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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Appalachian trail overlook
A vista view from the Appalachian Trail.
(Click on photo to enlarge)
I took this photo several years ago on the Blue Mountain Ridge in Berks County Pennsylvania. In several weeks I hope to return to the same spot for a beautiful autumn hike along the trail!

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"God's Gracious Provision"

"And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more" (2 Samuel 12:8).

Pennsylvania is now heavily into state-sponsored casino gambling. I just thumbed through the latest state tourism magazine, "Pursuits", which includes flashy ads for the new gambling casinos.  What a deceptive, demonic lie they present!

Have you noticed that the devil tempts us with only the pleasureable pictorial and emotional stirrings that results from forbidden sin?
During our temptation he does not disclose the long term consequences that will result if we give into our sinful desires.  But God, in His love and concern for our future, reveals the long term consequences if we seek Him in the midst of our luring temptation.

Today I have a song on my heart that virtually every reader knows and has probably sung often.  This praise chorus is known as the Doxology. 

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host.
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

God is so very good.  Absolutely, in every way, all the time, unceasingly good.  The words in our daily verse were a part of the prophetic rebuke that David received from the courageous and godly prophet Nathan.  They were presented as a result of David's immoral dalliance with Bathsheba and all the accompanying sins.  Nathan proclaimed a message of judgment and serious lasting consequences.  That's not a popular message today, but one very much needed.

Let's consider the daily Scripture portion. "And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more."  This is the Lord speaking through Nathan to David. Its first focus was to David and all the blessings he had received from the Lord.  Nathan reminded him of how the blessings of God had been so abundant in his life.  David had sought the Lord from his earliest days and surely knew all this.

However one night he got his eyes off the Lord and onto temporary pleasure which led to a succession of serious events.  Lust, adultery, murder, cover-up, guilt, deception and more. When it was over David thought he had all his bases covered.  He must have thought he could avoid the consequences.

Perhaps David thought, "I'm OK". But he wasn't OK.  God was watching.  God is always watching.  Chapter eleven of Second Samuel ends with these words: "But the thing David had done displeased the LORD" (11:27).

In a broader application consider the abundance of God's blessings in your life. Indeed we proclaim "Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!" The eternal God speaks to each of us today. Listen to His voice. "And if all this had been too little..."  Our response should be, "It's not too little, God, it's more than enough. It's infinitely more than I ever deserve."  That was true for David and it's surely true for each of us. 

And yet God says, "I would have given you even more." That's powerful. God is ever ready to give us more and keep on giving.  That's the giving nature of our generous God! 

Let's consider God's marvelous provision in our lives today.  Let this brief selection of verses feed your spirit:
Jesus said, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). 
Paul wrote about "Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine" (Ephesians 3:20).
Paul writes to the Ephesians, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ" (1:3).
To the Corinthians he writes, "For in Him you have been enriched in every way" (1 Corinthians 1:5). 
He reminded Timothy of "God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment" (1 Timothy 5:17).
Peter writes, "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness" (2 Peter 1:3).
And finally the classic statement in Romans "He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all--how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32).

I exhort you, keep your focus on God and His blessings today!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth
Will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily Prayer: Father, we praise You from whom all blessings flow.  They're abundant and continuous.  We want to direct our praise to You, for every good gift comes from above.  For the gifts of family, friends, food, material provisions, and above all the gift of salvation we give You heartfelt thanks.  Amen.

Today's suggested music:
"Doxology" (Vocal) I enjoyed this version but sure would have preferred a simple acapella version
"Doxology" (Instrumental piano)
"Doxology" (Instrumental guitar)
"Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" (Vocal)
"Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" (Instrumental piano)

Doxology History:  This beautiful overture of praise has done more to teach the doctrine of the Trinity than all the theology books ever written.  The author of this text is Thomas Ken.  He was a bold, outspoken 17th century Anglican bishop whose illustrious career in the ministry was stormy and colorful since he was very outspoken in denouncing the corrupt lives of those in authority at the Dutch capital.  His services were unwelcome and he was asked to leave. He returned to England and became chaplain to King Charles II.  Once again he revealed the same spirit of boldness in rebuking the moral sins of his dissolute English monarch.  The historian Macaulay gave this tribute to Bishop Ken:  "He came as near to the ideal of Christian perfection as human weakness permits."  (Source:  "Amazing Grace – 366 Hymn Stories" by Ken Osbeck.)

"Praise God, From Whom All Blessings Flow" was written in 1674 to encourage the devotional habits of the boys at Winchester College where, at the time, Thomas Ken was a teacher.  Up to this time English hymns had not yet appeared and only the Psalms were sung in public worship.  Ken suggested the boys use this hymn in their private devotions.  (Source:  "Then Sings My Soul" by Robert Morgan.)

Perhaps you, too, might enjoy singing two other lesser known stanzas of the thirteen stanzas that Thomas Ken wrote.  Use the same tune as the famililar doxology:

(Upon awakening)
Awake, my soul, and with the sun
Thy daily stage of duty run;
Shake off dull sloth and joyful rise,
To pay the morning sacrifice.

(Upon retiring)
All praise to Thee, my God, this night,
For all the blessings of the light!
Keep me, O keep me, King of kings,
Beneath Thine own almighty wings.

(Following each stanza this chorus we all know was sung)
Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Since many enjoy the background information I share about the hymns I've included the names of the two sources I quoted from today. Both authors have a different way of presenting the same hymns in a devotional and historical format.  I've read all three of these books from cover to cover and refer to them often.  They've greatly blessed me and spiritually challenged me.  An added bonus:  When a hymn is selected for Morning Worship I will often recall the historical setting and it adds additional meaning and spiritual significance as I sing the hymn in church. Here's information about these resources and you can order them if you desire.

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily DevotionsAmazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions  By Kenneth W. Osbeck / Kregel Publications
For an effective spiritual life, there needs to be an appreciative awareness of God's amazing grace and a desire to praise God, pray to Him, and love Him and others. To aid in your spiritual well-being, two basic resources are available: the Bible and the church hymnal. Amazing Grace blends these two resources together into daily devotionals. Each devotional features a portion of a hymn, suggested Scripture readings, a meditation, and practical applications. Stories about great hymns like "Blessed Assurance," "Holy, Holy, Holy," "Majesty," and "A Mighty Fortress" will lead you to new depths of worship and praise

Then Sings My Soul, Volumes 1 and 2Then Sings My Soul, Volumes 1 & 2
By Robert Morgan / Thomas Nelson
Begin your day savoring these lyrical meditations and you'll sing a new song unto the Lord! Packed with stories and song scores, these volumes help you experience the emotion, drama, and history behind beloved hymns including "Abide with Me," "A Mighty Fortress," "Whispering Hope," "All for Jesus," "Blessed Assurance," "Softly and Tenderly," and more. 320 pages each, two softcovers from Nelson.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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