Wednesday, August 23, 2017

a way above death


There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.
Proverbs 14:12

What chilling words! Grim news awaits the end of all world-gained wisdom. Human religions, culturally driven philosophies, and social platforms all may seem to have some element of benefit to them. But they all have the same bitterly realized termination point... a literal fatal flaw: death. No philosophy ends that real truth. No social program will wipe out the effects of mortality. No science or medicine ends the eventual descent into the grave that awaits each human being. The day of our birth and the day of our death are both human experiences over which we have no control.

The point of this proverb is to sober us to see the benefit of following God's wisdom. It is the only "way" that leads to life with Him. We are already warned that wicked living yields destruction, while those who seek God's righteousness ultimately flourish (Proverbs 14:11). We are then warned after considering the end of human efforts that the laughter and joys of human experience are tempered by heartache and grief (Proverbs 14:13). We have to look for a life wisdom, a controlling philosophy, that exists above the mortal plane of human experience. Wise people seek God's truth for perspective on life. It gets us above the canyon lands of the grave. And God freely and abundantly supplies a truly right way that leads beyond death.

"The unfolding of God's Word gives light" (Psalm 119:130). We are promised that the Bible will give understanding to the simple. And when it comes to truth that guides us, that shows us how we must really live, that helps us handle the heartaches and the grief of our own mortality, we must look to the Bible where God has revealed Himself and His ways to us. God's Word is the "way" that doesn't just "seem right"... it IS right. The Word of God speaks clearly. God gives His wisdom in scripture that we can read and understand and follow. I will follow it for life, letting God lead me forever into life.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

everyone on board


We will not neglect the house of our God.
Nehemiah 10:39

These nine words solemnize a reaffirmation of the covenant, focusing on the worship of God in His temple at Jerusalem. The leaders of the returned exiles who had worked so hard under Ezra to build another temple, and who had endured opposition and enormous commitment under Nehemiah to restore the walls of Jerusalem, now turn to the final step of commitment by restoring all the temple worship necessities. They commit to giving themselves first to the Lord, and giving to God what God had given to them in order to support the priests, Levites, and others working in worship in the temple complex.

Their covenant at this time is a reminder for us to consider making commitments to guard against the inevitable drift in dedication that our souls can experience. When the work is hard and still undone, it is easy to stay committed. After all, the task is unfinished and the need to stay at it with dedication is clearly visible and apparent to everyone involved. It is after completion, once the newness of a thing wears off, that we are in danger of severe vision drift. And this led the Jews to recommit the priests, Levites, and temple leaders to God's Law first (Nehemiah 10:28-31).

This commitment then meant that the rest of the Jews who had returned to Judah would also obligate themselves to support the worship of God in Jerusalem. The rest of this covenant reaffirmation then expresses their willingness to give tithes, offerings, food, oil, wood, and all other necessities for the maintenance of the worship needs of the temple (Nehemiah 10:32-39). They will give out of worship and to the worship of the Lord.

Everybody made a commitment... the leaders to lead the worship by God's Law and the people to worship and support this in keeping with God's Law. And it was this "all in" total effort that led to this bold declaration: "We will not neglect the house of our God." Great ministry and great worship involves everyone so that God gains glory from all His creation. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

passionate, persistent prayer


I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?
Luke 18:8

Jesus told a story about a very persistent widow who kept bringing her pleas for justice to a self-centered judge. Although the judge had no truly righteous character, yet he worked to resolve justice for the widow just to rid himself of the constant pleas she made before him. His motives were still self-centered, but the outcome was justice, more because of the widow's persistence than for any other reason.

The point of the parable is that persistence in our requests before God is important. It is a type of faith. Jesus goes on to say that if such persistence gains justice in a corrupt system, how much more should we believe and be convinced in confidence that a perfectly holy God will rightly grant our requests when we ask of Him by faith? God will "give justice to his elect who cry to him day and night." God will not "delay long over them." God loves His people and those whose faith leads them to passionate, persistent prayer will find His answers more than available. He will abundantly answer.

There is however a haunting commentary from Jesus that echoes in my heart two thousand years distant from His original words. "Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" And that questions presses in on me uncomfortably. In a daring age of human technology connecting us instantaneously to a vast reservoir of human sourced information, we may be tempted to take our problems first to Google, or to simply press a button and ask Siri. But Christians trust Jesus. He has our eternal souls in His care... it makes sense that faith leads us to ask of Him for justice and grace in our daily lives as well. But will He find that faith in us?

Friday, August 18, 2017

discipleship: culture & pictures


Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.
2 Timothy 2:3-4

The reality of Christian maturity is that it does not come easily. It is hard. Paul uses the metaphors of single-minded solders, rule-committed athletes, and hard-working farmers to make this point. All three word pictures emphasize the discipline involved in being disciples who make disciples. Followers of Jesus don't just happen. They aren't just magically made.

If we look in the context, we see that a culture of discipleship first is in place. The disciple-maker is strengthened by the grace of Christ for the ministry of being used by Jesus to make other disciples of Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1). The disciple-maker also stands in a stream of historic, orthodox faith that must be sourced in scripture and is flowing forward from its source, going all the way back to the apostles. Each generation of disciples must faithfully pass on that which has been taught them from other faithful people (2 Timothy 2:2). And those people who are entrusted with the gospel and who are making disciples must continue this. This is not easy work. It constantly must take place in cultures all around the globe. The church and any gathering of Christians is a discipleship factory that never shuts down.

And so I prepare myself, reminded to be single-minded in my focus like a fighting soldier. I am committed to compete with the freeing strength and skill-building disciplines of God's Word, like a winning athlete. I am willing to patiently work hard growing disciples like a laboring farmer. God help me to make disciples who make disciples for Jesus.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

be kind people


A man who is kind benefits himself,
but a cruel man hurts himself.
Proverbs 11:17

The contemporary way of understanding the principle that is behind this proverb might be found in the phrase "what goes around, comes around." Life is remarkably reciprocal. Given enough time, good deeds become their own reward and deliberate hurts against others return to hurt the perpetrator.

This proverb centers its attention on how we treat others. It promotes kindness to other people as a great personal character trait. Kindness is a social virtue that builds good relationships and benefits everyone, including the person who is kind. Kindness is thus its own reward. That does not mean that every act of kindness will immediately be met with thankfulness and altruism, but it does mean kindness is emotionally and personally satisfying. It is wise then to be kind to other people.

The opposite of kindness in this short saying is cruelty. The word means to be abusive or even terrible with people. This is a person whose actions use and hurt people deliberately. And ultimately these actions hurt the cruel person. He may immediately get what he wants by force or through mean control, but there will be no social grace flowing back to him. And so a cruel person must keep resorting to these tactics. A wake of mistrust and distant relationships builds around the cruel person as others attempt to protect themselves. The cruelest people often end up alone, in bitter anger, sadly dysfunctional.

