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


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.

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!

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.