Taking Wives From Moab

Part Four

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 “And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years”(Ruth 1:4).

There is a danger in thinking that our decisions to sin affect only ourselves. In the case of Elimelech, little did he realize that when he moved to Moab, he would leave his sons with the impression that since it was fine to move to Moab, it must be fine to marry Moabites.

How quickly personal standards will drop when we move from the place of God’s will to the place of our choosing!All Israelites knew that they were not to marry anyone outside of the children of Israel. Why did Mahlon and Chilion choose to marry apart from God’s law? 

Clearly, the opportunity to sin came because they were living outside of God’s will due to their father’s decision to move to Moab. Elimelech’s sin of compromise by sojourning in Moab bred two sins of compromise in his sons. They sinned in their marriages and in maintaining a life in Moab.

Friend, you may be continuing in a sin that you have held on to for years thinking it only affects you. You are wrong. It will affect those around you also! Have you moved to Moab? Pack your bags today and move back into God’s will. Did someone else bring you to Moab? Move back into God’s will today! Moab will take you further, keep you longer, and cost you more than you ever planned.

Think about it…

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And She was Left

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Part Three

“And Elimelech Naomi’s husband died; and she was left, and her two sons”(Ruth 1:3).

Death is an occasional visitor to most homes. In the Book of Ruth, death’s visit had orphaned and widowed three people in Moab. These three people should not have been in Moab, but Elimelech had let famine drive him from his home. His death left his family in Moab with only bitter memories.

Left alone to raise two sons in Moab—the very thought is overwhelming—Naomi faced the choice forced upon every widow: “What do I do now?” She made her choice, not based upon her faith relationship, nor upon her family relationship; but clearly upon her feelings. 

You can almost hear the decision process in her mind: “Well, my boys havegrown up in Moab, and my husband isburied here. The boys are interested in a couple of girls here. What is there really that can I go back to in Israel? It is a sixty-seven mile trip; I am just not ready for that. There have been so many changes in my life; I just want to keep things normal right now. I believe I am going to stay.” 

“And she was left”says it all. Moab is not the Promised Land. Maybe a famine drove you into Moab. Maybe a death has stranded you in Moab. If you find yourself in Moab, get out! Under Satan’s influence, Moab will continue to take from you and leave you empty.You say, “There is no way I can get any emptier!” Friend, if you read ahead, you will see that Moab will also take Naomi’s two boys and a daughter-in-law. Though Moab can threaten to leave you alone and take everything from you, Moab cannot take away God’s guiding hand. God’s hand can bring you home again from Moab.

Think about it...

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My God is My King

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Part Two

“And the name of the man was Elimelech”(Ruth 1:2).

Many times in our study of the Bible, we search for the meaning of people’s names to help us identify their character. In the Book of Ruth, one of the central figures is a man named Elimelech. Elimelech’s parents chose to name their child a name which meant “My God is King.” Each time their son heard his name, he would have to contemplate that his name indicated his parent’s desire for his life.

Yet I notice a disparity between what his name meant and how he lived his life. The Book of Ruth tells us that when a famine arose in the land, Elimelech, the one whose name means “My God is King,” departed for Moab.

We as Christians are named after our Saviour. We are to be like Him in our decisions, our determinations, and our declarations. What do you do when the time of drought comes, spiritually? Famines should never make you look toward Moab. Famines should never make you long for Moab. Famines should never make you leave for Moab. Pastor Charles Spurgeon said, “Better poverty with the people of God, than plenty outside of the covenanted land.”

Our God is our King. Why would we go to sojourn in Moab? Elimelech faced a famine and went to sojourn in Moab. He said, “My God is King, but I am going to sojourn in Moab!” Perhaps he went to Moab to look for provision, or prosperity, or a new promise. I remind you, dear reader—Elimelech found none of these things in Moab. He only found his death. 

If your God is King, why not live in His place, with His people, under His promises? If your God is your King, why seek to provide for yourself? If your God is your King, why endanger and expose your family to life apart from God’s will?

Think about it...

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Sojourning in Moab

Part One from the book Reflections from Ruth: The Pain from Leaving (Volume 1) by John O’Malley

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 “Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Beth-lehem-judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons”(Ruth 1:1).

Sojourning in Moab should be a startling phrase for the believer! Elimelech, an Israelite, felt it necessary to leave the famine in Bethlehem-judah for the land of Moab. Scripture indicates that his plan was only to sojourn in Moab. When one sojourns, he desires to be a temporary resident in a place. The verses following reveal that Elimelech’s family first continued in Moab (Ruth 1:2), and then ended up dwelling in Moab about ten more years (Ruth 1:4). 

Although a temporary famine made Elimelech leave Bethlehem-judah, his family did not leave Moab when death, disappointment, disease, disaster, and discouragement came to their home. Odd, is it not? He left a famine in the land and ended up with a famine in his soul.When a man takes himself out of God’s will, he ends up losing far more than he ever intended to give. 

What would make a man leave the “House of Bread” (Bethlehem) in the “Land of Praise” (Judah) for the land of the incestuous son of Lot (Moab)? Who could make a man believe that bread in Moab would be better than a tough time in the Promised Land? The answer is simple—no one but Satan!

Satan still takes people and convinces them that a sojourn in Moab is better than staying in God’s will and watching God provide. Has your sojourn in Moab led you to continue or even dwell there? Time in Moab saddens the heart, drains the soul, and skews your thinking. Even if you have to come back empty, find the prayer train out of Moab and come back to Bethlehem-judah today.

Think about it...

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Psalm 100 Devotional

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Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations” (Psalm 100:1-5).

