Answers to Life's Questions

Aug 31, 2006 at 18:28 o\clock

Rewardable Service

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning 2
Scripture Reference:
Matthew 20:1-16 

Rewardable Service

For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.

Jesus' favorite method of teaching was by parable. A parable is an account of something that may or may not have actually happened but nonetheless is designed to teach a truth. One of our Lord's most difficult parables is the parable of the kingdom that is likened to a householder.

In summary, the parable is this: Early in the morning one day a householder went out to hire laborers for a vineyard (Matthew 20:1). He agreed to pay the laborers a penny for the day, which were evidently the regular wages for the ordinary laborer. About the third hour the man returned to town and hired others to work in his vineyard, promising to pay them what was fair. At the sixth, ninth, and eleventh hours he returned to find others standing idle and likewise hired them with the same promise of payment.

At the end of the day the householder called his laborers together and had the steward of the house pay them, beginning with the last hired. Each was paid the same, but when those who were hired early in the morning received just a penny, they murmured that it was unfair to pay them a penny when those who had worked only an hour were also paid a penny. The householder replied that he had been just with the day-long workers, as he had been with the hour-long workers, and that whatever funds he had were his; he could do with them as he chose.

What would the Lord have us learn about Him from this parable? There are three things.

First, the Lord Jesus seeks laborers for His vineyard. There is much work to be done if we are going to win the world for Christ and train those who have been won to reproduce themselves and bear fruit in abundance. We are not saved to sit, soak, and sour; we are saved to serve the Lord. The most frustrated person in the world, I believe, is not the unsaved person; he has little understanding of what really awaits him. The most frustrated person in the world is the one who is saved and does not know why God has left him on the earth. Ephesians 2:10 claims, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." The Lord saved us to be laborers in His field.

Secondly, the Lord Jesus hires laborers at various hours and various stages in life. The Church did not begin fully equipped. Throughout history others have been added to the New Testament Church, as we have been added during these last decades. Those who were apostles in the New Testament Church will not receive a greater wage for their labors simply because they entered early into Christ's vineyard. God is interested in rewardable labor, not the hour in which we became laborers. If you have come to know the Lord as Saviour later in life and have not had the opportunities to serve Him as those who have been saved many years, do not despair. God is absolutely just in meting out rewards.

Thirdly, the Lord Jesus rewards generously as well as justly. This final lesson that this parable teaches us is perhaps the greatest of all. Each of these laborers was rewarded in an unexpected manner. Each one received a penny, a day's wage; and no one could complain that he was paid less than fair wages. Beyond acting justly to those who had been hired first, the householder acted generously to the others. When people see generosity to others and not to themselves, they are hurt and accuse the generous person of being unfair. But this is not the case. Having rewarded justly, the Lord Jesus was then free to reward generously.

A kind storekeeper once said to a little girl who was eagerly eyeing a jar of candy, "Take some; take a whole handful!" The little girl hesitated for a moment and then replied, "Will you please give it to me? Your hand is bigger than mine!" When we begin to compare our lives with others and compute our anticipated rewards, we will be dissatisfied. We must let the hand of God reward us as He deems just and fair. Remember, His hand is always bigger than ours. Let us live for Him today; let Him reward us tomorrow

MORNING HYMN
Praise the Saviour, ye who know Him!
Who can tell how much we owe Him?
Gladly let us render to Him
All we are and have.

Aug 31, 2006 at 02:18 o\clock

Firm in Faith

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning 2
Scripture Reference:
Mark 16:1-20 

Firm in Faith

And very early in the morning the first day of the week they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.

Faith is not always a champion which marches alone. Sometimes faith is accompanied by fear. Faith is not the absence of questioning; it is the presence of action in the midst of those questions. Faith does not provide all the answers; it provides a basis for confidence in the midst of unreasonable circumstances.

We do not fully understand how God takes oxygen and hydrogen, both of them odorless, tasteless, and colorless, and combines them with carbon, which is insoluble, black, and tasteless, to produce a beautiful, white, sweet substance we call sugar. Although we do not have all the answers as to how God accomplishes this, in the midst of our circumstances we accept God's product on faith. Real faith is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is trusting God when you cannot see through the fog.

It was early Easter Sunday morning when Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome set out on a mission of faith. These women had covenanted among themselves to purchase spices that were needed to embalm the body of Jesus. They could not do so until after dusk on Saturday. So when the Sabbath was passed, the women purchased the sweet spices that they might come to the tomb of Joseph and there make the body of the Lord Jesus ready for burial.

It was very early in the morning the first day of the week that they came to the sepulcher, at the rising of the sun (Mark 16:2). With the spices that they had purchased the previous evening in hand, the women made their way through the dark streets of Jerusalem just before the sunrise of Sunday morning. As they approached the garden in which the tomb was located, they chattered among themselves, questioning how they would gain access to the tomb. Here is a grand example of faith amid questions. The women could not themselves roll away the stone, for it was simply too cumbersome to do so. Yet they did not stay at home and attend a seminar on stone-rolling, argue the pros and cons of gaining entrance to the tomb, or form a committee to study the problem. In the midst of their concerns about how they would gain entrance to the tomb, they steadily progressed toward the tomb in faith. Faith is not the absence of questions; it is the presence of action amidst those questions.

Once an ocean liner was engulfed in a dense fog off the coast of Newfoundland. It was Wednesday evening and the captain had been on the bridge for more than 24 hours, when he was startled by someone tapping him on the shoulder. As he turned, he saw the great man of prayer and faith, George Mueller. The concerned Mueller stated, "Captain, I must be in Quebec on Saturday afternoon." Expressing his dismay, the captain replied, "That's impossible!" The fog was so dense and the progress of the ship so slow that the captain knew they would never make it to shore on time. He mumbled, "I'm helpless!" Being a man of faith, George Mueller suggested, "Let's go down to the chart room and pray." The captain, who could see only his circumstances, replied, "Do you know how dense the fog is?"

"No," Mueller said, "My eye is not on the density of the fog, but on the living God who controls every circumstance of my life." The captain and Mueller left the bridge and went below where Mueller fell to his knees and prayed. Within a matter of minutes the fog lifted, the ocean liner progressed rapidly, and Mueller was in Quebec before Saturday.

If we are to live a life of faith, we must get our eyes off the stone before the tomb and on the God who does the impossible. The women knew the stone would keep them from their Lord, and yet they purchased their spices, readied themselves early in the morning, and made their way in the darkness toward the garden tomb. Faith is not being free from questions; faith is being firm in commitment to the power of God. How will you demonstrate your faith today?

MORNING HYMN
May Thy rich grace impart
Strength to my fainting heart,
My zeal inspire;
As Thou hast died for me,
O may my love to Thee
Pure, warm and changeless be
A living fire!

Aug 29, 2006 at 18:21 o\clock

Producing Character

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning 2
Scripture Reference:
Psalm 73:1-28 

Character

For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.

