Thursday, March 2, 2017

Who is the king of the mountain?**

Thursday 3-2-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Num 30 – 31 and Mark 9
S = Scripture,  O = Observation,  A = Application,  P = Prayer,  SOAP for the soul.

S. Mark 9:33-37 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the road?" But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."  He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me." NIV

O. It was difficult to get the disciples alone with just Jesus. The Master has just clearly told them of His coming death and resurrection, but now they are arguing about which one of them should be their leader.  He calls them to Himself, sits down and says, “Boys, I noticed that are discussing leadership.” A little child now has now crowded in behind the twelve. Jesus beckons for him to come to Him. He feels no fear in approaching Jesus. Jesus first had him “stand among them”. He is not tall and strong like they are. He is just a little “nobody”… until Jesus lifts the little one and sits him on His knee. “Take a good look, boys, here is your model for leadership.” And one more thing, “Open your arms to a little guy, like this one, and you will have just opened your arms to Me. And if you open your arms to Me, you will have just opened your arms to God, the Father.”

A. So, how much time and effort, energy and money should I devote to little children, whose offerings only add up to one dollar on a good day? If I open my arms to show that little scamp some love and care, I have just opened my arms to welcome Jesus, into my embrace. Do I dare to risk popularity, fame and yes, money, to bring little children into a relationship with King Jesus? Maybe our Master’s eyes are focusing out behind that group of deacons that has gathered for instructions… Maybe He sees a little child that hasn’t a clue about what is going on. “Come here, little one. Sit on my knee for a minute. I want to make a leader out of you!”

P. Lord, we Americans are concerned about making good investments. Wall Street rises and falls. Our currency loses its buying power. And You are beckoning to a little child to lift up in Your tender arms. You are going to invest in a potential leader. Open my eyes Lord. Help me to see that little “nobody” that is looking on from the outside and make him or her to become one of Your very own. Amen.

**When we were kids we played “king of the mountain”. We found a little hill and we would try to beat all the others to the top. We were the ‘king of the mountain” until some bigger kid pushed us off our “throne”. Hmm. We were learning about leadership. Leaders get pushed off by challengers. Oh dear!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Who do you say am I?

Wednesday 3-1-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Num 28 – 29 and Mark 8
S = Scripture,  O = Observation,  A = Application,  P = Prayer,  SOAP for the soul.

S. Mark 8:27-30 As they were walking along, he asked them, "Who do people say I am?" "Well," they replied, "some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets." Then Jesus asked, "Who do you say I am?" Peter replied, "You are the Messiah." But Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. NLT

O. Jesus has walked throughout Galilee, Judea and even Samaria accompanied by his disciples for close to 3 years now. They have heard His messages, probed Him for answers about His parables and witnessed His miracles. Now He hands out the exam paper to His class. It has only two questions on the page. “Write below who do other people say that I am?  And: Who do you personally say that I am?” Everybody got in on the first question with multiple answers. But Peter turns in his exam paper immediately… while others are still thinking. He had already made up his mind, “Jesus is the Messiah, the long-awaited Christ, the Anointed One, the Son of the Living God.” (Matt 16)

A. My eternal salvation rests on how I answer the last question on that exam. Others may answer, “a great man”, “an excellent teacher”, “a prophetic voice”, “a godly man.” But the Apostle John writes: Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God. (1 John 5:1) NLT It is imperative that I get this answer correctly.

P. Lord Jesus, You descended from heaven to be born into a wicked, cruel world. You came to show us God the Father. Through Your Holy written Word my eyes have seen You in action. I have believed and witnessed personally your powerful miracle-working power. I have been taken to the scene of Your cross.  I have entered and looked around inside Your empty tomb. Now I must confidently declare to a dying world that You are their only hope, the Christ, the Son of the Living God! That declaration both saves me and offers salvation to others. Amen.


San Francisco Comunidad Cristiana

I enjoyed a great service last Sunday morning with my friends, Pastors Stan and Magdalena Lindvall at their delightful Spanish speaking Comunidad Cristiana Church in San Francisco. Stan is an MK (missionary kid to El Salvador) and we knew his parents who are long ago with the Lord.