I grew up in a ministry home. My father and mother served in church ministry and Christian education. At times, they left us kids at home as they tended to ministry duties. When they did leave, they would give us a list of chores to do before they returned. When my parents returned, they expected us to have the chores done. 

There were times, as children, we would say we did not understand their instructions. Their instructions were always simple: “Do this. Take care of this. Go here. Pick this up. Handle this.” Yet we found ways not to do those tasks. Upon our parents’ return, we declared to our parents that we did not understand the assignments. 

In truth, their tasks were always simple. It was just, as children, we could be lazy. However, it did not matter if we understood the task. Our parents held us accountable for each task assigned.

The psalmist in this psalm of praise gives seven divine assignments. These assignments are simple. They are easy to understand because the Word of God is not complicated. 

If the Word of God seems complicated, it is because we have tried to twist the meaning or because we used tradition to interpret the meaning. Sometimes, because we are lazy, we say the Word of God sounds complicated. The Word of God is easy to understand. 

Look with me at the simplicity of these seven action words found in this psalm. The psalmist uses them in successive order: Make. Serve. Come. Know. Enter. Be. Bless.

The psalmist calls us to serve the Lord with gladness. Do you serve the Lord? If you do, do you serve the Lord with gladness? Gladness is an attitude of the heart. The psalmist in Psalm 4:7 speaks of gladness as when the farmer celebrates his harvest.  In Psalm 30:11, he states that when his mourning and sackcloth were put off, he put on gladness with dancing. When you serve the Lord, do you have that kind of gladness? The gladness commanded here is first a decision; then it is an expression.

The psalmist calls us to come to the Lord’s presence with singing. How often do you come into His presence with singing? Does it seem you come more times into His presence with complaining and whining than singing? How pleasant it must be to God to hear us sing! Like serving the Lord with gladness is a choice, so is coming before His presence with singing. The darkest hours of our lives can be brightened with our choice to sing. Jesus sang with His disciples before His betrayal. Paul and Silas sang at midnight from prison. When you realize God is awake in your darkest hour and is present to hear you sing, knowing He is listening makes the choice to sing easier. 

The psalmist calls on us to know the Lord is God. It seems at first glance too simple. You might say, “I know He is God.” But do you? Do you know He is God when the pathway grows dark? Do you know He is God when the way gets hard? Do you know He is God when sickness comes? Do you know He is God when death comes to your family? It is a command. We are to know, at all times, He is God.

The psalmist calls us to enter into His gates with thanksgiving. It seems impossible to conceive that we could be anything other than in a perpetual state of thanksgiving. However, life distracts us from thanksgiving. Doubts and fears rob us of our thanksgiving. Yet it is a command. As we enter the presence of the Lord, we are to do so with thanksgiving. Do you do this? 

The psalmist calls us to be thankful unto Him. In the New Testament, Paul calls us to the same task. He wrote to the Thessalonians that in everything, we are to give thanks (I Thessalonians 5:18). The previous command of thanksgiving and this word “thankful” are the same word in the Hebrew language. When we see the word “thanksgiving,” it is an expression of words of praise.  Thanksgiving is a testimony offered giving praise to God. 

The word “thankful” is the internal gratitude of heart and mind. Our praise of thanksgiving comes from a disposition of thankfulness. Being thankful is a simple command. It is insufficient to just have thoughts of thankfulness when it comes to God. Our thoughts of thankfulness to God must become oral expressions. These expressions of thanksgiving are told to others, told to God, and spoken within our own hearts. Our expression of thanksgiving must come from a spirit of thankfulness. Are you thankful? Do you offer words of thanksgiving to Him? 

The psalmist calls us to bless the name of the Lord. The spirit of this word means to bend our knee and express our sentiment of worship to God. The previous two commands of thanksgiving and thankfulness will produce this action. We must tell Him we are thankful. We must give thanks. His name is above every name. His name alone is worthy of our worship. When did you last follow this simple command? 

Each of these action words is a task left for you to do. I encourage you to take them to heart. Analyze each command. Make a list of these seven commands. Compare these commands to your life; then evaluate your obedience to them. Ask yourself these questions:

Do I make a joyful noise to the Lord?

Do I serve the Lord with gladness?

Do I come before His presence with singing?

Do I know that the Lord is God?

Do I enter His gates with thanksgiving? 

Am I thankful unto Him? 

Do I bless His name?

Over the next few days of reading, I want to walk with you in the Word of God. I will point to what stands out to me in each verse. In each reading, I will close with a question designed to prompt you to act on what we studied together.

Then I encourage you to reflect and evaluate your own heart before the Lord with that passage of Scripture. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring conviction and comfort in your heart to these areas of need. 

I need Him every hour for everything.

Get started reading this devotional here: Make a Joyful Noise

His Truth Endureth

and his truth endureth to all generations” (Psalm 100:5).

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Have you noticed how the meaning of words change? Each year new words are added to our English dictionary by dictionary publishers. The definition of words change with the culture and each generation.

For instance, the word “awful” meant inspiring wonder in the fourteenth century. Its meaning, embedded in the word, is full of awe. However, in modern English we use the word in an opposite manner. Now the definition of the word is negative. The word “broadcast” originally was used in an agricultural contact. A farmer would “broadcast” his seed in sowing. Today, the word is used to describe media programming. 

In strong contrast to words changing over time and in different generations, God’s Word does not change. The psalmist ends this psalm of praise with a notice about the truth of God being timeless and trans-generational. 

Consider this: God’s Word—His truth—endures. His Word was written over fifteen hundred years. It has endured scores of generations. Society changes with every generation. Yet, His Word does not change. His Word does not expire. His Word remains unchanged. 