This is the second psalm ascribed to Asaph and the first of eleven consecutive psalms that bear his name. In 2 Chronicles 29:30 King Hezekiah invites the Levites to sing "the words of David, and of Asaph the seer." Asaph was not only a writer but a prophet as well. This psalm deals with the same perplexing subject as that of Psalm 37, curiously the transposition of Psalm 73. It is the subject of Psalm 49 and the entire book of Job. How can an infinitely powerful God be good and still allow the wicked to appear to prosper and the righteous to be in want? Perhaps you have asked the same question of God. If so, your answer is given in Psalm 73.

The way to heaven is an afflicted way, a perplexed, a persecuted way, crushed close together with crosses, as was the Israelites' way in the wilderness. This was true of Asaph the psalmist when his feet were almost gone and his steps had well nigh slipped. He was envious when he looked around and saw the prosperity of the wicked. There were no pangs or pains in their death. The eyes of the wicked ever gloat on the luxuries around them. They increase in prosperity and riches while they curse God, and the Almighty appears to do nothing about it.

On the other hand, Asaph had cleansed his heart and had washed his hands before God. He had lived uprightly and yet he was afflicted and distressed. Why would God allow him to be afflicted when he had lived as God desired? Although God does not daily bring a man to his bed, breaking his spirit and his bones, nevertheless seldom a day passes without some rebuke or chastening from God. It is as much a part of the Christian's life to know afflictions as it is to know mercies, to know when God smites as to know when He smiles.

Still Asaph complains, "For all day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning" (Psalm 73:14). Every morning it appears to the psalmist that he arose after having been whipped by God. His breakfast was the bread of sorrow; his juice was the water of adversity. Morning after morning he would arise only to feel the affliction of God that day. Asaph began to question whether or not it was worth living a godly life, a life pure and unspotted from the world, when those around him refused to do so and prospered. Perhaps this question has crossed your mind as well.

In the forests of northern Europe lives the ermine, a small animal that we know best for its snow-white fur. Instinctively the ermine protects its white coat lest it become soiled. European hunters often capitalize on this trait. Instead of setting a mechanical trap to catch the ermine, they find its home in the cleft of a rock and daub the entrance with tar. A chase ensues and the frightened ermine flees toward its home. When it arrives at the cleft of the rock and finds it covered with dirt, the animal spurns its place of safety. Rather than soil itself and its white fur, it courageously faces the hunters. That's character. To the ermine, purity is dearer than life itself.

Whenever we feel we are being chastised by God unjustly and are tempted to cast off our righteous lifestyle, let's remember the ermine. To keep ourselves "unspotted from the world" (James 1:27) should be as important to the Christian as life itself. Affliction tests character; and character tested, with the right response, is character strengthened. Rejoice today that God loves you enough to afflict you.

MORNING HYMN
In the hour of trial, Jesus, plead for me;
Lest by base denial I depart from Thee;
When Thou see'st me waver, with a look recall;
Nor thro' fear or favor suffer me to fall.

Aug 26, 2006 at 18:51 o\clock

God's Mercies

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning 2
Scripture Reference:
Lamentations 3:1-36 

Morning Mercies

It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning, great is Thy faithfulness.

The book of Lamentations may be the saddest writing in the ancient Near East. Composed of five chapters, each chapter is an elegy, almost a funeral dirge. Each of these elegies is sad beyond description. The whole of the book of Lamentations is a poem of pain, a symphony of sorrow. Lamentations has been called the wailing wall of the Bible, and so it is. The tears shed with each distressing chapter only increase as the Lamentations progress. There is but one bright spot in the five lamentations. This bright spot is our devotional for today.

In the midst of the most monstrous dirge of despair the prophet Jeremiah issues a remarkable testimony to the breadth and the force of divine grace. The black clouds which characterize the Lamentations are not universal; there is a minute break in those clouds through which the brightest sunlight streams forth. The penetrating rays of Lamentations 3:22-23 find their way through the chinks and crannies of the deepest dungeon. In the midst of his despondency over the destruction of Jerusalem Jeremiah sees a ray of hope which depicts the unceasing mercies of God.

Although we have no claim on God's mercies, and although they are altogether undeserved, nonetheless they never cease. We have done much to provoke God and give Him cause to cut off His mercy in our behalf. We have abused His mercy, ignored His mercy, even at times ungratefully accepted His mercy. Still, while God's mercies may not always be visible, they are always present. The mercies of God may change their form, as the morning light varies from the evening light, but the mercies of God will never cease to give their light. Even chastisement is mercy in disguise; and frequently, under the circumstances which make chastisement necessary, it proves to be more merciful than if God had not chastised us at all.

In the ray of sunlight presented by Lamentations 3:22-23 we learn that not only are the mercies of God not consumed, "They are new every morning," proving the great faithfulness of God.

There is great novelty in human life. Each day brings to us new and difficult problems, new and exciting challenges. God's mercy is ever-present, but the form it takes is ever-changing. God adapts His mercy to our immediate needs of each day. His mercies are not chiseled in stone but are vital and vibrant. We need not exhume the antique mercies which God showered on Moses, Jeremiah, or John. God's mercies on our behalf are fresh and alive today. As God renews His world by greening it every spring, so too He refreshes and invigorates His people by renewing His mercies to them every morning.

With every new morning nature offers a tribute of praise to God's mercy. The sun rises; the birds sing; the trees sway in the breeze. Shall we alone be silent and ungrateful? Shall the Christian, who has the most reasons to praise God for His mercy, be slow to acknowledge that God's mercy is renewed to him each day? Will we allow the natural creation of God alone to praise its Creator?

No matter how dark our day may appear to be, let us remember this with Jeremiah, "It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning, great is Thy faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:22-23).

MORNING HYMN
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father!
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Aug 25, 2006 at 17:39 o\clock

Danger of Self-Promotion

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning 2
Scripture Reference:

Web of Conspiracy

And it shall be, that in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, thou shalt rise early, and set upon the city: and, behold, when he and the people that is with him come out against thee, then mayest thou do to them as thou shalt find occasion.

"Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive." Conspirators against those who are righteous are ultimately destroyed by their conspiracy. How this is evident in the tragic days following the triumph of Gideon and his 300 men!

Judges 8:33-35 records the failure of the Israelites to live after the defeat of the Midianites as they had during the battle. As a result of Israel's forgetting the God who delivered them, internal strife became more damaging than their external enemies. The royalty which Gideon had refused was coveted by Abimelech, his son by a handmaiden of Shechem. Attempting to trade on his father's reputation, Abimelech harangued the men of Shechem, claiming that it was far better to be ruled by one man, a Shechemite, than by all 70 of Gideon's sons. With money stolen from the sacred treasury of Baal-berith, Abimelech hired "vain and light persons," a band of desperadoes, to slay Gideon's other sons. Miraculously, however, one son, Jotham, escaped the conspiracy.

Abimelech reigned over a limited area in Israel for three years. But his reign did not go unchallenged by Jotham, who fled to Mount Gerizim, where he pronounced a curse on Abimelech and the men of Shechem. This curse came in the form of a parable about the tree that wished one of their number to rule over them. They asked the olive tree, fig tree, and vine in succession, only to be rebuffed each time. Then they turned to the worthless thorny bramble, which accepted their offer to rule over them.

