLT
**John 8:45 “... for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  NLT

Guide me, O thou great Jehovah, 
pilgrim through this barren land. 

I am weak, but thou art mighty; 

hold me with thy powerful hand. 

Bread of heaven, bread of heaven, 

feed me till I want no more; 

feed me till I want no more. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Words engraved in stone

Wednesday   10-28-15  Home in Modesto

Scripture reading:    Job 19     Mark 1-2

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

S.  Job 19:23-25  Oh, that my words could be written. Oh, that they could be inscribed on a monument, carved with an iron chisel and filled with lead, engraved forever in the rock.  But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that he will stand upon the earth at last.  NLT

O.  Job had been abandoned by his friends and relatives.  Even the servant girl in his house avoided him and his wife couldn’t stand his bad breath.  It seemed to him, even God would not listen.  Only if someone would listen and write it down... engrave it on stone!  He could never have imagined that I would be reading his words many centuries after someone had written them down.  In his very next breath he makes a bold statement of faith... He knows that his Redeemer lives and will show up at last and he will see Him with his own eyes.

A.  Brother Job hangs in there in the worse moments of his life.  In his perception God has abandoned him... yet he expresses a deep faith in Him.  Could I have done the same?  Job’s words, both good and bad were all being recorded as if engraved in stone.   Jesus said, “I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.  For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Matt 12:36-37 KJV  Brother Job, your words are eternally recorded and so are mine.  That is an awesome thought!

P.  Heavenly Father, if my every word was written and recorded for others to witness, what would they see and hear?   Would they be uplifting words or would they push others down?  Would they hear songs of praise from my lips when I am alone in my home?  Or would they hear me grumbling about a property tax increase?  Job said some pretty bad things about You, God... and still You, in the end, rescued him, redeemed him and encouraged his mouth to praise You once more.  Job’s experience gives me hope in You, Father... a forgiving, generous God.  Life can be cruel, but I know my Redeemer lives and I will see Him face to face one day.  Amen.


Oh, I want to see Him, look upon His face,
There to sing forever of His saving grace;
On the streets of glory let me lift my voice,
Cares all past, home at last, ever to rejoice.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Prisoner takes Charge

Tuesday   10-27-15  Home in Modesto
Scripture reading:    Job 18     Ps 114    Acts 27-28

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

S.  Acts 27:1-2  When the time came, we set sail for Italy.  Paul and several other prisoners were placed in the custody of an army officer named Julius, a captain of the Imperial Regiment.  And Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was also with us.

Vs 9-11 Paul spoke to the ship's officers about it. "Sirs," he said, "I believe there is trouble ahead if we go on — shipwreck, loss of cargo, injuries, and danger to our lives." But the officer in charge of the prisoners listened more to the ship's captain and the owner than to Paul.

Vs 31-32  But Paul said to the commanding officer and the soldiers, "You will all die unless the sailors stay aboard." So the soldiers cut the ropes and let the boat fall off.  NLT

O.  Paul is now placed in the custody of a commanding Roman officer named Julius, who is supposed to safely escort several prisoners, including Paul, to Rome.  Aristarchus, one of the two boys that the Ephesians had tried to lynch, is still with Paul... and Dr. Luke, who is recording these events first hand, has now been part of the team since Acts 16:10 back in Troas. 

At Fair Havens Paul offers his advice to Commander Julius.  The Roman commander prefers to listen to the ship’s captain and owner.  It is only logical.  Who would take the advice of a prisoner over that of the ship captain?  But 14 stormy days later Paul is giving orders to the commander and captain... and this time they are listening and obeying him.  The prisoner was now in charge. 

What made the difference?  They all now knew that Paul’s judgment was wiser than the captain’s.  And Paul boldly tells about an angelic visit during the night.  He speaks with authority.  His word has become respected.  He wasn’t bossy, but he took control and all 276 men’s lives were saved. 

