Saturday, January 28, 2017

He arrested them for preaching and ended up as an AG pastor.

Saturday 1-28-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Exod 21 – 22, Psalm 12 and Acts 4
S = Scripture  O = Observation  A = Application  P = Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

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

O. Peter and John were arrested and thrown in prison for preaching the message of Jesus Christ in the temple, with a man who had been lame for 40 years jumping and dancing around at their side.  The next day in court Peter shocked these religious Jews by his words: “This Jesus that you killed, arose again to life and in His name this lame man has been healed and, get it straight, men. His name is the only name under heaven that can save you!”  These men all knew Joel’s prophecy “Whoever shall call upon the Lord (Yahweh) will be saved.” They knew that the name of the “Lord Jesus” was being declared on an equal plain with “Jehovah God”.  But what could they do to them with this dancing miracle still at their side?  So, they threatened Peter and John, told them never to preach about Jesus again and let them go free. 

A. Now, if it had been me, I might have been looking for a more suitable place to preach.  But instead the whole baby church cried out to heaven for fresh power to go back and do it again.

P. Yes, Lord, been there, done that. And, yes, I have heard the threats of men in places of authority and somehow You never let them throw me behind bars.  Some, however, in San Juan, Argentina, were thrown in prison for ten days and preached to the police chief, the guards and the policemen with holy boldness. And You chose the very policeman that, with such fervor, had arrested them, to be a Holy Spirit filled Assembly of God pastor. Thank you, Jesus! Amen.


Friday, January 27, 2017

Hur, the Helper

Friday 1-27-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Exod 17 – 20 and Acts 3
S = Scripture  O = Observation  A = Application  P = Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S. Ex 17:8-13 While the people of Israel were still at Rephidim, the warriors of Amalek came to fight against them. Moses commanded Joshua, "Call the Israelites to arms, and fight the army of Amalek. Tomorrow, I will stand at the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand."
So Joshua did what Moses had commanded. He led his men out to fight the army of Amalek. Meanwhile Moses, Aaron, and Hur went to the top of a nearby hill. As long as Moses held up the staff with his hands, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites gained the upper hand. Moses' arms finally became too tired to hold up the staff any longer. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side, holding up his hands until sunset. As a result, Joshua and his troops were able to crush the army of Amalek. NLT

O. Who was Hur? This is the first mention of this man in the Bible. He is remembered because he stood beside Moses, holding up one of his hands during this battle to resist the attack of the Amalekites, while Aaron held up his other hand. He just did what he was assigned to do. He was a “helper”.

A. Gary was an ex-addict. One day he just appeared out of nowhere. He came uninvited to Argentina and asked if he could “help”. We had just purchased a picture-perfect dairy farm on the outskirts of Buenos Aires to serve as a Teen Challenge rehab farm for addicts. It came with 23 cows and two horses, a main house and a caretaker’s house. So suddenly Gary shows up on my doorstep wanting to help. What could he do to help? “Well”, I said, “We do need somebody that knows how to milk cows.” Gary says, “That’s me! I know how to milk cows.” So, we took Gary way out there to the farm all by himself and dropped him off. It was cold wintertime, with only a wood stove for heat and a tiny town with a single store within walking distance. Gary spoke no Spanish, which didn’t bother the animals, but with a lot of laughter and hand motions he soon was learning Spanish from the people of the little town.  He told me that God had given him a gift for His place in His service. He had the gift of “helper”. 

P. Dear Lord Jesus, You were watching out for Frances and me. I was always jumping in over my head. You gave us Norbert, a qualified leader to head up Teen Challenge. You supplied me with Rhonda, an experienced volunteer, full-time secretary, when I desperately needed her. You supplied, Eddie, as my full-time helper, sent as an intern from Bethany College. And the list goes on and on. Then later You called some of my “helpers” into full-time ministry where they still serve today, decades later… “helpers” that became “leaders”. Thank you, Jesus. I couldn’t do it by myself. I needed and was blessed with young men and women like Hur who could hold up my weary hands. Amen.


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Why tongues?

Why tongues?

Thursday 1-26-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Exod 14 – 16 and Acts 2
S = Scripture  O = Observation  A = Application  P = Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S. Acts 2:4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. NLT

O. It was the day of Jewish feast called Pentecost, exactly 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Near the close of Peter’s sermons that day, he added: “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-for all whom the Lord our God will call." (Acts 2:39 NIV) That is why we, who take Peter’s words literally, are called “Pentecostals.”

A. So, of what benefit is this strange miracle of “speaking in tongues”?
1. It confirmed the Holy Spirit’s falling upon the first non-Jews. Some of the Christian Jews (the Judaizers) were fervently insisting that every non-Jew had to be circumcised and basically become Jews to be saved as a Christian. But Peter’s experience at Cornelius’ Gentile home confirmed the opposite to be true. Peter and the Jews that accompanied him were “astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.” (Acts 10:45-46) The Judaizers were officially silenced by Pentecostals.
2. What were these new Gentile Christians doing? They were speaking in tongues and praising God. The only time I heard a “non-English-speaking” youth speaking in English, although she had never heard anyone speak in English, she was repeating, “Praise Your Name! Praise Your Name!” (with no Latin accent) as she was receiving her Holy Spirit Baptism. She was not only speaking in tongues, but she was, like the people in Cornelius’ house, praising God!
3. Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. (1 Cor 14:39-40 NIV)
Often, when I am praising God, I slip into praise in another tongue. Charles Wesley wrote. “O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise!

