Maranatha Devotionals
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Friday, March 30, 2007

God's Goodness - Day 5 - Trees

We can get a glimpse of the Creator's imagination and eye for beauty when we look at the various types of trees He created. I'm no arborist, by any stretch of the imagination. But as I look at trees, I see each one as having three parts: the roots, the trunk and the branches. I see God through these three parts, don't you? I see our Heavenly Father as the roots. He is our stronghold and the basis of all that is Good. I see the Son as the trunk, receiving from the Father and giving to the branches. I see the branches as the Holy Spirit, feeding what He receives from the Son to conform us, the Christian, to His likeness.

The Heavenly Father is the Provider of all things. He is Jehovah-jireh. The roots provide the tree and branches with everything needed. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen. (Gen 22:14) God provided Abraham with a lamb to use (Gen. 22:8).

The tree trunk (or the vine) is symbolic of our Lord, Jesus Christ. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (Joh 15:5) The branches represent the Holy Spirit, who lives within all of those who are born again. Although there are many different types of trees, all have roots, trunks and branches.

The branches are symbolic of the Holy Spirit, who resides within every born again believer. Each branch varies from species to species and even within the same species - some blossom and bear fruit, some have leaves that change colors, etc. I see the born-again Christian from all of time reflected in this. Many bear fruit, many don't. Many only "produce or getting going for the Lord" when they have been through fiery trials (changes in their spiritual lives like changes in the leaves' color). Some who are weathered, break due to pressures from the elements. Many spiritual comparisons could be made at this point between the branches and the Christian. But that could be a whole other post for another day!

The tree cannot have branches without the trunk. The Holy Spirit testifies of Jesus Christ - He brings glory to Jesus Christ. Those who are in Christ will bear fruit and will be growing in Christ through the convictions of the Holy Spirit. But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: (Joh 15:26) Without the Spirit, we cannot do anything. Without relinquishing our will to His, we can bear no fruit. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away. (Mat 21:19)

The trunk also receives its nutrients from the roots. The Son receives all things from His Heavenly Father. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. (Mat 11:27) I find it interesting that the branches cannot know the root unless they are "in the trunk." Doesn't that make you want to whoop and holler? The branches cannot get to the roots on their own. They have to be attached to the trunk in order to receive the benefit of the roots and its nutrition. Neither can we come to the Father unless we go through His Son! Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (Joh 14:6)

The branches receive their nourishment from the trunk, which in turn receives it from the roots. Our Saviour recognized that He was nothing without the Father. The trunk is nothing without the roots. And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. (Mar 10:18) Both the Holy Spirit and Christ cannot be set apart from the Father any more than the branches and trunk be set apart from the roots.

As the tree grows and bears fruit, it matures into a beautiful piece of art work from God. The believer grows in Christ by yielding himself to the Holy Spirit who molds us into His image. We mature as believers and grow. The age of a tree can be measured by the rings found in its trunk - measured from the bark to the center of the trunk. Some trees are so old that they become hollow in the center as the dead heartwood rots away. Oh what a beautiful picture this was to me. As we grow in Christ and become one with Him, our old flesh will become dead heartwood and it will rot away. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Rom 8:29)

All parts of the tree form the tree - none can exist without the other. The Trinity is One. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. (1 Jo 5:7) All creation speaks of this. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: (Rom 1:20)Thank You, Lord, for these blessings this morning!

Dear God...
My heart is overwhelmed today
At what Thou hast given me
The beauty all around doth speak
Of the magnificence found in Thee

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

God's Goodness - Day 4 - The Stars

One of the topics of discussion at Fundamental Baptist Forum is that of God's creation. This is what prompted this series I'm currently writing. One of our administrators, Pastor John, shared some things on the stars that had such an impact on me! I wanted to spread the blessing with you today.

One of my favorite creations of God is the stars. There are more then 300 references to astronomical objects found in the Bible. Last June, I taught an adult class in VBS on this subject.

The Bible is clear that all creation can teach us of God. The Psalmist teaches that the stars teach that they were created by the Almighty One: Psalms 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” The stars also tell us of our Creator's character. Psalms 97:6, “The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory.” Because of the stars telling the story of their Creator, Paul was able to write: Romans 1:20, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”

The Bible has much to say about the constellations. The people of biblical days only knew of 48 constellations. Aratus gives the earliest description of these constellations in his poem Phaenomina, 270 B.C. This is the poem that Paul quotes in his sermon on Mars Hill in Acts 17:27, 28, “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.”

The Greek writer Homer referred to the constellations as early as 1000 B.C. Speaking of his hero Odysseus observing the starry sky as he sets sail,
There viewed the Pleiades and the Northern Team,
And great Orion’s more refulgent beam.
To which around the axel of the sky
Notice the words of Job 9:9, “Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south.”

Another interesting constellation is Virgo. The Hebrew word for this constellation is Bethulah, which means virgin. The brightest star in Virgo is Spica, which the Jews call Tsemach, which means branch. This Hebrew word is used in the Old Testament to refer to the Messiah. Jeremiah 23:5, “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.”

The fact that the Branch is found inside the Virgin is no accident. We know that the Messiah, Jesus Christ was born of a virgin. Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

Just beside Virgo is Leo the Lion. This should cause our minds to go to Revelation 5:5, “And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.”

Below Leo is Hydra, the Great Serpent.

Here, again, we should be brought to the book of Revelation 12:9-13, “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.” The fact that Leo is above Hydra alludes to the fact that Jesus is the victor over Satan. Revelation 20:2, “And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,”

The Fool Loses His Belt

In the Bible, the writers mention many of the constellations that are seen in winter. The prophet Amos points our attention to two in particular. “Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The LORD is his name.” (Amos 5:8).

The constellation Orion is easy to spot because of the star that marks the left foot, Rigel. Rigel is one of the brightest stars in the night sky. This star is actually 21,000 times brighter than our sun, but because of its distance from us, it appears as a dot in the sky.

In the center there are three stars that seem very close together, they are called The Belt of Orion. The star to the right is Alnitak, an Arabic word meaning “the belt.” The star in the center is Alnilam, “the string of pearls.” The star on the left is Mintaka, an Arabic synonym for “belt” or “girdle.”

In ancient times Orion was known to be a giant, a mighty man, or a great hunter. We know that the Greeks knew Orion as a great hunter because that is what Homer called him in The Odyssey. The Arabs thought of Orion as a giant, calling him Al Jabbar, “the giant.”

In the Old Testament, Orion is referred to four times in an astronomical sense. The Jews call him "lesil," which means fool. This Hebrew word is interesting in that it does not refer to someone who is mentally deficient, but to someone who is ungodly, someone who is rebellious to God. In the book of Proverbs, the fool is referred to as someone who rejects God. Proverbs 14:1, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.”

In the book of Job, God asks an interesting question, “Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?” (Job 38:31). There are two possible interpretations for the question “or loose the bands of Orion":

1) This may refer to Orion as being bound in his place in the sky, as a rebellious person is bound in his sins.

2) Or, it could refer to the belt of Orion. The people of that day wore cords as belts. I am amazed that modern astronomers have discovered that the three stars that compose the belt of Orion are moving in such a way as to appear as if the belt has been loosed and is falling off (see diagram). This is a proof to us of the wisdom and power of God.
Thank you, Pastor John, for this wonderful blessing! We just touched upon a few stars and constellations. The universe is vast - endless. Can you just imagine what is in store for us as we seek God in His creation? This is one way to encourage your spirit when you are down.

