Devotional on the Psalms

2001 – Japanese Tea Garden – San Antonio, Texas

Oh, God is so good!
Psalm 103: As far as sunrise is from sunset, he has separated us from our sins.
I’m not sure concepts like this one impact me as they should. David says that God separates me from my sins and the psalmist picks the widest distance he can think of to describe just how far those sins are removed from me. The testimony of a young woman comes to mind. Although she was raised by a godly mother she messed up in several ways. After some years as a prodigal daughter she came back to the Lord but was living a very different life than she might have lived without that disastrous detour. In a church service I began to deal with the concept I find in this passage: how God casts our sins away as far as east is from west. For everyone else in that service it was just another Sunday sermon, but the Holy Spirit spoke to her heart that day making that truth her personal truth that day. Since her return to Christ she had carried the burden of her past, often aware of her failures. However, on that day she realized that she had not only been forgiven by the Lord, but that he had also set her free from the guilt she was carrying. From that day forward she had a new freedom and joy in the Lord. Maybe this is the message you need today.
Take Away: Thank the Lord for forgiveness and, beyond that, for separating our sins from us, casting them out of our lives.

Devotional on the Psalms

2020 – Lake Conroe, TX

Redemption
Psalm 84: “A Korah Psalm”
This is one of the Psalms written by the sons of Korah. Actually, there’s a lot of information on Korah and his descendants. These psalm writing “sons” are really descendants of the Levite named Korah who challenges the leadership of Moses and Aaron way back in the book of Numbers. He dies at the hand of God in that rebellion, but it seems his descendants continue on and here we see that they’re among the Levites David assigns to be worship leaders. It’s good to remember that even though there’s spiritual failure in our past (or that of our family) that we still have opportunity to be well used by God. Great-great grandpa might have challenged God’s chosen leaders (or might have been a slave owner or been hung a horse thief) but that doesn’t make us of any less value in God’s sight. This kind of thinking sounds pretty old hat to me and my fellow Americans. We’re all individualists anyway and think it’s wonderful to be able to say, “I did it my way.” To people through most of history, the “my way” approach is unheard of. They see life from the group’s point of view and speak in terms of “our way.” That means that their culture sees grandpa’s failures as the failure of all those descended from him. In their way of thinking, the stigma of failure is passed down from generation to generation. Every time we glance at the top of a Psalm and see that it comes from Korah’s clan we’re seeing redemption at work! In more current terms, these psalms remind me that God forgives my past failure and is very willing to use me as a worker in his Kingdom today.
Take Away: God is the God of Second Chances.

Devotional on Nehemiah

2018 – Seven Points CoE, Hermitage, TN

Second Chances
Nehemiah 8: This is a day holy to God. Don’t feel bad. The joy of God is your strength!
Many of those listening to Ezra read and explain the Scripture this day left the land of their birth to return to this land of their ancestors. They left family and friends, security and comfort to go to an unsecured city that wasn’t a city at all; rather, it was a pile of rubble. They made the hazardous journey to Jerusalem and then braved real opposition as they labored to rebuild the wall and prepared to re-occupy the City of David. As this task is completed, a holy event is planned. Governor Nehemiah and Priest Ezra organize an event centered on the Word of the Lord. However, something unexpected happens as Ezra reads and explains the Scripture to them. These good people begin to weep and wail. The sense of celebration is replaced with a feeling of failure and fear. The leaders have to act quickly or this holy day will turn in to a day of mourning. Why is it that the people react as they do? I think it’s because they begin to grasp the enormity of their sins and that of their forefathers. Generations earlier, King Josiah responds in the same way when the Book of God is found in the Temple. As he hears it read he’s alarmed and responds in humble fear of God. There’s a place for this kind of response to God’s Word. In fact, I need to be fearful and heartbroken when I realize my sin. However, the story must never end here. The Word of God is not intended to condemn me. Instead, it’s to be for me a wonderful message of hope. I’ve failed God and should stand condemned but God is gracious and offers me hope. The bad news is that I’ve sinned against God. The good news is that he’s the God of Second Chances graciously offering me and you hope and restoration.
Take Away: God is the God of Second Chances.

