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Light for Life and Joy

 
Psalm 19:8 “The precepts of the LORD are right,”
 
[You, Lord, make the lines clear: this is right, that is wrong. And praise you that you do it as much in principles as in particulars, like, “honor your father and mother,” which can be lived out differently in different cultures.
 
Then you present us with the wisdom to know how to apply these principles in various situations in our lives, giving us guidance in the grey areas. “If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God….” (James 1:5)]
 
“giving joy to the heart.”
 
[Knowing what is right and wrong brings security, for having clear boundaries lessens the stress of decision making. Knowing truth brings joy, one of the pleasures you desire for us to have in growing amounts.
 
As you, Lord Jesus, said in John 15:11, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” Joy is there, offered to us for the taking–we just need to take your Word seriously, reject the tendency to complain and choose to live the truth that knowing Jesus is enough for joy.
 
Such joy does not come from circumstances (as happiness does) but from our relationship with you, which will never be altered from your side–meaning joy is always available, no matter how we may feel.]
 
“The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.”
 
[Your Word shines like the noon day sun, showing us the way, illuminating what is right and wrong, falling with power on our path so we can know what could cause us to stumble, where to step and what to reject]
 
We can know what to avoid: do not lie; do not steal; do not commit adultery. And what to do: be faithful; be kind; forgive; love by obeying Truth; find your delight in God; do what is best; pray all the time.
 
There is no question about many things. And where it is not so clear and simple, you wholeheartedly give wisdom to discern and live in integrity.
 
Help us to walk in your light today, seeing and circumventing the traps that the world, the flesh and the devil have set for us. May we, by living in the light of your Word, be more than conquerors with you.]
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Freedom!

 
From Edified, written in 2011
 
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”
Psalm 91:1
 
It is so good and right to praise God for the gift of His Son, and all that Jesus brought to us. One gift that Jesus gave us is freedom from the oppression of the devil. I’ve told before of my slavery to irrational fears of the dark with thoughts of “If I open that door, there will be a flaming, ugly face hanging in the air!” or “If I open my eyes, there will be a wolf at the foot of the bed with red, fiery eyes!”
 
These fears were powerful and palpable even to those around me who did not share them. About 8 years ago, while in Albania, the Lord orchestrated a “show-down” with these fears, and as I wielded the Sword of the Spirit, using Psalm 23, those fears were vanquished, and I’d not been troubled since–until this fall.
Now here in Germany (in 2011), Barbara stays with her aged mother about 6 nights a week to help her with going to bed and getting up in the morning, and on those nights, when I am home alone, those irrational, powerful fears began to return. Not as strong as before, but still compelling.
Psalm 23 again was effective against them as I prayed, “‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.’ Lord, even if such a face should be there when I open the door, I know that you are with me and would help me.” With the Spirit’s help, I was winning, but the fears kept coming—until one night.
 
That night I got up to go to the bathroom, intentionally not turning on the lights in order to face these fears fully. Just as I was opening the bedroom door, a new thought came. “Do you know who’s actually on the other side of this door?” I paused and then answered the question: “Jesus!”
Wow, that thought was like a precise atom bomb that blew my fears to smithereens. I was immediately freed, and have had no reoccurrence since! Now every time I open a door in the dark, I think: “On the other side of this door, waiting for me, is the Lord Jesus: my Rock, my Salvation and my high Tower!”
 
As it says in Proverbs 4, “the path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever more brightly til the full light of day.” Out of darkness into the light, out of bondage into freedom.
Psalm 68:6 says, The Lord “leads forth the prisoners with singing, but the rebellious dwell in a sun scorched land.” The Lord desires to free us from the corruption of sin and the traps of Satan. May He help you in your struggles as He helped me in mine through meditating on and wielding the sword of the Spirit, obeying the Word.
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What a God!

From my worship journal and EDIFIED!
 
Praise be to you, Lord God, for you are wholly Holy. You are the Giver of Goodness, the King of kindness, the Lord of Love, the Leader of light, the Lover of life, the Creator of kings, the Shepherd of satisfaction, and the God of grace.
 
Praise you for revealing yourself in both your Word and in your world, giving all people opportunity to know you, to come to you, to enter your shelter, your Kingdom, your Family.
 
Praise you, too, that you show us more of your beautiful qualities as you continually take care of us. Every day of our lives you manifest your power in protection, your creativity in customized care, your love in the loveliness of creation, your generosity in giving, your goodness in grace.
 
