Friday, August 29, 2014

I believe

But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

Romans 4:23-25

I hear the gospel message

I believe

and in passage after passage

I receive

clarification of faith's core

I live it

so that I can find out more

and give it

The gospel story told

I trust

and then in witness bold

I must

tell the story to all

who need it

so that salvation's call

may be heeded

Thursday, August 28, 2014

flooded with the knowledge of God

They shall not hurt or destroy

in all my holy mountain;

for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord

as the waters cover the sea.

Isaiah 11:9

One of the benefits of studying biblical prophecy is the encouragement of a future picture of God's universal worship and glory. This passage anticipates a time where our world is flooded with the knowledge of God. And people will be changed. The entire order of the natural world will be calmed by the grace of God.

The picture is amazing. No more war or hate among people. No more predatory behavior in animals. The return  to Eden that is presented here places the focus of this world on God. Because He will be so universally loved and obeyed, the world will function by its original created intent. This is a vision for all worshipers to accept. It is God's heart for the created order of the universe. Poison is gone. Terror is gone. Hate and war are gone. The fiercest predator is now content to live like livestock. The thought is both comforting and alien to us.


You want to be known by Your glory and grace to humanity. Today, technology can spread Your knowlege among creation in unprecedented quantity. But even our most connected communication networks cannot change human hearts or the created order. But You will do so one day. In Your kingdom peace will reign. And Jesus as Prince of Peace will rule a dramatically different world. Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

inadequate questions

Is not your fear of God your confidence,

and the integrity of your ways your hope?

Job 4:6

This question was asked in an honest attempt to relieve suffering. But questions may not provide comfort. They may only make our response to pain all the more intense. Questions may just grow more questions. 

For Job to answer "yes" to this question in his deepest losses and pain would not have given much comfort. Of course God is our confidence and our hope. You may believe that with all your heart and still suffer. That fact would not change that Job had lost all his children in a gruesome natural disaster or that he lost all his wealth through robbery and plunder, or that he lost his health through a debilitating and loathsome disease. 

It is better in life's pains to hold to God than to hold to mere theology. By that I mean that the explanations of the questions posed in theology aren't nearly as personally rich and rewarding as just knowing a very real moment of God's sovereign care and love. Job finally evens out spiritually and emotionally at the end of the story, not because he was bombarded by well-intentioned yet often accusatory theology from his friends, but because GOD CAME TO HIM PERSONALLY.

Knowing that personal encounter is more comforting that just knowing facts about the God I worship gives me perspective. It goes deeper than any attempt at obeying God's commands with even the very best integrity I can muster. Knowing God personally gives real hope and healing. When God comes in a whirlwind, all theology is remade, relearned, confirmed, and established as fact.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

two motivations for worship

But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,

will enter your house.

I will bow down toward your holy temple

in the fear of you.

Psalm 5:7

The psalmist lives with the tension of what he knows about God and uses that tension to drive his heart to worship. One great motivation for worship is appreciation for God's faithful love. And that faithful love was something real in the poetry of this worship song. God loved His people into relationship. This love blessed Israel. It was God's gracious love that gave them the unique distinctive of being God's chosen people. Love led to worship.

The second motivation for worship was a concept we often don't appreciate: the fear of The Lord. We think of phobias and sinful anger with "fear". But the fear of The Lord is a healthy respect for God. It knows God's power, His wrath at sin, His sovereign control, and His holy love. Fear is as vital as love as a motivation to worship. This fear puts us in our place as subjects under the rule and care of a great God.


Teach me what it means for me to worship You with the healthy balance of experiencing both love and the fear of Your great Name. Help me to not just express thankfulness for Your faithful love. Assist me in respecting and fearing You.


Monday, August 25, 2014

when God fights

And Joshua captured all these kings and their land at one time, because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel.

Joshua 10:42

God gave the land of Canaan over to Israel. It came through military conquest (a human means), yet the biblical text goes to great and careful lengths to attribute the outcome of battle as the work of God. Eventually a vast part of the Promised Land once under the rule of five different pagan kings was given over in one victory to Joshua and the children of Israel. As promised, Israel now possessed a huge chunk of the land they crossed the Jordan to receive from the hand of God.

There were losses along the way. There's the defeat at Ai over Achan's selfish sin. There's the Gibeonite deception that was a direct disobedience and ignorance of God's command. But even after these events, God kept His promise and fought for His people. Ai was eventually destroyed in a crushing lopsided second battle. And after Gibeon, five kings confederated to attack Israel, only to fall in a tremendous conquering victory that God sovereignly granted to His people.

When the text says "God fought for Israel", it is really talking about the sovereign power of God. Nothing can defeat what God has decreed. No uprising among man, no sinful disobedience, no unexpected turn of events from our point of view will ever change what God has willed.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Don't think you are Noah.

These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.

