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nChrist
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« Reply #345 on: December 21, 2006, 05:58:17 AM »

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning
Scripture Reference: Judges 6:1-32

Discouragement


And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was cast down, and the grove was cut down that was by it, and the second bullock was offered upon the altar that was built.

The book of Judges recounts the history of Israel during the centuries which followed the conquest of the land of Canaan. These were checkered years in Israel's history, which frequently saw relapses into idolatry. After each time Israel turned aside from the Lord, Jehovah would graciously raise up a judge, who was a military not a judicial leader, to bring His chosen people back to Him. The cycle of relapse, repentance, and restoration occurred frequently during these turbulent centuries.

The narrative of Judges 6 opens with a record of the renewed idolatry of Israel. This time judgment came from the Midianites who swept down through the plain of Jezreel, terrorizing Israel as far south as Gaza. They did not permanently occupy the land, but each harvest season they would arrive unexpectedly and plunder the harvest. What spoil they could not carry away they destroyed. So insecure were the Israelites that they lived in dens, caves, and strongholds to seek safety for their possessions and for themselves.

But suddenly things changed. An angel of the Lord appeared under the great oak by Ophrah, a little township on the southwestern border of the territory of Manasseh. There Gideon, the son of Joash, was beating out wheat with a stick. He did so secretly and with constant apprehension that a wild band of Midianite bedouins might sweep down on him, taking his grain and his life.

Gideon is typical of many believers today. Although the angel of the Lord called him a "mighty man of valor," Gideon's clandestine operations at his father's winepress did not exhibit great valor. For seven years his people had been oppressed by the enemy and this mighty warrior was despondent and discouraged. The angel of the Lord appeared unto him at his lowest ebb to encourage him.

Gideon was startled at first by this stranger, not certain who he was. When the angel proclaimed that the Lord was with him, Gideon's questioning response was, "If the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us?" (Judges 6:13). Gideon believed that if Jehovah had not withdrawn Himself from Israel, the present Midianite calamity would never have occurred. As well, this mighty man of valor, like Moses of old, questioned why the Lord would choose him to deliver Israel. His family was poor in Manasseh and he was the least of his father's household. But in the midst of Gideon's concern the Lord God promised, "Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man."

Gideon was still not convinced. How did he know this person was really the angel of the Lord? Thus Gideon asked for a sign and the angel of the Lord flash-fired the flesh of a kid and unleavened cakes which Gideon had placed on a rock.

Having felt the hand of God upon his life and claiming the promise of divine presence and power, Gideon proceeded to be the delivering judge of Israel. At the command of the Lord he threw down the altar of Baal his father had built. In its place he built an altar unto Jehovah God. "And when the men of the city arose early in the morning behold, the altar of Baal was cast down, and the grove was cut down" (Judges 6:28). Who had done such a thing? The answer--Gideon, the son of Joash. The fearful men of the city stormed the house of Joash and demanded that he hand over his son to be slain. But the acts of an encouraged Gideon bred encouragement in the heart of his father as well. Joash challenged the men to allow Baal to plead for himself, if he truly was a god. It was becoming increasingly evident to the men of Ophrah that Baal was not a god to be feared, as was Jehovah.

All that was necessary for a discouraged people to rise up against their oppressors was for the heart of one man to be impressed with the presence and power of the Lord. How much the Gideons of the twentieth century need to recognize the still small voice of the Lord saying to them, "Surely I will be with thee." Be encouraged and let God do something courageous through you today.

MORNING HYMN
Take my life and let it be,
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee
Take my hands and let them move,
At the impulse of Thy love,
Take my feet and let them be,
Swift and beautiful for Thee;
Take my voice and let me sing,
Always, only, for my King.

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« Reply #346 on: December 22, 2006, 02:45:21 PM »

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning
Scripture Reference: 1 Kings 3:1-28

Practical Wisdom

“And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold, it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, which I did bear.”

“How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver” (Proverbs 16:16). These sentiments of Solomon, regarding the preference for wisdom over wealth, stem from a strange dream that changed his life.

Once Solomon attended a solemn procession to the altar at Gibeon, about five miles from Jerusalem. This is where the ancient Tabernacle yet stood. Here the king celebrated an elaborate, religious festival in which he offered a thousand burnt offerings on the altar built by Bezaleel nearly five centuries before. While at Gibeon, Solomon received a dream from the Lord, in which God demanded, "Ask what I shall give thee" (1 Kings 3:5). Solomon barely knew what to request from God. Then he remembered the great task that had been laid before him. He was the king of the chosen nation, a great people that could not be numbered for their multitude. Solomon asked for practical wisdom, the ability to discern between right and wrong and to make immediate judgments that were founded on the truth. He was not asking for spiritual discernment; he wanted to rule the people well. God was pleased with Solomon's concern to be a just ruler and thus granted Solomon's request and added riches, honor, and length of days as well.

An occasion soon arose to test this divine gift of practical wisdom. Two harlots came before the king bearing two children, one dead, one alive. Although their stories were conflicting they did agree both lived in the same house and recently, within days of one another, each gave birth to a child. One woman claimed that the dead child was the result of the other mother's carelessness in accidentally laying on the child during the night and suffocating it. She claimed that the other woman rose at midnight, took her living son from beside her, and placed the dead infant in its stead. When the woman arose in the morning to feed the child, she discovered it was dead (1 Kings 3:21). She also discovered in the morning, at the light of day, that it was not her child lifelessly lying beside her in bed. She claimed that the living child was hers. The other woman disputed the claim saying that the first woman's child had simply died and she was now trying to compensate for her loss by taking the live child to be her own.

The situation appeared hopeless. It was the perfect test for Solomon's practical wisdom. What would he do? The king resolved to appeal to the maternal instinct of the women He called for a sword to "divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other." Immediately the child's mother screamed and requested that the king give her own child to the other woman rather than see him slain. Solomon thus discerned which woman was telling the truth and presented the child to his mother.

The fame of this decision spread throughout all Israel, inspiring fear of the king's justice and a conviction that God had given Solomon exceptional discernment. Israel believed that he would carry out his administrative duties with supreme justice.