Dear God...
How wonderous are the stars You've made
Your Word revealed in all
A golden nugget we receive
Gazing on them as night falls

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

God's Goodness - Day 3 - The Beaver

Having grown up in Northern Maine, seeing beavers was quite common for me. My father owned land which had a beaver's dam on it. He and I would sit for hours watching them at work. As I meditated on these memories, I noticed a few things about them that blessed me.

A beaver is hard-working and diligent. They do not stop working to build their dam until the job is finished. As Christians, we should not grow weary in well doing but continue on in our work for the Lord. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (Gal 6:9) and But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. (2 Th 3:13)

The beavers use this same process to build their lodge. They don't quit until their home is built. The mud gets packed so tightly with the wood that when it freezes, no predators can get through. I thought about our "temple." The Christian's foundation must be solid and impenetrable. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 3:11) With Christ as our foundation, the enemy cannot and will not prevail. As I meditate on the mud-packed lodge, I'm impressed that our spiritual lives should be so "packed" with the Word of God that ole slew foot can't step in. When we are equipped with the Word of God, the devil cannot penetrate us because God is our strong hold and protector. The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him. (Nah 1:7)

I also noticed that the beaver is quite tenacious. My father would purposely go remove a few pieces of wood from the dam. This caused the water to start flowing out. The next thing I saw was a little head come popping above the water and he would cautiously swim toward the break in the dam. He would make sure that there wasn't a predator lurking about. A few minutes later, a few more beavers would show up to give a helping hand. By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through. (Ecc 10:18) Dad and I would sit for hours watching them patch the dam. They didn't dilly dally either, nor did they wait until night fall. If they did, the water level would get so low that their lodges would be exposed to predators. We should be so tenacious as we "build" our temples with the reading of the Word, our study habits and serving the Lord. Working at our spiritual lives is not easy but it produces great results. It keeps us close to the Source and protected. Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2Ti 2:15)

And lastly, I noticed that beavers have poor eye sight so they rely on their other senses. When one hears an enemy lurking about, he slaps his tail on the water. The sound is very similar to when you hit the top of the water with your hand. This signals their family members to be on the alert and to swim back to their lodge. Christians who are in tune with God will be able to hear warnings from the Holy Spirit. When danger lurks, we should run back to our Lodge (the Word of God). Our Stronghold awaits there to protect us. It also reminds me of our church - the Pastor slaps the water by preaching a warning from the Water of Life (our Bible) and warns us of danger lurking. We band together and stay strong as a body and church. The Pastor exhorts us to righteous living. He feeds our spirit so we can leave the church house and go into the mission field. And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. (Jer 3:15)

I have the most wonderful memories watching these beautiful creatures with my father. I am awed at how God reveals Himself through His creation. It's such a blessing to be able to pick out certain characteristics and apply biblical principles to them. I look forward to each of the mornings ahead as I search for God's Goodness in His creation. I look forward to not only look at animals, but to also look at the beauty of our heavens and our earth!

Dear God...
I pray that I learn from this creature
To be fervently seeking Your way
Quick to see when danger is lurking
And by Your side walking each day

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

God's Goodness - Table of Contents

God's Goodness - Day 2 - Lions

Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet. (Psa 91:13)

Today's Goodness from God revolves around the lion. What a majestic animal this is! What beauty this animal possesses. The Word has so much to say about the lion. As I read the verses, many compared the lion to the devil. The devil's tactics to prey upon the believer are very much like the lion's tactics as it preys on the weak and defenseless.

Let's look at some of the lion's characteristics today and be blessed. The Lion is the King of the Jungle. My Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Juda: And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. (Rev 5:5) My Lion is the ultimate of lions.

The female lions hunt at night or before sunrise and they hunt in packs. This reminded me of the darkness of sin and that Satan abides there. He and his minions do not cut any slack but come and attack in packs. Lions also steal food from other predators. Isn't that just like Satan? He doesn't play fair. He will take whatever he can get no matter what the expense. At times, lions prey on the younger of the species and the infirmed. The devil gets believers when they are at their weakest. He can attack a full grown spiritual adult but he cannot succeed because the Christian has the Shepherd watching out for him. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: (1 Pet 5:8)

Lions can reach speeds of about 37 mph! However, they cannot run for long distances because they don't have the endurance. Therefore, they have to get really close to their prey before they can attack. The other lions circle around the prey to prevent escape. Doesn't that just sound like the believer's life under attack from the devil? We are attacked in spurts, from all around at times - never for the long haul, however, because our Father wouldn't allow that. Our Precious Father allows a way of escape for us - oh His wondrous love for us! There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1Co 10:13)

The Book of Psalms uses lion(s) eleven times to depict the behavior of the lion and how it relates to the believer's life. Yes, we have our bouts with ole slew foot, but the Lord has the victory over him! Each verse shows the desperation felt - placing the lion here as an example truly depicts where we are at times!

Lest he tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver. (Psa 7:2)

He lieth in wait secretly as a lion in his den: he lieth in wait to catch the poor: he doth catch the poor, when he draweth him into his net. (Psa 10:9)

Like as a lion that is greedy of his prey, and as it were a young lion lurking in secret places. (Psa 17:12)

They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. (Psa 22:13)

Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns. (Psa 22:21)

Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet. (Psa 91:13)

The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing. (Psa 34:10)

Lord, how long wilt thou look on? rescue my soul from their destructions, my darling from the lions. (Psa 35:17)

My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword. (Psa 57:4)

Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth: break out the great teeth of the young lions, O LORD. (Psa 58:6)

The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God. (Psa 104:21)

We may not have the enemies David had but we do fight against the flesh, evil and the devil. Everyone's battle may be different but they are battles nonetheless. We should not underestimate the devil's power. He is not compared to the lion for nothing. The devil waits to devour us - he waits until we are weak and never, ever plays fair.

In the end, however, the lion will be brought down from being a predator to being a big cat. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD. (Isa 65:25) He will no longer devour flesh but will eat straw! The devil will be brought down by the King of Kings, the Lion of the Tribe of Juda and He will defeat sin once and for all.

Dear God...
Your creation amazes me
I stand in wondrous awe
Each creature You designed
For enjoyment one and all

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Monday, March 26, 2007

God's Goodness - Day 1 - Wolves

I thought it would be a blessing to spend the next thirty days looking at God's Goodness through His creation. The Lord loves stories and analogies - He used so many when teaching His disciples. One of those heard often is Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. (Mat 7:15) Can you just imagine an actual wolf dressed up like a sheep and what the impact is? What can we learn from this? What can we learn from the characteristics of a species? God's Goodness is revealed through all of His creation. So for the first in our series of God's Goodness, let's take a look at the wolf.

As we observe the wolf's habits, we can apply teachings and warnings to our own Christian lives. Wolves live in packs with the alpha male and female leading the way. Where they go, the pack follows. As the Pastor leads the church he has been called to under shepherd, the church follows, as long as his leading is scriptural. Does this mean that a church can follow a female pastor (the alpha female)? The Word says that a pastor is the husband of one wife (1 Tim 3:2). No where is it recorded that she is the wife of one husband.

