We Are Mist For A While That Vanishes

Wednesday November 22, 2017 – We Are Mist For A While That Vanishes
Ezekiel 18-19 James 4

When you consider the brief span of human life it makes you think again about the importance of where you will spend eternity.   The following verses from James 4 reinforce again how brief life really is, but remind us again about the only thing that really matters.  13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”  

God knows and has a plan for our lives and it is vital that we communicate regular with Him to seek His will in our lives.

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The Amazing Power of the Tongue

Tuesday November 21, 2017 – The Amazing Power of the Tongue           
Ezekiel 16-17 James 3

It’s no surprise that the tongue is a powerful force for good and evil.   With the prevalence of technologies and social media tools that allow everyone’s tongue to be heard we see the destructive force that the tongue can have in hateful, vindictive and destructive communications.   James accurately summarizes his view on the tongue in James 3,  3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

The phrase to think twice before you say anything is something all of us could learn to practice more and I also love the comparison that we have one mouth and two ears and we should use one at least half as much as the other.    Taming the tongue is also something that requires on-going vigilance since it is so easy to respond out of emotion and do great damage.   The power of the tongue is amazing, but also bears continual caution.

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Faith and Deeds – You Have to Have Them Both

Monday November 20, 2017 – Faith and Deeds – You Have to Have Them Both
Ezekiel 14-15 James 2

I know that people can’t “earn” their way to heaven by doing enough good deeds that they demonstrate to God that they should be included in heaven.  I know that many people believe that if you live a good life and treat other people well you will go to heaven.   The reality is that being good and doing good deeds isn’t enough and in the same way great faith without actions is empty.   Here is what Paul says on this topic in James 2, 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds. ”Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.  Our faith and belief should compel us to love and good deeds.   God has given us so much that out of our gratefulness we should be motivate to do good deeds.

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If You Ask, You Must Believe!

Sunday November 19, 2017 – If You Ask, You Must Believe!          
Ezekiel 11-13 James 1  

It is tough to consider it joy when you face trials.   Quite honestly my first reaction is “not again Lord!”   The admonition to take joy in difficult times is very difficult, but these difficult times are a sign that God is refining you like fire refines precious metal.   2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

The additional warning not to doubt that God will respond to what we ask is a great reminder to ask in faith and not question or doubt God’s capability and desire to answer all our prayers.

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Learning Through Hardship

Friday November 17, 2017 – Learning Through Hardship
Ezekiel 5-7 Hebrews 12

Hebrews 12 has a portion of my favorite scripture verses.  Here it is, 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.  

First, I love the analogies that Paul makes to being an athlete or running a race.  Since I have run in many races I understand the struggle and the victory that can be realized in a race, even if you don’t win.   Second, I love the reminder that discipline is a sign that God loves us.  Quite honestly I would love to have a whole lot less hardship, but when I realize God’s purpose in that hardship I understand what God has in mind for me and that the present hardship is going to create a better purpose.

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How Strong is Your Faith?

Thursday November 16, 2017 – How Strong is Your Faith?
Ezekiel 3-4 Hebrews 11:20-40

Paul continues with his Faith Hall of Fame in the last portion of Hebrews 11 as he continues to recite various champions of Faith.   As he concludes his list of people of faith Paul wraps it up this way, 32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.  What God promises to all who have faith is that our lives with Him in heaven will be better than anything we experienced on earth.   Faith is something that you can never have enough.   As I read through these various stories of people of faith I realize how small my faith is by comparison, but it also is encouragement to grow in faith because what God promises for us all is still ahead and unknown.

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Faith in Action

Wednesday November 15, 2017 – Faith in Action
Ezekiel 1-2 Hebrews 11:1-19

Faith is a powerful attribute and it is one of the things that I pray God would continue to give me more and more.   Hebrews 11 provides several great examples of people who demonstrated great faith. 1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

4 By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Faith is believing something that we cannot see and often times have no other reason to believe other than God.   By faith I believe and serve a risen Savior and I look forward to life eternally with Christ and all other believers.

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The Dyslexia of the Old Testament

Tuesday November 14, 2017 – The Dyslexia of the Old Testament
Lamentations 3-5 Hebrews 10:19-39

I am sure that if any of you has read the Old Testament frequently you understand what I call the dyslexia of Old Testament people.   Invariably their lives are a see-saw battle between oppression and hopelessness and then a swing to realization of the greatness of God.   Lamentations is a great example of this bi-polar swing of emotions and what makes it resonate for me is this is what this year has felt like in my own life.  There are times where I feel the weight of the world and then I realize how good God has been and is to me.  Here is a sample of what I am referencing.  Lamentations 3 starts this way,  1 I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of the Lord’s wrath. 2 He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light; 3 indeed, he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long. 4 He has made my skin and my flesh grow old and has broken my bones. 5 He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship. 6 He has made me dwell in darkness like those long dead.  7 He has walled me in so I cannot escape; he has weighed me down with chains. 8 Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer. 9 He has barred my way with blocks of stone; he has made my paths crooked. 

So just about when you are feeling about as low as you can get the author turns around and acknowledges God’s grace 22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” 25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. 27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.  

So now you get a sense of perspective and balance and you think that this theme will continue only to have chapter 5 close this way.  19 You, Lord, reign forever; your throne endures from generation to generation. 20 Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long? 21 Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old 22 unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure.    Reading through this portion of scripture I can relate to the range of emotions that people feel and our perspective towards God is often influenced by how we are feeling on that day, but I am trying to learn that God does love us deeply and will never reject us regardless of how we may feel today.  Let me close with a couple verses from Hebrews 10 that was also part of my devotional reading for today, 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

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Forgiven and Forgotten

Monday November 13, 2017 – Forgiven and Forgotten
Lamentations 1-2 Hebrews 10:1-18

It is one thing to forgive someone when they do something against you, but it is much harder to actually forget the offense.   Part of God’s amazing mercy is his capability to forgive AND his willingness to forgive.  14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. 15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: 16 “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” 17 Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” 18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

I know that I struggle with being able to forget what people did that caused hurt or disappointment, but when I consider all that I have done in my life that God has not only forgiven, but has also forgotten I realize how blessed I am and it challenges me to respond accordingly.

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Once And For All

Sunday November 12, 2017 – Once And For All
Jeremiah 51-52 Hebrews 9  

One moment in history has changed the course of man’s destiny more than any other.  It is not the birth of Jesus as you might initially think, but it was actually the death of Jesus on the cross because that one moment resolved forever the penalty of sin on man.   24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

The first time Jesus appeared He addressed the sacrifice for sin, the second time He appears will be when He comes to take those who believe home to heaven with Him.  What a glorious day!

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