You are also the God to be feared for your justice and holiness, a God to be obeyed for your wisdom and righteousness, a God to be loved for your goodness and grace, a God to be worshiped for your greatness and glory.
 
In you is more than we could ever imagine; in you is more than we can ever comprehend; in you there is more than enough to keep us learning for all eternity.
 
You are the God who is too good to be true, while being more than true. Glory be to you, honor be to you, obedience be to you, joy be to you this day in my motives, thoughts, words and actions.
 
Prayer: “Lord, keep me in awe of you, keep me worshiping you, praising you all day long. Keep my eyes open to the beauty around me that I may honor you all the time.
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Psalm 19:4b-6

Psalm 19:4b-6 “In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.”

You, Lord, in your wisdom, goodness and might, created the sun, making it exactly the right size, burning at precisely the right temperature. Then you placed the earth in just the right orbit around it, not too far, not too close, providing exactly the right amount of heat, light and energy for carbon-based life. The sun speaks to us of your provision and love, your wisdom and power.

When simple observation shows us the exactness and wisdom of your design, with so many factors being preciously what is needed, why do so many not believe? Your Word tells us that they have a veil over their faces, put there by Satan and held there by their sin and selfishness. Only as they turn to you is it taken away (2 Cor. 3:15, 4:3,4).

Praise be to you, Lord, that you call all to turn to you, even though you know that all will not choose to believe. Like the sun, you constantly shine out on us your warm love, your light giving grace and your energy providing goodness.

You are the God of undying, unending kindness, of supremely positive provision, of ever-flowing grace and goodness. And, in spite of what we are in our nature, you constantly give good to us, because it is your nature do so: you are Love, you are Light, you are Life. And you will go on doing good to your creatures no matter how they respond.

I praise you for your graciousness, for your righteousness, for your holiness, for your loveliness. I praise you that you have caused your face to shine upon us; that in your great love, you have equipped us for life and godliness; that you protect us from true evil; that you call us to partnership with you in the great plans you have for the conclusion of the world, for the sweeping of many into your Kingdom, and for the ending of evil in the universe.

You are completely worthy of all worship, you are supremely worthy of honor and praise, you are richly worthy of all exaltation and obedience. I bow now before you this morning, Lord; help me to rise up to give you glory and honor and praise by walking in the light of your Word, living an obedient life worthy of you, doing what I know pleases you, offering the sacrifice of thanksgiving. I praise you now for your provision to do this.]

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Accidental Adventures

After returning from Germany in early 1980, we prayed that my work visa and residence permit would be granted before the two months were up, but as time got closer, it was clear that I would have to make an exit trip to renew my visa.
 
Another worker also needed to go, so we decided to drive to Greece together. On one flat, straight stretch I came up behind a big truck traveling about 50 miles an hour. I peeked out from behind and saw that there was a car coming, but it was a long long ways away, leaving me plenty of time to pass. I pulled out and stepped on the gas and slowly gained speed; that small Volkswagen motor was faithful, but not all that powerful.
 
As I got half way past the truck, I saw that the oncoming car was going much faster than the speed limit of 65 mph, and I began to suspect that I wasn’t going to make it past the truck in time. So I slammed on the brakes, hoping to get back behind the truck, but the weight of the engine in the rear of my car slung the backend around so we were skidding sideways down the road.
 
Instinctively I made the proper correction with the wheel, but nothing happened. The oncoming Mercedes was almost upon us and didn’t seem to slowing down one bit. Then at the last second, my car responded to my corrections and swung back around, slamming us up against the truck, while the Mercedes slipped by on the shoulder and disappeared in the distance.
The truck driver didn’t slow down either, didn’t even seem to notice what had happened. After taking a second to recover, I also decided to keep going.
 
In the next town we stopped to inspect the damage. The passenger door had a big dent in it with black marks from the truck tire; however, the door still worked. The back passenger side window was smashed, but since it was one that didn’t open, it wouldn’t be too difficult to fix. We asked around, found a window repair shop, and had the glass replaced.
 
Counting our spinning on ice into the gas station on our way to Tarsus, this incident was the second of eleven accidents I had in our new country. Only in this one did I have any fault. The rest were caused mostly by other people running into me.
 
Driving in this country was certainly dangerous. So was parking, as I found one day when I parked in front of John’s house, which was across the street from a reasonably steep side street. As I was walking toward the house, a car came over the top of the hill and down to the stop sign, but instead of stopping, it slid right across the street and rammed into my car!
 
