Friday, April 22, 2016

There is nothing better than a kind hearted, beautiful woman

Friday, April 22, 2016 Rio Gallegos, Patagonia
Scripture reading:  1 Sam 25, 26   Psalm 63   Matt 9
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  1 Sam 25:32-33  Then David said to Abigail: "Blessed is the LORD God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! And blessed is your advice and blessed are you, because you have kept me this day from coming to bloodshed and from avenging myself with my own hand.” NKJV

O.  Nabal was a rich man, but was brutal.  He refused a little kindness to David’s men and insulted them thoroughly.  David became angry and would have shed blood that day, except for the wise and beautiful wife of Nabal.  While he was drinking himself drunk, she prepared many gifts and rode a donkey to meet David and his men.  There is nothing better than a kind hearted, beautiful woman to calm the anger of a man.  Later within a few weeks Nabal died at God’s hand and David sent a messenger to ask for the hand of his widow, Abigail.

A.  God uses a wise woman to keep David from doing something he would have later regretted.  He did not have to lift his hand against Nabal.  Within days God took care of him.  “ is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” Rom 12:19 KJV  May I never take vengeance on my own.  I can be sure that in His time, God will handle the situation with perfect judgment.

P.  Lord, I have learned many good things from King David, but here he is in error. So now I am learning from a wise and beautiful woman called Abigail.  Your book is filled with “mentors”.  They teach me both what is right and wrong.  Make me to be a good learner.  And may You, Lord Jesus, always be my perfect model.  Amen.


Imperfect, but still “God’s Anointed”

Thursday, April 21, 2016 Piedra Buena, Patagonia
Scripture reading:  1 Sam 24   Psalm 57, 58   1 Chron 8   Matt 7
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  1 Sam 24:6  David speaks, “The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the LORD's anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD."
Vs 19-21 Saul speaks “...if a man finds his enemy, will he let him get away safely? Therefore may the LORD reward you with good for what you have done to me this day.  And now I know indeed that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand.”  NKJV

O. David will not allow his men to harm Saul, although Saul has 3,000 men out seeking his life.  He refuses to rise against “the Lord’s anointed”.  However, he sneaks up and cuts off the corner of Saul’s robe... and afterward feels remorse for even having done that.  When Saul sees the true heart of David... he knows that David has no intention of ever harming him.  And he verbally admits that David will soon be the new king.  David is aware that King Saul is a man driven by jealousy into terrible acts of violence and is out seeking to kill him, yet he refuses to retaliate with violence.  In spite of all the evil Saul has done, David sees Saul as “the Lord’s anointed”. 

A.  I was serving as assistant pastor in Orangevale. A couple, who apparently had “run the church” for years and frightened off several former pastors, rose up against our Pastor Mel Woods.  Pastor Woods wasn’t perfect, but he was a loving, caring pastor.  At the peak of the trouble this couple called for a church board meeting.  My office was right next door.  Pastor asked me to listen and to pray for him.  I heard as this couple raised up many unsupported accusations against Pastor Woods.  Each time they would stop, Brother Woods would say calmly, “Is that all?”  They would answer, “No that is not all!” and start out again with an ugly attitude.  Finally, when they had nothing more to say, Pastor Woods turned to an elder who he knew was a good man, “Brother Meriweather, what do you think?” “I’m with you, Pastor.”  Pastor Woods did not try to defend himself.  He just asked each of the board members for their opinion.  All stood with their pastor. This couple rose in a fury and left the church, but they contacted many people and convinced over 30 of them to leave the church including a beautiful new family that had recently given their hearts to Christ.  The following week we had our highest attendance and the church continued to grow rapidly.  Many years later the woman that rose against the Pastor Woods, called from her sick bed and asked for him to come.  She thought she was dying and wanted to ask forgiveness for rising against “God’s anointed.” 

P.  Lord, I know that Your “anointed” servants are all imperfect men and women.  Sometimes they fall into sin and have to be confronted.  Still, please help me to never have to rise against one of Your “anointed.”  Yes, Lord, I know that sometimes Your “anointed” ones use this high honor to rise above others.  Saul had become a madman, but You have left David’s story, who refused to lift a hand against Saul, for me to read and learn ... for David is one of my godly mentors.  Amen.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

My “Times” are in His Great Hand

Wednesday, April 20, 2016 Piedra  Buena, Patagonia
Scripture reading:  1 Sam 23   Psalm 31, 54   Matt 7
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Ps 31:14-15 But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD; I say, "You are my God." My times are in Your hand;
Vs 19 Oh, how great is Your goodness, Which You have laid up for those who fear You, Which You have prepared for those who trust in You.
Vs 23 Oh, love the LORD, all you His saints! For the LORD preserves the faithful.  NKJV

O.  David had gathered a motley group of riff-raff... 400 men. (1 Sam 22:2) And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he (David) became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him. King Saul chased David all over the country trying to kill him so he would not become king in his place.  But David has a secret weapon.  He is trusting in the Lord God of heaven.  His “times” were in God’s hand.  Better days were coming.