Genesis 6:9

The real miracle in this story of Noah is not so much the account of the flood, but the fact that one man stayed faithful to God in the most corrupt society possible. It was so entrenched in evil and violence that God could not let any elements of the society remain.

In this impossibly wicked culture Noah stayed faithful to God. He was blameless in a culture steeped in sin. He was a righteous man. In God's eyes he was worth being a new start to the human race... all because Noah walked with God.

I can't directly compare Noah's generation to my own. The text gives few details as to what made Noah's generation specifically so wicked and violent. For all I know, my generation is no better, perhaps even worse. But today God's grace through the gospel leaves a strong light that is brighter than just one righteous man's family. And God has already appointed a Day of Judgment under Jesus Christ for this generation. So the church must shine on until then.

We are not saved like Noah, huddled in an ark amidst the raging storm. Instead, we are left to live and walk in our generation so that God's mercy can save some more. But we must be out among them. And that is why we should not be berating our generation from the windows of our ecclesiastical arks. Instead, we need to proclaim God's good news in the gospel as we live among a generation that Jesus still wants to save. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

what it means to follow Jesus

And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Matthew 4:21-22

The call to Jesus' first few disciples is direct and demanding. He finds Peter, Andrew, James and John where they were, at their vocations and asks them to leave it all and to follow Him. This is what a Rabbi did. He gathered followers. But Jesus' approach was different than other rabbis. He did not wait for them to seek Him out as was commonly done. He selected them and asked them to join Him.

The stunningly swift response of the disciples tells us something of what it takes to follow Jesus. They left all they had behind. Boats, nets, fishing gear, even family were just left where they were. They turned from one life to learn and live another life. They abandoned it all for the chance to follow Jesus as their Teacher.

Rabbis with disciples in tow were a feature of Jewish life in the first century. John had his disciples... showing us that any popular teacher tended to gather serious followers. But Jesus would hand select His men. He would ask them to give it all up in order to devote themselves to Him. That is what it takes to follow Jesus. We must place following The Lord above every other concern in this life. And it is all worth walking away from in order to gain Jesus.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

by faith from start to finish

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Romans 1:16-17

The gospel story is the truth to be believed for salvation. It is known by faith, although it is anchored firmly in real historical events. Here is what I mean by "real events": Jesus really existed. No serious scholar questions this. He lived in Roman Palestine. He was a controversial figure. The earliest of Christian creeds acknowledge this historicity of Jesus, even celebrate it, as He "suffered under Pontius Pilate". So you have to deal with Jesus, the very real person.

The very first real claim of the gospel is that Jesus is real. And He caused quite a stir with what He said and did. From the records of His teachings and actions in the gospels, a path clearly points to His redemptive work culminating in dying on the cross and proven by His resurrection from the dead. You have to deal with those parts of the story as well. And it is pretty clear right from the start that again the earliest Christians accepted these facts unquestionably. They gave their lives for them. They believed Jesus died and rose again as Savior from sin and Lord of life.

Paul reiterates here his unashamed commitment to the gospel story. And he does not turn away from faith as being necessary for salvation. We have to believe it. God reveals it "from faith to faith". From start (believing the simple history of it) to finish (accepting the atonement), saving faith is known in Jesus by belief in these truths. Christianity is rooted in faith from facts.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

a mere breath

Stop regarding man

in whose nostrils is breath,

for of what account is he?

Isaiah 2:22

All that people have

is what God gives them

Rich man, proud man,

famous man, strong man...

Everybody only has

temporary claim to anything.

But fear of man

is a controlling thing

Envy others, desire them,

controlled by them, hate them...

Even though they only have

the breath God gave them.

Inhale the air

and realize that then

all men, every one,

from greatest one to smallest one

Breathes the same air

God wisely put there.

Exhale slowly

and calmly conclude then

each breath, each moment,

each heartbeat, each thought...

borrowed from God as a gift

calls us to look to Him

Monday, August 18, 2014

mercies in pains

And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Job 1:21

Job is a story that teaches us uncomfortable truth. It teaches us the truth about human suffering and God's sovereignty. It teaches us to worship despite our pains. It teaches us that misery is not a hindrance to faith. It teaches us that God is so sovereign and wise that not even Satan makes a move without God's purposes remaining intact.

None of this is comfortable to consider. It certainly doesn't make for the kind of truth that we think when we want to comfort people. And I doubt that Joel Osteen could have much to write about from Job's story. Yet I think the uncomfortable truths of Job are the stuff of life. This world gives us untold pains and misery. They are hard to take. They depress us if we don't put them in perspective. And the more we learn what to do with pain to honor the LORD, the better off we will be.

From Job I see that we should acknowledge God's right and authority in even our most pain filled and perplexing moments. He is not surprised by any part of our experience. He is there with us. He brought us into the world. He takes care of us in it. And none of our circumstances are untouched by His sovereign love and grace. In a precious way, our pains are places to know God's tender mercies.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

rage against the king

​ Why do the nations rage

and the peoples plot in vain?

