Thursday, June 30, 2016

Grace that produces holiness

Thursday 6-30-2016   Home in Modesto
Scripture Reading:  Amos 7 – 9    Psalm 104    Titus 2
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Titus 2:11-14  For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. NKJV

O.  The Apostle Paul can put a lot in a single sentence.  This is a “call to holiness.”
1. God’s grace brings us salvation... and it is to be presented to all people equally.
2. That same grace teaches us to live godly lives in this present age.
3. We must never lose our blessed hope, that Christ Jesus’ may return at any time.
4. Remember how He gave Himself to purify us as His own special people.

A.  Where am I in this equation?  Saved by grace?  Yes. Forsaking worldly desires in this present age? I’m trying. Always looking for Christ’s return? Well, sometimes I forget to watch for Him.  Remembering that He died to make me pure... His special treasure?  Awesome!

P.  Oh Lord, may I never forget Your divine purpose for my life.  You are shaping me.  You want to purify me even as I face the challenges of this present age.  Amen.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

God’s Slave

Wednesday 6-29-2016   Home in Modesto
Scripture Reading:  Amos 4 – 6    Psalm 86 - 87   Titus 1
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Titus 1:1-4  Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began,  but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior;  To Titus, a true son in our common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior. NKJV

O.  I went to my New testament in Koine Greek just to be sure.  Yes, the first seven words in Greek read just as Paul wrote it. “Paul, God’s slave, apostle of Jesus Christ...”  Paul begins all his letters by identifying himself.  Today we would start with “Dear Titus” and end by signing our name.  I usually “cheat” and go to the end of the letter to see who writing me. Paul knew who he was.  He was first of all, God’s slave and, second, one of Jesus Christ’s “sent ones”.  And he knew who he was writing to: Titus, my true son in our common faith.”

A. I never quite understood about the “identity crisis” referred to today: People who don’t really know who they are.  Paul could have started by telling his credentials.  Faithful apostle, chosen and sent to the gentile nations, church planting missionary to several countries.  But, no.  He knew who he really was... God’s slave... and then sent by Jesus Christ to carry the faith to those who would listen.  Who am I?  Can I declare that I and God’s slave?  Have I been sent by the Assemblies of God to Argentina or first and foremost by Jesus Christ?

P.  Oh, my Father, like the prodigal son, I pled just for the blessing to serve as Your slave.  But You placed sandals on my feet, a ring on my finger, a shining robe of Your righteousness and welcomed me into Your family.  Paul, too, was Your son, yet he did not brag about it.  He just called himself Your slave.  Lord, make me to be as obedient as Your slave, my brother Paul.  Amen.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Restore us, O God!

Tuesday 6-28-2016   Home in Modesto
Scripture Reading:  Amos 1 – 3    Psalm 80   2 Tim 4
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Ps 80:1-3  Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock; You who dwell between the cherubim, shine forth! Before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, Stir up Your strength, And come and save us!  Restore us, O God; Cause Your face to shine, And we shall be saved!  NKJV

O.  The psalmist sings a song to the Good Shepherd of Israel, pleading with Him to rescue his nation.  ‘Only You can restore us and save us.’

A.  Thousands of evangelical Christians in the USA are disappointed with the anti-God direction that our political leaders have taken.  They have placed judges in the supreme court who deliberately misinterpret our long-standing laws, obviously twisting them in ways totally contrary to their original intentions.  Our national standards, once firmly formed on a biblical base have officially been mocked and debunked.  What can save our nation?  Is there still hope?  My prayer is for our coming generation.  Will they never again know a free America?

P.  Today I send up a cry to heaven, “God, only You can restore and save us!  Touch Your people.  Hear our cry.  Show us clearly the way to go.  Help us to humble ourselves before You and be willing to listen to Your voice.  Cause Your face to shine upon us again, and we shall be saved!  Amen.