This generation has the Word of God available to it. The truth available to a thousand generations is relevant today. While society changes, and trends come and go, God’s Word does not. When a generation seeks for answers, they will be found in His Word. When a generation needs hope and help, they will be found in His Word. When a generation is left hungering and thirsting, they will find themselves satiated by the Word of God. The reason the generation will find fulfillment in God’s truth is because “his truth endureth to all generations.”

The psalmist’s hymn of praise ends with a trio of truths. The crescendo of this song is found in this last phrase. God’s truth will march on to subsequent generations. When the Old Testament saints sang this hymn, they found comfort that God’s truth would endure to the next generation. Today, we can sing with the same assurance of a former generation. The generation to come behind you will find that God’s truth, His Word, will endure to the next generation. 

Today, look around at the people in your life. Someone in your life needs to hear and know the timeless and relevant truths of God’s Word. Know this: the Bible is the answer to every human need. It is the only true consolation for humankind. Share the Word of God with someone in your life. You will find that Word of God endures to every generation.

His Mercy is Everlasting

“…his mercy is everlasting…” (Psalm 100:5).

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How many times have you seen this? This product comes with a lifetime warranty. You know the routine. The packaging conveys that the product will not fail. Yet, when you open that package, the fine print on legal writing indicates “lifetime” is really limited to a span of months to years. 

My wife and I bought a mattress. The labels attached to the mattress said the mattress would not need turning. The mattress was even guaranteed to never need turning. Yet there were instructions included on how often and when to turn the mattress. The warranty also said the mattress would never sag. Yet the fine print stated that if it did sag you could bring the mattress to their facility about five hundred miles away. Yes, bring the mattress to them for inspection. 

It is disappointing when the manufacturers explain one thing on the outside, and then the lawyers explain away things on the inside. It seems that manufacturers play with and twist words to their benefit, so the buyer must beware. 

The psalmist in this closing trio of phrases makes a claim about the Lord. He states that the Lord’s mercy has a guarantee that exceeds a lifetime. His mercy will last longer than a lifetime guarantee. The mercy of the Lord is without termination. It is everlasting.

Lawyers and manufacturers can play games with words, but God does not. Know this, His mercy is everlasting.

God’s mercy is His response to our sin nature, trespasses, and transgression. When accusers point to our sin, God points to His mercy provided by Christ’s atonement. It is God’s mercy that preserves us from the certain doom reserved for mankind. It is God’s mercy that protects us from His wrath. It is God’s mercy that allows Him to remember our sin no more. 

Our sin runs deep; His mercy runs deeper. His mercy is everlasting. When your failures are all you can see, His mercy sees beyond our failures. When it seems that all hope is gone, we see His mercy is everlasting. Jeremiah wrote that “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed” (Lamentations 3:22).

Today, you are not beyond the reach of His mercy. You are not capable of exhausting His mercy.  No lawyer can modify the terms of the agreement. You and I will always need this everlasting mercy. 

Solomon told his son in Proverbs three that the follower of Christ must wear mercy and truth like an ornament about their neck. We know God’s mercy is everlasting. What about you? Do you show mercy? Do you show mercy like you received mercy?

God’s mercy is everlasting. You will never out run it. You will never exhaust it. You will never be without access to His mercy.

For the Lord is Good

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For the Lord is good…” (Psalm 100:5).

How many times have you needed a service performed in your life and sought an estimate? First, you have to find a provider of that service. Then you must find out the price. You may read reviews online, ask some trusted friends, and ask how long the vendor has been in business. You may gain confidence in a service provider with each mention of a friend, review you read, and advertisement you see. These all help you gain confidence in the service provider for your need. 

As in the illustration above, when we want a service performed we seek an estimation of both a vendor and his service reliability. The psalmist gives us his estimation of both the person and perception of the Lord: “the Lord is good.” The psalmist speaks from his experience with God. His opinion is not just subjective. He writes with authority as God inspired him to write these words.

The Lord is good.” What confirmation! What consolation! What comfort! 

The psalmist, in our focus phrase, invokes the name of God that makes us think of God’s self-existing eternal state of being.  Notice the spelling of the word, “Lord.” Do you see the capital letters? The word’s meaning has to do with Him being self-existing. The God who has always been and will always be is the Lord that is good. This is the same word God used to introduce Himself to Moses in Exodus 6:2-3. 

We considered the psalmist’s estimation of the person of God. Now, we should consider the psalmist’s estimation of God’s quality. The psalmist estimates the value of God as good. Good does not seem high enough to describe God. 

Advertisers use superlatives in their estimations of their services and products. Advertisers say “good” is just okay. Advertisers tell us we need spectacular. We need awesome. We need amazing. However, God told The psalmist to use the word “good.”

When compared to modern adjectives, “good” seems inadequate. When David used this word, he used it in the sense that he estimated God as the best. He valued Him as beautiful and better. He knew Him to be both fair and the finest. He is God. Using the word “good” is the highest estimation He could give to He who is altogether lovely. David’s estimation of God is He is perfect.

When we seek an estimate, we want to know the length the vendor has been in business. We want to know the quality of their work. We use these elements to determine whether we enlist them to help us. The psalmist’s words speak to these two elements of an estimation. The Lord has been in business since before time. The Lord is good! 

What is your estimation of God? Have you found Him good? He is always good. Try your estimation of God right now. Write down three ways you know God has been good to you and in the world at large.

Enter into His Gates

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“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Psalm 100:4).

Recently, I received an invitation to an Unbirthday party of McKenna, a friend. Alice in Wonderland was the theme. You could come dressed as anyone from the story. The invitation was playfully presented. The date and time were clear. 

