September 21 Devotional

A few years ago I was introduced to a series of adventure stories written by a man name Louis L’Amour.  His books are mostly set in the days when families were venturing west to create the United States as we know it today.  They are wholesome stories, and he was a master at forming a character you felt like you had known, or would like to know.  I have read these books more than once, but after a while I begin to remember the scenes or the ending and the book loses its intrigue.

 

There is another book that I have become very fond of in my lifetime.  Actually, I have fallen head over heels in love with this book.  It is funny, because I have attempted to read this book through every year for the past thirty years, and it is still as fresh today as it was the first time I picked it up.  This book is not a book for entertainment.  This book is not a mystery book.  This is not a book of fiction.  This book is THE Book of all books, the Bible.  Today I read, “Thy Word is true from the beginning: and every one of Thy righteous judgments endureth forever” (Psalm 119:160).

 

This is the same Book I memorized when I was a boy to get a star in my Sunday School class.  It was the Book I quoted when I stood in Christmas plays in my church.  It was the Book I studied for four years (really four and a half … but who’s counting) in college.  This is the Book we built our home on.  This is the Book I have had the privilege to preach/teach for the past thirty-two years of my life.  But more than all that, it is the Book I have looked forward to opening every morning to start my day … this morning was no exception.

 

The righteous judgments that I have wanted to build my life upon, and the lives of our children, and now our grandchildren have all been found in the Bible!  I thank God that the same Gospel I shared at the local mall every Friday night of my junior and senior years of High School, is the same now as it was then.  I am thankful that when I faced crisis’ in my life that the principles I had used as a foundation in the good times were just as steady in the bad times.  I am thankful that this book has not needed any “retraction” statements to be issued over the years.  Why?  This book is not “man-made!”  This book, as the psalmist said today, is true from the beginning: and every one of the righteous judgments in it will endure forever!  Build your life on it today.  Love it … read it … trust it … obey it!

 

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!” – Unknown

September 20 Devotional

Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame” (I Corinthians 15:34).  I’m sorry, that is not a very nice way to start the day!  But it is time for us all to wake up!  It is time for us to understand that the world we are living in desperately needs the Gospel we know so well!  It is time we wake up and realize that we are still on this earth for the purpose of reaching the uttermost parts of the earth with the precious message that we have heard so many times before!  It is time for us to stop our spiritual vacations and get busy while we have the chance to do the work of an evangelist.

 

The key to us spreading the Gospel throughout this world is ultimately found in the first phrase in this verse … we need to “Awake to righteousness, and sin not!”  It’s time for us to become serious about living godly, righteous lives.  I know none of us is perfect, but that should not stop us from making perfection a daily goal!  After all, we are serving a God Who claimed that He is holy, and challenged us to follow His example of holiness.  I am not standing on a soapbox preaching this “at” any of you.   I am pointing the finger of conviction directly at my own heart as I write this.  I desire to be holy … but I fail more often than I succeed it seems.

 

This failure is not a reason to quit.  I want to continue to relentlessly pursue righteous behavior every day of my life.  I want to make sure that my life-style reflects the grace and mercy of my God, mingled with his wisdom for living.  I want to be an example to an unsaved person that will help to draw them out of the pit of sin to set their feet on a rock.  I don’t want to get into the dredges of sin with them and invite them to my Savior!  I want to live in such a way that the unsaved will see the blessings of a godly life-style and want to have what I have!

 

In no way to I want to appear legalistic, or pharisaical, or like I have it all figured out, and you would be lucky to be like me.  That is not the point at all, but I do want to live an attractive, active spiritual life in front of the lost so they will see the hope that there is to be found in Jesus Christ!  I want to walk so closely with my Savior that I begin to copy His mannerisms.  I want to spend so much time in His Word that the principles of that Book will guide me through my life in obvious ways!  I want to sell out completely to my Savior for the sake of the lost world that so desperately needs to see Him!  Will you join me?

 

We must not sit down and look for miracles, be up and doing.” – John Eliot

September 19 Devotional

Isaiah paints a very clear picture of the ridiculous idea of idol worship in Isaiah 44.  He describes a man who went into the woods and cut down a tree.  The man then used part of that wood to warm himself with a fire.  He used another section of the tree to bake bread that he ate.  Then the man did a strange thing … he carved a section of the tree and made it his idol!  He then asked that stump of a tree to deliver him from his troubles!  How foolish!  Isaiah asked a good question … “Shall I fall down to the stock of a tree” (Isaiah 44:19)?

