Thursday, April 30, 2015

the good portion

but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.
Luke 10:42

Mary chose the best thing... the finest portion... to be with Jesus. And Jesus blessed her choice. She reduced her life to the ONE priority -- following Jesus. And that is the best thing ever! I am reminded of a Rich Mullins lyric that challenges me just like Mary's example:

Everybody I know says they need just one thing
And what they really mean is that they need just one thing more
And everybody seems to think they've got it coming
Well I know that I don't deserve You
Still I want to love and serve You more and more
You're my one thing

Save me from those things that might distract me
Please take them away and purify my heart
I don't want to lose the eternal for the things that are passing
'Cause what will I have when the world is gone
If it isn't for the love that goes on and on with

My one thing
You're my one thing
And the pure in heart shall see God

You're my one thing
You're my one thing
And the pure in heart shall see God

Who have I in Heaven but You Jesus?
And what better could I hope to find down here on earth?
I could cross the most distant reaches
Of this world, but I'd just be wasting my time
'Cause I'm certain already, I'm sure I'd find

You're my one thing
(One thing)
You're my one thing
(One thing)
And the pure in heart shall see God

You're my one thing
(One thing)
You're my one thing
(One thing)
And the pure in heart shall see God

Every night and every day
You hold on tight or You drift away
And You're left to live
With the choices You make
Oh Lord please give me the strength
To watch and work and love and sing and pray

'Cause who have I in Heaven but You Jesus?
And what better could I hope to find down here on earth?
Well I could cross the most distant reaches
Of this world, but I'd just be wasting my time
'Cause I'm certain already I'm sure I'd find

You're my one thing
(One thing)
You're my one thing
(One thing)
And the pure in heart shall see God

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

cursed for me

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—
Galatians 3:13

Cursed for me
by condemnation
to the cross
He willingly carried
my shame

Mocked for me
by sinners
gathered round Him
as He was dying
scoffing His name

Dying for me
Jesus took
my punishment
on a cross
of wood

Forgiving me
and the others
who mocked Him
in mercy He did
all He could

Living for me
so I am delivered
from sin, shame, guilt, wrath
Jesus rose and gave me
life eternal

Blessing me now
in the heavenly places
He intercedes
and pleads and loves me
co-heir with Him fraternal

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Rest from the Redeemer and Restorer

Thus says the Lord of hosts: The people of Israel are oppressed, and the people of Judah with them. All who took them captive have held them fast; they refuse to let them go. Their Redeemer is strong; the Lord of hosts is his name. He will surely plead their cause, that he may give rest to the earth, but unrest to the inhabitants of Babylon.
Jeremiah 50:33-34

This promise of redemption was given to Judah in the earliest days of their captivity. It had to seem nearly ridiculous. Babylon was at the zenith of empire when God promised their end. The Jews had just seen Jerusalem burned and what little cultural treasures they had were ransacked. Their finest warriors were dead. Those with strength left in them were forcibly marched to Babylon by family as war captives, far from home, yet in this promise they were still very near to the heart of God.

The Lord announced the defeat of Babyon and the return of His people to their homes even as the weariness of the march to captivity was fresh upon them. He saw their suffering. He would honor His covenant with them again. He would restore His people. No empoire of human might can withstand this decree. Babylon would fade into ancient history. And God would prosper His people once more in Israel.

God redeems, restores, and brings rest to the weary. Even when we suffer for our sin, He is merciful as we return to Him. He knows my pains and cares for me. And no act of man can stop the wild love of God from changing what He wills for me. That promise is always true. And I will trust in that.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Wisdom's Reproof

If you turn at my reproof,
behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
I will make my words known to you.
Proverbs 1:23

When God's Word points out a place where I need to repent, trust God, believe His truth, and change my thoughts and behavior, that is a very good thing. It is the way that wisdom works. God uses His wisdom to help me change. He promises lasting change if I will heed the reproof that His wisdom brings.