Solomon's wisdom, however, appears to have gone beyond mere practical shrewdness in everyday affairs: 1 Kings 4:29-34 indicates Solomon demonstrated significant literary ability in speaking three thousand proverbs and writing more than one thousand psalms. One of those proverbs was, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21). On this occasion, a happy mother had just realized the truth of those words.

MORNING HYMN
Hover o'er me, Holy Spirit,
Bathe my trembling heart and brow;
Fill me with thy hallow'd presence,
Come, O come and fill me now.

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« Reply #347 on: December 23, 2006, 03:47:32 AM »

Title: First Appointment
Book: Early in the Morning
Author: Woodrow Kroll


O God, Thou art my God; early will I seek Thee: my soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.

How amazing it is that finite creatures such as you and I may have fellowship with the infinite God. Yet this is our privilege as Christians; it is our right. But rights always bring responsibilities.

Psalm 63 is a gem of a morning psalm. The eloquent preacher of the fourth century, Chrysostom, testifies, "It was decreed and ordained by the primitive fathers, that no day should pass without the public singing of this psalm." It is easy to see why the early Christians sang this song aloud at the beginning of every day. They would start their song, "O God, Thou art my God." This is easy to say, but difficult to live. To say that God is our God conveys a great deal of benefit. Because He is our God, all that He has is ours as well. We are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ (Romans 8:17). Ours is not an empty relationship with God but one filled with great blessing, great benefit, great privilege.

But all of us who claim the Lord as our God don't just receive special favors from Him; we return special services to Him. This is why in Psalm 118:28 David says, "Thou art my God, and I will praise Thee: Thou art my God, I will exalt Thee." Because He is our God and because we have special rights it is incumbent upon us to exercise certain responsibilities. This David recognizes when he says, "O God, Thou art my God: early will I seek thee" (Psalm 63:1).

While as servants of God we may claim interest in Him, we also must exhibit our duty toward Him. Before all things, at the dawn of every day, before we seek anyone else, before we have our breakfast, "early will I seek Thee."

There seems to be a direct relationship between seeking God in the morning and success throughout the day. Dr. Andrew Bonar once wrote in his diary: "Tonight I gave myself to a time of waiting upon the Lord. I had not been much in the spirit of prayer, but now several things have become clear to me. I realize I have not communed enough with the Lord, nor come to Him as often as I should. Little forethought has been given to the requests I've made. There has been much conversing and outward engagement with men, but I have not been occupied enough with God Himself. I also realize that a closeness to Him gives abundant strength and is like sunlight shining through the clouds on a gloomy day." Bonar recognized that had he sought the Lord early, at the beginning of his day, and walked with Him consistently throughout the day, his evening time of waiting on the Lord in prayer would have been much more productive. The same is true for each of us.

Satisfaction for the soul cannot be found apart from fellowship with the Lord. David the psalmist sought to maintain his companionship with God from early morning until late at night. He made a practice of being in the "presence" of God throughout the day by the blessed privilege of prayer.

When our souls thirst for the Lord as our parched tongues thirst for water, when our appetite for righteousness equals our appetite for food, then we will make it a habit of rising early in the morning to make our first appointment of the day an appointment with God. He will be the first one on our minds in the morning, and the last one on our minds at night.

MORNING HYMN
When morning gilds the skies,
My heart awaking cries;
May Jesus Christ be praised;
Alike at work and prayer
To Jesus I repair;
May Jesus Christ be praised.

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« Reply #348 on: December 23, 2006, 03:49:16 AM »

Title: Getting Ahead of God
Book: Early in the Morning
Author: Woodrow Kroll


And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.

It is sometimes disconcerting to board an airplane at the scheduled departure time and then have to endure a lengthy wait on the runway before being cleared for takeoff. Not only do you miss your appointments in a distant city, but you begin to wonder if the marvels of our space-age technology are so marvelous. Yet just as bad as an unscheduled delay would be an unscheduled hastening of the takeoff. You can imagine the turmoil if a flight scheduled for 2:00 o'clock departure left at 1:30. Getting ahead of what is designed can be just as devastating as falling behind.

Abraham was a great man of faith, a friend of God. When God called him to leave his homeland and go to an unknown destination, Abraham immediately obeyed. Later the Lord promised Abraham that his seed would be as numberless as the dust the earth. But Abraham remained childless. His only heir was Eliezer of Damascus, whom he had adopted. When he questioned God, Abraham was told, "This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own loins shall be thine heir. And He brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and count the stars, if thou be able to number them: and He said to him, So shall thy seed be." Abraham believed this promise and the Lord counted it to him for righteousness (Genesis 15:4-6). Yet Abraham and his wife suffered from the same frailties all humans do. After years of expectation and disappointment, they began to wonder if the divine promise was really true. Barren Sarah decided to take matters into her own hands. She had an Egyptian handmaid whose name was Hagar. Herself not able conceive, Sarah convinced Abraham to take Hagar as his wife that she might bear him a son.

Although this was a common practice in the Ancient Near East, nevertheless it was not the fulfillment of God's promise. The appointed time for the birth of Abraham's heir had not yet arrived, but Sarah wanted to force the issue. Shortly Abraham was presented with a son, but by Hagar, not Sarah. An angel of the Lord had previously instructed Hagar to name the child Ishmael. But the heavenly messenger also warned that the child would be a wild man and every man's hand would be against him.

It wasn't until twenty-four years later that the Lord performed a miracle for Sarah and the son of promise was born. Although Abraham was now one hundred years old, this was the promised time and Isaac was the promised son. On the eighth day Isaac was circumcised and months later Abraham made a great feast when the child was weaned. At this festive occasion the behavior of Ishmael betrayed his jealousy. He taunted his young half brother, mocked and ridiculed baby Isaac. As Sarah viewed this it raised her motherly dander. She demanded of her husband, "Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac" (Genesis 21:10).

This grieved Abraham very much for Ishmael was his own flesh and blood. But God comforted him assuring him that, although Isaac was indeed the promised seed, nevertheless God would also make of Ishmael a great nation. Thus, "Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water," and bid Hagar and the boy a sad good-bye (Genesis 21:14).

