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Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Psalm 139:6

Psalm 139 begins with Omniscience, then Omnipresence, then Omnipotence.  Today, Omniscience.  The word means “all-knowing.”  God is all-knowing.  Here’s how the Psalmist puts it: “O Lord, you have searched me and know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise.  You perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down.  You are familiar with all my ways.  Before a words is on my tongue, you know it completely O Lord.  You hem me in-behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”

Do you remember Gilligan’s Island?  In one episode, Gilligan discovered some seeds on the Island.  The seeds allowed anyone who ate them to be able to read the thoughts of everyone else.  At first, it was kind of funny and quirky, then it got real annoying.  When people could read the thoughts that others had about them, they started having arguments.  Friends stopped being friends.  It was too honest.  And then Gilligan in all his wisdom, destroyed the plant that had those seeds so that everyone would get along again.

We probably would say that we like the fact that God knows everything.  But do we really?  He knows what’s in our thoughts.  He sees what we do when nobody else is around.  That’s private stuff.  And often, it’s sinful stuff. 

But gladly, God forgives sins; the sins we do out in the open, and the ones that only He and we know about.  And there’s more.  The fact that God knows everything, even our thoughts means that He knows how frustrated we get with ourselves and our sin.  He hears us when we silently pray and ask for forgiveness.  And He knows that in our hearts, we love Him dearly.

So while God’s omniscience can be perceived as a problem for us sometimes, in the end, how grateful we are that He knows all things…especially our struggling but saving faith in a Savior who died for us.
Prayer: O Lord God, You know all things.  Forgive us for our often sinful thoughts and private actions.  Thank You that Your love sees through all of that to who we really are.  Amen.


Use What God Has Given

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1 Peter 4:10-11 – Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.
“But Pastor, I don’t have any special gifts!”  One of my members spoke these words to me after a Bible Study on Spiritual Gifts.  It just happens that every time we had a potluck meal (at least once a month) she took charge of it.  She made sure that all the plates, silverware and glasses were clean and placed in the proper spot.  She made sure that all of the meals that were brought were set out in the right order and according to what was in the dish.  She made sure that after the meal everything was cleaned and put away where it belonged.  This was only one of her special gifts.
The obvious gift that we all share in together is faith.  God through His Holy Spirit has worked that faith in each and every one of us.  That is a gift from God.
But in addition to this, God has blessed all of us with gifts: talents and abilities that we may or may not share with others.  However, He does expect us to use those gifts.  Our gift might be that we have the ability to speak and share our faith with others, to let them know what Jesus has done for them.  Our gift might be one of service, where we volunteer to help in church with a project or with our neighbor who needs some assistance.  Our gift might be one of leadership, possibly in church, in our work or school environment, or in our neighborhood.
The bottom line is that whatever God has blessed us with He expects us to use it to the fullest of our ability and to the glory of God.  It does not have to be some super spectacular gift, but it can be something we do on a regular basis.
I was driving in a rural area one time and I saw a car on the side of the road with a flat tire.  The woman was standing there looking bewildered.  I stopped behind her and offered to change the tire for her.  When I finished she thanked me.  I simply responded, “Thank God that I was able to help.”  The simple act of changing a tire was a talent God gave to me.  I was able to give God the credit and the glory with my response.
Whatever you do, be sure you are doing it for God, and be sure to give Him the credit and the glory.  
Prayer:  Father, thank You for the many gifts You give to me, even though I may not realize what they all are.  In everything I do and say, remind me to give You the credit and the glory.  For I know that everything I have and do is a gift from You.  In Jesus Name I pray.  Amen.


Sheep Are Different

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Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture. Psalm 100:3
The first parish I served was in a rural area, a farming community, in Southern Minnesota.  I grew up and lived in cities.  I told the members of the church that I would like to get to know what they do and help if possible.  What an experience!  I loved it.
One of the members of the church had a sheep farm.  The first time I visited, he helped me to understand what God meant in our verse for this meditation, “It is He who made us, and we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.”
He had just walked away from the fence where the sheep were gathered.  He said I should go up to the sheep with some food and pet them.  As I walked near the fence, the sheep began to scatter and run away.  The farmer then walked up to the fence, without food, and all the sheep came running to him. 
“The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.   But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” – John 10:3-5
Sheep have no sense of direction.  Left on their own, they will get lost.  Sheep are defenseless.  Left on their own, they cannot care for themselves and they will die.  Sheep will not lie down unless they feel completely safe and comfortable.  Sheep are emotional and only recognize the shepherd’s voice.
Sound familiar?  You and I are the sheep.  Left alone, all by ourselves, we will not be able to travel the narrow road to forgiveness and salvation.  Left alone, all by ourselves, we cannot spiritually care for ourselves and we will die and eternal death.  Left alone, all by ourselves, we will never really be safe or comfortable.  Like sheep, we need to recognize and follow only the voice of our Shepherd.
Jesus came to be our Shepherd and to lead us through faith in all He has done for us to a life of forgiveness, a life where we never die but live eternally with Him and His Father in heaven.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we know His voice, and we follow only Him!
Prayer:  Father, we truly thank You for giving Your Son, Jesus, to be a perfect sacrifice.  He is our Shepherd, who leads us through this earthly life with the knowledge and joy that all our sins are forgiven and we will live with You and our Shepherd in heaven forever.  Amen.