Devotional on 2 Chronicles

2018 – Sightseeing Acadia National Park and area

The End…well, not quite
2 Chronicles 36: …he wanted to give them every chance possible. But they wouldn’t listen.
The intended audience of the Chronicles is the descendants of those in the story that’s told here. The original readers live in exile, hundreds of miles from Jerusalem. These people have never seen the City of David and are in danger of becoming disconnected from their rich heritage. However, there’s more. These books tell why they are where they are. The passage before us gives the final word. God had warned their ancestors again and again that if they continued down the road they were traveling it would end in destruction. The mercy and grace of God in reaching out to them was disregarded. His repeated overtures to them were rejected and because of that rebellion God gave up on them and all was lost. Now both Israel and Judah are gone and the holy city of Jerusalem is destroyed. The End. However, the Chronicles author can’t let it end like that. After writing the obituary of Judah he ties the old story to their current lives. The God who gave up on their ancestors is now reaching out to them. There’s the possibility of rebuilding the Temple they’ve read about in this story. The God of Second Chances is still at work even in their lives. This story tells us a lot about the descendants of Abraham but it tells us even more about God.
Take Away: God is the God of Second Chances.

Devotional on 2 Chronicles

2018 – Sightseeing Acadia National Park and area

Taking God seriously
2 Chronicles 34: The king stood by his pillar and before God solemnly committed himself to the covenant.
Josiah is just a boy when he’s made king of Judah. He’s a “seasoned” king, 26 years old and with 18 years of leadership under his belt when the Book of God’s Law is brought to him. Instantly, he realizes how much trouble his nation is in. They’ve broken all the laws in the book! The covenant his ancestors made with God had plenty of blessings in it but it had some very serious curses in it as well. Having “broken the law” they’re destined to face the consequences. Josiah, we’re told, takes this message seriously. He immediately prepares to approach God to ask for a stay of execution. His plan is simple: he’ll commit himself to the covenant that was made years earlier and broken repeatedly by the generations that went before him. The Lord’s impressed with Josiah and his people. The curse is put on hold and Josiah rules a total of thirty-one years. I’m taken today with the mercy and patience of the Lord. Think of God being so forgotten that the Temple which is to be the glorious center of worship is, instead, in a near state of ruin. Think of obedience to his laws being so neglected that that the book of the Law is simply “discovered” in those ruins. Then, watch as this young king reads, understands, and pleads with the Lord for mercy. Finally, rejoice as the Lord graciously extends that mercy. No matter how we’ve messed up there’s still hope if we repent and return to this gracious God of Second Chances.
Take Away: God is the God of Second Chances.

Devotional on 2 Chronicles

2018 – Sightseeing Acadia National Park and area

Better late than never
2 Chronicles 33: As he prayed, God was touched.
Manasseh’s father, Hezekiah, made some mistakes, but his leadership of Judah was, by and large, pleasing to God and to his people. Now it’s Manasseh’s turn. He messes up – “royally!” Under his leadership the descendants of Abraham turn back to the idol worship of the past. He even brings disgusting idols right into the Temple his father had so carefully restored. It’s as Manasseh’s doing these stupid things that we find a chilling statement. The Scripture reports: “And God was angry.” Tell you what; if you’re doing your own thing and ignoring God you really don’t want to hear these words! The result is that God allows Assyria to accomplish what they were kept from accomplishing before. Jerusalem falls before this regional power. Manasseh, himself, is led off like a farm animal to distant Babylon, likely destined for execution. To Manasseh it seems that this just might be a good time to pray! Well, to be honest about it, it is way past time for him to pray; but pray he does. He falls on his knees and cries out to God, repenting “totally” of his sins. If one thing you really don’t want to hear about yourself is that “God is angry” the sweetest sound that can fall upon the ear is what we read here: “As he prayed, God was touched.” Manasseh shouldn’t have messed up in the first place. His life would have been vastly better had he been true to the God of his father. However, once he messed up, the next best thing was to pray a prayer of absolute, from-the-heart repentance. Such prayers always touch the heart of God. It’s true for Manasseh. It’s true for you and me.
Take Away: Better to not mess up in the first place, but if you’ve messed up it’s time to pray like you’ve never prayed before.