A. The year was 1965.  My family and I were on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean sailing south with 275* aboard.  Yes, I thought of Paul’s ship, with almost the same exact number aboard.  It was late in the month of May.  In the northern hemisphere summer was being ushered in, but when we crossed into the southern hemisphere winter was on the horizon.  And as we were off the coast of southern Brazil and Uruguay we hit a violent storm.  During the night the ship rose high on huge waves and sunk deep into the troughs.  At moments the propellers were exposed and the ship shuddered violently.  Some people were terrified.  But Frances and I and our three little boys knew that God was taking us to Argentina.  We had a word from God.  “Fear not, I am with you.  I have a plan for your lives.  You are going to serve me in Argentina.” 

P.  Thanks, Lord, for Your assurance that we are not alone.  We are sheltered by the One “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand.” Isa 40:12.  Lord, was the Apostle Paul ever afraid aboard that ship?  Perhaps that is why You send that angel to let him know that no lives would be lost and he would stand before Caesar.  I am often comforted by Your wonderful words, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”  Isa 41:10  KJV  Amen.


*Aboard the Del Mar ship to Argentina that 275 may have been the number of passengers without the crew... I’m not sure.

I used to play and sing this ancient song as a solo when I was a teenager:

I Will Pilot Thee 

       Though sometimes when my faith would falter, 
       And no sunlight I can see, 
       I just lift mine eyes to Jesus, 
       And I whisper, "Pilot me." 

       "Fear thou not for I am with thee, 
       I will still thy Pilot be. 
       Never mind these tossing billows, 
       Take My hand & follow Me!" 

       Often when my soul's so weary 
       And the day seems just too long. 
       I just look up to my Pilot 
       And I hear this blessed song:
       "Fear thou not for I am with thee, 
       I will still thy Pilot be! 
       Never mind these tossing billows, 
       Take My hand & trust in Me!"

Monday, October 26, 2015

And be sure to read the PS.

Wednesday   10-14-15  High in the Sky heading to SFO from Spain

Scripture reading:    Neh 11-12   Ps 1   Acts 3

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

S.  Neh 12:46-47  The custom of having choir directors to lead the choirs in hymns of praise and thanks to God began long ago in the days of David and Asaph.  NLT

O.  Brother Nehemiah set it up.  Two coordinated, trained choirs took opposite routes on top of the newly completed walls of Jerusalem... they sang praises to God as they went and finally they met and marched together to the temple. There, under the able leadership of their respective choir leaders, they sang their hearts out in praise to God Who had brought them out of captivity and into a new life of His service.

Young and old had heard of the great choirs directed by King David and his music author and director, Asaph.  Now the sounds of victory and praise echoed over the surrounding hills. 

A.  I am an old man now, they tell me, but I remember songs from my youth.  I remember singing in the 1,000 voice Billy Graham Crusade choir in Portland, Oregon, directed by Cliff Barrows.  We sang “My Sins are Blotted Out, I know” and “How Great Thou Art.”  I sang tenor.  We had practiced for months in smaller groups for the big event.

P.  Lord Jesus, somewhere down in the depths of my soul old songs still play their tunes calling up rich memories and deep seated emotions.  Now my old voice can’t belt it out in song like back then.  But soon... and very soon I plan to get a new set of vocal chords and maybe I’ll get to sing tenor with the backdrop of heaven’s musical instruments.  What a day that will be!  Amen.


PS.  Some of you may recall that in December 2014 I had lost my singing voice and had only a scratchy speaking voice left.  Finally in February the specialist told me he had examined my vocal chords and there was permanent damage.  He said some people in these cases choose an operation, but he did not recommend it... since it might even make things worse.  I could not even hum a tune.  Felipe squeaked when he tried to sing.  I returned to Argentina in early March anyway... and some visiting youth from Redding Bethel prayed for me.  Within three days I knew God had definitely touched my vocal chords.  I went on to preach 59 times in the following three months.  Now I have just completed driving a rented car 2040 miles, visiting Argentine missionaries serving throughout Spain and preaching 24 times in 16 days... and my voice feels as strong as the day I started.  To God be the glory!  

A More Convenient Time

Monday   10-26-15  Home in Modesto
Scripture reading:    Job 17     Acts 24-26

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

S.  Acts 24:22  Felix, who was quite familiar with the Way, adjourned the hearing and said, "Wait until Lysias, the garrison commander, arrives. Then I will decide the case.

