Friday, July 29, 2016

faith found

When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”
Luke 7:9

Jesus found faith
in a centurion
who honored God
and loved God's people
and from afar
prayed for salvation
and Jesus rewarded that faith

Jesus marveled at faith
that recognized His authority
a kind only Jesus had
to command all things
so that sickness could be bid
to flee with words of Christ's authority
because of such great faith

Jesus rewarded faith
and taught all around Him
that God sees us when we believe
and rewards our trust
so that we may receive
all good things from Him
by His grace through faith

Thursday, July 28, 2016

an end to discrimination but not to distinctions

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28

Sinful human discriminations and prideful attitudes of superiority are eliminated in Christ. In Jesus, the One Who died for all, all people are brought together in His Body under Him. He is our Lord. We are together. We cannot be judgmental and discriminatory of one another in the church and truly be surrendered to our Lord. It disrupts the design that Jesus is making of us.

And the way to live this truth out is much bigger than a hashtag. It won't be known by simply jumping on the social media bandwagon with #alllivesmatter. You see, this unity is rooted not in activism of human effort, but in the abandonment of legalistic efforts and embrace of the gospel by faith (see Galatians 3:26-27 for context). We are one by faith and not by human imposed sanctions. The gospel removes the sinful discriminations we will selfishly erect. We stay the people we are (distinct) but are saved from distrust and hate (discrimination). The Law cannot give this kind of life (Galatians 3:21)!

Lord Jesus.
You are making a beautiful church in this world, all across the globe, in every nation, tribe, and culture. You are saving Your people and making us one in You. May we accept You as the Lord Who breaks down our sinful distrust of one another. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

power in the weakness of these wounds

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:10

There is a cost to serving Christ, a price to pay that takes a toll on believers. Hardships come in the life of the good soldier of Jesus Christ. As the holy kingdom advances against a dark, sinful world, there will be battles, wounds, and pain. But Jesus will strengthen us in them so that they are bearable.

Paul looked back at all his battle scars and willfully said he would take more of them because Christ accomplished so much in the weakness of those wounds. Christ was seen in great power in Paul's own weakness. The gospel message rang out even as insults were uttered against the messenger. The church of Jesus Christ gave hope despite hardships, offered real peace amidst persecution, and experienced calm in calamity. Christ's power fills our most difficult moments as we let Him lead us and use us despite our weaknesses.

Fill the weakness of my wounds with Your power. It is hard, and not easy, to trust Jesus Christ for salvation, living as His disciple, and proclaiming Him in this world. But Your strength that is made perfect in weakness will exceed any hardship that I experience! Praise the Lord! Amen

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

ministry flows from the heart

I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.
2 Corinthians 7:4

Christian relationships are deep and emotionally involved. Paul has written two letters to the church in Corinth, a city where he invested a lot of time starting a church, teaching disciples, living among its people, and loving its people. The first letter was full of rebuke for a church that had fallen so low as to take its eyes off Christ and had made a lot of self-driven mistakes. This second follow-up letter is more encouraging since the church had responded to Paul's rebuke with repentance and a determination to be holy and surrendered to her Savior.

These encouragements now flow from the loving heart of Paul, just as the rebukes did previously. He knows the way that the history he has had with Corinth was bound in the love of his heart. He knows how they have suffered and rejoiced and endured difficulties together. That brings a perspective of true joy, godly pride, and comfort.

The more life that I share with Christians, the more I feel this same way. After nearly twenty years at one church now (I am beginning to see it as my life's work and legacy), I know this source of overflowing emotion, joy and sometimes pain. Like Paul, I know Christian ministry flows through the heart. It is how Jesus is in it.

Monday, July 25, 2016

no warhorses... no army

His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.
Psalm 147:10-11

Neither war horses that are swift to ride into battle, nor armored warriors skilled in fighting are God's delight. He does not need armies or weapons to make His power known. God's strength is seen in the natural world in measures greater than we humans could ever muster. God is, however, greatly delighted in the worship He receives from His people. Those who fear God, worship Him, and hope in His great grace are His delight. Those whose faith drives them to trust God will be rewarded by His faithful love, mercy, and care.

God does not trust human strategies, and neither should we. Armies, weapons, warfare, and technologies are all toppled by one breath from God. He controls the world undergirding all human abilities. No earthly force can thus be a threat to Almighty God.

So we should get our eyes off men. No human weapon or strategy can protect or save us. Only God can. And until we fear God and hope in Him, human measures will fail us. That includes all politics, all exercise of any constitutional "rights", and all attempts at wealth building or protection. Those whose faith is in God are delivered as God's grace-given people are ever His delight. Biblical history confirms this time and again.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

grace... how sweet the sound that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:7

This is why Christians are saved by the death and resurrection of Christ. The incredible grace offered in our salvation is not just a one time experience. God saves us so that forever the riches of His grace might by showered on us. God loves sinners. God saves repentant sinners... forever.