We Are The Chosen Ones

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John 15:16 – (Jesus said) “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My Name, He may give it to you.”
How many of you reading this devotion today chose to be born?  In the same way, we cannot choose to be a believer.  We cannot choose to be forgiven.  We cannot choose to go to heaven. 
Faith, forgiveness and salvation do not depend on me or anything I do.  As Jesus tells us, we did not choose Him, but He chose us.  God knew that if He left the decision to us, we would make the wrong choice. The only action we can take is to resist Christ and all He offers.
However, Jesus further reminds us that we were not chosen to simply sit back and be happy we are His children.  Rather, Jesus chose us to do something!  We are blessed with all that Jesus has earned for us.  We are blessed by having the faith and knowledge of who Jesus is and what He has done for us.
We are blessed to be able to respond to what Jesus does in us by producing fruits.  Some of those fruits include sharing Jesus and all He has done with others, by living our lives in such a way that it shows we are different from the world around us, by showing the love Jesus has for us, by helping those around us to see and realize what Jesus has done for them also.
Nevertheless, do not misunderstand what Jesus is saying here.  Our fruits, our works, although required through our faith, have nothing to do with our forgiveness or salvation.  Jesus has earned that for us.  Our fruits, our works, are merely signs of our faith, signs that we are forgiven, signs that we have salvation, all because of Jesus and what He has done.
Rejoice at what you have, in Christ.  Share what you know, because of Christ.  Let the world see what Jesus has done in you and through you in the lives of others.
Prayer:  Father, we thank You that You have reached out to us by Your Holy Spirit, working faith in us that we believe that through Your Son, Jesus, we have forgiveness and salvation.  Help us to live that life that shows You and all You have done for us and others.  In Jesus Name we pray.  Amen.


God Has Feelings Too (Part 3)

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How can I give you up, O Ephraim? (Ephraim is the central tribe in Israel.) . . .  My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.  I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.  They shall go after the Lord; he will roar like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west; they shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria, and I will return them to their homes, declares the Lord.  Hosea 11:8-11
Malachi 3:6 says: “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”  God is changeless and therefore will not renege on his promises. Rather than destroy us because of our sin, he forgives us because of his mercy.  In Hosea 11 God’s anger against the rebellious Israel gives way to compassion.  Yes, God has feelings too.
How does God carry out holy anger’s justice while at the same time demonstrating compassionate mercy?  This is God’s answer: Israel will go off into captivity in Assyria as the previous verses in Hosea 11 declare; but God will restore his penitent people to their homes and his favor.  God’s holy justice and compassionate mercy seem at odds still, don’t they?  A holy and just God must punish sin; a compassionate and merciful God must pardon sin.  How is that divine tension resolved?  Only in the cross of Jesus.  At Calvary God’s holy justice meted out the punishment that our sin deserved; and in Jesus’ cross God demonstrated the compassionate grace that rescues us from our sin.  Like Israel, we may endure consequences of our sin to call us back to our God; but still he loves us and forgives us, for Jesus’ sake.  The roar of the lion in Hosea 11 is the call of the Savior to return to him.  Revelation 5:5 calls Jesus “the Lion of Judah.”
I love the words of Psalm 103:13-14: “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” Like a father who knows that his children aren’t perfect and loves them in spite of their rebellious acts, God is a realist who understands that we inherited a sinful nature from our ancestors back to Adam and Eve.  He knows that we are sinners.  And yet he loves us, forgives us, renews our faith, and leads us into life once more with purpose.
Hosea 11 traces the emotions of God from heartache to anger to compassion.  It ends on compassion.  Treasure that!
PRAYER: Thank you, Lord, for not abandoning us to the condemnation our sins deserve.  Thank you for the compassionate heart that seeks us out and forgives us.  Help us to hold dear your compassion and to share that compassion with those you place into our lives, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.