I want to be a kind man with a generous soul, ready to invest well in others because God loves them. God forgives repentant sinners in the ultimate act of kindness, offering lavish grace to them that He alone provides since they can do nothing for themselves. That's my model of kindness. God did this for me, a ruthless sinner who was headed toward cruelty. And if God did this for me, then through His love, I should be kind to others.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

remember the Lord & fight for family


And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”
Nehemiah 4:14

This speech encouraging men to keep building the wall in Jerusalem is how Nehemiah handled opposition. He confronted it with wise action, trust in God, and personal motivation to do what is right.

Nehemiah devised wise actions. With each group of wall-builders he stationed armed soldiers. These citizen warriors then worked as teams day and night to complete the wall so that the enemies of the Jews could gain no advantage. Each group had a ram's horn ready to sound an alarm if under attack so that the entire force could quickly muster for defensive fighting. Nehemiah had a strategy in place to keep the work going despite the opposition and to protect even a worst case scenario from becoming a disaster. It required more from the men so he knew motivation and faith had to be part of his communication, engaging their heads, hearts, and hands.

Faith was vital to what the leader communicated. The whole project to rebuild Jerusalem's walls was initiated by a call of God upon Nehemiah. And God had done so much with the wall-builders already. He would lead them to complete the tasks. God is great and awesome. He does not change, even if life gets harder or opposition emerges. Remembering God's grace and provision strengthens hearts and hands to continue serving Him at what He asks.

The motivation Nehemiah appealed to was family. The wall ultimately protected each man's own home. They would stand side by side to build as brothers in order to protect sons, daughters, and wives. Faith, family, and fortitude would help them to fight for what was right and finish what God had called them to start.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

faithful in that which is another's


If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?
Luke 16:11-12

With these words, Jesus puts into perspective all the stuff of life and all the pursuits of wealth. An eternal perspective must drive the way we utilize our earthly resources. Money is a measure of the human heart. What I will quickly spend money or resources upon is the quickest measure of what my heart truly treasures. Stewarding my life will show the world my values. 

Before my finger points at some unscrupulous CEO who plunders a dying company before exiting with a golden parachute leaving employees jobless, I better look at my own heart. By global standards, I am incredibly wealthy. In fact, any American making more than 30K a year is in the top 1.25% of the richest people worldwide. That's right... from a global persepective I'm filthy, stinking rich. Don't believe me? Go to www.globalrichlist.com and key in your income and let the facts speak for themselves. The question becomes: What do I do with my wealth?

Jesus' point is that in order to be entrusted with advancing His kingdom (true riches), I must be first faithful in what I have in my life (unrighteous wealth). Even that is on loan to me from God since I will die one day. I'm pretty sure nobody gets to take their checkbook or investment portfolio to the judgment to pay any debts or fines to the Almighty! But by being faithful with what I do have now, I can store up heavenly treasure by investing in eternity.

O Lord,
I want to be faithful with what I have been given in life. And so I trust You as I seek to share the gospel (true wealth) and Your provision (worldly wealth) in this world.
Amen

Monday, August 14, 2017

keep the commandment unstained


I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,
1 Timothy 6:13-14

Timothy was charged by Paul to stay faithful to the Word of God, to proclaim the gospel clearly, to watch his doctrine closely until Jesus returns. This is the charge every Christian, but especially every Christian leader must also take to be their own. We live in times where it is easy to stain the truth.

Holding to a gospel that is free from reproach means that I must take God's Word seriously. It is my life. And through scripture God sheds light on my days and gives life to me in ways that I cannot take for granted. I must let His Word saturate my thinking, change my actions, and mold my character until the day I leave this world.

As Jesus stood before Pilate, the earthly ruler who had the power to execute Him based on the charges brought against Him by His enemies, Jesus did not deny the one true statement, but clearly affirmed that He was the King of the Jews. He made the good confession at great cost. And so confessing the truth about Jesus may cost us in some similar way. But the truth cannot be reproached. Even at our own hurt.

Lord Jesus,
Help me to keep the Word of God unstained... to always believe You and never let my sin cloud the truth. May the gospel mark my life always, even at cost, until I am forever with You.
Amen

Thursday, August 10, 2017

four rewards of God's wisdom


I walk in the way of righteousness,
in the paths of justice,
granting an inheritance to those who love me,
and filling their treasuries.
Proverbs 8:20-21

God's wisdom is richly rewarding and in this section of Proverbs, wisdom is personified, offering four rewards to those who seek God's wisdom. The first reward is direction in the path of righteousness. Wisdom from God will always bless a follower with direction in doing what pleases the Lord. Wisdom brings righteousness.

Wisdom also brings along with righteous living, an understanding to navigate life with true justice. It helps bring righteousness to bear where justice is needed, helping us make right choices for all people. Wisdom brings justice.

Wisdom also brings a future of blessing to all who will follow. God promises generational impact to those who will accept and apply His wisdom. This extends beyond the life of a wise person. Wisdom grants an inheritance.

And finally, to those who love wisdom, a measure of success awaits them as God's truth becomes their finest asset in life. The value of wisdom brings strength, hope, success, and a kind of prospering from God's truth that is a unique blessing to those who will wisely follow the Lord. Wisdom is an abundant treasure.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

leading by accepting guilt


O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens.
Ezra 9:6

Ezra prays this prayer of repentance on behalf of the people he is leading. He was not personally guilty of the sins he was confessing in that he did not intermarry with gentiles in violation of the covenant. Yet as a leader, he assumes responsibility for the wrong within the remnant in Jerusalem. He feels the guilt for those he leads, and so he prays this prayer of confession and repentance.

Good leaders acknowledge where things aren't going well. Great leaders will confess the wrong they find within their organization, taking full responsibility for it and leading in the hard work of necessary change. This is exactly what made Ezra a great leader. He humbly repented before God for the wrongs in Jerusalem among the returned remnant. He leads the people in repentance and change before God. He accepts the shame of the sin and leads the people to change, turning from sin and back to God.

Lord,
I see in Ezra one of the hardest parts of leadership. And I humbly ask that You help me to lead in this way... quick to confess sin, to repent of it and to return to Your grace, truth, and love.
Amen

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

worth the self-denial


Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:27

Self-death and self-denial are the necessary attitudes for following Jesus. You cannot do what you want exclusively or attempt to be your own person as a disciple of Jesus. You identify with your Savior first. Jesus calls us to die to our self-driven agenda. We follow Him carrying a cross in order to crucify our own selfish wants, needs, and ideas. Discipleship is costly. Following Jesus is highly satisfying and rewarding, but it is not easy. The best things will cost time, effort, and sacrifice.