PS.  As we approach July 4th... let’s raise our voices in this solemn prayer:
God Bless America, 
Land that I love. 
Stand beside her, and guide her 
Thru the night with a light from above. 
From the mountains, to the prairies, 
To the oceans, white with foam 
God bless America, My home sweet home

Monday, June 27, 2016

I’d rather have Jesus

Monday 6-27-2016   Home in Modesto
Scripture Reading:  2 Kings 13 – 14    2 Chron 25    2 Tim 3
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  2 Chron 25:8  “But if you go, be gone! Be strong in battle! Even so, God shall make you fall before the enemy; for God has power to help and to overthrow." NKJV

O.  I am appalled at the way almost every king of Israel, Judah or Syria thought he had to raise a great army and go off to wipe out some city or some other army.  They practiced terrible cruelty, such as pushing hundreds of people off a cliff to fall to their deaths and much more.  Several of these kings were later killed by their own people of their own city who were seeking power.  What a mess!  In the middle of it all an unnamed prophet tells the king, “Sure, you have a powerful army, but you shall fall before the enemy, for God has the power to help you or to overthrow you.”

A.  I do not covet the place of a king or powerful national leader.  True, a king may have certain privileges that the common man does not have, but there is always the very real danger that some hidden enemy in his own household might seek to kill him.  I would rather be a hard working peon living in a humble house together with his family in peace than to be a king reigning over an unstable nation.  “I’d rather have Jesus... than to be the king of a vast domain.”

P.  Oh Father God, You know that evil men have never stopped their cruelty.  Thousands, yes, millions still live most of their lives fleeing from some wicked, power-seeking enemy.  Your Son described all history in a single sentence, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV)  I am so glad that You offer a full, abundant life in the midst of a cruel world.  I pray for the thousands of refugees that now have no homes and no peace.  May someone reach them and their wicked enemies, too, to give them Jesus!  Amen.

I’d Rather Have Jesus
lyrics by Jim Reeves
I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold,
I'd rather be His than have riches untold;
I'd rather have Jesus than houses or land,
Yes, I'd rather be led by His nail-pierced hand.
Than to be the king of a vast domain
And be held in sin's dread sway
I'd rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.
I'd rather have Jesus than worldly applause,
I'd rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I'd rather have Jesus than worldwide fame,
I'd rather be true to His holy name.
Than to be the king of a vast domain
And be held in sin's dread sway
I'd rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today...

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The real yellow submarine

Sunday 6-26-2016   Home in Modesto
Scripture Reading:  Jonah 1 - 4    2 Tim 2
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Jonah 1:17  Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. NKJV

O.  Jonah, God’s “man for the hour”, was trying to escape from God’s plan for his life.  God had called for him to go on a mission to an evil city. But he hated the people of that city. Instead he bought a ticket to the furthest corner of the earth to escape God’s will.  But God had “prepared” a rescue submarine to bring Jonah back... three day’s journey, back to his own seacoast. 
God had “prepared” a rescue creature.  To me it suggests that God had been preparing for this moment for a long time... a great fish, especially designed to provide oxygen for a human to live inside for the long trip back to his home shore.  I’m not sure of its color, but a submarine was following that ship. 

A.  When I reject God’s will, He almost always gives me a second chance.  He did it for Jonah.  He has done it for me.  Jonah’s story says to me that God is merciful.  He shows His mercy first to Jonah and then to a repentant city who responded to Jonah’s preaching. And, yes, He has shown His mercy and grace to me many times.  For

P.  Oh Lord, may I never spend 3 days and 3 nights in rebellion against Your will.  Your plan is always better than mine.  You have not thrown me away just because I got old and grey.  You gave me a second chance, a fresh call and a new beginning.  What a wonderful Master I serve! Amen.


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Stir the pot.

Saturday 6-25-2016   Home in Modesto
Scripture Reading:  Joel 1 – 3    2 Tim 1
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  2 Tim 1:6-7  Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.  NKJV

O.  Paul is in prison writing his final letter to his spiritual son, Timothy.  The old apostle knows that as time goes by we may easily get into a rut.  He wants to be sure that Timothy is not trying to do his ministry like a routine performance.  The Holy Spirit has given him supernatural gifts.  He must stir the pot now and then to keep these gifts alive and active in his ministry.