God was kind to Ishmael and providentially protected his mother and him. But it was clear that Isaac was the child of promise, not Ishmael. Ishmael was the result of the impatience of Abraham and Sarah. The wild man was born because this couple got ahead of God. They believed that God would provide the promised seed but mistakenly attempted to speed up God's timetable. God performs what He promises, but always in His own time. "Wait on the LORD be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart. Wait, I say, on the LORD" (Psalm 27:14). That's good advice for us today.

MORNING HYMN
My Jesus, as Thou wilt!
O may Thy will be mine;
Into Thy hand of love
I would my all resign.
Thro' sorrow, or thro' joy,
Conduct me as Thine own;
And help me still to say,
My Lord, Thy will be done.

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« Reply #349 on: December 23, 2006, 03:51:42 AM »

Title: Sin in the Camp
Book: Early in the Morning
Author: Woodrow Kroll


Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken.

Israel had just won the biggest battle in its military history. The impregnable fortress of Jericho was destroyed by the mighty hand of God. The inhabitants of Canaan trembled in terror before the armies of Israel. But as is frequently the case, a great victory had made them susceptible to a great defeat.

With the ashes of Jericho behind it, Israel now faced the next battle in its conquest of Canaan. Situated east of Bethel, in the foothills of the Judean highlands, was the tiny town of Ai. When spies returned from scouting this town they reported that three thousand soldiers were needed to seize this tiny, indefensible town. What they did not know was that, whereas God had gone with them into battle at Jericho, because of sin in their ranks God would not go with them in battle at Ai. The Israelites soon learned that the difference between victory and defeat is not military strength but the presence of the Lord.

The men of Ai routed the Israelite force, slaying thirty-six of them and chasing the rest all the way to Shebarim. Licking their wounds, they returned to Joshua and the elders who immediately fell on their faces before the ark of the Lord. Joshua thought he had been abandoned by God, but the Lord quickly revealed to him that the defeat at Ai was due to sin in the camp of Israel. "So he rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes (Joshua 7:16). The tribe of Judah was indicated. Then all the families of Judah were marched before Joshua and Zerah pointed out as head of the sinning family. From the family Zerahites, man by man, they were escorted into the presence Joshua and Zabdi was taken. The household of Zabdi remained and Achan, the son of Carmi, was accused.

Joshua bade Achan to give glory to the Lord God of Israel and make a public confession. Achan confessed that his sin began innocently enough when he saw the spoils of war. But immediately that simple sight degenerated into covetousness and to actually taking the accursed thing. But worse than that, because he thought he could get away with his sin, he hid the beautiful garment and the silver and gold he took in the earth beneath his tent. Although succumbing to the temptation to sin was evil enough, Achan's greatest mistake was thinking that he could hide that sin from God.

That we can never successfully hide our sin from God is the teaching of Jesus' parable of the lighted candle. Luke 8:16-17 records, "No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candle-stick, that they which enter in may see the light. For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither anything hid, that shall not be made known and come abroad." The seeing eye of God searches even the innermost secrets of men. No sin, however large or small, escapes the eye of God.

Exodus 2 describes how Moses spied an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew, and he looked this way and that way, and when he saw no man watching him he slew the Egyptian and hid him in the sand (Exodus 2:12). The very next day however Moses' sin was discovered and he had to flee from the land of the Pharaoh and spend the next forty years in Midian. Moses' sin was unsuccessfully hidden. Beloved King David had a similar experience. After sinning with Bathsheba and attempting to cover his sin through the death of Uriah the Hittite, the trespass of David soon came to light when Nathan the prophet pointed his finger in the king's face and said, "Thou art the man" (2 Samuel 12:7). In remorse King David said, "O God, Thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from Thee" (Psalm 69:5).

From the sad experiences of Achan and these others, let us learn well the truth that sin is never successfully hidden. We cannot hide our sin from God; we only can deal with it. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Don't try to hide sin today; let God forgive it instead.

MORNING HYMN
Depth of mercy! Can there be
mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God His wrath forbear
Me, the chief of sinners spare?

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« Reply #350 on: December 28, 2006, 08:03:14 PM »

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning
Scripture Reference: Jeremiah 7:1-34

Love and Patience

Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all My servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them.

There is no greater contrast in all the Bible than the love and patience of God with the general disregard for that love and patience by men. Perhaps this theme is more clearly seen in the prophecy of Jeremiah than in any other. Jeremiah is one of the most colorful figures in Hebrew history. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that we know more about his personality and character than we do about any other Old Testament prophets. Called of God when he was but a child (Jeremiah 1:6), Jeremiah knew personally the love and patience of God and prophesied for Jehovah for nearly half a century. His concern was to bring Israel back to God in repentance and faith. Tragically, he stood in the mainstream of an ungrateful people who were rushing to certain destruction, yet they sought not God.

Jehovah was so concerned for His people that He commissioned Jeremiah to "stand in the gate of the LORD'S house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the LORD" (Jeremiah 7:2). God would not permit His people to face imminent destruction and death without the opportunity to repent and be restored. Jeremiah's task was to stand between the Jews and certain destruction.

In a delightful picture of the concern of Jehovah for His people, Jeremiah 7 twice indicates that God did not simply commission the prophet and then withdraw Himself from interest in the Jews. Jeremiah 7:13 says, "And now, because ye have done all these works, saith the LORD, and I spake unto you, rising up and speaking but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not." It is natural for anyone who has loved ones facing pending danger to show diligence in dealing with it. The same is true for Jehovah God. It is no impassive God who is seen here. God takes a profound interest in His people. This indicates that God is not disengaged from His people or the affairs that affect them. He mourns over their sin and rejoices in their salvation. Still they do not heed His call for repentance and thus He must deliver them into the hand of the enemy.

The expression of Jehovah's rising early is strengthened in verse 25. Here He reminds His people, "Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all My servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them." It is not the prophets alone who are said to rise early with the message of repentance, but God Himself. Day after day, He rises to recommission anew these prophets with their life-changing message.

