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MDS Devotionals, 06-02-2003 version

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Monday, February 10, 2003

My name is George, which is a very unsuitable name for me. My name means farmer. It comes from the Greek - “geo,” from which we get “geography” and “ergos” from which we get “ergonomic.” Thus we get earth worker or farmer. Now I am anything but a farmer. I do plant a garden, but do the minimum to keep it up and spend as little time in it as possible. That is the way names are these days. They do not mean much. Although the other day we received an email from Carla’s niece who had difficulty conceiving and now is carrying triplets. They know that they are going to get two girls and a boy. They have already named the babies and wrote in their email that baby A is going to be Caroline Grace - Caroline - “after grandma” Grace - “The grace of God we were able to conceive.” Baby B is Zachariah Robert - Zachariah - “God remembered” and Robert after the father. Baby C is to be Hannah Lynne - Hannah - “after the woman in the Bible who couldn’t conceive, but God finally heard her and opened her womb and also I was involved for 3 years with Hannah’s Prayer, a support group for infertile women,” Lynne - my middle name. That is a lot of meaning put into the name, but that kind of thing is somewhat unusual in our day.

            There was a time, however, in Biblical days when a name meant a lot. The name of a person would indicate much about the person. For example, At one time, God changed Abram’s name to Abraham and the change in name meant a great change for Abraham, it indicated that he was going to be the father of nations. Jesus was given many different names. One name was “Immanuel” which means God with us. The name “Jesus” was specifically given to Jesus because it means saviour and Jesus, of course, came to be saviour.

            Not only can names have great meaning as the means of identifying a person. Sometimes we get to know people by their name and our relationship to them is defined by the name we give them. For example, my wife had a teacher by the name of Mr. Dan Block when she was in high school. At the time, she called him “Mr. Block” as was appropriate for a student. Later, when we were already in church ministry, Mr. Block represented a school and sometimes came out to visit churches. When he came to visit us, he was now a peer and not a teacher anymore and so he told my wife to call him “Dan.” A new relationship was defined by a new name.

            With these thoughts in mind, please listen carefully to Psalm 9:10. I will read verses 1-10.

            The context of this passage is one of some of the work which God has done for David. David mentions such things as

Vs. 3 - “My enemies turn back…”

Vs. 5 - “You have destroyed the wicked…”

Vs. 8 - “He will judge the world in righteousness…”

Vs. 9 - “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.”

            Take note particularly of verse 10 which says, “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.”

            Knowledge of the name of God is a powerful thing. It isn’t about knowing a label for God, it is about knowing who God is. God is given many names and each name tells us something about what God does and how he acts. Different people have gotten to know different names for God by their experience. For example, when Hagar was sent away by Sarah, she met God when he provided for her and in Genesis 16:13 it says, She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

By what name have you come to know God?

The other thing that is an encouragement in this verse is that when we come to know the name of God, in other words, to experience God and discover his character, we will come to trust Him. My desire is to know more and more about God and to trust Him. I am like the man who said to Jesus “I believe, help my unbelief.” I desire to know more and more of God so that I can trust Him more and more deeply. Is this your desire? I invite you to experience God today and as you discover the name of God, I invite you to trust Him.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

I read this story from God’s Vitamin C. It was written by Nancy Dorner.

            A small congregation built a new sanctuary on a piece of land willed to them by a church member. Ten days before the new church was to open, the local building inspector informed the pastor that the parking lot was inadequate for the size of the building. Until the church doubled the size of the parking lot they would be unable to use the new sanctuary.

            Unfortunately, the church with its undersized parking lot had used every inch of their land except for the mountain against which it had been built. In order to build more parking spaces, they would have to move the mountain out of the back yard.

            Undaunted, the pastor announced the next Sunday morning that he would meet that evening with the members who had “mountain moving faith.” They would hold a prayer session asking God to remove the mountain from the back yard and to somehow provide enough money to have it paved and painted before the scheduled opening dedication service the following week.

            At the appointed time, two dozen of the congregations 300 members assembled for prayer. They prayed for nearly three hours.

            At ten o’clock the pastor said the final “Amen.” :We’ll open next Sunday as scheduled,” he assured everyone. “God has never let us down before, and I believe He will be faithful this time too.”