The wolf pack follows the alphas by instinct. If Christians followed by instinct, we would be easily deceived. However, Christians have the Holy Spirit to guide us. We are warned to beware of false prophets who come in sheep's clothing but are ravenous wolves. Whatever this wolf in sheep's clothing is saying, it can be compared to what the Word of God says - the Word is Truth. Jesus is the Word and is there to guide us - to be our Shepherd. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. (Joh 10:14) We that are His, hear His Spirit guiding us and He keeps us safe from these wolves.

An interesting trait of the wolf is his hunting habit. The hunting habits revolve around the chase. They are able to run for long periods of time before giving up on their prey. There are two ways we could look at this characteristic. The Christian should learn from this wonderful trait and be long suffering as they work toward winning the lost to Christ - not giving up quickly. But on the flip side, the devil is relentless in his attacks. He will attack (run) for long periods of time before he gives up on the Christian. He will keep after us until he sinks his teeth into us. The more prepared and vigilant the believer is, the better prepared he is to see ole slew foot's attacks coming!

As I searched the Scriptures for the words "wolf" and "wolves," I discovered there were twelve verses dealing with this species - ten that dealt with that of devouring the weaker animals. There were, however, two encouraging verses in Isaiah depicting the millennium period:

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. (Isa 11:6) and The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD. (Isa 65:25)

Isn't this exciting? I love the fact that although this animal was depicted in a negative way in the Word, the Lord portrays the wolf in a peaceful way when Christ's reign here on earth brings peace, even to nature. Once again like in the Garden of Eden, carnivores will become herbivores and will no longer be a threat. It will be a joy to walk up to the wolf and be able to pet him, won't it?

I'm looking forward to focusing the next thirty days on the Lord's creation and how He speaks to us through it! I hope it will be a blessing to you as well.

Dear God...
All creation has a story
Where we learn a truth
Each one unique in his own way
Each pointing toward You

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Morning Manna - Day 30 - Self Esteem

And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. (Luk 16:15) I truly believe that the worse "new teaching" from the world today is the one of self esteem. This teaching is definitely not scriptural and it has done so much damage. It is not a new teaching but it is certainly more prevalent in today's world than in the past. Everyone is focused on me, myself and I. What's in it for me? You offended me! You hurt my feelings. You're no better than I am. Don't tell Johnny, who's in the tenth grade that he is only reading at fifth grade level, you'll ruin his self esteem! No where in God's Word does it say that we should esteem ourselves! Why do you think people are conceited and full of themselves? They have been "self esteemed" to the point of nausea!

Noah Webster's definition of the word esteem is SO very different from today's.
1. To set a value on, whether high or low; to estimate; to value.

Then he forsook God who made him, and lightly esteemed the rock of his salvation. Deu 32.

They that despise me shall be lightly esteemed. 1 Sam 2.

2. To prize; to set a high value on; to regard with reverence, respect or friendship. When our minds are not biased, we always esteem the industrious, the generous, the brave, the virtuous, and the learned.

Will he esteem thy riches? Job 36.
Merriam-Webster's definition
is the regard in which one is held; especially : high regard
Merriam's definition is quite diluted, isn't it?

What things in God's Word are we to esteem? Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food. (Job 23:12) Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way. (Psa 119:128) God's Word should be esteemed. If you were to place the emphasis of Merriam's definition for esteem to God's Word, you would not be totally convinced that it deserved such a high rating, right? But if you put Noah's definition, you see that the Bible is to be prized and reverenced. This is a much different viewpoint! No wonder the worldly Christians do not look to the Word of God to change them. They don't revere it, therefore, it's impact on their lives is minimal.

Does God regard esteem as sin? And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. (Luk 16:15) (emphasis mine) God considers it an abomination if you esteem that which is ungodly.

Whom should we esteem? Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. (Phi 2:3) and And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves. (1 Th 5:13) We should esteem the brethren better than ourselves and we should esteem those who are over us - our deacons and our Pastors. No where in my 27 years of salvation have I ever read in God's Word that I should think highly of myself. If I love the brethren, they will always take precedence over me. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, (1 Cor 13:4) Paul says that our love for each other will cause us to be longsuffering with each other, be kind to each other, not envy one another, and not think highly of ourselves. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. (Rom 12:16)

My friend, these are not the Bible verses encouraging us to have self esteem! These verses are encouraging us to be humble, meek and low in pride. What will happen to the one who thinks highly of himself? Cast abroad the rage of thy wrath: and behold every one that is proud, and abase him. (Job 40:11)

Thus saith the Lord GOD; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. (Eze 21:26)

Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase. (Dan 4:37)

And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. (Mat 23:12)

For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luk 14:11)

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luk 18:14)

None of these verses sound like words from a support group for self-esteem. Quite the opposite. We should rather be humble and be promoted to the front of the line by the Lord than to think more of ourselves and have Him tell us to get to the back of the line. If anyone had reason for self-esteem, it was the Lord Jesus Christ. But He humbled Himself to the point of dying for you and I. If we are to walk in His footsteps, how can we possibly have self-esteem and say that it comes from God? This is hypocrisy - we should do well to learn from the account of the Pharisee and the Publican.

Dear God...
May our eyes be off ourselves
And focused on others instead
May we be as humble as You were
As You walked the path to your death

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Morning Manna - Day 29 - The Love of Money

For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1Ti 6:10) This verse does not say that it is money that is the root of all evil. It says that it is the love of money that is the root of all evil. This love for money will cause a man to push aside his faith and bring trials and tribulations into his life. I don't believe this refers to "all evil" in the sense of every evil thing there is. Being a disobedient child is evil but it is not because that child has a love for money. I believe Paul was relating this verse to the previous verses:

1 Tim. 6:4--9, "He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, (4) Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. (5) But godliness with contentment is great gain. (6) For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. (7) And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. (8) But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. (9)

Can't you just see the love of money in these instances? When money is the driving force behind what you do, you are guilty of this. You had better beware. It is the love of money that will cause you to envy others because of what they have that you don't have. It is the love of money that will cause you to crawl over someone to get ahead. It is the love of money that will cause railings (Clamoring with insulting language; uttering reproachful words - according to Noah Webster). It is the love of money that will cause you to have evil suspicions of those around you - everyone is out to get you (or your money). This love of money will cause you to believe that gain is actually what God wants for your life.

Paul says that godliness with contentment is great gain. If you are content with what you have, are you striving for more money? Are you eager to buy things that your neighbor or friend has? Are you honest in your dealings with others? Does what the world has to offer cause you to desire those things? That is the lust of the flesh, my friend. The Lord says in His Word, Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 Jo 2:15)
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (1 Jo 2:16)

Struggling in this area reveals that you are not walking in the Spirit but in the flesh. The love of money and what it has to offer is not from God. The devil desires you to be so caught up in making money and spending it that your focus is drawn away from God. The devil desires you to get into so much debt that you have to work long hours and spend less time in the Word, in church, winning souls, and serving in your ministries. If he can get you here, he has distracted you from the things of God and, therefore, you will not be of use to the Lord. You will be bound in the chains of debt and this will drive you to deeper and deeper sin. Nelson Rockefeller was asked in a magazine interview, "How much is enough money?" His response was, "Just one more dollar." Here was a man that was worth millions, if not billions by the time he died. Yet, it was not enough for him. He wanted one more dollar! How very sad is that? For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Mar 8:36)

There is no peace in this. But there is peace when you are content with what you have and you're not looking at what everyone else has. If you are not in debt, the debt collectors won't be knocking at your door. If thou hast nothing to pay, why should he take away thy bed from under thee? (Pro 22:27) The best rule of thumb to live by is never buy anything that you do not have the money saved up to pay for. When you are trying to decide on large purchases, like vehicles and housing, pray hard and think long before getting into that kind of debt. Counsel with the wise before you make that final decision. Not the wise of the world, but the wise in the Lord. I found it interesting that the words "multitude of counsellors" appears only three times in the Word of God. Three depicts the Trinity. Therefore, consult with godly people, who are wise in finances, and will have your best interest at heart, not their pocketbook.

