Tag: idolatry

Apr 22 One True God

idolatry

When I say, “I will serve the Lord,”  these are words of intention and obligation.  I do not just sit back and allow whatever comes to come, saying “It must be the will of the Lord.”

Saying “I will serve the Lord”, carries the responsibility to recognize and reject all other powers and gods that have somehow gotten into my life, and to act intentionally to perform service affirming that You, the Lord, are my God.

What does serving and worshipping God look like?

I can certainly avoid setting up a statue of wood or stone and laying offerings in front of it as acts of worship.  But in my world today, besides countless religions, there are many forms of “worshipping other gods.”   They are usually looked upon as entertainment or common sense.

For the sake of “entertainment” many people are enticed by the idea they can learn the future, or “dabble in the occult.” They may read horoscopes, go to fortune tellers, read Tarot cards, play with ouija boards, channel or séance to speak to the dead, even summon satan.

The “fun” they participate in opens their hearts and spirits to unseen powers of influence they may not realize.

The truth is, there is power there that scripture tells us to have nothing to do with! Participating in those practices is a form of worship.  Believing as truth what is revealed there is attributing a godlike power to the activity or persons involved.

It is common sense to take care of our environment, reduce our carbon footprint, not waste resources.  But there are those who do this because they believe in and worship the earth as a power itself.  Environmentalism has become a religion, worshiping “Mother Earth.”

And then, there are some who elevate the desire for money, or success, or to look youthful to a level of worship, as it guides and motivates everything they do; how they make decisions, where they spend their money.

It is so easy to allow things I enjoy or love to become an unhealthy form of worship; whether it’s my children, my job, sports, movies, food, self.

Lord, help me be vigilant to worship only the One True God.  And turn from any form of idolatry so that I only serve You.  Amen

Joshua 24:14-24  

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Dec 7 Where there is life, there is hope

purple-grapes-vineyard-napa-valley-napa-vineyard-45209Father, what a picture of joy and hope when You say “When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert.”  Because in the desert, very little grows.  The lack of water and the intense heat plus sandy soil produce low, scrawny plant life.  But to find grapes: something juicy and good that can nourish, is a wonderful and valuable find!

When living in or crossing the desert, a find like this can be the difference between life and death.

fig-tree-1658686_960_720A similar picture is seen in the next part of the verse: “when I saw your fathers, it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree.”  For a fig tree is different from most other fruit trees.  It will take four to five years, and sometimes six or seven years for a fig tree to produce it’s first crop of figs.

So all those years, care must be taken to keep it watered and fertilized and protected from the weather and winds, parasites and disease so it will be healthy enough to produce.  Then, when seeing the early fruit, you know it has all been worth it!  There is success!  And hope of many more harvests to come.

Both of these create an emotional response of relief, satisfaction – that the future is secure and what has been done and accomplished was worth it.  I love seeing this in projects or ministries I have been involved with and lives I have impacted.  It is a good feeling that any positive influence will continue on in their lives.  I feel that same delight and hope when I think of my children.

But then all was taken away: “…they consecrated themselves to that shameful idol and became as vile as the thing they loved.”

Delight is erased.  Hopes are dashed.  Joy is replaced with sadness, grief and anguish over the loss of those involved and the prospect of the joyous future that had been envisioned.

Father, do You delight in each one of us, and then anguish when we fall away from You?

I am Your child.  Keep me from turning away from You.  Show me clearly where and when there are idols I have been drawn to: pride, possessions, money, fame, popularity, whatever.

Help me and my children and loved ones walk in a manner worthy of You.  Father, let “our mouths be filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.”   We give You thanks and praise!   Amen

Hosea 9:10; Psalm 126:1-3

Dec 6 Rebellion to Repentance

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“Hear the word of the Lord, you [Americans], because the Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: ‘There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land.   There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.  Because of this the land dries up, and all who live in it waste away;’”

 

Father, as Israel was in its idolatry and rebellion, so is America today.  My heart grieves for the way my country and its people have fallen so far away from the godly, moral values America was founded on.

When I was growing up, I heard older people saying that what one generation tolerates, the next takes to excess.

At the time I was proud to be in a generation who was finding “freedom” in establishing new social norms that were allowing equality between races and genders and socio-economic groups.  But what I have seen is that many of those freedoms were taken advantage of, and prostituted for monetary gain, selfishness, power and corruption.

I see that in my country, there is no faithfulness to You.

Even my freedom to express my spiritual viewpoint is being stifled when it is not ”politically correct.”

The list You gave Hosea of  “cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery” sounds like the description of most of what Americans call entertainment.   Forgive our sin Father, turn the hearts of the American people back to You and bring healing to our land.

You tell me “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken and endures forever.”  Father, I know I will endure forever as I have eternal life with You.  Help me now, in this life, not to be shaken from Your truth and what I know to be right.  Give me strength of faith and of character to walk in obedience to You, not in the way of the world.  Let me be faithful and acknowledge You in my land.

“As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so You surround Your people both now and forevermore.”

Let me feel You surrounding me, encompassing me Lord: shielding and protecting me, lifting me up.  Thank You that You are faithful to all Your promises.  Amen

Hosea 4:1-3; Psalm 125:1-2

 

 

Nov 11 Forewarned and defended by You

“So I will put an end to lewdness in the land, that all women may take warning and not imitate you.” 

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Father, these two “women” represented Your people.  So when You say “all women may take warning and not imitate you,” you mean all countries and all peoples can learn not to make the same mistake the Israelites made with idolatry.

I pray that my country will learn from Your example here and not imitate the idolatry of Samaria and Jerusalem.

Father, do not let this lesson go unnoticed. You are a just God and You judge rightly.   Those people only rejected the law of Moses and were judged.  How much more will those be judged who live now and know of Your sacrifice on the cross?

You have made a new way for people today to approach You.   It is a better way!  By Your shed blood, I have the privilege of approaching You boldly, with full assurance and confidence.

So I draw near to You with a sincere heart, and ask that You show me how to live, encouraging other believers, worshipping You, acting in love, doing good deeds, and defeating the enemy.

Father, the enemy uses all manner of evil to try to defeat me.   Help me, Lord; do not be silent.  Fight against those who are against You and who attack me and my family.

Show them that You are victorious while they are clothed with shame and disgrace.    And I will rejoice in my deliverance, extolling my Father with praise!  Amen

Ezekiel 23:1-49; Hebrews 10:18-25; Psalm 109: 1-31

Nov 9 The Shepherd’s Rod

shepherd rodFather, I can see a pattern in Your treatment of Your people.  You revealed Yourself to them in Egypt and told them to “get rid of the vile images you have set your eyes on, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt.”  And although You delivered them, they continued to worship a golden calf.  Yet You did not destroy them, “for the sake of Your Name”.

In the desert they rebelled again, but You did not pour out Your wrath, “for the sake of Your Name.”  Then their children, who You led and protected in the desert, rebelled, not following You; but, “for the sake of Your Name” You preserved them.

Generations later, the nation of Israel continued to defile itself, and You acted to “disperse them among the nations and scatter them through the countries.”  However, You would not let them inquire of You, and spoke only through Ezekiel the Prophet.