Vs 24-25  A few days later Felix came with his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish. Sending for Paul, they listened as he told them about faith in Christ Jesus.  As he reasoned with them about righteousness and self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was terrified. "Go away for now," he replied. "When it is more convenient, I'll call for you again."  NLT

O.  Two Observations: I failed to notice in yesterday’s devotional that the unnamed Roman Commander that I “liked” actually signed his name to the letter he sent to Governor Felix.  The Commander’s name was Claudius Lysias.  The fact that we have his name probably brings him from a status of “secondary drama player” to a “primary player”.  Felix now defers his judgment on Paul’s case until he brings Commander Lysias from Jerusalem to hear his side of the story.  We have no record that Claudius Lysias was ever subpoenaed by the governor... and Paul was kept in prison for another two years. 

Secondly, this governor, Felix, was well acquainted with “The Way.”  He knew of Jesus’ crucifixion and death and the claim of His resurrection.  So now he brings Drusilla, his pretty Jewish wife, to work one day and calls Paul out of prison to hear him preach to them.  But Paul has a secret weapon called the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  And when Paul gets to the “altar call”... Governor Felix is squirming, trembling and terrified in his soul.  “Guards!  Take this man back to his prison cell!  I’ll call for him at a more convenient moment.”  The fact is that Governor Felix and his wife, Drusilla just missed their most convenient moment to surrender to the King of kings and Lord of lords. 

A.  That fact brings me to tears... because I have seen it reenacted by hungry souls many times over.  At the moment of decision, pressured by Holy Spirit conviction... vacillating... they have turned back.  They have postponed it to a “more convenient time”... and may pay an eternal price for that lack of courage to make a commitment to what they know is truth.

P.  Oh God, please never let me miss one of Your special, Holy Spirit designed, moments.  May I never send You away when You have me trembling in Your presence!  Help me to surrender it all at Your feet... again and again... whenever Your voice is speaking to my hungry heart.  Amen.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Secondary Players in the Drama

Sunday   10-25-15  Home in Modesto
Scripture reading:    Job 16     Acts 21-23

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

S.  Acts 21:31-33  As they were trying to kill him, word reached the commander of the Roman regiment that all Jerusalem was in an uproar.  He immediately called out his soldiers and officers and ran down among the crowd. When the mob saw the commander and the troops coming, they stopped beating Paul. NLT

O.  In this and the following three chapters this “commander” is mentioned 18 times.  He hears about a wild uproar and quickly orders his men to intervene.  His soldiers snatch Paul from his potential killers.  He can’t get any true accusation from the mob and assumes that Paul is a famous Egyptian criminal.  But Paul asks him for permission to address the crowd and he allows it.  Paul addresses them in Aramaic which the commander does not understand. When Paul tells that God sent him to the gentiles... once again the commander has to intervene to stop the screaming mob.  He orders Paul bound and whipped to get him to confess his crime.  Paul tells him that he is a Roman citizen and this scares the wits out of the commander.  He could be in big trouble for ordering him whipped.   He calls the Jewish council together to give Paul a decent trial.  Another uproar erupts. Finally, he is advised of a plot to kill Paul, so he sets up an entourage of 200 soldiers armed with spears plus 70 mounted soldiers on horseback.  Talk about overkill!  He even provides a horse for Paul and escorts him safely out of town 105 miles to the governor in Caesarea with a letter describing his situation. 

A.  I like this Roman commander.  Now he finally goes to get a cup of coffee and says to himself, “Whew!  I finally got this guy, Paul, out of my hair.  I wonder what this was all about anyway.”  Much like the soldiers that crucified Jesus, he was just doing his job.  But unlike the soldiers that mocked Jesus... this commander protects and seeks true justice for his prisoner.  Like the story of Jesus’ arrest, there are many players that probably have no idea what is going on.

P.  Lord, I often wonder about the Roman soldiers stationed among the Jews in those days.  In Acts 10 we met one of them named Cornelius and You gave him and his household free salvation and the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  I wonder about this commander.  Did he get enough exposure to Paul to become a believer?  Only You know.  How many people that have just happened into my life have been exposed to Your calm, Your kindness and Your message?  Lord Jesus, please make my life to so shine for You that the many secondary players in the drama will see You and find Your eternal life, too.  Amen.


