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!

Friday, May 26, 2017

free to serve in love

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Galatians 5:13

An understanding of my freedom in Christ calls me to live in love within the liberation of the Body of Christ. Freedom is not about self-gratifying desires to do what I want all for me. Freedom instead is really known when Christ sets us free from selfishness to love other people as He did. Freedom is known in loving service to people, expressed through the church, serving as Christ has done.

My flesh wants self-serving definitions of freedom to rule my heart. I need this clear admonition in scripture so that I might enjoy true freedom by loving and serving other people like my Lord does. Jesus made Himself nothing. Jesus humbled Himself. Jesus obeyed His Father's will. Jesus gave His life in love. Jesus became a servant so that many would come to God and know His love.

If I want to serve others through love, I must obey my Master and serve others as He does. And that is freedom. It liberates me from selfish, sinful preoccupation. It conforms me to my Savior. It shows Christ through me, which truly frees me!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

looking up from this wet pebble

The heavens are the Lord's heavens,
but the earth he has given to the children of man.
Psalm 115:16

The poetry of this psalm recognizes God's sovereign rule over the universe. The enormous expanse of interstellar space... the stars and galaxies all are the kingdom and handiwork of our God. In this beautiful, overwhelming universe, God reigns supreme. And on a blue, watery, rocky planet orbiting an average star, in one arm of a very average galaxy, mankind has been granted by the King a lowly rock to steward and manage for the glory of the greater Creator.

We live on what in comparison to the universe is this microscopic pebble of a planet. It is a mere speck in the universe that God controls. And at night we look to the heavens and marvel at what we can see and learn there. It is all God's handiwork and His domain.

I love astronomy. I enjoy digging out my telescope on clear winter nights and stargazing. I get a thrill at looking at Saturn's rings, Mars' red glow, and Jupiter's bright light through my small window into the universe that sits on a tripod and lets me gaze a little closer. But I also realize my limits when I do that. I am but an earth imprisoned man, made of its dust and destined to return to that dust again in death. Only in eternal life will I truly know the Creator of those heavens and the kingdom He rules. And the love of Jesus Who died so that I may know Him and His power shines brighter than all the stars of all the galaxies of all the universe put together!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

the consequences

Thus Absalom did to all of Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.
2 Samuel 15:6

Absalom excelled at conspiratorial passive aggression. He used this warped skill set to maximum effectiveness in order to get his own justice and kill his own brother in a family tragedy in the king's house. He used it to slowly turn the political tide his direction when he had a strained relationship with his father king David. This was aggravated by his father's own passivity and aided by Absalom's own natural charm, stunning good looks, and amicable personality.

Of course, the reason this happened had a divine purpose. God warned David pain was coming. God judged David with consequences after his sin with Bathsheba and the murder and subsequent cover-up of Uriah her husband. God told the king that a sword would not depart from David's house. And it seems that Absalom was the strongest and dearest to swing that sword of judgment as God promised. It cut deeply into David's heart.

Every line of the tale of Absalom's revolt and the civil war in David's own family is telling us to be warned: Sin has painful consequences. God judges sin. Our sin brings us misery. We need the mercy of God and the grace of God as we live among those consequences.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

humble submission, powerful Lord

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
Mark 14:61b-62

As Jesus stood before the high priest, brought their under illegal arrest at night and submitting to hostile questioning, He confirmed His unique role as Messiah by answering only one question put to Him. When asked if He was the Messiah, Jesus replied with a firm affirmation by stating in terms of deity: "I am". Then He went on to state that He would return as judge in power one day. Right then the high priest gazed on Jesus as his prisoner, but one day the roles would be reversed and the high priest would stand before Jesus as his judge to answer for what he had done.

Jesus made Himself vulnerable. We must remember that. He gave Himself over to be beaten, tried, and crucified. The gospels clearly show this. He knew it was coming. He gave Himself to the Father's will. And even at these awful moments, Jesus shows us that He is in control, knowing full well what His task would be and commiting to die and then to be raised to life. After that His power as Lord would always be worshiped and proclaimed.

This submission and humility is coming from the Lord of Heaven for our sakes so that redemption and forgiveness of sings might come to all who believe. The high priest looked like he had the upper hand in this exchange, but the Son of Man was clearly the one in charge here.

Monday, May 22, 2017

whatever it takes

I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?
2 Corinthians 12:15

Ministry will demand a constant cost upon us. It is the observation of Paul that a life of bringing the gospel to bear in the lives of sinners will require much of the ones who minister that gospel. In the case of the Corinthian church, Paul was spending and being spent for their sakes.

There was still a lot of room for the church to grow in sanctification. They were still divisiveness after two visits by Paul. And most recently false apostles had established a firmly entrenched group who now questioned the ministry and credentials of Paul, whom God used to start the church in Corinth.