P. Oh Lord God of heaven above. I worship You this morning. And my finite brain runs out of English or Spanish words. It is then my tongue is released to praise You in words I do not fully understand. I am set free from my limited knowledge of language, free to let my tongue praise You! Amen.**

** Although I may not know the exact meaning when I am speaking in tongues, I almost always understand the general meaning; whether it is intercession, praise or prophecy.  When it is intercession I usually understand for whom or what I am interceding. I feel like my knowledge of the situation is limited and now… the Holy Spirit within me, Who knows all that needs to be known, is completing my plea in His unlimited vocabulary. To God be the glory!
**Why tongues? I haven’t even scratched the surface of this subject.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

I’m better off than a king.

Wednesday 1-25-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Exod 12 – 13, Psalm 21 and Acts 1
S = Scripture  O = Observation  A = Application  P = Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S. Ps 21:5-6 Your victory brings him great honor, and you have clothed him with splendor and majesty. You have endowed him with eternal blessings. You have given him the joy of being in your presence. NLT

O. This whole psalm is about the blessings the Lord has given to the king, probably referring to King David. The victory in the battle was really the Lord’s victory, but even so it brought great honor to the king. He has been clothed in splendor and majesty. And above these temporal blessings, he is already enjoying eternal blessings, including the assurance of eternal joy in the presence of God.

A. I could place my name there with King David’s. Every victory in my life has really been God’s victory, not mine. Still each victory has showered me with undeserved honors. I have no more space on my walls for the plaques of honor that I have received. I am bathed in temporal blessings, but these things fade into the shadows as I already enjoy the assurance of eternity in God’s presence.

P. Heavenly Father, I am blessed with honor, material possessions and the assurance of the marvelous joy of being eternally in Your presence. I’m better off than a king, since as far as I know, nobody is fighting to replace me. Amen.


“Well, that one couldn’t have been Jesus.”

Tuesday 1-24-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Exod 9 – 11 and Luke 24
S = Scripture  O = Observation  A = Application  P = Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S. Luke 24:28-31 Jesus would have gone on, but they begged him to stay the night with them, as it was getting late. So he went home with them. As they sat down to eat, he asked God's blessing on the food and then took a small loaf of bread and broke it and was passing it over to them, when suddenly-it was as though their eyes were opened-they recognized him! And at that moment he disappeared! TLB

O. Brother Cleo and his friend were slowly and sadly walking the seven miles from Jerusalem to their home. It was all over now. Their Messiah was dead and gone. Death seemed so final. Then a Stranger joined their pity party and made them explain their sad faces. And this Stranger proceeded to take them on a journey through the Old Testament scriptures that foretold the Messiah’s suffering and death. The sun would soon set and the Stranger acted as though He would continue on His journey, but Cleo and his friend invited Him for dinner and to stay the night.

A. Jesus had taught His followers about how to treat strangers: Two possible conclusions:
1. "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in?…” Matt 25:37-38 NIV
2. “I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in…” Matt 25:42-43 NIV
Cleo and his friend invited the Stranger to dinner and to stay the night and He proved to be Jesus, the resurrected Christ!

A. Frances and I were pastors in the little mountain town of Colfax. We had three little boys and rented a house in the hills out of town. We were new at this business of lead pastors. Vagrants often showed up at the church office. I remember how we took some of them home with us. One, who stayed overnight in our guest room, left the room filled with the stench of cigarette smoke. I thought to myself, “Well, that one couldn’t have been Jesus. Jesus surely doesn’t smoke.”

P.  Dear Lord, I laugh at it now. But I know that You want us to befriend sinners just like You did. You sat at their tables and maybe even enjoyed their fellowship and then You led them to a new beginning, a new life with a capital “L”. Oh Jesus, You are so beautiful! Please let some of Your love rub off on me. Amen.


Darkness was Announcing the Dawning of a New Day

Monday 1-23-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Exod 6 – 8 and Luke 23
S = Scripture  O = Observation  A = Application  P = Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S. Luke 23:40-46  But the other criminal protested, "Don't you fear God even when you are dying? We deserve to die for our evil deeds, but this man hasn't done anything wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom." And Jesus replied, "I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise." By this time it was noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o'clock. The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the thick veil hanging in the Temple was torn apart. Then Jesus shouted, "Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!"  And with those words he breathed his last. NLT

O. Jesus was crucified around 9 AM. He breathed His last breath at around 3 PM. He was conscious this entire time. The term excruciating literally means “out of crucifying”; crucifixion was an “excruciating” way to die because it was a very slow and painful means to death. But even in His agony, just before noon, Jesus welcomed a repentant, believing sinner into His Paradise. And moments after He did, the lights went out. For three long hours the sun was hidden. It was dark at noontime!