It was always Your purpose that they would be Your people and You would be their God.  And Your judgment of them was just, as they “passed under Your rod.”

Father, I come now, to seek You, to inquire of You.  There are so many things in my life that I need Your wisdom about, Your guidance, Your direction.  I need Your strength to bear up under the challenges, and Your peace to sustain me through them.

I need Your patience where I need to wait, and Your boldness where I need to act.  I want to see where You would have me join You in Your work so I do not spend my energy on fruitless endeavors.

My part in this is to be sure my life is rid of idols.  I will examine my actions, my attitudes, my relationships, to be sure nothing and no one is stealing my passion to live for You.   I want to “pass under Your rod” for Your inspection and loving care.

This is the same rod of which the Psalmist wrote “Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.”

A shepherd uses his rod for many things.  One is to have the sheep pass under it.  It is a way of counting to be sure every sheep is where it should be and accounted for.

It is also a way of inspecting them.  As each sheep passes, the shepherd looks to see that each is well fed, rested, and not ill.   As the rod parts their hair, inspection is made of the skin for wounds, parasites, anything that would indicate a need for further care.

Father, I am a sheep of Your pasture.  Inspect me.  Look for any sign of weakness or disease in me.  When so, heal me and I will be healed.

Strengthen me with Your Word and with Your presence.

Be sure that I am where I am supposed to be.

I too, am called by Your Name.  So I desire to live in obedience so that Your Name will be preserved and honored.  Father, let my life glorify Your name.  Amen

Ezekiel 20:1-38

Nov 8 May the Truth set us free

usa-1491734_640Father, as I read this section of Psalm 106, I fear that I personally, and my country, have together made the same mistakes Your people made in the desert.  They were not satisfied with the life You gave them; even the miracles You performed to deliver them from the hand of the enemy who had relegated them to slavery for generations, and then was set on destroying them.

In the wilderness at Meribah where You brought water from a rock for them to drink, they rebelled against Moses and Your provision.  They forgot that You had done something so mighty as parting the Red Sea for them, and delivering them from the hand of Pharaoh and his army.

Instead, they focused on their fleshly desires, doubting You could quench their thirst.  I too, sometimes focus on my own desires rather than the great blessings You have already worked in my life.  And I too respond with whining instead of faith.

When they came into the Promised Land, they “mingled with the nations and adopted their customs.”  I fear I have done the same by participating in the social customs of my times.   I and my country, have mingled godly beliefs with the socially acceptable values of the times.

What You call sin is no longer looked upon as sin.  People today seem to have no concept of what is right and wrong, and so no self-governing set of morals that direct or protect them.

Many things in my culture take the place of passion for You.  Sports teams, fame, money, power, shopping, alcohol and drugs, status, cars, beauty, youth: so many things have become idols in the lives of so many, even believers.

“They sacrificed their sons and daughters to false gods.  They shed innocent blood…” Father, I grieve over the number of babies who have been sacrificed on the altar of “choice” and “convenience.”  This land is desecrated by their blood.   And it defiles the people involved because of the act of taking a life.

But it also exacts a price they often pay in long-term emotional and psychological damage, not to mention the spiritual battle that they have lost in giving over ground to the enemy.

Yet, You “took note of their distress when You heard their cry…and out of Your great love You relented.”

Father, I am in distress and I cry out to You: for my personal sin and for the sin of my country.  Forgive, Lord.

I acknowledge and agree with You that I and my country have acted in rebellion in going our own way without following the path You set before us. And that my country and I have participated in social customs and values that have become a snare to us, even to the point of idolatry.

Lord I turn away from anything that seeks to take Your place in my life.  Forgive us for focusing on the flesh over the spiritual.

“Save us Lord our God…that we may give thanks to Your Holy name and glory in Your praise.  Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.  Let all the people say, Amen!”

Psalm 106:32-48

Oct 16 Trust God’s plan

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“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 

 

 

These wonderful words of life and promise and hope that so many believers have claimed as personal encouragement were given first to a specific group of Your people who had rejected You.  They endured hardship by being forcibly removed from their homes and land.  They had been seized by a military force and taken to a foreign country to live as captives.

I cannot even imagine the trauma of being relocated like that.  I would imagine escape back home would have been considered.  Or revolt.  Some attempt to regain freedom.

But even if escape were possible, home was a thousand miles away!  And now comes this letter from Jeremiah to say “Accept captivity!  Settle down!  Live in the new land.  Pray for your new home!  For seventy years!”

That must have seemed just the opposite of what they wanted to do.  And the harsh word that this was Your doing must have been confusing and hurtful.  But then, in the same breath, comes Your promise to them. “When seventy years are completed in Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill My good promise to bring you back to this place.”

Father, I know I sometimes wonder if where I am is really the place You want me to be.  I trust the plans You have for me.  Even if it means I have to wait on Your timing.  But please don’t let it take seventy years, Lord!

The Israelites must have looked at their circumstances and doubted whether it could really be Your will.  Father, sometimes things don’t look too good to me either.  And I wonder how You will work things out for my good.  But I totally trust that You will.   I completely rely on Your faithfulness.

Father, open my eyes to the truth of where I am right now.

If I have gotten myself off Your path, show me how to return to it.  If I am where You want me to be, help me hear your voice of encouragement.  Help me feel Your presence here with me.  And if waiting is involved, help me wait patiently, prayerfully, praise-fully, and productively.

Show me those plans as I need to see them.  My hope and my future are in You.  Amen

Jeremiah 29:1-14

 

Oct 15 Call us back to You

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Father, even now, You give Words to Jeremiah for the people’s salvation.  Your mercy is so great that even after all they have done, You will spare them, if only they will turn back to You.

This is Your heart.  That Your people will do the right thing.  That they will love You, and return to You.  That they will turn away from the things that are bringing them harm and death, and turn to You to receive life!

They had Your Word.  It had been found in the Temple when Josiah, King of Judah had the Temple repaired.  It caused a major revival in the young King.  And in the people too, for a time.

But Josiah’s son, who came next, was not a godly king.  And the pull of idolatry was strong.  And Your Word was not readily available to the people, so they relied on the leaders and priests to lead them.

Unfortunately, the priests had been doing their own thing for so long, most were not familiar with or devoted to Your Word.

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Father, I have loved ones who are also pretty much doing their own thing.  Yet You are calling them back to You with that same heart, wanting them to come to You and receive life.

My world is full of all kinds of idolatry, and the pull is strong.  Father, send someone into their lives who they will listen to.  Help them let go of the things that are causing them harm and leading them to death.

And let my faith be as strong as Jeremiah’s.  Even in the face of threatened death, He stood strong in knowing You were there.  You had told him: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.”  And “Do not be terrified…they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you.”

Father, those words are for me too.  And just as You knew Jeremiah, even before he was born, You also know me.  Just as You rescued him, You have rescued me.

You are the Lord of peace.  Father, I so need Your peace.  From my own doubts in understanding Your direction for my life, to relationships that are not all they could be, to the direction my country and the world seem to be heading.