Dear God...
May I take my eyes off worldly gain
Where the love of money rules
Help me to be wise in all my ways
So my lot doesn't end as the fool's

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Morning Manna - Day 28 - Honour

Honour thy father and thy mother. Exo 20:12 The Lord has led a few people in my life who struggle in this area of honouring their parents. Each one has a unique situation and trial with their parents. No matter what the trial or circumstance is, however, I noticed that God's Word did not put any stipulations on His commandment to Honour thy father and thy mother in Ex. 20:12. I wondered why the Lord had allowed these people in my life who had struggles with their parents. I personally did not have these struggles. But my oldest sister certainly did. For years I was the "bridge" between my parents and her. She was not a Christian, but I was. I was placed in a precarious situation as a believer. I could quite understand the abuse she suffered as a child at the hand of my father. I could quite understand her contempt for my mother because she felt my mother allowed it. Yet, both my parents became born again. Both had sought her forgiveness. But because she had never been saved, she did not forgive them. Instead, in her short life, she lost her husband to cancer, she had no children of her own, and she succumbed to cancer in 2001 and died in a hospital room all alone. She alienated herself from the family all those years and finally those final two-three years, she alienated herself from me. The last thing I heard that she said was from her best friend. Her friend told me that my sister hated the fact that I kept witnessing to her and did not believe her to be saved. Entrenched in roman catholicism, she could not see her sin. In her eyes she was a good person. A born-again child of God would be humbled that someone cared enough for their soul to continue witnessing to them.

But this morning, as I sat praying with a dear friend, the Lord revealed to me why I was allowed to be that bridge for my sister. I was allowed the awesome privilege of hearing the harsh truth of what a child goes through when they have been treated badly by their parents. I have seen first hand how the bitterness and contempt ate up my sister to the point she had cancer in her body. I have seen first hand how this bitterness totally enveloped her and ate at her. In my conversations with her, she did not want to hear anything about what she had to do to heal these relationships. All she could think of was what they had to do to heal their relationship with her. Her eyes were focused on self - a very natural thing for a person who is lost. How she hated my parents - she alienated herself from them all in the guise of protecting herself from their manipulations. Her heart and mind were so obsessed, she became consumed with this contempt for them. It came to the point when my brother (who is also saved) and I tried to talk some sense into her, the contempt spilled over to us. So, I am sharing with you what the Lord has laid on my heart. Hopefully those same people He has led to me will be blessed by what God allowed me to go through. I pray I use it to His glory and honour.

Just what does honour mean in this verse? Noah Webster defines it as:

1. To revere; to respect; to treat with deference and submission, and perform relative duties to. Honour thy father and thy mother. Exo 20:12.
It does not say to love them. I found this interesting. Most of us have a natural affection and love for our parents. But what about those children who have been estranged from their parents for one reason or another? How can they honour their parents if they don't love them? According to Noah Webster, honouring parents means to:

1. Revere them - To regard with fear mingled with respect and affection
2. Respect them - To view or consider with some degree of reverence; to esteem as possessed of real worth
3. Treat with deference - A yielding in opinion; submission of judgment to the opinion or judgment of another. Hence, regard; respect.
4. Submit to them - the act of yielding to power or authority
5. Perform relative duties to - The acts and tasks children do requested of them by their parents.
Naturally, these actions are a result of loving our parents. However, no where does it say that we must love our parents. We are to obey our parents and honour them. These are the only commandments to children I have found. Naturally a child who obeys and honours their parents will love them but a child who has been abused or hurt deeply, it is not natural for them to love at all.

But again, what about the child whose relationship has been damaged or strained with his parents? He can still honour his parents according to Noah Webster, can't he? He does not have to love them. However, he does have to honour them. If he still lives under their roof, he still needs to obey them. This is what God commands. I found it interesting that a child is never commanded to love his parents.

I believe from the bottom of my heart that a son and daughter who have been hurt deeply by their parents can heal their broken relationships by honouring them the way God intended for them to honour their parents. Taking Noah's definitions, let's look at some ways this can be fulfilled by what God has commanded:

1. Revere them - You may not regard your parents with respect and affection but you can regard their "office" with respect and affection. Your Heavenly Father is the ultimate Parent. Revere the office because it is desired of your Heavenly Father. This will please Him. Use His office as the ultimate example and apply it to your parents' office. The love you have for God should be your driving force in this effort.

2. Respect them - The office of parent is not an easy task. For those of you with children of your own, you can attest to this. For those reasons alone, this should be enough for you to respect their office. Honouring this office is not a choice but a command (according to Ex. 20:12). Parents deserve respect because of the position they hold, not their actions. When one can look beyond the person and the hurts and focus on the "office" it removes the emotion and personal involvement with the people and places it on the office.

3. Treat with deference - There is nothing more common today than children who have a difference of opinion from those of their parents and they strive to prove their point or make their opinions known no matter what the cost. Just because one disagrees with parents does not mean they have the "right" to "speak their minds" and disrespect them. Deference is a yielding in your opinion and submission of judgment to their opinion. It does not mean your opinion changes, it just means that you are not going to argue with your parents because you respect the office they hold. Would you argue with your Pastor? Would you argue with the President of the United States? No! You would respect their office and watch your tongue. You might even keep a few things to yourself for fear of hurting them. That is all part of honouring them. This reminds me of the verse, A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. (Pro 15:1)

4. Submit to them - As long as a child lives under his parents' roof, he is under their umbrella of authority. Like an umbrella protects one from the elements, the umbrella of authority keeps the child from being accountable. The parents absorb any bad judgments. God will hold the parents responsible for their abuse - for their unwise decisions on behalf of their children. To the child who doesn't know any better and his parents do him wrong, God's hand is on him and will keep him through it. But the moment this child steps out from underneath the umbrella of authority in his life and takes control, he is subject to the devil's trials and tribulations. Not only will the child suffer the consequences of the trial but he will suffer the chastisement of God for not honoring and obeying his parents. Submission keeps things in order. We are not commanded to honour only when parents are good parents. We are not commanded to obey our parents only when they are saved or if they are good parents.

5. Perform relative duties to - Because your parents hold that office, it is the child's duty to help them - to aid them in their time of need. One of the greatest testimonies I know is a friend of mine. His parents never displayed love toward him. After his salvation, he changed dramatically. His brothers were involved in the sodomite lifestyle and his parents accept them openly. But they do not accept my dear friend and his love for the Lord. They despised his stand on sodomy because it affected their other sons. Does this stop my friend from being kind to his parents and honouring them? Absolutely not. He is usually the one who goes to their house and fixes things, paints, etc. They can always count on him to help them. Today they call him if they have a need because he has honoured them - his testimony has ministered to their hearts. Will he ever be able to lead them to the Lord because of his actions? I don't know. But what I do know is that even though he is in his 40's, he is still honouring his parents and doing God proud.