A. Days earlier Jesus had proclaimed, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."  (John 8:12 NIV) Of course He was talking about spiritual darkness. For three hours it seems the powers of darkness were winning the battle. But sometime during that black darkness the huge curtain in the temple was suddenly ripped in two from the top to the bottom. Certainly, terrified Jewish priests ran out of the temple into the eerie noontime blackout in the streets. That darkness was announcing the dawning of a new day when the curtain of separation was torn open and repentant sinners, like the criminal on the cross, and like me, could enter the holy presence of the Creator God and be welcomed into His Paradise.

P. Oh Lord Jesus, What You suffered for me! Yet in Your darkest moments of agony, You reached out a bleeding, nail-pierced hand to welcome a repentant, believing sinner into Your glorious future. And with that gesture of deep love, You also welcomed me into Your Paradise just for the asking. Amen.


“I'm clumsy with words." (Moses… and Ralph)

Sunday 1-22-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Exod 3 – 5 and Luke 22
S = Scripture  O = Observation  A = Application  P = Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S. Ex 4:10-12 But Moses pleaded with the LORD, "O Lord, I'm just not a good speaker. I never have been, and I'm not now, even after you have spoken to me. I'm clumsy with words." "Who makes mouths?" the LORD asked him. "Who makes people so they can speak or not speak, hear or not hear, see or not see? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go, and do as I have told you. I will help you speak well, and I will tell you what to say." NLT

O. Moses seems unaware that the Lord had been preparing him, first as an adopted son of an Egyptian princess with the finest of education and secondly as a humble, wandering shepherd in the desert. He pleads with God with the excuse that he is not a good speaker.

A. The moment I read this today I said to myself, “That is me! I could not stand in front of my high-school class and speak without reading my words from a paper that was hiding the faces that were staring at me. Later in Bible School homiletics class each one of us had to preach to the class. I was a total failure and I knew it.  
Then came the night I had been invited to play my Hawaiian steel guitar for a group of sailors in uniform that just gathered for the music. I was suddenly asked to preach. I was not prepared and refused, but at the second service that night the leader insisted that I preach. I failed miserably, but at the invitation a large group on military men knelt at cots and wept their way into the heart of God. I was shocked as I walked among them and prayed with them. That night changed my life. I was hooked. I knew that I had failed as a speaker, but the message I was carrying was powerful enough to override my failure. I spent the next two years preaching to military men at Victory Servicemen’s Center in Longbeach, California, twice monthly.

P. Lord, Moses begged You to send someone else. You know I did the same. I knew I was a failure with words in a public setting. But You were not looking for experts. You had been getting me ready since I was a little child running down West Burnside Ave. chasing one of those men addicted to alcohol just to hand him a gospel tract and invite him to a little rescue mission. Amen.


The Son of Man

Saturday 1-21-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Exod 1 - 2, Psalm 88 and Luke 21
S = Scripture  O = Observation  A = Application  P = Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S. Luke 21:25-28 "And there will be strange events in the skies — signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And down here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides. The courage of many people will falter because of the fearful fate they see coming upon the earth, because the stability of the very heavens will be broken up. Then everyone will see the Son of Man arrive on the clouds with power and great glory.   So when all these things begin to happen, stand straight and look up, for your salvation is near!" NLT

O. Jesus refers to Himself as The Son of Man in Matthew 30 times, Mark 14 times, Luke 25 times and John 11 times. In the above passage, Jesus’ disciples have questioned Him about the end times. And Jesus quotes from the prophet, Daniel, showing them that He is The Son of Man referred to in Daniel’s prophesy.** Dan. 7:13
Jesus lets us know that He was with the Father from eternity past as The Son of God, but at His birth into this world, He suddenly became both The Unique Son of God and The Unique Son on Man, totally divine and totally human.

A. So where does that leave me? I am only a son of man, a creation of God. But I must recognize Jesus for Whom He truly is. He is not a created being, like humans or the angels. The term “begotten” is used to show contrast with the term “created”. God the Father did not create Him. He was always with the Father, then in God’s perfect timing He humbled Himself to become The Son of Man.** Gal. 4:4, Phil. 2:5

P. Lord Jesus, I cannot comprehend the fullness of Your humble descent from Your place as Creator God, to join the ranks of Your own creation, walk shoulder to shoulder with sinners and submit to their torture and even death. But You rose again… and although Your time on earth was only about 33 years, later when Stephen saw You standing by Your Father’s throne, He still referred to You as The Son of Man. ** Yes, You are The Unique Son of Man and The Unique Son of God for eternity!

** Dan 7:13-14 I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away.  NKJV
** Gal 4:4 But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. NLT
** Phil 2:6-7 Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. NLT
** Acts 7:56 "Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God's right hand!"

Someone is watching and listening.

Friday 1-20-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Gen 49 – 50, Psalm 8 and Luke 20
S = Scripture  O = Observation  A = Application  P = Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S. Luke 20:19-20 When the teachers of religious law and the leading priests heard this story, they wanted to arrest Jesus immediately because they realized he was pointing at them — that they were the farmers in the story. But they were afraid there would be a riot if they arrested him. Watching for their opportunity, the leaders sent secret agents pretending to be honest men. They tried to get Jesus to say something that could be reported to the Roman governor so he would arrest Jesus. NLT

O. Jesus was both loved and hated. He was loved by many that listened to His teaching and by those whom He had healed. But He was hated by most of the highly visible religious elite, since He openly revealed their secret sins. These enemies sought to trick Him into saying something that could condemn Him in court.