Would You “give me peace at all times and in every way.”  I cling to You.  And look to You.  Only Your peace satisfies.  Amen

Jeremiah 1:5,17,19; 26:1-15; 2 Thessalonians 3:16

Oct 8 Worship the Creator not the created

idol-1067151_640Jeremiah points out the worthlessness of the idols that the people made for themselves.  They were made of wood or stone.  They had to be carried from place to place.  They had no awareness and no power.  Yet the people superstitiously bowed down to them.

What a stark contrast to You!  There is “No one like You, Lord”.

You made, literally created, the earth!  You imagined it, and then spoke it into being.  When You speak, it trembles.  When You thunder, the waters storm with hurricane force.  “You are the Creator of everything that exists.”

If I were to worship anything else, I would be as Jeremiah described his people, and the whole human race: “stupid and foolish…without knowledge”.

Jeremiah also encourages me not to fear the predictions of those who look elsewhere for their wisdom.  So I need not be afraid of false prophets, horoscopes or those who seek to divine the future from the stars.  You made the stars.  So I worship the Maker, not what was made.

Paul was in chains for speaking out about who You are.  That is not a current threat where I live.  Help me “be wise in the way I act towards outsiders, and make the most of every opportunity.  Let my conversation be full of grace and seasoned with salt, so that I may know how to answer everyone.”

Show me when to speak, and what to say.  And when to hold my tongue.   So many people are put off of Christianity because of the actions and attitudes of Christians.  Let me be a beacon of light to others as I walk the walk, and talk the talk in grace and love.

Show me what it means to “Devote myself to prayer, being watchful and thankful”.  I strive to express my thanks in prayer and allow time for You to speak to me, not just deliver a list of requests.

Thank You Father, that You, the matchless King of the Universe, hear my prayers.   And thank You that You answer them.  Help me to be watchful for Your answers.  And wait on Your timing.  I trust in the Creator of all things.  Amen

Jeremiah 10:1-16; Colossians 4:2-6

Oct 7 Guide my attitudes, actions

Father, the scribes and priests of old had Your Word, but even they did not live by it or teach others correctly.  They rejected Your wisdom, but called themselves “wise.”   Since I seek Your wisdom, help me get my focus off earthly concerns, and onto heavenly things.

directory-1161965_640The “earthly” things have to do with the negative side of my flesh.    These are the things You punished Israel and Judah for.  In addition to spiritual idolatry that took their worship away from You, they treated each other with greed and deceit.

They were shameless in their lusts and immorality.  These are the things I must put to death in my own flesh.  Because You gave me a new life in saving me from the penalty of my sin, I seek to live that life in You.

As You are from heaven, those “heavenly” traits I must cultivate are “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience…forgiveness…love.”  Father, help me have these character qualities and treat others with them.  When faced with situations, show me the appropriate response that will be framed in these attributes.

One thing I know will be difficult for me is to forgive others who I believe have wronged me.   Sometimes the consequences of their actions are far-reaching and have harmed my loved ones as well.  But it helps me to remember that You have seen everything.

And vengeance belongs to You.  It also helps me when I realize all the things You have forgiven me.  And that I need to forgive others as You have forgiven me.

Father, I am grateful for the peace and love You give me.  Let them be the overarching qualities of my life.  Let all I do bring Your peace and Your love into the lives of those around me.   In Your name.  Amen

Jeremiah 8:8-13; Colossians 3:1-17

Sept 14 All will know You

Father, You are right in Your assessments and just in Your judgments. You gave Isaiah a judgment that would fall upon the people of Moab and Damascus. It’s a horrible picture of death and devastation. Moab was spoken of with “her overweening pride and conceit, her pride and her insolence…” And Damascus had “forgotten God your Savior, you have not remembered the Rock your fortress.” Both were lands of great idolatry.

Lord, do not let me be prideful or conceited. Do not let me think more of myself than I ought to, or forget that all I have comes from You.

Father, I am humbled again, at Your righteousness. You always punish the wicked.  And yet You leave a remnant who turn back to You. “In that day [of judgment] men will look to their Maker and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel. They will not look to the altars, the work of their hands…” Although they had lived their lives worshipping other gods, when judgment came, they knew exactly who the real God was.

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I fear I live in a country of people who also deny You and worships other gods. Perhaps not in a religious way, but who live their lives by seeking fame and fortune, doing only what feels good or gains them the most material possessions.

However, I believe that when judgment falls, they will remember that they knew all along, who You really are. Father, bring revival before it is too late. Amen

Isaiah 15:1—18:7

Sept 8 Consequences

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What a loving Father You are. You instruct gently, and spell out exactly, what the truth is. You teach Your children how to do what will bring them the greatest reward. You remind them: “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land.”

You spell out the rewards and the consequences over and over again. When they become disobedient, You send others, prophets, to remind them and warn them off the destructive path and back onto the path of blessing.

Even when they are immersed in their sin and being obstinate, You offer them forgiveness and a way back into Your grace and favor.   “Come, let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be as wool.”

Scarlet and crimson are bright and deep shades of red. Trying to get a red wine stain or a bloodstain out of something is difficult. And my sin stains me like that. But You tell me You can cleanse me as white as snow: sparkling, pure, glistening, frosty snow. You can remove my sin and its stain to make me as white as the softest, purest lamb’s wool!

“But if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” That is the consequence of disobedience. Who would choose that? Who would give up the blessing of Your provision and favor, in order to be devoured by death?

And yet, the Israelites did just that, continuing in idolatry. They turned away from You. In pursuit of other gods, they continued to make meaningless offerings to You as one of the many “little g” gods they worshipped. Meaningless because their hearts did not belong to You any longer.

And You brought judgment. Because of Your righteous character, You had to uphold justice and be true to Your Word.   They did not understand until it was too late.

Father, I believe my country has been blessed and protected by You because we trusted in You. But now, we have turned away as a nation, “resisting and rebelling.“ We no longer honor or even acknowledge You.

You have sent a warning. You have sent people who have tried to call America back. But we have not returned. We have chosen the path away from You. And You will bring judgment.

Before it is too late, Father, I pray my nation will turn to You. Bring us leaders with godly values. Open our eyes to our sin and give us repentant hearts. “Come, [America], let us walk in the light of the Lord.” Amen

Isaiah 1:1-31

July 4 We depend on You

cross-1314136_640O Father, Your people didn’t think that judgment would come. But You sent Pharaoh Necho from Egypt in the west to take Judah’s king in chains and tax and oppress the people. Then Nebuchadnezzar from Babylon in the east came twice to burn Jerusalem and strip the land of the last of its treasures and people.

Your people went into exile, taken from their land, to be prisoners in a foreign place. It was just as You had promised. Your people ignored Your covenant and the prophets You sent and followed their leaders into disobedience and idolatry. And paid the price for their choices.

Father, You give me a choice today. You show me how to live by Your Word. You teach me right from wrong. Your values and morality are clear. But my society lives by a different standard. And most of the people believe You will not judge. Although You have the greatest love, You also hate sin. And You have said there will come a time for judgment.

