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nChrist
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« Reply #30 on: February 11, 2006, 04:58:42 AM »

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning
Scripture Reference: Hosea 6:1-11

Commitment

O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.

Commitment: an absolute dedication and faithfulness to someone or something. It's something we all claim to have, yet very few demonstrate it. Many people claim to have a strong commitment to the local church, but they rarely attend, even when they have nothing else to do. Others take wedding vows which include promises of commitment. Yet those vows are broken rapidly and all commitment is nullified. Nothing is so distressing to the Lord God as to see a Christian who is only half committed to Him. (See Revelation 3:14-22.)

The greatest example of a lack of commitment in the Old Testament is found in the prophecy of Hosea. Hosea (whose name means "salvation") was a prophet to the northern kingdom and a contemporary of Amos. In fact, Hosea was to the northern kingdom what Jeremiah was to the southern kingdom - a weeping prophet. His prophecy is very tender and his ministry is similar to that of John the Apostle.

The purpose of Hosea's prophecy was to provide Israel with a real-life example of her spiritual idolatry. Hosea transferred his personal tragedy into a figure of the tragedy of Israel as a nation. The lack of commitment to him by his wife and her infidelity was but a minute calamity when compared with the spiritual infidelity of Israel and their lack of commitment to God. Hosea called Israel to national repentance much as he pleaded with his adulterous wife for personal repentance.

To bring Israel to understand how complacent they had become, the prophet observed, "Your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away" (Hosea 6:4). Israel's commitment was shallow at best, and Hosea likened the fleeting goodness of uncommitted men to a morning cloud and the early dew which vanishes with the morning sun. God is never pleased with such a halfhearted commitment and a complacent attitude toward Him. Israel had not yet learned that lesson; apparently twentieth-century Christians haven't either.

There is a tiny harbor town on the ocean shore where many ships have crashed on the rocks in violent weather. This town became well known because of the dedicated rescue team which aided mariners in distress. The rescue team would rally to the sound of the siren and rush to the scene of the accident, risking life and limb to save the sailors from drowning. As time went on, the citizens of that tiny town raised enough money to build a rescue station close to the shore. While this greatly facilitated the operation, it softened the dedicated team as well. As time went by, they added some of the comforts and conveniences that other rescue stations had. Through the years the rescue station became a social club, where the town's people gathered to have fun and relax. Ships would still crash upon the rocks; the alarm would still sound; but eventually no one responded. They were reluctant to leave their comforts, because their commitment to rescue the miserable mariners was no match for their complacency.

We can imagine that Hosea felt much the same way about Israel as we may feel toward this once-dedicated rescue team. Still there are many Christians today who have a halfhearted attitude toward God and, in fact, have committed spiritual adultery with the world just as Hosea's wife did. Much of Christianity today is nothing more than "country-club Christianity," basking in the goodness of God, relying on the riches of this world's goods, and unconcerned about commitment to the Father or the rescue of those who are perishing.

We can almost hear Hosea saying, "Your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away." The fleeting goodness of uncommitted Christians is not goodness at all. It is just a temporary rest stop on the highway to complacency.

MORNING HYMN
A charge to keep I have
A God to glorify
Who gave His Son my soul to save
And fit it for the sky.

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« Reply #31 on: February 12, 2006, 06:02:44 AM »

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning
Scripture Reference: 1 Samuel 9:1-10:1

Haunting Sin

And they arose early: and it came to pass about the spring of the day, that Samuel called Saul to the top of the house, saying, Up, that I may send thee away. And Saul arose, and they went out both of them, he and Samuel, abroad.

Samuel had been a judge for many years and was yielding to advanced age. Who would lead the people after his death? Like the sons of Eli before him, both of Samuel's sons, Joel and Abiah, had disqualified themselves for they had "turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment" (1 Samuel 8:3). If Israel did not choose a king and Samuel died, anarchy would once again prevail as it had in the days of the judges, when everyone did "that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6).