That lasting change is accompanied by His Holy Spirit and His Word being accessible to me in ways that I would not have known if I had not heeded His reproof. When I turn to the call of wisdom, God's Spirit is with me. He guides me to be enabled to heed that call and make key choices. He directs me by showing me other areas to keep walking in wisdom. And since God's Word is always near me (particularly through all the resources and devices in my hands all day!) I can always turn to find God's thoughts about any situation I may face.

Thank You, Lord, for making Your Word so accessible. And when You point out needed change, I claim this promise: Heeding reproof draws me closer to You. You make Yourself known in those times. Amen

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

longing by step

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1

I read these words this morning and I can't help but reflect upon "Step by Step" by Rich Mullins:

Sometimes the night was beautiful
Sometimes the sky was so far away
Sometimes it seemed to stoop so close
You could touch it but your heart would break
Sometimes the morning came too soon
Sometimes the day could be so hot
There was so worth much left to do
But so much you'd already done

Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise you
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise you
And I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days

Sometimes I think of Abraham
How one star he saw had been lit from me
He was a stranger in this land
And I am that no less than he
And on this road to righteousness
Sometimes the climb can be so steep
I may falter in my steps
But never beyond Your reach

Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days

And I will follow You all of my days
And I will follow You all of my days
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days

Thursday, April 16, 2015

what leaders need

And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice.
1 Kings 3:28

What does it take to lead well? There are many things that constitute real, effective leadership. Certainly there are personality traits and people skills. But what made Solomon a great leader was his submission to the wisdom of God. When the Lord offered him anything to have as Israel's new king, Solomon humbly asked God to give him wisdom -- not wealth, power, fame, or personality. And it was wisdom from God that blessed Solomon and the nation intensely.

Solomon's wise and just decisions were what attracted people to his leadership. They confirmed him as king. They pointed to the God Who gave Solomon wisdom. It was clear that the justice that the king administered was God's justice. The wisdom by which he ruled Israel was God's wisdom. Solomon began his reign with a unique transparency of purpose that blessed the nation. God led through the king.

My leadership is within the Church, and I must always learn from this time in Solomon's life. God must lead His people. He uses pastors and ministry leaders to do so. But any wisdom that I have of my own personality or force of will is bound to eventually run dry if I don't seek God's wisdom. I want God to be seen in the way that I serve His church. May the Lord grant that others perceive that the wisdom of God is in me to do justice.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Moses Veiled: A Face That Shone

Whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.
Exodus 34:34-35

Moses came down from Sinai
Law in hand
feet walking into camp
face radiant from exposure to God's glory.
The God-burn on his skin
alarmed the nation.

Moses had talked with God
received the Law
understood God's demand
sharing revelation with a glowing face
fear came to all
so he veiled his head

The glory of God on the mountain
shining on skin
reflected in a man
who spoke with the Lord for the nation
and gave God's Law
so that truth they would know

And so the glory of the Lord shines
still in His Word.
Does it show
...on my face as I read it? my heart as it warms me?
...on my life as I obey it?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Gospel ministry can be simple ministry.

“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.
Luke 8:39

Jesus gave a simple command to this former demoniac: "Share your story, giving God the credit for what has happened to you." And Luke gives us an insight into the nature of Jesus - clear attestation to Christ's deity. The men tells what God had done by telling what Jesus had done for him. He became not only an evangelist, but a witness to the truth that Jesus is God in the flesh.

Often the simplest ministry is the most powerful one. The man returned home to the people who knew him well. They had seen him come under the control of demons. They fearfully witnessed his rage, self-loathing, and uncontrollable frenetic madness as demons took him over and tortured his soul. And then, after being healed by Jesus, this same man returns to them healed by God and transformed by the touch of the Savior. His undeniable transformation was a powerful story, a means for Jesus' love and power to be known, and had an impact on an entire city.