So, dear Christian, are you struggling in your relationship with your parents? It's not what you think or what your parents think. It is what God's Word says you must do as a child: honour and obey. Do you honour them in the manner defined in Noah Webster's Dictionary? You don't have to love them - but you are commanded to honour them. This is the only commandment with a promise attached to it, Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. (Exo 20:12) God shows it is that important.

Dear God...
Although my parents are not worthy
And their actions toward me are wrong
The Word reveals Your plan for me
Give me grace to always be strong

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Morning Manna - Day 27 - Healing

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. (Pro 17:22)

What needs healing in your life today? Do you have a broken spirit? Do you have hurt feelings? Do you have a broken body or chronic illness? Does your marriage need healing? What is it in your life that is in need of fixing? All these areas mentioned need one thing: the Lord, Jesus Christ, in the center of your life. Is He? He should be. When Christ is the center of our thoughts, words and deeds, it is like a good medicine to us. Our spirit is not broken but encouraged and uplifted.

Not all trials are chastisement from God. Let's assume today the trial you are experiencing is not due to chastisement but it is to ultimately bring glory to God. The Word has given us accounts so that we can encourage ourselves and grow thereby. One could not find a greater account than Job. However, there is also a New Testament account by which we can learn. Paul had a thorn in his flesh and asked God to take it away three times. But the Lord told Paul, And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Co 12:9) Noah Webster defines the word grace in this verse as:
3. Favorable influence of God; divine influence or the influence of the spirit, in renewing the heart and restraining from sin.
Christ told Paul that God's favorable, divine influence and influence of the spirit should be enough. God was saying that He would renew Paul's heart - in essence bring healing to his heart and that would keep him going. Through this trial, God's strength would be made perfect in Paul's weakness. People would be able to see the power of God in Paul's life rather than his infirmity. Is this not what was achieved? Do we not look at Paul's life as one filled with the power of God?

Because of the promise God gave him, Paul knew that the Lord would always be ready to hear his cry when he struggled with is trial. So that they cause the cry of the poor to come unto him, and he heareth the cry of the afflicted. (Job 34:28) Although Paul knew that his thorn would not be removed, he also knew that the Lord would supply exactly what he needed in the healing of his spirit. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. (Mal 4:2) No matter what some may believe, God does not always choose to heal our bodies. There are many accounts in Scripture of people who were sick or afflicted and were used to the glory of God. How many times have we read the account of Moses? The Word says in Ex 4:10-14 that Moses told God that he was slow of tongue and could not speak to his people. God admonished Moses and told him that He created his tongue and nothing is too great for the Creator. But Moses was still doubting at this point - I can almost see a stubborn Moses, can't you? He had to be because the Word says that God's anger was kindled against Moses. Would you be angry with your child if they just shared their feeling of inadequacy? No, you'd be moved with compassion and be patient and understanding, wouldn't you. However, if your child continued acting this way, even after you had assured him that you would take care of everything, his lack of faith would provoke you. I believe that Moses' lack of faith in God at this point provoked His God. But God, in His infinite mercy, accommodated Moses by placing Aaron in his life. God could have removed Moses' problem with his tongue, but He didn't. Could it be that God would not have been glorified by Moses? I've often wondered about this. Instead, God allowed Moses to keep this physical problem. Maybe it was to make Moses humble - maybe it was to build Moses' faith. But the fact of the matter is that God does not choose to heal all of our infirmities. What He does promise is that He will be there to help us as we deal with them.

What do you need in your life today, Christian? Are you at the end of your rope? Has your body failed you? Have relationships failed you? Have you asked God to remove these burdens or to heal you from your physical problems? Has He removed them? If not, is God saying to you what He said to Paul almost 2,000 years ago? Is God telling you that His grace is sufficient for you today? It's a hard pill to swallow, isn't it? It's not what Paul wanted to hear, I'm sure, but the lesson in this verse is how Paul accepted the difficult news. There's no record of him wallowing in self pity that I've ever read. However, he accepted the thorn in his flesh and moved forward in his service for the Lord. Paul's testimony in this area portrays a selflessness on Paul's part. Paul did not dwell on God's "No" answer. He learned to accept that God's grace was sufficient for him. He learned how to deal with that. What is shown through his testimony is that he was a yielded vessel unto God no matter what God allowed in his life. Are we as yielded as Paul was? Do we accept our trial and rely on God's grace as sufficient for our daily lives? Or do we dwell on our trials and sick bodies and wallow in self pity? How can God receive glory if we are not yielded vessels unto Him no matter what we are experiencing?

My dear Christian friend, won't you glean from the Word and accept what God has for you in this life? That's half the battle! This will produce a merry heart and your merry heart will be like a medicine to you and it will heal you - maybe not physically but definitely spiritually and emotionally.

So maybe God will choose to allow you to continue in sickness or continue in this particular trial. It is for His ultimate glory. He will provide you with the same grace He provided Paul to withstand your trial. Maybe He will choose to heal you totally. Again, it is for His ultimate glory. Either way, you have much to be grateful for - your Creator knows what you need, when you need it and He will provide you with the grace you need.

Dear God...
Help me accept what You have planned
Whether there's healing or not
To accept that Your grace is sufficient
Being grateful in all of my thoughts

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Morning Manna - Day 26 - Worldliness

Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; (Tit 2:12)

Denying ourselves of ungodly things and worldly lusts is a battle indeed. The first step is to be able to recognize these things in our lives. How can one recognize them if one is knee-deep in the world? I have seen what allowing the world into one's life can do to a person. I know someone personally who use to live right. Somehow the devil has gotten compromise in this brother's life and now he is doing things I never dreamed I'd ever see him do. He still goes to church and serves in different ministries. The sad thing is he no longer sees these compromises as sin but as his "right" and "liberty" in Christ! It grieves me to see someone use Christianity as an excuse to do whatever they want. There's no consideration given to the weaker brother who is watching and may be pushed to sin because of the poor testimony displayed.

You can't be around a skunk for more than just a few seconds and the smell disgusts you. You also come away feeling like you smell like a skunk, don't you? However, the longer you're around the stench, the less you smell it. I grew up in Northern Maine. A few times a year, we would drive to Massachusetts to visit my sister. The route my father used went right through Lincoln, Maine. We always knew when we were getting close because of the awful smell of their paper mill. This town would have been a great stopping point to eat but we never would stop there because we just could not stand the smell! As children, we would block our noses and breathe through our mouths as we went through town, it was that bad. We actually met people who had lived there all their lives and they claimed they couldn't smell it! It's the same with worldliness. The longer you are exposed to it and allow it to come into your life, the more it will permeate your life and your ability to discern it will deteriorate.

I find this type of worldly behavior by Christians as immature. They are like toddlers who keep saying, "Mine!" "Give me!" "I want!" "Don't tell me what to do!" We had an interesting discussion on the Fundamental Baptist Forum about comparing a human being's growth from baby to adult to the spiritual life of a Christian. Thank you, Brother Lee, for sharing it with me. It is worth sharing here with you. I hope you are blessed by it.