Psalm 2:1

The Messianic hope described here in the second psalm is a hope in the power of the Son. He is the Son of David on His throne and all the nations of the earth are no threat to His rule. They may plot and rage against Messiah's rule, but The Lord simply laughs at their attempts. They cannot succeed against the kingdom of the Messiah. It is impossible.

As I see this world getting darker, I can't help but take comfort in this truth. The nations of this world are warped. They are all involved in killing other people in some way or another. It is easy to point at ISIS in Iraq, but America is now also involved there again, dropping bombs along with humanitarian aid. It's hard to see anything good come from such killing. These nations rage on.

Right here in the midwest, Ferguson Missouri now burns with racial tensions and raging emotion. The rule of the King of Kings is being plotted against close to home. I don't have to look far to see it. My own heart, when in sinful struggle, rebels against the Son.


You are the Son of whom this psalm sings. The nations rage against You. Your call them to repent in Your mercy, to accept Your loving sacrifice and Lordship over them. The day will come, however, when You will swiftly judge this world. May I align with Your rule and take comfort that even as bad as it now is to watch others rage against You, it will not stand.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

God's Word & blessing

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

Joshua 1:8

The Lord promised Joshua success in taking over the Promised Land if he would be a man who committed to faithfully knowing and attending to God's Law. This is an unusual military strategy. The power of Israel's army was not in soldiers on the ground, swords, spears, or even training. Their power was found in the God Who fought for them. As they obeyed God, He would provide the victories. And Joshua was to set the standard as commanding general by his public commitment to the Law.

Of course, the powerful impact of this promise was unique to Israel and applied to Joshua. I can't expect quite the same application for me today. But I can know a measure of God's delight by applying myself to delighting myself in His Word. He does not ask me to cross rivers and forcibly take cities. He does ask me to trust Him for direction in my life.

I have spent my lifetime in regular study and thinking through scripture. I do not regret a moment of it. Yes, it has its challenges. Yes, there are parts of the Bible still hard to understand. But I have been so challenged and so changed by what I DO UNDERSTAND about what God has revealed in His Word that I see it as the greatest reward and a priceless treasure in my life. And this fact will keep me following God's truth as He speaks in His Word for the remainder of my days.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

what sin does to the heart

But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”

Genesis 3:9-10

When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God's command, the immediate effects of sin began to change their lives for the worse. Their perspectives on self, on each other, and on God were each twisted individually by sin. It isn't pretty to see.

Adam's answer to the God from Whom he could not hide is telling. Sin brought fear -- "I was afraid" -- into his life. He knew he had wronged God. And for the first time fear gripped a person's heart. It is still attending our wrong choices. I know I feel it when I have sinned.

But Adam also experienced an uncomfortable vulnerability. He was uneasy at being "uncovered" and felt that somehow being naked was not the right way. Immediately both Adam and Eve are unsure of themselves and attempt to cover their bodies as they experience the way that sin focuses in on glaring differences in one another.

There is also shame attending this moment. Shame drove them to try to hide from an all-knowing God. Shame drove them to attempt to build fig leaf underwear. Shame will make us miss the reality of our problems (it wasn't their nakedness that was a problem) and run from the solution (they were trying to hide from their Maker and their only friend).

The final effect of their disobedience was blame. When confronted by his sin by God, Adam blamed God (the woman you gave me) and when Eve was confronted she blamed the serpent. Sin wants to see someone else as more "wrong" than I am. Self-justifying a sin in this way is as old as the earliest moments of the Fall of humanity in the Garden. We can't find forgiveness without God's intervening grace because sin locks us down in fear, helplessness, shame, and blame.

Monday, August 11, 2014

a working man's faith

But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit."

Matthew 1:20

To read elements of the Christmas story near the end of the summer seems a shock to the "traditional" ecclesiastical calendar. I'm so used to not giving the account much thought until at least after Thanksgiving in November! But this is much more than a holiday tradition! The story of Jesus is the central truth of Christianity.

I am reminded of the humanity of Jesus, particularly in the telling of Joseph's story. He was a good man. He had an excellent reputation. He was a working man, engaged to a young woman who is caught up without warning in history's greatest invasion... God coming to earth to set this place in order.

His reaction at the news of Mary's pregnancy is a convincing detail of the veracity of the story. He had not had sex with her. She should not be with child. His options were to ignore this and go on with the marriage, knowingly taking responsibility for raising another man's child, or privately getting out of the arrangements. God's intervention helped Joseph accept that it was the righteous thing to marry her after all.

Joseph believes God after the angelic dream. He marries his betrothed and with her names Mary's child Jesus, believing a Savior has come. That working man's faith is still what it takes to accept Who Jesus is even today.