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Monday, November 3, 2008

Maple in Mount Joy, PA
Giant Maple in Mount Joy Pennsylvania.

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"Like Men Of Issachar"

"Men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do" (1 Chronicles 12:32).

Brooksyne and I awakened very early on Sunday morning, likely due to turning our clocks back one hour before we retired Saturday evening. We awakened at 5 AM instead of the usual 6 AM which is not surprising since our internal biological alarm clock, not yet reprogrammed, buzzed us to tell us it's time to rise.  It was a beautiful morning, bright and crisp.

As the sun came up I took a walk along our favorite trail and prayed. Like many here in America (and others around the world) my heart was burdened concerning the presidential election and the state of things to come. It seems the Lord laid this rather obscure verse on my heart and as I prayed I pondered its meaning and want to share a perspective today.

"Something's happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear…"  I suppose you have to be in my generation to recognize that these are the first words (at least as I recall them) to a popular song in the late sixties/early seventies.  Something's always happening, but there is an intensity it seems; a sense I have in my spirit of some type of significant threshold being reached or as some would say a tipping point. I am quite certain we will be seeing significant change but really wonder of what type. I want God to give me wisdom to understand the times and know what to do.

A vital spiritual principle is this: It's so easy to see the physical reality but far more difficult to grasp the spiritual understanding.  This is true in our individual lives as well as international affairs. I desire to have the spiritual discernment of the men of Issachar, "who understood the times and knew what Israel should do."  A powerful apocalyptic verse at the end of Daniel states, "Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand" (Daniel 12:10).

Issachar was one of Jacob's sons and his descendents later became a tribe which had amazingly maintained their distinct identity for some 800 years up to the time of David. This verse is found in a section of Scripture chronicling David's soldiers.  Two qualities marked these men of Issachar and the special contribution they made during the time they lived. They "understood the times and knew what Israel should do."

1) They "understood the times."  What a powerful statement! We are bombarded with information about the times in which we live.  I can turn on the TV or sit down at my computer and instantly get an update on significant and insignificant news from anywhere in the world.  But "understanding the times" is far more than this. It involves spiritual discernment. I find contemporary events interesting and often very disturbing, frightening and even potentially despairing. But the fundamental focus on properly understanding the times is a steady, growing understanding of God and His Word.  "The LORD is exalted, for He dwells on high; He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure" (Isaiah 33:5, 6).

2) They "knew what Israel should do."  As a husband, father, and minister of the Gospel I desire the leading of the Holy Spirit.  I need to know what to do to in these times to keep my life, family and ministry on the right track.  Here's a lengthy portion I read this morning and feel compelled to place in the body of the devotional.  Please read it thoughtfully.  "And do this, understanding the present time.  The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.  The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.  So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.  Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.  Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature" (Romans 13:11-14).

Consider these qualities in your life today and pray that the Lord will help you to understand the times and show you how to remain faithful, as you press on for Christ and His Kingdom! Let us all be like the men of Issachar.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer:  Lord Jesus, we who are children of the light, do not live as those who walk in the darkness.  Instead You have shown us right from wrong, truth from error, and You have given us discernment to test the spirits to see that which is from You and that which is from the evil one.  The foundations seem to be shaking as we are flooded with a tidal wave of twists and spins that seeks to confuse or demean the believer.  We clothe ourselves daily with godly armor, both defensive and offensive weaponry since our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but rather the authorities from this world.  Keep our souls untainted by the changing rhetoric and sliding standards from our decadent society as we stand against the spiritual forces of evil.  May we not fluctuate but walk boldly in the conviction and power of the Holy Spirit today!

Note from Brooksyne:  I am going to make a very honest confession to our readers this morning.  In preparing today's message I had to stop about halfway through and ask Stephen to join me in prayer to settle my anxious and fretful spirit.  In recent weeks I've found myself anxiety ridden over the spiritual and political landscape of our country.  We've been deluged for months with news articles, media coverage and internet stories regarding our politicians; their views and character traits. Much of the data is troubling and it was bombarding my spirit through the night.  That's a sure way to be robbed the next morning of a bright, hopeful, and godly outlook for the day at hand. After we prayed my focus changed and my perspective brightened.
I want to be wise in the sight of God by interpreting the mindset of our present culture with Scriptural understanding so I immediately thought of the Scripture I learned as a child:  "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline" (Proverbs 1:7)."  The Life Application study notes sheds further insight on this familiar Scripture:  "In this information age knowledge is plentiful, but wisdom is scarce.  Wisdom means far more than simply knowing a lot.  It is a basic attitude that affects every aspect of life.  The foundation of knowledge is to fear the Lord – to honor and respect God, to live in awe of His power and to obey His Word.  Faith in God should be the controlling principle for your understanding of the world, your attitudes and your actions."

Here's a quote written about 350 years ago by Jeremy Taylor.  It fully embraces the timetable of the Gospel journey and is a great focus for the believer:  "Faith is the Christian's foundation, hope is his anchor, death is his harbor, Christ is his pilot, and heaven is his country."

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
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"God Is In Control"  Audio

"The Voice Of Truth"  Video

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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, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. 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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