Spiritual Growth Chart


Pacifier – Always needing to feel like you are eating but happy with just going through the motions and not really having to swallow anything or digest any truth. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. (Heb 5:13)

Diaper Changes – Making messes uncontrollably that must be cleaned up by other more mature people. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. (1Th 5:14)

Crying for attention – Crying not because of pain or hunger, cold or hot, or any other discomfort but because you want attention. Babies lie to get attention! Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. (Phi 4:11)

Thoughts - They know that they exist and they begin to learn. Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: (Psa 139:23)


Banging Heads – They see what they want and plunge in after it but they never see any danger. The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble. (Pro 4:19)

Poison – They will put anything in their mouths But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Heb 5:14)

Falls – They will walk right off of the edge or trip over the most obvious hazards. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. (Joh 11:10)

Undisciplined – This is the age where discipline must be taught, this is where we learn what no means. He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. (Pro 13:24)

Learning - Begin to learn the first hard lessons of life usually the hard way. Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths. (Psa 25:4)


Newness – Everything is new and must be discovered. This is where the greatest learning takes place. Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Rom 6:4)

Recognition – We begin to recognize what causes sickness and pain, joy and pleasure. I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments. (Psa 119:7)

Socialization – We learn to play with others and learn from someone other than our parents. And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. (Eph 4:32)

Independence – We can feed ourselves and maintain ourselves with only a little help and nudging. We begin to make decisions. I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. (1Jo 2:14)

Education – The beginning of a formal education they learn the basics from adults. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever. (Psa 111:10)

Pre-Teen - Teen

Assertion – We begin to assert ourselves as individuals and demand some control over our lives. Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him. (Deu 8:6)

Rebellion – We rebel against the authority of others over our life. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king. (1Sa 15:23)

Individuality – We begin to show our individuality and uniqueness. But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. (1Co 12:18)

Abilities – We now have the ability to do constructive work or to destroy the work of others. If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? (1Co 12:17)

Pride – We gain pride thus reaching the age of accountability. Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. (Pro 16:18)

Self centered – The world is there to serve us. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. (Phi 2:4)

Knowledge – Begins to become knowledgeable of the deeper things of the World around them. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Pro 1:7)


Responsibility – Takes responsibility for his own actions good or bad. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. (1Jo 2:10)

Wisdom – Understands truth and his own limitations thus reverences the Creator. The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness. (Pro 16:31)

Service – Works for the benefit of others and not just for self. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, (2Ti 2:24) In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; (2Ti 2:25) And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. (2Ti 2:26)

Sacrifice – Gives of themselves for their family and the ones that they love. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Rom 12:1)

Diligence – Does the routine things and the things that are expected of them. Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men. (Pro 22:29)

Higher Education – They can now gain that higher knowledge of the mysterious things of creation and beyond. Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness. (Psa 143:10)

So, my friend, where are you in the Spiritual Growth Chart? Are you as far away from the stench of worldliness or have you hung around it long enough that the "scent" is all over you? This need not be your story. Paul said you can turn it around by living soberly, righteously, and godly. Get in the Word, Christian. Stop quenching the Holy Spirit of God and allow Him to prick your heart and point out the areas of compromise and worldliness you to need to work on. It's never too late to turn your life around and be at peace once again. If you were to be totally honest, you cannot say that your worldly life has brought you any true peace. Won't you turn today and serve the Lord again?

Dear God...
Compromise and worldliness
An awful stench they leave
May Your Holy Spirit cleanse me
While to Your Side I cleave

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Mini-Manna for Little Lambs

I'd like to share with you the newest devotional blog to my Maranatha family. Mini-Manna for Little Lambs are devotionals geared to 2-5 year olds. Won't you take a moment to check them out? Feel free to pass it along to anyone you know who has these precious little lambs of their own.

Mini-Manna for Little Lambs

Morning Manna - Day 25 - Straddling the Fence

Phil. 4:7-8, And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (7) Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (8) Let's face it, my friends, how many Christians do you know that are truly sold out for God and consistently moving forward in their spiritual lives? How many Christians can you say are striving toward living a Godly life in every aspect of their lives? We can perfect one area, like what music we listen to, but if we leave inappropriate reading aside, we are straddling the fence. You are sitting on the fence of indecision.

When you don't move forward toward righteous living, you are making the decision to sit on the fence. Jesus said it best. Matt. 7:13-14, Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: (13) Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (14) Yes, this speaks of the road to salvation. However, take notice that the believer has to enter at the straight gate and go down the narrow road. The person who sits on the fence is not in motion. The believer who enters in at the straight gate and then sits on the fence is not moving forward down the narrow road. He is sitting still and is not making any progress on his spiritual journey.

What is causing you to straddle the fence today? Is it impure thoughts? Is it covetousness? Is it what you watch on TV? Is it the music you listen to? Whatever you expose yourself to, you should ask yourself if it meets with the Phil. 4:8 criteria. Any Christian who does not desire to grow spiritually needs to ask himself why he is so indifferent about his progress. David took leave of his walk with God and allowed himself to straddle the fence. While he sat on the fence, his eyes caused him to covet another man's wife. He straddled that fence a little longer and the devil wreaked havoc with David's thoughts. Next, David began thinking of ways to remove the obstacle out of his way which prevented him from fulfilling the his lust. However, after David was convicted of his sin, he repented and moved forward from that point on. We don't see any accounts of his falling deep into sin after that. Can you see what straddling the fence does? Any time you are idle in your thoughts, you will be tempted to wander. That is why Paul exhorted us to "think on these things"!

Where is your thought life today? These types of thoughts in Phil. 4:8 are fixed on heavenly things. What are you thinking about? The latest movie out of Hollywood? The latest romance novel? What the argument was all about with your neighbor? How many minutes/hours does your mind dwell on thoughts like these - even when you're reading that book or watching that movie. Compare it to how many minutes/hours your mind dwells on Godly things.

Paul exhorts us to think of things that are true - only God is Truth - His Word is Truth. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. (Joh 17:17)

Are you thinking of honest things in all areas of your life? Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. (1 Pet 2:12)

Are you thinking of things which are just? (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. (Rom 2:13)

Are you thinking of pure things? The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. (Psa 12:6) If your thoughts are not focused on the Word, which is pure, they will be focused on the world. The believer should be in motion on this one - he should be moving forward working toward purifying himself. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. (1Jo 3:6)

Do you think on lovely things? Not things the world has to offer - but things that God offers. Do you think about what Heaven will be like? Do you think about God's creation? Do you think about the message you heard on Sunday? His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem. (Son 5:16) Thinking on Christ is lovely! He is altogether lovely!

What about thinking of things of good report? Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (1 Tim 3:7) A man considered for Pastor must have a good reputation so the lost don't have reason to doubt him. Are you thinking about your reputation and keeping it honorable?

What about thinking on virtuous things? Do you think on morally good things? According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: (2Pe 1:3) God has called us grow in this area. The more we think on morally good things, the less we'll have time for the ungodly works of the flesh.

Do you think about praises? [To the chief Musician upon Muthlabben, A Psalm of David.] I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works. (Psa 9:1) Even when you cannot think of one thing to praise God about, look at His wonderful creation and you'll find something to praise Him for.

My friend, take moral inventory of your life today. How much time do you spend in the Word? How much time do you spend in prayer? How much time do you spend in church? How much time do you talk to others about the Lord? How much time to you study your Bible? Now compare it with how much time you do everything else in your life - be honest with yourself. Write it down on paper if you have to so you can see it in black and white. I beg you to do this assignment. Are you sitting on the fence of indifference? This ought not be so. The path to heaven is narrow and few are called. Why do you think this is? We must be growing in grace - growing in the knowledge and wisdom of the Word. It is in this growing process that we come down from straddling that fence and move forward in the path of righteousness. Remember, not only does the devil own the wide gate but he owns the fence you're sitting on, too. He loves it when the Christian is not in forward motion!