The driver hopped out, angry at me. “This accident is your fault! If you hadn’t parked there I wouldn’t have hit you!” he yelled. This, we found, was the common logic here and according to that, he was right. If I hadn’t parked there, he wouldn’t have hit me, but he also would have driven off the four-foot high wall and landed into John’s yard!
 
In one of the more interesting of my accidents, I was waiting to turn left at a stop light when a police car came zooming across the intersection and hit me head on! The driver was a mechanic who was testing the car and the policeman was riding along with him. The mechanic ended up fixing the car for us at his expense, although it took him two months to do it.
 
All in all, we frequently experienced the Lord’s protection in travel, without having any serious accidents resulting in serious injuries. That means of whole string of God sightings as He protected us through many, many miles driven in the Middle East.
 

Accidental Provision

After returning from Germany in early 1980, we prayed that my work visa and residence permit would be granted before the two months were up, but as time got closer, it was clear that I would have to make an exit trip to renew my visa.
 
Another worker also needed to go, so we decided to drive to Greece together. On one flat, straight stretch I came up behind a big truck traveling about 50 miles an hour. I peeked out from behind and saw that there was a car coming, but it was a long long ways away, leaving me plenty of time to pass. I pulled out and stepped on the gas and slowly gained speed; that small Volkswagen motor was faithful, but not all that powerful.
 
As I got half way past the truck, I saw that the oncoming car was going much faster than the speed limit of 65 mph, and I began to suspect that I wasn’t going to make it past the truck in time. So I slammed on the brakes, hoping to get back behind the truck, but the weight of the engine in the rear of my car slung the backend around so we were skidding sideways down the road.
 
Instinctively I made the proper correction with the wheel, but nothing happened. The oncoming Mercedes was almost upon us and didn’t seem to slowing down one bit. Then at the last second, my car responded to my corrections and swung back around, slamming us up against the truck, while the Mercedes slipped by on the shoulder and disappeared in the distance.
The truck driver didn’t slow down either, didn’t even seem to notice what had happened. After taking a second to recover, I also decided to keep going.
 
In the next town we stopped to inspect the damage. The passenger door had a big dent in it with black marks from the truck tire; however, the door still worked. The back passenger side window was smashed, but since it was one that didn’t open, it wouldn’t be too difficult to fix. We asked around, found a window repair shop, and had the glass replaced.
 
Counting our spinning on ice into the gas station on our way to Tarsus, this incident was the second of eleven accidents I had in our new country. Only in this one did I have any fault. The rest were caused mostly by other people running into me.
 
Driving in this country was certainly dangerous. So was parking, as I found one day when I parked in front of John’s house, which was across the street from a reasonably steep side street. As I was walking toward the house, a car came over the top of the hill and down to the stop sign, but instead of stopping, it slid right across the street and rammed into my car!
 
The driver hopped out, angry at me. “This accident is your fault! If you hadn’t parked there I wouldn’t have hit you!” he yelled. This, we found, was the common logic here and according to that, he was right. If I hadn’t parked there, he wouldn’t have hit me, but he also would have driven off the four-foot high wall and landed into John’s yard!
 
In one of the more interesting of my accidents, I was waiting to turn left at a stop light when a police car came zooming across the intersection and hit me head on! The driver was a mechanic who was testing the car and the policeman was riding along with him. The mechanic ended up fixing the car for us at his expense, although it took him two months to do it.
 
All in all, we frequently experienced the Lord’s protection in travel, without having any serious accidents resulting in serious injuries. That means of whole string of God sightings as He protected us through many, many miles driven in the Middle East.
 
In picture below is the little VW station wagon with the engine in the rear.
 
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Psalm 19:1-4

Psalm 19
 
Praise you, Lord, that you are the God of communication, laying out before all mankind the message of your existence: the Almighty One who is there. As it says in Psalm 19:1,
 
“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
 
[Even in its fallen and twisted state, all creation shouts out that there is a good and wise Creator. Anyone honestly looking at the way things are has to see that they are intentionally designed–made, not the result of chance. The beauty, the complexity, the rhythms of life, the power, the expanse—all speak of a Creator.
 
Psalm 19:2 “Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.”
 