Simple obedience, simple worship, and a life transformed by Jesus brought good news to an entire city. And so it can be if each of us Christians would just embrace the simple ministry of saturating our conversations and interactions with people with the good news of what God has done for us. The gospel advances and lives are changed by such simple obedience and the joy of sharing our stories.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Ministry Pressure

And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
2 Corinthians 11:28

Cue Billy Joel singing "Pressure". Ministry has its share. Paul isn't whining about it. He was a strong leader and he knew that with the gospel's advance, pressure and anxiety came to leaders. In our therapeutic wimpiness these days, we would see pressure and difficulty as something to avoid. Paul saw it as a necessary sacrifice for the greater vision of the gospel's advance into the world. Ministry is hard work. There is no way around that truth. And with each person that comes to Christ, a new relationship for disciplemakers and church leaders is added. Leaders live under that pressure. We are responsible to each disciple. We are under fire from opponents of the gospel. It isn't easy, but often the very best things in life are hard and are worth the blood shed and the tears that accompany the pain.

Twenty-first century Christians in America seem to think that the promise of the gospel is an easy life. We have made a syrupy mess of the gospel, stirring it up with the American Dream and self-help feel good nonsense. I have no other way to explain the wild rise of prosperity theology or the bland commercial success of the saccharine Joel Osteen. It hardly fits the matter-of-fact list of sufferings and manly sacrifice described by Paul. We are weak. God help us, but we may be operating under a false gospel if it is so doggone easy!

I conclude that ministry pressure with accompanying sleepless nights upon occassion is good for me. It puts me squarely in the experience of the Apostle Paul. It tells me God is with me, because I can't do it by myself. I am inadequate... praise the Lord! It forces me to bring questions and problems to my Lord. Anxiety is a good sign, for it forces me to my knees to cast my anxieties upon God, Whose peace will surpass my understanding and guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus.

Friday, April 10, 2015


“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: You have seen all the disaster that I brought upon Jerusalem and upon all the cities of Judah. Behold, this day they are a desolation, and no one dwells in them, because of the evil that they committed, provoking me to anger, in that they went to make offerings and serve other gods that they knew not, neither they, nor you, nor your fathers. Yet I persistently sent to you all my servants the prophets, saying, ‘Oh, do not do this abomination that I hate!’
Jeremiah 44:2-4

A city in ruins fell
a nation destroyed
a people taken captive
God's Word was active
yet was not obeyed
survivors would tell

God warned by servants
prophetic word proclaimed
many appeals to repent
yet they never did relent
in sin and idolatry strayed
with a passion most fervant

And the burning fire
and the scourging disease
with a destroyer's sword
confirmed truth of God's Word
no grief could be put to ease
on Jerusalem's funeral pyre

A generation enchained
by captor's fury bound
now crying in tears
as God reminds them in fear
that comfort can only br found
repenting in worship to God again

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Worship the God whose purposes never fail.

Then Job answered the Lord and said:
“I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
Job 42:1-2

What Job thought he wanted from God, and what he eventually acknowledged about God could be no more different. All throughout the story, as Job theologically jousts with his friends, he wants most for God to vindicate him -- to explain his pain and to focus clearly on Job the man. But when God does finally enter the circle of theological discussion, at the end of God's questioning of Job's lack of power, Job can only worship and repent.

Job does so by acknowledging that God is sovereign and wise in His purposes. Inherent in that humble admission is that Job's own experiences were part of the wise purposes of a holy God. Job repents because he had questioned God's purposes to some degree as he focused on himself. Now that he is thinking clearly about God again, he must admit that God is in control and has been all along. The wisdom of God prevails over all of Job's questions.

The main point that God makes to Job that leads him to this confession is that God is clearly in control of all the natural world. Job was powerless to change the weather, to understand the workings of the animal kingdom, or to control the wildness of any beast. Yet God made and controlled them all with authority. If God controlled the fiercest behemoth and leviathan, then nothing that Job faced was outside of God's wise care.