Could we change the subject please?

Saturday 10-24-15  Home in Modesto
Scripture reading:    Job 15     Acts 19-20

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

S.  Acts 19:29  Everyone rushed to the amphitheater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, who were Paul's traveling companions from Macedonia. NLT

O.  The Silversmith’s Union started a riot since Paul’s converts were trashing their little silver idols and turning to the true and living God in such numbers that their sales were down.  The wild crowd grabbed two young men that were travelling with Paul and were ready to lynch them.  Fortunately, after two hours of mayhem the mayor got into the act, grabbed the microphone, quieted the crowd and probably saved the lives of these two boys.

A.  The moral of this story?  Be careful not to hang around the Apostle Paul.  You’ll get whipped, thrown in jail, or mobbed.  In Thessalonica Jason was called into court and had to post bail just for letting Paul stay in his house.  Now these two boys who had come from Thessalonica and Berea just to carry Paul’s luggage were grabbed and placed at the mercy of a wildly maddened crowd.

In certain religious cultures it is extremely dangerous to hang around evangelical Christians still today.  If you even get caught talking with one you become suspect.  But what can we expect?  Our Captain was falsely accused, beaten and murdered by a religious crowd. 

P.  Lord, I don’t think I want to be like Paul after all.  Trouble followed him and his team wherever he went.  You know several times he was warned of a plot against his life and had to change his plans.  I like adventure, but not the life-threatening kind.  You put the Apostle Paul on the front lines.  He invaded enemy territory with a passion.  (Pause to listen)  What are You saying, Lord?  You want me to be filled with that same passion for the lost?  But Lord Jesus, that could be dangerous!  Could we change the subject please?  Amen.  Whew! 


It can get dangerous when I pause to listen to God while I’m praying.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Positive assurance mixed with love

Friday   10-23-15  Home in Modesto
Scripture reading:    Job 13-14   Acts 17-18

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

S.  Acts 17:22  So Paul, standing before the Council, addressed them as follows: "Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious.   NLT

O.  Athens was the “think-tank, the “brain-storming” center of the Greek culture and the Apostle Paul, while awaiting his companions, wades neck-deep into their flood of ideas with the message of Jesus.  He caused enough controversy that these men, whose lives were caught up in seeking one more new way at looking at life, took him to the Areopagus for an official hearing.  Probably some of these men considered themselves atheists, but Paul lets them know they are religious atheists.

A.  Atheism is very definitely a religion and some atheists really push it.  In effect they are proclaiming themselves as their own creators.  They are self-made.  They “developed” over millions of years and finally got so smart they could drop the ancient idea that a “Designer” had started the process. 

When teaching “Personal Evangelism” in Argentina, I pointed out that our presentation of Jesus creates a clash of ideas.  No one is neutral.  All have their personal “religion”.  The strongest one wins.  A “milk-toast”, “maybe”, “perhaps” presentation will fail.  We must be filled with positive assurance and the fervor of the Spirit of the Living God mixed with a generous dosage of His diving love to be effective.  Paul was a single, lonely voice in Athens, but his message rattled their cage, caused major waves and some believed.

P.  Lord Jesus, if it had been me I would have waited for my team members to arrive before wading into this crowd.  I would have wanted a few believers out there to say “Amen” now and then.  But my daring brother Paul went right for the juggler vein.  “You boys don’t know the real Creator God who sent His Son Jesus who was killed and raised from the dead.  He will judge you someday.” Your servant, Paul, spoke with authority and caused sparks to fly.  Some mocked, but some believed.  Lord, the fact that some open their hearts and believe... keeps me going... for each one is an eternal soul for whom You died.  Amen. 