My wife and I were not able to attend. However, I did arrange for a FaceTime call. When I called, I had a video feed of the event. People were dressed in costume. Laughter and chattering were heard. I saw that all who responded to the invitation were participating in the joy. Yet, I was only a distant observer. 

I spoke to “Alice” and sung the “Merry Unbirthday” song to her. We spoke for a moment, and McKenna was back to the party. I continued on with my evening, five hundred miles away. 

In verse four, we read of the believers’ invitation to God’s house. He calls us to the gates and courts of the Lord. The gates are the entry point to His house. The courts are the place between the gates and His dwelling place. 

The invitation of this psalm speaks not only of where we are to come. It tells us what we are to wear and what we are to do upon arrival. We are to come wearing garments of thanksgiving and of praise. When we arrive, we are to express words of thankfulness directly to Him. We are then to bless His name. 

The invitation of our Host must be heeded. He asked us to come to His presence, whether it is in personal or public worship, wearing thanksgiving and praise. He asks us to arrive and be thankful. He asks us to bless His name.  

Today, as you stand in His courts, look around you and reflect on Him. I urge you to reflect on His grace. He applied grace to your life when you believed in Him. None deserved His salvation. As you stand in His courts to praise Him, remember His goodness to you. He meets your every need. He always does what is best for us. Lastly, in this moment of intentional reflection, rejoice in His glory. When you rejoice in His glory, you remove yourself from the spotlight of attention and taking credit for your talents and skills. You place Him in the spotlight and you give Him the attention and praise for everything. 

Reader, today I urge you to praise Him. Let thankfulness and praise be confirmed with the words you speak and the attitude you display. Then, you should bless His name. The idea behind the English word “bless” is to bow and praise Him. 

For my friend McKenna’s party, we were to wear what was asked. We were to come and celebrate her birth and life. We were to come dressed to celebrate. The believer’s invitation to God’s presence is no different. Psalm 100:4 says we are to arrive to His presence with thanksgiving and praise. When in His presence, we must express thankfulness and blessing. 

Do you give greater attention to an invitation to a party than you do to God’s presence? How often do you come to His presence in the way His invitation asked? 

Today, accept His invitation to “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” Wherever you are right now, why not just say aloud to God, “I know You are here and I am thankful I am not alone. Thank You for Your presence.”

The Sheep of His Pasture

…and the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100:3).

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As a boy we lived in Colorado, a state in the western mountain region of the United States. Sheepherders lived in the community where we lived. We could both see and sometimes smell these animals. On more than one occasion we had sheep wander through our land. While these wandering sheep were on our land, they did not belong there. They were not ours. 

We learned from living there that shepherds know their sheep. Most shepherds where we lived used a numbered and colored tag that were pierced in their sheep’s ear. This system allowed any shepherd who found a wandering sheep to easily identify the owner of the sheep and the pasture to which the sheep belonged.

When the psalmist says we are “the sheep of his pasture,” he identifies two relationships. He points to the relationship the sheep have to God; we are His possession. The second relationship is one of protection. He says we are in His pasture. 

In the Psalms, you will find the relationships of possession and protection mentioned. The familiar passage of Psalm 23 identifies these relationships. Look at these three passages as well.

For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice” (Psalm 95:7).

“Thou leadest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron” (Psalm 77:20).

“But made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock” (Psalm 78:52).

God wants me to know I am His and He protects me. Delightfully, I am not a wandering and aimless sheep without a Shepherd. I am His sheep. I am in His pasture. He will go to great lengths to provide, protect, and pamper His sheep. As my owner, He drives away the wolves, worries, and wicked thieves. 

Fellow sheep, mind not the discomforts of this life. Recall this truth; we are “the sheep of his pasture.” There will be no lonely moments of listless wandering. Yes, there will be panicked moments of wondering how will He provide and protect. However, if you are His sheep, His provision and protection will come. These assurances come with our relationship to the Shepherd.

Will you pause right now and reflect on God’s provision in your life? Today, will you share this with someone who needs to hear it?

We are His People

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 …we are his people…” (Psalm 100:3).

The psalmist paints a picture for us that is overwhelming. Consider the powerful message in these four words. “…we are his people…

The psalmist reminds us of God’s interaction with man: “we.” Sinful men tainted by the Garden experience in Eden, having been barred from fellowship with God now have access to Him. No longer outsiders, by faith in His Son, we now stand inside the Garden of fellowship with Him. God’s interaction with people made us “we.”

The psalmist reminds us of God’s interest in Man: “are.”God’s interest in man did not stop in the Old Testament and New Testament days. God’s interest is ongoing. We “are” His people. Not was. Not will be. We are, right now, His people. God is interested in His children.

The psalmist reminds us of God’s investment in man: “his” God made the ultimate investment in us. He invested Jesus. When God gave His Son to die for us, He showed what investment He was willing to make. What an investment He made to make us His own. We are His possession.

The psalmist reminds us of God’s inheritance in man: “people.” God chose us for His inheritance. He proclaims in His Word He is not ashamed to claim ownership of us (Hebrews 2:11). The children of God belong to Him.

Shall we fear anything? Shall we be discouraged by any foe? Shall any condition bring despair? I call you to attention. We are His people. 

Will I ever be left alone? Will I ever be forsaken? Will I ever be out of His reach? Will I ever be out of His care? I call you to remember His Word. We are His people. 

As you walk through your day, will you let this thought echo in your mind and heart: you are His?

It is He That Hath Made Us

 “… it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves…” (Psalm 100:3).

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Made in China. Made in Taiwan. Made in Japan. Made in Malaysia. 