A.  My “times” are nestled securely in the hollow of God’s great big hand.  Some days I rise with fresh energy.  Other days I rise in exhaustion.  Some days I look forward to all the good things awaiting me. Other days I dread a long journey ahead through the storm. But every day I know that my “times” are in God’s hand. Many people ask me: “Are you driving all over those long lonely, desert roads all alone?” Not really. I am not alone. I have nothing to fear. When “my time” is up, He will carry me in the hollow of His big hand into a safer, better place. The best is yet to come!

P.  Lord, it is so comforting to rest in Your promises. Most of the time I relish every moment, living in the sunshine of Your blessings. Sometimes I seem to enter a dark tunnel. But I never need to be distressed, for by faith I can see light at the end of that tunnel.  I can lean back and rest for my “times” are in Your hand.  Amen.


A mad man can quickly become a madman.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016 Puerto Deseado, Patagonia
Scripture reading:  1 Sam 22   Psalm 17, 35   Matt 6
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  1 Sam 22:15-17 “Let not the king impute anything to his servant, or to any in the house of my father. For your servant knew nothing of all this, little or much." And the king said, "You shall surely die, Ahimelech, you and all your father's house!" NKJV

O.  Jealousy has twisted King Saul’s soul into a raging mad tyrant.  He calls for Ahimelech, the priest that innocently helped David by giving him bread and Goliath’s sword.  Ahimelech explains that he had no idea that David was fleeing from the King.  But at King Saul’s order his soldiers slaughter all 85 priests of the Lord... then in his madness he had his men kill all of their families including mothers and babies... and even their donkeys and sheep.  Saul had the power to cut off all the entire future family of this faithful servant of God, but he could never destroy the recorded story of this godly priest... and Saul’s evil deeds certainly haunt him still today in hell.

A.  Saul started out as a humble young man. Everything was going his way.  But when he realized that his evil life had displeased God and he would be replaced by another... He, just like King Herod at Jesus’ birth slaughtered innocent babies in his rage.  Lord, You know that once in a great while something happens and my temper rises. I have to struggle to hold myself in check. Those are not moments to take action.  A mad man can quickly become a madman.  Anger distorts reason and irreparable damage can be done.

P.  Lord, sometimes I can become my own worst enemy.  Please protect me from myself.  Help me to cool down and reason with a level head before taking any action.  My life, my name and my ministry are all attached to Your Name.  So, if for nothing else, I must protect Your name.  I shall not surrender to anger.  You are my rock and my fortress; Therefore, for Your name's sake, Lead me and guide me. Ps 31:3 NKJV  Amen.


Crushed at His Feet

Monday, April 18, 2016 Caleta Olivia, Patagonia
Scripture reading:  1 Sam 20 - 21    Psalm 34   Matt 5
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Ps 34:18 The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.  Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all. NKJV

O. According to the International Bible Encyclopedia, “A contrite heart is one in which the natural pride and self-sufficiency have been completely humbled by the consciousness of guilt.” The psalmist is describing a spirit whose pride is crushed. This person no longer attempts to justify his or her wrong choices. It is a soul awakened to its depravity. He or she crashes in a heap before a righteous God and throws itself upon His great mercy.

Why is it easier to win an addict to Christ that a respectable neighbor? That neighbor has probably never seen himself or herself as a sinless holy God sees, while that addict may have reached the level of “contrition”.

A. I have a dear friend that justifies his situation, a result of his choices. It seems to me that he, like hundreds of others, wants to keep one foot in the church while maintaining his sinful situation. I do not choose to judge him, nor am I free to condone his unbiblical choices. Perhaps “contrition” is in order.

P. Oh, God. I have nothing good to offer you. I can only approach You as a broken and contrite spirit. Show me my heart as You see it. And let Your mercy, Your cleansing, and Your renewal give me a fresh new start... today and every day.  I lay crushed at Your feet.  Amen.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

And the Police ended up Prophesying

Sunday, April 17, 2016 Comodoro Rivadavia, Patagonia
Scripture reading:  1 Sam 19    Psalm 59   1 Chron 7    Matt 4
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  1 Sam 19:20-22 Then Saul sent messengers to take David. And when they saw the group of prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as leader over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied. 21 And when Saul was told, he sent other messengers, and they prophesied likewise. Then Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they prophesied also. NKJV

O.  King Saul is eaten up with jealousy and repeatedly tries to kill David, but David always escapes.  Now he has heard that David is with Samuel and the prophets so Saul sends his police force to arrest him.  Three tries and each time his police end up prophesying with the prophets.   