Besides, without a king Israel was missing out on all the pomp and ceremony that the other royal courts of the ancient Near East enjoyed. While the Jews were wandering nomads, unsettled and without a homeland, they cared little about what other nations did or had. But now they had become firmly established in the Promised Land, and all the surrounding nations had a king. Why not Israel?

In the permissive will of God, Saul was to be that king. The son of Kish, a wealthy and influential Benjamite, Saul, as choice for king, may appear to the untrained eye as a matter of pure chance. Sent by his father to round up some stray donkeys and failing to locate them, Saul decided to appeal to Samuel the prophet for assistance in locating the strays. The day before, God had forewarned Samuel that on the morrow a Benjamite, whom he should anoint to be captain over Israel, would approach him. When Saul arrived, there was little question in the priest's mind about his identity. Blessed with natural graces and talents, not to mention that he was head and shoulders taller than any of the other Jews, Saul was the natural selection for king of Israel. But more than this, in the permissive will of God his was also the supernatural selection. Jehovah had decided to give Israel her wish, for better or for worse, and Saul was His selection for the man who would be king.

As the Benjamite approached Samuel, the word of Jehovah came to the priest and he said, "Behold the man." Led to the banquet chamber of the high place, Saul and his servant were seated above the 30 guests who had assembled there. Samuel instructed the cook to bring the best portion of the meat from the sacrifice and place it before Saul. More than this, something that is rarely done, Samuel invited Saul to stay with him that night and sleep upon the top of the house. They arose early, after communing through the night, and made their way through the city, where Samuel took a vial of oil, poured it upon Saul's head, gave him the kiss of homage and anointed him as captain over the Lord's inheritance, the nation Israel (1 Samuel 9:26).

To live in God's permissive will is but to receive temporary blessing. Saul is one of the great tragic figures of Old Testament history. Although selected by God at the cries of the people, he degenerated into a psychopathic condition in which his powers were sapped and his kingdom was rent from his hands. Rejection, defeat and suicide were the inevitable results.

Perhaps it is a mere coincidence, but it is nonetheless striking that when the priest encountered the man who in God's permissive will would become king of the Jews, he said, "Behold the man" (1 Samuel 9:17). Centuries later, when Pilate encountered the man who in God's perfect will would become King of the Jews, he likewise said, "Behold the man!" (John 19:5). Saul's reign was immediately accepted by the people because he was handsome, and they anticipated he would lead Israel successfully into battle against her enemies. Jesus' reign was immediately rejected by the people, for He had "no form nor comeliness" and He never intended to lead His people victoriously against Israel's enemy. Saul was Israel's choice; Jesus is God's choice. How much better off we are to live in His perfect will rather than to settle for His permissive will.

MORNING HYMN
Simply trusting ev'ry day,
Trusting through a stormy way;
Even when my faith is small,
Trusting Jesus that is all.

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« Reply #32 on: February 13, 2006, 06:07:23 AM »

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

Partnership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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« Reply #33 on: February 13, 2006, 06:08:38 AM »

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning 2
Scripture Reference: 2 Chronicles 29:20-30:12

Reformation

Then Hezekiah, the king, rose early, and gathered the rulers of the city, and went up to the house of the LORD.

Unlike the 10 northern tribes of Israel, which had only downs, the two tribes of Judah to the south had their ups and downs. Just five or six years before the Northern Kingdom came to an end with the fall of Samaria, Hezekiah became king of Judah. As the 13th king of Judah, Hezekiah succeeded his father, Ahaz, in the third year of Hoshea, the 19th and last king of Israel. He was 25 years old when he began to reign and had a long reign of 29 years in Jerusalem.

In contrast to his father, Hezekiah proved to be the most faithful to Jehovah of any of Judah's kings since David. It is said of him, "And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done" (2 Chronicles 29:2). Ben Sira, the ancient historian, reckons Hezekiah with David and Josiah as the only three kings who did not forsake the law of the Most High God. Of him it is written, "He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. For he clave to the LORD and departed not from following Him, but kept His commandments which the LORD commanded Moses. And the LORD was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth" (2 Kings 18:5-7).