            The next morning as he was working in his study there came a loud knock at his door. When he called “come in,” a rough looking construction foreman appeared, removing his hard hat as he entered.

            Excuse me, Reverend, I’m from Acme Construction Company over in the next county. We’re building a new shopping mall over there and we need some fill dirt. Would you be willing to sell us a chunk of that mountain behind the church? We’ll pay you for the dirt we remove and pave all the exposed area free of charge, if we can have it right away. We can’t do anything else until we get the dirt in and allow it to settle properly.”

In Genesis 17:1-8. God revealed himself to Abraham by saying “I am God Almighty.” Let’s read this story.

Now the name “El Shaddai” means “God Almighty.” It reveals God as the one who is able. As we read this encounter between God and Abram, it is clear that God’s power and ability come to the front. It is a story that happens when Abram is 99 years old. Allowing for time for the baby to mature in the womb, Abraham later in the conversation asks, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old” Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” Abraham finds it so unbelievable that this could happen that he suggests to God that Ishmael could be the proper heir. But God promises that it will be Sarah. Clearly this is something impossible, something only God Almighty could do.

In this story, we also notice that God changes the name of Abram from Abram to Abraham. The passage indicates that the new name comes with a new meaning - “father of many nations.” Abram who at 99 years old had one son would be the father of many nations. Clearly another example of a work of God Almighty - something only God could do.

It is also interesting throughout this passage the number of times it says, “I will.” Beginning in verse 6 we read, “I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you…I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant…I will give you (the whole land of Canaan) as an everlasting possession…” All of these things are in the hand of God and only He is able to do them.

What a powerful experience that must have been for Abraham, to meet God as God Almighty.

Have we met God as God almighty, the one who is able to do many things that are far beyond our ability? Have we trusted that He is able?

Wednesday, February 12, 2003, morning

            There is a strange feeling I get when I wear good clothes. I brought along several types of clothing to come on this trip. I brought along some clothes that I wear when I am on the job site. When I wear that clothes, I am not afraid to kneel down in the dirt, splash paint on myself or get dirty in any other way. The clothes is not precious to me, it is easily cleaned and if it is wrecked, it just doesn’t matter. I did not bring my Sunday suit, however. I can’t imagine going to the job site in my Sunday suit. It is clean, it is more expensive than any other clothes I have and when I wear it, I have a strong sense of making sure it doesn’t get dirty. Cleanness separates. We don’t like to mix the clean and the dirty. We behave differently when we are wearing clean clothes than when we are wearing dirty clothes.

            Now that creates a problem because the same thing is true spiritually. Have we gotten to know God by the name “holy?”

            Isaiah 57:15 says, “For this is what the high and lofty One says - he who lives forever, whose name is holy: I live in a high and holy place…” When we get to know the name of God as holy, we know that we who are unholy have no business in His presence.

            The Hebrew word for holy means set apart. It speaks of separation from everything else. It is above all in sinless-ness. It is above all in purity. It is absolutely pure. We sometimes speak of something being “pure as the driven snow.” Of course, we know that snow is not pure. Each snowflake is made up of moisture that has condensed on a particle of dust. Nothing on earth is absolutely pure, but God is absolutely pure. He is unmixed in all his characteristics. He is completely clean, pure and holy.

            When we meet God by His name “Holy,” we meet one whom we cannot meet. It gives us an overwhelming sense of the majesty, holiness and “above-ness” of God. so far above us that we cannot ever reach him. We meet one who is above us, who lives, as Isaiah says, in a “high and holy place.” When we meet God like this, we are not drawn towards Him because we know instinctively that we can never reach him. We know that to even come near to him would soil the perfection of His holiness.

            But that is not the end of Isaiah 57:15. It goes on to say “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit.” God who is holy accepts those who bow down before Him and admit their un-holiness. He accepts those who humble themselves before Him.

            So as we meet God as the holy one, here in this passage of Isaiah 57:15, we also meet grace. We meet one who will not be soiled by our dirt, but one who when we repent of our un-holiness and humble ourselves before Him will transform our un-holiness into His holiness.