A. Today we have a new president in the USA. He is obviously outspoken and seemingly careless with his words. He has thousands of enemies that want to see him fail and fall into some trap. He will be stalked night and day and his words will be turned upon him. But what about me? As a Christian I represent the One Who was both loved and hated. I too, must realize that my words and my actions are being watched by both friends and enemies of Jesus.

P.  Holy Spirit, I plead with You to come and fill my heart with Your thoughts, Your words and yes, Your actions. Lord Jesus, I have repented over moments when I did not represent You properly. I know You have forgiven me, but I have not forgotten and still, after many years, I find it hard to forgive myself… and I pray that it may never happen again. May Your name be lifted high by my every thought, every word and every action. Someone is watching and listening and their eternal soul hangs in the balance. Amen.


The Joy of Blessing Others

Thursday 1-19-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Gen 47 – 48, Psalm 10 and Luke 19
S = Scripture  O = Observation  A = Application  P = Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S. Gen 47:7-10 Then Joseph brought his father, Jacob, and presented him to Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. "How old are you?" Pharaoh asked him. Jacob replied, "I have lived for 130 hard years, but I am still not nearly as old as many of my ancestors." Then Jacob blessed Pharaoh again before he left. NLT

O. We are not informed as to what kind of what god or gods that Pharaoh worshipped, but we know that they had an official religion, since the text tells us how Pharaoh provided land and food for his many priests. Now Joseph, who has lived an honorable life before Pharaoh, brings his 130 year old father to meet him. There is no record that they discussed religion, but before leaving the presence of this king, the elderly Jacob addresses the true and living God to bless Pharaoh.

A. How many times have I dealt with business men and women and when I have completed my business, I have left with only a handshake or “see you later”? Sometimes, after I had walked out, I thought, “Why didn’t I think to, at least, offer to pray a blessing over that man or woman?” I had been too occupied with my business to offer a prayer. But other times I have remembered, and before walking out, I have offered a prayer of blessing, sometimes without even asking their permission. Some have expressed their thanks.
When buying property from the Catholic Church in Lujan, Argentina to plant a evangelical church in the center of town, we had closed the deal. The money was paid in cash. Their priest, lawyers and the real estate man were present. I requested and received their permission to do as I was accustomed. I prayed for those priests and their lawyers, asking God to bless them with His glorious gift of eternal salvation. The group of priests all were crossing themselves when I closed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

P. Lord Jesus, I want to see those men in heaven. You are the God Who hears and answers prayer. Help me to be generous with the blessings that You have showered upon my life and share them with others… even if I only have a passing moment to do so. Amen.


His First Hebrew Words in 20 Years

Wednesday 1-18-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Gen 44 – 46 and Luke 18
S = Scripture  O = Observation  A = Application  P = Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Gen 45:1-4 Joseph could stand it no longer. "Out, all of you!" he cried out to his attendants. He wanted to be alone with his brothers when he told them who he was.  Then he broke down and wept aloud. His sobs could be heard throughout the palace, and the news was quickly carried to Pharaoh's palace. "I am Joseph!" he said to his brothers. "Is my father still alive?" But his brothers were speechless! They were stunned to realize that Joseph was standing there in front of them. NLT

O.  Joseph was 17 when his brothers had sold him into slavery. For 20 years he had been speaking only in Egyptian. Now, in a position as top advisor to Pharoah, he dressed in regal attire and was attended by many servants. He had devised a clever plan to discover if his evil brothers had changed into decent men after all these years. When Judah pled for the life of Benjamin and offered to serve the rest of life as a slave to rescue his younger brother, Joseph could not hide his identity any longer. In Egyptian he ordered all his servants to leave the room. He burst into tears. The 11 brothers were terrified. Until now he had only spoken to his brothers through an interpreter, but now he spoke his first words in Hebrew in 20 years. “I am Joseph!”

A. I place myself among the 10 evil brothers and I know that I deserve the worse possible punishment. The tables are turned and I am caught and condemned. My future is torture, slavery and death. My only hope is the wonderful word: “forgiveness”. I place myself in the shoes of Benjamin and I am staring wide-eyed at my own brother. I place myself in the regal clothing of Joseph and I am caught between vengeance and mercy. I want to have a heart like Joseph, who surprised 10 guilty men with “forgiveness”.

P. Father God, You preserved this marvelous story for 3,800 years. You are trying to teach me something. Judah offered himself to save Benjamin, and You sent your Son, born of a virgin, a descendant of Judah, to offer Himself to rescue me. I rejoice! I am forgiven, not because I am guiltless, but because of Your great love. Please give me a forgiving heart like Joseph’s and like Yours.  Amen.


Captured by Love

Tuesday 1-17-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Gen 42 – 43, Psalm 5 and Luke 17
S = Scripture  O = Observation  A = Application  P = Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Luke 17:20-21 One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, "When will the Kingdom of God come?" Jesus replied, "The Kingdom of God isn't ushered in with visible signs.   You won't be able to say, 'Here it is!' or 'It's over there!' For the Kingdom of God is among you." NLT

O. The religious Jews were hoping for a day to come when their Messiah would conquer their enemies and establish a Kingdom with its center in Jerusalem. Most of the Pharisees did not believe in Jesus, but they questioned Him constantly, either seeking to catch Him in an error or perhaps, in this case, just to see what He would say. Jesus’ answer sets them back on their heels. “Don’t look for a gala parade ushering in the Kingdom of God. Don’t expect a situation where you can run up to take selfies with the new king. Hey! The Kingdom of God is already here, right now “among you”. NUHV** Several translations say, “within you”. 