God can do all things. This means that nothing escapes His control. It is a belief in the sovereign power of God at work in all the universe that Job comes to claim. And that truth brings Job back around in worship and repentance. God's purposes cannot be stopped. God has no true enemies that can prevail against Him. Nothing truly fights His will. No plan of His can be successfully challenged. God's purposes rule over all the universe... including the details of my life.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

God's power and steadfast love

Power and faithful love are both found in God. David worships as he is encouraged with this truth. God's power will care for His people. God's grace will lead that power as it is displayed. David takes comfort in this truth. By faith he worships, even as the circumstances of Psalm 62 make it clear that there was misunderstanding and attack coming to him from an enemy not mentioned by name (Psalm 62:3-4).

David was able to wait for God in silent worship, hoping in god because he knew that God was powerful and gracious. He knew God was his salvation (Psalm 62:6). He knew God was trustworthy and protective of His people (Psalm 62:8). God would vindicate David in due time. David simply kept himself worshiping and trusting the Lord.

And really, to worship God for His power and steadfast love is still my experience. The details of my life just happen to focus in on the gospel of Jesus Christ as the place where God's power meets His grace. Jesus has all power and authority given to Him by the Father. He can raise the dead, heal the sick, and most powerfully, save sinners like me! And Jesus IS steadfast love. He is the grace of God for us. While we were weak, while we were powerless and needy, while we were still sinners, while we were the enemies of God deserving His wrath, Jesus loved us and died for us! That is the power and grace of God shown on the cross and echoing in the defeat of death in His empty tomb!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

David's monument

“For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations,
and sing praises to your name.
Great salvation he brings to his king,
and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
to David and his offspring forever.”
2 Samuel 22:50-51

The words of the eighteenth psalm are shared in this summary of David's kingship in 2 Samuel. The poetry recognizes the history, recapping the highs  and lows of David's experience as king in a personal, worshipful, and compelling song of praise. David's gift of worship art shines in the lines of the song. After all his struggles, all the powerful leadership gains as king, after his sins and failures, after God's grace restored him and as the king reflected on God's special covenant with him, David wrote these words to endure forever.

Most kings leave earthly monuments of stone. The Mediterranean world and the middle east are dotted with their remains: pyramids, obelisks, sphinxes, stone wall friezes, temples, war stories in stone and temples to victories. David's monument is in letter and verse. It is built of pure words of praise and worship. It celebrates God. And because it is inspired by the Holy Spirit as God's Word, it will last forever! The pyramids will crumble to Egyptian dust. Sands will erase all the temples and monuments of man. But God's Word abides forever!

I desire that what is left of this life will be what You have made of it from Your Word, Spirit, and sovereign care. I have nothing. I am nothing. I will leave behind no vast estate, no world recognized leadership or wealth. I will have no earthly fortune for others to claim. But I have kept myself at the regular task of reflecting on Your greatness and following You. Worship is my wealth. And may what I have gained for eternity in knowing You be the wealth I leave right now with others who desperately need to have the same future. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Seriously Sabbath

And the Lord said to Moses, “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you.'"
Exodus 31:12-13

The Sabbath was many things for the children of Israel. It was the first and most serious command God gave to His people. He wanted them to understand the meaning of sanctification in a very real way. And keeping the Sabbath as a day of rest, worship, and no work was a means to teach the value of the holiness of God. It was meant to respect God's Word and to set worship as the ultimate priority for life.

The keeping of God's Sabbath was the premiere command of the Law. God told Moses that Israel should value it above all. In it were the seeds for keeping the rest of the Law, for obedience in worship will honor the rest of God's Word. The Sabbath was meant to be a trans-generational commitment that clearly perpetuated God's truth. A day each week devoted exclusively to worship and devotion to the Word of the Lord would help center Israel on the covenant. It was serious and was meant to be attended to with serious commitment and devotion. The penalty for Sabbath breaking under Moses was death.

Just as an exercise in contextualizing, imagine what it would be like if ditching church on Sunday were a capital offense? I can't imagine executing people who chose to golf or fish or attend sports events rather than worship the Lord. And that is how far I have slipped from seeing God's worship as a serious commitment. No where in the New Testament is Sunday worship equated with the Sabbath of the Law. So I need to be clear that they are not the same thing. But the worship of the Lord is still vitally important.