Devotional on 2 Kings

2017 – Black Hills, SD – Scenic Drives

God taking us seriously
2Kings 22: I’m taking you seriously.
The clock is about to run out on Judah as the nation has drifted farther and farther from God. When the boy-king Josiah comes to power things have eroded to the point that even the priests at the Temple don’t know God’s Word to them. As Josiah grows up he wants to do the right thing even though he’s unsure of what the right thing is. Out of respect for God, he decides to renovate the Temple and it’s while that work is being done that Scripture is found. The message is not a pleasant, comforting one. Instead, its words declare the covenant made between God and Josiah’s ancestors. That covenant contains words of blessing but also states, in graphic terms, what will happen if they break that covenant. As Josiah hears these words the seriousness of the situation dawns upon him. He and his people are clearly candidates for the “curse” part of the covenant. He’s heartbroken and he’s frightened. He sends word to a woman of God asking for her intercession. The message she receives from God is both positive and negative. It’s negative in its confirmation that all the curses of the covenant will come true. Simply put, God will keep his word. It’s positive in that God is taking Josiah’s repentance and commitment to the Almighty seriously. Once again the curse is put on hold. As a result, Josiah will rule in peace throughout his life. Even as the Lord takes Josiah seriously he takes me seriously. That doesn’t mean my saying “I’m sorry” will stop events that are already in motion from happening. It does mean that the Lord’s willing to hear and forgive when I call out to him.
Take Away: God is the God of Second Chances.

Devotional on 2 Kings

2017 – Black Hills, SD – Scenic Drives

The last ray of light
2Kings 21: And God was angry.
Manasseh wasn’t even born when Hezekiah received the 14-year extension on his life. He assumes the throne at just 12 years of age and rules Judah for 55 years. His record as king is that of total failure. All the reforms of his father are reversed. He’s as committed to sin as his father was to righteousness. Over time he moves heathen idol worship right into the Temple of God. The result, according to the Bible, is that, “God was angry.” Now, decades after the fall of Israel God says he is sending the same, and worse, upon Judah. He’s put up with their evil long enough. Still, in spite of the dire words of doom, the Almighty does not act, at least not yet. Manasseh finishes his life and is buried in peace. His son Amon doesn’t fare as well and is assassinated within two years of assuming the throne. In these accounts I’m overwhelmed by the patience of mercy of God. Even when he’s “fed up” he waits a bit longer. That doesn’t mean that I can assume that God will always give me one more chance but it does mean that God’s patience is beyond my comprehension. In each generation he reaches out with a new and old message of hope. Even as the door of his mercy is closing he extends a final ray of light, one last opportunity to receive that light. This is what sometimes happens on a deathbed where a merciful God gives a person who has rejected him again and again one last opportunity. It works in lives that are, so far as the world is concerned, ruined beyond repair. Even as the darkness descends, there’s one last glimmer of hope for the one who will reach out and grasp it. And it works for people who are reading the Internet desiring some word of hope when they stumble upon a mostly unread blog.
Take Away: God is the God of Second Chances.

Devotional on 2 Kings

2017 – Ingalls Homestead, DeSmet, SD

A trophy of grace
2Kings 13: He never gave up on them, never even considered discarding them.
In spite of God’s patience and blessings and in spite of the difficulties the nation faces, Israel continues down a destructive path. When things are terrible they temporarily turn to God but before long they’re back in the old God-ignoring rut. Their future could have been bright, but that’s not how things are going to turn out. I know what happens over at the end of 2Chronicles when the twin kingdoms come to their official end. Then again, I know what happens on the next page after that where I see God’s faithfulness through the priest, Ezra. In fact, looking into their future as I can by simply turning the pages of my Bible I’m taken by the truth of this statement: “He never gave up on them.” Oh, the grace of God who clearly sees our failure yet declares, “I won’t even consider discarding you.” I’m a trophy of such grace. And so are you.
Take Away: God is the God of Second Chances…and third…and fourth…and….

Devotional on 1 Kings

2015 – Twin Dikes Park, Lake Sam Rayburn – Jasper, TX

Another display of God’s grace
1Kings 20: And you’ll know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I am God.
Ahab is about as pitiful a king as Israel could have. He’s weak, wicked, and dominated by his wife, Jezebel. When he had a firsthand demonstration of God’s power on Mt. Carmel he was unmoved and remained committed to the sinful life he’s living. It would have served him right had God swatted him like a fly and moved on. But that isn’t what happens. When war comes to Israel the Lord takes the initiative, sending word that he’ll work on Israel’s side to bring victory. The reason is that the Lord wants Ahab, who’s already seen fire fall and consume the sacrifice and altar when Elijah prayed, to finally come to believe in God. This is mercy and grace beyond imagination. God reaches out to one who’s not only lost but is also stubbornly lost. Ahab isn’t going to respond, but it won’t be because the Lord isn’t giving him sufficient opportunity to do so.
Take Away: We serve the God of Second Chances – a fact proven repeatedly throughout human history.