A.  I can see it now.  Three groups of Saul’s uniformed policemen singing the praises to God along with David and Samuel.  It reminds me of when, in the mid 1980s Evangelist Carlos Annacondia was preaching in an open field to thousands in the city of La Plata.  Responding to complaints of excessive volume the police chief sent an officer to tell them to turn down the volume.  When he didn’t come back, he sent another officer.  When the second officer didn’t return he sent a third only to find his two companion policemen lying flat on the ground and one was speaking in tongues.  It’s the story of Saul and David repeated all over again.

P.  Lord, you know that I was there several of those nights and I can testify that the volume was loud.  I can also testify that many demon-possessed people were carried out to the “intensive care” tent ... each one in a semi-conscious fit of screaming and kicking.  And one night with my guest, author Don Stamps, we spent hours observing in the “intensive care” tent and we saw each one leave that tent hours later delivered from evil spirits and joyful in their new experience with Christ.  Lord, You know that I did not want to copy Annacondia’s style, but couldn’t deny the truth of his simple, effective Gospel message and Your miracle power at work.  Amen.


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Then Jesus came...

Saturday, April 16, 2016 Comodoro Rivadavia, Patagonia
Scripture reading:  1 Sam 18    Psalm 11   1 Chron 6    Matt 3
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Matt 3:11-14 “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. NKJV

O.  Matthew deals briefly with Jesus’ miraculous virgin birth (Chapter 1) and their move to Egypt and then to Nazareth (Chapter 2).  He then leaps past Jesus’ adolescent years to God’s John the Baptist, who knows he has been born to introduce the coming Christ.  “Then Jesus came...” first to be baptized and publicly endorsed by His Father’s voice from heaven.  He conquers Satan’s attempts to tempt Him to sin... and finally His wonderful ministry begins.  Then Jesus came... and my world will never be the same.

A.  Then Jesus came...  The Apostle Paul writes, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son... (Gal 4:4) As always God is right on time.  I was a little child in need of salvation.  Then Jesus came... and I fell in love with Him.  I was a 13 year old kid hanging by my finger tips on the face of a cliff in Oceanside, Oregon and sure to fall to my death.  I cried out.  Then Jesus came... and pulled off an impossible rescue.  I was a teenager seeking God for His will for my life.  Then Jesus came... and showed me the importance of the eternal as opposed to the temporal. 

P.  Yes, Lord Jesus, You always have come right on time.  And this fact fills me with confidence for the future.  Sometimes the black clouds on the horizon ahead show me that I am driving into a major storm, but I need not fear.  For I can count on You.  I can be called upon to speak to thousands of youth or to a dozen little kids... and You always show up right on time.  Your first coming was a miracle... and Your each subsequent coming is another miracle.  Thanks for coming to me today!  Amen.

      George Beverly Shea sang this wonderful song
at Billy Graham’s Crusades
                       Written by Oswald J. Smith

One sat alone beside the highway begging,
  His eyes were blind, the light he could not see;
He clutched his rags and shivered in the shadows,
  Then Jesus came and bade his darkness flee.
When Jesus comes the tempter’s pow’r is broken;
  When Jesus comes the tears are wiped away.
He takes the gloom and fills the life with glory,
    For all is changed when Jesus comes to stay.
From home and friends the evil spirits drove him,
  Among the tombs he dwelt in misery;
He cut himself as demon pow’rs possessed him,
  Then Jesus came and set the captive free.
“Unclean! unclean!” the leper cried in torment,
  The deaf, the dumb, in helplessness stood near;
The fever raged, disease had gripped its victim,
  Then Jesus came and cast out every fear.
Their hearts were sad as in the tomb they laid him,
  For death had come and taken him away;
Their night was dark and bitter tears were falling,
  Then Jesus came and night was turned to day.
So men today have found the Savior able,
  They could not conquer passion, lust and sin;
Their broken hearts had left them sad and lonely,
  Then Jesus came and dwelt, Himself, within.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Battle is the Lord’s

Friday, April 15, 2016 Comodoro Rivadavia, Patagonia
Scripture reading:  1 Sam 17    Psalm 17    Matt 2
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  1 Sam 17:47 Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD's, and He will give you into our hands." NKJV

O.  Two whole armies were looking on.  David was only a youth, not a trained soldier.  All those two assemblies of men knew that the winner of this ‘man to man’ conflict would either mean life or death to them.  David’s brothers and their fellow soldiers knew that if David lost this confrontation they would have to flee for their lives.  “What does this kid think he is doing?  He doesn’t even have a sword!”  But David’s weapon was not a sword or even a sling. His confidence was in the Lord.