            It is a good thing to meet God who is holy. When we know the name of God as holy, we need not feel like a person taking a walk in a swamp with his Sunday best on. We can rest in His grace who cleans us up and remains holy.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003, Evening

Jeannette George tells the story of a flight she took from Tucson to Phoenix, as she got on the plane, she noticed a young woman with her baby. They were both dressed in white pinafores. The mother was smiling, and the little baby was saying "Dada, Dada." And the little baby was darling. She wore a little pink bow where there would probably be hair pretty soon. They sat down opposite me and I heard that every time anybody went by, the baby would say, "Dada, Dada."

The young mother said they were going home, and Daddy was waiting for them.

Everybody was so happy, and we all enjoyed the little baby. The mother had a little Thermos with orange juice in it. She kept feeding the baby, a little fruit and then a little juice. It was a rough flight. Every time the baby cried the mother fed her a little bit more orange juice and a little more fruit. Because of the rough flight, inevitably the fruit that had gone down came up. I think more came up than had gone down; I think there was more up than there was baby, and it was startling; the carpet was not in good condition. It was a mess.

Those of us on the opposite side of the aisle were not in good condition at all. We kept trying to tell the young mother it was just fine. We were handing her tissues and things. It was a very loving time, but a mess. The baby was crying, and she looked awful. We couldn't cry, but we looked awful. The mother was so sorry about it.

We landed and the minute we landed, baby was fine: "Dada, Dada." The rest of us were just awful. We began to get off the plane, and we all moved very carefully. I had on a suit, and I was trying to decide whether to burn it or just cut off the sleeve. Have you ever tried to get away from something really unpleasant and it was you? Well that's the way we were. It was really bad.

I looked out of the plane, and there waiting was the young man who had to be Daddy: white pants, white shirt and white flowers. I thought, I know what's going to happen. He's going to run to that baby who now looks awful--I mean the hair and the pinafore were dreadful. He's going to run to that baby, get one look, and keep on running, saying, "Not my kid!"

As he ran to the young mother, I wouldn't say she threw the baby at him, but she did kind of leave quickly to go get cleaned up. He picked up that baby, and I watched him as he hugged that baby and kissed that baby and stroked that baby's hair. He said, "Daddy's baby's come home. Daddy's baby's come home."

I watched them all the way to the luggage claim area. He never stopped kissing that baby. He never stopped welcoming that baby back home. I thought, Where did I ever get the idea that my Father God is less loving than a young daddy in white pants and white shirt with white flowers.

In Exodus 34:6-7a God revealed himself to Moses with these words, “And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”

            In order to understand this revelation, we have to know the context. This story happened while Israel was camped at the foot of mount Sinai. Not long before, Israel had heard God thunder from the mountain and had met God in power and majesty. Not long before, God had given the tablets with the ten commandments to Moses. Very recently, while Moses was up on the mountain talking to God, Israel with the help of Aaron had built a golden calf and had begun to worship it. Israel was dirty, she had throw up all over her. God was so angry that He told Moses, forget about these people, I will destroy them all and start fresh with you. Moses prayed that God would not destroy the people and God did not destroy the people, but God was so angry with the people that he refused to go further with them. They were so fickle and so disobedient and so rebellious that God knew that if He would go with them, He would destroy them. Israel and God were at an impasse. If God did not go with them, they would be destroyed in the wilderness. If God did go with them, He would probably destroy them because of their rebellion. In the conversation between Moses and God in Exodus 33, God agreed to go with them. In fact, He reveals another name of his in 33:14 when He says to Moses, “My Presence will go with you.”

            After this interchange, Moses asked God to reveal His glory and in Exodus 34 this is revealed. It is at this point that God reveals himself to Moses in this way. Read Exodus 34:1-10. The glory of God is that He is a loving God. He is willing to love, forgive and restore a people who have rebelled against Him and who have sinned against Him. The nature of God is that He is loving and forgiving.

            As New Testament believers, we have also met God in this way. If we have confessed our sin and believed in Jesus, we have discovered the love of God in forgiving our sins and giving us eternal life. Romans 5:8 encourages us when it says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

            Having met the God who is love, whose name is compassion and grace, how do we live in relationship with such a God of love?