A. I find it easy to fall into a routine.  Certain things have to be done every day. After doing these things many times we can get pretty good at them.  A musician has played this song many times before.  So he sees no need to seek the Holy Spirit’s anointing for his task.  I, as a preacher of the Gospel, can become lazy and fall into this same trap.  Timothy has led the communion service 100 times.  But before taking the pulpit, both he and I need to stir the pot.  I need to seek a fresh anointing to allow my spiritual gifts to be active in my ministry.

P.  Lord, You have called me to a task that is bigger than all my talents.  I dare not depend upon my past successes.  Today, yes, today You are asking me to “stir the pot”.  I may have let Your precious gifts settle to the bottom.  Remind me daily that I can do nothing without You.  But with You I can do all things, for You strengthen me!  Amen.


Friday, June 24, 2016

Get rich fast.

Friday 6-24-2016   Home in Modesto
Scripture Reading:  2 Kings 11 - 12    2 Chron 24    1 Tim 6
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  1 Tim 6:9-11 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.  But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. NKJV

O.  Paul warns his spiritual son, Timothy, against the dangers of being distracted from his ministry by the lurking temptation to seek riches.

A.  I witnessed it happen.  I was just starting out in ministry.  A fellow minister persuaded me to accompany him to a special meeting.  I discovered it was a propaganda meeting encouraging clergymen and others to join a certain scheme and get rich fast.  I was literally frightened and horrified by the obvious exaltation of the importance of riches.  I later lost track of that brother and others that followed him.  They may have become rich, but they lost their ministry.  It seems to me that the lure of riches had derailed them from God’s highest purpose for their lives.

P.  Lord, You have always provided all I need.  Indeed, I am wealthy when compared with the people of many other nations.  Help me not to fix my eyes on the trinkets that are daily promoted before my eyes.  They are things that can be purchased with riches.  But You are teaching me to “flee these things” and invest my riches in the saving of lost souls.  For my riches are really not mine at all.  You are just trusting me to be Your faithful steward of Your riches.  Amen.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Wednesday 6-22-2016   Home in Modesto
Scripture Reading:  2 Kings 8 - 9   2 Chron 21    1 Tim 4
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  1 Tim 4:7b-8 “...Exercise yourself toward godliness.  For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” NKJV

O.  The apostle Paul is leaving instructions for his younger companion.  He wants him to get his priorities right.  Physical exercise may help preserve your body in this life, but godliness, which is spiritual exercise, promises to bless you in this life and also in the life to come.

A.  Today, in sharp contrast to past centuries, many jobs require little physical exercise.  Many strong men and healthy women earn their living sitting at a computer and exercising only their eyes and fingers.  So the gyms sign up many customers that pay monthly fees, but their customers often confess that they seldom take advantage of it.  For many of us, taking care to exercise physically is more important for us than it was for the average worker of Paul’s era.  But God is saying to me, “Your regular morning exercises may help extend your useful life-span, but there is something much more important.  You need to exercise spiritually to prepare, not only for a blessed life here and now, but also for the life to come.”

P.  Oh Lord, you know me.  Nothing is hidden from Your eyes.  You watch me work-out almost every morning and You are encouraging me to get my priorities right.  I believe You, in Your great mercy and love, are calling to me today to draw near to You... to take quality-time with You.  My relationship with You means both a more profitable life here and at the same time prepares me for eternity with You.  I am running to You today.  I know Your arms of love are wide open to receive me.  Oh!  Envelope me in Your love once more today!  Amen.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Sin of Silence

Tuesday 6-21-2016   Home in Modesto
Scripture Reading:  2 Kings 6 - 7   2 Chron 20    1 Tim 3
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  2 Kings 7:8-9  And when these lepers came to the outskirts of the camp, they went into one tent and ate and drank, and carried from it silver and gold and clothing, and went and hid them; then they came back and entered another tent, and carried some from there also, and went and hid it.  Then they said to one another, "We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, and we remain silent. NKJV

O.  The Syrian army had surrounded the city of Samaria for a long period of time.  The people inside the walls were starving. Four lepers, who lived outside the city walls, decided to surrender to the Syrian army, but found the Syrian camp abandoned with an abundance of food and valuables. They ate and drank and hid treasures for themselves. And finally realized that they should not hide the good news any longer... and a whole city of starving people rushed out to find abundant food.