The same is true at a much small level for many things in life. This is a mundane comparison, but it provides perspective for me. My favorite recreation hands down has to be high mountain flyfishing. As a resident Kansan, though, I don't get to do it much, and when I do it is a great effort really. But I will sacrifice to do it. I travel to mountains and hike to back country streams or lakes. This costs me time and money. I'm physically challenged when I do so. But the experience is absolutely breathtaking in every sense of the word. It is worth it to me every time.

If we make such sacrifices for earthly experiences, wouldn't it make sense for the best eternal experiences to require sacrifice and commitment from us? How much more rewarding it will be to sacrifice by cross-carrying so that I will always be with Jesus! He's just ahead of us and wants us to follow. But will we pick up the cross, knowing the cost, yet thrilled for the experience to be had?

Monday, August 7, 2017

to the King


To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
1 Timothy 1:17

Paul breathed this prayer of praise after sharing the way in which God took him from being a blasphemer of the gospel, saved him, and turned him into a proclaimer of the new, glorious gospel. It is personal praise in response to God's personal work in his life. It is the heartfelt gushing forth of worship from one redeemed. It puts all the glory back where it belongs... with Jesus Who saved Paul.

Jesus is the eternal King. He has always been with the Father. Through Him God created all things. Jesus will always be with the Father and with us, bearing the scars of His love for us and death for us, showing His obedience to the Father in them, yet always living now for us. Jesus is the immortal God Whose resurrection brings eternal life to all who believe.

Jesus is the invisible God, unseen by us in the present, but known in history as real. He changed human history forever as the one and only God come in human flesh to save us. And Jesus is crowned now with honor and glory at the Father's right hand. Forever and ever we will praise Jesus. It never gets old or routine. When I think of Him in this way, praise pours forth as well.

Friday, August 4, 2017

how we walk


Ponder the path of your feet;
then all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
turn your foot away from evil.
Proverbs 4:26-27

All throughout scripture walking is a metaphor for life. How we walk, where we walk, and why we walk are subthemes of that metaphor. This is the image being explained in this proverb. We are called to walk in a way that pleases the Lord and protects us from evil. There are three ways we walk explained here.

We are deliberate in our steps. This is a deliberate action. We make choices with each step we take. That is why we must ponder our choices. Which path is the right path? We must examine it in the light of scripture and follow the clear work of the Holy Spirit. It must align with the Bible and the gospel to be the right way to go. The Word of God with the Spirit of God will show us the right way. But sometimes we must stop and think and pray for our next steps.

We are dedicated to our steps. We must be determined to staying on the path once we are there. God keeps leading our steps. We continue to make choices to not leave the path and ignore byways or shortcuts. We do not turn any direction unless it aligns with what God shows or calls us to do.

There is no deviation in our steps. We also are aware of the awful consequences of deviation from this path. There is evil off the path of life. Sin can hurt us, mislead us, or destroy us. Our enemy wants us to take what looks like a broad and smoother way. But with this warning, we walk, pondering our path always in the light of God's Word.


Thursday, August 3, 2017

God sees and works. We obey.


But the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews, and they did not stop them until the report should reach Darius and then an answer be returned by letter concerning it.
Ezra 5:5

God watches over human circumstances so that His glory might be known among us. He moved by His prophets Haggai and Zechariah to motivate the Jews to resume the reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem. An official government edict from Babylon had halted the project for a period of several years. But God does not need governments in order for His work to proceed. His Word moved His people to obey. 

In a stunning reversal of policy, as the Jews continued to bravely defy the order to cease work, the wheels of bureaucracy turned in their favor. Local officials petitioned the new administration under Darius and in the end the government in Babylon lent its full support to the completion of the temple. God used a pagan king to affirm the work of re-establishing worship in Jerusalem.

The eye of God is always on His people. And His hand is always supplying. The only part of the equation that changes is our allegiance and obedience. Will we obey His Word? When we do, God never ceases to supply our need and surprise us with His power.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

unless you repent


"No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Luke 13:5

These are the words of Jesus in response to two human tragedies. The first incident was a political evil in which Pilate brutally executed Galilean Jews who had been traveling to the temple to offer sacrifices. The second tragedy was a natural disaster in Jerusalem when a building collapse killed eighteen unsuspecting people.

Jesus' point is that none of those tragedies occurred as an act of God's judgment on "worse sinners". Rather, these things occurred in a sin-cursed environment. No one knows when they will die, yet death is inevitable, and the worst tragedy is to die without repentance of sin. Death's inevitability and its surrounding sorrow should move us to be people who repent of sin.

Oh Lord,
The end of sin is death. But You give eternal life. And in Your grace is a peace that comes in my repentance. And so I want always to have Your gospel to lead me on to repentance. The ongoing response to my sin is a regular, continuous process of repentance so that you can make of this broken life something whole and useful for Your glory.
Amen

Monday, July 31, 2017

love and endurance


May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.
2 Thessalonians 3:5

This short little prayer for the Thessalonian church is a good reminder of what a Christian needs every day. Paul prayed for the hearts of his disciples. And truly all our greatest needs must start by God meeting us at the heart. If Christ has our hearts, He has our lives.

The prayer is for hearts to be directed to two things... the love of God and the steadfastness of Christ. Love is the first and deepest heart need. We often try to fill that need with many insufficient loves... some we search for, some we quickly plug in out of inconvience. But no earthly person, thing, or experience of joy can ultimately satisfy our heart's need for love. Yet God can be found in other loves as He becomes first priority. We see His love as He creates earthly enjoyment and blesses relationships with His grace in Christ.

God also directs our hearts to the persevering endurance of Jesus Christ. Because to know the Father's love, we must in love obey Him, just as the Son loved the Father and obeyed Him, even to death on a cross. That takes steadfastness. I want to be faithful in the Father's love He gives to me. I want to be faithful in my love for the Father. I want to be steadfast in worshiping Him in and through His good gifts, starting with my salvation in Jesus Christ, and extending into every relationship, every action I take, every experience of my life, every joyful thing God gives me to do for His glory.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Above


Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his majesty is above earth and heaven.
Psalm 148:13

Above all on this spinning globe
The majesty is great of our Lord
His glory above the earth
Praise the name of our God!

Above the farthest stretch of heaven
The grace of God is freely given
Bigger than the universe
Praise the name of our God!

Above constraint of time or space
God sends love in amazing grace
So much more than we can experience
Praise the name of our God!

