Thursday, December 31, 2015

another year of vanity

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?
Ecclesiastes 1:2-3

I don't think I have ever landed on a more appropriate passage for New Year's Even. Truly life is full of vain and seemingly fruitless toil. It can be mind numbing, especially if I only look at it "under the sun" without trying to discern God's work in my life.

That is one of the clues to understanding cynical Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes. Many of his observations are strictly human, meant to show us the absurdity of human existence when viewed strictly from humanistic terms. Without God, life makes very little if any sense at all. That is kind of the point of the book.

Looking to the new year, I must look to God. People will disappoint me. They do it all the time. I will disappoint people. I do it all the time. I won't be satisfied in the work of my days and my labor in life without God's love, grace, and perspective to guide me. I don't want to dwell in the cynical sarcasm of Solomon. I want to look beyond myself and beyond life "under the sun" to "life in the Son" as I look to my Savior!

I praise You for the life-changing uplifting perspective of the gospel. Jesus, You are my hope in this vain and fruitless world. You reward my life's work. You alone redeem me and my days from worthless vanity. Thank You!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

on my side

If it had not been the Lord who was on our side—
let Israel now say—
if it had not been the Lord who was on our side
when people rose up against us,
then they would have swallowed us up alive,
when their anger was kindled against us;
Psalm 124:1-3

I was against Him
an enemy
when He loved me
died for me
saved me

And now won by that love
I serve Him
give my life to Him
worship Him
live by Him

God is on my side
Jesus changed me
drew near to me
held on to me
saves me

Whatever rages against my soul
will not prevail against Him
because in Him
I am held by Him
secure in Him

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

half a heart

And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, yet not with a whole heart.
2 Chronicles 25:2

This is an ominous life summary. Amaziah was so close, but because he was only half-hearted in his love of God, he ultimately suffered great loss. All of the victories his army gained on the field of battle were not quite spectacular. He was only half concerned about it and his army reflected the same self-concern, with Ephraimites looting Judah's own cites on the way back to Jerusalem (see 2 Chronicles 25:10-13).

His casual attitude toward God became an inlet for idolatry. Idols captured in battle captured his imagination and were worshiped by the king, resulting in God's anger on the nation (2 Chronicles 25:14-16). When God confronts the king with a prophet's word, Amaziah threatens to kill the prophet.

In the end half-heartedness is just idolatry with a mask. He is undone by an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Joash king of Israel that removed all power from Judah. After a few years as a puppet king, Amaziah is killed by a palace conspiracy (2 Chronicles 25:25-28). His story never has a good point to it. He did not give God all his heart.

Monday, December 28, 2015

I need a daily reminder.

To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him. Out of heaven he let you hear his voice, that he might discipline you. And on earth he let you see his great fire, and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire.
Deuteronomy 4:35-36

The way in which God dwelt visibly among Israel in the Penteteuch was meant to bring the people close to Him in faith. They heard the law verbally from God Himself. They saw God lead by smoke and fire in the very center of the camp. God even spoke from that pillar to the people. They had His Word literally sounding out in the very middle of their lives. And yet they struggled with unbelief.

Deuteronomy is a reminder of the Law, a sequel of the covenant in a sermon meant to keep the covenant in mind for Israel. It is Moses' way of ensuring that the nation remembers the Lord. It was given so that between the visible reminders from God every day, and the written words of the Law, Israel would commit in covenant with God.

As always, faith in God among rebel humans who value most our own autonomy is not easy. Israel had God in the camp and His covenant in their hands. Yet they would fail in faith repeatedly, not just in Sinai, but also when they arrived in the Promised Land. We will always quickly forget, which is why we need God's Word to daily remind us as powerfully and as much as possible. I need it. I need a scripture saturated life. I need a daily reminder.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015 much he must suffer...

But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.
For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
Acts 9:15-16

Jesus called Saul away from being a persecutor of Christians and into becoming the foremost preacher of the gospel in the New Testament. Jesus called Ananias to be the first Christian to come alongside Saul and to heal him from blindness. We know it was Jesus in verse 17, where Ananias reminds Saul that Jesus is Who met him on the Damascus road, and Jesus sent Ananias to restore Saul's sight. 

Jesus had plans for Saul. Jesus chose him, just like all the other apostles to send him before "Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel". That commission from Jesus serves as a biographical summary of Saul's life from that point onward and it shows us an outline of the direction that the book of Acts will go from that point on in the storyline.

But there is an ironic twist in Saul's calling. He must also surely suffer greatly for Jesus. The man who once led the persecution of Christians with fierce and unrelently intensity would change to become the one most persecuted for Jesus' sake. He would endure unexpected perils and pains for the sake of the gospel. He would admonish others to do the same. Indeed, Saul's life from that point on would be characterized by both advancing the gospel with wild success into new regions and simultaneously suffering for it. While called to minister the good news of salvation, he was also called to endure hardship along with it.  

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

consuming fire

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,
for our God is a consuming fire.
Hebrews 11:28-29

I find this admonition to be one of the strongest calls to worship in the New Testament. It balances grace with warnings, thankfulness with the fear of the Lord. And the awareness that it commands is a necessary reminder. The reverence it promotes is something my heart can lose if I am not careful to heed to the type of worship it demands.

First, the passage calls us to thanksgiving. It commands Christians to be grateful. Specifically, we are called to be grateful that God has given us a kingdom that cannot be shaken  in judgment. Jesus has taken all of that upon Him already on the cross for the church. Judgment comes for those outside Christ, but in Christ we are unmoved by the fear of the judgment and moved by the grateful thankfulness that Christ has taken all of it.

That moves us to worship, but it also keeps a healthy respect in our minds. Even though Jesus takes all our judgment, our God is still a consuming fire. He is the God of the burning bush, the God whose presence in the camp was a pillar of seething flame. We must still approach Him with respect, wonder, and a healthy, fearful awareness of His holy fire.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Ninevah: Nahum & Jonah

What do you plot against the Lord?
He will make a complete end;
trouble will not rise up a second time.
Nahum 1:9

That is the way God handles those who try to work against Him. They will not succeed. Their defeat will be complete and they will not live to trouble anybody a second time. God's justice and judgment are full. His purposes always prevail. No one may stand against Him.

With the prophet Nahum, the end of Ninevah is proclaimed. Jonah is a story about Ninevah's gracious moment of repentance granted by God. Nahum however is about Ninevah's final fall. Their wicked oppression and vile idolatry will never stand against God. God would make a final end of Ninevah.