And what will be Israel's response to this consistent love and concern of Jehovah? Joshua 7:26 indicates, "Yet they hearkened not unto Me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck; they did worse than their fathers." What a contrast! God calls and commissions prophets to bring His message to a wayward people. He rises early every morning and sends forth His prophets. Still, day after day, His people do not hearken unto Him but harden their necks and become even more stubborn in their sin.

Today God is just as concerned about us as He was about Old Testament Israel. He showers His mercy on us as He did on them. He warns us of our sin as He warned the Jews. And much like them, we do not listen, nor do we heed the warnings of those whom He has raised to call us to repentance. Remember, before we arose early to seek God today, He had already risen to prepare this day for us. In response to His great love and concern for us, let us serve Him faithfully today.

MORNING HYMN
Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heav'n to earth come down;
Fix in us Thy humble dwelling,
All Thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
Pure, unbounded love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation,
Enter ev'ry trembling heart.

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« Reply #351 on: December 28, 2006, 08:05:23 PM »

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning
Scripture Reference: 2 Kings 3:1-27

Christ our Anchor

And they rose up early in the morning, and the sun shone upon the water, and the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as blood.

After the death of Solomon the empire of Israel was sharply divided. The ten tribes to the north comprised the northern kingdom; the two tribes to the south formed the southern kingdom. For the most part, the kings of the south were a mixture of good and bad. Without exception, the Jewish kings of Israel, the ten tribes to the north, were all bad. In 2 Kings 3 is the story of a northern Jewish king who failed to call on God and a southern Jewish king who remembered to call on God.

The defeat of Ahab at Ramoth, and the subsequent dominion of the Assyrians over the territory east of the Jordan, encouraged the king of Moab to revolt against Israel. Mesha refused to pay his annual tribute of one hundred lambs and one hundred thousand rams. The scriptural account of this revolt receives absolute confirmation from the Moabite Stone, discovered in 1868 and now reconstructed at the Louvre Museum in Paris. Jehoram, the king of Israel, sought help from Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, to march against Mesha of Moab in retaliation for his rebellion. Jehoshaphat agreed. They planned to enter Moab by way of the wilderness of Edom. The king of Edom, a vassal of Judah, joined the expedition.

After a seven-day march through the desert, the armies of the Jews and Edomites were without water. They would soon die if something was not done. Jehoshaphat, who wished to consult a prophet of Jehovah, soon learned that Elisha was in the camp of Israel. Elisha told them to dig trenches over the plains and promised that God would both fill them with water and give a complete victory over Moab. This they did throughout the night in order to prepare for God's divine provision of water in the morning.

When the enemy armies of the Moabites rose up early in the morning, the red rays of the rising sun reflected from the waters that God had miraculously sent to fill the Jewish trenches (2 Kings 3:22). The Moabites misinterpreted the red hue of the water to be a lake of blood. They assumed that the allied armies had turned on each other and destroyed themselves. Thus the Moabite armies charged out of their camp to help themselves to the supposed spoils of war.

Rushing in disorder upon the Israelite camp, they were met by the whole army of the Jews and pushed back into their own country. The cities of Moab were razed, stones were thrown into the fields, wells were filled, and fruit trees were cut down. A great deliverance was given to Israel and to Judah because one king, Jehoshaphat, had not failed to seek help from Jehovah. In the midst of a disastrous situation he remembered the words of his forefather David, "In Thee, O LORD, do I put my trust" (Psalm 71:1).

"Can you imagine the captain of a ship, driven about by rough winds and desiring to drop anchor, trying to find a suitable place on board his own vessel? Such a thing seems ridiculous. He hangs the anchor at the prow, but still the boat drives before the wind; he casts it upon the deck but this too fails to hold it steady; at last he puts it down into the hold but has no better success. You see, an anchor resting on the storm-driven craft itself will never do the job. Only as it is thrown into the deep can it be effective against wind and tide. In the very same way, that person whose confidence is in himself will never experience true peace and safety. His actions are as futile as one who seeks to keep the anchor aboard his own ship. So cast your faith into the great depths of God's eternal love and power" (author unknown).

Although Jehoram would have been content to go into battle alone, Jehoshaphat would find contentment only in dropping his anchor in the love and wisdom of Jehovah. Let's not settle for less today.

MORNING HYMN
Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift or firm remain?

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« Reply #352 on: December 28, 2006, 08:07:35 PM »

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning
Scripture Reference: 1 Samuel 3:1-21

A Father's Failure

And Samuel lay until the morning, and opened the doors of the house of the LORD. And Samuel feared to show Eli the vision.

The Bible is filled with remarkable contrasts between people. For example, consider Samuel and the sons of Eli. Samuel, who was not Eli's son but was nurtured in the Lord by Eli, was a young man who found favor in the eyes of God. Hophni and Phinehas, who were Eli's sons but were not nurtured in the Lord by Eli, found nothing but shame in the eyes of God.

Born in answer to prayer and dedicated at birth by his mother to the service of the Lord, Samuel was trained at Shiloh by Eli the priest. His heart was tender toward the Lord and his ears were open to hear God's voice. Eli's sons were "sons of Belial" and instead of being content with that portion of the sacrifices allotted to them by law, they devised devious means of obtaining greater portions of the sacrifice. Moreover, they profaned the Tabernacle with their licentious practices at the very door of the house of God.

1 Samuel 3:13 correctly describes the attitude which led to the downfall of Hophni and Phinehas. Speaking of Eli's sons the Bible says, "His sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not." Here is a classic case of a man so involved in his ministry that he neglected his family. Someone has said, perhaps with tongue in cheek, that if a man sees his sons going down the wrong track, probably it's because he did not switch them soon enough. Eli certainly failed to "switch" his sons and keep them on track for God.

During those days of crisis God had been strangely silent. "The word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision." But God decided to speak face to face with Samuel and in the middle of the night called out to him. The young child's immediate response was, "Here am I." Samuel ran to the bedside of Eli, assuming the voice was his. The priest sent him back to bed, perhaps thinking that the young lad was only dreaming. Twice again this strange phenomenon occurred, and finally Eli recognized this to be the voice of God. His advice to Samuel was that the next time the voice called he should answer, "Speak LORD; for thy servant heareth." The boy returned to bed.