We had the children come into the service just for the time with Perfume and Felipe. They obviously loved petting my skunk, Perfume. 

My voice was not in top shape, but Felipe did okay and the kids (and adult kids, too) were very responsive.

Felipe did his thing and everybody seemed delighted.

I keep my accordion in Argentina, since I hardly ever would use it in the USA.  But I mentioned to somebody at our Neighborhood Church and an elderly couple loaned me an ancient accordion that nobody had played for many years.  Inside the case is a plaque saying “Patented in 1931.” I was born on the last day of that same year.  It is a good brand “Hohner” and in remarkably good shape for its age (kind of like old me, ha ha). I took it home last week and tried to play it. I thought for a while that I would never get used to it, but behold… in a few hours I was getting the hang of it. My accordion has 96 bass buttons and this one is has only 80… which means that a whole row of buttons with the diminished chords are missing.  

I taught a chorus for the kids to sing with me and another to the adults to go with my message. I couldn’t believe how many times the fingers on my left hand went searching for one of those 16 missing buttons, but I doubt that anybody noticed, except me. 

I felt led of the Lord to preach to them a message directed mostly to Christians. Latins are much more fun than us stoic Anglos. They actually laugh when you are supposed to laugh and weep when it’s time to weep (Just like Brother Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 3:4) And that is what was happening, as many of them responded to kneel at the altar.  And later when some were rising from their knees, I donned the accordion again and we sang the song again that I had taught them.

After all had returned to their seats, Pastor Stan gave a clear call for the unsaved and several new visitors responded to receive Jesus, thank the Lord. I probably should have done that, but I was concerned about having preached until 1 PM… and I left it up to the pastor, who knows his people.

After the final “Amen” I noticed that people were purchasing my book and waiting in line for me to dedicate and sign it for them.  So I did that for the next 30 minutes or more.  They ended up buying all 29 of the Spanish books that I had taken and one man had to wait until next time.

Before driving home, their church cook provided us with an abundant salmon and salad dinner… delicious!

Thank you, Jesus. (I have one more service scheduled before leaving for Argentina… at a church called “The Tree” in Santa Rosa on Friday evening, March 3 at 6:30 PM.)


The Mystery of Balaam

Tuesday 2-28-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Num 24 – 27 and 1 Cor 13
S = Scripture,  O = Observation,  A = Application,  P = Prayer,  SOAP for the soul.

S. Num 24:9 Like a lion, Israel crouches and lies down; like a lioness, who dares to arouse her?  Blessed is everyone who blesses you, O Israel, and cursed is everyone who curses you."
Vs 17 I see him, but not in the present time. I perceive him, but far in the distant future. A star will rise from Jacob; a scepter will emerge from Israel.

O. As I study the life of this man, Balaam, I am perplexed. He is a heathen involved in divinations (apparently like the cults of Spiritism) and actually has contact with Jehovah God Who speaks to him. He initially resists the temptation to get rich by cursing the Israelites for Balak king of Moab. Later three times he goes out to curse Israel and each time God uses him to bless them with beautiful prophecy in poetry.  So why does he go down in history as an enemy of God’s people?

A. The secret is revealed in the words of Jesus through John to the church in Pergamum Rev 2:14 You tolerate some among you who are like Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to worship idols by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin. NLT  Balaam was a servant of Satan in disguise. His public message was true and beautiful, but in secret he taught King Balak how to destroy Israel’s effectiveness by sending sensual foreign women into the Israelite camp.  Soon many young men had sex with these women who then taught them to worship their heathen god, Baal. And since they had no free access to “Planned Parenthood”, they took their little newborn babies and sacrificed them to Molech (also spelled Moloch). I will never forget an artist’s picture of the god Molech that I saw when I was a little child. It was a hollow iron furnace shaped like a huge beast with arms stretched out to cradle a baby and once fried would slide into a hole in his belly. Apparently they would take their unwanted babies, the result of sex with these sensual women, and lay them in these red hot outstretched arms to hear them scream and die.
Dear friends, our wonderful Christian America has been tricked by Satan, who is promoting Balaam’s sex game among our children and teens… and mercilessly killing the resulting babies before they can be heard to scream… resulting in teens who sometimes contemplate suicide as they cannot escape from condemning themselves as murderers. In the case of Israel many thousands died of a plague.