 

As foolish as this picture appears to be (and it describes a foolish way of thinking), I wonder how often I bow down to something I have created in my mind and given a place of priority?  I wonder how often I have pushed God off His throne to replace Him with whatever happens to be the treasure of my eye at the time?  A new shiny car … a beautiful new home … the job of my dreams … the money I can make at the job of my dreams … even my own family.  If we are honest with ourselves today, we must admit that there are things that constantly battle for the place in our heart that should be reserved for God alone!  Later in this same chapter it says, “Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art My servant: I have formed thee; thou art My servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of Me.  I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins:  Return unto Me; for I have redeemed thee” (Isaiah 44:21-22).

 

There are a couple of things that really touched my heart as I read through this chapter.  First, is the painful acknowledgement that I often replace God with a substitute that cannot help, or provide for my needs.  I am ashamed to admit this, but I think we are all guilty of this.  The second thing that is an incredible blessing to my heart is that despite my foolish dabbling in idol-worship, God still forgives and welcomes me back!  I cannot fathom the depth of His mercy toward me, but I am grateful for it.  I am so thankful for the daily forgiveness of sins God offers me.  Just like the children of Israel who dabbled in idol-worship so many times throughout their history, I seem to fall for the same sinful traps again and again in my walk with Christ.  Yet, every time I return to Him I find open arms waiting for me!   Avis B. Christiansen wrote a hymn that stated it this way:  “As at the cross  I humbly bow and gaze upon Thy thorn-crowned brow, and view the precious bleeding form by cruel nails so bruised and torn, knowing Thy suff’ring was for me, in grief I cry, ‘How can it be?’  How can it be that God should love a soul like me, O how can it be?”  What a great God!  Worship Him today!

September 18 Devotional

Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.  Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it?  I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:18-19).

 

I really needed these verses today.  It feels like I have been messing up, more than doing what’s right lately.  Has that ever happened to you?  After all, I am always telling someone else how to live for God, and how to do what’s right … then I look at my own walk, and I realize that I have a long way to go to become a godly man.  That is my number one goal in life … to walk with God in a way that will bless and challenge others.  However, preaching about it and living it are two different things.

 

I remember the frustration I felt as a teenager when I would go forward at the end of a church service to fully commit a part of my life to God, and then struggle in the days following to actually do what I had committed.  Nothing much has changed to this point.  I still am frustrated with how little effort I seem to give to living out the principles of the Word of God in my daily life.  God always brings verses along like these today that bring me back to reality.  The reality is that none of us is good enough to walk with God on our own.  We desperately need His help!  We need His daily guidance and help to get us back on track again and again.

 

I am so thankful to God that when I wander into the “wilderness” and “desert” areas of my Christian walk that He is there to pull me back to Himself.  He actually “makes a way” … I picture the father/mother clearing a path for that child that is just learning to walk.  I can just see God moving things that He knows would hinder my walk with Him so that I can find the paths He has for me for each day.  How good is that?!

 

I’ve got to do my part in this process of finding new paths in the wilderness and deserts of my life.  I need to close off the failures of the past.  That means I need to seek forgiveness for sins of the past.  I need then to repent and turn my back on those sins.  It also means that I need to remove the power of influence those sins of my past want to hold on the steps I will take for the future.  I want to forget the things that are behind me so I can clearly see the paths in the deserts in front of me.  Don’t give up today!  God is still able to clear a path for your steps.  Look for His guiding hand!

 

God almost never calls His people to a fair fight.” – George Otis

September 17 Devotional

In college God led me to pursue Missions as my minor.  I attended a Bible College where we all majored in Bible.  I remember sitting in an early Missions class that was taught by a man of God named Austin Lockhart.  He had been a missionary for many years in Papua New Guiney.  He told us a story that I have never forgotten and would like to share with you today.  He told of landing in this very remote part of the world with his family with the goal of starting a church.  He and his family were the first white people the tribe had ever seen.  He was amazed at how quickly they were accepted.  He and his family began the task of learning a language from nothing.  As soon as they felt it was possible, they began to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to these people.  Very quickly the chief of the tribe, as well as many of the villagers responded and trusted Christ.  Mr. Lockhart found out that this tribe had been handing down a story from generation to generation that God would reveal Himself to them through a white man that would come from a great bird in the sky.  Little did my professor know, but they had been waiting for him and his family to arrive long before he had planned to go to them!  God had heard their cry for help!

 

Today I read about Hagar and Ishmael being cast out by Sarah after the birth of Isaac.  Just when Hagar thought all hope was gone for her son to survive, this verse says, “And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of Heaven, and said unto her, ‘What aileth thee, Hagar?  Fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is’” (Genesis 21:17).  God heard the voice of the lad … God still has an ear for those who cannot cry out, or don’t even know to cry out today!  God sent my professor and his family to a very remote part of the world because there had been generations of people there crying out for the Gospel!

 

Have you ever felt that you were crying out, but no one was listening?  Have you ever felt that you were talking to the wall when you were praying and that there was no hope of an answer coming?  Have you ever been ready to give up on the whole “Christian thing” and just go back to your old way of living?  Take heart today from this story from the first book in our Bible.  God hears your voice!  God knows your pain, frustration, anxiety, and fear.  God hears the voice of those around you who are waiting for someone to arrive with the news of the Gospel for them today.