So what should I do with this fact? I think it leads me to worship a strong God, not because His judgments or actions are vindictive, but because He is both gracious (Jonah) and firm (Ninevah) in His righteous actions toward humanity. And the God of both grace and justice came to earth in Jesus His Son to graciously save me while putting a final end to sin and death's hold on this world. Sin and death will not rise up a second time because Jesus has defeated them entirely through His death and resurrection.

Friday, December 18, 2015

blessed with this woman

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Proverbs 31:30

Character and commitment always trump appearance and ability. This is true in many of the most important parts of my life. It is especially true of my marriage. I'll admit it: in terms of character and commitment, I married much better than I deserve! My wife keeps me strong and honest. She exemplifies the kind of work of love this passage demonstrates in her daily commitments, sacrificing her wants and desires for the needs of her family EVERY SINGLE DAY. She's amazing!

Lord knows how much I need this woman as my wife. God has given me this gift that I cannot begin to place value on because my life would not be functional without her. I praise God, and I'll praise her.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

my keeper; my shade

The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
Psalm 121:5

These words are a strong comfort. If the Lord keeps me, nothing should bother me. I am in His hands. He protects me. That means that nothing that happens to me is outside His wisdom or care. So I can rest in faith that He is keeping me, even if I hit a rough patch in my life.

The Lord keeps me when life is tenuous. If things are shaking, God can and will help me stand firm. I may find things shake me, but nothing shakes God. When my heart is hurting or lonely, God is right there, keeping me, loving me, and never letting me go. God is keeping me. That is my stability.

God shades me. Now, I have to admit that by faith I accept this, because I don't always feel it. There have been some days lately where what I feel is burning heat and withering lack of strength...physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But God is there, ready to be my comfort IF I turn to Him as He is at my right hand. Notice that the Psalm has God's shade available as near, but not over us. I think that wording is clearly intentional. I must turn to God, my shade and my keeper to find my rest and comfort. I come to Jesus weary and heavy laden, and He gives me His promised rest. But first I must turn and go to Him.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Repentance is hard work.

And Jehoiada made a covenant between himself and all the people and the king that they should be the Lord's people. Then all the people went to the house of Baal and tore it down; his altars and his images they broke in pieces, and they killed Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars.
2 Chronicles 23:16-17

A young king and a priest who was gifted as a strong leader were used by God to bring renewal in Judah. But the repentance that Joash and Jehoida led was a rough road and what took place was not easy work. It involved both a positive commitment in a pledge to a renewed covenant with the Lord AND it involved the negative work of tearing down sinful idols and demolishing paths to false worship so that sin could be replaced with holy living. Idolatry had to be eradicated so that worship of God could be real.

Repentance without this demolition of idols is simply not repentance. God doesn't get to be one of several worship options. It fails somewhere in the swampy ground of regret or lost intentions if we don't rip out idols. Since repentance always means an "about face" in scripture, to get a new heading means recovering lost ground by marching back in the right direction past our false worship and to God. We must allow God to help us tear down before we build up.

In New Testament parlance, we must "put off" fleshly sins before we can "put on" the righteousness Christ provides. It isn't easy to rip down stone altars, kill our Baal leaders that have taken up leading residence in our hearts, and break apart cherished idols into rubble. But it is absolutely necessary if we are to truly live in repentance.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

feelings are a bad ruler

And they took in their hands some of the fruit of the land and brought it down to us, and brought us word again and said, ‘It is a good land that the Lord our God is giving us.’
Yet you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the Lord your God.
Deuteronomy 1:25-26

Fear will keep us from knowing the joy of the promises of God fulfilled to us when it leads us to distrust and disobey God. The report from the twelve spies showed the beauty and provision awaiting Israel in Canaan. They only needed to trust God's Word and enter in. But the fear of giants and the numerous people who could oppose them tainted the report of the spies. It was the fear that the nation heard, not the truth of the good land that God was giving them. And so the nation used the feeling of the fear as a rationale to disobey God and rebel against His command.

Rationalizing with our feelings is very common path to sin. It is not wise to do so because feelings are in essence irrational. But we rely on them like they are the best tool. They are not tools, nor or feelings ever meant to be guides. Feelings are gauges at best, and a gauge does not ever fix a problem or drive a car. Gauges alert and inform us to take the best action and that's it.

Faith and the Word of God should lead me, and not my feelings. Feelings alone are a bad ruler. Trusting them will lead me to sin. But faith in God's Word will never fail me. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

advancing by scattering

Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.
Acts 8:4

Persecution never hurts the gospel. In fact, it has the opposite effect, as shown in this simple statement from Acts. It was the persecution of Christians that sovereignly mobilized the church into a highly effective small team strike force with the gospel at its center. Men and women dragged off to prison? No problem for the church because the liberating gospel is not ever chained. Christians run out of town? It's a God-given missions trip because nothing can stop the power of God for salvation in the gospel. Scattered Christians sowed gospel seeds everywhere they went and the church sprang up in the fertile fields watered by the blood of martyrs.

I believe that the result of "easy" times for Christianity is a mild apathy at best, complete gospel abandonment at its worst. It was the concept of "Christendom" (a secular embracing of a Christian state) in Europe that pacified the church into a stupor and led to the unprecedented rise of scripture-denying, gospel-abandoning theological liberalism. And then the church sanctioned practical unbelief in the authority of scripture, the veracity of the gospel, and the power of God. This resulted in a powerless church. Travel Europe today and the churches that used to be the center of public life are now museums.

In the places where the church is persecuted now in the world, she is faithful to the gospel in its biblical simplicity, and to the call to spread the good news. I've met believers from persecuted places. They have a passion for Jesus that convicts me and admonishes me. How I need to take this principle of effective scattering to my heart! Preach the Word when it is maligned and Jesus will be known in this world! 

Friday, December 11, 2015

my confidence

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.
Hebrews 10:36

There is a life pattern here that the author of Hebrews encourages his readers to remember and keep in practice. He has spoken to them about the way in which the trials of persecution have marked them. They persevered despite the pain (Hebrews 10:32-34). Confidence in trial has been a subtheme throughout the book as well (see Hebrews 3:6; 4:16; 10:19).

The encouragement will continue through the rest of the book where endurance is commended (Hebrews 12:1), stability in the life of obeying God's will is encouraged (Hebrews 13:21), and the future hope of a promised eternal salvation is lifted up as a goal (Hebrews 4:1; 6:12; 8:6; 9:15).