When the Lord called him again, Samuel answered as Eli had instructed, "And the LORD said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle." Jehovah was about to judge Eli and his family for their failure to heed His word and for the sons' unrighteousness at the temple door. Being the bearer of such information to one who had been both his mentor and friend would not be an easy task for Samuel. He lay until the morning awaiting God's courage (1 Samuel 3:15). When asked by Eli in the morning what the Lord spoke to him through the night, Samuel reluctantly imparted that information to the priest.

In the contrast between Samuel and Hophni and Phinehas it is worthy to note that while Hophni and Phinehas were born into their service, there is no evidence that they ever appreciated their position before the Lord. Samuel, on the other hand, was born outside of the service of God but was dedicated to it at birth. Had Eli "switched" his sons more often and instilled in them a reverence for the Lord, as he did with Samuel, the ears of Israel would have had no occasion to tingle at the tragic deaths of Eli and his wicked sons (see 1 Samuel 4:10-22). Fathers, take care that you don't "gain the whole world but lose your own family."

MORNING HYMN
Take the world, but give me Jesus
All its joys are but a name;
But His love abideth ever
Through eternal years the same.

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« Reply #353 on: December 29, 2006, 02:08:11 PM »

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning
Scripture Reference: Nehemiah 4:1-23

Working Together

So we labored in the work; and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared.

It was not until the year 539 B.C. that the Persian king Cyrus decreed that Jews and other captives could return to their homelands after a long Babylonian captivity. Wave after wave of expatriates made the journey back to a beleaguered land of promise. While yet captive, however, the news came to Nehemiah that the wall of Jerusalem had never been repaired since its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar. Brigands and robbers could attack the city at will. Nehemiah was distressed and became terribly burdened for his home town. He secured the necessary papers from Artaxerxes, the Persian king at that time, to return to his homeland and rebuild the wall around Jerusalem.

In 444 B.C. Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem and soon afterwards went by night on an inspection tour of the city walls. He elicited help to rebuild the ruined fortification both from residents and returnees. Volunteers quickly came to his side, but so did villains. Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite heard that Nehemiah had come to rebuild the walls and "it grieved them exceedingly that there was a man come to seek the welfare of the children of Israel" (Nehemiah 2:10).

At first Sanballat and Tobiah had only scorned the idea that these feeble Jews would fortify their city. But now they had become seriously alarmed. A conspiracy was formed of the Arabians, Ammonites, and Philistines of Ashdod. The enemies of Nehemiah were ready to attack Jerusalem before the fortifications could be completed.

When Nehemiah heard the news of this conspiracy, he made proper response. Nehemiah 4:9 says, "Nevertheless, we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them." Nehemiah immediately turned to God in prayer but just as immediately made preparations to defend himself. This is the delicate balance between faith and works which is needed in each of our lives. With a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other the workmen continued to rebuild the walls. They would both watch and pray. The end result was summed up in Nehemiah’s words, “So we labored in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared” (Nehemiah 4:21). With each one doing his part, the task was finished in record time to the glory of the Lord.

The story could have been much different if, for example, those who worked complained that those who watched were not doing their fair share. Nehemiah’s workmen had to recognize they were all laborers together with God (1 Corinthians 3:9), as we must today if we are going to accomplish anything for God.

The following parable illustrates this principle. A carpenter’s tools were having a conference. Brother Hammer was presiding, but the others informed him that he’d have to leave because he was too noisy. “All right,” he said, “I’ll go, but Brother Plane must withdraw too. There’s no depth to his work. It’s always on the surface.” Brother Plane responded, “Well, Brother Rule will also have to go. He’s constantly measuring people as if he were the only one who’s right.” Brother Rule complained about Brother Sandpaper, saying, “He’s always rubbing people the wrong way.” In the midst of the discussion the Carpenter of Nazareth entered. He went to His workbench to make a pulpit from which He would preach the gospel. He used the hammer, the plane, the rule and the sandpaper. All were important in their own way.

If Christians criticize one another, insult one another, and refuse to work together for God, the task of gleaning the whitened harvest fields will never be completed for His glory. Though differences remain between believers, let us always recognize who the true enemy really is. It is Satan. Each of us possesses different gifts and abilities, but none of us is unimportant in the work of the Lord. Let’s defeat our common enemy this day.

MORNING HYMN
To the work! to the work! we are servants of God,
Let us follow the path that our Master has trod;
With the balm of His counsel our strength to renew,
Let us do with our might what our hands find to do.

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« Reply #354 on: December 30, 2006, 11:09:26 PM »

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning
Scripture Reference: Exodus 9:13-35

Mercy Amid Judgment

And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let My people go, that they may serve Me.

One of the great paradoxes of the Bible is God's compassionate practice of tempering judgment with mercy. If ever anyone deserved the biting edge of God's wrath, it was the Pharaoh of the exodus. He was cruel, vindictive, and hard-hearted. When Moses and Aaron appeared before him, seeking the release of the Israelites, Pharaoh was insolent and blasphemous. He deserved to be stricken by God. Yet he was spared through the plagues of blood, frogs, lice, flies, malignant livestock and boils.

Now once again the Lord instructed Moses to “rise up early the morning and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let My people go” (Exodus 3). Yet another plague was to be inflicted on the Egyptians unless their king abandoned his insane rebellion against the Lord God. The first six plagues were accompanied by much suffering and humiliation. However, none of these had actually touched the lives of the Egyptians. This time, if Pharaoh did not relent, God would smite the people and their land with pestilence and they would be cut off from the earth.

Characteristic of God's mercy, the pestilence was not to begin immediately. Moses predicted, "Behold, tomorrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now.” God gave the Egyptian king time for reflection. Judgment was impending; but before it came, the mercy of God allowed the rebellious Pharaoh twenty-four hours to consider the folly of his resistance.

But God's mercy did not stop there. Every God-fearing Egyptian had opportunity to respond to God as well. Those servants of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord, probably as a result of the previous plagues, quickly sought shelter for their families and cattle. Those who regarded not the word of the Lord remained in the fields.