A.  We had set up our portable tent-chapel in an area of Merlo known for its spiritual darkness, drug and alcohol addiction and all the evils that accompany these things.  We had visited the local Catholic priest since he had gone to the public schools and prohibited children from entering our tent chapel. Some 50 children had been coming to our services.  He promised a campaign against us.  One morning our tent guard found an empty toilet paper roller with some hairs and strings attached hanging in the doorway of the tent.  He recognized it as a spiritist’s fetish designed to curse our work.  It frightened him.  I took it down, destroyed it and threw it away.  We were in a confrontation of two armies.  But it is wonderful to have, like David, our confidence in the Lord.  We continued for 20 months until a solid church was established.

P.  Dear Lord, You are never frightened by the threats of the enemy.  You stand with those that, without visible weapons of warfare, run to the confrontation with confidence in You.  Today, I am battling with a very swollen, sore throat and very little voice.  You know that many will be waiting for Felipe, and for a message from You tonight.  I plead for Your power to bring healing and Holy Spirit anointing.  I recognize this as a spiritual battle.  Once again my confidence is in You.  Amen.


Thursday, April 14, 2016

I was not sick, but felt an earie, suffocating darkness.

Thursday, April 14, 2016  Comodoro Rivadavia, Patagonia
Scripture reading:  1 Sam 15 - 16    1 Chron 5     Matt 1
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  1 Sam 16:21-22 So David came to Saul and stood before him. And he loved him greatly, and he became his armorbearer.  Then Saul sent to Jesse, saying, "Please let David stand before me, for he has found favor in my sight."  NKJV

O.  Unknown to King Saul, David had already been chosen by God and anointed to become the next king.  Samuel’s message from God to Saul... saying that God has rejected him as king has thrown Saul into bouts of terrible depression.  Now King Saul meets David and loves this talented young man who can play a harp so beautifully and calm his times of depression.

A.  Depression can be a desperate sickness.  Our emotions can be affected by circumstances and our mind joins in with terrifying force to sink us still deeper.  I  have never felt serious depression.  Yet last night for almost two hours from 3 AM to 5 AM I thought “this must be depression”.  I was not sick, but felt an earie, suffocating darkness.  I could not sleep.  Nothing had happened to make me sad that I knew of.  I audibly cast out Satan in the name of Jesus.  Yet the feeling persisted.  Then about 5 AM I thought that perhaps the tiny 10 x 11 enclosed room might be lacking oxygen.  In spite of the cold I opened the window and fresh air rushed in.  I never knew that fresh air could be so wonderful.  Within minutes of breathing deeply of this air the feeling of depression was gone and I fell asleep.  So perhaps this had nothing to do with depression at all, yet my mind was playing scary tricks on me... and I got a dosage of what true heavy depression might be like.  I am convinced that it can be very serious.

P.  Lord, why would You allow me to experience this “test run” with what I thought might be depression?  Perhaps it happened to help me understand the satanic confusion that can often come with what psychologists call depression.  Certainly the enemy of our souls takes advantage of every chance to break us down.  Lord, You know her... a lady who works in this hotel who has confided in me that she has an adult daughter and mother of her little granddaughter who has lived now two horrible years in depression, under the care of doctors.  I have invited them to church tonight.  Oh Lord, I pray, open the windows of heaven and let Your wonderful fresh air in.  Bring this mother to You.  May she fall into Your arms of love and may You sweep her out of this horrible disease into Your glorious joy of salvation.  And may grandma and the child also follow You all the days of their lives.  Amen.


Get it together, kids.

Scripture reading:  1 Sam 14    1 Chron 4    2 Cor 13
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  2 Cor 13:11 Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. NKJV

O.  In this letter the Apostle Paul encourages his “saints” a little, he scolds them a little, he threatens them a little, he comforts them a little and he exhorts them to strive for new heights in serving Christ.  Now he sums it up with this final message above.  The words “Become complete” are translated in NIV “Aim for perfection”, in NASU “Be made complete”, KJV “Be perfect”, ASV “Be perfected”, NLT “Change your ways”, TLB “Grow in Christ”, RSV “Mend your ways” and in the NUHV* “Get it together, kids, its time grow up.” 

A.  It is a good thing that the Apostle Paul’s letters to the Corinthians have been preserved for us.  Some of his feeble “saints” kept slipping back into sin.  He scolds the church for not calling sin, “sin” and tells them to get to the business of restoring these that have gone astray.  So for those of us who think that only “perfect saints” are sitting in our pews with hands raised to heaven as they sing... we need to know we are all still in construction.   We are imperfect vessels in the hands of the Master Potter.  We are going to make it, but it only by God’s matchless grace and love.

P.  Lord, How can I ever “be perfect”?  What’s that You are saying? “You are working on it?”  Yes, Master Potter, but if You squeeze this lump of clay any more it’s gonna break.  What?  You want it to break?!  But of what use to You is a broken vessel?  Oh, You are going to soften me with Your Holy Spirit and start over?  Well, I was going to say, “Good luck!”... but that doesn’t sound right, since You don’t need luck... You just need my cooperation.  So today I submit my cracked, useless vessel into Your wonderful saving hands.  You know how to recycle what some of us call “junk”.  Go for it, God, and if it hurts, just give me Your strength to handle it.  Amen.