The meaning of this parable was obvious to all. The trees, which are themselves producers, are more interested in fruit than in control; but the thorn, which has nothing to give, seeks to be the leader sheerly for personal gain. Abimelech was a thorn. Jotham cried, "Let fire come out from Abimelech and devour the men of Shechem, and the house of Millo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem, and from the house of Millo, and devour Abimelech" (Judges 9:20).

Jotham's curse was not long in being fulfilled. After three years God sent an "evil spirit" between Abimelech and the men of Shechem. The Shechemites revolted and plotted against his life. But Zebul, the governor of the city and an Abimelech loyalist, informed Abimelech of the plot to dethrone him; and a counter plan was hatched. Zebul counseled Abimelech and his men to lie in wait for the Shechemites during the night in the fields before the city. "And it shall be, that in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, thou shalt rise early and set upon the city"(Judges 9:33). Abimelech massacred the inhabitants of Shechem.

Having treacherously murdered his pseudo-subjects, Abimelech turned his attention to the neighboring city of Thebez. Some of the Shechemites, the men and women of Thebez, fled to a strong tower for safety. Again Abimelech prepared to burn them out, but a woman cast a piece of millstone out of the tower. In ironic reciprocation, the stone found its target the head of Abimelech and broke his skull. Jotham's prophecy was fulfilled.

Abimelech, the would-be-king conspirator, and the Shechemites, his would-be subjects, were caught in the middle of their web of conspiracy. Having destroyed the righteous, they were themselves destroyed by each other. Deception always brings destruction. How much better we are passively to accept the will of God as good, acceptable, and perfect (Romans 12:2) than to conspire self-promotion without the blessing of God.

MORNING HYMN
The God of Abraham praise,
Who reigns enthroned above,
Ancient of everlasting days
And God of love.
Jehovah, great I AM,
By earth and Heav'n confessed,
I bow and bless the sacred
Name forever blest.

Aug 24, 2006 at 18:19 o\clock

Joy in the Morning

Are we willing to endure the night and look for the day ? 

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning 2
Scripture Reference:
Psalm 30:1-12 

Joy in the Morning

For His anger endureth but a moment; in His favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

In Psalm 30, as in so many other psalms, David promises to praise the Lord. He had experienced a great deliverance and was thankful. He cried unto heaven and the Lord heard him, bringing his soul back from the grave. Thus he exclaims that he will "Sing unto the Lord . . .for His anger endureth but a moment." This thought is reinforced by the delightful _expression, "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" (Psalm 30:5).

How often we have experienced the truth of this verse! Heavy trials weigh us down as we pillow our heads at night. Our minds seem unable to bear the pressure. Restlessly we toss and turn, but our body refuses to rest. We are miserable and feel helpless. Finally sleep comes, but only after hours of restlessness.

The Christian life is filled with the interchanges of sickness and health, weakness and strength, disgrace and honor, want and wealth. Sometimes we enjoy the comfort of being one of God's own; other times we bear the cross of that same privilege. On occasion the south winds of God's mercy blow over our lives; on other occasions blow the north winds of adversity. Nonetheless, when the nipping north winds of calamity chill our nights and cause us to be restless, we may rest in the promise of God that "weeping may endure [only] for a night." God always places a time limit on the suffering and restlessness of His children.

After such a night of struggle, we frequently awake with a vague sense of what transpired the night before. As we gather our thoughts, we wonder why it was so difficult for us to fall asleep. Why were we so helpless and despairing? Things do not look as impossible as they once did. What is it that makes the difference? It is the joy that comes in the morning when we cast our care upon the Lord, knowing that He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7; cf. Job 33:26; Isaiah 26:20; 54:7).

Not only are the trials of the night temporary; they are gifts from God as well. We cannot deny that Christians are often called to endure soul-shaking experiences. In the Christian life there is weeping, and sometimes plenty of it. The nights of adversity are long and frequent. But God never allows them to be endless or without cause.

The cupola of St. Paul's Cathedral in London was painted by Sir James Thornhill. It was necessary for Sir James to complete his work while standing on a swinging scaffold high above the pavement. One day when he had finished a particularly difficult portion with painstaking effort, he stopped to inspect his artistry. As a good artist does, slowly he began moving backwards in order to gain a more appropriate view of his work. A helper working with him suddenly recognized that if Sir James should take one step farther backward, he would be killed in a fatal fall. The man knew that if he startled the man with a shout, it might topple him from the scaffold. As quickly as possible, he grabbed a brush and made a sweeping stroke across the exquisite work that Sir James was admiring. Understandably disturbed, the artist rushed forward with a cry of dismay. When his companion explained why he had taken this drastic measure, Sir James Thornhill burst into tears of gratitude.

We may be sure that no physician ever weighed out medicine to his patients with half as much care and exactness as God weighs out the trials of a sleepless night to us. Perhaps the dawning light of relief seems far away to you, but remember, morning will come, and with it God's promised joy. You have God's Word on it.

MORNING HYMN
Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth and song,
As the burdens press, and the cares distress,
And the day grows weary and long?
O yes, He cares; I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Saviour cares.

Aug 23, 2006 at 00:11 o\clock

Time with the Saviour

How is our time spent in His company ? 

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning 2
Scripture Reference:
John 21:1-25 

Come and Dine

But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.

Have you ever noticed that the most difficult time to serve the Lord is immediately after a defeat in your life? When we are on a spiritual high, serving the Lord comes almost naturally. But when we experience the roller-coaster ride to the depths of despair after some spiritual tragedy, we have a tendency to become complacent. While activity tends to produce additional activity, inactivity also reproduces itself.

The popularity of Jesus Christ had been building throughout His earthly ministry. Thousands of people followed Him through the hills of Galilee, watching His miracles and listening to His teachings. The disciples had become an intimate group, well known for their association with Jesus. As His popularity grew, so did their own.

The culmination of their intimate relationship with the Lord came the night of His betrayal. He had gathered the disciples in the upper room to keep the Passover. They were all there. They ate with the Lord, prayed with Him, sang hymns with Him, pledged their loyalty to Him. Around this meal, the institution of the Lord's supper, the disciples reached a spiritual high. Their heightened spirits, however, were soon to be dashed. Jesus was led away from the garden, He endured a cruel and illegal trial, and the disciples were dispersed. Even though Jesus again and again had told them that He must suffer the cruelty of the cross, the disciples still did not assimilate this tenet of His teaching. With His death and burial the disciples' balloon had burst. Even the resurrection of the Lord and the immediate post-resurrection appearances did not do much to reassure the disciples.

As instructed by the Lord Himself, the disciples returned to Galilee. Their meeting with Jesus on the mountain of Galilee, where He had appointed them, must have been subsequent to the account of our Scripture for today. Seven of the apostles had returned to their vocation as fishermen. How easy it was to be a follower of the Lord when He was present; how easy it was to return to their occupation in His absence.