Wherever the word of God is heralded, the reaction is always the same. Some believe and receive; others ridicule and reject. When the Apostle Paul delivered his compelling address on Mars' Hill, some mocked, others delayed, and a few believed (Acts 17:32-34). Nowhere is this more emphatically stated than in the final chapter of the Acts. "And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not" (Acts 28:24).

When the period of reflection and response was over, judgment came as promised. The thunder cracked, and the Lord sent hail and fire on the land of Egypt. So fierce was the hail and fire that upon impact great balls of fire ran along the ground. This pestilence smote both man and beast in the fields as well as the herbs and trees throughout Egypt. Yet the land of Goshen, where the people of God resided, was not touched. Neither were the Egyptians who had heeded the word of the Lord and took shelter—another instance of God's mercy, even during judgment.

Perhaps the greatest example of God's mercy in the midst of judgment is seen after the plague. Since many Egyptians had lost their lives, Pharaoh made a halfhearted, mock repentance in order to stay the mighty thunderings and hail. The flax and barley crops were completely destroyed, for the barley was in ear and the flax in bud. But the wheat and rye crops were yet in the ground and not destroyed. Those Egyptians who remained were not left without the hope of a harvest. That's the mercy of God!

Though Pharaoh's rebellion and insolence deserved the utter destruction of God's judgment, yet before, during, and after the plague of hail the mercy of God is evident. God's pity rests on men who have none on themselves. "The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great mercy. The LORD is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works" (Psalm 145:8-9). Let's thank Him today for His great mercy.

MORNING HYMN
There's a wideness in God's mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea
There's a kindness in His justice,
Which is more than liberty.

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« Reply #355 on: December 31, 2006, 07:01:58 PM »

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning
Scripture Reference: Genesis 22:1-14

Obedience

And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.

Obedience to God’s call is the prerequisite to God’s blessing. If we are not willing to relinquish our own interests in compliance with God's call to duty, we should not expect His blessing automatically to be ours. To Abraham the Lord promised, "I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing" (Genesis 12:2). Before these promises were realized, however, the patriarch had to prove his absolute obedience unto God. Four times Abraham endured the test of obedience and each time it was related to separation. Initially he received the divine call to leave kindred and country behind and journey to an unknown land. Later he found his nephew's herdsmen at odds with his own and Abraham had to separate himself once more from his kin. Still later this obedient servant of God found his wife Sarah engaged in a jealous battle with her handmaid and Abraham had to bid a sad good-bye to Hagar and his young son of the flesh, Ishmael. Each of these events tested Abraham's obedience to God and each was passed with flying colors.

However, Abraham was yet to undergo a final test of loyalty. This was to be the fourth and supreme test of separation. The Lord said, "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I tell thee of" (Genesis 22:2).

Abraham's parents were long gone. Lot was gone. Ishmael was now gone. But as long as Isaac was alive, God's promise of blessing was yet intact. Now, however, was the son of promise to be sacrificed? Was he to be gone as well? You can well imagine the consternation in Abraham's heart. He had given up so much; must he give up his only son whom he loved? Reason told him no. But Abraham immediately brought his reason into the captivity of his faith. As soon as he received God's call to duty Abraham took no counsel with flesh and blood but rose early in the morning and set out with Isaac to the land of Moriah (Genesis 22:3). True obedience neither procrastinates nor questions.

The journey was upwards of sixty miles. On the third day Abraham bid the two young men accompanying them to remain behind with the donkey while he and his son went yonder to worship. Abraham grabbed the container of fire and a knife, while the wood for the burnt offering was laid upon the back of his only son, Isaac. How reminiscent this is of Abraham's greater son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who also bore the wood upon which He was sacrificed as a sin offering for us (John 19:17).

Once alone with his father, Isaac pointed out that they had fire and wood but no lamb for the sacrifice. In faith Abraham replied, "My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering" (Genesis 22:8). Yet as they came to Moriah, Abraham built an altar, laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his only son, gently laying him on the altar. As he raised the knife to slay his son, Abraham must have spent an agonizing eternity with his hand in the air. Then suddenly the angel of the Lord called out to him, forbidding Isaac to be slain. A ram was provided and Abraham offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son. This totally unexpected ending to Abraham's personal ordeal prompted him to name that place Jehovah-jireh: the Lord will provide.

The supreme test was over. The Lord had not tempted Abraham with evil but rather provided a proving ground for his unflinching obedience. Now Abraham could indeed be the father of a great nation and be greatly blessed of the Lord. Like the patriarch, all who hear God's call to duty must tread the path of absolute obedience before we discover the many blessings along the way. "Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD, that walketh in His ways...happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee" (Psalm 128:1-2).

MORNING HYMN
But we never can prove,
The delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay,
For the favor He shows
And the joy He bestows
Are for them who will trust and obey.

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« Reply #356 on: January 02, 2007, 07:36:24 AM »

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning
Scripture Reference: Genesis 19:15-29

Thinking of Others

And Abraham got up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the LORD.

SELFISHNESS is innate to man's being. Human philosophy says, “Look out for number one for if you don't, no one else will.” The question of the first murderer, “Am I my brother's keeper?” is still being asked in society today. This is indeed unfortunate. When we live self-centered lives we are denied the joy of delighting in others.

Abraham was a man little given to such selfishness. When he and nephew Lot came to a parting of the ways, Abraham gave his kin first pick of the land. Looking eastward on the fertile plain of the Jordan, Lot fell prey to temptation and chose the valley thick with vegetation. Abraham then withdrew to the oaks of Mamre, near Hebron, in the center of the south hill country. Willing to obey the stern inward call of duty, Abraham quietly received the less desirable terrain.

The picturesque valley of the lower Jordan was dotted with five “cities of the plain.” They were Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboim, and Bela, which was later renamed Zoar. Sodom, the chief city of this pentapolis, was so wicked that a particularly abnormal sin still bears its name. Here the worldly Lot chose to settle and even become prominent. The men of this city were especially wicked and sinned exceedingly before the Lord. How it must have grieved the genuinely pious Abraham to see his nephew choose these surroundings.