Above the limits of brokenness
Christ has brought freedom and forgiveness
We are free from sin and death
Praise the name of our God!

Above the curse on sin to die
Forever we live with God on high
By Jesus freed to live and love
Praise the name of our God!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

pride & fall


But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the Lord his God and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.
2 Chronicles 26:16

Heed this warning from the life of King Uzziah. He had a long and prosperous reign in Jerusalem, beginning his rule at the age of 16, and reigning 52 years in total. He was a God-fearing man who set his heart on seeking God for himself and the nation. The Lord blessed him so that Judah's power and influence grew. He fortified Jerusalem and built a strongly defensive army. National security and morale were high. The small nation became greater than it possibly ever could. And that is where the old king grew weak in his perceived strength and accomplishments.

For reasons known only to the king, Uzziah chose to violate the temple law and do a task reserved only for the priests... the burning of incense before the Lord. Perhaps he thought it would personalize his worship. Maybe he reasoned "It's only incense... it's not a big deal like offering a sacrifice like Saul did." But it was wrong. It disrespected God's holy commands. When God confronted the king who was in the very act of disobedience, Uzziah grew angry. He was chastised then immediately with leprosy, excluded from all entry into the temple from that day forward. He was banished to his own leper's house, losing palace privilege as well as his pride.

We should never take credit for what God in His grace pours on us. And we should never think ourselves above God's Word. Such pride brings separation and destruction.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

fearing only one authority


And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.
Luke 12:8-9

The context of this statement from Jesus is the warning of increased persecution that would come from Israel's religious leaders againt the disciples of Jesus (Luke 12:1-12). He has warned his disciples to steer clear of the hypocritical religion of the Pharisees. God makes all secrets known in His refining justice, so hypocrisy will always eventually be revealed by Him.

The fear of a disciple of Jesus is not for what man can do to any person. Instead, we respect God's justice, Who alone can determine eternal destiny. Human powers might give a death sentence, but God can judge sin and souls in hell. God knows us and cares for His own. But we must fear Him and not human powers.

True disciples of Jesus then will not be coerced by human torture or punishment into denying their Lord. They will resolutely acknowledge the Son of Man before the men who bring persecution. They will hold fast to Him because their souls are safe in Christ. No human misery outweighs the splendor of eternity loved by God in Christ.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

turning tide


This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—
2 Thessalonians 1:5

These words were meant to encourage a church that was faithful to the gospel despite suffering in extreme persecution. The early church saw its leaders and members imprisoned, tortured, and killed for the proclamation of the gospel that Jesus died and rose again for our sins. They suffered for the sake of the gospel story. Paul, who had endured numerous beatings and imprisonment himself sent them this reminder: the tide will turn one day.

Any time the church experiences persecution, it is because God has righteously deemed His people worthy of His kingdom so they suffer under man, while they remain faithful, loved and protected by God forever. Persecution means that Christians are doing something right. Jesus warned His disciples that the world would hate them just as it hated Him.

The tide will turn though. A righteous and holy God will call all people into account for their lives. Paul reminds us in this book that Jesus will return to judge this world. It is the theme of 2 Thessalonians. Jesus will call all those into account who do not obey the gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:8), and there will be dire consequences for rejecting Jesus (2 Thessalonians 1:9-10). We must passionately proclaim the gospel, faithfully, right up to that Day.

Monday, July 24, 2017

rescue from the cruelest sword


I will sing a new song to you, O God;
upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you,
who gives victory to kings,
who rescues David his servant from the cruel sword.
Psalm 144:9-10

David's heart was filled with praise because of God's rescuing grace. He had been delivered from the hands of enemies. David was a warrior king. This psalm is filled with images from his military career as he prays to the God Who equipped him to battle Israel's foes (Psalm 144:1). He gives all credit to God for the progress Israel made against enemies (Psalm 144:2).

God delivered David and saved the nation despite human frailty (Psalm 144:3-4). He did it showing His power against foreign powers bent on discrediting David and the nation (Psalm 144:5-8). The Lord was the power and the leader behind every victory David knew as command in chief. God rescued the king and made His people great.

I identify with this psalm at a spiritual level, because living for Jesus is a lifetime spiritual battle. Some people aren't too fond of Christians. And another Christian leader's failure would be celebrated by many outside of the faith. So God must strengthen my hands and bring victory against the lies of sin that I must fight for and with myself and with others. Like David, I will praise God as He does this.

Friday, July 21, 2017

God made Judah great again


And the fear of the Lord fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah, and they made no war against Jehoshaphat.
2 Chronicles 17:10

This was the blessing of God coming to His obedient people. As Judah obeyed God and Jehoshaphat restored the worship of the Lord in Jerusalem, taking great measures to provide for the teaching of God's Law throughout Judah, God granted peace. Judah became powerful and prosperous. Peace came around the nation as an outcome of their faithfulness to the Lord and to His Law again.

God blessed His people when they simply obeyed the covenant again. The nation prospered under God as His covenant people. God kept His Word and His people worshiped Him, turned to God in faith, and taught His truth to the next generation. It took a God-fearing leader to get this revival started, but God used king Jehoshaphat to strengthen His people.

Obedience to the Lord is the only path to real peace. Believing Him and trusting Him are the sources of security. God's blessing comes by faith in what He has done, trusting God, so that we might have the ability to obey His Word, do His will, and know His peace.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

good gifts to children


"If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Luke 11:13

By giving us the Holy Spirit to reside in us and beside us at all times, God has given us the best gift... Himself. But God gives all of Himself. He sent His Son to be our salvation. Jesus gave His life for us. The Holy Spirit is now with us. God the Father is always caring for us. How much more does God have to do to show He loves us? He gives us more than we can imagine at every turn. And God does this to people who were sinners when He provided all this.

This leads to worship, and a Paul Baloche worship song captures this wonder about Jesus.

"You Gave Your Life Away"

You spoke and worlds were formed
You breathed and life was born
You knew that one day You would come

So far from Heaven's throne
Clothed in human form
You showed the world the Father's love

You gave You gave Your life away
You gave You gave Your life away
You gave You gave Your life away for me

Your grace has broken every chain
My sins are gone my debt's been paid
You gave You gave Your life away for me

You lived a sinless life
Yet You were crucified
You bought our freedom on the cross

Forsaken for our sin
You died and rose again
Jesus You are the Lamb of God

You gave You gave Your life away
You gave You gave Your life away
You gave You gave Your life away for me

Your grace has broken every chain
My sins are gone my debt's been paid
You gave You gave Your life away for me

How glorious is Your love
If I could sing forever it's not enough
How glorious is Your love
If I could sing forever it's not enough

You gave You gave Your life away
You gave You gave Your life away
You gave You gave Your life away for me

Your grace has broken every chain
My sins are gone my debt's been paid
You gave You gave Your life away for me

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

gospel prayer request


At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
Colossians 4:3-4

If St. Paul, who literally lived and died for the gospel, wanted Christians praying for him to be bold and clear in his proclamation of the gospel, how much more should I seek clarity?! He knew the task was crucial to declare the gospel. There are four things in this prayer request that help us see what gospel proclamation should be.