In the very first month of his reign Hezekiah set in motion the most thorough religious revival that Judah had ever known. This revival began by reopening and repairing the doors of the temple, which had been closed by Ahaz, and by cleansing and purifying that sacred edifice. Undoubtedly the prophet Isaiah had a beneficial influence on Hezekiah to initiate such a revival. There is even a Jewish tradition that he was a cousin of King Hezekiah. Regardless, he is said to have prophesied in the reign of four kings of Judah: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah (Isaiah 1:1). Together, Isaiah as prophet and Hezekiah as king, they would restore the religion of Israel to the worship of Jehovah.

In just eight days the house of the Lord was restored and sanctified. The report came back to Hezekiah that the priests and Levites had cleansed the house and the altar of burnt offerings with all the vessels and the table of shewbread thereof. These had been discarded during the reign of Ahaz.

After all had been made ready, "Hezekiah the king rose early, and gathered the rulers of the city, and went up to the house of the LORD" (2 Chronicles 29:20). The priests made the appropriate sacrifices and the Levites, with cymbals, psalteries, and harps, began to praise the Lord with music. All the congregation worshipped, the singers sang, and the trumpeters blew their trumpets. It was a joyous occasion indeed. All that were present with the king bowed themselves with Hezekiah and worshipped Jehovah. And this was only phase one of Hezekiah's great revival.

In phase two he sent word to all Israel and Judah that they should come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem and keep the Passover. This is the first recorded ceremony of Passover-keeping since the time of Joshua, hundreds of years earlier. How low the people of God must have sunk during these turbulent years.

The heart of Jehovah must have been thrilled to see a man so concerned with the spiritual well-being of His people that he would restore the house of God, cleanse it, reinstitute the services and sacrifices in it, and rise early in the morning to worship Him. All of this was just the beginning of Hezekiah's reforms. How it would thrill the heart of Jehovah to see a man like Hezekiah raised up today to reform the worship of Israel once again. Let's pray to that end. Pray for the salvation of God's people and for the peace of Jerusalem.

MORNING HYMN
Revive Thy work O Lord!
Thy mighty arm make bare;
Speak with the voice that wakes the dead,
And make Thy people hear.

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« Reply #34 on: February 17, 2006, 06:43:02 AM »

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

Effective Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

MORNING HYMN
I must tell Jesus all of my trials,
I cannot bear these burdens alone;
In my distress He kindly will help me,
He ever loves and cares for His own.
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« Reply #35 on: February 17, 2006, 06:45:29 AM »

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

Our Majestic God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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« Reply #36 on: February 17, 2006, 06:47:24 AM »

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

Morning Mercies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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« Reply #37 on: February 17, 2006, 06:49:10 AM »

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

A Long Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MORNING HYMN

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

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« Reply #38 on: February 18, 2006, 10:11:34 PM »

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

Friendship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MORNING HYMN

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

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« Reply #39 on: February 19, 2006, 04:22:28 PM »

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning 2
Scripture Reference: Psalm 108:1-13

Awake Early

Awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early.

Are you a morning person? Do you know others who claim to be night people? Whether a morning person or a night person, each of us must ask ourselves if our heart is fixed upon God.

David wrote in Psalm 108, "O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise, even with my glory" Whether a morning person or a night person, the one who knows and loves the Lord God can have an unperturbed heart when he sees the world reeling around him. Our hearts bow to sing and give praise with all our intellect, our skills, our resources, ourselves. It is the call to obey the command of the unperturbed heart that causes us to rise in the morning with a song on our lips. David, an early riser, not only resolved to sing and give praises to God with his lips, but he resolved to employ the use of musical instruments in that same melody of praise. He implores, "Awake, psaltery and harp." Not content with singing the praises of God alone, he will use the well-tuned strings of the psaltery and harp, and his flying fingers to accompany his vocal chords.