God desires to bless us through the grace of His Son for all eternity. That's quite an offer of generous grace to one sinner. But this scripture says this grace is offered to all who will put their faith in the grace offered in Jesus (see verse 8 for clarification). It is multiplied exponentially then by every person who trusts Christ for salvation. Each Christian knows the wild, generous riches of God's grace in kindness in Christ Jesus!

Truly it is amazing grace that saved a wretch like me! I am forever more now showered in the riches of Your great grace and love. I am always blessed because You have saved me.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

a great exchange

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21

There are three aspects of our salvation that strike me from this verse. The first is God's sovereignty over our salvation. God made "him to be sin" (talking about Jesus) "for our sake" (talking about us). God did the sovereign work of decreeing our salvation in Christ. He did it for us and by "making" Jesus go to the cross with our sins. It was a sovereign work of God, not a tragic mistake or miscarriage of justice. Jesus meant to die for us, telling His disciples in advance exactly what would happen in His death and resurrection, carrying the weight of our sin upon Himself in obedience to the Father's own plan.

Secondly, Jesus was sinless. No sinner can be our savior. He "knew no sin". God "made him to be sin", but Jesus in His own person never sinned. His perfect life was offered up for our sin so that His righteousness could be given to us. That leads to a third observation.

Jesus is our substitute. He died for us. This is the great exchange. Jesus took our sins and gave us His righteousness. He took God's wrath on the cross and brought us peace. He was made to be sin so that we might become the righteousness of God. Truly believing the gospel changes us... from the worst of sinners to true saints of God in Christ Jesus!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A comforted life is NOT an easy life.

If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.
2 Corinthians 1:6

I think that the biblical definition of comfort described by Paul in this context is radically different from American cultural expectations of comfort today. Paul saw comfort coming only through difficulty in the process of gospel growth. In fact, he expected God to use Paul's own afflictions to bring comfort to others by using Paul's pains to advance the gospel.

Paul endured tremendous persecutions and suffering, but out of it was birthed true gospel growth, numerous new churches, and the salvation of souls. That tremendous affliction brought the comfort of the gospel to thousands of new believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. And Paul expected those who came to Christ through his ministry to also know the same of experience of comfort in suffering and persecution.

Paul told the Corinthians that they would know comfort by enduring suffering for the gospel. This is not the way my culture sees comfort. We confuse comfort with luxury and ease. This isn't comfort as we know it, sitting back in a lazy boy recliner watching Netflix with snacks in hand. This biblical comfort is only known by suffering for the gospel. And it is real and thoroughly God-centered. This truth opens my eyes. God help me never to confuse ease with comfort.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

the Lord, my God, the merciful

I say to the Lord, You are my God;
give ear to the voice of my pleas for mercy, O Lord!
Psalm 140:6


There are three observations from this verse this morning that I find encouraging. First, GOD IS PERSONAL. David prays to the Lord as "my God". He has a personal relationship with Almighty God, intimate with his Creator. This means God is always approachable in prayer and never distant from us.

Secondly, GOD IS ATTENTIVE. David asks God to listen to and pay attention to his specific requests to keep him from wicked men and their wicked schemes. He can pray in a very specific way with detail because God cares and pays attention in love to the needs of His children. He loves to hear from them and God answers their prayers.

And the third observations is this: GOD IS MERCIFUL. David's requests ultimately throw themselves upon God's mercy, which is God's willingness to not treat us as our sins deserve. Confidence in God's mercy leads us to ask bold things, knowing we sinners may not be perfect, but God is merciful and cares for us out of that mercy and not according to our actions. And that brings God glory as we praise all of it as it comes from Him.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

I might as well admit it...

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
Psalm 139:23-24

This prayer at the end of Psalm 139 invites the Lord to scrutinize and reveal our most wicked thoughts. Why? I think it is so we might know that He knows us. And in our knowledge and recognition that He knows the worst in us, we are moved to repent of our sin and throw our souls upon His mercies. This repentance then puts us back on the ancient path that leads to everlasting life.

When I think about it, the stupidest action in the world is to pretend to hide my sin from God. Adam and Eve tried it at the very beginning with fig leaves in the bushes in the garden. Bad choice, there! Every sin, even ones against other people, is always a sin against God first. And He knows everything, including my sins of thought. He knew all my sins before He even made me in my mother's womb. And He sent Jesus to die for them while I was lost, hopeless and helpless, in my sins.

The best way to live my life then is to acknowledge this truth. God knows my sin and I might as well admit it. He knows I am a sinner by choice and an alien by birth. But, Praise the Lord, Christ died for my sins! Even as a Christian, I must confess sins, repent of sin, trust God and His Word for the proper way to put off sin and put on holiness, and find in His Son and in the Spirit's work that God will see me as righteous in Christ and gloriously remake this old sinner into something holy. Honest confession is one of the most important of spiritual practices and priorities for me.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
1 Corinthians 15:21-22

Born dead.
In Adam's sin we all died
fallen, broken, in sin filled pride
but a Deliverer came alongside
calling us in Him to abide
and in Jesus' death, death itself died
so those born dead might reside
in His resurrection

Made alive.
In Christ's resurrection we now live
because His righteousness to us He gave
to all of those who would believe
and in His name forgiveness receive
finding that God their sins forgave
so that in heaven forever they will live
because of His resurrection

Monday, July 11, 2016

God to the rescue

It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
and rescued us from our foes,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
Psalm 136:23-24

God saves His people. It is the story of redemption throughout all human history, coming to its highest moment in the death and resurrection of Jesus. God loves to save His people. He delivered Israel out of slavery in Egypt. He gave the nation the Promised Land in a series of military victories over her foes. He delivered Israel in captivity in the time of Esther, and brought them out completely from captivity in the stories of Ezra and Nehemiah. God is a deliverer.