I believe that time is nearing. Father, help my nation hear Your warnings and turn back to You. Help me in my own life, make choices that are according to Your Word. Help me not simply make the easiest choices, or the most popular ones; but give me understanding to know how to make the right choices. Let me live my life for an audience of One: You.

Help me recognize my own sin and turn from it. Strengthen me to do what is right even when it is hard. Let others see that I love You. And that I live my life accordingly.

“Let the kings be wise; and the rulers of the earth be warned. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. And all who take refuge in the Lord will be blessed.” Amen

2 Kings 23:31-25:30; Psalm 2:1-12

 

July 3 Your Word nourishes me

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Father, at age twenty-four, King Josiah read Your Words for the first time. They affected him so profoundly that he wept and tore his robes. He gave orders to the priests and others to bring the country’s worship practices in line with what You commanded. He rid the nation of all other idolatry and led his people in worshiping the One True God.

O Lord, I pray that Your Word would still have that effect on people. Let it be true in my life, that when I read Your Word, it’s meaning is clear to me, and I immediately obey what it says. If I misunderstand, let me hear Your voice correcting me. If I forget to obey, remind me.   And if I don’t want to obey, change my attitude.

As in the Psalm, make me like a tree planted by streams of water. This is a tree that will always have the moisture it needs for its roots to go down deep into the soil and feed from the rich nutrients in the earth to make it strong. Such a tree will not wither or loose its leaves, but will remain healthy and strong the whole year.

Let me grow in this manner so my faith will yield abundant and good fruit when the time is right: fruit that will glorify and bring honor to You. Make me strong in my faith, able to withstand the heat, the cold, the wind and storms. Bless my actions and my service to You with abundance.

Father, let me know Your Word so intimately  it becomes my strength and my guide. Let me speak boldly of my relationship with You to encourage others. And let these things make  me fruitful, like the tree, that brings about a bountiful harvest to honor You and nourish others. Amen

2 Kings 22:3-23:30; Psalm 1:1-3

June 29 Standing firm

Lincold stand firmO Father, how Your heart must ache when Your people choose to turn away from You!

You have given me all I need for an abundant life, yet the society I live in, and the one the Israelites lived in, pull people away from You to continually seek after other things.

When the kings over Your people were bad, they worshipped idols in the open, even sacrificing living children by fire.   They fought battles according to their own strength, or bought allies with the treasures from Your Temple.

When the kings were not evil, and led the people back to worship You, they still did not remove the high places and Asherah poles, and the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.

The values and attitudes of their society had become so evil, that this behavior was accepted by even the good kings. But it was not acceptable by You. And eventually You sent armies from the east to conquer and capture Your people, taking them into exile.   This was as You had promised. You outlined their options for blessing and cursing, and they made their choice.

Lord, how often in my life do I allow the ungodly values of my society to sway me, divert me from what You have told me is true? Often what is evil is accepted as good. And even the good leaders abide by it as if it were ok.

Do we think as a society that there will be no accounting? That’s what the Israelites thought. Didn’t work out so well for them. And I fear it won’t work out in my times either.

When Your Word spread in Ephesus, people who practiced sorcery burned their scrolls, and idol worshippers stopped buying the silver idols. As the economic impact increased, so did the opposition!

Society today would also prefer that believers keep their faith to themselves. When it begins to impact political issues or economic factors, there is friction.

Father, as You have called me to live in the world, You have also separated me, set me apart from it. Help me understand how to be ‘in’ the world while being separate from it. Remind me to question values, holding them up against what Your Word says. Only then will I know I am on solid ground.

Show me if there is any value or attitude I need to change to be right with You. And strengthen me to do it, amid, or even against, the pull of society. Amen

2 Kings 15:17-16:20; Acts 19:13-41

June 25 Miracle Worker!

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Lord God, You never cease to amaze me! You are involved so intimately in the lives of Your people. You genuinely care for them. It gives me such hope!

 

You warned the man and woman who made a room for Elisha to leave the country to spare them from a seven-year famine. And when they returned to beg for their house and land, You orchestrated that the king who could grant their plea, had just then heard about the miracle of Elisha raising their son from the dead! The timing couldn’t have been better! They received back what they had given up to obey You, and more!

When the ruler-ship had gotten so bad; leading Your people into idolatry and doing only evil in Your eyes, You took action. You had a just and godly ruler anointed over Israel. Under Jehu, the line of Ahab was removed. The people were able to return to worshiping You.

When Your servants Paul and Silas were imprisoned, beaten, and put under special guard, You orchestrated an earthquake to free them! Even more, You allowed them to work in the lives of their enemy, sharing the Gospel with their jailer, and bringing salvation to him and his family!

How can I doubt that You, who have done all this on behalf of Your people, will do the same for me? How can I think that my problems are beyond Your help? You, who control earthquakes and famines, kings and jailers!

I am Your servant, Lord. So I cry to You for mercy. I rely on Your character of faithfulness and righteousness to defeat the enemy that pursues me and crushes me to the ground.

Even when circumstances discourage me, and cause my spirit to grow faint and my heart to be dismayed, I remember these and other works of deliverance. I meditate on all You have done and consider the power in Your hands.

And I know, without a doubt, that You will preserve me in Your righteousness. And that I am Yours forever. Amen

2 Kings 8:1-6; 9:1-13; Acts 16:16-34; Psalm 143:1-12

June 17 Send Your Fire!

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For three years, Lord, You withheld rain and dew from the land. The people had to deal with severe drought. Not only did no rain mean the crops were scanty, and eventually dried up altogether; but the streams and brooks began to dry up too. Grain was harder and harder to find to make bread. Olive groves were not producing fruit so oil was hard to get too.

The drought had caused a famine so severe that not only crops, but grass for the livestock had vanished as well: to the point that King Ahab was going to have to kill livestock for lack of food.

All this happened because the people had turned away from You. They had abandoned what they knew to be right and true. They had not kept Your commands, but had followed and worshipped other gods.

Even in my times Father, You are not honored, not obeyed. Like then, people have been led away from You to worship many things: self, fame, money, possessions, status, environment, political ideologies, man’s philosophies.   The values people live their lives by are not godly ones. And there is a drought. The life-giving water of Your Word has not been acknowledged in a long time.

But rain is coming! The stage is set, and Elijah is sent to call the people back.

I Kings 18 tells of the showdown Elijah set up to prove Your supremacy. Since Baal was worshipped as a god of many things – rain, thunder, fertility of the land, agriculture; he should have been able to provide for the crops during those 3 years. He did not. He was also supposed to be the god of fire, so it should have been an easy thing for his power to burn up the offering his priests set up for him.   But although the priests called and danced and cut themselves, Baal did not answer.

At the end of the day, Elijah called the people and said, “Come to me”.   They did.   He soaked the wood and offering three times to make it even harder for a natural fire to be lit.

Then Elijah prayed. He prayed that the You would make Yourself seen and known to the people who were watching. That they would recognize and remember that You, the Lord, are God, and there is no other.

And that with this sign, this miracle, You would turn the people’s hearts back to You. You showed up!   The “fire of the Lord” fell and burned it all up!   And the people fell on their faces and cried “The Lord – He is God! The Lord – He is God!”