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Agreement and Disagreement

Thursday   10-22-15  Home in Modesto

Scripture reading:    Job 11-12   Acts 15-16

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

S.  Acts 15:25-27  So it seemed good to us, having unanimously agreed on our decision, to send you these official representatives, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Acts 15:39  Their disagreement over this was so sharp that they separated.  NLT

O.  The leadership of the early Church met and agreed unanimously to not burden the non-Jewish converts with the Jewish ceremonial laws, such as circumcision.  Unanimous agreement, praise God!  Now in the same chapter Paul and Barnabas, best friends and dedicated servants of the Lord, have a sharp disagreement over John Mark. They split into two teams and go separate ways. 

A.  I like Barnabas.  He was ready to forgive and give John Mark a second chance.  Paul, the “teacher of grace”, showed no grace at all for John Mark and refused to take him along.  Many years later Paul would ‘eat humble pie’ and recognize John Mark’s great value.** 

What does this teach me?  That great men of God are still flawed human beings.  That God does not toss us into the garbage can when our flaws show up.  Like the Potter in Jeremiah’s story, He just throws the flawed lump of clay back onto the potter’s wheel, wets it down with His Holy Spirit and works us into something new and better.

P.  Lord God, how many times could You have easily tossed me out as useless... were it not for Your grace and mercy?!  How many times have You crumpled up this flawed lump of clay and thrown me back on the Potter’s wheel?  How many times has Your Holy Spirit washed over me, cleansing me?  How many times have You forgiven me and given me another chance?  You took a nasty disagreement between two of Your choice men and created two dedicated teams instead of one.  Somehow, You are able to even re-make our messy lives into something beautiful and useful.  You are both our Creator and our Re-Creator.  Amen.


** 2 Tim 4:11-12  Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. NIV

How to plan a mission itinerary

Wednesday   10-21-15  Home in Modesto
Scripture reading:    Job 9-10   Acts 13-14

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

S.  Acts 13:50-52 “...they incited a mob against Paul and Barnabas and ran them out of town...  And the believers were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Acts 14:5-7  A mob of Gentiles and Jews, along with their leaders, decided to attack and stone them.  When the apostles learned of it, they fled for their lives. They went... to... Lystra... and they preached the Good News there.

Acts 14:19-20  Now some Jews arrived... and turned the crowds into a murderous mob. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, apparently dead.  But as the believers stood around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.  NLT

O.  In Antioch of Pisidia (presently Turkey) Paul and Barnabas were “run out of town” and went to Iconium.  In Iconium a mob was coming to kill them so they “fled for their lives” and went to Lystra.  In Lystra they stoned Paul dragged his apparently dead body out of the city.  So he got up, went back into town to wash up and bandage his wounds and they left for Derbe.  Then they went back to these same cities to set up church leadership in each one.

A.  So this is how to set up a missionary evangelism itinerary.  It’s easy.  No phone calls, no pre-campaign ads, no stadium...  Just preach till they run you out of town or stone you to death... and then, if you survive, go preach in the next town.  Are we having fun yet?  In Antioch of Pisidia...  as the missionaries ran for their lives, the new believers were having fun... They were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. 

P.  Lord Jesus, getting run out of town has never been one of my primary goals.  I prefer people to like me and invite me back.  And yes, you sent me to a part of the world where that could happen.  But You have sent many of our friends to truly dangerous areas where fanatically religious political leaders watch their every move, threaten them, invade their private lives and seek to silence their message.  I pray for these Your servants who risk their lives daily to even mention Your Holy name.  Give wisdom where it is needed and courage where it is required.  And please send Your angels to protect them.  This I pray in Your name, Lord Jesus.  Amen.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

She left with her “assurance” up to date.

Tuesday   10-20-15  Home in Modesto
Scripture reading:    Job 6-8   Acts 12

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

S.  Job 6:11  I do not have the strength to endure.  I do not have a goal that encourages me to carry on.  NLT

O.  Brother Job had lost his great wealth, his family and his health.  But more drastic than all these losses, he had lost his hope.  He felt he no longer had a goal to look forward to. 

A.  Early in this century many had placed their hopes in their “safe” investments and when the economic crash destroyed their nest-egg... some opted for suicide.  All of us took losses, but some lost everything, because their “everything”, their “hope” was centered in material gain. 