First, God must bring OPPORTUNITY. Paul wanted God to open the door to people who needed to hear about Jesus. God must precede the telling of the good news, leading us to ready hearts.

Second, the truth of Jesus is a surprising MYSTERY. That is from the New Testament view of the word, the gospel is fresh news... a surprising turn in world history showing us that God loves us, sent Jesus Who died and rose again to save us. It is unexplainable by natural means but totally believable by faith alone.

The gospel needs CLARITY as it is told to people. Paul didn't want his personality or circumstances clouding the gospel story. The truth should always be clear.

And finally, sharing the gospel is a NECESSITY for the believer. Paul was under obligation and his request to be clear says as much because he says he "ought" to speak the gospel. I then out of NECESSITY must look of OPPORTUNITY to tell the MYSTERY of Jesus with CLARITY.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

confidence in completion


The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Psalm 138:8

Faith leads us to believe amazing things about God and what He is doing. And it leads us to experience great things from Him as we surrender our lives to Him. A faith destiny trusting God will bring us to see God at work in our lives as He does His purpose in us.

My experience of this though is limited by one factor: my lack of trust. I can sum up what hinders me with these questions: Am I willing to trust God's purpose and relinquish my personal agenda for my life? Am I consciously committed to Jesus as Lord directing my thinking, attitudes, emotions, and actions? That is what I must do in order for God to be truly worshiped. And then He will fulfill His purpose in me.

This psalm reminds us that God's purposes are linked to His steadfast love. It is grace that leads Him to do great things in the hearts and lives of repentant sinners that He brings to Himself for His glory. And He will "not forsake" what He is doing in His saving and sanctifying work in us. Just as the New Testament encourages us with "He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it" (Philippians 1:6), so God will bring to fulfillment His purpose, in steadfast love, never forsaking us. Amen!

Monday, July 17, 2017

blessings from You


Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.
1 Chronicles 29:12

This is part of the last prayer that the author of Chronicles records from David. It is what is on the king's heart in his last days on earth. David has seen two dreams come to fruition: First, the provision for the building of the temple in Jerusalem for the worship of Yahweh... a building he considers to be "God's palace" (1 Chronicles 29:1). Secondly, David has seen the secure transition of power and the throne to his son Solomon.

These important events lead to great rejoicing in David and frame this worship prayer. David will die, but his spiritual legacy will live on within the temple worship and his promised dynasty will be blessed by God through the reign of Solomon.

That is how riches and honor come from God's hand to David. It is how God made him, and his throne great. And as David prospered and his son prospered, so did Jerusalem and all of Israel. God blessed the line of David in order to bless all. And through Jesus, the great Son of David, we all still know true riches, honor, might, strength, and great grace for any who would believe.

Friday, July 14, 2017

humble, obedient child


An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”
Luke 9:46-48

The social structure Jesus believed and taught is vastly different than those we would construct. Jesus does not construct His on power or fame. Instead, He bases His on humility and obedience. As His disciples repeatedly argue over their own perceived individual "greatness", Jesus quietly calls a child to His side to illustrate humble obedience.

Jesus shuts down the childish fighting of His disciples with the childlike humility demonstrated by the child at His side. He called His disciples to learn from this child... to be kids again. Receiving the child who obeyed Jesus' call would be like receiving Jesus Who obeyed the Father's call. Only then would they also know God. Only by humility and obedience can one know how to live as God intends.

And so must I, with the humble faith of an obedient son come to God. It saves me from delusions of my own significance. It positions me to serve God and others like Jesus did... in humble obedience to my Lord.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Disciple-making is hard work.


Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis.
Colossians 4:12-13

Epaphras had a disciple-making shepherd's heart. He prayed hard for the maturity of the Colossians christians. He longed for them to be a church who followed Christ doing the will of God in full assurance. And he backed up his difficult, committed prayers for them with hard work with and for them.

Epaphras worked hard in prayer (the text says he was struggling for them in prayer) and he physically poured effort (possible translations could be "anguished greatly" or "took great pains") to see a church matured to be people who follow and proclaim Jesus faithfully. Both of these tasks, praying and disciple-making, go together. They require diligent attention. They are soul-deepening, life-committed, hard work. To see someone to maturity is the life work of a parent. Disciple-makers apply themselves as diligently, knowing there is just one letter's difference between "mature" and "manure".

I want to keep pouring myself into people this way, but I have to acknowledge it can be hard work, especially when they choose not to obey scripture or the gospel. People don't always get what God is doing, and I don't always get it either. People can resist the work of grace that the gospel needs to do in them. They willingly choose sin. Sometimes they are just so stuck in the wrong path they can't fathom the way out and choose not to let you pull them up. Even then, they need to be anguished over and struggled over mightily in prayer and personal conversation. Until you shed tears, you may not have made a disciple, just as every parent knows that you haven't really gotten into maturing your kids until you have cried over them and with them. Disciple-making is hard work.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

the worship place


Her priests I will clothe with salvation,
and her saints will shout for joy.
Psalm 132:16

A promise so bold
made to saints of old
Jerusalem held the holy place
where people came to know God's grace
there on Zion's hill
they repented and sought God's will

Salvation was the promise from heaven
as priests sacrificed animals given
brought by people in their sin
who in obedience entered in
covenant on temple site
there to be set right

The joy of forgiveness of transgression
of the law was now in possession
worship of the Lord in His place
brought a grateful smile to each face
looking up to heaven
sins atoned, now forgiven

Salvation's garment now worn
in obedience now adorned
joyfully praising new behavior
walking back down Zion's hill
leaving that place to do His will

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

worship Jesus so that the world may know Him


Sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
1 Chronicles 16:23-24

This is a verse from a song of praise that King David wrote for the occassion of bringing the ark of the covenant to its new place in Jerusalem. There he appointed Asaph and his brothers with special duties in watching over it and leading the nation in the worship of the Lord. This was done not only to bring Israel into worship, but also to declare God's greatness among the nations.

David's hope is that all the earth would know the Lord as Israel testified day after day of His salvation. By bringing the worship of God to the capital city of an emerging power in Jerusalem, David set the ark of the covenant front and center on his priority list and the world stage as other nations came to Jerusalem.