[We are constantly surrounded with the message of the skies and stars, of birds and butterflies, ants and elephants, blooms and babies. Plan and purpose are everywhere, beauty abounds, colors bring joy–the happy yellow of a daffodil, the royal purple of a an iris, the bright blue of the sky all shout, “There is a Creator and He is wise and wonderful, powerful and present!”]
 
Psalm 19:3,4 “There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”
 
[I think of my 78 year old Eskimo friend who grew up on the Eastern shore of Siberia at the end of the earth. As a teen, looking at the beauty of the animals, sea and mountains, he came to the conclusion that the demons they worshiped, who did such ugly things, could never have created all this beauty. “There must be a good creator God,” he thought. And, at 18, God brought him into contact with a follower of Jesus, who opened the Bible for him, and he was ready to believe. He had heard the message of creation and understood it, and has now been a follower of Jesus for 60 years!
 
Paul echoes this same truth in the New Testament, “…what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Rom. 1:19,20).
 
You, Lord, have revealed yourself to all through creation, giving all a chance to see and understand that there is a good Creator God. You give them enough light to make them think, and if they want to know more, you will bring further light into their life.
 
Praise be to you for your great love for your rebellious creatures, your marvelous grace and your persistent pursuit of sinners, saving all who are willing. You are the One we can trust, if we will just look around us! Open our eyes so we may delight in your love of beauty, that our faith may deepen every day!]
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Peace in the Midst of Turmoil

 
“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.” Psalm 143:8
 
While in a difficult situation recently, someone asked me how I could be so cheerful. The answer is a Scripture-based phrase that I often use to give myself perspective: “God is moving history to a conclusion and is taking us with Him!” Whatever the present event, it is part of God’s plan to finish history and move us into eternity. He is in control; I can trust Him.
 
This perspective is found throughout Scripture. Colossians 3:2-4 expresses it well: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” This gives us the wider, God-focused perspective.
 
“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” We can leave behind our old culturally-based, performance-oriented, comfort-focused value system. Instead we can choose to rest in the security we have in Christ.
 
“When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” He WILL appear, and He WILL bring us with Him, and He WILL give us a place in His glory—we can focus on this long-term truth rather than our short-term accomplishments or failures!
 
This understanding gives us a wide and long view of what’s happening. This view can change our goal from being comfortable and safe, to joining God in what He’s doing, to embracing the adventures He’s prepared for us.
 
If, from a human perspective, my whole life collapses around me (illness, accident, loss, poverty, persecution, injustice, war), I can look at it within the bigger picture of God’s glory, greatness and grace, knowing that He is doing something significant through it; therefore, I can praise and trust Him in it. My favorite verse sums it up: “My soul finds rest in God alone” (Ps. 62:1).
 
This is a huge shift from “normal” human thinking. And we can cooperate with God in making this shift by internalizing Scripture, then putting it into practice in little every day events. Disappointments, delays, little hurts and small losses then all become opportunities to offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving (Ps. 50:23) and honor God.
 
In giving thanks, we affirm that God is good, that God is in control, that God is at work using each irritation to expose my sin, to transform me, to give me opportunity to be a light to those around me, to give Him glory before the unseen hosts. Truly, knowing Jesus is enough for joy, period! Let’s join Him today in living in this truth!
 
Prayer: “Lord Jesus, you are enough. Help me to walk with you through this day in your power, giving you glory in each decision, trusting you rather than myself. Praise be to you for what you will do in me today. Amen.”
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Is God Fair? Part Three

Is God Fair? Part 3
 
In answering the question, “Is God fair?” (meaning, in today’s thinking, “Does He give everyone the same things?”), we have looked at the first two parts of the answer: “No” and “Yes.”
 
The third answer to this question is another, “No.” In His dealings with us, in what He gives to His creatures in general and His beloved children in specific, God, humanly speaking, is divinely, magnificently and magnanimously unfair.
 
God loves diversity and we see this in how He works in our lives. He is able to take the negative effects of the Fall, where all creation was twisted, and use them for good in us. In this scheme of things each gets what he or she needs to come to know Him and then to serve Him.
 
–Some people He creates with great intelligence, others with simple minds.
 
–Some are born beautiful, others plain, the rest are somewhere in between.
 
–Some are born healthy , others with birth defects or serious illnesses.
 
–Some grow up strong and live long, some die as babies, others die in between.
 
–Some grow up with many opportunities, some with few, others with none.
 
–Some have wonderful parents, some are totally neglected and abused, most have average ones.
 
–Some live in wealth, some in poverty, some in middle class income.
 