*NUHV (New Unauthorized Hiatt Version)

So my faith now becomes trust.

Tuesday 4-12-16   Camerones, Argentina
Scripture reading:  1 Sam 13    1 Chron 3 – 3    2 Cor 12
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  2 Cor 12:8-9  Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.  And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.   NKJV

O.  Apparently Paul had experienced marvelous celestial revelations, caught up into the heavens.  God had revealed things to him that he had no liberty to reveal to others.  And to keep him from seeing himself as someone super-special, the Lord actually allowed Satan certain liberties to torment him.  And when Paul with faith pleaded with the Lord for deliverance he got this clear message from the Lord, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."

A.  I do not intend to understand all the workings of the Lord.  Some insist that this “thorn in the flesh” suffered by Paul was not “in the flesh” at all... not physical.  Well, I am not that great a theologian so I take it for what it says and I think Paul suffered a physical torment by the enemy.  To the Galatian Christians he writes Gal 4:15-16 “I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.” NIV Some believe that this is possibly a reference to a problem with his eye sight.  The Holy Scriptures remain silent about some things and this is one of them.  God has given me sufficient faith to trust in God’s judgment.  Faith... to me, is one thing... and trust is another.   

P.  Lord, I admit that my faith seems limited.  There are things I pray for that I have not yet received.  I may have asked you three or more times, and still I am waiting.  This does this not mean that You do not exist.  It means to me that You look at the picture of our lives from a different perspective.  You see things I cannot see.  You know that I need to wait on the answers to some of my prayers.  So my faith now becomes trust.  I, like Brother Paul, have asked in faith.  Now, even though I do not see the answer yet, I will trust Your divine judgment and with Your help my faith shall not stumble, but will be strengthened.  Amen.


God is convicting me of a sin of omission.

Monday 4-11-16   Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Scripture reading:  1 Sam 11 - 12   1 Chron 1   2 Cor 11
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  1 Sam 12:23 Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you;  NKJV

O.  The Israelites demanded a king.  Samuel sought the Lord then chose and installed Saul as king.  But the whole idea of having to have a king, like the other surrounding nations, was displeasing to the Lord.  And Samuel foresaw judgment coming from God for their sins... and somewhat like Moses, Samuel considered it sin if he failed to pray for this spiritually frail generation.

A.  God is convicting me of a sin of omission.  If it was really a “sin against God” for Samuel to fail in his responsibility to intercede in prayer for the Israelites, then where does that leave me?  It is only logical that I, too, am sinning against God if, as a minister of the Gospel, as a missionary to an entire nation and as a Christian father to three sons, three daughters in law and two grandchildren ... if I fail to regularly intercede for them.

P.  Oh Lord, I cry out to You to bless this nation... and for my wonderful family.  Visit us with a fresh move of Your Holy Spirit.  I do not ask You to repeat a renewal like You did in the past.  Just let Your Spirit Wind blow in this land of Argentina and in my native land again... and may many thousands of the lost be swept into a delightful, intimate relationship with You.  Amen.


Lest... I myself should be a castaway

Sunday 4-10-16   Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Scripture reading:  1 Sam 8 - 10   2 Cor 10
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  1 Sam 10:21-22 And Saul the son of Kish was chosen. But when they sought him, he could not be found. Therefore they inquired of the LORD further, "Has the man come here yet?" And the LORD answered, "There he is, hidden among the equipment." NKJV

O.  The people have demanded a king.  God helps Samuel to pick out a tall handsome young man named Saul.  He is obedient to his father.  He is humble. He seems to have many good character qualities.  In the next chapter he even proves to be kind to those that have made fun of him.  He made such a good start.  But this story shows me that fame and fortune can quickly corrupt a good man.  It was all downhill from there on.  As his fame grew... his character changed.  And in time this man who had been “chosen of God” became a “castaway”.

A.  Every preacher of the gospel is in danger of this deadly disease.  We want to do our best for our Lord.  We study and pray.  We seek the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  But as our ears hear the repeated applauding of our audience, as we see ourselves announced over an again as someone important, we are treading on slippery soil.  Several prominent TV preachers have collapsed under this pressure?  The same happens to politicians and presidents, good men... until they are highly successful... and danger is at the door.  Very few can handle success and fame.

P.  Lord, I confess that I am not comfortable with applause for singers, musicians and preachers in Your house.  It is a custom that has risen within the past 30 years.  If we must applaud, let us applaud the Lord.  Your Apostle Paul writes: But "he who glories, let him glory in the LORD."  For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends. (2 Cor 10:17-18)  Dear Lord, please protect me from this dangerous trap.  I cannot blame the devil for my downfall.  If allow my self-centered pride to be nourished repeatedly, I place myself in danger.  Paul warns me to “...keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (1 Cor 9:27)  KJV   Amen.