And this is my confidence: I must endure hardship, perhaps persecution, faithful to the will of God as He reveals it in His Word, looking to future hope when my salvation is complete with Christ in glory.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

people at their worst; God at His best

Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;
when I fall, I shall rise;
when I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be a light to me.
Micah 7:8

Why did the prophet have this confidence? The picture painted here at the end of the book of Micah is not so rosey. The chapter opens with mourning in a deep personal vein: "Woe is me!" (Micah 7:1) It goes on to describe Judah in wicked rebellion: "the godly have perished from the earth" (Micah 7:2). The description of the results of such ungodliness are so severe that the prophet trusts no one (Micah 7:5), yet there is hope in God to be the only bringer of salvation (Micah 7:7).

Even when people are at their worst, God is at His best, and that is why Micah had this confidence. He knew God could save even a rebel nation. He knew God could work to move the people back to Him either in stern judgment or overwhelming grace. And Micah had hope for both. Even in the darkness of sin, the Lord will be a light.

Micah goes on to lead the nation in a sample prayer of repentance (Micah 7:9-10). His hope is that the people would bear God's indignation at sin, recognize their sin, repent, and wait for God's deliverance. After such repentance and salvation, the Lord can rebuild lives (Micah 7:11). Place your hope in God for a sure salvation!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Don't + or -

Do not add to his words,
lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.
Proverbs 30:6

The context of this simple warning is the veracity of scripture. "Every word of God proves true" (Proverbs 30:5). Scripture is sure, sufficient, and safe because it is the Word of a perfect, holy God Who has given us His truth. We can believe Him and live or we can disbelieve and die, which is really Adam's original sin.

But when we believe God's Word as true, we must still guard against some sinful tendencies we have in receiving it. The first tendency is to take away from scripture. We can diminish scripture. Liberal theologians have done it for generations by dismissing it as "myth" or simplistic belief belonging to a primitive time. Or they discredit prophecy by claiming it was written after prophetic events or to explain events and not prepare for them. That is the danger of making less of the Word of God. Back to the original sin: Satan did this with a question to Adam and Eve: "Did God say...?"

Yet this proverb warns us of the danger of adding to scripture. This was what Satan heard back from Even, "...neither shall you touch it..." an addition to the command that made it easier to believe the lie that Satan offered. When we add to scripture, we become liars. We attribute to God what He did not say, and we are subject to His rebuke. God should be taken at His Word. Let's not subtract from it, and let's not add to it. Let's simply accept God's truth and obey it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

my Creator & His commands

Your hands have made and fashioned me;
give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.
Psalm 119:73

Because God is my Creator, He knows me better than anybody else. Because God's Word is perfect, He can lead me with it better than anything else. So some prayer like this one captured in this verse is worth praying every day. I should seek relationship with God, my maker. I should seek wisdom from His Word as my direction for each day.

I get pulled off this simple but vital game plan. Nearly every day, I want my autonomy. I live practically like I made myself and like my autonomous thoughts are the best wisdom ever. They are not. Life works best when lived for the Creator's glory. I am happiest living for God's glory and praise.

I drift from God's Word, taking in all sorts of other content, thus letting my desires rule over me. And the result is one form of minor league chaos after another! What a mistake I am making to turn from this simple wisdom, and what a profound disaster it is!

God, forgive me, please. I yield to You and accept the understanding that You offer to me. Help me to follow Your Word! Amen

Monday, December 7, 2015

none is able to withstand

And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, and said, “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you."
2 Chronicles 20:5-6

Jehoshaphat prayed in this way in the face of an imminent invasion. A coalition of armies led by Moab was marching up from the south to attack Jerusalem. Before assembling all his defenses, the king made a bigger strategic move. He publically called the nation to seek God in prayer and fasting, and then set the example himself by praying at the temple for a sovereign God to deliver His people.

Jehoshaphat loved the Lord and knew his place as king was under God. He believed that God was the true King in Jerusalem, and so he prayed to God to honor His covenant with His people. The king was mindful that God had written all of the history of Israel and Judah, and would continue to lead His people.

The prayer at the temple also recognizes God's sovereign hand in  control of all the politics of all the nations of the world. God rules over all peoples. No nation, no coalition, no army, no attack can withstand God. And that trust in God was rewarded when the invading coalition turned on itself before the siege and Jerusalem looted the battlefield outside the city walls without raising a sword (see 2 Chronicles 20:23). The faith of the king and the faithfulness of God met mightily in salvation for Judah.

Friday, December 4, 2015

plan before

These are the men whom the Lord commanded to divide the inheritance for the people of Israel in the land of Canaan.
Numbers 34:29

Eventually the Promised Land became Israel's possession. They transitioned from being a people wandering the desert to becoming a nation settled in cities and farms and villages in Canaan, a place God gave them. As God appoints tribal leaders whose job it is to divide holdings of land by family, the Israelites under Joshua are being prepared to fight off Canaanites and receive this gift from God.

This passage is a bit administrative detail, but the plan to divide the territory needed to be in place before any battles could be waged. The order in which God prepared Israel was smart planning. God moved the people to prepare them to receive this inheritance that He had promised Abram so many generations earlier.

Sometimes people need to be ready to receive God's promises. The tribal leaders needed to be in place BEFORE the battle for Canaan could be won. The plan for what to do with what God would give needed to happen BEFORE the armies could march, the battles could be won, and new homes come to God's people.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

This Life

“Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.”
Acts 5:20

This Life that You give, Lord
is abundant and free
I repent of my sin
in Jesus believe
I can live eternally
freed by the gospel to be
all You have meant for me

This Life is in Jesus
my Savior and Lord
Who directs my life moments
by His holy Word
making my pathway sure
and my footsteps secure
choosing to use me more

This Life changes me
as I continue to believe
that Jesus died for me
many graces I receive
so that I can truly live
grateful for what Jesus will give
for this heart is now His

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

a better hope

For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness
(for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.
Hebrews 7:18-19

Jesus brought a better hope than anything in redemptive history that preceded Him. This was because of Who He is as well as what He has done for us in securing salvation. The Law of the Old Testament could point out God's commands and just how guilty we were when we violate them in our sin. And the Law provided incomplete atonement that required nearly constant animal sacrifice to deal with sin. The Law of the Lord of course was good, but it was not ever meant to be complete (perfect). It pointed to what only Jesus could do as the God-man and Great High Priest.

Jesus' hope is better because His redemption is complete (perfect). Not only did He die for sin once for all, the just for the unjust as our sacrifice, but Jesus now lives, victorious over death (which was what the Law could never bring) and Jesus intercedes as our High Priest before the Father. With Him as our Savior and our Mediator, we can draw near to God with confidence.