Still the key to his praise for God is not found in his voice or in the psaltery and harp. The key is found in his call to "awake" himself to the lively pursuit of praise to God. It is only when a thoroughly enraptured soul sings to God that his vocal praise is acceptable to Him. David says, "Awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early" (Psalm 108:2). His praise to the Lord God will precede the dawn. The best and brightest hours of the day will find the psalmist heartily aroused to bless God. Not only will he awaken early to praise Him, but he will awaken every fiber of his being to praise God. Some engage in praise to God in a halfhearted manner; these sing in drawling tones, as if they were half asleep. They arise early to praise God but do not awaken their minds, their spirits, and their bodies in praise to God. Early risers who seek to please the Lord must make certain that they have awakened themselves thoroughly before they begin to praise Him, or their practice of predawn praise will be reduced to mere ritualism.

Having a time alone with God early in the morning is a blessed experience. But too often our prayer life early in the morning is burdened down with weariness, sleepiness, and a half-awake attitude toward God. When we have our morning devotions, we must be certain that we are wide awake and ready to meet with God. Then will our meeting with the Almighty be something enjoyable, something vibrant, alive, and awake.

Henry Ward Beecher relates an incident about a laborer on his father's farm in Litchfield, Connecticut. Of this laborer he said: "He had a little room, in one corner of which I had a small cot; and as a boy I used to lie there and wonder at the enthusiasm with which he engaged in his devotions. It was a regular thing. First he would read the New Testament, hardly aware that I was in the room. Then he would alternately pray and sing and laugh. I never saw the Bible enjoyed like that! But I want to bear record that his praying made a profound impression upon me. It never entered my mind whether or not his actions were appropriate. I only thought, 'How that man does enjoy it!' I gained from him more of an idea of the desirableness of rejoicing prayer than I ever did from my mother or father. He led me to see that there should be real overflowing gladness and thanksgiving in it all."

Is it any wonder that when David's heart was fixed upon God, he called himself to awaken early in praise of God. To have our minds ready, the psaltery and harp ready, but not ourselves ready is an affront to our early morning praise to God.

Let us always be alert, awake, and available to praise God early in the morning. Only as we are sufficiently alive to engage in a meaningful and enjoyable prayer life with God, will He hear us when we pray, "Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens, and Thy glory above all the earth."

MORNING HYMN

Oh, the pure delight of a single hour
That before Thy throne I spend,
When I kneel in prayer, and with Thee, my God,
I commune as friend with friend!

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« Reply #40 on: February 23, 2006, 04:16:42 AM »

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

Morning Moments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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« Reply #41 on: February 23, 2006, 04:18:31 AM »

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning 2
Scripture Reference: Joshua 6:1-27

Perfect Promises

And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early about the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times: only on that day they compassed the city seven times.

Every few years the countries of the free world participate in national elections. The democratic system of government provides the opportunity for men and women representing their parties to campaign, make promises and pledges, and run for office on the basis of their platform and promises. Generally the winner is the person who promises the most and who, in the minds of the voters, can actually deliver on those campaign promises. Unfortunately history has taught us that most political promises are little more than campaign rhetoric and the voters have justifiable reason for concern about their validity. In contrast to this are the promises of God in which the believer may have absolute confidence. God has a perfect record of keeping His promises.

The story of Jericho's conquest is a fine example of the completed promises of God. Prior to their entrance into the promised land, Joshua sent two men across the Jordan to spy out the city of Jericho. These spies came to the place where information would freely flow among the men of the town. They entered the house of Rahab the harlot. Although the life of Rahab as a harlot was certainly not condoned by the Israeli spies, nevertheless apparently the Lord God had been working in the heart of Rahab. When the king of Jericho attempted to track down the two spies, Rahab hid them on her roof among the sticks of flax. She confessed her faith in Jehovah God saying "The LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath" (Joshua 2:11). Because this woman aided His secret agents, God promised Rahab and her household salvation in the midst of the peril of her city.