            In response to His love, we love Him and the best way to show our love for Him is to obey Him. Have we met God as compassionate and gracious?

Thursday, February 13, 2003

            Genesis 22 contains the story in which God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. It was another occasion in which God revealed Himself to Abraham and Abraham experienced God in a new way.

            As we read this story, we need to read it in the context of all that has preceded. In Genesis 12, we would have read that God told Abraham to leave his home country and travel to a country that he would give him. He made a promise to Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation. Abraham, who had no children, went without knowing exactly where he would end up. In chapter 15, Abraham, remembering the promise God had made to him, began to wonder how he would be a great nation, since he had no children and he was beginning to question that such a thing could ever happen, but God confirmed the promise. In chapter 17 when Abraham was 99, he still had no children, God once again came to him and promised a son. Again Abraham questioned how it would happen and was amazed that at 100 years old with a wife who was 90 years old he would have a child. Well, we know that finally Isaac was born. How precious a child to Abraham and Sarah. The child of their old age. Their only child, a precious child to them as people and as parents. But Isaac was so much more. He was the precious heir through whom the line of Abraham would be passed on, the line that would carry the promise of God, through which a great nation would come, through whom the whole earth would be blessed. There was a lot at stake in Isaac.

            When God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the story is, of course about Abraham and whether or not he would trust God and love Him more than he loved his own child. But there is also another part of the story that we need to take note of.

            I can’t imagine the journey up the mountain as Abraham and Isaac walked together. When Isaac asked, “where is the lamb?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide a lamb.” I can imagine that Abraham might have been hoping that God would provide soon. As they got close to the top of the mountain, Abraham must have been thinking, “Now wouldn’t be too soon.” As he constructed the altar, he might have been looking around and wondering where the lamb was. When he laid Isaac on the altar, I suspect he may have been thinking, “Now would be a good time.” Yet we know that Abraham was able to go all the way and was ready to kill his son. It was at that point that God provided the lamb and Abraham discovered that God is the one who provides. Let’s read this part of the passage from Genesis 22:6-14. The extent to which Abraham discovered that God provides is revealed in Hebrews 11:17-19, “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.”

            The story reveals to us the nature of God. He is a God who provides. Sometimes we don’t understand just how God is doing that. When things don’t go well, when we don’t see God’s answer. Yet each of us must discover for themselves how God is a God who provides.

There is a story that comes from books compiling stories from Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story.

Normally all of the good choir people from West Side Baptist Church in Beatrice, Nebraska came to church on Wednesday night to practice, and they tended to be early, well before the 7:30 starting time. But one night, March 1, 1950, one by one, two by two, they all had excuses for being late.

Marilyn, the church pianist overslept on her after-dinner nap, so she and her mother were late. One girl, a high school sophomore, was having trouble with her homework. That delayed her, so she was late. One couple couldn't get their car started. They, and those they were to pick up, were subsequently late. All eighteen choir members, including the pastor and his wife, were late. All had good excuses. At 7:30, the time the choir rehearsal was to begin, not one soul was in the choir loft. This had never happened before.

But that night, the only night in the history of the church that the choir wasn't starting to practice at 7:30, was the night that there was a gas leak in the basement of the West Side Baptist Church. At precisely the time at which the choir would have been singing, the gas leak was ignited by the church furnace and the whole church blew up. The furnace room was right below the choir loft!

How have you discovered that God provides? As with Abraham it is often a lesson that is discovered only by faith.

Friday, February 14, 2003

            Today is Valentine’s day. I hope those of you who have left your family at home have remembered to send them a token of your love.

            Do you remember the experience of Charlie Brown? Every year on Valentine’s Day he looks into the mailbox for a card, desperate for some sign that someone loves him and never finds one. He is a pathetic figure. He loses all his baseball games, and usually most of his clothes in those games. He is taken in by Lucy every year when she invites him to kick the football. He is a slave to his dog who demands supper on time every day rain or shine. It doesn’t seem to matter what he does, he loses.

            Have you ever gotten to know God as the one who loves those who are down cast, those who are the weak and forgotten of society?