These are all common tags we see on the products we purchase. The tag reminds us of a distant land we may have only heard about. The tag may remind us of a global economy. The tag may even evoke strong feelings of national pride and seemingly unanswerable questions of trade practices. 

On some products we purchase we also find a tag that reads, “Inspected by #4.” These tags make me smile. I wonder, “Who is number four? Is there more than one number four? Is number four a station? Who really made what I am wearing?”

Dear Reader, our verse for today sends one clear message. Believers carry a tag. It is a tag that designates our Maker. We carry God’s tag. The tag reads, “Made by God.” The psalmist describes our tag: “… it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves.

My entire existence is affected by this verse. This truth affects my worship and work for God. This precept brings me to the realization I did not bring myself into existence; He did.  I did not make me; God made me. I read this phrase, and it brings comfort to my soul, conviction to my service, and compassion as I work with others. David’s words in the 139th Psalm say that he was “fearfully and wonderfully made.” 

The tag on every person’s life is the same: “Made by God.” We do not make our own way in this life.  We may try to make a name for ourselves, but we carry His tag. 

When someone accepts the payment for salvation paid by Jesus, we bear another mark on our tag. It is the designation that we were bought with a price. Paul wrote that we are bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20). Jesus purchased us with His defeat of death, hell, and the grave. His purchase of me means I am His. I am to put God in the spotlight of my life, or in other words, glorify Him. By faith in Him alone, the tag on my heart says “Purchased.” I am His. 

This analogy is simple. It conveys one clear truth. Our lives are not our own; therefore, bring Him glory.

The believer wears the tag “Made and Purchased by God.” Is God pleased with your actions, your attitudes, and your activities? 

I want you to find someone today and tell them, “God made me.” Then ask them, “Did you know He paid the price for you to go to heaven?”

The Lord He is God

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Know ye that the Lord he is God…” (Psalms 100:3).

Advertisers spend millions trying to get us to know their product name and its benefits. They bombard our lives in print, radio, and television. When we might forget the name and benefit of their product, advertisers erect billboards. Even if we do not see the billboards, advertisers produce bumper stickers. All of their efforts are to help us remember their product and how it will change our lives. 

The psalmist, in our focus verse today, puts up a billboard on the highways of the followers of Christ. The psalmist speaks of something every one must know. He is not speaking of knowing the name of another product. He is speaking of knowing something in the spiritual realm.

The psalmist says, “Know ye that the Lord he is God.” We should know He is God when difficulties arise that shake the very structure of our lives. We should remember He is God when we become overwhelmed. We should know He is God when in the midst of distress. Simply, we should know He is God.

Remind yourself. He is God. Not, He was God. The God of all Creation is your God. What should you fear?

Yet life is filled with fears. Our tragedies and challenges seem to cast a shadow on our confidence. We easily lose sight of God. Our view of our distresses may be shortsighted. We can only see a short portion of our journey. However, God sees the entire path of our life. He knows what is beyond us. He sees the beauty when we see the ashes. He sees the hope when we see our hurt. He sees what is best when we see what is worst. 

Dear reader, it is time to notice the billboards God erects on the path of our lives. This verse is like a highway sign. God’s highway sign reads: “Know ye that the Lord he is God…” I read this and know I am never alone. God is never without specific and keen awareness of my situation. Have you considered that Creation is a billboard to remind us He is God? Calvary is a billboard to remind us He is God. His compassion is a billboard to remind us He is God.

No matter where you go today, find the billboard He left in your path. You may hear it in a song. You may hear it in a sermon. But wherever you see it, believe this: “Know ye that the Lord he is God…

Come before His Presence with Singing

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“… come before his presence with singing” (Psalm 100:2).

Have you received an invitation to a place you would really like to go? The invitation brings joy. Your level of anticipation increases. Your desire to go to such a place excites you. 

Certainly, you would share the news with your friends. It is likely you would bring something with you to honor the host of the event. If it were a party to which you were invited, you would bring a gift. Your gift is a way of expressing your appreciation for the invitation, the inclusion in the event, and for the interest they had in you.

In our focus verse today, we see the divine invitation to come to the very presence of God. His invitation should make our hearts race. The anticipation should be overwhelming. The joy should be difficult to contain. 

The very Lord of Glory has taken an interest in us. He desires our presence. He has issued to us an invitation. He wants to include us.

Your mind races. What can I bring to He who has everything? He owns cattle on a thousand hills. The earth is His footstool. What could I give Him as a servant of the Lord? What is it that He desires? 

Dear Reader, what can we bring? Our gracious Host suggested we bring one thing. He wants to hear us sing. 

What is that I hear you say? “Singing? That is so simple. Certainly, I can find something more special than that!” God would like us to come to Him with singing. 

Consider this, God has angels who can sing before Him, but He asks for my song. God can choose any singer from any era that ever lived, but He wants to hear His children’s song. 

God’s request for me to come before His presence with singing reminds me of seeing a mother and father at a school performance as they await their five-year-old child’s performance. The parents lean forward as their child’s voice joins a chorus of voices. The parents whisper to each other, “I can hear her! Just listen to her angelic voice! It is beautiful.” Truthfully, the child’s voice is mediocre. Her voice struggles with the tune. Her pitch is off, and harmony is absent. Yet, her parents beam with joy. Their little darling is singing. The young girl looks out and sees the pleasure of her parents. Their pleasure in her causes her to sing with more enthusiasm as she realizes her song pleases her mother and father.

Reading this phrase indicates to me that God, like the five-year-old girl’s parents, must enjoy when we come to our place of worship with singing. You may despise the sound of your voice, but He does not. He loves to hear you sing. Like the five-year-old girl’s parents were pleased, our singing pleases our Father. 