P. Lord, today I am praying for America and for Argentina. Our once Christian United States of America has become leaders in sensual movies and the addictive cult of pornography that has now polluted the entire world. I pray for our youth, yes, our Christian youth, who cannot escape the deluge of sensual temptation, the religion of Baal, surrounding them. Why, Oh Lord? Why are millions of our babies being sacrificed into the arms of Molech, in an attempt to cover up secret sin?  Lord Jesus, I cry for mercy. I cry for grace!  I cry for your great salvation to push back this heathen religion of lust and sex… and reveal its resulting devastation. Amen.


Holy Disturbance

Monday 2-27-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Num 21 – 23 and Mark 6 - 7
S = Scripture,  O = Observation,  A = Application,  P = Prayer,  SOAP for the soul.

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

O. The ministry of John the Baptist had affected many Israelites. His fame as a fearless, outspoken preacher was shaking the area. Some spies reported to King Herod Antipas that this preacher was using him as an illustration of a bold, immoral sinner, who had stolen his own brother’s wife. Now the king’s woman goes into a rage. So, one day John is out there alongside the Jordan river, preaching his message of repentance from sin and here comes a troop of soldiers on horseback pushing through the crowd. John is arrested and thrown in prison. But Herod liked to call up this man of God now and then to listen to his message… even though it “disturbed” him.

A. Many authorities were captured by the messages of Billy Graham, giving him opportunity to be heard by top officials.  Without doubt his message “disturbed” many of them and hopefully some responded by humbling themselves before Christ. Others, that may have enjoyed hearing him, were doubtless “disturbed” by Holy Spirit conviction, but chose to push his message to one side and continue their godless lives. 

P. Lord, I am reminded that I can shake the preacher’s hand and say, “Great sermon today, pastor!” But if I have not responded to the “disturbance” of Your Holy Spirit, calling me to fall humbly before You, seeking Your mercy and Your soul cleansing, saving power to change my life, I am still lost. I may have only inoculated my own spirit to make it easier for me to hear and walk away untouched the next time. Oh God! I pray for divine, holy “disturbance” that will leave me flat on my face before You, crying out for mercy and grace… and for changes deep in my soul that will affect my attitudes and actions. And one more thing, Lord. Please send Your “holy disturbance” to lost sinners whenever I preach. Amen.

Just as I am
By Charlotte Elliott
Just as I am, without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me
And that Thou bid'st me come to Thee
O Lamb of God, I come! I come
Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt
Fighting and fears within without
O Lamb of God, I come, I come
Just as I am, and waiting not
to rid my soul of one dark blot
to thee whose blood can cleanse each spot
O Lamb of God, I come, I come
Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind
Sight, riches, healing of the mind
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!
Just as I am, Thou wilt receive
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve
Because Thy promise I believe
O Lamb of God, I come, I come

Sorry, Jesus, You cost too much. Good-bye!

Sunday 2-26-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Num 19 – 20, Psalm 28 and Mark 5
S = Scripture,  O = Observation,  A = Application,  P = Prayer,  SOAP for the soul.

S. Mark 5:16-17 Those who had seen what happened to the man and to the pigs told everyone about it, and the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone. NLT

O. On the one hand we have a demon dominated area without Jesus. A screaming man out of human control, dominated by perhaps 6,000 demons (one legion). Everybody knows this guy. Nobody dares to go near him. And we have a nearby huge herd of 2,000 pigs. This is status quo. This is balance for this area. They are accustomed to live like this. Now Jesus’ little boat scrapes on the submerged gravel on the beach and the King of heaven steps onto the shore.  A few minutes later we have one sane, converted, man ready to return to his family and preach, testifying to Christ’s power to 10 cities and, oh yes, 2,000 stinking drowned pigs floating near the shore. Now the public leaders survey the scene and take a vote. Sorry Jesus, your ministry is too expensive for us in this area.  Please take your heavenly power and go. And Jesus doesn’t push the issue. The King of Glory sails away.