It was Peter who first suggested that he would go fishing. This does not necessarily imply that he intended to renounce his apostleship in favor of the fishing trade. This is what he knew best; this is what he would do until the Lord commanded him otherwise. Hence Peter and the others entered into a ship and fished all night, but caught nothing. How could this be? Had they lost the knack of fishing during their years with the Messiah? Why were they so unsuccessful at a business in which they had been extremely successful before Jesus called them to discipleship? Throughout the night they fished without any success at all.

"But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore" (John 21:4). For some providential reason the disciples did not recognize the stranger standing on the shore. As He called to them and inquired how successful they had been, they had to answer that they were extremely unsuccessful in fishing that night. It was the resurrected Lord, keeping His rendezvous with them in Galilee. But they did not recognize this until He commanded them to cast their nets on the other side of the ship. This was reminiscent of a similar but earlier command of the Lord with the same result (Luke 5:1-11).

When the disciples had hauled in an incredible number of fish, they came to the shore at Jesus' invitation to "Come and dine" (John 21:12). It was almost as if the Lord was reigniting the fire of intimacy and love that had cooled since their last supper together. Jesus Christ did not want His disciple band to become complacent, for complacency is kin to disobedience.

After we have once served the Lord well and lived in intimate relationship with Him, it is easy to become complacent, to drift from Him and not to sit at His table. However, the Lord calls to each of us to "come and dine"; and if we are to be an effective and useful tool in the Master's hand, we must find our feet under His table frequently.

MORNING HYMN
Revive us again fill each heart with Thy love;
May each soul be rekindled with fire from above.
Hallelujah, Thine the glory! Hallelujah, amen!
Hallelujah, Thine the glory! Revive us again.

Aug 22, 2006 at 01:01 o\clock

Small Things

Do we consider the importance of small things in our lives ? 

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning 2
Scripture Reference:
1 Samuel 17:1-27 

Little Things

And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took and went, as Jesse had commanded him; and he came to the trench, as the host was going forth to the fight, and shouted for the battle.

Occasionally it is necessary to remind ourselves that success in life often depends upon little things. Little people, little tasks and little responsibilities often loom large in the eyes of God.

The Philistines waged frequent raids on Israel. The leader of the Philistines, a giant of tremendous stature named Goliath of Gath, was probably one of the Anakim (Numbers 13:33; Joshua 11:22), a strain of huge men that Joshua drove out of Hebron and who took refuge among the Philistines. No Israelite was a match for Goliath, especially not little David, who was sent to the battlefield to inquire of the welfare of his three elder brothers, Eliab, Abinadab, and Shammah. David's task was a small one; he was entrusted with very little. Told to take his brothers an ephah of parched corn, ten loaves and ten cheeses for the captain of the army, David set out to the battlefield. This day began with a small task, but it was to be a momentous day in the history of Israel.

"David rose up early in the morning, and left his sheep with a keeper" and engaged in the small chore his father had commissioned to him (1 Samuel 17:20). As he talked with his brothers, behold the Philistine champion came out again to challenge the Israelites. The armies of Israel stood by, trembling in their sandals; but David was appalled and amazed at the fear that paralyzed the Israelite warriors. Not willing to see his nation shamed or his God embarrassed, he inquired why someone did not stand up to the godless Goliath. "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?" Immediately his eldest brother whisked him away to quiet him. Someone entrusted with such a small task as bringing bread and cheese to his soldier-brothers should not be so vocal about the cowardice of the Israelite army.

Yes, David had slain the lion and the bear, but he was still slight in the sight of those around him. Those were but small feats; silencing the giant Goliath would be a gargantuan task. Besides, even if David accepted the challenge, he was too small to wear the armor necessary to enter battle with Goliath. His weapon, a sling, was likewise a small implement. Everything about David was small, including his chances of success against the giant. But as we all know, David's God was victorious; the slight shepherd of Israel slew the giant Goliath.

Horatius Banal, reflecting on God's use of that which is small, realized that little things can frequently be used by God to be great things. He wrote, "A holy life is made up of a multitude of small things. It is the little things of the hour and not the great things of the age that fill up a life like that of the Apostle Paul or John or David Brainard or Henry Martyn. Little words, not eloquent speeches or sermons, little deeds, not miracles or battles or one great heroic effort or martyrdom, make up the true Christian life. It's the little constant sunbeam, not the lightning, the waters of Siloam that go softly in their meek mission of refreshment, not the waters of the rivers great and main rushing down in torrent, noise, and force that are the true symbols of the holy life."

There are no small people, small tasks or small responsibilities in the service of God. You can be small only if you fail to take the bread and cheese as God has commanded. How much happier Goliath would have been if little David had stayed home that day.

MORNING HYMN
Little is much, when God is in it!
Labor not for wealth or fame;
There's a crown and you can win it,
If you'll go in Jesus' name.

Aug 18, 2006 at 18:24 o\clock

Faith vs. Fleece

Do we use godly ways for making decisions ? 

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning 2
Scripture Reference:
Judges 6:16-40 

Fleece or Faith

And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water.

Discouraged and pathetic, Israel needed a champion. God had chosen His man. The angel of the Lord appeared unto Gideon, a mighty man of valor, and encouraged him with the promise of God's presence and power. Gideon had broken down the altar to Baal. Idolatry throughout the land of Israel was pounded with a heavy blow. Jehovah alone was now worshipped in Ophrah, and the fame of Gideon spread throughout the land. It was apparent that Gideon was the man behind whom all Israel could rally.

Once again the Midianite Bedouins swarmed across the land. Gideon knew that the time for battle had come, but this time he was ready. Judges 6:34 says, "The Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon." Literally the Spirit of Jehovah clothed Gideon like a garment. The once discouraged and despondent young farmer of Ophrah was now suited up for battle in the armor of the Spirit of God. When he sounded the mustering trumpet, immediately all of the clan of Abiezer gathered around him. Messengers were sent throughout all the land. From Naphtali, Zebulun, Asher, and Manasseh they came, prepared to fight under the leadership of Gideon.

All was ready for the mighty battle, but one thing more troubled Gideon. Again he asked a sign from the Lord. Seeking a sign from God was characteristic of Jewish behavior (1 Corinthians 1:22). With troops arrayed for battle, Gideon spread a fleece of wool on the ground and said to the Lord God, "If the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that Thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as Thou hast said." A heavy dew is very common in the highlands of Palestine. Even today clothes left outdoors overnight must be wrung out in the morning. Although energized for battle, the entire camp of Israel waited throughout the night for the sign from God.

The Scripture records that Gideon rose up early on the next morning and wrung enough dew out of the fleece to fill a bowl full of water (Judges 6:38). Miracle accomplished! However, Gideon entreated the grace and patience of the Lord again and asked Jehovah to reverse the sign. One more night the Israelites waited before entering battle. In the morning the ground was saturated with dew but the fleece was entirely dry. This was proof positive that God was in this battle and that Gideon was His chosen leader.

Frequently much indecision and lack of courage is camouflaged under the guise of "putting out the fleece." Such a practice is not always an admirable one, nor does it always produce admirable results.