A.  I recently read a statement in a lesson designed for new Christians.  It said “we all sin every day.” That statement troubled me. I asked the Lord, “Don’t you send Your Holy Spirit to convict us whenever we sin, giving us the opportunity to repent and correct our ways?  That does not happen to me every day.  Do I really sin every day?”  Then I read this story.  I live in God’s continual blessing.  ‘The Lord is my Shepherd.  I shall not want.’  Am I hiding the treasures that the Lord has placed in my hands. Jesus sent us out to share the Good News. My sin, may be “the sin of silence.” 

P.  Oh Lord Jesus, inside the walls of my neighbors and friends there may be people that are starving for Your Truth.  Am I enjoying Your blessings and hiding Your treasures like those 4 lepers? Give me godly wisdom. Help me share Your blessings in a way that will be readily received. Help me break the chains of the “sin of silence”. Amen.


Monday, June 20, 2016

Safe in the Hollow of His Hand

Monday 6-20-2016   Home in Modesto
Scripture Reading:  2 Kings 4 - 5   Psalm 83    1 Tim 2
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Ps 83:3-4  They have taken crafty counsel against Your people, And consulted together against Your sheltered ones.  They have said, "Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, That the name of Israel may be remembered no more." NKJV

O.  How many times have the nations surrounding Israel sought to destroy them!  In June of 1967 Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt declared that he would wipe Israel off the face of the earth!  Instead the famous “6 Day War” left 20,000 Egyptian forces dead, while Israel lost less than 1,000.  Israel not only protected their territory, but drove their enemies out of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula, plus the Golan Heights, the West Bank and much more.  There can be no doubt that God has often protected tiny Israel although they are surrounded on all sides by those that would prefer to destroy them. 

A.  What does this speak to me?  It says to me that God is powerful and cares about those that recognize Him as their God.  And it speaks to me personally.  God has protected me and my family across these decades.  How could I not express my love and devotion for Him!

P.  Oh Lord, I join the congregation as we sing Your praises!  How great Thou art!  As I have traveled the highways of Argentina, ministering from town to town, often crossing hundreds of miles of open territory, I have never had to feel fear.  You do not promise me a clear freeway to heaven, but I can always feel secure on the “hollow of Your hand”. 

Ralph                         (I used to sing this song when I was a teenager)
In the Hollow of His Hand
George S Schuler

Our God hath given Promise-
And His grace for this hath planned;
His child shall rest securely
In the hollow of His hand.

Let come what may - or wave, or tempest-
"Peace, be still!" tis His command;
My soul is held in peace eternal
In the hollow of His hand.

O soul, be thou not troubled,
Tho' thou doest now understand;
No turmoil shall molest thee
In the hollow of His hand.

E'en tho' stern duty call thee,
And each day make full demand,
The soul may find its shelter
In the hollow of His hand.

The joy that passeth Knowledge,
Peace that none can understand,
For thee, for thee are waiting
In the hollow of His hand.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Paul says, “If He could save me, He can save you!”

Sunday 6-19-2016   Home in Modesto
Scripture Reading:  2 Kings 1 -3   Psalm 82    1 Tim 1
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  1 Tim 1:13-17  Although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. NKJV

O.  The Apostle Paul has just written a list of all kinds of sinners, including sodomites and liars in the same category.  Now he includes himself in the list as the chief of all sinners, worse than the worse of them.  He says, “Christ came into the world to save sinners” and he started with me so that others sinners could see the grace and mercy of Christ displayed for me as a pattern... to know that they, too, could believe on Him Who loved them enough to die in their place and they too could have everlasting life.

A.  There is hope for every sinner, for our Jesus came into the world for that very reason. The scriptures make is clear. All of us have sinned. (Rom 3:10, 23)   Paul saw his past as a chief of sinners.  Early on in life I learned that there was hope for me.  Jesus had died for me.  I did not have to be chained as a sinner bound for destruction.  I had a choice: Still as a child I believed and was saved!