The church still had issues with infighting as a result (see 2 Corinthians 12:20). This was mixed with a contingent of unrepentant sexual immorality still active there as well (2 Corinthians 12:21). This was a church still needing the gospel (we always do) and still struggling with sin's damage. This was where Paul was willing to spend and be spent. And in this busy and loving ministry of counsel, confrontation, and reconciliation, the gospel would be found. And so it is even today. Whatever it takes, the church always needs the ministry of the gospel!

Friday, May 19, 2017

redeemed and gathered in

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.
Psalm 107:2-3

The biggest reason for praising the Lord is for His saving love displayed to us in Jesus! We know His loving grace extends to us forever in the redemption that is ours in Christ. He gives us better lives. He saves us from what was destroying us. He buys us back from futility, frustration, domination and the slavery of sin.

And in that redemption that Jesus brought, He has now also adopted us as children into God the Father's home. We have been gathered in securely. We are sure of that love as we know Him in family relationship. God brings us close. He gathers us in.

And now God has made us one in His family. There are people from all directions and nations whom He has gathered in... men and women from every tribe and ethnicity of the earth. God's redeeming work is global and His praise knows no language or ethnic barriers. Praise Him! Praise Him all you, His redeemed who are saved and gathered into His love! Praise Him!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

a kingly character

And David struck them down from twilight until the evening of the next day, and not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men, who mounted camels and fled.
1 Samuel 30:17

David's exploits are always exciting reading. This is sort of his last solo heroic action before Saul's death and his rise as God's anointed king in Israel. And it shows us the character that made him worthy of being the king. When David's family and the families of his mercenary army are captured by Amalekite raiders, David leads his grieving, angry troops to defeat these thieves and rescue their families.

During the course of this operation David's leadership is strengthened by the successful strategy that results in the rescue AND the unifying way in which he insisted that even those who served in support positions during battle were recognized equally with the front line warriors. His fairness and equity on the battlefield would carry into the kingdom.

The battle waged long. It appears to have taken nearly 24 hours of fighting to win, but there were few survivors among the enemy. David led the army into victory through enduring the fight. This character quality would mark his long reign as well. He would endure much and lead well, just as he did in this battle.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

the time will come

Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.
Mark 13:33

We cannot know
When our Lord may return
To take account of us
And so we yearn
With watching eyes
And busy hands to turn
Back to Him what He has given

Jesus will come
Again to earth to rule
And judge the sons of men
And it would be only a fool
Who would know this
And ignore it in ridicule
For the king will call us all to report

We watch right now
And work for Him and wait
Anticipating Jesus as our King
One day He will enter through the gate
To rule this earth in all His glory
And reward those faithful to Him in their fate
Until then we watch and proclaim His truth

Monday, May 15, 2017

first with the gospel

For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:14b

Paul is reminding the church at Corinth of the unique relationship he has with them. Paul and his team were the first Christians to bring the gospel to Corinth. They were the beach head storming advance wave of hard-fighting gospel preachers who shared the unique experience of seeing the first hard-won converts in the city. God used them to start the process of building the church there.

As is often the case with Paul, other believers continued where he had worked, because Paul kept moving on to new cities still in need of hearing the good news because his vision was to be a gospel pioneer. And occasionally false teachers would arrive after Paul's departure. In the case of the Corinthians, these false teachers claimed to be apostles and in order to build up their own prestige, they bad-mouthed the ministry of Paul, forcing him to defend his ministry to the church God had led him to start. It had to be painful for Paul to do this.

As difficult as it was to be defending himself to his own children in the faith, Paul does so humbly and with the gospel at the center of the discussion. He subtly points out that false teachers don't focus on the gospel. He appeals for the Corinthian church to remember the gospel and remember the clear, simple focus of Paul's ministry. This should have brought the Corinthians back to the most important thing... the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Friday, May 12, 2017

under God's tent

From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
Psalm 104:13

This psalm is a wonderful worship song themed upon the glory of God as it is displayed in the created universe. It marvels at what God has done as it is seen in our world. It uses beautiful poetic imagery to grab our attention and focus it on God's wisdom and love as it is known in creation.

The song opens with the image of God clothed in light, pitching the stars of the universe out as His tent. From the dazzling array of the starry night, God controls the earth below utilizing clouds, winds, lightning, and storms to do His bidding like messengers for a king. The song then moves to geographic wonders, pondering the beauty of the deep seas as well as the majesty of mountains on the landscape.

From here, this creation song extols the ecosystems God has designed, elaborating delightfully on watersheds running down from the high mountains to eventually water the entire land and meet the needs of wildlife and humanity. From these streams food then springs up to care of our needs, sustain vineyards for gladdening wine, keep presses for oil busy, and grow grain in our fields for our daily bread.