A. At the time of this question, Jesus has already begun to usher in the Kingdom of God. It is destined to be a kingdom without borders of a river or a mountain range. This kingdom is wherever the King has conquered his subjects. It exists wherever the King reigns. This King does not win territory by force. He wins by conquering the heart with His great love. I was just a little child. I did not understand political borders, but I met my King and surrendered without a fight.

P. Lord Jesus, You did not take me by force and You do not retain me by force.  You paid the price for my redemption. You bought me at the cost of Your blood. You purchased a slave to sin, so You could set me free. I have been captured by Your love. And You have welcomed me into Your Kingdom, the Kingdom of God. What a privilege! Amen.

**New Unauthorized Hiatt Version

God’s Delays

Monday 1-15-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Gen 39 – 41 and Luke 16
S = Scripture  O = Observation  A = Application  P = Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S. Gen 40:13-15 Within three days Pharaoh will take you out of prison and return you to your position as his chief cup-bearer.  And please have some pity on me when you are back in his favor. Mention me to Pharaoh, and ask him to let me out of here.  For I was kidnapped from my homeland, the land of the Hebrews, and now I'm here in jail, but I did nothing to deserve it."
Vs 23 Pharaoh's cup-bearer, however, promptly forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought. NLT

O. Joseph was living in a dungeon, probably a prison in the basement of Potiphar’s estate. He had been falsely accused. He could have been complaining to God, “God, I did the right thing and refused to sin against You. Why did You allow this wicked woman to throw me into this dungeon?” Then when he pled with Pharoah’s cup-bearer to plead his case… the cup-bearer forgot about Joseph. “Why, Lord?” Two more years in prison followed. But God brought him out exactly on time. God’s time.

A. This beautiful story says to me that God has His timetable. And although I may be getting impatient and nervous, God is always right on time.

P. Lord Jesus, look down upon us. This world is in a major mess. Knowledge has increased, but now that wonderful knowledge is also in the hands of evil men. My heart cries, “Lord, hurry up! Come and rescue us from potential danger.” And I hear Your answer to my cries, “Ralph, just read again the story of Joseph in prison and know that I will come… right on time… God’s time.” Even so, Come, Lord Jesus!” Amen.

He’s Coming Soon
Lyrics by Thoro Harris

In these, the closing days of time,
What joy the glorious hope affords,
That soon—O wondrous truth sublime!
He shall reign, King of kings and Lord of Lords.
He’s coming soon, He’s coming soon;
With joy we welcome His returning;
It may be morn, it may be night or noon—
We know He’s coming soon.
The signs around—in earth and air,
Or painted on the starlit sky,
God’s faithful witnesses—declare
That the coming of the Savior draweth nigh.
The dead in Christ who ’neath us lie,
In countless numbers, all shall rise
When through the portals of the sky
He shall come to prepare our paradise.
And we, who living, yet remain,
Caught up, shall meet our faithful Lord;
This hope we cherish not in vain,
But we comfort one another by this word.

A Titan Missile and Wonderful Peace

Sunday 1-15-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Gen 37 – 38, Psalm 7 and Luke 15
S = Scripture  O = Observation  A = Application  P = Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S. Ps 7:15-16 They dig a pit to trap others and then fall into it themselves. They make trouble, but it backfires on them. They plan violence for others, but it falls on their own heads. NLT

O. In David’s day a hidden pit with a fake covering was a lethal weapon used by his enemies. David calls them wicked.

A. During the “cold war” Russia was threatening to destroy a city in the US with a powerful hydrogen atomic bomb. War is always “wicked”. The US felt that they had to match that threat in case of an attack. Friday night I watched a movie depicting an apparently true story of an accident that could have destroyed an entire state. Massive Titan missiles were built, armed and ready to fire. They were buried in top secret locations deep in a “pit”. A simple accident happened, when part of a tool fell deep into the pit, punctured the fuel tank of this Titan missile. Theoretically thousands of lives were in danger. When the leaking fuel finally exploded only one young military man was killed and another seriously injured. The atomic warhead was blown out of the hole, but by its design, and by the mercy of God, it did not detonate.
Today there are several nations that already have or are developing atomic warheads, probably accumulating enough explosive power to destroy most of the civilization from the face of this earth. But just storing these warheads in a “safe pit” could put an entire country in danger of a deadly explosion. The aggressor is digging a pit that could destroy himself and his nation.

P. Lord Jesus, I thank you that, to my knowledge, thus far no accident has detonated an atomic warhead within the United States. Your word predicts wars and rumors of wars. International peace seems to be hanging by a fragile thread. I thank You for “Your peace,” not the peace that the world can offer. Lord Jesus You promised, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 NIV Because of You, tonight I can lie down and sleep in peace. Amen.