“He shall come down like rain”

Saturday 4-9-16   Las Grutas
Scripture reading:  1 Sam 6 - 7   Psalm 72      2 Cor 9
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  1 Sam 7:12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far the LORD has helped us."

Ps 72:5-7 Throughout all generations He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing, Like showers that water the earth. In His days the righteous shall flourish, And abundance of peace... NKJV

O.  Samuel had become known as the voice of authority.  He spoke the words of the living God.  In earlier decades Eli had managed a corrupt government.  Their enemies, the Philistines had conquered their territory and captured the precious “Ark of the Covenant.”  But now God had brought back the Ark and now He used thundering sound to confuse the Philistines and they were driven out of Israel’s territory.  So Samuel held a thanksgiving celebration and set up a memorial called Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far the LORD has helped us."

A. As I just now read the beautiful Psalm 72, I was taken back to when I was 17 years old.  About 10 of us teenagers had requested that our Pastor Noble Ballew let us use the church for a youth prayer meeting on Friday nights.  We sat on the floor and shared testimonies, somebody read a portion of scripture, we sang worship songs and hymns like “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”*, we laid on our faces before the Lord.  We had no program. Each Friday we stayed later. What started as a sprinkle, soon became a mighty downpour.  I recall taking the bus home at 4 AM. The hours passed quickly.  On one of those Friday nights the Holy Spirit gave me liberty to speak in an unknown tongue and He blessed me richly.  God was getting several of us ready for future ministry.  Our church literally exploded with new life.  We quickly outgrew our facility and had to build a new sanctuary.

P.  Lord, You know me now and You knew me then.  Neither Frances nor I were the noisy kind of Christians.  But worship rose from our hearts and burst forth.  One of the verses of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” refers to Samuel’s monumental rock called “Ebenezer.” I praise You that today I can still say,“Thus far the Lord has helped us.”  I pray for another spiritual downpour. Patagonia needs it, all of Argentina needs it, Uruguay needs it, California needs it.  Break up the hard parched soil of our hearts and saturate us with heavenly rain once again.  Amen.


Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Come thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
I'll praise the mount I'm fixed upon it
Mount of thy redeeming love

Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by thy help I come
And I hope by thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home

Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wondering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to thee

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, O take and seal it
Seal it for thy courts above

“As I stood looking out at Your beautiful Ocean”

Scene from my hotel balcony

Friday 4-8-16   Las Grutas
Scripture reading:  1 Sam 3 - 5   Psalm 77      2 Cor 8

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

S.  1 Sam 3:10 Now the LORD came and stood and called as at other times, "Samuel! Samuel!"  And Samuel answered, "Speak, for Your servant hears."
Vs 19 So Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.  NKJV

O.  Samuel was still a young boy when God spoke to him the first time.  His Master, Eli, would demand that he reveal to him everything that God told him. Even though it was a very harsh word of condemnation directed at Eli, Samuel delivered the whole ugly message.  Eli had allowed his two sons to continue to minister in the temple while making a mockery of the sacred sacrifices to Jehovah God.  And Eli had only scolded them lightly when he should have dismissed them... as they openly corrupted the house of God by seducing women into sexual acts. 

A.  Samuel heard God call his name, “Samuel, Samuel” and he thought Eli was calling him.  He had an excuse.  It was the first time he had heard God speak to him.  May I never fail to recognize the voice of my Lord when He calls me... and may I set everything else aside while I listen attentively to His message!  It will probably be a message for me personally... and perhaps for me to relay to others as well.

P.  Lord God in Heaven, You were watching me this morning as I read this story.  You were listening when I stopped reading and went to stand at my hotel window looking out at Your beautiful ocean and wept tears as I cried, “Speak, Lord!  Speak once more!  Fill my heart with Your message! And if it is designed just for me, may I open my soul to receive it. And if it is a message for my hearers as well, fill me with Your Holy Spirit so that none of Your words ‘fall to the ground’.  May they accomplish Your divine purposes in other lives as well.  Amen.


Faith came... and her face was no longer sad

Thursday 4-7-16   Las Grutas
Scripture reading:  1 Sam 1 - 2   Psalm 66      2 Cor 7
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  1 Sam 1:17-18 Then Eli answered and said, "Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him." And she said, "Let your maidservant find favor in your sight." So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.  NKJV

O.  Hannah was tormented constantly by Peninnah, her rival... because she was barren.  Now, somewhere near the door of the tabernacle where the priest Eli was sitting, Hannah silently prayed and wept bitterly.  Eli thought she was drunk and scolded her.  She let him know that she had not been drinking, but that her heart was broken and she was fervently asking God for His favor.  Eli then spoke some encouraging words to her.  So she left the house of God “and her face was no longer sad”.  