David's hope is still why we worship. Christians, too, want the nations to know God in Christ and to tell of His greatness. We want His great salvation, accomplished on the cross and secured forever in the resurrection, to be known to all people. That is why the gospel is at the center of Christian worship, so that those who visit us may see salvation in baptism, in the Lord's Table, and in our gospel worship and preaching. We worship so that the world may know.

Monday, July 10, 2017

fear of the controversial Jesus


Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.
Luke 8:35

This response was partly due to the reputation of the wild man of the tombs, and partly due to the power of Jesus. We know the people of the Gerasenes had to deal with this demonized man in the past. They tried guarding him and shackling him with chains, only to have him break the bonds and run madly back to the desert tombs outside the city (see Luke 8:29). They kep their distance from him out of fear, making no more attempts to control his entrapped life by further bondage. They let the demons have him.

But here is this tormented man now clothed, delivered by Jesus, and in a civil frame of mind... and they are still very afraid. This time it is because of the change Jesus brought that saved this man and sent their pork futures plummeting over a cliff to drown in the lake (see Luke 8:33-34). The fear of the wild man has been replaced by the fear of the God man. But this is not righteous respect for the power of Jesus. They do not like what Jesus has done, because it has cost their city to see this man changed.

And so do many people react to the radical changes Jesus brings. They can't accept a new normal that is truly normal and righteous. That is what makes Jesus so controversial.

Friday, July 7, 2017

three things that won't stop sin


These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
Colossians 2:23

This verse describes three ineffective means of stopping my sin. At the top of the list is self-made religion. Picking and choosing my own moral code and custom built belief system is just a bad idea according to God. But it is the prevailing philosophy of religion in Western Culture. When Christian faith is restricted to the realm of "personal, private belief", with no voice in the public square or exchange of ideas, not held as an objectively sourced platform with truth claims, then all religion becomes self-made. "That's your interpretation..." is the mantra of many confronted with the exclusive claims of Jesus from the New Testament. But it is not up to me to determine right and wrong. My sin will always blur lines.

Asceticism is another failed way to fight sin that seems so promising. Withdrawing from all contact with anyone or anything might stop outward struggles to a degree. There are still monasteries to hide in. But this does not deal with the heart. There have been many bitter, hatefilled, sin struggling ascetics.

Severity to the body, extreme self-discipline, might also have a short-term effect on my outward sin,. But my problem is deeper... it is in my soul. I must change from the inside out. That is why trusting Jesus and receiving His forgiveness is the only way to deal with what is wrong with me.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

God of my home


It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Psalm 127:2

This psalm is ascribed to Solomon as its author. I can tell because it has got Solomon's wry edge. This verse, in particular, sounds a lot like Ecclesiastes. The whole theme of this song of ascents, sung as travelers and their families made their way to Jerusalem, climbing the temple mount to worship, is the God-given blessing of family, particularly of children. Psalm 127:1 opens with the images of God building a house (household) and watching over the city (family).

Psalm 127:2 builds on the watchman of the city motif, showing the fruitless efforts we will make at guarding and keeping homes without recognizing God's control. We will wear ourselves into sleepless exhaustion trying to do God's job. He never slumbers or sleeps. He builds the house. He protects it.

O Lord,
You have built my home and family. And now with my children grown, half of them so far away from home, I trust You to keep them. Keep my family safe, close to You, close to Your heart! O that they will know Your care!
Amen

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

forgiven much


“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
Luke 7:41-43

I must learn the lesson Simon learned here. Like this Pharisee, I rank my sin too low, assuming great sin in others to be so much worse, and priding myself on my seemingly small sins. But God, in Christ, forgives all sin. And I need to love that truth, embrace it as real for me, because my own judgmentalism and pride are in themselves horribly awful sins for which Jesus died.

Jesus freely forgives great sin. In this passage, the sinful woman (probably a prostitute) expresses great love for Jesus, extending extravagant worship to Him. She "outloves" the hospitality of Simon the Pharisee with her pure, and heartfelt brokenness and devotion. She gets what the proper response to the grace of God should be with her intense sacrificial gift, tears of repentance, and wordless public confession of devotion to Jesus. 

Oh to love like one forgiven of great sin! As long as I see my sins as petty, I will not love like she did. Pouring out my stored treasures from my broken jar in worship is what I, a thankful forgiven sinner, must do, for I have been forgiven much.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

peace by the cross


For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Colossians 1:19-20

God dwelt in Jesus. Jesus is God. There is power in His words and deeds still at work the world because Jesus is fully God. God chose to dwell among us in Jesus.

There is saving faith in Jesus. Through Jesus, God is bringing people to Himself, reconciling and redeeming all of creation cursed by sin. Jesus came to restore to God all that sin had so carelessly ruined. Jesus is putting things right again.

And Jesus made peace forever at a costly price... His death on the cross. Through the blood of His cross, Jesus appeased God's wrath against sin, reversed the curse of sin, took the penalty of death for sin, and made peace for us where sin had made us enemies with God. It is because God came to give His life on a cross that we can know peace and be reconciled again.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Seek the Maker


Our help is in the name of the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 124:8

it makes sense to me
that if there is something
I do not understand
about a thing I have
to talk to who made it...
the maker will have knowledge that I need

and so I can see
that the best life philosophy
to help me relate
to a world I didn't make
would be to talk to my Creator
so help comes from the best source right to me

I see a Designer's hand
in this wide universe grand
a Maker's mark I barely understand
yet I live and love with clear purpose
by a Savior I am purchased
and I can believe it

the Maker of heaven and earth lives
through Christ eternal life He gives
my help in eternal salvation
now proclaimed among the nations
His great name I will praise
for I breathe and live by His life-giving Spirit

Friday, June 30, 2017

some things to think about


Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Philippians 4:8

There are a lot of good things for me as a Christian to think about. Christianity is a lifestyle that changes my head, my heart, and my hands. But it must change what I think about, because I tend to do the things I think about. And this list shows me how right thinking can help change my heart and my hands so that I will want and do what pleases the Lord.

This is a pretty exhaustive list. It can keep me busy for my lifetime, which I think is kind of the point of it! And the best place I know to go to in order to find out what to think according to this list would be my own Bible. There God has spoken in such a way to address my thoughts, wants, and deeds. Scripture has what I need to know, to love, and to do.

And so I go to God's Word, daily hoping my thinking will be challenged, my heart will be set on God's heart, and my life might be lived for God's purposes and glory.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

I am for peace.