Lord Jesus,
Thank You for my hope and salvation! I am forgiven forever, not by being good myself (which I could never do), but by clinging to Your saving work and Person! You stand between me and the Father and You draw us together. Thank You, Lord!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

can't run from God

But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.
Jonah 1:3

There are several lessons to be learned from the prophet Jonah. Of course, there is God's love for all people placed against our petty prejudices. All throughout the book of Jonah there is this story of the sovereign love of God for the nations that drives the narrative. There is also this host of subthemes in the book, including most prominently this one: no one wins a fight against God!

Jonah tried to run from God as fast and as far as he could go. He ran fast, responsing to God's command to preach to Ninevah with an immediate trip to Joppa, finding a ship (the fastest transportation available for any journey in Jonah's day) going the opposite direction. He ran far, planning to reach Tarshish which was the ends of the earth in the conception of the world for a Mediterranean Jew. Jonah wants to get off the grid, hoping that going fast and far, God would lose track of him.

But of course, you can't run from God, and before he knew it, God brought a storm and a fish to sovereignly push the prophet back in the right direction. No one escapes God's purposes. You cannot be out of compliance with God for long. It is impossible to run from God's presence when all things are before Him.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

disgusting prayer

If one turns away his ear from hearing the law,
even his prayer is an abomination.
Proverbs 28:9

God is disgusted with those who come to Him in prayer while ignoring Him in His Word. He finds such prayer to be an abomination. The word "abomination" simply means repellent or disgusting. The surest way to unanswered prayer then is to disregard scripture (God's law) and then go to God expecting an answer to prayer.

This is often why prayers are hindered. I know of at least one clear warning in the New Testament that echoes the sentiment of this proverb. It is written to husbands in 1 Peter 3:7 and I consider personally to be the scariest motivator in the Bible. It warns men to love and understand our wives, honoring them lest our prayers be hindered. So to disobey God's Word by manipulating my marriage to get what I want is to render my spiritual walk disgusting to God as well. 

God's truth matters.

It seems that effective prayer is linked to obedience to scripture as God's Word leads to change within my heart through repentance, belief, and obedience. Disgusting prayer sees God as nothing more than the wish-granter and little else. It makes me the authority and God the servant, rather than the other way around. Effective prayer is part of my understanding of the Lordship of Christ ordering all things for the glory of God. Jesus as Lord leads both my prayers and my obedience.

Monday, November 23, 2015

real Thanksgiving

You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God; I will extol you.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Psalm 118:28-29

This week we will celebrate Thanksgiving. It is often a celebration of excess, more than it is an expression of thankfulness, but it doesn't have to be. Christians should be motivated to turn the holiday into a season of joy-filled praise. Rather than making it about a list of material things that kicks off a season of listing even more things we want for Christmas, if Thanksgiving focuses on God, it becomes a deep personal act of worship. At least that's what I see being applied here in this Psalm.

Psalm 118 focues personally on God: "You are my God, and I will give thanks to You." The center is on  the blessing of God's personal presence and relationship with Him. And it is written around animal sacrifice in God's house (see Psalm 118:26) which is not the kind of grateful picture I'd normally associate with thankfulness! Imagine the squirming lamb bound to the altar, bleating before it's throat is cut and blood pours down the altar. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Yet if Old Testament saints could rejoice and thank God for His faithful love in the Law's most demanding elements, how much more can we New Testament believers thank God through the finality and gift of the life of Jesus? We should  rejoice in the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ!

I thank You that through Jesus I am forgiven. Broken sinner that I am, I can come to You with a grateful heart. There was nothing I could bring of merit. Jesus did it all. I thank You for Your faithful, steadfast love in Christ, for that is what I desperately need the most. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

two aspects to renewal

And Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God. He took away the foreign altars and the high places and broke down the pillars and cut down the Asherim and commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandment.
2 Chronicles 14:2-4

Asa led a renewal in Judah in two ways. The return of the people to the worship of the Lord required both positive and negative change. The hardest work was leading the negative change. Altars to idols and places of foreign idolatry had to be torn up. Phallic pillars to fertility gods and goddesses were broken down and destroyed. It was demolition meant to rebuild hearts.

The postive renewal could only come once these idols were smashed. Then he could command Judah to seek God and keep the Law. It made no sense to do so amid a plethora of false gods. The best way to have no god before the Lord is to destroy idols. And then Asa led Judah to return to loving God with whole hearts.

And so it is with any idol that captures my heart. I cannot worship God and something else. The idol must die so that my heart can live in the love of God.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

a gift as worship

And Moses and Eleazar the priest received the gold from the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, and brought it into the tent of meeting, as a memorial for the people of Israel before the Lord.
Numbers 31:54

The significance of this gift is that it came from the army of Israel after God ordered Israel to attack Midian. 12,000 Israelite men were sent off to war. The kings of Midian were captured and killed. Balaam, the false prophet who had enticed Israel against God with sexual sin and idolatry was also killed. They captured Midianite spoils and territory.

After the battles, the officers of the army counted their troops and found that not one Israelite had died in the war against Midian. And it was the overwhelmed grateful hearts of these officers who brought the gift of the spoils of war into the tabernacle.

God commanded the people to eradicate Midian for their evil. He led them in battle and protected them from death. And God was worshiped by the soldiers who fought for Him as they realized God had kept them alive. They saw this offering as a way to recognize the atonement God graciously gave them by sparing all lives in the battle (Numbers 31:50). It was a truly worshipful gift, motivated by the awareness of their unworthiness as sinners and God's great grace in saving their lives. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

the mark of Jesus

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.
Acts 4:13

What made Peter and John the powerful witnesses that they were? It wasn't social standing or extraordinary natural ability. The people around them knew them as just common fishermen. They were Galilean country folk, now changing the city of Jerusalem. What got the attention of the Jewish rulers before whom they now stood? Peter and John had been with Jesus.

Discipleship had worked. What was remarkable about Peter and John... the thing that made them the bold preachers and Spirit-led healers was that they had been with Jesus. Everything else about them was common, but they were extraordinarily and undeniably like Jesus. And the rulers who executed Jesus now recognize Jesus in His men.