Wonderful Peace
By Warren D. Cornell, 1889

1.    Far away in the depths of my spirit tonight
Rolls a melody sweeter than psalm;
In celestial-like strains it unceasingly falls
O’er my soul like an infinite calm.
o   Refrain:
Peace, peace, wonderful peace,
Coming down from the Father above!
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray
In fathomless billows of love!
2.    What a treasure I have in this wonderful peace,
Buried deep in the heart of my soul,
So secure that no power can mine it away,
While the years of eternity roll!
3.    I am resting tonight in this wonderful peace,
Resting sweetly in Jesus’ control;
For I’m kept from all danger by night and by day,
And His glory is flooding my soul!
4.    And I think when I rise to that city of peace,
Where the Author of peace I shall see,
That one strain of the song which the ransomed will sing
In that heavenly kingdom will be:
5.    Ah soul, are you here without comfort and rest,
Marching down the rough pathway of time?
Make Jesus your friend ere the shadows grow dark;
Oh, accept this sweet peace so sublime!

'There is still room for more.'

Saturday 1-14-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Gen 34 – 36 and Luke 14
S = Scripture  O = Observation  A = Application  P = Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S. Luke 14:21-24 'Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the city and invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.'  After the servant had done this, he reported, 'There is still room for more.'  So his master said, 'Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full.  For none of those I invited first will get even the smallest taste of what I had prepared for them.'" NLT

O. All of Jesus’ parables are filled with hidden truths. Who were the healthy, wealthy original people invited? Probably the religious Israelites to whom he was speaking. They were too busy with life. Who, then, were those to whom the Master sent his servant? They were those that had never before heard an invitation like this. They had nothing to offer, but their presence. “Come, there is still room at the Master’s table!”

A. “Ralph, I am taking to you.” “Yes, Lord, what’s up?” “The world around you is filled with people that are too busy with their trivial lives to pay any attention to my invitation. So, I am sending you to the sick, the sinful, the addicts, the distant, the isolated and the forgotten ones. Some of them are little helpless and hopeless children. Some are youth that have been trapped in sin, gangs and drugs. Some are aged, isolated and forgotten. I am sending you to them. They can’t fill your coffers. They can only repay you with a heart-felt ‘Thank you’ and a hug. This and only this will be your golden reward. You still have some ‘go’ in you. So now, ‘go for the gold!’”

P. Lord Jesus, I am out of excuses. You have given me health and energy beyond many of my peers. I will go again. I will seek them out. I will pour out Your divine love on them… and, yes, they will respond to sit with me at Your table and celebrate with You.  Amen.

PS. For all my friends: Yes, December 31st I turned 85. And I just now purchased my ticket back to Argentina, leaving March 8th. I’ll have 90 days to minister until June 6th. I count on your prayers.

A camel’s saddle full of gods

Friday 1-13-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Gen 31 – 33 and Luke 13
S = Scripture  O = Observation  A = Application  P = Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S. Gen 31:19-20 Rachel stole her father's household gods and took them with her. They set out secretly and never told Laban they were leaving.
Vs 31 But Jacob didn't know that Rachel had taken them.
Vs 34-35 Rachel had taken the household gods and had stuffed them into her camel saddle, and now she was sitting on them. So although Laban searched all the tents, he couldn't find them. NLT

O. Apparently, Rachel was still an idol worshipper in her heart. She had been raised that way as a little child in her father, Laban’s home. Now she probably stole her father’s “household gods” for good-luck. But Laban missed his “household gods” immediately and intended to carry them back to his home. How many “household gods” can you fit into a camel’s saddle and still sit on it? If you can hide your god by sitting on him, he is too small.

A. In the city of San Juan, Argentina, there was a business that made frames for pictures and also sold religious icons of all sizes. I was in that store ordering a frame for a picture when a very troubled woman came into the shop. She yelled at the young lady clerk. “You sold me a faulty god! Twice he fell off his stand and this time he broke off his hand. Besides this, he has brought me nothing but bad luck!” Yes, many people in this world are trusting in an icon statue or a little silver amulet that they hang around the neck. They touch it and pray to it, hoping for good luck.

P. Heavenly Father, maybe that is why I keep returning to Argentina. I want to introduce them to You… a God that cannot be broken, stolen and stuffed into a camel’s saddle. They need to know that Your Son Jesus has paid the price for our sins and opened the door for us unworthy sinners to come into Your throne room without fear and lay our petitions before You. You don’t promise me “good luck”, but something much better, Your blessing of eternal salvation which brings great joy welling up within my heart. Amen.


How long is love?

Thursday 1-12-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Gen 29 – 30 and Luke 12
S = Scripture  O = Observation  A = Application  P = Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S. Gen 29:17-20 Rachel was beautiful in every way, with a lovely face and shapely figure. Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he told her father, "I'll work for you seven years if you'll give me Rachel, your younger daughter, as my wife." "Agreed!" Laban replied. "I'd rather give her to you than to someone outside the family." So Jacob spent the next seven years working to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days. NLT

O. Rachel’s father, Laban, could not be trusted. From the first mention of his name, one could see where his interests were. He was highly impressed by riches, attracted to gold rings and bracelets.** Now many years later Jacob arrived at Laban’s place with no riches, but he fell in love with his gorgeous youngest daughter, Rachel. So, it is Jacob that suggests to Laban that he earn the right to marry Rachel by working for seven years for Laban. Seven years! Obviously this guy was sick with love! Why not seven months or maybe seven weeks? But they say “time flies when you are having fun”.