Too long have I had my dwelling
among those who hate peace.
I am for peace,
but when I speak, they are for war!
Psalm 120:6-7

This is the first psalm labeled as "a song of ascents". That means is was used as a song of pilgrimage, sung by Jews as they journeyed to the temple for various feasts. This particular Psalm seems to capture the struggle a Jew would experience living in a far, pagan country, worshiping Yahweh and regularly returning to Jerusalem. The context makes it clear they are coming from among enemies of the Jews (Meshech and Kedar in Psalm 120:5) to worship in Jerusalem.

It appears the expectation for a Jew living among Gentiles was to make peace. In the song, the pilgrim is for peace even as the Gentiles talk war. Part of the longing to be back at the temple was for deliverance from this constant negativity marked by lies and hate (see Psalm 120:2-4). In the presence of God, in worship of God, peace could be known.

The "gospel of peace" as a New Testament phrase comes to mind immediately for me as I look for how this passage points to Jesus. Christ died and rose again so that sin could be atoned and peace with God made. Repenting of my sin, trusting Jesus, brings peace. If I too am to be for peace while sojourning in this world which is at war with God because of sin, then I must speak and live the gospel of peace... even if those who are bound by sin are at war with my holy God.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

praying leadership

 
As soon as King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth and went into the house of the Lord.
2 Kings 19:1

King Hezekiah was a godly man whose first response in a crisis was repentance, prayer, and seeking the Lord. He publically modeled what the nation of Judah needed to see as Jerusalem faced imminent invasion from Assyria. He did not make unilateral decisions from his throne in his palace. He fell instead to his knees in sackcloth before the LORD in His temple. This was a man of earnest faith in God.

Hezekiah also reached out to God's prophet, Isaiah, with a request that the prophet also pray for Judah and the people of Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:2-7). He wants to not only pray to God, but to hear from God through His prophet. Hezekiah is quick to repent, eager to pray and seek God, and ready to hear and obey the Word of the Lord. This is the best response to the Assyrian threat that confronted Jerusalem at that time.

I look to Hezekiah's example and am encouraged to view my leadership challenges exactly the same way. There is never a time in my ministry where I can back off from repentance, prayer, and seeking God. And so I am on my knees again today, for only God can deliver His people, provide the direction we need, and make His name great! I'll get out of the way, so that God can be at work and can use me, and that God can bless the leadership He has chosen to give me, for His glory!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

too much love from the world

 
“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets."
Luke 6:26

Sandwiched between a command to His followers to rejoice when persecuted for His name, and an admonition to let His love be known as a choice to those who hate Him and His followers, Jesus gives this chilling warning. Christians will not find acclaim in the world if they are legitimately following Jesus. Andy disciple who does so is in danger of being false. The mark of false prophets is their wild, wide acceptance among the world. To follow Jesus will gather opposition from those who hate Him.

I learned this lesson many decades again while in bi-vocational ministry. A fellow employee at my job at the time who was assigned a project with me... hated me. She constantly complained to the supervisor that I was critical of her work and that I was impossible for her to work with. She told me to my face she did not like me because I was a Christian and a pastor. She considered both things part of what was wrong in the world. She accused me of being a self-righteous Bible thumper. It was an outrageous accusation because really I never made any kind of big deal about my faith to her, though I did keep a Bible in my cubicle and had some verses posted up in my work space. She was the one who kept making a big deal about me being a Christian. She hated Christianity.

This was a very small thing to bear for Jesus. And I would rather bear it than all the acclaim of all the world. It is a way in which Jesus lives in us, when the world hates us solely because it hates Jesus. That means the gospel is doing something right.


Monday, June 26, 2017

my "gains" are losses

 
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
Philippians 3:7

Paul rejected the "personal merits" works-based performance spirituality he had been so zealous to pursue from birth, once the reality of the gospel confronted him. He had been an exemplary Jew. In terms of advancing by Judaism, he was on the fast track with his peers. But the inability to atone for his sin eventually pulled him to trust the Jesus who confronted him on the Damascus road... the Jesus he had once so adamantly persecuted. The gospel was more powerful than the works religion he once had valued. Now those works were worth nothing next to the supreme saving grace of the cross.

I'm glad to be reminded of this today. I have a tendency to overvalue my own good works. They do not save me. In fact, any thing I do that I may think is good, if not motivated by the gospel and empowered by the Spirit is not gain... it is loss. Jesus is of greater worth as my Lord and Savior than anything I think I've done well. In fact, I'm sinning to think I've done anything good without Him. Compared to Jesus I do not compare. My sins make me fall short. Thank God, He saved me and is changing me! That is how my life moves forward.... wonderfully toward Jesus by what He has done.

Friday, June 23, 2017

You Are Near

 
But you are near, O Lord,
and all your commandments are true.
Psalm 119:151

Yes, You are near, Lord
Though I have wandered far
And my heart is weary and tired
From my sinning
You are near, ready to forgive

You are so near, Lord
That I never really flee
From a Presence all around me
So if I run
I run right back to You

I'm glad You are near, Lord
Closer than my trouble or my sin
Never outside looking in
But always here
Beside me if I'd just see

So with You near, Lord
Always with me, always knowing
I pray I can live showing
Your presence with me
 Loving me, loving others with me

Yes, You are near, Lord
I saw You brightly in Your Word
You spoke clearly so I could turn
To You again today
You are near, always with me

Thursday, June 22, 2017

zeal

 
And he said, “Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord.” So he had him ride in his chariot.
2 Kings 10:16

Jehu is one of the most interesting kings in Northern Israel during the divided kingdom. He is known for two actions: 1) wiping out the wicked line of Ahab and Jezebel, and 2) driving his chariot with reckless abandon. He had NASCAR sponsors on his chariot because he was that fast! His motivations according to this text are to do these things out of passionate worship of the Lord. He is literally driven to quickly restore Israel by eradicating the evil household of Ahab.

Zeal is a word not used much these days, but a term embraced by Jehu about his own life. The word is used in the Old Testament to describe everything from sexual passion to rivalry against a bitter enemy. It is a burning soul fire. It is a passion that demands action of the person it possesses. It can only be quenched by acting upon it. And this zeal for God marked Jehu's obsession with removing every vestige of Ahab's wicked legacy from Israel.

I'm thinking now about zeal. Does it mark my attitude toward the gospel? Does it mark my desire to fight sin in my own life? Does a driving passion excite my heart for Jesus? It might be that the "first love" Jesus wants from His church as described in the book of Revelation is really the same idea as zeal for the Lord described in the Old Testament. If so, I really want to have that zeal!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

my own questioning heart

 
When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts?"
Luke 5:22

There are times when Jesus might very well ask me the same question. I sometimes question and entertain doubts about Him or the Christian faith. It isn't frequent, but it does happen. This does not mean I am not a Christian. It does however mean that being one is never easy. Anyone who tells you faith in Jesus is easy, with no difficulties or intellectual or spiritual challenges, is not being truthful with you. Faith is challenged by the world. For me, that challenge is complicated by my own sinful warp.