A.  I was trying to start a church in La Boca with services 7 nights per week.  A little congregation was forming in an open parking lot.  Then the cold and rain drove us into a 12 foot by 12 foot storage room.  I was frustrated because I saw no possibility of purchasing property for our new little church. Then God sent me Pastor Claude Qualls from the USA.  He did not previously know me and visa versa.  That night before he left, he looked at the finest building in La Boca, a cantina alongside the lot where we were worshipping... and said, “Ralph, this is the building that God is going to give you!”  He apologized for not being in a situation to be able to help us.  He was heavily committed elsewhere. But something happened that night.  Like Hannah... I left the service joyful.  Every day thereafter, as I stopped at the signal light and saw that building, my heart leaped with joy.  “It is ours! That will become our new church building.” I had no more money than before. But God had given me a wonderful gift, called “faith”.  And faith alone made me full of joy.  For the rest of the story you will have to read my book... soon to be published: “Argentina, A Love Story.”

P.  Dear Lord, I need a fresh dosage of that kind of faith today.  I want to be able to pray for things that are difficult, yes, even impossible... and suddenly be filled with Your joy, because it is “done”.  I do not see it yet.  There is barely a tiny cloud on the horizon, but I am getting ready for a downpour.  Because, like Hannah, You have taken away my frustration and planted Your joy in my heart.  Amen.


He awoke and... “What’s this!?” There was a woman in bed with him!

Wednesday 4-6-16   Las Grutas
Scripture reading:  Ruth 3 – 4   Psalm 64, 65      2 Cor 6
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Ruth 3:8-9 Now it happened at midnight that the man was startled, and turned himself; and there, a woman was lying at his feet.  And he said, "Who are you?"  So she answered, "I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a close relative." NKJV

O.  Obviously we have a love story developing here.  And Noemi devises a plan to accelerate the process.  She has her beautiful daughter in law, now a young widow, to dress up and use her best perfume and sneak in and crawl in bed with Boaz, who is a well-known noble and wealthy man... and who happens to be a relative of Noemi’s deceased husband.

Surprise! At midnight, no flashlights or candles around, Boaz awakes to find a woman in bed with him.  Shock!  He can’t see her, but without doubt can smell her perfume.  “Who!?  Who are you?”  She identifies herself.  He had met her only days before, and was highly impressed with her and showed her special kindness. 

Now what does he do?  He gives her a dozen roses... Well, no roses were available at midnight, so he fills her shawl with barley and sends her back to her mother in law while it is still dark.  “Don’t let this get out... or tongues will be wagging.”

There were strict rules in place back in those days about who takes responsibility for widows of relatives and there was another unnamed guy, an even closer relative that officially would have the first responsibility... and the first chance for this young widow.  So Boaz calls a meeting at city hall (city gate) complete with witnesses and gives this guy first dibs.  But Mr. Unknown, feels unwilling to take on this responsibility.  They exchange sandals while the witnesses are watching.  Boaz has cleared the deck.  He can now take this beautiful young thing as his wife.  And yes, she gives birth to the grandfather of King David... and a distant ancestor of Mary the mother of Jesus. 

A.  So, what does this mean to me?  It shows me the importance God gives to our heritage.  I know little or nothing of my great grandparents Schrock and Shanbeck, but they doubtless were devout Christians.  Both my grandfather, Cornelius Christian Shanbeck and my grandmother Mary Frances Schrock, on my mother’s side, were strong Christians.  On my father’s side, my grandfather William Frank Hiatt was a lay preacher with the Brethren Church... the only church in Mist, Oregon, where they homesteaded.  He was known as the circuit riding preacher in the area.  His wife, Malinda Orwig Hiatt was certainly a devout Christian, too, although I never met either of them.  If I had access to all my history, I am sure I would find many generations of dedicated Christians.  And then there was my praying father, Lester Hiatt and my mother, Rachel Hiatt, who spent decades of her best years seeking to save lost drunkards and visiting the sick and dying, trying to direct them into the saving arms of Jesus.  What a heritage!

P.  Oh Lord!  What a responsibility I have to be faithful to You and to carry on this wonderful heritage You passed on to me!  I know that my mother, who was not a preacher, will bring a procession of many people into those pearly gates... and may I, too, help many to become Your followers, Lord Jesus.  One day soon we will celebrate with Your angels.  Amen.


Under His Wings

Tuesday 4-5-16   Las Grutas
Scripture reading:  Ruth 1 – 2   Psalm 53, 61      2 Cor 5
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Ruth 2:12 “The LORD repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge." NKJV

O.  These were the words of Boaz when he heard the sad story of this Moabite widow lady, Ruth, and saw how hard she worked to support herself and her mother in law, Naomi.  So he blessed her with these words and even arranged for her to receive a more generous portion of grain that the other girls.