A. During seven years Jacob worked for Laban and kept his eye on that charming young thing that was blossoming like a rose, every day becoming more beautiful. He was sick with a disease called “love”. The years flew by like days. But then, that tricky Laban blew out the lights and switched brides on him.
I fell in love very young, but I wasn’t offering to wait seven years to get married. I would wait for almost two years, but I had a purpose in that delay. I wanted to give us time to become well acquainted, to really know one another. But, please not seven years! I might have become a grumpy old man by that time!

P. Jesus, I fell in love with You 80 years ago. And the years go by like days as I approach the time when I will be united with You. And by the way, I want to thank You for leading me to the right companion for my life. An error at that point in my life would have spelled tragedy. So, just as I trusted You to guide me way back so many years ago, I ask You to guide me down this road today. I am still in love with You. Maybe I could have the privilege of working for You seven more years… even seven months or seven weeks would be okay. Amen.

**Genesis 24:29 tells how Laban saw the gold nose ring and the golden bracelets on his sister, Rebekah, so he ran to meet the man with these riches and invited him in. All his life Laban seemed impressed by riches. They seemed to become his priority in life.

What amazing grace!

Wednesday 1-11-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Gen 27 – 28, Psalm 4 and Luke 11 
S = Scripture  O = Observation  A = Application  P = Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S. Gen 27:38 Esau pleaded, "Not one blessing left for me? O my father, bless me, too!" Then Esau broke down and wept. NLT

O. Jacob, prompted by his mother, Rebekah, had cleverly tricked Isaac into thinking he was blessing his favorite son, Esau. The deception worked, and Isaac, who was old and blind, prayed his generous covenant-blessing over Jacob instead of his twin brother Esau. Soon after this, Esau returns from hunting wild game, and carefully prepares a savory meal and with great anticipation of a generational blessing, presents it to his blind father. But Esau discovers that his father has no hunger now. He has just eaten the food that Jacob brought him. His brother Jacob had stolen his covenant-blessing. 

A. I admit that I am a soft touch, but every time I read this story I cannot help but place myself in Esau’s situation. When he cries out the desperate plea (shown above) to his father, I find myself tearing up and, yes, I weep along with Esau. I confess that I wonder why God still honored the stolen covenant-blessing for Jacob. But I am not in a position to judge God for His decisions. I have only a small part of this story (or of any story for that matter) whereas God sees the whole picture, even our deep-seated motives.

P. So, Heavenly Father, as I walk this path of life and face many situations, help me to restrain from judging someone in my heart.** I am tempted to say, “But Lord, how can You bless the ministry of that brother? Look what he did!” And You answer me with these words, “Do you think for a moment that I have blessed you because you are without dark spots? I have seen your repentant heart and have blessed you time and again when you did not deserve it.” Yes, it is true, Lord. What amazing grace! Amen.

**Luke 6:37 Stop judging others, and you will not be judged. Stop criticizing others, or it will all come back on you. If you forgive others, you will be forgiven… NLT

The devil says he hates me! Praise God!

Tuesday 1-10-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Gen 25 – 26, Psalm 6 and Luke 10 
S = Scripture  O = Observation  A = Application  P = Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S. Ps 6:4 Return, O LORD, and rescue me. Save me because of your unfailing love.
Vs 8-10 Go away, all you who do evil, for the LORD has heard my crying. The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD will answer my prayer. May all my enemies be disgraced and terrified. May they suddenly turn back in shame. NLT

O. David was anointed to become king over Israel, but it was no piece of cake. For many years he was hounded by his enemies who wanted to kill him. 

A. My brother, Mel, achieved an enviable position as an aeronautical engineer, but he confessed to me that there were always others that wanted his position and were seeking to dethrone him. Rising to a high position, whether king, president or any other place of authority, is filled with stress and sometimes life-threatening dangers.
During an evangelistic crusade, a young lady who had just been delivered from demon possession, told me, “When I entered this tent and sat in the back row, I hated you with a passion the first time I saw you.” My heart responded in silence, “I can’t think of anybody I would rather have to hate me than the devil.”
King David knew where to go for the protection he needed. He recognized his helplessness and danger and called on the Lord God with tears.  He concludes this psalm with a statement of faith, “Watch out! You, my enemies! Run for your lives! Because the LORD will answer my prayer.

P. Dear Jesus, as far as I know, the devil is the only one that wants to take me out. I suppose that is always a real threat, but I am trusting in You and am assured that You will answer my prayers. And now I pray for the new president elect in my country, for there can be no doubt that his life is in extreme danger. Amen.