The effect of being men who had been with Jesus was powerful. The Jewish authorities were astonished to see these two average guys boldly preaching the gospel and doing the kinds of miraculous things that Jesus did. It was undeniable... they had been with Jesus and now acted like their Master. Disciples are known by their likeness to Jesus. And that is the measurement of successful discipleship we should all seek.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

nowhere to run... nowhere to hide

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Hebrews 4:13

Nobody lives a truly private life. There may be things we can hide from the knowledge of other people, but nothing is ever hidden from God. Our lives are exposed as an open book before Him. He knows us intimately... good intentions, sinful twistedness, pains, and secrets... God knows each of them at all times.

I think God knows me better than I know myself. Really. I may not always remember every motivation. I may actually so justify my actions that I talk myself into actually believing that there was no wrong in a certain action. But God sees the raw, unwarped reality that is my heart. And He knows.

The scary part is that I will give account to Him for every idle word and every wicked thought. But I have a Savior and an Advocate in Jesus. That's the comforting part. I have the good news of the gospel to give me deliverance and hope. Through repentance and faith I can turn from what I don't want to be exposed as wrong, and find the righteousness of Christ applied to me. It starts with admitting my helplessness in sin. My Great High Priest lives now to intercede for me since I am totaly unable to atone this sin that I hide from humans, but is always before the eyes of God. I cannot hide from my guilt of sin, so I throw it all (guilt, confession of sin, inability to by holy) into the hands of my Redeemer.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Don't make light of sin's desolations...

Do not enter the gate of my people
in the day of their calamity;
do not gloat over his disaster
in the day of his calamity;
do not loot his wealth
in the day of his calamity.
Obadiah 13

Obadiah is the shortest of the "minor" prophets with a message of God's impending judgment on Edom. Esau's descendents would suffer and be wiped out over time. One of the chief reasons for their coming due justice was their actions and attitudes toward Judah and Israel when they were led captive. Edom rejoiced at Judah's fall.

Edom gloated over the fall of Jerusalem like they were the conquerors. They were not humbled by the loss to a neighbor, but rejoiced over the destruction, death, and sorrow. They hated their enemies with glee. And this was one reason God would also humble Edom.

We should never rejoice in calamity. Human suffering is always a reminder of our fallenness and the consequences of sin, whether it be due to an act of man or a natural disaster. People who seek God's heart should never rejoice at the fall of an enemy. It's serious business when God's justice is at work. And that is the point of just why Obadiah was led to remind Edom not to make light of another's disaster.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Correct me if I'm wrong...

Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
profuse are the kisses of an enemy.
Proverbs 27:5-6

When I'm wrong I need to be told, and real friends will always do so. I have been blessed throughout my life to have access to those kind of close friendships, and they bless me. They aren't always easy conversations to have, but friends who love me AND love God will talk to me about the problems they see in me. And I can do so with them.

The older that I get the deeper I value those kinds of friendships. And I also find in life transitions that sometimes access to those friendships can get limited and makes them even more precious. Over the last two years I have begun to see a couple of my most intimate friends transition to more "limited access" relationships. What that means is that there is a heck of a lot less small talk with them. We get right to the faithful, loving, sometimes careful admonition in our times together.

I also value the development of new friendships in this vein. And God continues to bless me at the same time of "diminishing" old relationships with the chance to add new faithful friends whom God will use to correct my path. I love that God, through His will and in His church, does this. I need faithful friends whose love will wound my pride, hate my sin with me, build my soul, and rebuke my wrongs for the glory of my Savior!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

why I pray

I love the Lord, because he has heard
my voice and my pleas for mercy.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
Psalm 116:1-2

God hears and answers prayer. I know this because scripture reveals it time and time again, and over my own lifetime I find it confirmed. However, knowing, believing, and feeling that prayer is effective and important are all very different things.

I KNOW God answers prayer because scripture both teaches it as fact and illustrates it through historical narratives of real life stories of God interacting with actual people. I also know it from seeing answered prayer in my own life, and in the lives of the community of the church in which I live and serve.

I BELIEVE God answers prayer as a matter of faith and good theology. I trust the scriptures, and my past  (like this psalm encourages me to do) to inform my faith. And I do have to believe to pray well because God is unseen and His sovereign choice means that He answers prayer in His time, and as He desires, and not always as we want, even as prayers are always answered as He wills.

What I FEEL about prayer is the least important part of my theology, yet is the most common of my experiences and my deepest struggle. It is humbling to pray, and sinful feelings of pride may keep me from it. Feeling angry, frustrated, or overwhelmed at a situation that is out of my control can lead me to sin in unbelief, in selfish or demanding prayer that is not really prayer, and in praylessness. So feelings don't matter as much. I must prayer and not faint. That requires discipline and is one reason why the Holy Spirit must also intercede for my less than faithful prayers. I must not be unbelieving, but must pray.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Confession & Forgiving Grace

then hear from heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their pleas, and maintain their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you.
2 Chronicles 6:39

Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the temple is also a great picture of grace. Like David his father, Solomon had a deep grasp of God's grace. Most of the prayer is a call for God to be gracious to Israel in their sins. It asks God to hear prayer and forgive, implying that prayers in the temple would be fixed on confession and repentance (2 Chron. 6:21). This is presented through seven "cases" where grace must come as people pray to God.

These include: 1) sinning against a neighbor (2 Chron. 6:22-23), 2) suffering at the defeat by an enemy because of sin (2 Chron. 6:24-25), 3) drought as judgment against sin (2 Chron. 6:26-27), 4) famine as judgment against sin (2 Chron. 6:28-31), 5) foreign God-fearers who call on God for grace... gentiles whom God was willing to treat as part of His people because of their worship (2 Chron. 6:32-33), 6) defensive battles where armies needed protection and skill for victory (2 Chron. 6:34-35), and 7) sinful conditions that led to captivity by an enemy in the curses of the covenant (2 Chron. 6:36-39). Grace and forgiveness was the primary need. 

If the pattern for prayerful confession, repentance, and pleading for forgiving grace compelled Solomon at the dedication of the temple, what does it say for me today? Solomon saw the need with the countless sacrifices at the temple starting at the day Israel dedicated it to the worship of Yahweh. I know it in the full and complete sacrifice and resurrection of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

changing of the guard

So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.
Make him stand before Eleazar the priest and all the congregation, and you shall commission him in their sight."
Numbers 27:18-19

This is how leadership first transitioned in ancient Israel. Israel at the time was a people in the wilderness, but soon they would cross over into Canaan to take possession of the land God promised to them. And Moses will not be their leader when the new generations took the Promised Land. Now Joshua shall lead.