A.  May I be found living under the shelter of God’s wings.  It is a metaphor of the fowl that tucks her vulnerable little ones under her wings when danger is near.
Ps 91:4-6 He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. NKJV

It reminds me the story of the fire that swept across the prairie.  After it passed the farmer kicked something burned-black on the ground and out came little chicks.  Their mother was dead, but they survived... under her wings.

Jesus wept over the city and cried out, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Matt 23:37

Ruth refused to return to the idol worship of her childhood.  She saw something different about her mother in law and made up her mind.  She declared to Naomi,
“...wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God.” (Ruth 1:16) NKJV "She sought protection in the right place.
P.  So, Lord, where can I go for refuge?  When trouble comes my way, I run to You and seek warmth, love and shelter “under Your wings”.  As I criss-cross this globe, I find my safety in You, for if You should allow me to lose my life... I will still be “under Your wings”.  For I will awaken in the safety of Your tender arms, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

Under His Wings
By William Cushing 1896

Under His wings I am safely abiding;
  Though the night deepens and tempests are wild,
Still I can trust Him, I know He will keep me;
  He has redeemed me, and I am His child.

Under His wings, under His wings,
  Who from His love can sever?
Under His wings my soul shall abide,
    Safely abide forever.
Under His wings—what a refuge in sorrow!
  How the heart yearningly turns to His rest!
Often when earth has no balm for my healing,
  There I find comfort, and there I am blest.
Under His wings—oh, what precious enjoyment!
  There will I hide till life’s trials are o’er;
Sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me;
  Resting in Jesus I’m safe evermore.

Where is my Focus? On the temporal or the eternal?

Monday 4-4-16   Viedma, Prov of Rio Negro.
Scripture reading:  Judges 19 – 21      2 Cor 4
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  2 Cor 4:16-18 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. NKJV

O.  The Apostle Paul admits that his body, his outward man, is wasting away.  But he rejoices that his inner man enjoys renewal day by day. 

A.  I am told that my physical body started to die the moment I was born.  As the years go by, I know that although I take care with my diet and exercise faithfully, this body is soon going to perish.  I may, with God’s help, postpone the perishing of this body for a few years only.  But my inward man is renewed each day as I find sustenance in God’s Word and in glorious, secret fellowship with My Creator.   While I do not relax my care for my visible body, I must keep my primary focus upon my invisible inner man... for this will have eternal consequences.

P.  Oh Lord, You know I live in a physical world.  I must care for my automobile, change the oil, maintain every mechanism in order to have a reliable vehicle.  So my days can easily be filled with concern for myself, with eating properly, with cars and computers.  But, Oh Precious Lord... may I never allow these temporary things to suffocate this sweet communion that I enjoy with You!  I am Yours and You are mine... for eternity.  Amen.     


You are Christ’s recommendation letter.

Sunday 4-3-16   Viedma, Prov of Rio Negro.
Scripture reading:  Judges 17 – 18    Ps 89   2 Cor 3
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  2 Cor 3:2-3 You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart. NKJV

2 Cor 3:2-3 You who have been converted under my ministry are my recommendation letter.  Your transformed lives are written indelibly in our hearts.  You are the proof of the truth and reality of our message.  Your lives are my recommendation letter signed by Christ Himself... a letter more permanent than if it had been carved in stone... for it is carved in our hearts.  NUHV*

O.  The ministry of the Apostle Paul was often criticized by certain elements among Jewish Christians.  He realized the great value of a recommendation letter... and he lifts high these faithful converts, proof of his effective ministry.  

A.  When Frances and I had recently married we moved from the Portland, Oregon area to Southern California to complete our ministry training at what is now called Vanguard University.  In the Portland area I had been supporting my education by driving a tank truck for ARCO and working nights in an ARCO service station.  I asked Frank Milliken, one of the two owners of Milliken and Servas Richfield Distributors, for a recommendation letter.  He wrote and signed a letter golden letter on the company stationery that surpassed my wildest expectations.  When I showed that letter to the Anaheim area ARCO distributors, they didn’t need a driver, but they hired me anyway and I worked for them 3 years until graduation. 

Today I am retired and not looking for a job.  But I have a powerful recommendation letter.  It is the lives of young men and women that have come to Christ under our ministry.  They are not perfect, but neither am I.  And some of you who are reading this devotional are the living, absolute proof of the effectiveness of the Gospel we have preached.  

P.  Lord Jesus, may You still use my life to reach out Your miracle working hand to transform lost sinners into rescued saints.  And may they never cease to be letters of recommendation, whose lives prove the effectiveness of Your powerful touch... not to make me look good, since I will soon fade from the picture... May they become Your powerful recommendation letters to our skeptical, unbelieving world.  Amen.

PS.  What message is the world around us getting... as they study my life and yours?
*New Unauthorized Hiatt Version