There may be low times when we feel as if God is not working for us. We may be wondering if He even sees us. Be He knows any people in "low estates" and will work for them. He has already done so in Jesus, so He wants them to know the gospel and thus know deliverance! Every sinner has deliverance supplied by grace through faith in Christ. God still rescues people.

I thank You that You are my deliverer and in my low estate, You have saved me. While I was a sinner, Christ died for me, and You planned that in Your eternal decrees. I trust and believe in You, my rescue!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

raised up with Jesus, seated with Jesus

and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
Ephesians 2:6

There are two important considerations of my new position in Christ that are profound in significance in verse six. The first is that I have been raised up with Jesus. That is why I am no longer dead in my sin. The resurrection of Jesus to live again is also my experience from Jesus. His resurrection gave me life as the Father saw fit to raise up in new life all those who would believe in Jesus.

The second profound consideration is that I am seated with Jesus in heavenly places. Now since I am actually sitting at my dining room table at this very moment writing down this thought, this must be a spiritual expression. Jesus is authoratatively seated at the Father's right hand. And Paul says that we are spiritually right there... close to Jesus and close to the Father. In Christ, we are near to God, not far from Him.

Lord Jesus,
I thank You that You are near to me, that Your life has resurrected my dead soul and brought me to You. Your grace sustains me and brings Your power in my life at all times. Thank You, Lord!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

needing the body, needing the church

If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
1 Corinthians 12:26-27

I can dimly remember a time when I was not a part of a local church. My family came to faith in Christ when I was seven years of age. It was a radically life-changing conversion. Up to that time we were typical unchurched Americans, maybe in church on Easter with extended family out of a vague sense of tradition, but Jesus and His Church were foreign to us. When the gospel transformed my parents' needy and broken lives, that all changed!

From that time on, the worship of the Lord, the teaching of God's Word, and the fellowship with other Christians in a local church became our lives. We were members of Christ's body, and not just in an official upper case Baptist Church Membership sense. We lived and served in community with Christians in the lower case organic and sometimes messy "members of a body" sense.

When my mother's health failed and she eventually died, I knew the concern of a church community that was like close family to me every day of a very rough few years. When my father went through tough times, doubts, and his own struggles, I had the support of the body of Christ, and it was the teaching and care of the church for him that eventually brought him through. When I have been up or down, the church has always been there. Christians as the body of Christ, both needing me and me needing them, have always been there for me. It is a great thing to be part of the Church that Jesus is making! It is my life.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

the gospel slave

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant {the word is SLAVE}  to all, that I might win more of them.
1 Corinthians 9:19

Paul willingly made himself a slave to the gospel so that the message of Christ's saving work could move forward in everything that he did. To the Corinthians, Paul even laid aside all his apostolic rights to financial support so that the gospel could be shared unhindered. (Are you reading this TBN?) He trusted God to provide for His slave, because that is what good masters will do.

The gospel pushed Paul on to greater achievements and greater suffering. His life as a slave of the gospel eventually led to his martyrdom in Rome. But what He accomplished as a gospel slave is unparalleled. Paul was used to bring the gospel to the Roman world. He carried the church forward in his slave hands as he reached major gentile cities. The man wrote most of the New Testament scriptures as the Holy Spirit inspired his gospel correspondence with churches.

Gospel slaves are rare people. They let God be their entire agenda for everything. They are content to trust their Master. They can go far when they have no self-driven motives. And the gospel of grace gives them a gracious way of seeing and doing everything.

Friday, July 1, 2016

my hope is in the Lord

O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.
Psalm 131:3

God is my hope and my confidence, right now and for all my days. Hope in the LORD will carry me into eternity. It brings perspective on my life right now and it brings confidence for my future. Hope that only God can give is a wonderful experience.

Real hope in the real world and hope beyond my own death are known to me in Christ. This powerful hope is sustaining. It brings peace beyond the worst of struggles. I am reminded of an old hymn:

My hope is in the Lord
Who gave Himself for me
and paid the price
of all my sin at Calvary

No merit of my own
His anger to suppress
my only hope is found
in Jesus' righteousness

And now for me He stands
before the Father's throne
He shows His wounded hands
and names me as His own

His grace has planned it all
'tis mine but to believe
and recognize His work of love
and Christ receive

For me, He died
For me, He lives
And everlasting life and light
He freely gives