From seas teeming with fish, to trees, fields, and streams where wildlife thrives, all of this beauty under God's tent brings Him glory and praise! Humanity that sings this song will want to care for this beauty very carefully, for it honors God to care for His creation well.

Thursday, May 11, 2017


And Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the Lord take vengeance on David's enemies.”
1 Samuel 20:16

This is part of a story of faithful friendship. It is a bond between two warriors that would transcend family, politics, kingdoms, and wars. It would carry on despite the death of one friend to show concern and care into the next generation. It would be a friendship with a love that survived even the hero's death of one friend who died defending the other friend who would eventually rule the kingdom the dead friend was expected to lead. It is a deep story of a deep friendship.

And Jonathan's covenant with David's house gets to the root of how this could be such a strong friendship: It was based on a mutual commitment to the LORD. Jonathan knew how kingly politics went in his world. He was the crown prince in Israel. He also knew God had decreed the end of his father's kingdom and the rise of David as the anointed king of Israel.

Jonathan trusted that God knew what He was doing and acknowledged David as the rightful next king of Israel. And then he fought hard to give David the best path to the throne. He would, like Jesus prophesied about Himself, give his life for his friend, proving a great love. And that warrior love would never be forgotten by David. Faith builds faithful friends.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Religion steals and does not share.

For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.
Mark 12:44

The story of the widow's gift is often used to promote the concept of sacrificial giving, usually in a big church cause or project. But I believe to apply this passage in that fashion is to get it wrong in the worst possible way! Jesus did not point out the widow's gift to commend it. He is pointing out a spiritual tragedy.

The entire context of Mark 12 has Jesus confronting the Jewish religious authorities. They are seeking a way to put Him to death. They have sent a series of questioners to find fault with Jesus in an attempt to gather material to charge Him with some offense. They fail to do so each time. At the final confrontation in Mark 12, Jesus goes on in His teaching to condemn the scribes for their hypocrisy and selfish spirituality as perpetrators of false religion. They are guilting of receiving in His words "greater condemnation". And what was one of their awful practices deserving a hotter hell? They "devour widow's houses" (Mark 12:40).

Right after Jesus condemned the Jewish leaders for stealing the livelihood of widows, this lone, very sincere widow drops in her two copper coins, illustrating the evil in a religious system that took money from the poorest, who could least afford to give it, but did not care for them in any substantial way. Human religion requires sacrifice, but gives no hope or help. Jesus came to end that evil. And it should never be part of His church. That doesn't mean the poor may not give to serve the Lord. But it does mean that the church that receives such gifts should substantially commit to assisting the poor around us so that we are not guilty of greater condemnation.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

experiential negatives vs spiritual superlatives

 We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.
2 Corinthians 6:8b-10

This was Paul's assessment of the experience of living a life committed to advancing the gospel. It was a life filled with paradoxical episodes. It was hard work and also a source of great joy. It was a life of persecution and wild acclaim, of difficulty accompanied with great delight. The gospel leads us to know both the agony and ecstasy of God's work.

Gospel proclamation will get these results. It will lead to Christians simultaneously maligned by many and upheld by some. It is not an easy life. The best life in Jesus is not about riches, acceptance by the world, and a constant happy vacation. Life in Christ is demanding. It is draining. It is dangerous.

Yet for every negative experience there is a spiritual superlative that outweighs it and makes a gospel centered life satisfying and well worth living. We are decried by the culture as untrue, yet preach the only truth the world needs. We die, yet live on. We are persecuted, yet Christianity is not killed. We sorrow, yet rejoice. We are poor, yet have inexhaustible riches in Christ. The gospel life gives us all we need.

Monday, May 8, 2017

lots of praise

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
Psalm 100:4

With just five short verses, Psalm 100 gets a whole lot of praises sung to God. It calls the entire planet to worship the Lord in the first verse, appealing for a global choir to make some seriously joyful noise. The psalm equates glad service with praise in the second verse, confirming that doing service for God is a way to acknowledge the praise that is due to God.

The third verse reminds us of the basic reason for our praise -- God is our Creator and we belong to Him. He loves us and leads us like a shepherd cares for His flock. That leads us to expressions of thanksgiving in the fourth verse. We are encouraged to be thankful even as we enter into the places in which we worship Him.

The fifth verse ends the song giving us a second reason why we should do this: because God is good to us, loving us forever and is faithful across generations. God will never fail us, so our praises should never stop flowing from our grateful hearts to Him!

Friday, May 5, 2017


"But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”
1 Samuel 13:14

With this simple declaration from Samuel, the Lord spoke an end to Saul's reign. It would still be years away from occurring, but eventually God would appoint David as the dynastic king over Israel. God would remove Saul and end any chance of Saul's descendents taking the throne. From David's line would come rulers over Israel and eventually a covenant made by God to David that would bring a "forever-king" Messiah to fulfill all of God's promises to the children of Israel and to the world.