P.  Lord Jesus, how merciful, how compassionate, how loving You are!  And You reflect the heart of Your Father.  Oh that every wicked sinner could be stopped in his tracks as Paul was... stopped by a light brighter than the noonday sun!  Use me to shine Your light upon those that walk in darkness today.  Give me a heart of mercy, compassion and love toward the worse of sinners.  Amen.


Friday, June 17, 2016

Oh! I am a bond-slave!

Friday 6-17-2016  Home in Modesto
Scripture Reading:  1 Kings 20 - 21   2 Chron 17    Col 3
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Col 3:22-25  Employees, do all the work your employers require of you, not just pleasing them when they are watching, but sincerely from your heart, for God is watching.  So everything you do, do it with your whole heart.  You are working for God, not for mere men.  And be aware that you will receive from the Lord a special bonus.  It will be like an inheritance, for you are really working for the Lord Jesus Christ.  NUHV* 

O.  Paul addresses this paragraph to “Bond-slaves”.  So perhaps I might pass it off with, “I am no bond-slave. This is written for long, long ago and far, far away.”  Somewhere back in my Bible School days a professor encouraged me to choose a scripture and rewrite it in my own words.  I have often followed his advice and it is the ‘origin’ of the New Unauthorized Hiatt Version, the *NUHV.

A.  Every one of us has probably been a “bond-slave”, an “employee” committed to a “boss” who tells us what to do.  I certainly have.  Our tendency may be to work hard and fast when the boss is watching and then sit down and relax as soon as his car drives away.  My “boss” may not be looking, but the “Big Boss”, who got me this job, is watching me and He says, “Ralph, You are not just working for him or her.  You are working for Me, so do your very best... for Me.  And in the long run, you will inherit my special bonus.”  

P.  Lord, many of Your people sacrifice and pray for missionaries.  I am their voluntary “bond-slave”.  I have chosen to be responsible to them.  I am not in this for an easy ride to a foreign country.  I am committed.  My job is to reach out to the lost and encourage the saved into surrender to Your perfect plan.  May I be faithful at all times, for You are my “Big Boss” and You are watching.  Amen.

PS: Oh yes, and Lord, thank You for Your faithfulness in restoring my strength a little more each day. 

Are You calling me to be one of Your ravens?

Thursday 6-16-2016  Back home in Modesto
Scripture Reading:  1 Kings 17 - 19    Col 2
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  1 Kings 17:2-7  Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan.  And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there." So he went and did according to the word of the LORD, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook.  And it happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. NKJV

O.  God was sending Elijah to a desert place where there were no food supplies, but He promised to supply his needs using ravens.  However, in time the brook dried up and God had a new place and provision for him.

A.  When God speaks to our hearts and we accept His challenge, He always has His ravens ready to feed us.  I wonder is Elijah got tired of receiving bread and meat from some ravens.  Finally, his only water supply dried up and God let him know that it was time to move on.  I have followed the Lord for many years. Frances and I and our children never suffered hunger.  I cannot speak for others, for certainly some of God’s choicest servants have gone without food and water, yet somehow even when our “brook dried up” God always sent us to His new provision.

P.  Thank you, Lord.  You have proved to be our Provider.  Even when we were not able to choose what we preferred to eat, we never lacked for something to eat and water to drink. I pray for Your servants that may be suffering today.  Send Your heavenly ravens to miraculously supply for them.  And if I should be called upon to become one of Your ravens, may I be quick to the rescue!  Make me to be sensitive to the need.  Show me how to fly away to carry Your sustenance to some hungry servant. Amen.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Lord, they sought You with all their heart and soul.