God's battle plan for the defeat of Jericho was unconventional, to say the least. Joshua would command seven priests, bearing seven trumpets of ram's horns before the ark of the Lord, to march around the city walls in silence for seven days, once each day until the seventh. On the seventh day they would march seven times around the wall. Then amid the blast of the seven jubilee trumpets and the war cry of the people of God, the destruction of the stronghold at Jericho would take place.

The children of Israel did as God commanded. "And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early about the dawning of the day and compassed the city after the same manner seven times" Joshua (6:15). On the seventh circuit of the seventh day the people shouted and the walls of Jericho fell down flat. The army of Israel entered the city unhindered and utterly destroyed all that was in the city, with one notable exception--the household of Rahab. Because they obeyed the Lord explicitly, the people saw two great promises of the Lord performed on the same day. The city of Jericho, the strongest outpost of the Canaanite defenses, had been utterly destroyed as God had promised. Likewise Rahab and her household had been spared destruction, as God had promised.

But there is one final promise of God that can be seen in the conquest of Jericho. In verse 26 Joshua counseled the people, warning them, "Cursed be the man before the LORD, that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof in his firstborn, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it." To show that God means business when He makes a promise, Joshua imprecated a solemn curse on anyone who would rebuild the now-destroyed Jericho. This curse was literally fulfilled in the fate of Heil, the Bethelite, who rebuilt Jericho in the reign of Ahab (about 925 B.C.). Heil's firstborn son, Abiram, died as he was laying the foundation for the rebuilding of Jericho. Also his youngest son, Segub, died while he was setting up the gates of the city (1 Kings 16:34). What God promises, God performs.

Whether the promise is for salvation, as in the case of Rahab, or for destruction, as in the case of Heil, the promises of God must never be taken lightly. Whatever God promises, God performs. You can count on it.

MORNING HYMN
Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail
By the living word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.

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« Reply #42 on: February 23, 2006, 04:19:59 AM »

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

Prayer and Peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MORNING HYMN

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

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« Reply #43 on: February 24, 2006, 04:13:32 PM »

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning 2
Scripture Reference: Exodus 24:1-18

Reasonable Service

And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.

Consecration to the Lord requires separation from evil, devotion to God, and the endless pursuit of holiness. Although the Lord would have all His children be fully consecrated to His service, He requires of us "reasonable" service (Romans 12:1). Consecration made under the influence of emotion or the excitement of the moment is not to be trusted. The believer must carefully, prayerfully and reasonably count the cost of discipleship before committing his life in service to the Lord.

After the great law was given to Moses on Mount Sinai, God sought ratification of the covenant He had made with the Israelites. Once again Moses ascended the holy mountain, this time with Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and 70 of the elders of Israel. When they descended again, Moses relayed to the people all the ordinances of God's covenant. As soon as the terms of the covenant were known, "the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do" (Exodus 24:3). Immediately Moses sensed that the people were too readily consecrating themselves to the ordinances of God's covenant and had not counted the cost. Thus Moses maneuvered to make their consecration more reasonable.

First Moses purposely prolonged the process of consecration. He did not permit the people to ratify the covenant at once. Instead, this great man of God wrote down all the words of the Lord and went to bed. He "rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel" (Exodus 24:4). The altar was built in preparation for the sacrifice without which no covenant was considered binding. By making the people wait one day before they could officially ratify the covenant, Moses reduced the emotional influence of the Israelites' hasty acceptance of the covenant.

Secondly, Moses surrounded the ratification of the covenant and the consecration with impressive ceremonies. He sent the young men, perhaps the firstborn of the families--since the Levitical order had not yet been instituted--and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the Lord. This was to be a solemn occasion, one that the Israelites would not soon forget.

Thirdly, great pains were taken to insure that the people understood the terms of the covenant. They could not properly consecrate themselves to God if they did not fully comprehend what their consecration meant. Not only did Moses relay the words of the Lord to the people when he descended from the mountain, but now, a day later, he read from the book of the covenant in the hearing of all the people. Moses wanted to be absolutely convinced that the people were making a rational decision to give their lives in service to the Lord.