A. Jesus is not always welcomed. Everything had been under control… the devil’s control, and now we are introducing Jesus into the equation? Well, Jesus was just too expensive. It is true that Jesus can change the look of a community. Demons flee and sometimes leave behind some stinking dead pigs for us to clean up.

P. Well, Jesus, some of us think You are worth a lot more than 2,000 smoked hams. Please know that You are welcome to my neighborhood. I am grateful that You are more powerful than all the demons of hell. Maybe we can form a team of volunteers to bury the garbage after You sweep the devil’s mess into one stinking heap. Amen.


God’s Voice

Saturday 2-25-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Num 17 – 18, Psalm 29 and Mark 4
S = Scripture, O = Observation, A = Application, P = Prayer, SOAP for the soul.

S. Ps 29:3-4 The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD thunders over the mighty waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic. NIV

O. Seven times, in seven verses, “the voice of the Lord” is described. It is ‘over the mighty waters, powerful, majestic, breaks great cedars, makes the mountain skip like a calf, strikes like lightning, shakes the desert, makes the deer give birth, and strips the forests bare.’ The sound of God’s voice seems to be shaking things up. But the psalm closes with verse 11 The LORD gives strength to his people; The LORD blesses his people with peace. NIV

A. In Mark chapter 4 Jesus commands the wind to be silent and there is a sudden calm. The disciples are learning Who this Man is… Who sleeps through the storm. The elements just heard the “voice of the Lord!” Sometimes the “voice of the Lord” does not bless us by pulling us out of the danger zone. Instead, even as the earth shakes beneath our feet, the Lord blesses His people with peace.

P. Oh Lord God of the heavens above and the earth beneath, please give me that special kind of peace that calms my heart even while the earth below my feet is trembling. Amen.


Just in Case

Friday 2-24-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Num 14 – 15 and Mark 3
S = Scripture,  O = Observation,  A = Application,  P = Prayer,  SOAP for the soul.

S. Mark 3:7-9 Jesus and his disciples went out to the lake, followed by a huge crowd from all over Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, from east of the Jordan River, and even from as far away as Tyre and Sidon. The news about his miracles had spread far and wide, and vast numbers of people came to see him for themselves. Jesus instructed his disciples to bring around a boat and to have it ready in case he was crowded off the beach. NLT

O. Jesus, now followed by a huge crowd, took his disciples to the lake shore. There on the beach the sick and needy crowded him seeking a fresh start in life with new health. I can see it now, Jesus is being pushed around by the seething mass of people. He turns to Peter, “Go get your boat and bring it up to the shore here, just in case this mob crowds me off into the water.” Apparently, it didn’t happen until the next day. This time he got into the boat right at the start and used it as His platform… separated from the mob by water. 

A. “Just in case?” Didn’t Jesus know if it would be needed? Maybe He was teaching us, who do not know the future, to be ready “just in case.” I have been accused of always seeing the possible negatives, a man of small faith… since I always was preparing a ‘Plan B’ just in case ‘Plan A’ happened to fail: A generator ready if the city has a blackout, a battery powered amplifier on hand just in case the sound system failed, a fire extinguisher handy, a vehicle available just in case of emergency.  Most of the time my ‘escape route’ was not needed, but sometimes it saved the day.

P. Okay, Lord, I admit that my mind tends to go over the whole building project seeking out possible problems and preparing for each one, ‘just in case.’ Maybe it’s a lack of faith, but I call it good sense. Either way, I can’t help myself, so I’ll just take it as Your special gift to me and take the ridicule.  And when the lights suddenly all go out, may I just run over and humbly crank up the generator. And, although I am giggling inside, may I never say, “I told you so!” J Amen.