            I grew up in a photographers family. Our photography studio was in our home. When I was 11 years old, my parents bought a larger home that had space for a larger studio and lab. A few years later, my dad was doing quite well and opened a second studio. Things were going along quite well.

            Because of the business we were in, we had few vacations. Saturdays usually meant weddings had to be photographed and so my father stayed pretty close to home. One year, however, we took a week off and went to Banff for a holiday. Although my mother helped my father in the studio, she did not take pictures. On our vacation, while my father was driving, he asked my mother to take a picture of the mountains as we came near to them. Later when we had the pictures developed, we saw that my mother had taken a picture of the tips of the mountains and mostly sky. She was not a good photographer and did not know how to frame pictures well.

When I, who am the oldest child, was 18 years old, my father was diagnosed with cancer. A few months after I turned 19, my father passed away. Before he passed away, he asked my mother to keep the business opened until I and all my siblings had a chance to decide if we wanted to go into the business or not. For about 6 years my mother ran the studio alone. During that time, she was able to keep it going. In fact, she entered photographic competitions and actually won national awards for her pictures.

When we all grew up, she sold the studio and gave the cameras to my brother. She does not own a camera today. A number of years ago, we visited the Grand Canyon with our family and she was there as well. We asked her to take a picture of our family on the edge of the canyon and when we got the picture back, we noticed how poorly framed it was.

I learned an important lesson by that experience. In fact, I got to know God’s name through all of that experience. I discovered that God is the one who looks after widows.

In Psalm 68:4,5 we read “…”

God cares for the weak and downtrodden. He loves those who are weak and does not despise them. He is a defender of the Charlie Browns of this world.

If the name of God is “defender of orphans” have we learned to trust Him as such? Do we rely on Him when we are weak?


Experiencing God ideas

A good idea, a good scripture, a good illustration which has to do with loving God in daily life.


God loves us

Knowing God by experience

The way different people experienced God. eg. Some of the names of God.

God my provider

Defender of widows - tell story about mom Psalm 68:5

Names of God representing people’s experience of God.

“The importance of the personal name finds clear expression in the OT in the stories concerning the giving or changing of names…”

Names of God

My Presence - Exodus 33:12-16

Calling upon the name of the Lord was a way of speaking about a personal relationship with Him.

Psalm 9:10 - Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.”

Genesis 17:1 - El Shaddai - God Almighty. Call to Abraham, change of Abram’s name to Abraham.

Exodus 3:13-15 - Yahweh, “I Am who I Am”

“It is the assurance of the presence of the Saviour God with his covenant people which is embodied in the name Yahweh”

Exodus 6:2 - “The Lord.” Promise to redeem from Egyptian slavery.

Cf. also Isaiah 42:8

Exodus 34:6 - “The Lord The Lord, compassionate and slow to anger…”

Jeremiah 31:36 - Lord Almighty - keeping covenant of love

Philippians 2:9 - Jesus has the name which is above every name.

Genesis 15:1ff - birth of Isaac - “I am your shield, your very great reward.”

Genesis 14:20 - God most high creator of heaven and earth. Blessing of Abraham by Melchizedek cf. also Psalm 91:1ff.

Genesis 21:33 - Abraham planted a tree and called upon God “the eternal God.” cf. also Psalm 90:2

Genesis 16:13 - God who sees. Hagar.

Genesis 31:13 - God of Bethel. - Jacob story

Genesis 22:14 - the Lord will provide Abraham sacrifices Isaac.

Psalm 18:2, others Rock

Isaiah 57:15 - holy - “I live in a high and holy place…”

Matthew 6:1- Father who is in heaven.

God’s will is always best.

God is all knowing

God is all powerful.

Goal - to encourage and convince believers to follow God more and to love him because they are loved.

To love God because you are loved and thus to trust Him.

Favoured ideas:

Exodus 33:12-16 - My Presence

Defender of Widows Psalm 68:5

My provider - Genesis 22:14

God who sees - Genesis 16:13 - God saw even the outcast Hagar.

Exodus 33,34 the Lord, compassionate and gracious. Wednesday evening, add to NT ideas of the love of God. two covenants.

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