Father, would You send an Elijah to call the people back to You now.   Open the peoples’ ears to hear the call. Let them see Your miracle when it happens.

Give them understanding to acknowledge Your hand in it. And let their faith be rekindled, renewed, as You turn people’s hearts back to You. So that from here on, people will trust that You, the Lord, are God; and there is no other.

The stage is set. The time for so many people is now.

Father, send Your fire! Amen

I Kings 18:1-46

June 16 God is my King

Oh Father, Israel suffered through king after king who “did evil in the eyes of the Lord.”   I marvel at how patient You were in not wiping them all from the face of the earth – the kings and all the people who followed them into idolatry.

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But You were teaching them that earthly kings can never be what You would had been for them. The people asked for an earthly king to be like the other nations around them, when You had been their Protector, their Guide, their Deliverer.

Father, in the world today, and in my country, people “do evil in the eyes of the Lord.” And Your patience continues. Individuals in my country know the truth. You have given us Your Word: the Bible. You have raised up people like Billy Graham who speak Your truth. And You have sent the Holy Spirit to Your believers.

We cannot blame it on our leaders. We are each accountable for what we do with Your Truth.

I choose You as my King. Everything I have comes from You. I trust in Your guidance and protection. I seek Your enlightenment in solutions to difficulties. I want Your will and Your plan for my future, my family, and my country.

Father, would You raise up godly men and women to be leaders of our communities and our countries. Give them strength of character to continue in their godly faith as they govern and rule in Your name. Let it be said of this generation, that they returned to the Lord, and were blessed. Amen

I Kings 15:25–16:34

Apr 22 One True God

When I say, “I will serve the Lord”, these are words of intention and obligation. I do not just sit back and allow whatever comes to come, saying “It must be the will of the Lord.”  Saying “I will serve the Lord”, carries the responsibility to recognize and reject all other powers and gods that have somehow gotten into my life, and to act intentionally to perform service affirming that You, the Lord, are my God.

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What does serving and worshipping God look like?

I can certainly avoid setting up a statue of wood or stone and laying offerings in front of it as acts of worship. But in my world today, besides countless religions, there are many forms of “worshipping other gods.”   They are usually looked upon as entertainment or common sense.

For the sake of ‘entertainment’ many people are enticed by the idea they can learn the future, or “dabble’ in the occult.” They may read horoscopes, go to fortune tellers, read Tarot cards, play with ouija boards, channel or séance to speak to the dead, even summon satan. The “fun” they participate in opens their hearts and spirits to unseen powers of influence they may not realize.

The truth is, there is power there that scripture tells us to have nothing to do with.Participating in those practices is a form of worship. Believing as truth what is revealed there is attributing a godlike power to the activity or persons involved.

It is common sense to take care of our environment, reduce our carbon footprint, not waste resources. But there are those who do this because they believe in and worship the earth as a power itself. Environmentalism has become a religion, worshiping “Mother Earth.”

And then, there are some who elevate the desire for money, or success, or to look youthful to a level of worship, as it guides and motivates everything they do; how they make decisions, where they spend their money.

It is so easy to allow things I enjoy or love to become an unhealthy form of worship; whether it’s my children, my job, sports, movies, food, self.   Lord, help me be vigilant to worship only the One True God. And turn from any form of idolatry so that I only serve You. Amen

Joshua 24:14-24 

Dec 7 Where there is life, there is hope

Father, what a picture of joy and hope when You say “When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert”. Because in the desert, very little grows. The lack of water and the intense heat plus sandy soil produce low, scrawny plant life. But to find grapes: something juicy and good that can nourish, is a wonderful and valuable find!

When living in or crossing the desert, a find like this can be the difference between life and death.

A similar picture is seen in the next part of the verse: “when I saw your fathers, it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree”. For a fig tree is different from most other fruit trees. It will take four to five years, and sometimes six or seven years for a fig tree to produce it’s first crop of figs. So all those years, care must be taken to keep it watered and fertilized and protected from the weather and winds, parasites and disease so it will be healthy enough to produce. Then, when seeing the early fruit, you know it has all been worth it! There is success! And hope of many more harvests to come.

Both of these create an emotional response of relief, satisfaction – that the future is secure and what has been done and accomplished was worth it. I love seeing this in projects or ministries I have been involved with. Or when I think of lives I have impacted. It is a good feeling that any positive influence will continue and go on. I feel it when I think of my children. I feel delight and hope.

But then that was all taken away when You saw what happened. “…they consecrated themselves to that shameful idol and became as vile as the thing they loved”.   Delight is erased. Hopes are dashed. Joy is replaced with sadness, grief and anguish over the loss of those involved and the prospect of the joyous future that had been envisioned.

Father, do You delight in each one of us, and then anguish when we fall away from You? I am Your child. Keep me from turning away from You. Show me clearly where and when there are idols I have been drawn to: pride, possessions, money, fame, popularity, whatever.

Help me and my children and loved walk in a manner worthy of You. Father, let “our mouths be filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy” . We give You thanks and praise!  Amen

Hosea 9:10; Psalm 126:1-6

Dec 6 Rebellion to Repentance

american-flag-1020853_640“Hear the word of the Lord, you [Americans], because the Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: ‘There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land.  There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Because of this the land dries up, and all who live in it waste away;’”

Father, as Israel was in its idolatry and rebellion, so is America today. My heart grieves for the way my country and its people have fallen so far away from the godly, moral values America was founded on. When I was growing up, I heard older people saying that what one generation tolerates, the next takes to excess. At the time I was proud to be in a generation who was finding ‘freedom’ in establishing new social norms that were allowing equality between races and genders and socio-economic groups. But what I have seen is that many of those freedoms were taken advantage of, and prostituted for monetary gain, selfishness, power and corruption.

I see that in my country, there is no faithfulness to You. That even my freedoms to express my spiritual viewpoint are being stifled when they are not ‘politically correct’. The list You gave Hosea of “cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery” sounds like the description of most of what Americans call ‘entertainment’.  Forgive our sin Father, turn the hearts of the American people back to You and bring healing to our land.

You tell me “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken and endures forever.” Father, I know I will endure forever as I have eternal life with You. Help me now, in this life, not to be shaken from Your truth and what I know to be right. Give me strength of faith and of character to walk in obedience to You, not in the way of the world. Let me be faithful and acknowledge You in my land.

“As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so You surround Your people both now and forevermore.” Let me feel You surrounding me, encompassing me Lord: shielding and protecting me, lifting me up. Thank You that You are faithful to all Your promises. Amen

Hosea 4:1-3; Psalm 125:1-5

Nov 11 Forewarned and defended by You

“So I will put an end to lewdness in the land, that all women may take warning and not imitate you.” Father, these two ‘women’ represented Your people. So when You say “all women may take warning and not imitate you” you mean all countries and all peoples can learn not to make the same mistake the Israelites made with idolatry. I pray that my country will learn from Your example here and not imitate the idolatry of Samaria and Jerusalem.

grateful-2006926_640Father, do not let this lesson go unnoticed. You are a just God and You judge rightly.   Those people only rejected the law of Moses and were judged. How much more will those be judged who live now and know of Your sacrifice on the cross?