Sent on a mission

Monday 1-9-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Gen 23 – 24 and Luke 9 
S = Scripture  O = Observation  A = Application  P = Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S. Gen 24:55-58 "But we want Rebekah to stay at least ten days," her brother and mother said. "Then she can go." But he said, "Don't hinder my return. The LORD has made my mission successful, and I want to report back to my master." "Well," they said, "we'll call Rebekah and ask her what she thinks." So they called Rebekah. "Are you willing to go with this man?" they asked her. And she replied, "Yes, I will go." NLT

O. Abraham’s faithful servant is not named, yet he is one of the principle characters of this enticing story. He is sent on a specific mission to a distant land to bring back a bride for his son, Isaac. He seeks and receives the Lord’s guidance. He finds this charming girl, Rebekah. She and her family believe the story this servant tells them, although they have never seen this guy before. And they agree to send their beautiful daughter away to never see her again. What a daring girl! She agrees to say goodbye to her family to leave one way of life for another as Isaac’s wife, who she has never seen.

A. I am only a servant of my Master. He called me aside and sent me to a distant land on a mission. He made the purpose of this journey clear. I am to seek out a bride for His Son. I must find her and tell her the true story that He is waiting with open arms to receive her. I do not go alone. God’s Spirit accompanies me and He sends His angels ahead of me to prepare the way. And, wonder of wonders! She hears the message and believes it is true. She leaves her former life behind and steps into a new role… the bride of Christ.

P. Oh God! I only want to be Your faithful servant. Prepare me with Your message as You send me on this mission. You have promised me success if I can only be true to Your calling. Here am I, send me! Amen.


My team of women

Sunday 1-8-17, Home again, Modesto, California
Today we read Gen 20 – 22 and Luke 8 
S = Scripture  O = Observation  A = Application  P = Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S. Luke 8:1-3 Not long afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby cities and villages to announce the Good News concerning the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women he had healed and from whom he had cast out evil spirits. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples. NLT

O. We usually think of Jesus traveling with only his 12 disciples, but at least while in Galilee as they visited nearby cities and villages, he was accompanied by a fairly large group of devout women including Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's business manager; Susanna; and many others…” Mark adds two more names: “Mary (the mother of James the younger and of Joseph), and Salome… followers of Jesus and who cared for him while he was in Galilee. (Mark 15:40-41) These women not only followed Him, but were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.” Joanna, was wife to King Herod’s business manager. Probably King Herod was unaware that his business manager’s wife was tithing to Jesus. These ladies heard His parables and witnessed His miracles. And they doubtless supplied good, healthy food and encouraged Him. They were part of Jesus’ team, faithful even to follow Him into the jaws of death when He returned to die in Jerusalem and to be the first at the empty tomb.

A. Where would Frances and I be without the faithful lady servants of the Lord that have encouraged us, supported us and prayed daily for us? Yes, and still today, my ministry is blessed and expanded by women of the Lord. One is a lady servant of the Lord who translates all my devotionals into Spanish. Another lady responds to every single devotional to encourage me. One sends faithful monetary support to my missionary account, although I never requested it. And all these pray daily for me (and several men, too). They are my consistent, dependable team.

P. What a blessing, Lord Jesus! Yes, there are many more, both men and women that are part of my team. Tears flow when they hug me and whisper, “I pray for you every day.” These are those that will follow me to the grave… either theirs or mine… and one day soon we will gather at Your feet, dear Jesus, where we will celebrate together. Amen.


The angels seized their hands and ran

Saturday 1-7-17, Home again, Modesto, California
Today we read Gen 18 – 19, Psalm 3 and Luke 7 
S = Scripture  O = Observation  A = Application  P = Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S. Gen 19:12-13 "Do you have any other relatives here in the city?" the angels asked. "Get them out of this place — sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone else. For we will destroy the city completely. The stench of the place has reached the LORD, and he has sent us to destroy it."
Vs 16-17 When Lot still hesitated, the angels seized his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters and rushed them to safety outside the city, for the LORD was merciful. "Run for your lives!" the angels warned. "Do not stop anywhere in the valley. And don't look back! Escape to the mountains, or you will die." NLT

O. Obviously the “life style” of “all of the men” of Sodom, “both young and old” had evolved into the practice of mass raping. And our wonderful, loving, Creator God could no longer stand the stench of their sinful practices. He had promised to Abraham that if He could find even ten righteous people in the city, He would spare it. God’s angels grabbed the hands of Lot and his wife and two daughters and rushed them out of the city. Why? “for the LORD was merciful”.

A. What kind of odor is our country sending up to our Creator today? We can be sure that it is not always a sweet perfume. What is keeping this, our country, from a similar fate to that of Sodom? Perhaps it is the “ten righteous” who have not yet surrendered to “political correctness” and are willing to call sin, “sin”. When we express our concern for those who are being pushed, yes, even forced into this and other dangerous, evil practices, the public accuses us a hating the people involved. Only Christians seem capable of understanding that we can truly love the sinner, desire the best for him or her, and at the same time hate what God calls “sinful practices”, that some call “optional life styles,” that are destroying them.

P. Lord Jesus, I am so thankful that You have removed the curtain that seemed to hide the face of our Creator. You show us a Father God Who wants to protect us from the evils that surround us. When we look at You, Jesus, we see “the Father.” You showed us the face of “The invisible God”. Father, You care about Your creation. Even though we are all equally sinners, You loved us enough to sacrifice Your only Son to rescue us from the grasp of the evil one. For, as You were in the days of Lot, You are still our merciful God. One of these days soon, You may grab us by the hand and rush us away to safely before the final devastation. Amen.