Here's what I mean... Jesus is perfect. He is clear. Jesus is level, straight, and true. I am a sinner, twisted and warped, crippled in ways that I don't even know fully. I've walked all my life with a severe sin limp and never really known that I have. But the gospel shows me my brokenness and in Jesus I see truth. But this is so contrary to my sinful wants and the combined sin warp of the world around me that I sometimes question it. It stands out as the one "not warped" thing in a warped world and that makes me ask questions when I am stuck in sin. Yes, it is nearly always some kind of sin in me that makes the questions become the priority. I know that.

Jesus silenced the questioning hearts of the Pharisees by healing a paralyzed man AND forgiving his sin. In fact, Jesus specifically healed him to prove He alone could forgive sin because He is God. By doing so, he both raised and answered questions. And that is what He does in me, I suppose. He answers questions I desperately need the answer for. And He raises more as I see what He does and Who He is, and my sinful self reacts with that insight. I choose to lean hard into trusting Jesus, and will not let my questions keep me from Him. I will bring my questions to Him rather than holding them in my heart to only influence my will. I know He is the answer. Jesus brings life!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

a life worthy of the gospel

 
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.
Philippians 1:27-28

And in this admonition of Paul's, I find strength for today. Living a life worthy of the gospel does not mean that I "earn" the salvation that I have. I can't do that. Christ loves me and died for me while I was a sinner and God's enemy. Only His work saves. My works damn me.

But I must live a life that shows gospel change and makes a difference BECAUSE Jesus has saved me. I must be changed by Jesus to live like Him in this world. I must love people like Jesus does. Gospel love gives up, sacrifices, humbles itself before others. It gives to others without thought of the cost. Gospel love for Jesus and for others brings Christians together in unity, sharing the gospel story, embracing it as our story together, and spreading the faith we have. Gospel love does not divide the church along petty doctrinal differences... it frees us to share good news the world needs!

Oh that God will give me that grace to stand firm with my Christian family, working side by side for the faith of the gospel so that others will know Jesus! That is what makes my life count. That is how I can live worthy of the gospel.

Monday, June 19, 2017

hiding place, shield, and hope

 
 
You are my hiding place and my shield;
I hope in your word.
Psalm 119:114

These words were written about the Old Testament Law (probably just the five books of the Pentateuch) by a strong warrior king who knew what it meant to fight defensively and strategically. And his assessment was that God's Word provided the safety of a place of protection and the defensive strength of a shield. God provided these spiritual supports through the strength and power of His holy Word!

God's Word is a hope for the soul. It provides wisdom, direction, comfort, and strength for life. I know it has consistently done so for my life. I've never been let down by what has clearly been taught in His Word. I have believed it, trusted it, loved it, and had it change me. Ultimately these words are found in the gospel of Jesus Christ to be both life-sustaining and life-saving. I will always place my confident expectation in what God says. I'm trusting God for eternity based on the the Word of God.

Lord,
I too praise You that You are my hiding place and strong shield. I believe and am secure in Your Word no matter how I feel!
Amen

Thursday, June 1, 2017

successful succession

 
And the king also said, ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who has granted someone to sit on my throne this day, my own eyes seeing it.’
1 Kings 1:48

These are more than the words of a proud father. These are words of praise and worship. David is seeing God powerfully honor His covenant with the king that his heir would sit on the throne in Jerusalem. Solomon has been chosen as David's successor, thus successfully quelling the potential usurper to the throne, Adonijah. Another potential civil war in Israel is avoided through this action.

David lived into old age and saw his son Solomon on the throne. A very rare moment arrived where the still living king was able to appoint his princely son to power. This too was God's gift and definitely not the normal situation of power change in the ancient Near East. God brought peace to David in his final days by this transition, and that is part of the king's praise.

David knew that the kingdom was the Lord's. David knew that Solomon was the best suited heir to continue leading Israel with that understanding. And God led the nation to the best situation as Solomon was crowned king, anointed by God, appointed by David, accepted by God's people.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

I'll be a 'do-gooder'.

 
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Galatians 6:9-10

Paul says three things about doing good things in these two verses that arrest my attention today. First, we should not give up on doing good things for other people. The implication is that we will grow tired and perhaps feel unrewarded. Being good to people does not mean we will always get good back from others. Some people are frankly, jerks. All people are born sinners. But we must persevere in doing what is good. We are promised by God that faithfulness to doing good despite the reception or how we feel about it will be rewarded by Him.

Secondly, Paul reminds us that the scope of doing good is global. "Everyone" means... well... all the humans on the planet. Christians, changed and motivated by the gospel, should want to live like Jesus to everyone they come into contact with... no exceptions... no limits. That's the way that Jesus is.

Finally, the church is a unique place to be good to one another. If we fight sin well, and love one another well, the church is like a loving family that cares for each member of the household of faith. Christians should live in obedience to the call to care for one another, looking for a chance to do good to our brothers and sisters... and all the world.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

sacrifice costs

 
But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.
2 Samuel 24:24

King David in repentance
came to the Lord in obedience
sorry for his pride and arrogance
he took responsibility for sin's consequence
and at the threshing floor
came to God offering more
sacrifices for his sin
ready to be restored again

But he would not come for free
to offer to God what costed nothing
but paid the price for beasts and place
and with solemn repentance on his face
offered to the Lord what cost him much
because the nation suffered for such
sin had a price so high
that a costly sacrifice must die

Sacrifices can't be free
they must be felt, you see
and giving back to God what we feel
will make commitment and repentance real
you don't sacrifice what costs nothing
for you must honor the sacrifice of the King
The Father gave it all away for us
so we could spend forever with Jesus

Monday, May 29, 2017

alive... just as He told you

 
But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.
Mark 16:7

Jesus Himself prophesied about His own resurrection. In fact, in the upper room before His crucifixion, Jesus predicted just this statement from the angels in Mark 14:28... "But after I am raised up, I will go before you in Galilee." And now, just as Jesus has said, He is back from the dead, ready to commission His men to preach His gospel to the world.

It is this risen Savior and Lord of life that is the focus of the gospel message. He is Lord. He is the One we proclaim, boldly, for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. His is the only name under heaven by Whom we are saved! Jesus is our living, loving, powerful God and Lord. We follow, obey, serve, and love our risen Savior.

Just as He said, He is risen from the dead. In our place He died for our sins so that we might have life in His name. Faith in Christ brings so much joy, power, help, and hope! We serve a risen Savior Who lives and works in us!