Just thinking about the seriousness of Sabbath has me repenting of my casual approach to worship. I am spending time in reflection on this today. It will buest me out of my comfortable routine... but I thihk that is what the Sabbath was all about!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Developing leaders is hard work.

In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles:
Luke 6:12-13

Jesus chose twelve men from among all His disciples to represent His teaching and ministry to the world. After His ascension, these same men would be tasked with proclaiming His saving gospel to the world. He would take from among His followers a dozen men who would become leaders. It was necessary so that Jesus' teaching would continue forward once He went back to His Father.

Jesus only walked among us for 33 years or so. His public ministry of teaching and healing only lasted for around 3 of those years. That's roughly 36 months. That is a ridiculously "fast" ministry and a short time to change the world given the scope of human history. It's a mote of dust on the scale of human time. In that short burst of God-work, Jesus had to prepare a dozen men to give the entirety of the rest of their lives to the message and work that He came to do. Jesus' most important investment of ministry and His legacy would require these men lead with all that they had. Their ministry would eclipse His own in some ways. That's why He told them they would do "greater works". And they did it! The church has continued what Jesus began. And because Jesus developed these twelve apostles, the church has now continued these two millennia with the gospel as our reason to exist. This is despite every kind of persecution and resistance possible.

No wonder Jesus lost a night's sleep. He invested that precious time in prayerful communion with the Father before commissioning His twelve apostles. The entire future of everything, the success of the gospel message and the building of Christ's church rested on the commitment of twelve apostles sent by Jesus. These were key leaders. They would incalculably multiply His ministry. Investing leadership time with these twelve was vital to the gospel doing what God intended. The message needed passionate, gifted, trained, strong messengers.

Developing Christian leaders is still very important and needful work. It must be done. The gospel is still the world's most needed truth. It is information and salvation that all people everywhere need. And it advances in the lives of obedient disciples and skilled leaders.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

A Generous Life

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
2 Corinthians 9:6

Generosity isn't all about giving
it's about living...
living a life that invests
in all that is best:
the gospel...
truth that's eternal...
everything meaningful.

Generosity plants seeds
that grow to meet human needs
it looks always to reap
from what it cannot keep:
gifts given
with heaven
in sacrifices sowing
knowing blessings are coming.

Generosity hold back nothing
risking all... a kingdom's coming...
a harvest of blessings full
to those who gave it all:
fully committed...
nothing hidden...
advancing forward
for the Lord.

Generosity truly lives
giving back to God Who gives
all to us... for He loves
us through His Son
Who gave Himself for us...
always with us...
so we can be generous
with everything for Jesus.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army came against Jerusalem and besieged it. In the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, on the ninth day of the month, a breach was made in the city.
Jeremiah 39:1-2

Prophecy is rooted in history. Jeremiah's prophetic pronouncements were placed specifically in time and location. The events recorded (to the very day) of the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar's invading forces fit the pronouncements that God made through His prophet Jeremiah in every detail. God had been warning the citizens of Jerusalem of impending judgment for a generation. And when the wall was breached, it all became very real.

Jeremiah warned king Zedekiah of this reality well before Babylon laid siege to the city for eighteen long months. Judah was warned that the city would collapse under the siege (Jeremiah 38:18-23). And just as God warned the king of Judah, so it happened. The patient Babylonian army shut off the city and began work at breaching the wall. And when they broke through, nothing would stop the fury of war. Zedekiah was blinded and led captive to Babylon as a humiliated war prize. His last sight before his eyes were blinded was to see his own sons murdered in front of him. Jeremiah however was given special care by the invaders because God was still speaking though His prophet (Jeremiah 40:11-12). A wicked king suffers. A prophet is protected.

One day, as God had warned, the wall fell and the city was plundered. The Jews in Jerusalem were rounded up. Leaders were executed. Families were broken up. Survivors were led captive to a far away Gentile culture to suffer the curses of the disobedience to the covenant that God had warned were coming. And in all this, God's Word was true. History shows it plainly to us. And it should serve as a vivid reminder of the power of God's sovereign will as He reveals it.