You have made a new way for people today to approach You.   It is a better way! By Your shed blood, I have the privilege of approaching You boldly, with full assurance and confidence. So I draw near to You with a sincere heart, and ask that You would show me how to live, encouraging other believers, worshipping You, acting in love, doing good deeds, and defeating the enemy.

Father, the enemy uses all manner of evil to try to defeat me.   Help me, Lord; do not be silent. Fight against those who are against You and who attack me and my family. Show them that You are victorious while they are clothed with shame and disgrace.   And I will rejoice in my deliverance, extolling my Father with praise! Amen

Ezekiel 23:1-49; Hebrews 10:18-31; Psalm 109: 1-31

Nov 10 Let Your Light shine through us and overcome the darkness

Father, I wonder if You see in my country what You saw in the rebellion and idolatry of Israel and Judah. The list You make certainly seems familiar. Of Israel You said she treated parents with contempt, oppressed and mistreated the defenseless, despised what is holy and desecrated the Sabbath, liars, murderers, idolaters, lewd, lustful, immoral, kill for bribes, extort unjust gain, commit robbery; all while forgetting You. This list looks like the television line up for today’s entertainment!

So Your judgment will be just on my country too.

candles-1645551_640But one thing was missing from Israel. “You looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before You in the gap on behalf of the land so You would not have to destroy it, but You found no one.” Father, I believe many today hear the call to build up the wall around our country. It has been torn down by our sin and our turning from You. But many are praying for the revival and healing of our country. We cry out, distressed over the idolatry, over the evil that has taken root here.

We see that what is evil has been called good, and that our leaders and role models have fallen and led us away from You. Father, I am grieved that my generation has exalted self over You. And that we have allowed our freedoms to warp our sense of right and wrong. Father, I pray for Your mercy and for Your healing. Let Your light overcome the darkness that is covering this land.

I stand in the gap of the broken wall as a guard, sounding the alarm; that the time is late. And the people need to awaken to the truth. Your Truth. And turn away from the evil that entices us. Father, You have made a way for each person to be reconciled to You. Sacrifices do not need to be made in a temple, daily, any longer. You made the perfect sacrifice, once, for all. Let there be spiritual revival in my country and in its people!

Father, let those of us who pray for our country be enough. See us, and do not destroy. Let our fate be different from that of Israel. Amen

Ezekiel 22:1-31; Hebrews 10:1-17

 

Nov 9 The Shepherd’s Rod

Father, I can see a pattern in Your treatment of Your people. You revealed Yourself to them in Egypt and told them to “get rid of the vile images you have set your eyes on, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt”. And although You delivered them, they continued to worship a golden calf. Yet You did not destroy them, “for the sake of Your Name”.

shepherd rodIn the desert they rebelled again, but You did not pour out Your wrath, “for the sake of Your Name”. Then their children, who You led and protected in the desert, rebelled, not following You; but, “for the sake of Your Name” You preserved them.  Generations later, the nation of Israel continued to defile itself, and You acted to “disperse them among the nations and scatter them through the countries”.   However, You would not let them inquire of You, and spoke only through Ezekiel the Prophet. It was always Your purpose that they would be Your people and You would be their God. And Your judgment of them was just, as they “passed under Your rod”.

Father, I come now, to seek You, to inquire of You. There are so many things in my life that I need Your wisdom about, Your guidance, Your direction. I need Your strength to bear up under the challenges, and Your peace to sustain me through them. I need Your patience where I need to wait, and Your boldness where I need to act. I want to see where You would have me join You in Your work so I do not spend my energy on fruitless endeavors.

My part in this is to be sure my life is rid of idols. I will examine my actions, my attitudes, my relationships, to be sure nothing and no one is stealing my passion to live for You.   I want to “pass under Your rod” for Your inspection and loving care.

This is the same rod of which the Psalmist wrote “Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me”. A shepherd uses his rod for many things. One is to have the sheep pass under it. It is a way of counting to be sure every sheep is where it should be and accounted for. It is also a way of inspecting them. As each sheep passes, the shepherd looks to see that each is well fed, rested, and not ill.   As the rod parts their hair, inspection is made of the skin for wounds, parasites, anything that would indicate a need for further care.

Father, I am a sheep of Your pasture. Inspect me. Look for any sign of weakness or disease in me. When so, heal me and I will be healed. Strengthen me with Your Word and with Your presence. Be sure that I am where I am supposed to be. I too, am called by Your Name. So I desire to live in obedience so that Your Name will be preserved and honored. Father, let my life glorify Your name. Amen

Ezekiel 20:1-38

Nov 8 May the Truth set us free

usa-1491734_640Father, as I read this section of Psalm 106, I fear that I personally, and my country, have together made the same mistakes Your people made in the desert. They were not satisfied with the life You gave them; even the miracles You performed to deliver them from the hand of the enemy who had relegated them to slavery for generations, and then was set on destroying them.

In the wilderness at Meribah where You brought water from a rock for them to drink, they rebelled against Moses and Your provision. They forgot that You had done something so mighty as parting the Red Sea for them, and delivering them from the hand of Pharaoh and his army. Instead, they focused on their fleshly desires, doubting You could quench their thirst. I too, sometimes focus on my own desires rather than the great blessings You have already worked in my life. And I too respond with whining instead of faith.

When they came into the Promised Land, they “mingled with the nations and adopted their customs”. I fear I have done the same by participating in the social customs of my times.   I and my country, have mingled godly beliefs with the socially acceptable values of the times. What You call sin is no longer looked upon as sin. People today seem to have no concept of what is right and wrong, and so no self-governing set of morals that direct or protect them.

Many things in my culture take the place of passion for You. Sports teams, fame, money, power, shopping, alcohol and drugs, status, cars, beauty, youth: so many things have become idols in the lives of so many, even believers.

“They sacrificed their sons and daughters to false gods. They shed innocent blood…” Father, I grieve over the number of babies who have been sacrificed on the altar of ‘choice’ and ‘convenience’. This land is desecrated by their blood.   And it defiles the people involved because of the act of taking a life. But it also exacts a price they often pay in long-term emotional and psychological damage, not to mention the spiritual battle that they have lost in giving over ground to the enemy.

Yet, You “took note of their distress when You heard their cry…and out of Your great love You relented”. Father, I am in distress and I cry out to You: for my personal sin and for the sin of my country. Forgive, Lord. I acknowledge and agree with You that I and my country have acted in rebellion in going our own way without following the path You set before us. And that my country and I have participated in social customs and values that have become a snare to us, even to the point of idolatry. Lord I turn away from anything that seeks to take Your place in my life. Forgive us for focusing on the flesh over the spiritual.

“Save us Lord our God…that we may give thanks to Your Holy name and glory in Your praise. Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Let all the people say, Amen!”

Psalm 106:32-48

Nov 5 You are All-Knowing

ear-2372090_640Father, one way You characterize Your people, the Israelites, is that “they are a rebellious people”. They did not worship only You. They brought in other pagan practices, worshipped idols, did not accept Your instruction or correction, and denied Your true prophets and the prophecies. They were guilty of going their own way.