Dear God...
Forgive me Lord for straddling the fence
Of indifference to the things of God
Help me Lord to move continually forward
As I walk the narrow way, Heaven bound.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Morning Manna - Day 24 - Injured Pride

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. (Pro 16:18) Injured pride is a tough lesson for the believer. The earlier this lesson is learned, the better it is.

What is the best way to deal with pride? Doing a study on how God views pride should be the first place we start. Noah Webster's definition helps us to see more clearly:
Inordinate self-esteem; an unreasonable conceit of one's own superiority in talents, beauty, wealth, accomplishments, rank or elevation in office, which manifests itself in lofty airs, distance, reserve, and often in contempt of others.
I think the picture of the cat viewing himself as a lion is a perfect example, don't you? When we see ourselves as better than we truly are, we set ourselves up for a huge disappointment.

If you struggle with pride, remember that one day you will be brought down to the level you truly belong, and maybe even lower. Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. (1 Sam 2:3) Continuing to be arrogant and prideful will only set you up for defeat. God sees where you truly are, how you think of yourself and He will weigh your actions. When the time comes where you are brought down, your pride will force you to think that you are suffering as a Christian. But God's Word says, For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. (1 Pet 2:20) You're suffering because of your sinful pride, not because you did something right for the Lord. You must recognize the difference and see God's chastisement as His way of teaching you to be humble.

It is better to learn to be humble and meek before God has to deal with you and you are brought to shame. When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom. (Pro 11:2) Get in the Word where the teaching is pure - there are so many verses dealing with pride and humbleness. Recognize that your pride is sin in the eyes of God. An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin. (Pro 21:4) Confess this sin and ask the Holy Spirit of God to pierce your heart and teach you humbleness and meekness.

That pride isn't bad enough, but it drives you to greater sin. The Lord says you will stir up trouble and that you are a fool. Prov. 28:25-26, He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the LORD shall be made fat. (25) He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered. (26) Is this what you want for your life? The Christian who is striving to grow in Christ produces the fruit of the Spirit. Pride is not listed as a fruit of the Holy Spirit; however meekness is (Gal. 5:22).

It's always best to learn any lesson early on because the longer you remain in any sin, the harder you will fall. Is it not so with your own children? If they disobey you once, the punishment is minimal. But the more then continue to disobey, the harsher the punishment, right? Can you expect any less from your Heavenly Father? So you ask, "I thought today's devo was going to be on injured pride? I thought I would learn how to deal with it." If you look deep within yourself, you will see that your pride was injured because you thought more of yourself than you should have. Dealing with injured pride is learning to be humble.

Dear God...
Place pride far behind me
And I no longer fall
May I reflect Your humbleness
And heed the Spirit's call

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Morning Manna - Day 23 - The Tongue

There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health. (Pro 12:18)

Today's topic won't be long as I feel one verse can best describe the tongue. There are many verses we could read about the tongue and I've listed them below for you to look up on your own. I believe that today's verse best describes the tongue because it is two-fold. It discusses the proper and improper uses of the tongue. The picture of this man speaks volumes. It depicts someone who has been on the receiving end of one who used his tongue like a sword.

Picture this sword for a moment. A sword is used to cut - plain and simple. It serves no other purpose, except if one uses it as a trophy for show. It stands to reason that when a sword is just for show, then it is not in use. It is proper that this verse would compare the tongue to a sword. How many times have you been cut by words spoken by an angry person? How many times have those words cut so deeply that you have found it difficult to forgive a person? We have all been there at some point. Does this justify the person's use of their tongue like a sword? Not at all.

The verse goes on to say that the tongue of the wise is health. Good health is such a blessing, isn't it? No pains, no sicknesses - we cherish each day that we can get up and not feel a twinge! A wise tongue is the same as good health according to the Word. The words of a wise person help another to good health - not in the physical sense but in the emotional and spiritual sense.

What words do you speak to others? Do you come bearing health to some and a sword to others? Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? (Jam 3:11) It should not be so for believers. We should have sweet water all the time. Our words should bring health to others all the time. If bitter water flows from our mouths and our words cut like a sword, can we honestly say we are walking with the Lord? No, we surely cannot say that. A person who reacts this way with his tongue is one who is not yielded to the Holy Spirit of God.

Have you been hurt by someone's words? Have they cut you deeply? Remember where those words came from. This hurtful person could be unsaved. If so, they are doing a great job serving their father, the devil. He is the epitome of self-centeredness and they have learned from him well. It helps you to understand why they are the way they are. It does not take the pain away, but it sure does help you focus your thoughts on why they have a need to hurt you. Give God the glory and move on. If this person is a born-again Christian, they are not yielded to the Holy Spirit in their lives, nor their tongue. Forgive this brother and pray for an opportunity to help this brother in this area. Pray for a peaceful time where you can share how the comments hurt you. If this brother is repentant and won, this is a blessing and you have exhorted this brother to righteousness. If this brother is unrepentant and uses his tongue as a sword once again, we are commanded in Matt. 18:22 to forgive our brother (another believer) as many times as it takes. Then ask the Holy Spirit to give you exactly what you need to love this brother the way God loves him.

I have personally been in a situation of this type. Just today alone, I've heard from two ladies who are going through similar trials. A sword produces bleeding, wounds and scars. The one on the receiving end will never be the same because wounds leave scars. Can we who have been wounded recover? Absolutely! How? By yielding our tongue to the control of the Holy Spirit. Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. (Jam 3:13) (Emphasis mine) When we are in the Word seeking after knowledge and wisdom, we put to practice what we have learned and show forth good conversation. Is it easy? No. Is it do-able? Yes! I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Phil. 4:13 This is yet another burden to lay at the Saviour's feet, my friend. We are not alone in our struggles but we have each other - the brothers and sisters in Christ who can exhort us unto righteousness and pray for us. Praise the Lord for being a part of this wonderful Family. Christ died for each of us, while we were yet sinners! If anyone had reason to be offended by the tongues of man, it was He.

Extra Verses on the Tongue:

Prov. 10:20
Prov. 11:12
Prov. 13:3
Prov. 14:25
Prov. 15:1, 4, 23
Prov. 15:28
Prov. 16:24, 28
Prov. 18:8, 13, 21
Prov. 21:23
Prov. 25:11
Prov. 26:17
Prov. 26:20
Prov. 27:2
James 3:5, 8

Dear God...
May my tongue be controlled
Each day as I yield to You
Help the living waters flow
So others may see the Truth

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Morning Manna - Day 22 - Compassion

Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. (Luk 6:36) Today's devotional is a long one, but I ask for your patience as it is not a subject that can be dealt with in just a few words. Most of us think that God refers to those "unlovable" people when we read this verse. We think that it is fulfilling the following: Matt. 25:34-40, Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: (34) For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: (35) Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. (36) Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? (37) When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? (38) Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? (39) And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (40)

But what about those "prickly" people who are closer to you than strangers? What about those hard to love church folks? What about those estranged family members? What about your own flesh and blood family who have wronged you? Do you think God excluded those from these verses? Are we placing restrictions on God's Word by omitting them from the mercy we should be showing? Is God's love conditional? For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:6) But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8) If God's love is conditional, we would all be in big trouble, for we have all sinned. Why should our love for those I've mentioned be any different? Does God not encourage us throughout the Word to have the same agape love that He has for us? If God took to heart all the bad things we did or said, He would be the first to shun us! Remember the old adage, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me"? Easier said than done, right? Broken bones heal but words sure do cut to the core of a person's heart. How does the world react to hurtful words? I remember my old days - get even, that's the only way. The Lord sure has done a work in my heart since then.