Saul was impulsively rebellious against God, usurping priestly roles at a whim and disobeying God's direct explicit commands. He was the king who thought he could veto God's plans. Saul was wrong. God would have the last word. Saul's kingship would end, and a king who sought God would be installed on the throne instead.

Saul teaches us that none of us can over rule what God wants of us. Oh, we can do so with our limited abilities thinking we have done it, but the consequences are disastrous and just may well end us altogether! And in that moment, God's will and word procede to be done without us, as our wills find failure. How much better it is to just trust and obey God from the very beginning and all the way through!

Thursday, May 4, 2017


And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
Mark 10:35

Lord, what I may think is bold
May simply be my sinful pride
Demanding from You what I desire
Straying from following behind
Instead I want beside You
Running ahead of You

Teach me to first be a slave
With no rights to claim my own
Humble servant that You are
Help me my self to dethrone
Living like You
Serving as You do

It shall not be that disciples demand
From their Master what they desire
But like You, Jesus, we must give
Our lives consumed by a greater fire
You living in us, serving through us
Showing Your love by using us

Lord, may my request simply be
To humbly serve You until I am old
Daily your useful gospel slave
And then, only doing what I've been told
So that the world may know You
And some be saved by You

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

We are the aroma of Christ.

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?
2 Corinthians 2:15-16

Jesus is spreading the knowledge of His gospel everywhere. He is being diffused through the world's cultural atmosphere like a fragrance. Through the spreading of the gospel, people are being saved, and those in need of salvation are hearing the good news, even if they reject it. Jesus is using believers to waft the fragrant incense near and far so that He is known and made known worldwide. This is the victory march of the gospel.

Jesus has to do it through us because naturally we are totally insufficient for the task. No one Christian could make Jesus known worldwide. Only by bringing believers together in the Church and commissioning them to make disciples of all the ethnic groups of the world can this be done. In the church's work of taking the gospel to the world, the fragrance of Christ's triumphal procession goes everywhere.

The sweet incense of the gospel story must be brought to combat death's stench which infiltrates all that humankind does. Oh how we need the gospel to redeem lives and bring life to dying cultures! The fragrance of life to life in Jesus is what this world needs now, more than ever!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

new day... new song

Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
Psalm 96:1-2

I begin my day with this exuberant call to worship. It is my chance to sing to the Lord a new song. I am thinking about what that means this morning. Certainly there is reason to compose an all new tune and lyric. God can be worshiped in new ways, but the themes are always the same because He never changes... He is great, powerful, gracious, forgiving, holy, just, pure, loving, judging of sin, merciful, almighty, etc. Any new tune resounds an ancient theme.

But I can also sing anew with an old and faithful hymn that has served Christians well. And that is usually the deepest way I have to worship from my heart. The old hymns have become dear to the church for a reason. They have told of God's salvation day to day for generations and with them my soul can sing with new vigor, making an old hymn a new song, and joining the uninterrupted praise of dear saints who have gone before me.

This call to sing and bless the Lord, telling of His salvation from day to day with a new song brings my soul to worship this morning. I enter it even this moment as springtime birdsong awakens my neighborhood. And in my soul-song my heart focuses on my Lord and His love for me forever shown in what Jesus has done. I praise Jesus for His great salvation accomplished for us, and my new day begins in joyous, tear-filled, wonder and praise.

Monday, May 1, 2017

faith changes feelings

And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.
1 Samuel 1:18

Why was Hannah able to walk away from this intense time of prayer and priestly conversation with Eli a changed woman? She had gone with her family to sacrifice for sins, worship Yahweh, and intensely petition the Lord. She made a solemn vow to God. If He would bless her with a son, she would turn him right back over to God's service. She did not share the details of her earnest prayer with Eli the priest. Yet she went home content and no longer sad.

This was a prayer of faith, when the priest blessed Hannah for her sincere prayer, she took all that emotion of pain that she had released to God in prayer and just left it in Shiloh with the Lord. She went home no longer carrying the sadness of heart she had carried with her to the tabernacle of God. She left that emotion behind and gained in its place peace and trust.

God answered her fervent prayers. Hannah was blessed with her son Samuel, whom she dedicated back in service to God in Shiloh while he was still no more than a toddler, giving him back to God in the same place that God had heard her prayers. Her peace, found in the faith to trust in God's ability to answer prayer, allowed her to trust God with her young son whom she left in the care of the priest to serve God with tabernacle duties. Faith can change our feelings. She no longer wanted a son for herself. She wanted a son for God's glory! Trust can make our hearts sure and focused on God in joy. And that is a great reward from God that this world cannot give to us.