Wednesday 6-15-2016  (This morning in Houston Airport awaiting flight to SFO) 
Scripture Reading:  1 Kings 16    2 Chron 15 - 16    Col 1
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  2 Chron 15:14-15  Then they took an oath before the LORD with a loud voice, with shouting and trumpets and rams' horns. And all Judah rejoiced at the oath, for they had sworn with all their heart and sought Him with all their soul; and He was found by them, and the LORD gave them rest all around. NKJV

O.  I am captured by the phrases “with all their heart” and “with all their soul.”  Asa followed kings that did evil in the sight of the Lord, but he determined to bring Judah back to the Lord.  He even removed his own grandmother from her position as “queen mother” because she had made an obscene image of Asherah. 

A.  Whenever I have set myself to seek the Lord with all my heart and my soul... God allows Himself to be found. He is not hiding from me. He knows our heart and while we are only half in and half out, He waits for us to seek Him with all our heart and soul.  Do you remember that good old song, “I surrender 50%”?  Well, that is not what the song says.  It is “I surrender all.”  When God sees a heart and soul all the way “in”... then He reveals Himself to us... and gives us rest.

P.  Dear Lord, my devotional times must not become cold, structured habit. If my heart is not in it, I will be playing only with words. If You are not in my life, I have no reason to carry on.  You are my life.  Did I really seek and find You?  Actually You sought and found me.  You read my heart, not just my lips.  May I always seek You “with all my heart and with all my soul!” Amen.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tame that wild thing!

Tuesday 6-14-2016  (Martinez, Argentina) 
Scripture Reading:  1 Kings 15    2 Chron 13 - 14    Phil 4
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Phil 4:8  Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things. NKJV

O.  Paul did not allow his mind to be dominated with his negative surroundings.  He chose to live above his circumstances. 

A.  I quote from a devotional written recently by Pastor Ernest Leon Hiebert, “I have a mind; I am not a mind.  I have a mind; my mind does not have me. I am to discipline my mind and use it to control my body in a way that honors God.”  Our modern world has taken control of our minds.  We watch moving figures on a screen and allow our minds to be focused on whatever is projected before us. We go to a movie and allow our minds to be under almost total control of that movie for 2 hours. I could say, “Yes, but Paul didn’t live in our present world.” True. His circumstances were worse yet.  He was in prison.

P.  Lord, too many times I allow my mind to wander to ungodly places and circumstances that may affect my attitudes and actions. I believe you are saying to me, “Do not let your mind run wild. Tame that wild thing! Take control of it! Make it dwell on ‘lovely things, of good report, virtuous and praise worthy’.” Dear Lord, teach me how to control my mind.  Amen.


Monday, June 13, 2016

Lord Jesus, I cannot get enough of You.

Monday 6-13-2016  (Martinez, Argentina) 
Scripture Reading:  1 Kings 13 - 14   2 Chron 12    Phil 3
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Phil 3:8-11 I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. NKJV

O.  The Jews gave great importance to their pedigree.  All the genealogies were carefully recorded. But the Apostle Paul is now sitting in a prison cell. He has given up his pedigree, his status as a devout Pharisee, his belongings, even his freedom... and counts them all as garbage just to be found “in Christ”... seeking to “know Him.”

A.  Somehow the small phrase stands out to me “that I may know Christ...” Did Paul not yet know Christ?  Christ had met him on the road to Damascus, filled him with His Spirit, called him to be a missionary... yet he expresses a deep desire to “know Christ”. I have known the Lord since the day of my salvation 79 years ago. He has anointed me with His Spirit, called me to be a missionary... but can I truly say that I “know Him.” I could shake a famous person’s hand and say, “I know him.”  Paul’s expression here shows a hunger for deep intimacy with His Lord Jesus Christ.  And I join him today in this desire.

P.  Lord, I have walked with You for many miles. I have stumbled and fallen. You have showed me mercy and have picked me up. I have heard Your voice speaking into my heart. But I cannot get enough of You. I want to “know You” intimately. Draw me nearer to Your heart.  May I press my ear to Your bosom and hear Your heart as is beats for the lost! Draw me nearer to You and come with me as, together, we reach out to call the “lost ones” to “know You” as well.  Amen. 


Sunday, June 12, 2016

He ran with the wrong crowd.

