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Who Has Whose Hand?

When we see an adult, with child of 5 or 6 years old, holding hands as they cross the street – we know who is holding whose hand.

But add 50-55 years to that scene – and now, who has whose hand?

I remember clearly a pastor we had once mentioning during a sermon something about God being at Jesus’ right hand. Now, we all know that Jesus is at God’s right hand, and I know he saw my puzzled look because as we made eye contact, I saw a slight smile come across his face as he continued talking about God at Jesus’ right hand…

Until… he got past the crucifixion, past the resurrection, and to Hebrews 12:2 where he read, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” And then I understood.

God was on Jesus’ right hand in mission, and Jesus is on God’s right hand in Glory!

That’s been nearly 25 years ago, and I still think of it. (I have notebooks full of notes from his sermons!) I’ve also thought of it several times this year as I’ve studied the Psalms. It’s amazing to me the number of times David has said, “You (God) take my right hand…” (Psalms 16:8; 73:23; 109:31 for example) and then the times he has said, “Let me (David) take Your (God’s) right hand…” (Psalms 17:7; 18:35 for example – actually there are some 35+ Psalms that mention God’s right hand…)

And so we ask, “Who has whose hand?”

Sometimes David has God’s right hand, and sometimes God has David’s right hand… what’s the difference? It’s certainly not that when God has David’s right hand (the hand of strength) that David is “taking care” of God.

It’s the fact that sometimes God is the strength at our right hand (putting us to work) and sometimes He comforts and protects us by keeping us at His right hand (when we’re too weak to work.)

It’s always God’s strength and salvation, it’s just that sometimes He holds our hand, and sometimes, He allows us to hold His…

As Jerry Clower used to say, “Ain’t God Good!”

God, my Father, my Strength, and my Deliverer, take my right hand and lead me into battle… and then, when the battle looms large ahead of me… may I take Your right hand in comfort and protection.

Oh God, this is almost too much for me to understand. I can’t quite wrap my mind around it.

Oh the depths of Your Word – and the heights to which it takes me – it’s dizzying, and at times, gives me cold chills and almost takes my breath.

As I meditate on Your Word, sometimes a warm wash of clarity comes over me, so much so that I scarcely breathe and don’t want to move, afraid that I may lose that understanding that is barely touching my fingertips…

Oh the wondrous joy of Your precious Word! Thank You for the treasure I hold in my hands!

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Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”
But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tax money.” So they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”
And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Matthew 22:15‭-‬21

Today is April 15th, and we joke about “rendering unto Caesar”, but the key part is in what Jesus implied.

In Whose image are you made? Genesis 1:27 says, “And God made man in His image; in the image of God He created him. He created them male and female”.

Sometimes we are more serious about rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesars, than we are in giving to God the things that are God’s. May that not be the case today.

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Joe and I have a very close friend (and his wife) who is (are) going through a very intense spiritual battle right now. It is manifesting itself in serious health issues, but as I was praying for them a couple of days ago, God impressed upon my spirit (as I was studying Matthew 17:21) that this was not a health problem, but a spiritual battle. And so I have been texting prayers to him every morning. I thought that maybe, they may encourage you as well.

~~~

For you this morning: Father, I lift up [my friend] today and ask that whatever spiritual attack that You are allowing will serve to strengthen his walk with You. May his shield of faith quench the fiery darts that are coming relentlessly.

Sharpen his “Sword” that he may attack, and give him peace in the battle. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

~~~

I kept thinking about a prayer this morning, but what kept coming to my mind was, “May God wrap His arms around you today”. I’m praying for you in this battle. God will not let go. No matter what it looks like, He has you firmly in His grip as you are being tested. Love you!