However, why is it that we struggle with this more when it is someone right in our own family? These family members are the ones that need our testimony the most. Strangers don't see us as we truly are. They don't see us at home - behind closed doors. Our families see us for what we really are. All the more reason for us to show mercy and compassion to those who are lost or backslidden. Have you been hurt deeply by a family member, my friend? Have you been hurt by a church member? I know I have. Loving those prickly and hard-to-love people is not something we can do in the flesh. We just cannot "make" ourselves love them. But we can love them with God's love. How? Love is a word of motion. Love takes action on our part. God showed us this action by leaving His throne and dying for our sins. That is the ultimate display of agape love. It was not a "sit back and see what happens" love but an action love - "I will go to them and see what I can do for them" kind of love.

If we want to get strong physically, we exercise and build up our muscles. If you want to be stronger in the agape love area, start working at it by doing something for those you find difficulty loving. Christ Jesus was our example, was He not? Then follow His example. Go out there and do something for those you struggle with. Forgive them in your heart and move on. The devil would love nothing better than for you to hold on to resentment and bitterness toward those who have hurt you. You no longer serve him so why obey him? Serve your Father in Heaven instead and put some action to your work.

Are you too afraid to speak to that person face-to-face? Why not send a card or an email? Start "doing" for them as you would a total stranger. Start from scratch and build your testimony once again. If you need to ask forgiveness, then do so. If they wronged you, forgive them and move forward. Let the healing power of the Holy Spirit heal you. This is not an option in a Christian's life. We are commanded, my friend, to love as Christ has loved. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. (Joh 15:12) Did Christ set limits to His love? Did He only die for certain people? No, He died for all sinners. Therefore, your love for others cannot have conditions. I know this is not an easy thing to hear. But as long as we neglect this great teaching and disobey this commandment, are we not out of the Father's will?

It is difficult to put into practice this same love of Christ, especially if we have been wronged. Let's say that you came up with a great idea for the Easter Cantata at church. You present it to the Choir Director and he excitedly receives it, complimenting you on your idea! The next thing you know, the Pastor announces from the pulpit that the Choir Director has come up with a brilliant play for the Cantata and there is no mention of you! Here you are sitting in your pew and you're beet red and steaming on the inside. How dare the Choir Director steal your idea? After church, folks go up to the Director congratulating him on his idea and he does nothing to indicate that the idea was not his. You feel so betrayed and hurt at this point. You try to figure out whether you should go to the Choir Director directly or tell the Pastor that this was your idea and not the Choir Director's idea. After all, the Pastor ought to know this.

It's when we are at this point that we should think of John 15:12 and put it to action. Yes, you've been wronged. That is no longer the point. The point now is to learn to deal with what has happened and apply Christ's example to your own situation. Christ would not retaliate and hurt but would lovingly bring this person to reconciliation. So must you. Remember that Christ died for you while you were yet a sinner, right? He forgave you before you even sinned. Then forgive this person, no matter if they have offended you countless times. Matt. 18:21-22, Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? (21) Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. (22) I know it's difficult, but we're commanded to forgive. What would you do if Christ did not forgive "some" of your own sins? Christ did not set limits, nor should we. This is agape love, my friend. Once you have forgiven this person in your heart, you are free from the chains of resentment that are binding you. It no longer matters how you feel. What matters is to bring reconciliation.

The next step would be to face your offender. You would be amazed to find the reasoning behind their motives. It does not mean the offense is overlooked - it just means that you learn how to approach that person and discuss the offense with forgiveness already in your heart. That's the difference. Listen with Christ's heart rather than your own. Using our example, go to the Choir Director and tell him how happy you were that your idea was selected for the cantata and give the glory to God. Then sit back and listen. He will be sure to "hum and haw" and stumble to find the words to explain. It's not easy to listen to excuses and place ourselves in their shoes but it is the right thing to do. Maybe the Choir Director had his own reasons for claiming ownership. Maybe he had certain events going on in his life that caused him to do this. It does not justify that what he did was wrong but it will help you to understand his reasoning. Maybe he was getting back at you for something you did to him that you are unaware of. This is not right but, it will help you to understand. It does not excuse what he did but it helps you to see why he did it. This is where reconciliation begins. You've already forgiven him prior to the meeting. Now you are working to restoring the relationship. Look at it this way. Can you imagine how Christ felt? He died for you before you even asked forgiveness! Some never ask for forgiveness yet He died for them too.

It's hard to understand this kind of love, but we are commanded to love as Christ loves. Now that you are exercising this love and taking that first step of reconciliation, you can move forward in healing the relationship. You can speak your mind without being harsh because you are no longer dealing with forgiveness - you've already done this. A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. (Pro 15:1) The Word of God has all that we need to tackle each task in life. If you speak non-combative words, you are promised that there will be peace in your conversation. We are also taught how to speak and which words to say. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. (Eph 4:29) Whatever you say to the Choir Director, let it be to edify him and to minister grace (goodwill and kindness) to him. If you don't, you are grieving the Holy Spirit in your own life according to God's Word. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. (Eph 4:30) The conversation with the Choir Director will not be an easy one. There is no "easy" way to tell someone that they have hurt you because they stole your idea. But there is a nice way to tell them. You can point out a sin but yet say it in such a way that this person knows you love them in the Lord. Your goal is to reconcile this person to God and to restore the relationship between the two of you. (If the person you are struggling with is not a Christian, then your goal is the same - you want to point him to Christ so he can be saved.) Go into your conversations after having prayed for God's wisdom. God promises to give us wisdom liberally according to James 1:5.

Can you imagine how the Choir Director will respond if you are enter the conversation already with forgiveness? He will not feel defensive because he will see that your motive is not to get even. Your actions will prick his heart and move him to repent. If he does not, you have already forgiven him and the rest is up to him. You no longer have bitterness and resentment but are free to love him as Christ loves you! If the person is not saved, can you imagine how they are going to view your reaction? They will be seeing Christ in action through you. The Gospel is being spoken through action! What a responsibility we have to show this agape love in our lives - this love is one of motion - always moving forward and upward!

As we grow in Christ, we should be viewing the unlovable and prickly people as opportunities to reconcile them to God. What would we have done if Christ had treated us the way we treat those who are unlovable? Are we any different than they? No, but we have the power through Christ to treat the unlovely as He would. What a testimony we can be! What a powerful message we can preach just in our actions alone! What about that brother or parent you've been witnessing to for years? Have you had fight after fight trying to point out their sin? Has it brought the two of you closer together or has it brought distance between you? Were you successful in showing them their lost condition? Probably not. Have they hurt you in return? There are some things that you just cannot control, and one of them is their reaction. But what you can control is your reaction. With forgiveness in your heart, you are free to love them the way Christ loves them. Put into practice this agape love and start loving them with action. Do things for them - send a card, make a phone call, bake a cake, make a meal when they are sick - but just do it! Put Christ's love in motion and love them unconditionally.

Thank You, Lord, for blessing my heart today!

Dear God...
Agape love is what we need
To show the love of Christ
To those who hurt us deeply
Guide us, help us through Your might.

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