When John Wesley was a 32-year-old missionary in Georgia, he fell deeply in love with a young woman he wanted to marry. Some of his friends suggested that perhaps God would have the evangelist remain unmarried and devote his life to his work. One even suggested they draw lots in order to discern God's will for Wesley. The evangelist agreed. Three small slips of paper were prepared: one said, "Marry"; the second, "Think not of it this year"; and the third, "Think of it no more." Wesley drew a slip and with much sadness read, "Think of it no more." Heartbroken, he ended his courtship. Fifteen years later Wesley married a wealthy widow who became a hindrance to his ministry. After 20 years of mutual misery, she left him. He had allowed a fleece to determine his fortune.

When God sets up the parameters, encourages us in a given situation, and calls us to action, let's not be guilty of "fleecing" Him. How much better if Gideon had been remembered for his faith, as was Abraham, than for his fleece. For what will you be remembered?

MORNING HYMN
I am trusting Thee, Lord Jesus
Trusting only Thee;
Trusting Thee for full salvation, Great and free.
I am trusting Thee to guide me,
Thou alone shalt lead,
Ev'ry day and hour supplying All my need.

Aug 17, 2006 at 00:37 o\clock

All Glory must be to God

Do we seek to give God glory in our lives ? 

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning 2
Scripture Reference:
Judges 7:1-25 

Glory to God

Then Jerubbaal who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early, and pitched beside the well of Harod: so that the host of the Midianites were on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley.

Natural man has a penchant for trying to explain away God. The theory of evolution was developed in an attempt to remove God from the arena of creation. Liberal theologians have attempted to demythologize the Bible in order to remove the miraculous works of God from it. Man does all he can to explain naturally the divinely originated phenomena in our world.

God has always been aware of man's desire to usurp His position and authority. Frequently in Scripture can be found accounts where God places men in deliberate situations so they must recognize that their deliverance is solely of Him. When God removes the possibility of any natural explanation, man is left with the inevitable conclusion that God is in the miracle business. Such was the case in our Scripture today.

Israel was assembled and ready for battle. Already the fight had been stayed two days by the dewy and dry fleece so that Gideon could receive a token of God's presence with them. Now the fight was to be delayed again.

On the morning following the second test with the fleece, Gideon and all the people with him "rose up early and pitched beside the well of Harod" (Judges 7:1). Anxious for the battle, they had already moved into military position when God told Gideon he had too many people in His army. Jehovah wanted to be certain that Gideon, as well as Israel and the nations watching, would understand that Israel had won the battle by the hand of God. Therefore he instructed Gideon to command any of the 32,000 troops who were afraid to return home from the front. Much to the surprise of Gideon, 22,000 admitted their fear and retreated. Surely if a battle was won by 10,000 Israeli troops against 135,000 Midianites (Judges 8:10), this would indicate that the victory was the Lord's. But again Jehovah surprised Gideon by indicating that these 10,000 troops were still far too many.

Gideon was to take the troops to the spring of Harod for a strange and severe test. The soldiers were divided into two groups, those who lapped water as a dog and those who dropped to their knees to drink. Whatever the purpose of the test, only 300 soldiers were selected for Gideon's army.

Next God instructed Gideon to go with his servant, Phurah, down to the perimeter of the Midianite encampment and eavesdrop on the Midianites. They overheard one soldier telling another of his dream about a cake of barley bread that rolled into the Midian camp, against the king's tent, and flattened it. His fellow soldier interpreted the dream that this was none other than the sword of Gideon and that God was about to deliver Midian into Gideon's hands. So evident was it that this dream and the interpretation had both come from God that Gideon immediately returned to the host of Israel and said, "Arise; for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian." Three hundred men defeated the entire Midianite army and the glory belonged entirely to God.

We must never shy away from impossible situations. When the odds seem least favorable for our success, that is when God can gain the greatest glory from our success. Large armies are not as admirable as dedicated ones. The recruiting slogan of the United States Marine Corps includes the words, "A few good men." God is looking for the same. Will you be one today?

MORNING HYMN
On ev'ry hand the foe we find
Drawn up in dread array;
Let tents of ease be left behind,
And onward to the fray!
Salvation's helmet on each,
With truth all girt about:
The earth shall tremble 'neath our tread
And echo with our shout.

Aug 14, 2006 at 18:36 o\clock

Blessings from the Clouds

Title: In The Clouds

Author: Mrs. Charles E. Cowman
Source: Streams in the Desert
Scripture Reference:
Ecclesiastes 11:3 

"If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth" (Eccles. 11:3).

Why, then, do we dread the clouds which now darken our sky? True, for a while they hide the sun, but the sun is not quenched; he will be out again before long. Meanwhile those black clouds are filled with rain; and the blacker they are, the more likely they will yield plentiful showers.

How can we have rain without clouds? Our troubles have always brought us blessings, and they always will. They are the dark chariots of bright grace. These clouds will empty themselves before long, and every tender herb will be gladder for the shower. Our God may drench us with grief, but He will refresh us with mercy. Our Lord's love-letters often come to us in black-edged envelopes. His wagons rumble, but they are loaded with benefits. His rod blossoms with sweet flowers and nourishing fruits. Let us not worry about the clouds, but sing because May flowers are brought to us through the April clouds and showers.

O Lord, the clouds are the dust of Thy feet! How near Thou art in the cloudy and dark day! Love beholds Thee, and is glad. Faith sees the clouds emptying themselves and making the little hills rejoice on every side.--C H. Spurgeon

"What seems so dark to thy dim sight
May be a shadow, seen aright
Making some brightness doubly bright.

"The flash that struck thy tree--no more
To shelter thee--lets heaven's blue floor
Shine where it never shone before.

"The cry wrung from thy spirit's pain
May echo on some far-off plain,
And guide a wanderer home again."

"The blue of heaven is larger than the clouds."

This classic devotional is the unabridged edition of Streams in the Desert. This first edition was published in 1925 and the wording is preserved as originally written. Connotations of words may have changed over the years and are not meant to be offensive.

Aug 12, 2006 at 18:06 o\clock

God's peace can be Ours

Are we resting in God's peace in our lives ? 

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning 2
Scripture Reference:
Isaiah 26:1-21 

Prayer and Peace

With my soul have I desired Thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek Thee early: for when Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.

One of the prevailing themes of both Old and New Testaments is the constant presence of peace in the hearts of those who abide in God. The prophet Isaiah said it this way, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee" (Isaiah 26:3). Literally Isaiah said, "Thou wilt keep him in peace, peace." Or God will keep us in double peace. He will give us a double portion of peace when our minds rest on Him.

Likewise in the New Testament Jesus taught His disciples that His very presence would bring them peace. He said, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth give I unto you" John 14:27). He told His disciples, "These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

The apostle Paul understood the principle of fixing our minds on God and enjoying His peace. He counseled the Colossian believers to "let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful" (Colossians 3:15). If our minds are stayed upon God, His peace will rule the affairs entertained by our minds. If, on the other hand, we allow our minds to dwell on the cares of this world, God's peace will be far from our thoughts.