Sunday 6-12-2016  (Martinez, Argentina) 
Scripture Reading:  1 Kings 12   2 Chron 10 – 11   Phil 2
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  1 Kings 12:8-9  But he (Solomon’s son, King Rehoboam) rejected the advice which the elders had given him, and consulted the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him. And he said to them, "What advice do you give? How should we answer this people who have spoken to me, saying, 'Lighten the yoke which your father put on us'?"  NKJV

O.  Without doubt, Solomon, in spite of his great wisdom, did not prepare his son well to handle the pressures of being a king.  Rehoboam, now as king, rejects the wisdom of older men and seeks out the opinion of the young fellows that had been his buddies as he grew up.  These were likely all pampered boys that ran with his crowd.  Rehoboam accepted their harsh advice and, as a result, lost 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel in a rebellion.

A.  If there is something that I would do and encourage other fathers to do, it would be to warn my children about who they choose as their close friends.  Yes, and even now as an old man, I need to be careful about whose influence I am following.  My close friends can help me or destroy me.  They can either build my faith or weaken it.  And in turn I must decide what kind of an influence I will be upon my friends.  These are choices that will mark my future and theirs.

P.  Guide me, Oh Thou great Jehovah!  The future is always new territory.  There are always serious choices to make.  I pray for my sons.  I pray for my grandchildren.  I pray even for my great grandchildren that may come on the scene in years to come.  Oh God, may my descendants and theirs... follow Your wise instruction even in this world of evil, twisted values.  Amen. 

Guide me, Oh Thou Great Jehovah
Words: William Williams, 1745;
trans. Peter Williams, 1771
Guide me, O thou great Jehovah,
pilgrim though 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.

Open now the crystal fountain,
whence the healing stream doth flow;
let the fire and cloudy pillar
lead me all my journey through;
strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer.
be thou still my Strength and Shield,
be thou still my Strength and Shield.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
bid my anxious fears subside;
bear me through the swelling current,
land me safe on Canaan's side;
songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to thee,
I will ever give to thee.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

When He knocks, may I run to answer the door!

Saturday 6-11-2016  (Martinez, Argentina) 
Scripture Reading:  Song 4 - 8    Phil 1
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Song of Solomon 5:2  I sleep, but my heart is awake; It is the voice of my beloved! He knocks, saying, "Open for me, my sister, my love...”  (But she delays.)
Vs 6  I opened for my beloved, But my beloved had turned away and was gone. My heart leaped up when he spoke. I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.  NKJV 

O.  Solomon’s Song is a love story in highly descriptive poetry.  In one moment the bride speaks and in another the groom.  I find this NKJV version helpful as the translators have attempted to separate and identify the speakers. 
Both Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul make comparisons between a powerful matrimonial love and our relationship with God.

A.  There are moments when the Holy Spirit knocks upon the door of my heart.  It can be while I listen to a preacher.  It may be as I contemplate the beauty of the waves of the sea as they crash with such power against the rocks.  It can happen as I lay upon my bed in reflection.  It can happen at unexpected moments.  In Solomon’s love story, the groom knocks upon the  bride’s door, but she delays to answer and finally, when she does, he is gone.  Yes, there have been many circumstances in my life when opportunity knocked.  A decision had to be made.  A delay could mean a lost opportunity.  

P.  Lord Jesus, is that You knocking on the door of my heart?  I’m coming!  Yes, I’ll be with You in a moment!  My beloved Lord, when You knock, may I be quick to answer.  May I recognize Your voice.  I thank You that even when I have delayed, when I later sought You, You let me find You again.  I may have lost an opportunity, but You have never abandoned me.  Please keep me sensitive, ready to quickly respond at Your call.  Amen.                                                          


Friday, June 10, 2016

Rome’s Evangelistic Center

Friday 6-10-2016  (Mar del Plata, Argentina) 
Scripture Reading:  Song 1 - 3    Eph 6
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Eph 6:14-20  Stand strong, with a tight belt of truth, cover your heart with holiness, have your running shoes on ready to go to share the gospel of peace.  And hang onto that shield of faith.  Satan’s bullets cannot penetrate it.  The helmet of salvation is required at all times and the sharp sword of God’s Word must be ready for action.  All this must be bathed in prayer in the Spirit... for all your brothers and sisters, and while you are at it... pray for me, too, that I might speak boldly as Christ’s ambassador in chains.  NUHV**