P.  What a blessing I have in You, my Savior!  This cruel world can take away my wealth, my home, my freedom, my health and even my life, but it cannot take away my hope.  No situation can extinguish the “Light of Life” waiting for me at the end of the tunnel.  My dear Frances stepped off this planet with more than just hope... She left with “anticipation” and “assurance” of seeing Jesus, and her loved ones.  She looked forward to her new home in heaven.   Jesus, You have given me, among other joys... the gift of hope.  No atheist can enjoy this blessing.  Amen.


Minutes, maybe seconds... to death

Monday   10-19-15  Home in Modesto
Scripture reading:    Job 5   Psalm 108   Acts 10-11

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

S.  Acts 10:17  Peter was very perplexed. What could the vision mean? Just then the men sent by Cornelius found the house and stood outside at the gate.  NLT

O.  Key words: “Just then...”  God synchronized a series of events to fit perfectly.  His plan was to open the message of Christ’s salvation to the nations of the world.  Cornelius had the visit of God’s angel... who gave the address where Simon Peter was lodging.  Cornelius acted immediately.  It took until the next day at noon to get there and find the house.  As they are approaching the gate, in a vision God is dealing with the Jewish prejudice of Simon Peter.  “Right now, three men are at your gate.  Do not fear. Go with them.”  It is a story of God’s perfect timing. 

A.  God is always on time.  It was 1984.  Young Bible School graduate, Osvaldo Carnival, and our team had set the starting date.  The 12th of November  we would begin our five month open air crusade in the small Plaza Primera Junta in the geographical center of Buenos Aires.  Olga, a distraught, heart-broken 28 year old mother had set that same date to end her life by throwing herself and her 8 year old son, Javier, beneath a train.  We began the meeting in spite of a driving rain.  God stopped the rain and we set up our powerful sound system.  Now the sound reached blocks away behind the tall buildings by the railroad tracks where the music was heard by 8 year old Javier.   His mother had him firmly by the hand.  He had no idea that the next rushing commuter train, due any minute, would mean his death.  “Mommy, Mommy, something is going on in the plaza!  Let’s go see what it is!”  “No!  No! We’ve got to stay here!”  But the train was delayed a few minutes, maybe seconds, and Javier insisted.  He brought his mother to the plaza just as I was taking out my little Felipe.  That night Olga found life instead of death... and they both began a new life.  God is always on time!  (Today Olga is a grandmother and Javier, his wife Vivana, and all three kids are following Jesus.)

P.  Lord, You know how much I hate to wait.  It’s ‘sign-in and wait’.  It’s ‘take a number and wait.”  It’s wait in line for everything.  It’s long minutes trapped in grid-locked, horn-honking traffic.  I am so impatient.  You have often heard me complaining, “Lord Jesus, why did you send me to Latin America when I have to wait in line for everything?”  Now Lord Jesus, I am trying to learn how to wait... for You.  I sometimes wonder why You don’t act right now.  But then when I look back upon the incident I see that You had a purpose... and You were always right on time.  Dear Lord, why am I such a slow learner?  I need patience and I need it right now, please.  Amen.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Lord, You tapped me on the shoulder, too.

Sunday   10-18-15  Home in Modesto
Scripture reading:    Job 3-4   Acts 8-9

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

S.  Acts 9:10  Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias...  NLT

O.  God taps Ananias on the shoulder.   This is his big moment.  His name and brief story will be read thousands of times by people of every language.  His response to God’s nudging will mean the release of God’s first missionary to the heathen nations of the world.  Ananias could not imagine the impact of his daring deed.  How had he become a believer?  We don’t know.  Was he the leader of a small group of frightened Christians in Damascus?  No info.  Without the record of this deed... he would have been a nobody.  

A.  I want to be like Ananias.  He was ready to walk in, lay hands on, pray for and rescue his most famous enemy.  He knew if this was a trap he and his family were dead meat.  But he also knew the voice of the Lord and had to courage to act upon it. 

P.  God, make me like this guy named Ananias.  When you speak to my heart may I dare to step into potential danger.   And may my obedience touch the soul of another one of Your great servants... launching him or her into a life of self-sacrifice and fruitful ministry!   You have done it before and tens of thousands are now saved and serving You.  You can do it again as I go to minister in San Salvador, Central America, in just three weeks.  Send me like Ananias was sent!  See my tears and hear the cry of my heart today!  Amen.