It is for this very reason that the apostle told the Philippian believers, "Be careful for nothing" or be full of care about nothing "but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7). The peace of God that garrisons our hearts and minds cannot exist alongside the cares of this life. Each of us must make the decision whether our minds will dwell on those things that trouble us or on the power of God to deliver us. A mind full of care can be a mind full of peace. The difference is only a prayer away.

Isaiah was in the habit of seeking God in the middle of the night. When the thick clouds of sorrow overshadowed his heart and he no longer could endure the disappointments of that day, he did not allow his mind to dwell on those disappointments, but rather on the Lord's deliverance. Rather than lay his head on a pillow of doubt, he would lay it on the pillow of dependence on the Lord God.

Isaiah continued, "Yea, with my spirit within me will I seek Thee early" (Isaiah 26:9). The experience of meeting the Lord in the darkness of midnight and having his mind freed from fear enabled the prophet to face the new day, eagerly awaiting an additional measure of God's peace. Thus he determined that his spirit would seek the Lord early, fully confident that the Lord would answer his prayer: "Lord, Thou wilt ordain peace for us: for Thou also hast wrought all our works in us" (Isaiah 26:12).

The pattern for dealing with the cares of this world is the same for us today. God has designed us to live at peace with Him, with our world and with ourselves. But we can do this only as we turn our cares over to Him in exchange for His ruling peace. Whatever difficulties you faced yesterday and wrestled with through the night last night, give them early this morning to the Lord, and let Him replace your cares with the comfort of His peace. Remember, God's peace is but a prayer away.

MORNING HYMN

Peace! peace! wonderful peace,
Coming down from the Father above;
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray,
In fathomless billows of love.

Aug 11, 2006 at 18:33 o\clock

Morning Praise

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning 2
Scripture Reference:
Psalm 119:129-152 

Morning Moments

I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried; I hoped in Thy word.

Today our early morning devotional takes us to the great psalm--Psalm 119. This is a psalm dedicated to the praise of God's Word. It is the longest and most elaborate of the alphabetic psalms. While there are eight other acrostic psalms (9; 10; 25; 34; 37; 111; 112; and 145), this one far exceeds all the others in splendor. It is arranged in twenty-two stanzas, corresponding to the twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Within each stanza the first line of every verse begins with the same letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Although we cannot see that in English, in our Bible the word supplied at the head of each stanza is the name of the Hebrew letter with which each verse in that stanza begins.

The author of the psalm is unknown but it is definitely Davidic in tone and _expression and squares with David's experiences at many interesting points.

While these details of the psalm are interesting, devotionally there is something far more important in Psalm 119. The Masseretes, those scribes who copied the ancient Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament, observed that in every verse but one (verse 122) there is a direct reference to the law under one of ten legal names found in the psalm. Others dispute that claim but it is clear that the theme of this great psalm is the Word of God. The great preponderance of verses contain at least one word which identifies the Word of God and sings man's praises to it.

Psalm 119 is filled with delightful expressions of appreciation for God's Word. "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy word" (verse 9). "I have rejoiced in the way of Thy testimonies, as much as in all riches" (verse 14). "I will speak of Thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed" (verse 46). "For ever, O LORD, Thy word is settled in heaven" (verse 89). "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (verse 105). With expressions of love and devotion like these, what more could God hear that would bring joy to His ears? What promise could the psalmist make that would seal his eagerness to know God's law?

Psalm 119:147 provides the answer. The psalmist says, "I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried; I hoped in Thy word." Before the light broke through the shadows of the dark night, the psalmist was already prevailing on God in prayer. He cried unto His God before He spoke unto his fellow man. He spent time hoping in God's Word each morning before he gave himself to speaking God's Word throughout the day. It was at the dawning of the morning that the psalmist found the Word of God most precious to him.

Ambrose commented, "It is a grievous thing if the rays of the rising sun find thee lazy and ashamed in thy bed, and the bright light strike on eyes still weighed down with slumbering sloth." The psalmist would agree with this church father.

To delight in the law of God, to sing praises to the Word of God, to read and meditate on the testimonies of God, all bring joy to the heart of God. But I believe the greatest joy is brought to His heart when we do these things at the dawning of the day. When we seek His word above all others, His encouragement before all others, His truth instead of all others, then we will be pleasing to Him more than all others.

One grand benefit of preceding the dawn with Bible reading and prayer is that it will not only add God's blessing to our day, but it will also encourage us to continue in His Word and prayer throughout the day. The same psalmist who rose early in the morning to hope in God's Word continued into the night watches meditating in that same Word (verse 148). When we begin the day early in prayer and the Word, we can continue that practice throughout the day. But if we do not come to the Lord until the evening hours, we can never know the joy of spending the day with Him. Let us enjoy His Word throughout this day.

MORNING HYMN
Break Thou the bread of life,
Dear Lord, to me,
As Thou didst break the loaves,
Beside the sea;
Beyond the sacred page,
I seek Thee, Lord
My spirit pants for Thee,
O living Word.

Aug 10, 2006 at 01:26 o\clock

Friendships in our Lives

What kind of friends do we have ?

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning 2
Scripture Reference: 2 Samuel 16:1-17:24 

Friendship

Then David arose, and all the people that were with him, and they passed over Jordan: by the morning light there lacked not one of them that was not gone over Jordan.

One of the prize gems of human relationships is friendship. Emerson said, "The only way to have a friend is to be one," an echo of Proverbs 18:24. Friendship always enriches our lives, but sometimes it preserves them as well. The friendship of Hushai with David is a fine example.

Nathan's prophecy upon David for his great sin was severe and swift in coming. It struck first with David's son Amnon, and quickly thereafter with the hot-tempered Absalom. Absalom's rebellion against his father had taken firm root in Israel. He was clearly in command and was now residing in Jerusalem. But the aura of David's presence in Israel, and the legend of his prowess as a man of war made Absalom's rebellion tenuous. He must pursue his own father and the warriors who were with him. How would this be done?

Absalom's close advisor, Ahithophel, hatched a plan, the sagacity of which was unrivaled. He proposed that the armies of Israel pursue David with 12,000 chosen men and fall on him when David and his soldiers were weary and sapped of strength. They would kill David only. What is most unbelievable is that Absalom readily agreed that this was a good plan. But in the providence of God Absalom opted to get another opinion before he enacted it. Thus he called Hushai the Archite. Although pretending allegiance to Absalom, Hushai remained the loyal friend of David and acted as his informer, revealing Absalom's every move.

The plan of Hushai was a classic case of overkill. He called for Absalom to gather Israel from Dan to Beersheba, as many as the sand of the sea, against David in battle. His rhetoric must have appeared venomous, and thus Absalom liked the plan even more than that of Ahithophel. The foolish Absalom did not know that this plan was divinely originated and calculated for his own destruction. "For the Lord had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the Lord might bring evil upon Absalom."

No sooner was the plan accepted by Absalom than Hushai dispatched Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, to warn David of the impending danger. David arose, and all his men passed over the Jordan River by the morning light (2 Samuel 17:22). They were taking no chances; they fled at the rising of the sun. It is always a wise decision to flee evil at the beginning of the day.