It was clear, Lord, that You could see what they were doing even when they thought it was in secret. And You paid back those who prophesied falsely and those who disheartened Your people with lies. You knew their actions, their motives, their thoughts. There is nothing hidden from You.

The same is true today, Lord. Before a word is even on my lips, You know it. You know me inside and out. There is nothing I can do in secret that You are not already aware of.   Once again, as it always has been, nothing is hidden from You.

Holy Father, I will worship You and only You. When something else starts to take Your place in my life or in my heart, show me immediately so I can repent and turn away from it.

You also said of Your people: “They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear”.   Show me if there are pagan practices in my own culture that take away from my worshipping You.   If You see me participating in something I should not, again, show me immediately so I can turn from it.

Father, help me receive Your instruction in obedience; and Your correction in humility. Help me understand how the prophecies You have given affect how I am to live. I know I often go my own way. If it is from impatience when waiting to hear from You, help me wait patiently till I do hear from You. If it is in disobedience and rebellion, show me my error, and how to get back on Your path.

Father, Ezekiel was Your man. He heard from You in a real way. And he was obedient. I desire to be like Ezekiel in this way. Let me hear from You in a real way. And guide me to be obedient. Amen

Ezekiel 12:1-14:11

Oct 8 Worship the Creator, not the created

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Jeremiah points out the worthlessness of the idols that the people made for themselves. They were made of wood or stone. They had to be carried from place to place. They had no awareness and no power. Yet the people superstitiously bowed down to them. What a stark contrast to You! There is “No one like You, Lord”.

 

You made, literally created, the earth! You imagined it, and then spoke it into being. When You speak, it trembles. When You thunder, the waters storm with hurricane force. “You are the Creator of everything that exists.” If I were to worship anything else, I would be as Jeremiah described his people, and the whole human race: “stupid and foolish…without knowledge”.

Jeremiah also encourages me not to fear the predictions of those who look elsewhere for their wisdom. So I need not be afraid of false prophets, horoscopes or those who seek to divine the future from the stars. You made the stars. So I worship the Maker, not what was made.

Paul was in chains for his speaking out about who You are. That is not a current threat where I live. Help me “be wise in the way I act towards outsiders, and make the most of every opportunity. Let my conversation be full of grace and seasoned with salt, so that I may know how to answer everyone.” Show me when to speak, and what to say. And when to hold my tongue. So many people are put off of Christianity because of the actions and attitudes of Christians. Let me be a beacon of light to others as I walk the walk, and talk the talk in grace and love.

Show me what it means to “Devote myself to prayer, being watchful and thankful”. I strive to express my thanks in prayer and allow time for You to speak to me, not just deliver a list of requests. Thank You Father, that You, the matchless King of the Universe, hear my prayers.   And thank You that You answer them. Help me to be watchful for Your answers. And wait on Your timing. I trust in the Creator of all things. Amen

Jeremiah 10:1-16; Colossians 4:1-6

Oct 7 Guide my attitudes, actions

Father, the scribes and priests of old had Your Word, but even they did not live by it or teach others correctly. They rejected Your wisdom, but called themselves ‘wise’.   Since I seek Your wisdom, help me get my focus off earthly concerns, and onto heavenly things.

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The ‘earthly’ things have to do with the negative side of my flesh.   These are the things You punished Israel and Judah for. In addition to spiritual idolatry that took their worship away from You, they treated each other with greed and deceit. They were shameless in their lusts and immorality. These are the things I must put to death in my own flesh. Because You gave me a new life in saving me from the penalty of my sin, I seek to live that life in You.

As You are from heaven, those ‘heavenly’ traits I must cultivate are “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience…forgiveness…love.” Father, help me have these character qualities and treat others with them. When faced with situations, show me the appropriate response that will be framed in these attributes.

One thing I know will be difficult for me is to forgive others who I believe have wronged me.   Sometimes the consequences of their actions are far-reaching and have harmed my loved ones as well. But it helps me to remember that You have seen everything. And vengeance belongs to You. It also helps me when I realize all the things You have forgiven me. And that I need to forgive others as You have forgiven me.

Father, I am grateful for the peace and love You give me. Let them be the overarching qualities of my life. Let all I do bring Your peace and Your love into the lives of those around me.   In Your name. Amen

Jeremiah 8:8-13; Colossians 3:1-17

Sept 14 All will know You!

Father, You are right in Your assessments and just in Your judgments. You gave Isaiah a judgment that would fall upon the people of Moab and Damascus. It’s a horrible picture of death and devastation. Moab was spoken of with “her overweening pride and conceit, her pride and her insolence…” And Damascus had “forgotten God your Savior, you have not remembered the Rock your fortress.” Both were lands of great idolatry.

Lord, do not let me be prideful or conceited. Do not let me think more of myself than I ought to, or forget that all I have comes from You. Father, I am humbled again, at Your righteousness. You always punish the wicked.  And yet You leave a remnant who turn back to You. “In that day [of judgment] men will look to their Maker and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel. They will not look to the altars, the work of their hands…” Although they had lived their lives worshipping other gods, when judgment came, they knew exactly who the real God was.

frame-1482474_640I fear I live in a country of people who also deny You and worships other gods. Perhaps not in a religious way, but who live their lives by seeking fame and fortune, doing only what feels good or gains them the most material possessions. However, I believe that when judgment falls, they will remember that they knew all along, who You really are. Father, bring revival before it is too late. Amen

Isaiah 15:1—18:7

Sept 11 Seek God’s wisdom and blessing

O Father, help me. Strengthen me in my spirit so I will not make the same mistakes Your people in Israel made so long ago.

First they “rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah”. These were the softly running streams of Northern Israel that brought water to provide abundant harvests of grain, but represented the provision You afforded them as a blessing.   Yet the people were not satisfied with what You supplied. They sought other gods. So You brought against them “mighty floodwaters of the River – the king of Assyria with all his pomp…to overflow all its channels, run over all its banks and sweep onto Judah, swirling over it, passing through it and reaching up to the neck.”

flood-664712_640The Assyrian Empire was centered on the Tigris and Euphrates, two of the largest and mightiest rivers. The Assyrians would spill over into Israel and flood up to their necks. Not the kind of water that was useful for life, but a devastating, destructive flood.

Father, help me to be satisfied with what You have given me, what You have blessed me with. Do not let me look to others, or compare myself to them, desiring what they have. But let me rest in Your abundant provision, content in Your care, trusting that You know, and will provide, whatever is best for me.

Next, Your people ignored the signs and prophecies You gave them, and instead, sought the wisdom and guidance of mediums and spiritualists.   In my world, there are so many places people can go to discern a direction for their lives. Palm readers, mediums, and spiritualists still exist. Tarot cards and daily horoscopes have become a guide for actions people take in their relationships, their finances, their business and social lives. “…Should not a people inquire of their God?” Lord, I will seek wisdom from You. In Your Word and in prayer, Father, speak to me, direct me. Show me the way to go when I have decisions to make. Do not let me be drawn to the darkness of the occult.