 

God hears the voices of those in need.  You and those around you who are calling out to Him today.  As Mr. Lockhart was faithful to in his life, be faithful to God’s plan for you today.  Someone is counting on you!

September 16 Devotional

Something strange happens to me once-in-awhile after we have been gone on a trip.  I find myself waking up in the darkness and having no earthly idea where I am.  I tend to swing my legs out of bed and sit there for a while to get my thoughts together.  I then begin to investigate in the dark to find clues that will help me put the pieces of this puzzle together.  After stubbing my toes a number of times, and running into dressers, I find that I am home in my own bedroom!  What I would give for a flash-light at a time like that!

 

God knows how scary and hurtful life without light could be.  We are witnessing a generation of people who are wandering around in the dark … but it is broad daylight outside!  They too are unfamiliar with where they are, and where they are going.  They too are stubbing their toes on all kinds of different religions, and different philosophies of life.  They too are running into barriers to happiness and contentment.  And it is all because they have not come to the Light God has provided for them.

 

Sadly, there are many Christians that find themselves in a similar situation.  They are facing problems that seem to have no answers.  They are up against challenges that seem to have no way out.  Rather than turning to the Source of light, they are searching this world for a flash-light, only to find out upon discovery of the world’s flash-light that the batteries are dead!

 

Where do you find yourself today?  God has provided you with a light and a lamp.  Are you using them?  “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).  There is nothing like finding the light when you find yourself in a dark place!  We have the light of God’s Word in our possession, and it is important that we run to it and use it to help us along the dark paths we need to walk for Him.

 

Isn’t it interesting that God spoke about two forms of light in this wonderful verse?  He spoke about the Word of God being a lamp for our feet.  To me that is a picture of a smaller light that just shines enough for you to see where you are going.  It helps you put your feet down on solid ground and helps you avoid the things that might trip you if you were in the darkness.  God’s Word will definitely do that for you today if you will turn it on.  The second word God put in this verse tells us that we also have a light for our path.  This reminds me that God’s Word is not only good for the step I am taking right now, but it will also guide me far into the future.  With my Bible, I can see the things that are unfolding around me every day and take comfort that I know the God Who controls everything.  Hold onto the light!

September 15 Devotional

I remember a day in the Spring of the year when I drove a group of elementary students to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor for a field trip.  They were going to the Science Center and different things there at the Inner Harbor.  I was the bus driver, so while they were in the different museums and things, I had free time to just walk around the harbor.  I was walking along where all the shops are, when I noticed a very large yacht parked right against the wall of the harbor.  I was curious and walked around looking at the yacht.  When I went around the back of the yacht, I noticed its name in large letters … TRUMP.

 

I remember standing there for a little bit just wondering what it would be like to have enough money to buy myself a “toy” like that.  But, I quickly thought about the home I have waiting for me in Heaven.  That yacht will be able to float in my bathtub there!  Today I read a great verse with very practical truth.  “Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith” (Proverbs 15:16).  I want to encourage you today to keep a proper perspective on your life.  Those who have the most money often have the least peace and real contentment.  Don’t spend your life trying to amass a great deal of money while forgetting the things God is interested in.

 

Do you think God is even slightly impressed with the yacht that I stared at for the better part of a half hour?  I don’t think God is even slightly impressed with that, or any of the other things the people of our world seem so obsessed by.  We are living in such a materialistic world.  It is important for us to stop once-in-awhile to really consider what things are most important to our God.  This verse clearly states that the fear of the Lord is far more important that your treasure.  Are you investing your life in things you know are most important to God?

 

Spending time with that child who comes from a single-parent home is more important to God than what the label is on the clothing you are wearing.  Stopping long enough to hand a tract to that person God touched your heart about is more important than any trip you might make to the greatest mall in the entire world.  Spending time in the Word of God is time better spend than “surfing the net” for unimportant facts and figures.  Let’s all give our full effort for the things that will please our Heavenly Father today.

September 14 Devotional

There is a phrase used by many that says, “The Devil is in the details.”  That phrase means that the thing that can destroy you, or stop you from being successful could be something small that you missed and it costs you success.  I want you to think with me today about the details that God is in.  I was reading today in Isaiah 41 (a great chapter that I recommend you read entirely) and I came across two verses that sparked a thought in my heart.  “I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine and the box tree together” (Isaiah 41:19).  You might think I have lost my mind to write about this verse!  Hold on … I’m not finished and neither was God.  “That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it” (Isaiah 41:20).