In the course of time three angelic guests stopped at the door of Abraham's tent in Mamre. Abraham greeted them hospitably and made ready a feast. As the men prepared to leave, Abraham accompanied them a short distance toward Sodom. Two of the strangers went on ahead while the third, who was actually the Lord, lingered awhile with Abraham. It was then that Abraham received the crushing news. The Lord had come with His two angels to destroy the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The sins of these two cities were so heinous and abundant that God could no longer tolerate their existence. They must be destroyed.

Immediately Abraham thought of Lot. He began to intercede with the Lord in Lot's behalf. After a typically oriental bargaining session, Abraham pled with the Lord not to destroy Sodom if ten righteous people could be found in it. The Lord agreed. However, there could not be found ten righteous citizens in this horribly wicked city and its destruction was certain. The angels prompted Lot to take his wife and two daughters and escape to the mountains. Lot fled, not to the mountains, but to the city of Zoar and as soon as he arrived the Lord rained fire and brimstone down upon Sodom and Gomorrah.

This fierce fire and brimstone that fell from Heaven not only destroyed the cities and their inhabitants but even the soil around them. The entire valley was burned out and utterly destroyed. It is likely that either the Dead Sea originated with this catastrophic event or that the existing sea was greatly enlarged to the south by engulfing this destroyed valley.

And what of Abraham? Is he resting comfortably in his tent while all this is going on? Not at all. Genesis 19:27 records, “And Abraham got up early in the morning” and viewed the smoke rising from the plain. He was genuinely interested in the welfare of Lot and his family and eagerly awaited news of them. The foolish nephew was spared from this devastation because God remembered the concern of Abraham.

Lot had slapped Abraham in the face by choosing the best land for himself. He had broken the heart of God's friend by settling in a center of wickedness. Abraham had every right to care nothing about Lot's welfare, yet he did care. He arose early, unselfishly, for he had learned not to seek his own but the good of others (1 Corinthians 10:24; Philippians 2:4). If you want to be happy today, why not spend the day helping others? Be interested in them; pray for them; bring good cheer to them. It will do a lot for you, too.

MORNING HYMN
Others, Lord, yes, others,
Let this my motto be.
Help me to live for others,
That I might live like Thee.

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« Reply #357 on: January 02, 2007, 07:37:54 AM »

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning
Scripture Reference: Ruth 3-4

Waiting on God

Tarry this night, and it shall be in the morning, that if he will perform unto thee the part of a kinsman, well; let him do the kinsman's part: but if he will not do the part of a kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of a kinsman to thee, as the Lord liveth: lie down until the morning.

DURING OUR DARK MOMENTS frequently we become impatient and ask God to speak to us immediately. But sometimes God is silent, and we must be silent as well. When the tears of frustration stream down our cheeks, when defeat and despair hang around us like a shroud, when we don't know which way to turn, we must heed God's advice to the psalmist, "Be still, and know that I am God"(Psalm 46:10).

Perhaps this divine stillness in the midst of the storm is best illustrated in the story of Ruth. A severe famine in Palestine drove Elimelech and Naomi, Ephrathites of Bethlehem, to Moab with their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion. Here the sons married Moabite girls named Ruth and Orpah. After ten years the father and sons died leaving three childless widows. Naomi decided to return to her homeland. Realizing the lonely life ahead for her daughters-in-law in a foreign country, she entreated them to remain behind in Moab. After some persuasion Orpah returned but Ruth requested, "Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodges, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people and thy God my God"(Ruth 1:16). Hence, Ruth and Naomi traveled on together.

It was springtime during the barley harvest when Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem. Immediately Ruth went to glean in the field of a wealthy Ephrathite named Boaz, a relative of Elimelech, her father-in-law. Boaz showed kindness to Ruth, allowing her to eat with the Jews, contrary to the Hebrew custom, and eventually came to love her. Full of gratitude to God, Naomi instructed Ruth to claim her rights under the levirate law of marriage. This law, similar to those of the Assyrians and the Hittites, permitted a childless widow to marry her husband's brother or nearest kinsman in order to perpetuate the dead husband's name.

That night, when Boaz went to sleep, Ruth softly came and laid at his feet. During the night Boaz awoke and was startled to see Ruth. She identified herself and asked him to perform the duties of the near kinsman. Apparently Boaz's interest in Ruth had blossomed. However, he knew there was a kinsman nearer than he who must first be given the opportunity to perform this custom. Thus Boaz instructed Ruth, "Tarry this night, and it shall be in the morning, that if he will perform unto thee the part of the kinsman, well; let him do the kinsman's part; but if he will not do the part of the kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of the kinsman to thee, as the LORD liveth: lie down until the morning"(Ruth 3:13).

In the morning Ruth arose, was given six measures of barley by Boaz, and returned to the house of Naomi. Filled with anxiety over her future, Naomi instructed Ruth in the lesson of quiet faith. She said, "Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall." Boaz kept his word. He called ten witnesses of the elders to take their seats in the gate of the city to ratify his negotiations with the nearest kinsman to Ruth. When the kinsman refused to redeem his possession, that transferred the right of redemption legally to Boaz. Boaz and Ruth were married; she bore a son named Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David. Good things happen to us when we sit still and wait on God.

Like Ruth, we must learn that no one who trusts God is ever forgotten by our Saviour. He is ever praying for us (Hebrews 7:25). We may feel forsaken and forlorn, but our High Priest is always touched with the feeling of our infirmities (Hebrews 4:15-16). He catches the tears of our anxiety and anguish alike "in [His] bottle"(Psalm 56:8). He is fully aware of our situation. In the meantime, we must simply sit still until we see how the matter will fall and learn the glorious lesson that, "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength" (Isaiah 40:31).

MORNING HYMN
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.

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« Reply #358 on: January 03, 2007, 12:45:12 PM »

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

Satan's Imitators

Get thee unto Pharaoh in the morning; lo, he goeth out unto the water; and thou shalt stand by the river's brink against he come; and the rod which was turned to a serpent shalt thou take in thine hand.

Of all the brother teams in the Old Testament, Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Hophni and Phinehas, etc., perhaps none was so outstanding as Moses and Aaron. Together they were called upon to undertake the impossible dream—the exodus of Israel from Egypt. Jehovah had made Moses a god to Pharaoh and brother Aaron was his prophet. As a team they stood before the Egyptian king and demanded the release of God's people Israel.