God made it clear that the people need to see and experience the smooth changeover. Moses would commission Joshua as his successor. The priest would bless Joshua as God's appointed leader. The congregation would witness and affirm the new leader.

Moses was a leader to the end. His last recorded prayer was for God to appoint a new shepherd for Israel (see Numbers 27:15-17). His last official act before hiking up the mountain to view the land and die was to appoint Joshua as Israel's leader. This changing of the guard was necessary, good, and brought glory to God. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Who killed Jesus?

this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
Acts 2:23-24

Jesus gave His life for us. His sacrifice was no accident. It wasn't just cruel injustice that crucified Him. It wasn't just a religious conspiracy to silence Him. It wasn't just poltical expediency that reluctantly allowed His execution. All of these factors certainly were at work in the events that led to Calvary's cross, but Jesus died in fulfillment of the Father's will and it was a direct working out of the definite plan of God.

Jesus willfully laid down His life, predicted His own death and resurrection, and obeyed His Father perfectly in all things in the unfolding of those events. And death could not hold Him. God raised Him up on the third day just as Jesus Himself told His disciples. And in that way our salvation was secured. Jesus didn't just die. He died for our sins and was raised for our hope!

In a very real sense nobody killed Jesus. No one is held responsible for His murder. Jesus laid down His life according to God's plan and foreknowledge. If anything, my sins, your sins, the sins of all people of all time were the "cause" of His death. But He is not dead! He is alive right now because death was defeated by Him for us. And in the darkest events in human history, a new eternal hope has arisen by the work of a now empty cross and empty tomb! Praise Him!

Friday, November 6, 2015

refreshing hearts

For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.
Philemon 7

Paul had to intercede for a young son in the faith with this short letter to Philemon. Thankfully, he was writing to a mature believer who was intimately connected in the fellowship of the Body of Christ. Philemon loved the church, ministered within the church, and had a reputation for refreshing the hearts of fellow Christians.

Paul appeals to this love that Philemon had for Christ and His church to help him do the same for Onesimus.Onesimus was Philemon's runaway slave. Somehow this slave made an escape, probably stealing from his master as he did so, and then fled to Rome. There, God in His sovereign mercy, put Onesimus in contact with Paul, and the gospel set him free! Now Paul urges Onesimus to return to his master, and for Philemon to forgive and receive Onesimus back into his household as a forgiven brother in Christ. It is a test of Philemon's commitment to the Body of Christ. It is a beautiful picture of just what the church is to be.

Because of the love Philemon had for all the saints, we see the culture of forgiveness already in his household. The gospel-shaped worldview of Philemon could love even a criminal who wronged him. It could extend grace to sinners, even trusted sinners who hurt him. It led him to forgive just as Christ forgives us. And this is how the gospel is truly refreshing!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Call

But the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’
Amos 7:15

Simple men but faithful at their task
were the type of men God would ask
to take His word to His nation
and speak for Him with determination

A shepherd and keeper of fig trees
Amos was called to speak what God would please
confronting kings, warning of sword
the prophet delivered the word of the Lord

Even today simple men reach
the world with the gospel call to preach
good news to mankind's sinful situation
proclaiming God's Word is their occupation

A call from God is sounding clear
to those He equips to know and to bear
gospel teaching to every land
empowered by God's almighty hand

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

protection from invasion

A man without self-control
is like a city broken into and left without walls.
Proverbs 25:28

The analogy of this proverb could be no more clear. It is dramatic. Self-control protects a person from being invaded, overrun, and destroyed. Ancient cities had walls to protect against enemy invasion. A city without them was an easy target. It would be invaded. Walls kept the city safe, its citizens protected, and its culture intact.

Personal self-control is just like that for the soul. It protects a man from invasion. And Satan and the sinful systems of this world love nothing more than to find a man without walls. His soul is easy pickings. He's as good as already broken into. Without self-control, the battle is already lost.

Self-control is vital. Discipline of the heart, hands, and emotions is not easy. But we are not alone. We have an ally Who does most of the hard work for us: The Holy Spirit. You see, we already have a strategy to keep enemies away from the city of the heart. It is the Word of God. And we have the power of the Holy Spirit to lead us away from temptation. We also have the grace of Jesus Christ that forgives, redeems, and patches broken spots (I have so many) in the walls of our self-discipline so that we need not fear (2 Timothy 1:7). The Spirit of self-discipline will keep us from invasion.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

praise all day

Blessed be the name of the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore!
From the rising of the sun to its setting,
the name of the LORD is to be praised!
Psalm 113:2-3

Every morning I can look to the east and have one more reason to praise the Lord. God has given me another day. With it I can praise His name and bring glory to His Son, for Jesus has saved me and given me this day that He has made. And every evening I can look to the west at the end of another day's labor for the Lord, and thank Him for what He has blessed me with now and forever.

This day You are giving me is another day to worship You. Life certainly has its challenges, but they are trivial in the light of Who You are in this new day. Lord Jesus, may I delight in saving faith and the incredibly blessed life that You have given me to share with others. Holy Spirit, may You warmly lead me through this day. Father, this day is meant for Your praise just as much as eternity is meant for it. Thank You, Lord, that Your Word has called me to praise as the sun moves to illumine my day with its first warm rays. May the light of the gospel shine in what I say and do today, now and forevermore, for Your great name's sake.

Monday, November 2, 2015

a question about celebration

And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered.
2 Chronicles 5:6

At the consecration of the brand new temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, Solomon threw a party like Israel had never seen. And it was all an act of worship. He was celebrating the worship of God as His presence now dwelt in Jerusalem. The ark was brought to the temple, and the joy of the people at the presence of God was the most visible act of worship you can imagine.

I've sometimes heard of Sunday services referred to as "worship celebrations", but this scene at the dedication of the temple has to be hard to beat. So many animals were offered in sacrifice that they lost count. They didn't even bother to try. Imagine that... what if Christians gave so much in an offering that the ushers had to get wheelbarrows and couldn't count it all? That's the kind of joy that went on in Jerusalem on that day.

It makes me want to check my heart when I enter church on Sunday. Am I there to joyfully celebrate my salvation? Am I there out of gratitude to God for what Jesus did for me, or is it just duty? The soul that delights in God will have a party in mind when it worships. And it is a joy that does not fade. We'll be celebrating at the supper of the Lamb, so shouldn't we celebrate at His Table with the congregation on the Lord's Day?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

fiery snakes

And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
Numbers 21:7

when grumbling takes
over our hearts
and rebellion makes
souls forget God

sinning is easily done
by complaining
and consequences come
from the Lord again

worship is what's at stake
when we complain
God sends fiery snakes
to correct us in pain

repentance must be made
acknowledging our sin
then forgiveness comes in grace
when we look again to Him

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.
John 3:14-15

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

outside and between

So they took Jesus,  and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.  There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.
John 19:16b-18

Jesus died for sinners and there is a wonderful picture of that fact of the gospel even in the very manner in which He gave His life. He resigned Himself to the will of God, convinced that Pilate was only acting to give the death sentence because God had given him the authority to do so (John 19:11).