You say, “What song shall I sing?” The song choice is yours. Even now, choose a song you will sing to Him. Your quality of voice is not the point. Your song is what He wants to hear. 

Go to His presence right now. Lift up a song to Him. Remember He desires we come into His presence with singing. Bring Him His gift today.

Serve the Lord with Gladness

“Serve the Lord with gladness…” (Psalm 100:2).

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I have been in homes where there were servants in abundance. I met servants who prepared the food and managed hospitality in the home.  I met servants who cared for household tasks from cutting the grass, to washing the laundry, to managing the repairs of the automobiles of the owner.

In those encounters with servants, it was rare to see a servant overcome with gladness in their work. While some were glad for the income, others were satisfied for lodging and meals. Others, I recall, loved the stability of work but did not like the position of serving. These same servants would be happy doing something else if the pay were better.

Most people in the western world would consider being a servant demeaning. To most, being a servant sounds menial. They find it degrading and unfulfilling. Some would think that serving others diminishes their self-worth. 

The psalmist opens the second verse with a phrase that appears to be oxymoronic. He calls those who are commanded to make a joyful noise to now serve. He tells them to serve the Lord with gladness. How can one serve with gladness? It seems to go against the grain. 

The follower of Christ is called to serve the Lord. He or she must serve the Lord with a specific disposition or mindset. The psalmist says they are to serve Him with gladness.

What does gladness in a servant look like? Gladness is the joy of a mother when she is with her child. It is the delight of a prisoner upon being freed. Gladness is the feeling associated with singing your favorite song before the Lord in public or private worship. 

Proverbs 10:1 helps me learn the meaning of gladness. The writer of Proverbs presents a contrast using the parent-child relationship. The son that is wise makes his father glad; but if a son is foolish, he brings a heaviness to his mother. What a beautiful picture is given here for us! Gladness is the absence of heaviness of the spirit. 

I would like you to consider yourself as a servant of the Lord.  Ask yourself these questions: What is my spirit or attitude when I serve the Lord at my house? Do I display the maternal joy mentioned above as I serve the Lord by meeting the needs of my children and spouse? Do I have the liberty and delight of a prisoner released from their confines when I serve the Lord in my house? Does the song of my heart find its expression in signing? Do I have such gladness in my service? Have I lost delight in my service to the Lord and others—even among my own family?

I want you to extend your vision beyond your heart and home. This extended look is to see whom you could encourage to serve the Lord with gladness. There could be people in your place of worship that may have lost their gladness in serving. You may be able to help them find their gladness in service. 

When your fellowservants of the church come into view, what do you see? How many are there who appear to be serving the Lord with gladness? When the servants of the Lord lose their gladness, they display an image opposite of this proposition in Scripture. We are to serve the Lord with gladness. 

When you see those who teach in Sunday School, do you see gladness? When you see ushers and greeters, do you see gladness? When you see choir members and soloists, do you see gladness? When you see the church staff, do you see gladness? If the gladness can evaporate out of your life, you know it can do the same in the lives of others. 

Now, I do not want you walking around the church with a gladness meter measuring the levels of gladness in every servant's heart! What I want you to do is if you see a servant without gladness, pray for them. Then serve alongside them and exhibit gladness. You will discover that gladness is contagious. 

Dear Reader, are you a glad servant? Does gladness arise first when you are faced with a situation to serve? Does gladness show on the outside? Your lips may send one message, but does the attitude of your heart express the Bible’s message of gladness?

Today, take an opportunity to intentionally serve the Lord with gladness. Find someone in your home, at work, or in church on whom you can practice serving the Lord with gladness. 

Make a Joyful Noise

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Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands” (Psalm 100:1). 

Have you ever been to a large stadium to watch a sporting event? My son and I were given tickets to a NFL game. The crowd that gathered to watch the game numbered over 65,000 people. People from all over the country assembled. The nation watched by television that Monday night. Many wanted to see this battle of the quarterbacks. The crowd could not be silent; everybody had something to say. The noise in that stadium at times was deafening. 

The psalmist in our text verse today speaks of all the lands of the earth making a joyful noise. Imagine this planet is a stadium. In each section of the stadium, nations are assigned seats. Now, over the loudspeakers, a call is issued for each nation on earth to proclaim its joy for the Lord of Glory. Like in the Olympics, the roll call of nations would begin—each nation longing for the moment when their nation’s name is called. What exuberance! What exaltation! What enthusiasm! 

In the Olympics, each participating country sends a delegation to represent them. Have you seen the nations who only send a single athlete? The cheers for that single athlete cannot compare to a nation who sent dozens of athletes to participate. Similarly, in our imagined stadium, the cries from some nations are not as loud as others of the same size? Why not? Why are some nations louder than others? Why is it that there are so few to make a joyful noise from some countries?

Oh I say, my friend, it is we the believers who should have gone to the nations and told them of our great Saviour! We should have thought of our command and commission more than the comforts and conveniences of this life. The command will be issued one day, my friend—a command for all the lands of the earth to bow their knees. Every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. 

The celebration of the Saviour from all nations will be splendid. Oh may we take the challenge from Scripture and go to the people of the world and tell them of His great love. Oh let us commit once again to the task of getting the gospel to every creature!

Today, purpose in your heart that in the next twenty-four hours you will share the gospel’s message with someone. Your witness may be their last opportunity to hear. Will you do this?

Christmas Emotions

Where are you emotionally this Christmas season?