Finally, Moses took the blood of the sacrifice and sprinkled it on the people, saying, "Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words." It was the blood that sealed the covenant. It was the symbol of the covenant. The blood of the sacrifice was placed upon the people to etch in their minds that they were chosen of God and now consecrated to Him.

Choosing a life of consecration to the Lord should be a sensible, reasonable, thoughtful act. The decision to give yourself to God and His service is a solemn act based in reason, not in emotion. It is indeed praiseworthy for a believer to consecrate his life to the Lord, but he must never do so lightly or thoughtlessly. Before committing your life in service to God today, count the cost, for "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).

MORNING HYMN
All for Jesus, all for Jesus!
All my being's ransomed pow'rs:
All my tho'ts and words and doings,
All my days and all my hours.

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« Reply #44 on: February 24, 2006, 04:15:12 PM »

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning 2
Scripture Reference: John 8:1-32

The Gift of Criticism

And early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came unto Him; and He sat down, and taught them.

It was after a church service one morning in which the minister had preached on spiritual gifts that he was greeted at the door by a lady who said, "Pastor, I believe I have the gift of criticism." The pastor looked at her and asked, "Remember the person in Jesus' parable who had the one talent?" The woman nodded her understanding. "Do you recall what he did with it?" "Yes," replied the lady, "he went out and buried it." The pastor suggested, "Go, thou, and do likewise!"

The Pharisees and Sadducees apparently felt they too had the gift of criticism. Frequently they attempted to ensnare the Lord Jesus. As was the Master's habit, He entered Jerusalem, crossing the Mount of Olives; and "early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came unto Him; and He sat down and taught them" (John 8:2). His reappearance in the temple provided an opportunity for the Pharisees and scribes to lay a subtle snare for Him. They brought a woman taken in the very act of adultery. The Feast of Tabernacles had just been celebrated, and acts of immorality during that festive week were not unusual. The scribes attempted to put Christ in a dilemma by quoting the law of Moses. They knew that if He answered that the woman should be stoned, He would violate the Roman law, which forbade such acts. However, if Jesus answered that the woman should not be stoned, He would be violating Moses' law (Deuteronomy 22:24).

The religious leaders were not so much interested in the adulterous woman as they were in Jesus' response to her situation. Their criticism of her was motivated by their desire to entrap Him. But Christ knew well how to repel such attacks by an appeal to higher principles. The same law that adjudged the guilty to be stoned to death also required the witnesses to cast the first stones. Jesus' statement, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her," was sure to bring an end to their criticism. The crowd, one by one, stealthily left the scene. Ironically the only one who was left was the Lord Jesus, the only one of the crowd who had lived a perfect life and had a right to condemn her.

This very teaching is reiterated by the Apostle Paul in Romans 8. Paul asks the hypothetical questions, "What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? . . . who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (Romans 8:31, 33-34). Only the mind of God could conceive of a plan whereby the one person who lived a righteous life and had the right to condemn us was the very person who laid down that life to die for us. The woman taken in adultery was speaking to the one who did not come into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world.

One businessman keeps a fairly large stone on his desk. The stone is mounted and lettered with one word: "First." This acts as a constant reminder to him of Jesus' words, "He that is without sin . . . let him first cast a stone." When his employees enter his office and there is reason to criticize them for their lack of achievement, the man looks at the stone and recalls his own shortcomings. He deals with his employees in mercy and grace.

This passage of Scripture does not teach us to look the other way when people sin. It does not teach us that we ought to condone adultery or any other crime. What it does teach us, however, is that it is not the responsibility of a Christian continually to be on the lookout for sin in other Christians--or anyone else for that matter. If we have lived a perfect life, we can be watchdogs on others who have not lived a perfect life. But we have enough trouble keeping ourselves in line; we need not constantly be critical of the way others live. Jesus was teaching the critical religious leaders of His day that although the woman was a great sinner, she was no greater a sinner than they were. We must remember the same as we meet others today.

MORNING HYMN
More like the Master I would live and grow,
More of His love to others I would show;
More self-denial like His in Galilee,
More like the Master I long to ever be.

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