He is led outside Jerusalem's walls, a visible symbol of His rejection by men. There Jesus is crucified between two guilty thieves, the sinless dying for the sinful even as He is rejected by the sinners He is placed among and for whom He is dying to atone for their sins.

No point in history is more focused than this one. The perfect Son of God is dying for the sins of man, so that whose who believe in Him can be set free from sin forever. And it is a historical fact that Jesus lived and died in this way. The root of the gospel is in this actual time and place. And from it all Christian hope and life springs forth.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

according to his own mercy

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
Titus 3:4-5

The gospel is the display of God's richest grace and mercy to us. Paul constantly reminded believers of this in his epistles. This short little personal pastoral note to Titus is just another example of it. In the midst of giving instructions on how Christians ought to behave in the world, Paul is compelled to carefully point out that the reason why we can submit to governing authorities and live in such a way to display  gentleness to all people (Titus 3:1-2) is because of the change that the gospel brings (Titus 3:3-7). It enables us to do good works because through Christ's work we are renewed by the Holy Spirit.

So the gospel is my only hope. Because Jesus appeared, lived, died, and rose again, my hope is secure. Because He has saved me, I can truly live. I could never do what is right, since I am born a sinner, but because Christ saved me by His own mercy and regenerated me, the Holy Spirit now equips me to do good works through Him.

O Lord,
Help me never to forget the only value in my life: the good news of the gospel saves and empowers me. May I devote myself to this truth.

Monday, October 26, 2015


"I will strike the winter house along with the summer house,
and the houses of ivory shall perish,
and the great houses shall come to an end,”
declares the Lord.
Amos 3:15

No wealth can save your soul. God will judge the small and great, the insignificant societal cog and the most famous celebrity, the beggar and the king, the indigent and the insanely rich. And there is no distinction with Him. Human society creates class and positions. But no social status, no money, no fame among people ultimately answers for us when we give account of ourselves before God. All stand before Him naked sinners, ashamed, with nothing, in the same great need.

When Judah turned away from the Lord and His law, the society went crazy with lust for wealth. Most of the early half of Amos' prophetic proclamations are against the excesses of the wealthiest people both in Judah and the nations around them. This little snippet is just one of them. They may have prided themselves on all their property attainment, like they lived a Monopoly game in ancient Israel, with an estate in Jerusalem and a getaway by the sea, but all that would crumble at the Lord's hands when Babylon came to take them captive. Their rich and famous lifestyles would crash in a burning finish. There would be no more wealth to steal their hearts.

These words are strong and pointed. I live in one of the wealthiest places on earth, and they echo throughout KC suburban stupor. America is materially fixated and my little corner of it maybe even more. Lots of wealthy people live in my county. And by world standards I am one of them, even if I convince myself by comparison I am not. I cannot let that kind of wealth turn my heart from God. Having money is not the issue. Loving it over God, however, is idolatry.

There is a part of me that roots for watching vacation homes crumble. I'd like to run the wrecking ball sometimes if I could. But I also know that if I were given that kind of wealth, I'd easily be tempted to be the kind of person to whom this prophetic warning came. And so I pray for humility, for an attitude of thankfulness for what God provides, and for a strong, responsible, biblical stewardship to drive my view of material possessions.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Sweet Wisdom

My son, eat honey, for it is good,
and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste.

Know that wisdom is such to your soul;
if you find it, there will be a future,
and your hope will not be cut off.
Proverbs 24:13-14

I look to God
for my future;
worry wants to take over
but wisdom should.
God will give me what is good
if sweet wisdom
fills my mind.

I look at life
and need hope;
pessimism wants to predict
but wisdom supercedes
as God's Word shows what will be
when sweet wisdom
rules my heart.

I am searching
for something... anything;
longing drives me hard
to look for what is good
and wisdom is what should
taste good... sweet wisdom
satisfies me.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

I am prayer.

Help me, O Lord my God!
Save me according to your steadfast love!

Let them know that this is your hand;
you, O Lord, have done it!
Psalm 109:26-27

Our great need for God to save us is so great that we should immediately rejoice when we call to Him for help. The psalmist is in deep need in this song. In the situation described here, enemies seek the destruction of his life. He calls out to God to save his soul from their schemes, even as he suffers under them. His enemy is described as wicked and deceitful (vs 2), hateful (vs 3), an oppressor of the poor (vs 16), and a cursing person (vs 17-18).

As the sinful attacks happen, the oppressed cries out to God for deliverance. He still suffers though. The one oppressed is poor and needy (vs 22), weak (vs 24), and scorned by others (vs 25). Giving himself to pray, he trusts in God to act rightly within His faithful love (vs4). The phrase "I give myself to prayer" literally reads "I am prayer". It is all he can do. He is powerless to do any other thing than beseech the Lord and trust that He will answer prayer.

And when I am in deep need, I should be a man of prayer. My life should be a prayer. I need not be afraid when I am prayer, for God will hear. God will provide. God will protect His children and judge those who wickedly work against Him. In faith, when we suffer under other people, we must "be" prayer.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

seeking the God Who knows my heart

And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.
1 Chronicles 28:9

This charge that David gave to his son Solomon as he entrusts the young man with the construction of the temple serves as a vivid reminder to live holy before the Lord. David's prayer for his son as Solomon steps into the role of king in Israel is that they young man love and serve God first. All else would be great if Solomon's worship was first set on God.

David knows this because he knows that God knows Solomon intimately. Every plan of the mind and feeling in the heart is understood by God. He knows our wants and motivations, our needs, our deepest concerns, and whether our hearts are truly faithful to Him. This is why we must train our hearts to seek the Lord.

With my Bible open each morning I want to keep this advice to Solomon in my mind. My time in God's Word and in prayer happens not out of sheer duty, but so that I may come in my need to seek wisdom from the Lord Who knows my heart. He also understands it, which I can't say that I always do! I come to Him, not to reveal something to Him that He does not already know, but instead to find something from Him that I do not have and desperately need: God's wisdom for my day. That is the start to serving God with my whole heart and with a willing mind.