 

When I read these verses this morning, I had a flash-back to my junior year in High School and the Audubon Bird Sanctuary.  You see, I lived near this sanctuary for birds.  I was trying out for the track team at my High School, and I trained by running through the woods there.  I am easily bored, and found running in the woods made it easier, and I ran farther.  On one particular day that has remained in my mind ever since it happened, I was running for a good distance and collapsed under an evergreen tree.  As I sat there, gasping for air, one of the branches of that tree was resting on my cheek.  I leaned back and was looking directly at one of the very tiny leaves on that tree.  I was taken by the intricate detail that was on that singular leaf.  The leaf itself could not have been more than a quarter of an inch in length, but there was incredible detail in it.

 

The thought hit me that day that Isaiah described from the heart of God in chapter forty-one.  My first thought was of the awesome power of God to put so much work into a leaf that maybe no one would ever see.  I then thought about how blessed I was to be able to witness my God’s creative power in such a small thing!  Here is the thought I want you to get today … if God put so much thought, effort, planning and creativity into one small leaf … think of all He has planned for you and your day today.  The world we live in wants to deny this powerful God today.  They want to explain away all the splendor we see in nature by saying it just “happened” like that.  I want you to consider today that even the trees in the middle of the deepest forest that no eye may ever see was designed by our God.  He has a plan for each of our lives that in infinitely more precious that those trees!

September 13 Devotional

Hast thou not known?  Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?  There is no searching of His understanding.  He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.  Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:  But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31).

 

There are times when each of us feels that we are at the “end of our rope.”  There are times when the gumption to get up and get going has gotten up and gone!  There are times, if we are honest with ourselves, when we can become spiritually drained.  There are a few things that came to my mind today as I read these very familiar verses.  The space here will not be adequate to exhaust those things, but let me mention a few for you to ponder today.

 

I noticed that Isaiah began this great section of Scripture by reminding us of the greatness of our God.  Notice the phrases, “everlasting God,” and “Creator of the ends of the earth.”  I think Isaiah wanted us to remember that when we become weary, we have the ultimate source for strength.  Earlier in the chapter (40:12) he had spoken about the immensity of our God.  This is good for us to remember when we are so weary that we feel like we cannot go forward.  Look to the Creator of the ends of the earth … He can handle it!

 

You will also notice from these verses that this weariness of life does not only come to those who are old, but to all.  I like that 30th verse where it makes it clear that “Even the youths shall faint.”  We often associate weariness only with older folks.  There is a great lesson here for those who are younger reading this today.  Young people should be actively involved in serving God so that you can become weary!  Sitting around on the couch playing a video game does not wear you out (except for your thumbs and posterior). Get up and get involved today.  If you have been feeling weary in doing something for God, be comforted to know that He is well aware of that, and He is on call.  He is ready and able to help you in your time of need!  Run, and He will prop you up!

 

There is no thrill quite like doing something you didn’t know you could.” – Marjorie Holmes

September 12 Devotional

It was a cold March afternoon with a heavy drizzle falling when we walked onto our High School track for the races that day.  I remember well walking through the gates that led to the football stadium where our track was located.  I remember how cold I was, but more than that, I remember how excited I was to run in my first official race.  I reflected back to a race I ran in second grade of elementary school.  There it was all the kids from first to sixth grade running from the starting point to, and around the flagpole and back.  My cousin and I were the shortest runners, but we finished first and second.  This day, some nine years later, I was going to run in my first official race.  I remember stepping to the starting blocks and looking up the track to the finish line.  I wanted to cross that line first.  Nothing else was on my mind, but that goal that was set out in front of me.

 

The Bible speaks about a finish line that is in front of every Christian today.  “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize?  So run, that ye may obtain” (I Corinthians9:24).  We are living in a time when people are against competition.  This is another proof that the world has no concept of how God designed us, or the purpose He designed us to be.  God made you and I to try our best to reach the goals that are set in front of us!  God made you to try your hardest to be the best you can possibly be!  He made us to want to succeed!

 

We seem to have less trouble with this concept when it comes to business, or our favorite sport, or even in a classroom setting.  I wonder how many goals we have set for ourselves that involve spiritual things?  Do you have a finish line in front of you when it comes to things that will help you develop your spiritual life?  Do you have a goal for reading your Bible through every year?  Have you set a goal to be faithful to your local church, regardless of what is on TV?  Have you asked God to help you pray more often and with more intensity?  Have you asked God to help you to be a witness to a neighbor, family member, or stranger?  Have you asked God to help you make changes to match biblical principles in your walk with Him?

 

It is time for every Christian to focus on the finish line, and to press toward that mark without looking to the right or to the left to see what others are doing.  The one thing I loved about running on the track team was that I had no one to blame but me if I lost.  Set YOUR sights on the goals God has for you and don’t look back or to the side to compare yourself with anyone else.  Reach for that crown that awaits the faithful in Heaven!