Absalom pursued his father across the Jordan River, and the famous incident of his catching his long-flowing hair in the boughs of a great oak tree occurred that day. That day Absalom was killed. God had crushed an evil rebellion against His ordained king through the loyalty and godly commitment of a friend.

Visitors to the Ft. Myers, Florida, home of Thomas Alva Edison, are intrigued by a path in his garden that he called "the walk of friendship." The uniqueness of this walk is that each of the stones that constitute the walk was given to Edison by a friend. The pathway is designed as a memorial to friendship, the kind of friendship that Hushai had with David. Friends lead friends step by step out of danger into delight.

If you have a close friend, rejoice in that friend and thank God for him or her. Enjoy that bond of friendship that you have. In fact, why not write or call that friend today and tell him you love him in the Lord and are praying for him. You will never know what it will mean to him if you don't.

MORNING HYMN

What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Ev'rything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Ev'ry thing to God in prayer.

Aug 9, 2006 at 21:42 o\clock

August

Postings between now and the end of the summer may be more sporadic.  Please click on http://dondegr8.tripod.com/id4.html or http://www.backtothebible.org/devotions/ to read some useful daily answers to life's questions.

Aug 8, 2006 at 18:30 o\clock

Our Time each Day

Is our available time spent well for Him ?

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning 2
Scripture Reference: Acts 28:1-31 

A Long Day

And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.

Bible students find many parallels between what they read in the Word of God and what they see in the animal kingdom. Many of God's creatures have been singled out as examples of various kinds of activities. We are all familiar with the expression, "Busy as a bee." Although perhaps not as noticeable, the activity of others of God's creatures is just as great as that of the bee. For example, the thrush gets up at 2:30 every morning, begins work at once and does not stop until 9:30 at night. That's a whole nineteen-hour day. During that period of time this bird feeds its hungry fledglings about two hundred times. While the busyness of the bee is more noticeable, the activity of the thrush is equally as productive.

Astounding parallels can be drawn between the life of the apostle Paul and the busy activity of the bees and the long days of the thrush. When Paul was saved on the road to Damascus, the Bible says, "Straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God" (Acts 9:20). Paul may have said something like this to God at his salvation, "Lord, if you save me, the world will never hear the end of it!" It never did.

In this last chapter of Acts the apostle completes his tortuous journey to Rome and arrives to be placed under house arrest until his hearing before Caesar. It would have been a time for rest, recuperation from the rigors of the voyage, and restoration. No one would have criticized Paul for a lack of activity. He could have rationalized that to preach Christ in this situation would have jeopardized his case before Caesar and perhaps ultimately cut short his ministry. Still, "There came many to him into his lodgings; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus both out of the law of Moses and out of the prophets, from morning till evening" (Acts 28:23).

He had just spent two years in prison at Caesarea. Since he was a Roman citizen, his final appeal was always to Caesar. While en route to Rome, a tempestuous wind arose. The ship was tossed to and fro for 14 days and finally ran aground. With the others Paul had to swim to shore, clinging to broken pieces of the ship. As if that were not enough, on shore he was bitten by a viper, but he did not die. After three months they continued their journey, finally arriving at Rome. All this occurred just before Acts 28:23. From early in the morning until late at night he continued his preaching and teaching activity. No one asked him to put in such a long day, especially after the trials of the preceding months. Paul did it as a volunteer in the service of the Lord.

More importantly, the busyness of his activity was not in defense of his apostleship or in spinning yarns of his shipwreck. His activity was entirely a witness to the grace of God. He expounded and testified of the kingdom of God and persuaded them of the messiahship of Jesus. He had the right method; he preached unto them. He had the right message; he preached Jesus unto them. He had the right manner; he preached Jesus unto them from morning until evening.

Even toward the end of his recorded ministry the apostle Paul put in a long day of activity for the Lord. You and I have the same responsibility, the same opportunity, the same message as did the apostle. We must be as busy as a bee and put in a day like the thrush, with the message which stirred the heart of the apostle, if we are to rest at the end of this day fully satisfied of our service to the Lord God. Let's make sure we're satisfied tonight.

MORNING HYMN

Give of your best to the Master,
Give Him first place in your heart;
Give Him first place in your service,
Consecrate ev'ry part.

Aug 5, 2006 at 17:36 o\clock

Majestic God

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning 2
Scripture Reference: Exodus 19:1-25 

Our Majestic God

And it came to pass on the third day in the morning that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.

The waning years of the 20th century will undoubtedly be remembered both as an era of mushrooming technology and vanishing virtue. As the world's scientific achievements increase, its moral discernment declines. Institutions once sacred are now scorned. Beliefs that our less sophisticated forefathers revered and respected are now relinquished and ridiculed. The last third of this century has spawned a noticeable decrease in reverence, and this tendency is nowhere more evident than in religion. Even the church has a grossly inadequate appreciation of who God is and how He should be revered.

In the third month after the exodus Israel entered the desert of Sinai and encamped at the foot of the great mountain. As God's representative, Moses was summoned to Mount Sinai. Here God revealed that He would make Israel a "peculiar treasure" unto Himself above all other people. They would be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation if they would but obey God's voice and keep His covenant. Moses returned to the people with this proposition and they all agreed.

In three days the covenant would be established, but the holiness of Almighty God is so awesome that much preparation would have to be made before the Israelites could enjoy His presence. Only the pure in heart can "see" God. Moses was to sanctify the people for two days. They were to wash their clothes, an outward sign of the fact that they were inwardly clean. This cleansing within must stem from a heartfelt repentance, deep contrition, and a sincere desire to live righteously before God. Such preparation each man had to make for himself. In addition, fences or barriers were to be set up in public preparation to meet God. To impress Israel with the awesome majesty of God and the reverence with which they should meet Him, the mountain was itself declared holy - off limits to everyone but Moses and Aaron. None could touch it or even approach it beyond the fences.

With the preparations made and the people standing by in silent awe, "It came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled" (Exodus 19:16). The reverence for God that this event was designed to instill in Israel renders vain any attempt to describe adequately the scene.

The Holy One of Israel appeared in a thick cloud because His presence was awesome, too tremendous to be seen physically. Accompanying the clapping of thunder was the voice of the trumpet, exceedingly loud. So terrifying was the trumpet that the people in the camp below were dumbfounded. They stood in mute reverence to the holiness of Almighty God. The whole mountain quaked greatly, shaking from top to bottom, as the people stood in amazement.

The awfulness and terror of this event is even more remarkable when we consider that God was not descending to Mount Sinai as Israel's Judge. He was not about to pronounce a sentence of doom on them, but in love He was drawing them unto Himself through the Sinai covenant. The smoke, fire, cloud, trumpet, lightning, and thunder were all to bring Israel to revere Him, for He is holy and almighty. He is of incredible majesty.

Although it is the duty of the Christian to praise God, it is our first duty to revere and fear Him. He alone is worthy of all reverence. "Wherefore receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear; For our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:28-29). Let's revere the Lord today and spend some time praising Him for who He is.

MORNING HYMN
Praise ye the Lord, the Almighty,
The King of creation!
O my soul praise Him,
For He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear,
Now to His temple draw near;
Join me in glad adoration!