Many times that means I come to Him admitting what He already knows: that I am a sinner whose thoughts and plans are not holy as God's are. I also often come in praise, thanking God that His wisdom and care has saved me in some new capacity or experience. But always... every day... in many ways, I must seek God. And I find Him always faithful!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

leaps of doubt

And the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the Lord!"
Numbers 20:3

There is strong, irrational emotion in the crowd as the people of Israel complain to Moses about their lack of water. God had led them to the place where they were currently camped so that He might supply their need. How quickly they had forgotten the God Who had rescued them and met every need in the wilderness. They really don't know what they are saying. They are consumed with irrational doubt.

Forgetting all their recent history in which God has miraculously cared for His people, they myopically focus on one problem: there is no running water near their camp. And in their complaining they actually state that those who died before them in God's judgment (see Numbers 11, 14, and 16 for context) were actually better off than they were. They actually ask God just to kill them off, in so many words, rather than go through the experience of waiting for Him to supply this need. It is absolutely nothing less than crazy talk.

When we take our eyes off of the Lord and look only at natural circumstances, we lose sight of faith, and make wild, crazy leaps of doubt. Yep, I don't much buy into the concept of leaps of faith. I do, however, find myself making from time to time huge leaps of doubt. And it is the craziest thing I do. I leap to doubt when I think a sinful act will provide for me better than God does. I leap to doubt when I let a sinful, selfish attitude dominate my heart because I briefly enjoy a feeling of vindication, self-justification, or revenge. I make a leap of doubt when I think that my own choice or action was good enough to prove me right. Oh how I need to believe the gospel by faith in Jesus, and turn to the rational truth of my Savior's work for me a sinner. 

forgive me and save me from my grumbling leaps of doubt!

Monday, October 19, 2015

that the world may believe

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
John 17:20-21

Two things have always grabbed my attention from this passage, which is Jesus' prayer for His disciples before His arrest, trial, and crucifixion. Jesus knew well what was facing Him, yet He had the church squarely in His thoughts as He prepared to redeem a people to Himself. The first thing that grabs me is that Jesus had the current generation of believers in mind as He faced the cross. He prayed for me... really. It's right here in this passage. His prayer was not only for those 12 disciples in the upper room with Him, but also for those who "will believe in me through their word." The apostles were faithful to generations that followed them. The New Testament is a clear record of their words and actions with the gospel. I believed through their word, so Jesus prayed for me before dying for me. That truth shakes me even now as I realize it.

The second compelling observation from this passage is that Jesus prayed for strong unity for all believers across the ages. He knew that sinful human selfish actions would fragment His church. But we CAN be unified... if we center our faith on Jesus, and the Father, we can know the unbreakable unity of the Godhead. But it means embracing the gospel biblically and staying close to Jesus. When we are close to Jesus the church stays together. Stay faithful to the gospel, and the church is unified. Stay Christ-centered and we will be a powerful witness, with a powerful gospel that Jesus says will let the world know and believe His gospel. Do we want the world to know Jesus? Do we want people to come to faith in Him? Then let's stay close to Him, together let's proclaim the gospel that the Father has sent Jesus, and let's be one around our Lord!

Friday, October 16, 2015

8 part discipleship

You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.
2 Timothy 3:10-11

There are eight parts of life imitation for a disciple that Paul mentions in this commendation of Timothy. They are worth briefly overviewing and bear further examination. Discipleship starts with teaching. Doctrine plays the foundational role in the life of a believer. Sound teaching flows from the gospel and is the core of what we believe.

Teaching leads to Christian conduct. We believe a certain way and that leads us to live a certain way. This is practical, real-life sanctification. And that conduct is driven by a goal or aim in life. For Paul it was to be found in Christ. And that aim is more than philosophical. It is a kind of worship from the will.

One cannot do these things without faith. So what we trust in, with the gospel as the first principle of our trust, will direct our lives. That faith is lived over a lifetime which requires patience. It is done in and with love, which marks out our relationships, and it must be consistent, which shows itself in a steady record of steadfastness.

And all this is tested. For Paul, the persecutions and suffering came at every level: spiritual, mental, and physical. But the Lord delivered him each time. And for those who have an imitatable discipleship, persecutions will come. But God will be glorified and the gospel will advance!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

those who call

And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. 
Joel 3:32a

Those who know their sin
     who grieve in their need
          and recognize their inability
               to avoid the wrath of Him
                    Who is holy
               will call on the LORD
          and be saved!

Those who know they need
     a Saviour holy Who died
          to bring them holy to His side
               who repent in word and deed
                    to follow Jesus
               will call on the LORD
          and be saved!

Those who first are sinners aware
     of their sin but trusting Christ
          will find He gives eternal life
               more than they thought or dared
                    to ask Him for:
               they call on the LORD
          and are saved!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The quality of my work

Do you see a man skillful in his work?
He will stand before kings;
he will not stand before obscure men.
Proverbs 22:29

Pay attention to your work. The quality of what you do for a living matters. Those who do their jobs well will be noticed... if not by corporate structures, then more importantly, by God. The injunction in this proverb is to do the best work possible. It is an important part of living a wise life.

Work existed before sin existed. So I conclude that work is a good thing that is made by God. After all, the rhythm of creation was that God worked for six days and rested on the seventh. Work and rest are fundamental aspects of creation. They mark our lives out as God has designed. God set an innocent Adam in the Garden of Eden to work there (Genesis 2:15). And that work was a holy command. It was only after the sin of Adam that work was also attended with a curse upon that sin. I conclude therefore that work is to be a holy thing, now often twisted by us sinners who alternately despise it as unholy, or exalt it to a point of idolatrous worship.

Because work is a divinely designed rhythm of our lives, it is rewarding and results in the blessing of God. One way in which it is blessed is by the livelihood that it brings us. God uses His creation of work to provide for us. The other way it is blessed is in this promise that good work is noticed by others and rewarded (that is a generalism... sinful humans make exceptions on the fleshly experience of our vocations).

But Christians keep one more focus to our work. It is good to be noticed by other people and perhaps rewarded for skillful labor, but that motivation is insufficient of itself. We must be gospel-focused. So we must remember the injunction to work for God's reward foremost. We work "heartily" (that idea of diligent, skillful labor that does the best we possibily can), as for the Lord (He is our true boss), and not for men (Colossians 3:23). There is only one performance review driving the Christian, and it is to hear "well done, my good and faithful servant" from the lips of Jesus.