Also, when judgment began to fall on the people, their response was not humility and repentance. Instead, “they say with pride and arrogance of heart, the bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with dressed stone; the fig trees have been felled, but we will replace them with cedars.” In their arrogance, they missed the message You had for them to come back to You, to worship You. Instead they responded only to the destruction, seeing it only as a construction problem; saying they would rebuild with stronger, more resilient materials.

God help us – these are the very same words spoken by American government officials after the destruction of 9-11, September 11th. Rather than heed the warning to return to You, the spiritual problem in this country was seen as a construction issue. With a response to “rebuild” with stronger materials.

Father, if and when You send me a message like this, tenderize my heart to see to the real problem. Do not let me ignore the spiritual issues in my life. Prompt me to respond to those with humility and repentance. If all is right between us, the rest will take care of itself. It is not by might I will endure, but by Your grace, Your mercy, Your love, compassion and provision. And it is the same for my country. Tenderize our leaders’ hearts to see the real problem, to seek You, worship You, and turn to You for guidance. Thank You for these lessons. Help me remember them. Amen

Isaiah 8:1-9:21

Sept 8 Consequences

What a loving Father You are. You instruct gently, and spell out exactly, what the truth is. You teach Your children how to do what will bring them the greatest reward. You remind them: “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land”. You spell out the rewards and the consequences over and over again. When they become disobedient, You send others, prophets, to remind them and warn them off the destructive path and back onto the path of blessing

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Even when they are immersed in their sin and being obstinate, You offer them forgiveness and a way back into Your grace and favor.   “Come, let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be as wool.”

Scarlet and crimson are bright and deep shades of red. Trying to get a red wine stain or a bloodstain out of something is difficult. And my sin stains me like that. But You tell me You can cleanse me as white as snow: sparkling, pure, glistening, frosty snow. You can remove my sin and its stain to make me as white as the softest, purest lamb’s wool!

“But if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” That is the consequence of disobedience. Who would choose that? Who would give up the blessing of Your provision and favor, in order to be devoured by death? And yet, the Israelites did just that, continuing in idolatry. They turned away from You. In pursuit of other gods, they continued to make meaningless offerings to You as one of the many ‘little g gods’ they worshipped. Meaningless because their hearts did not belong to You any longer.

And You brought judgment. Because of Your righteous character, You had to uphold justice and be true to Your Word.   They did not understand until it was too late.

Father, I believe my country has been blessed and protected by You because we trusted in You. But now, we have turned away as a nation, ‘resisting and rebelling’. We no longer honor or even acknowledge You.   You have sent a warning and people who have tried to call America back. But we have not returned. We have chosen the path away from You. And You will bring judgment.

Before it is too late, Father, I pray my nation will turn to You. Bring us leaders with godly values. Open our eyes to our sin and give us repentant hearts. “Come, [America], let us walk in the light of the Lord.” Amen

Isaiah 1:1-2:22

Apr 22 One True God

When I say, “I will serve the Lord”, these are word of intention and obligation. I do not just sit back and allow whatever comes to come, saying ‘It must be the will of the Lord’.  Saying “I will serve the Lord”, carries the responsibility to recognize and reject all other powers and gods that have somehow gotten into my life, and to act intentionally to perform service affirming that You, the Lord, are my God.

What does that look like?

idolatryI can certainly avoid setting up a statue of wood or stone and laying offerings in front of it as acts of worship. But in my world today, besides countless religions, there are many forms of ‘worshipping other gods’.   They are usually looked upon as either entertainment or common sense.

As an example, it is common sense to take care of our environment, reduce our carbon footprint, not waste resources. But there are those who do this not out of respect for Your creation, but because they believe in and worship the earth as a power itself. Environmentalism has become a religion, worshiping ‘Mother Earth’.

For the sake of ‘entertainment’ many people are enticed by the idea they can learn the future, or who say they ‘dabble’ in the occult. What harm is ‘dabbling’? They may read horoscopes, go to fortune tellers, read Tarot cards, play with ouija boards, channel or séance to speak to the dead, even summon satan. The ‘fun’ they participate in opens their hearts and spirits to unseen powers of influence they may not realize.

The truth is, there is power there that scripture tells us to have nothing to do with. Participating in those practices is a form of worship. Believing as truth what is revealed there is attributing a godlike power to the activity or persons involved.

And then, there are some who elevate the desire to succeed or to look youthful to a level of worship, as it guides and motivates everything they do; how they make decisions, where they spend their money.

It is so easy to allow things I enjoy or love to become an unhealthy form of worship; whether it’s my children, my job, sports, movies, food, self.   Help me be vigilant to be sure I worship only the One True God. Thank You Jesus, for revealing this truth to me. Help me recognize it in my own life, and turn from any form of ‘other’ worship, so that I only serve You. Amen

Joshua 24:14-24  

Dec 7 Where there is life, there is hope

Father, what a picture of joy and hope when You say “When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert”.  Because in the desert, very little grows.  The lack of water and the intense heat plus sandy soil produce low, scrawny plant life.  But to find grapes: something juicy and good that can nourish, is a wonderful and valuable find!  When living in or crossing the desert, a find like this can be the difference between life and death. figtree

A similar picture is seen in the next part of the verse: “when I saw your fathers, it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree”.  For a fig tree is different from most other fruit trees.  It will take four to five years, and sometimes six or seven years for a fig tree to produce it’s first crop of figs.  So all those years, care must be taken to keep it watered and fertilized and protected from the weather and winds, parasites and disease so it will be healthy enough to produce.  Then, when seeing the early fruit, you know it has all been worth it!  There is success!  And hope of many more harvests to come.

Both of these create an emotional response of relief, satisfaction – that the future is secure and what has been done and accomplished was worth it.  I love seeing this in projects or ministries I have been involved with.  Or when I think of lives I have impacted.  It is a good feeling that any positive influence will continue and go on.  I feel it when I think of my children.  I feel delight and hope.

But then that was all taken away when You saw what happened.  “…they consecrated themselves to that shameful idol and became as vile as the thing they loved”.   Delight is erased.  Hopes are dashed.  Joy is replaced with sadness, grief and anguish over the loss of those involved and the prospect of the joyous future that had been envisioned.

Father, do You feel like this about each one of Your creations now?  Do You have delight in each one, and then anguish over their fall away from You into idolatry?  Father, I am Your child.  Keep me from turning away from You.  Show me clearly where and when there are idols I am in danger of being drawn to: pride, possessions, money, fame, popularity, whatever.  I believe You gave these words to John: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth”.

I echo these words for my own children.  And also “pray that [they] may enjoy good health and that all may go well with [them]”.   Father, help me and my children and loved ones be faithful to You.  Help us walk in a manner worthy of You, to show hospitality, not to gossip, to welcome believers, not to imitate what is evil, but to imitate what is good.  Father, let “our mouths be filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy” because of the “great things You have done for us”!  Thank You for the great things You have done for us!  Amen

Hosea 9:10; III John 1:1-14; Psalm 126:1-6