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For some, the word Christmas brings quiet mornings and silent nights. For others, Christmas brings depression. For some, Christmas brings painful memories. For others, Christmas brings a spirit of innocence with pure elation.

Scripture records the emotions of Christmas.

Shepherds feared. Wise men worshipped. Mary pondered. Joseph wondered. Angels praised. Simeon blessed. Anna thanked.

The biblical emotions of Christmas are peace, joy, and goodwill.

Here's your Christmas assignment. Take your soul to a place of peace. Bring your heart to a place of joy. Give goodwill to a stranger.

Your emotions will influence someone else besides you today. Pursue peace. Choose joy. Share Christ.


Merry Christmas

A Christmas to Remember

Luke 2:1-20

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Whether a shepherd, innkeeper, or a bystander who heard the news, there was much to remember the night of Jesus’ birth. Each would have a story to tell. After all, the taxation of a people, the overwhelming crowds, and a visit from the heavenly host, these were not “normal” events. 

The shepherds could tell of an angelic visit. The innkeepers could whisper of a couple they had to put in the stable. Bystanders might speak of the haste of the shepherds at an unusual hour in town or message they brought.

However, in the hustle and bustle of what would become Christmas, one mother sets the standard for all today. Mary chose certain things to remember about Christmas. It seems Mary’s reflection were on things intangible. Luke’s inspired words indicate Mary inserted these memories in the scrapbook of her heart. We don’t know what “things” Mary kept and pondered. Yet we do know she did kept things in her heart. 

What “things” from this Christmas will you keep? What will make this a Christmas to remember for you? What will be the snapshots you insert in the scrapbook of your heart? What intangible will become a page in your heart’s scrapbook? I urge you to find intangible things this year to treasure. May they be the things that matter most.

Merry Christmas!!!

God's Christmas Card

Luke 2:1-16

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This passage is the inspiration for many Christmas cards. images of mangers, stables, angels, shepherds, livestock, hillsides, stars, and cityscapes of Bethlehem. I love Christmas cards. Well, most Christmas cards: please no glitter, no “season’s greetings,” or “happy holidays.” 

Christmas cards capture on one small object: the hope and blessing of Christmas. An artist with graphics or words will depict a message or an image that sparks hope, joy, peace, family, and friendship.

The Word of God is God’s Christmas card to the world.  The word of God is Heaven’s Christmas Card and depicted on Heaven’s Christmas card is a mural. It begins on the far left with a garden and ends on the far right with a garden tomb.

The mural has images of Patriarchs, Psalmists and Prophets. 

  • On this mural, you'll see Satan strategies. 

  • On this mural, you'll see Man’s messes

  • On this mural, you'll see God’s Grace. 

On this mural, you'll see:

  • mothers with checkered pasts.

  • children who failed.

  • dads who succeeded and dads who failed. 

Let me walk down this mural, which is a timeline of 4000 years of God’s grace. The mural begins in a garden. (It will end in a garden too - a garden with an empty tomb.)


The story of Christmas began in a garden on the worst day in human history. The day Adam chose to disobey God’s Word. He took the fruit offered by his wife after she was deceived by the serpent. The day they ate they died and, with that eternally fateful decision, all of humanity died with them, spiritually.

Yet on that day, God held up His Christmas card, as a mural, for us to see 4000 years ahead to a day when God would so love the world of sinful man that He would give a Son, His Son.

“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15

And with that fateful decision, the battle was in full array on the battlefield of God’s divine plan for humanity. 

Over the next 4000 years, Satan attempted to thwart the plan of God to prevent the moment when the Seed of the Woman would come. Throughout the OT time period, Satan attempted to thwart the plan of God to redeem man to Himself. However, God’s guiding hand was at work. God was simply working out His plan. He would redeem man.

Israel received promises and punishments throughout the 4000-year period. Throughout Scripture, God’s man has stood with heaven’s Christmas card and said, “He’s coming.”

Whether in hard times or hurting times, God reminded humanity, “I have a plan.”  Patriarchs, (Jacob) Priests, Prophets, (Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, Micah, Hosea, Malachi) and Psalmists, stood and held heaven’s message before humanity. They placed the card on the mantle for the family of man to see. 

The Patriarch, Jacob, before his death, told his sons that God’s plan was still at work. 

“The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” Genesis 49:10

Prophets stood in hours of despair and gloom and reminded them of Heaven’s Christmas Card, a view that God’s plan was still at work. Isaiah’s words made it clear that God’s zeal would perform this.

Just two single out two popular prophets: Isaiah and Micah stood before Israel in the darkest of days: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” Isaiah 7:14; 9:6–7.

“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Micah 5:2

After 4000 years of displaying the zeal of the Lord of hosts and reminding Israel of God’s plan, He become silent with recorded prophecy for 400 years. The next time we see Heaven’s Christmas card was when the angel arrived to Joseph and Mary. The world had slept long enough. It’s time to raise the Christmas card that would change the world.

“But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,” Galatians 4:4

God makes it clear: “I’m choosing you and your espoused. Mary will bear the child of the Holy Ghost. Joseph will rear Jesus, the Seed of the Woman.”

Both Matthew and Luke get us started by telling us the heritage lines of Jesus. Both Mary and Joseph were in the royal line of David.  

Matthew lists 42 generations. Matthew starts with Abraham and goes to Jesus.

Luke gives 76 names. Luke with Adam. Luke starts with Jesus and goes to God.

Mary is clearly the mother. Joseph is not his father. 

Matthew speaks of 5 women. Two were prostitutes, one an adulterer, one a foreigner, and the fifth one, Mary, in the place of grace, was highly favored. She is Mary of whom Jesus was born.