During the new kingdom period the power of Pharaoh was unsurpassed among contemporary nations. At times his kingdom extended as far as the Euphrates River. For Moses and Aaron to appear at the royal Egyptian court demanding that the people of Israel be set free was a challenge to Pharaoh's power. From the start the king's attitude was one of arrogant defiance. Pharaoh said, "Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go"(Exodus 5:2).

But the Lord had forewarned Moses and Aaron of Pharaoh's attitude, informing them that when the king asked for a miracle to prove God's power they should cast Aaron's rod to the ground and it would become a serpent. When Pharaoh questioned them, Aaron obeyed God and, as God had promised, the rod miraculously became a serpent. However, much to the surprise of Moses and Aaron, the king of Egypt called upon his wise men sorcerers to do the same and their rods too became serpents.

Apparently these Egyptian magicians knew the secret of paralyzing a snake by applying pressure on the back of the neck. This would make the serpent become rigid and the pompous Egyptian sorcerers would stroll along the streets using the paralyzed snakes as walking sticks. When they cast the snake to the ground, releasing the pressure, the snake would begin to crawl. Capturing the snake was a simple matter of grabbing it by the back of the neck, renewing the pressure, and making the serpent rigid again.

Such was the case in the contest between Moses and Aaron and the magicians of Pharaoh's court. However, as the Egyptians imitated the miracle of God they did not have opportunity to grab the serpents by the back of the neck and reapply the pressure. Before they could do so Aaron's rod-serpent swallowed them up.

Rather than be stunned by the defeat of his magicians, Pharaoh's heart was hardened. Thus the Lord instructed Moses to "Get thee unto Pharaoh in the morning" and to demand that the people of Israel be released (Exodus 7:15). Early the next morning the confrontation took place and as a result of Pharaoh's refusal the Nile River, long worshiped by the Egyptians, turned to blood. Thus began the great plagues of Egypt.

Although in the first two plagues God allowed the Egyptian magicians to imitate His miracles, by the third one they had run out of tricks. Candidly they had to admit to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God" (Exodus 8:19). This did not end imitations of God's power, however, for Satan is the great imitator of God. He has been imitating God through the centuries, and many have been deceived by some clever counterfeits which seem to be of God, but actually are of the devil.

Today the world is deluged with deception. Satan is on a rampage imitating the acts of God. This is why Christians are cautioned to "Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). Moses and Aaron were not fooled or intimidated by the imitation miracles of the Egyptian magicians. Believers today must not be fooled or intimidated by the power of Satan, "because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4).

MORNING HYMN
Thy Holy Spirit, Lord, alone,
Can turn our hearts from sin;
His pow'r alone can sanctify,
And keep us pure within.

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« Reply #359 on: January 04, 2007, 07:56:41 AM »

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning
Scripture Reference: 2 Chronicles 20:1-27

The Lord's Battle

And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa, and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe His prophets, so shall ye prosper.

The battle of the forces of good against the forces of evil has raged on for millennia. Ever since Satan's heart was lifted up with pride and he said, "I will be like the most high" (Isaiah 14:13-14), the forces of God have been pitted against Satan and his forces in eternal conflict. This battle continues today. The apostle Paul reminds us that "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12).

One of the greatest difficulties in being a soldier in the army of the Lord is to recognize that we are but soldiers on the field of battle and not generals in the war room. We are called upon to fight Satan and his henchmen. We are engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the forces of immorality, ungodliness and sin. Still, the battle is the Lord's, not ours. Nowhere is this truth more graphically illustrated than in the story of good King Jehoshaphat.

The quarter-century reign of Jehoshaphat, son of Asa, is one of the rare bright spots in Judah's checkered history. He was 35 years old when he ascended to the throne in 872 B.C. and he continued the work of religious reformation and revival begun by his father. But as is usually the case when a man attempts to serve God, the forces of Satan began to disrupt Judah during the days of Jehoshaphat. As 2 Chronicles 20:1 indicates, the peace of Judah was suddenly interrupted by a confederacy of the Moabites and Ammonites east of the Jordan River. The combined forces of this deadly duo were but a manifestation of the armies of Satan during that generation. What would the king of God's people do? Would he fight or would he knuckle under to Satan's stooges? Jehoshaphat did the only thing a godly person can do. He "set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah."

When Jehoshaphat finished his prayer, Jahaziel, the son of Zechariah, who was in the line of Levites from Asaph, began to prophesy by the spirit of the Lord. He called to Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and gave this message to the king and the people: "Thus saith the LORD unto you, be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's."

Reassured by this word from the Lord, the king and people bowed their faces to the ground and worshiped Jehovah the Lord. Then they stood to praise the Lord God of Israel with a loud voice. And, oh yes, they did one other thing: they put feet to their prayers. "And they rose early in the morning and went forth into the wilderness at Tekoa and as they went forth Jehoshaphat stood and said, hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe His prophets, so shall ye prosper" (2 Chronicles 20:20). Having prayed to God and armed with the knowledge that the battle was not theirs but His, the Jews arose early the next morning, eager to be soldiers in God's army. When they arrived at the scene of battle, they found no mighty armies, just dead bodies. Apparently the confused enemy fell on one another. Ammonites killing Moabites and Moabites killing Ammonites. Indeed, the battle was the Lord's.

This is a hard lesson to learn when the battle does not appear to be going God's way. Perhaps that's why so many soldiers today are discouraged and ready to desert the army of the Lord. But you and I must remember that we are taking our place in the Lord's army, just as Jehoshaphat and the Jews took their places so many centuries ago. The battle still rages; the battle is still the Lord's. Let us pray to the Lord God for victory, praise His name for assurance, and then rush off early each morning to do battle with Satan and his armies throughout the day. We have the same confidence as did Jehoshaphat and the Jews, for we have the same God.

MORNING HYMN
Fierce may be the conflict,
Strong may be the foe,
But the King's own army,
None can overthrow;
Round His standard ranging,
Vict'ry is secure,
For His truth unchanging
Makes the triumph sure.
Joyfully enlisting,
By Thy grace divine,
We are on the Lord's side,
Saviour, we are Thine!

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