This has got me through more than one battle: “When the storms of life are raging, stand by me. When the wind is tossing me, like a ship upon the sea, Thou who rulest wind and water – stand by me…”

~~~

Today’s prayer for my friend:
May the night bring peace and not panic.
May the day bring delight and not dread.
May you feel God’s presence in your spirit,
May you feast on His Word and be fed.

Wrap yourself in His promises.
Wrap yourself in His love.
Keep your eye on His goodness,
Your strength only comes from above.
Amen.

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I’m starting a new series of short word studies that I’m titling “How About That”. I’ve always been fascinated by words – especially Greek and Hebrew words. I’m sure these won’t be daily, but hopefully sometime next year I will have enough to compile them into a devotional booklet. I hope you enjoy them. Please feel free to share, and if you haven’t signed up to “follow” this blog, please do so. Thanks.

Tracing Paper

1Peter 2:21-23 (NLT) For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. 

Have you ever traced anything? I’m sure we’ve all used tracing paper at some time to trace a picture. I remember as a child, tracing the outline of the alphabet as I learned to write. The word “example” in 1 Peter 21 is the Greek word hupogrammos.

Hupogrammos a compound word – hupo which means under, and grapho which means “to write”. “Under writing” literally means to trace. Our lives are to be like “tracing paper” laid over the example of Jesus Christ’s life. We are to walk in His footsteps.

As we look forward to this coming New Year, let us determine to be more transparent, and to allow our lives to be like tracing paper laid over the example of our Savior, Jesus the Messiah. Amen.

 

 

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For the past several mornings I have woke up at 4:00 am – wide awake. When that happens, I usually pray for different folks’ needs that I know (and my kids, of course). This morning, after posting a short teaching video on “Ask, seek and knock” last night on Facebook, I prayed, “Lord, what do you want me to pray?”

I immediately began thinking about our country and I said, “Lord, what’s happening to our country? This country used to honor and serve You. There used to be a church on every corner…” Then the thought flitted through my mind, “Yeah – there are still churches on every corner – but they are empty…” and I thought, “Why is that, Lord?”

Then the image came to mind of masses of people headed to “church” in warehouses and store buildings and theaters, and I said, “Why is it Lord, that no one seems to want to worship in a church building anymore? And we ‘old foggies’ are looked at as ‘out of touch’ if we even question the music or the lights or the ‘come as you are’ way they dress…”

And I heard in my spirit – “They are fleeing from My Holiness… A church building has been consecrated and prayed over and is a Holy Place. Many say they want to worship, but few are willing to live Holy lives…”

The way is, indeed, narrow…

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As I was preparing to write the Bible study for tonight, I began thinking, “Why do we do this?” Why do we study, using the methods that we do – and by that I mean – studying straight through a book instead of studying topically – studying, searching for a specific answer? Why is it important to learn the setting and the context? Why don’t we just drop in on this verse and that verse (as is so popular today) – why do we study it straight through? “You know”, I thought, “We could get a lot more people into our study if we gave it a catchy title or sought to ‘scratch a particular itch’”.

But the more I thought the more I began to realize that we do this; we study like this because we seek to understand what the Bible says as a whole. We seek to study the “real thing” so that we can spot the counterfeit.

Jesus said that in the last days many would come “In My Name claiming, ‘I am the Christ’”. The words “the Christ” are in italics in most Bibles indicating that these words were not in the original manuscripts. What Jesus said was, “Many will come in My Name claming ‘I Am’”. (And we all know the significance of the words “I Am”…)

But, as I thought of His word, the first phrase struck me – “Many will come in My Name…” Isn’t that true today? Don’t many hold to His Name while living completely unholy or unbiblical lifestyles? And if they are questioned in any way – they immediately jump into “Don’t you dare judge me” mode.

I read an article recently comparing two “Christians”. One came from a missionary home and was known for praying often (regardless of where he was) and living a lifestyle that supported abstinence and purity. This one was also known for quietly caring for others and meeting needs without fanfare.

The other was described as coming from a very poor home, being baptized as a child, but leaving that church for another, and then another. This one was known for having many religious tattoos, a party life-style and having a series of live-in girlfriends. This one gave away large amounts of money to very public endeavors.

The tone of the article ridiculed the first “Christian” and praised the second for being so “vocal” in his Christianity…

My question is – which one of these ‘Christians” lived their lives based on the Bible? Which one actually lived his life “in Jesus’ Name” and which one claimed to live his life “in Jesus’ Name”?

The only way to know that is to learn what the Bible really has to say – verse-by-verse. And that’s why we do this…

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Since Pentecost Sunday a couple of weeks ago, we’ve been singing the chorus of “Spirit of the Living God” at our church which goes,

“Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.

Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.

Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.

Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me”.

 

I cannot sing the song without my hands outstretched in open submission.

 

Last night as I was about to go to sleep I was praying and thinking of the words of this song. Every time I sing it, I can visualize being melted down into a puddle, then turned on a potter’s wheel while the Potter molds me into a usable vessel. I “see” liquid being poured into my vessel and then being put into service.

As that image was going through my mind I “heard” this question – “Are you sure you want to be melted…? You do know, don’t you, that melting takes away ‘you’ so that you can be reformed and ‘molded’ anew. Plus… it might hurt…”

I thought about it a few moments… Do I want to be… am I willing to be… melted?

And so I said, “Lord, I belong to You. If you choose to ‘melt’ me, what choice do I have? You are the potter, I am the clay. Am I going to tell You what to do? Plus, I know, that if You ‘melt’ me it will be all good, even if it doesn’t look so great at the time.”

Then in my mind, I sang the song again, and gave my will to God. It’s all His anyway. It’s all good, for sure.

Amen.

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As I sat down this morning to work on the assignment for the Daily Bible Study series for the United Methodist Publishing House, I began as I always do – with prayer for clarity and wisdom in writing. I prayed that my words would be pleasing to God and glorify His name.

I also prayed (as I always do) for those who will be reading this series which will be out next summer. I always pray for the readers as individuals – but today as I prayed the image came to mind of hands reaching for the books for their daily devotional time. I “saw” – um – how should I say it? “Older hands”. Hands that were wrinkled and bent with arthritis; hands with thin and bruised skin. Hands that have worked hard and now are tired. I saw hands that often fold in prayer and yes, sometimes even wring with worry.

I pray that next year, when they pick up this book that they will find words that help them to stand strong and be faithful in spite of the world around them. Thank you God for this vision. Amen.

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A friend and I were talking about fear and trusting God. I have had times of great fear when learning to trust God. I wrote this about 15 years ago – it has been a long and at times, hard journey getting here. And I still don’t trust like I should… but I’m getting there.

The Fear of the Lord

Solomon declared,

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

And I do have fear.

Sometimes

to the point of despair.

For I know that nothing happens

without first passing through the Hand of God.

God calls forth the act, directs the act

or He allows the act.

And so I fear – What will be His Will?

 

My mind and my heart struggle for control

of the emotion.

My heart says “Love”

and my mind says “Sovereignty”

with “sovereignty” being a fearful word.

 

I’ve seen God act to spare His people

and I’ve also seen Jeremiah thrown

into a well,

And Hosea sent to marry a harlot.

How can such infinite Love

allow such personal tragedy?

And so I fear…

 

But fear of the Lord

is the beginning of knowledge.

And with knowledge comes wisdom,

and with wisdom comes faith.

And with faith comes assurance

that sovereignty is not a fearful word

but is indeed Love.

 

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Finishing Up Christmas

It’s just different – having Christmas on Sunday. Personally, I like the idea of being in church on the day that we celebrate our Lord’s birth, but there are a lot of other things that it changes, too. Not only does it mean that you’re in church two days in a row (and sometimes very late Saturday night as well as early Sunday morning) but, it also means that Christmas Sunday is the last Sunday in the month.

When Christmas falls on any other day of the week – there is one more Sunday left in the month of December. This allows for – well – closure. We’re allowed to “have Christmas” and still have one more Sunday to reflect on the year – and one more Sunday to hear a concluding Christmas sermon before taking down all the decorations and jumping into the New Year. Many pastors start new sermon series on the first Sunday in January, but there’s just something abrupt about starting something new, immediately the Sunday after Christmas.

I will be preaching on New Year’s Day this year and I’m going to “finish up Christmas”. My sermon will revolve around Simeon and Anna and their response/reaction to the Christ Child. But perhaps, that is a perfect New Year’s sermon. Just how will our response/reaction to the Christ Child direct our new year?

So really – maybe it’s actually the perfect way to begin the New Year after all!

 

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, what is my response to the Christ Child? Have I been waiting in anticipation for His coming? Am I waiting in anticipation for His second coming? As we take our first steps into this New Year, I pray that they will be made with a hope and eagerness that expresses our faith and trust that You, and You alone, hold this New Year.

Father, the world around us is in turmoil. As the hymn writer said [there are] “fightings and fears within and without…” How do we walk faithfully in such a time as this?

We turn, Father, to Your Word. Simeon and Anna lived in an equally fearful time and they walked faithfully. May we hold to their example as we face this daunting new year. We wait in eager anticipation for Christ’s glorious return, and every day we pray “Maybe today, Lord. Maybe today. But as we walk daily in the presence of our Savior we also sing with the hymn writer, “O Lamb of God, I come… I come”.

Thank you Lord for faithful writers who fill our hearts with courage, peace and joy! In the precious name of our Savior we pray – Amen.

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