O. The Apostle Paul knew a lot about soldiers. He was kept prisoner with at least one soldier by his side for years. Now it is finally the changing of the guard.  “Hi, my name is Paul.  And yours?  Victor!  Not bad!  Have a seat. Get comfortable. I’ve got to tell you the great things God is doing in this place!”  These soldiers were probably into wine and women, but for the next four hours they are chained to a happy preachin’ prisoner.  They probably either got saved or begged never to be assigned to guard Paul again.
Our brother Paul lived out there on the cutting edge.  When you are on the cutting edge you can get hurt.

A. “Tychicus, carry this letter to Ephesus and tell them how it’s going here in Rome’s Evangelistic Center. Tonight Victor finally surrendered to the Lord. It’s great to have a captive audience. Neil is going to kneel soon. These guys wear heavy armor and a sword, but they are helpless prey to the Gospel message. What a privilege to be Christ’s official ambassador to the Roman Army. Already some of the top brass are saved... and some in Ceasar’s palace, too. Let’s hear a victory shout for Jesus!” 

I was never thrown into prison for preaching the Gospel. Although a few times we were shut down by police and ordered to the police station.  But it paid high dividends to be a fanatic.  Some of the pastors of the largest mega churches in Argentina were saved as teenagers in some of those very meetings where a truck full of soldiers with guns sticking out in all directions pulled up to close us down. 

P.  God, it’s so much fun to be on Your official staff, doing Your business as ambassador... representing You! Thank you, Lord, You did not send me as a spy. Spies have to lie all the time and then lie to cover their lies. You gave me the belt of Truth with a capital T. You equipped me with everything I need. Help me to be Your faithful ambassador until You call me home. Amen.

**NUHV New Unauthorized Hiatt Version


Thursday 6-9-2016  (Mar del Plata, Argentina) 
Scripture Reading:  Ecc 10 – 12   Psalm 94    Eph 5
S=Scripture  O=Observation  A=Application  P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Eccl 12:1 “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth...”
Vs 6-7 “Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, Or the golden bowl is broken, Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, Or the wheel broken at the well. Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it.”  NKJV

O. Eccl 12:1 is probably the most quoted verse in this book.  It calls on youth to remember their Creator while life is still filled with good things.  But verse 6 and 7 take us to the opposite end of our short time on this earth. 

A. I know that my time is closer than ever before. Yes, and you could say the same.  Days become weeks, weeks become months, months become years, years become decades and as a song says, “So soon it is over.”  I wrote a poem called “Yesterday” to my mother many years ago.  I will post it below. 

P.  Oh Lord, yesterday I was honored far above my worth by 1,400 pastors and wives from many denominations. They blessed me with a beautiful plaque and their prayers. Thank you for this unforgettable incident. These dear younger people want to show their appreciation before it is too late. I could slip away any day now... and so could any of us.  The only difference between us is that I am expecting it. It is so good to know where I am going next. 

     To Mother with LOVE
     on Mother’s Day 1981


It seems like only yesterday
      I played there on your floor,
Building castles, streets and towers,
      Adding one more block… one more.

It seems like only yesterday
      You bathed a skinned up arm.
You wiped away the tears with love        
      And cured the pain with charm.

It must have been by yesterday
      You called us from our play.
Expectantly we gathered ‘round
      To hear the Word and pray.

It seems like only yesterday
      I called out to my God,
And knew he’d heard a sinner’s cry
      And washed me with Christ’s blood.

It seems like only yesterday
      We gathered ‘round to sing.
And those old hymns of glory
      Would make heaven’s portals ring.

And then it was but yesterday
      I grew from boy to man,
And stepped out into God’s big world
      To find and fill God’s plan.

Well that, of course, was yesterday
      And men believe that’s gone
But I’m quite sure that in my heart
      It lives forever on!

                 Ralph W. Hiatt