–Some have prominent spiritual gifts, like teaching, or leading, while others have gifts used in the background, like mercy or service.
 
Humanly speaking God is unfair in this, but divinely speaking, we know that He is wise and has a purpose for each in what He gives and allows; we can trust Him to do and give what is best for each.
 
He knows what challenges each person requires to see his or her need for a Savior, and then to grow spiritually. He does what is best for each, individually tailoring circumstances and events.
 
This is very “unfair” from the politically correct perspective, but very loving and wise from God’s perspective of Truth, Wisdom, and his ultimate goal to eliminate evil, to save all who are willing and to bring in a new and perfect heaven and earth.
 
God has also distributed roles as He sees fit, much to the consternation of many today. This includes roles in the spiritual (gifts), intellectual, physical and relational realms. Here are some very obvious, yet in our society, often rejected examples of the roles He’s given to men and women.
 
–Men are to procreate. Women are to bear and nurse babies.
 
–Men are to voluntarily, wholeheartedly love, be understanding, nurture & encourage their wives. Women are to voluntarily respect and follow their husbands.
 
–Men are to lead their families. Wives are to be helpers to their husbands. Men are to listen to women’s perspectives and take them into account in making decisions.
 
–Men are to teach and lead mixed groups in the Kingdom. Women are to teach and lead women and children in the Kingdom.
 
In this “unfair” distribution of roles, God knows and does what is best. We can trust Him in His wisdom, love, grace and sovereignty to give to each person what that one needs to come to Him, to live a useful and meaningful life, to develop in a healthy and effective way.
 
So is God fair? “No,” “Yes,” and “No.” Does God have the right to be so? Absolutely: He is the Creator of all, the Most High, the Almighty, the Beginner and Ender of time. There is no one who can challenge Him (as Job found in chapters 38-41 of his book), for the Lord God is perfect in every way.
 
No human could think up such a wonderful God whose character is multifacetedly perfect and beyond comprehension in His Wisdom, Power, Grace and Love. He is totally independent of His creation, he has no need of us; for in His triuneness there is perfect community, love and completeness, which have existed from eternity. This is the God who knows what He’s doing and I choose to trust Him! How about you?
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Is God Fair? Part Two

Is God fair? Part 2
 
As stated in part one, fairness, as defined in our age of tolerance, is that everyone should to get the same thing. In light of this, we have to answer the question, “Is God fair” with “No,” “Yes” and “No.” We looked at the first “No” in part one–God is not fair, in that He doesn’t give us what we deserve, rather He gives us mercy. Now we will look at this from another perspective.
 
“Yes, God is fair.” As you know, He has provided a way of salvation , and in this we see His “fairness:” He gives the same potential to everyone. Here are several points of this fairness.
 
–In creating all human beings in His image, God bequeathed to all the same worth and possibility of relationships (Gen. 1:26,27).
 
–Jesus confirmed this worth when He died and provided the potential for salvation for all who have ever lived and ever will live. “Christ Jesus…gave himself as a ransom for all people.” (1 Tim 2:6, as well as 1John 2:2, Heb. 2:9, 4:10)
 
–We can only be saved by faith; this is true for everyone, no matter what his or her age, intelligence, education, religion, status, wealth, health, strength, home or family. It’s the same for all. (Eph. 2:8, Rom. 1:17)
 
–The Holy Spirit works in the life of every person in the whole world to convince each one of his or her need for Jesus as Savior. The Spirit “will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment…” (John 16:7-11).
 
Every person has the revelation of God’s character in creation “…what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Rom. 1″19,20).
 
–God watches over each person, is aware of the heart condition of each, and loves each with the same great love. (Psalm 33:13-15, Psalm 145:10-16,)
 
–God has the same desire for everyone: that all be saved, although because of their unbelief, many will refuse His salvation. “God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:4, also 2 Peter 3:9, John 1:7)
 
–God will condemn all sin, and anyone who clings to it rather than accepting His offer of grace and protection, will condemn themselves, along with the sin they chose and loved. (John 3:18)
 
In this non-exhaustive list of Scriptural points, God offers to all the same possibility of having eternal life, of becoming His child, of entering His Kingdom and Family and of receiving the same gifts and privileges He has for them. And the way to accept them is the same for all: by faith, a gift He also offers to all.
 
In His mercy God is fair in offering salvation to all, and I am thankful for it! This is the God we can trust wholeheartedly. Help us to do so today, Lord!
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