Aug 4, 2006 at 18:35 o\clock

Effective Prayer

How much and how well do we pray ?

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning 2
Scripture Reference: 2 Kings 19:1-37 

Effective Prayer

And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand; and when they arose early in the morning behold, they were all dead corpses.

King Hezekiah was in a jam. Although he had trusted God, and did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, nonetheless his Assyrian enemy was knocking at his door. Sennacherib had sent three of his lieutenants to Jerusalem with a great host of Assyrian soldiers. Rab-shakeh, the spokesman for this terrible trio, taunted the Israelites, ridiculing their faith in Jehovah. He stood before the wall of Jerusalem shouting obscenities to the Jews and counseling them, "Let not Hezekiah deceive you. . . Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD. . . hearken not to Hezekiah. . . . Make an agreement with me" (2 Kings 18:29-31).

When the king heard that the Assyrians were outside the city walls, he rent his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord. Here Isaiah, the prophet, encouraged Hezekiah that God had the situation well in control. Soon Hezekiah received a letter from the king of Assyria demanding that he surrender the city. What Hezekiah did next is characteristic of a man of faith. Hezekiah prayed unto the Lord God, and in his prayer we can see the elements of all righteous prayer.

  1. His prayer was instinctively spontaneous (verse 14). When Hezekiah received the threatening letter, he immediately spread it before the Lord. There was no thought of calling a committee or seeking the advice of others; Hezekiah knew what to do, as did Elisha (2 Kings 4:33) and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:4) in similar situations.
  2. His prayer was praisefully reverent (verse 15). He addressed Jehovah as, "O LORD God of Israel which dwellest between the cherubims, Thou art the God, even Thou alone." The Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9) indicates the same kind of reverence.
  3. His prayer was intimately personal (verse 16). After he addressed God in a reverent fashion, Hezekiah said, "LORD, bow down Thine ear and hear." He had recognized God as sovereign; now he addresses Him as friend.
  4. His prayer was respectfully informative (verses 17-18). Hezekiah did not demand of God what should be done. He was reminding himself in prayer of what God had promised. When we inform God of our situation in prayer, it is not because He is unaware of how desperate we are; we do it so we are aware of how desperate we are.
  5. His prayer was purposefully direct (verse 19a). The time had come to get down to business. He pointedly made his request known unto the Lord. "O LORD our God, I beseech thee, save Thou us out of his hand." Hezekiah did not mince words; he was direct and forthright in his request to God.
  6. His prayer was properly motivated (verse 19b). Hezekiah prayed for deliverance from the Assyrians, "that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD God, even Thou only." Anything that happens to God's people reflects on God's purpose. Our prayers ought to be motivated so that the world sees the grace of God in our deliverance from desperate situations.
  7. His prayer was powerfully effective and 2 Kings 19:35-36 shows the powerful effect of the righteous man's prayer: "And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses." Early the next morning Hezekiah and the Jews found their enemy routed and 185,000 dead soldiers. God had performed what He promised.

Prayer is the power that gets a hold of God. Each of us would be wise to study carefully Hezekiah's prayer and see how these seven characteristics of his prayer can be applied to our prayer lives. Let's be like Hezekiah and believe that "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16).

MORNING HYMN
I must tell Jesus all of my trials,
I cannot bear these burdens alone;
In my distress He kindly will help me,
He ever loves and cares for His own.

Aug 3, 2006 at 18:30 o\clock

Associations

Are we careful about who we link up with ?

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning 2
Scripture Reference: Genesis 31:17-55 

Partnership

And early in the morning Laban rose up, and kissed his sons and his daughters, and blessed them: and Laban departed, and returned unto his place.

The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another" (Genesis 31:49). How frequently these words are used as a benediction, especially at the close of a church service. They seem to express the prayer of two parties for mutual protection by the Lord until such time as they are safely and happily reunited. However, the context in which these words were uttered compels just the opposite conclusion.

Jacob was a scoundrel. He took advantage of his twin brother Esau by persuading him to sell the birthright for a mess of pottage. Later Jacob lied to his father and tricked Isaac into bestowing on him the irrevocable family blessing. Even Jacob's name means "supplanter, one who removes or replaces by scheming or treachery." Yet he met his match in his father-in-law, Laban. When Jacob reached Haran, he spied the beautiful Rachel and agreed to serve Laban seven years for her hand in marriage. At the end of those seven long years Laban tricked Jacob by switching his daughter Leah for Rachel. This meant another seven years of labor for the girl Jacob loved. In all, the patriarch served fourteen years for Laban's daughters and six years for a herd of cattle.

At the end of this time God reminded Jacob of the vow he made to return to the Promised Land. Jacob asked Laban to release him and permit his return to Bethel. This, however, would have ruined Laban financially. Scoundrel that he was, Jacob was still heir to the promise of God, and Laban knew that the secret of his own increasing wealth was God's blessing on Jacob. Therefore Laban proposed that Jacob forget about leaving and become his partner. This meant that Jacob's only recourse was to depart secretly from Haran while Laban was away shearing his sheep.

Aware that she would receive no inheritance from her father, Rachel removed the family gods as she prepared to leave Laban's house. Archaeological excavations at Nuzi in northern Mesopotamia indicate that when the household gods (seraphim) were in the possession of a son-in-law, he was legally designated as the principal heir. For this reason Rachel stole her father's gods without the consent or knowledge of Jacob.

When Laban learned of his son-in-law's hasty departure, he pursued Jacob and his family. Seven days later, at Mount Gilead, Laban overtook them and immediately confronted Jacob about the stolen gods. Having no knowledge of them, Jacob permitted a search to be made. The gods, cleverly hidden by Rachel, were not found, and this only served to increase the distrust between father and son-in-law. It was obvious that the suspicion between the two could not continue indefinitely. Therefore a covenant was devised which would not permit either party to further impede the other. Sworn to at Mizpah, the terms of the covenant were simple. A pile of stones was erected as a heap of witness between Laban and Jacob that from that day forward neither one would pass beyond that heap in order to do the other harm. Since the only witness to this event was God, the two men said, "The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another." Suspicion and distrust are clearly present in this malediction. "Early in the morning Laban rose up, and kissed his sons and his daughters, and blessed them," returning to Haran (Genesis 31:55). He is never heard from again in the narrative of Scripture.

Jacob, the man of God, had made a covenant with Laban, the man of the world. The Bible does not prohibit God's children from making necessary pacts with the world. Frequently such business covenants or contracts are made. However, the Bible does warn against making unequal partnerships or yokes with the world (2 Corinthians 6:14). For 20 years Jacob carefully eluded making such a yoke with Laban, even though he was his father-in-law. The man of God knew that a lifetime with the world, enticing and profitable as it may have seemed, was no substitute for the blessings of the Promised Land. Christians today still need to learn that lesson.

MORNING HYMN
I am resolved no longer to linger,
Charmed by the world's delight;
Things that are higher, things that are nobler,
These have allured my sight.

Aug 1, 2006 at 21:51 o\clock

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