So send I you

So send I you to labour unrewarded
To serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown
To bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing
So send I you to toil for Me alone

So send I you to bind the bruised and broken
Over wandering souls to work, to weep, to wake
To bear the burdens of a world a-weary
So send I you to suffer for My sake

So send I you to loneliness and longing
With heart a-hungering for the loved and known
Forsaking kin and kindred, friend and dear one
So send I you to know My love alone

So send I you to leave your life's ambition
To die to dear desire, self-will resign
To labour long, and love where men revile you
So send I you to lose your life in Mine

So send I you to hearts made hard by hatred
To eyes made blind because they will not see
To spend, though it be blood to spend and spare not
So send I you to taste of Calvary

"As the Father hath sent me, so send I you"

Saturday, October 17, 2015

I love you, too, Sweetie.

Saturday   10-17-15  Home in Modesto

Scripture reading:    Job 1-2   Acts 6-7

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

S.  Job 2:8-10  Then Job scraped his skin with a piece of broken pottery as he sat among the ashes.  His wife said to him, "Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die."  But Job replied, "You talk like a godless woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?" So in all this, Job said nothing wrong.  NLT

O.  Job is being tested.  There is nothing fair about this test.  Yet God allowed it to happen even though it was entirely Satan’s idea and action.   Job’s closest companion, his wife, who can see his suffering first hand, joins the demons of hell to drive him deeper.  “Just get it over with, my dear.  Curse God and die.”  Job gives his sores another scrape with a piece of broken pottery and says, “Thanks very much, Sweetie.  I love you, too.”  Job’s real answer (above) strikes home today. 

A.  We take ten thousand blessings from the hand of God and brag, “Look what I have accomplished!”  And the first time Satan throws a stick at us... some people I know literally curse... and scream, “God, why are You doing this to me?”  You are right.  I would never curse and scream at God.  Yet God, who reads my thoughts as well as my spoken words, may sometimes be disappointed in what He sees in my heart.

P.  Lord I am reminded of Psalm 19:14 “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.”  KJV  And this is my prayer today.  Amen.


PS.  A friend of mine told me of a young man whose leg had to be amputated last week to save his life.  He had apparently been at a late night party and in the darkness before dawn had raced off in his motorcycle, possibly under the influence of drugs or liquor, and had an accident.  He was visited in the hospital and wanted nothing to do with a God that would do this to me.”  Hello! 

Friday, October 16, 2015

How to Recognize a Fanatic

Friday   10-16-15  Home in Modesto
Scripture reading:    Mal 3-4   Ps 148   Acts 5

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

S.  Mal 3:16-17  Then those who feared the LORD spoke with each other, and the LORD listened to what they said. In his presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and loved to think about him.  "They will be my people," says the LORD Almighty. "On the day when I act, they will be my own special treasure.  NLT

O.  Many Israelites had set God aside like an old fashioned idea and forgotten Him.  But God was compiling a special list of names... His personal treasures, those that loved to think about Him, talked together about Him, and who revered Him and loved Him.

A.  Here is how you recognize a religious fanatic:  They talk about Jesus in common conversation... not just in church.  The workers are sitting around at lunch break and they are liable to say something like, “You know what Jesus did for me this morning?  I prayed and He healed my cat!”  Or “My car wouldn’t start so I asked Him to help me and it started right up!”  His companion workers roll their eyes and whisper, “What a fanatic!”  In the meantime, God is writing down their name on a treasure list of His special fans. 

P.  Lord, for some reason it is okay to talk about the wins of our favorite football team, name the best players, and brag on them... but when we brag on what You have done for us it qualifies me as a religious kook.  Jesus, I thank You for a few fanatics, like football player Tim Tebow who stands tall and kneels down for You.  I get the idea from Malachi 3:16-17 that You “kinda like” fanatics and keep a special record of their names.  Help me not to exclude thinking about You and bragging on You from my daily conversation.  Amen.