This all came to be God’s plan because He Himself performed with the zeal of the Lord of hosts.

God’s plan for redeeming mankind is what Christmas is all about. 

Prophet’s dreams, visions, and prophecies all intersect in this moment. 

Alas, according to the prophecies, humanly speaking, Joseph and Mary are not in the right place. 

But remember, the hearts of kings are in God’s hands. He will use the greed of leaders to mobilize this unlikely couple to Bethlehem. They arrive to Bethlehem to find the oft-rehearsed and poetic moment of there being no room in the Inn. Could the plan of God not have included a reservation at the Inn? 

But this birth would be marked not by opulence and splendor. No, His birth would be marked with humility and simplicity. This birth would be fitting for the Lamb of God: a manger. 

In just moments, heaven’s chorus of voices arrived to unlikely group of shepherds who received a personal view of Heaven’s Christmas card. They rushed to see this sight. The Lamb of God’s announcement came to shepherds who were the first to herald this news.

Hundreds of miles away, wise men just saw a star. It’s a star unlike any other star. They mounted up and journeyed toward Israel. They traveled from the Northeastern regions of Babylon. All within the plan of God to get the family from Bethlehem to Nazareth, thereby, fulfilling prophecy.

God’s Christmas card, this mural, is not just about images. You see, this huge mural, like most Christmas cards, opens to a message within it. God’s Christmas card has a message: John 3:16

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” 


What is the message on God's Christmas card? 

It is the message that:

  1. God Loved.

    1. God loved a world that sinned.

    2. God loved a world that strayed.

    3. God loved a world that sank.

    4. God loved the places in the world.

    5. God loved the people in the world. 

    6. God loved the potential in the world. (looked beyond our fault)

  2. God Gave. The first Christmas gift was the first missions offering. 

    1. God gave a precious gift.

    2. God gave a priceless gift.

    3. God gave a personal gift.

    4. God gave a powerful gift.

  3. God Promised.

    1. God Promised to deliver for whosoever.

    2. God Promised to deliver from death.

    3. God Promised to deliver to everlasting   

What about you today? Are you aware that God loved, God gave, God promised?

He gave to you. Whom He loved is you. What He promised is everlasting life.

Relationship of Faith

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Mary, bearing the news of a lifetime, began the 25-mile journey south to the hill country of Judah. The angel told her that her cousin Elizabeth too was expecting a child. Here an old woman and unlikely to be with child and a very young unmarried girl both find solace in each other’s company. Both women with the most unusual of circumstances are brought together. Perhaps this news brought the two of them closer than they were before. The relationship between them was now more than of family; it was also a relationship of faith. 

Mary had plenty of time to think as she made the usual eight-hour walk to Elizabeth’s. She arrived in record time; haste marked her footprints from her home to Elizabeth’s. There was much to ponder and the walk did her good. This trip was more exercise of the spirit and soul that day than it was physical exercise. 

She had time to consider the angel’s message; there was so much to consider; certainly she pondered these things she journeyed. He had said that she was “…highly favored… blessed among women.” He told her the Lord was with her and she had favor with God. The angel spoke of God’s choice of a mother for His Son. He foretold His gender, name, and His Kingship on earth and of the eternal. The angel told of Jesus’ length of reign as King and His virgin birth. 

The moment of arrival came; Mary came to the door, and Elizabeth was in hearing distance. Possibly the six months of being with child were telling on her older cousin’s body. The sound of Mary’s voice made the forerunner of Jesus leap in Elizabeth’s womb. Elizabeth was delighted to hear from Mary. 

Elizabeth knew this was the mother of her Lord. Both of these women knew what was going on in each other’s lives. It was proper they be together. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Ghost, spoke loudly. Elizabeth spoke of Mary’s favor, Mary’s faith, and Mary’s fruit. Mary must have listened in amazement as she received confirmation of the angel’s message. Elizabeth is the first person recorded in Scripture to accept Mary’s account of being with child of the Holy Ghost. 

Scripture records no words from Mary since the angel’s departure, save for her salutation being mentioned. Her first words represent the meditation of her heart and the inspiration of her spirit. “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God, my Saviour.” She spoke with such clarity, conviction, and courage. 

Here, this lovely young woman, selected on earth by Joseph and in Heaven by God, tells her account of the Christmas story in 138 words. There was no manger yet, just a mother being used by God. No shepherds yet, just the announcement of the Lamb of God. No wise men on their way, just a mother worshipping God. Emotionally, Mary was affected by it all, yet God gave her great clarity as she spoke to Elizabeth. You could see the angel’s message touched her soul; his message moved her spirit. This was more than a warm and fuzzy moment; God had kept His word and sent the Messiah to His people and Mary knew it. 

Mary’s words reveal her knowledge of Scripture and her understanding of God’s eternal plan for His people. For Mary, this was a moment of reflection, rejoicing, and redemption. Mary’s innermost person, her soul, magnified the Lord as she recalled His goodness, His grace, and His glory. Mary’s spirit responded with rejoicing; God had remembered Israel with His strength, supply, and security. Mary's relationship with God was changed because of this moment. His Spirit was the Father of the child in her womb and the child in her womb was her Savior. 

This moment, captured in time for all to see, shows how Christ’s story should touch us. God’s plan for Man’s redemption led to this moment. When she considered it all, she said, “My soul doth magnify the Lord.” (The focus in on His person) “My spirit hath rejoiced in God.” (The focus in on His power/position) “My Savior” (The focus in on His pardon)

When you consider it all this season, is this a time where the testimony of your heart is revealed? Is Christmas the time where your heart reflects upon His person, His power and His pardon? Or is it the people, the presents, and the parties?