Thursday, December 27, 2007

Age and Power

“Even when I am old and gray, God, do not abandon me. Then I will proclaim Your power to another generation, Your strength to all who are to come.” (Psalm 71:18 CSB)

David saw the inevitable coming. As he began to age he foresaw the time when he would become old and gray. Along with that thought came some unwanted companions, thoughts about losing power, about being discarded, about being crushed by enemies who concluded that God had abandoned him. David had been a winner all his life, and he feared the thought of losing anything. But particularly, he feared the loss of strength. He thus reminded himself in Psalm 71 that the Lord was the true Source of his strength, his Rock, his Fortress. He prayed that God would not abandon him in his old age, so that he would have the strength to point the next generation to the power and strength of God.

God, of course, was not about to abandon his servant David. In rational terms, David knew that, but fear, more often than we prefer, sometimes overwhelms rational thought. The fear of being abandoned, of being relegated to insignificance, generated more fear. That is how a downward spiral begins.

As people grow older, they sometimes come face to face with this same fear, the fear of loss of significance, the loss of influence. It is honest and genuine to pray, “God, please don’t let my life become insignificant. Please use my life for continued good.” But then, we also do the same thing David did and allow truth to displace that fear. He reached the point of trusting God to continue using Him, and he went on to ask God to give him the opportunity to proclaim His power to another generation, so that all who were to come would know God.

Having a significant life – at any age – means influencing those who are coming along, to help point them toward the Lord as the true Source of their strength. One of the greatest opportunities an older believer has in this life is to help a younger believer understand and experience and trust the power and strength of God, the Almighty One.

Lord, Give us the wisdom today to understand the power of influence, and may the influence of each of our lives serve as an encouragement to someone else. Amen.

Friday, December 21, 2007


“All the earth will worship You and sing praise to You. They will sing praise to Your name.” (Psalm 66:4 CSB)

The Lord our God is worthy of praise, and ultimately all the earth will sing praise to Him. The psalmist invites those who wish to worship the Lord to come and do two things.

First, in verse 5 he writes, “Come and see the works of God; His acts toward mankind are awe-inspiring.” One does not have to look far to see the works of God. Look first in the mirror. You will be seeing the creation of God. God created you. And He has a plan for your life. He seeks good for your life and wants you to experience the blessing of knowing your Creator. He is working toward that goal, shaping, challenging, even disciplining you so that can happen.

Second in verse 18 the psalmist writes, “Come and listen, all who fear God, and I will tell you what He has done for me.” So not only does he invite you to come and see, but he invites you to come and listen to the testimony of how God has worked. There is a message of truth that dwells in the heart and mind of every believer, a testimony of how we each have experienced God. There is a message of truth as well in the Word of God, a message for us each day, and if we go there we will find it.

The invitation to you, to each of us this day, is to come and see and then come and listen.

Lord, Today we come before You. Help us to open our eyes and see the great works You are doing in us and around us. Help us to open our ears and listen to the truth of Your word. Amen.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


“For the Israelites are My slaves. They are my slaves I brought out of the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 25:55 CSB)

At the beginning of this century an ailing Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, sat on a stage with one of America’s great teachers of leadership, John Maxwell. Maxwell had invited Bright for an interview about leadership, and though his wife and doctors objected, Bright went anyway because of the audience – a group of pastors. After numerous glowing accolades from Maxwell, just before the interview began, Bright asked if he could add one more description of himself to the list. Maxwell agreed, of course, and Bill Bright said, “While I appreciate all that has been said about me, the one word that best describes who I am is the word ‘slave.’ I am a slave of Jesus Christ.”

God described the people of Israel as His “slaves.” Some versions minimize the impact by translating the word as “servants.” But the idea is still very much the same. Paul often referred to himself in his letters as the “bond-slave” of Jesus Christ. In Revelation 7:1-3 we read, “After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, restraining the four winds of the earth so that no wind could blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel rise up from the east, who had the seal of the living God. He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels who were empowered to harm the earth and the sea: ‘Don’t harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we seal the slaves of our God on their foreheads.’”

Christians are, thus, described as “slaves of God” in various places throughout the Bible. Whether slaves or servants, the idea is that Christians are called to serve God and His purposes, and the stated purpose of Jesus was “to seek and to save the lost.” That is what our servanthood is all about. We are set free from the tyranny of sin so that we can serve the purpose of God in helping a lost world hear the good news of forgiveness and salvation and eternal life.

Today may we thus follow as the Master leads.

Lord, We recognize Your Lordship in our lives, and we seek to carry out our calling today and each day. We will follow as You lead. Amen.

Monday, December 17, 2007

First Morning

“Saying this, He breathed His last.” (Luke 23:46b CSB)

That first morning – Christmas morning – brought total change to the lives of Mary and Joseph. There was no warm hospital bed for them, no blinking monitors to keep track of vital signs, no IV fluids. They slept huddled in a cold stable, complete with animal sounds – and smells. In that atmosphere came a new sound to the ears of an exhausted Mary, one that got her attention and woke her up, the sound of a baby, her baby, crying from hunger. If Joseph was anything like the rest of us, he likely slept through the whole thing, but not Mary.

That first morning brought a new day for Israel, fresh as at the creation. It brought completion with the birth of Israel’s Messiah. Mary was brought up with the same cultural understanding as everyone else was, that the Messiah would lead in the defeat and expulsion of all of Israel’s enemies.

When someone you love is dying and takes that last breath – and you are there to witness it – a holy hush comes over everyone, followed by anguish and sorrow and then the sounds of grieving. Perhaps when Mary saw her firstborn Son take His last breath – beaten, broken, bleeding, and crucified – she may have seen a quick glimpse in her mind of her crying baby on that first Christmas morn, and then wondered why. This could not be, because it made no sense.

But it was not over.

Lord, Sometimes we see and hear things that make no sense and wonder why and how this could have happened. Remind us, Lord, that we are not meant to know or understand everything, but are meant to trust in You and Your purposes. May the power of Your resurrection remind us that things are often not as they seem. Amen.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Shelter of His Wings

“God, hear my cry; pay attention to my prayer. I call to You from the ends of the earth when my heart is without strength. Lead me to a rock that is high above me, for You have been a refuge for me, a strong tower in the face of the enemy. I will live in Your tent forever and take refuge under the shelter of Your wings.” (Psalm 61:1-4 CSB)

We all experience times when it feels as though our hearts have little strength and we are at the ends of the earth. At times, having the will to carry on is a struggle in itself. Those are the times we cry out to God and seek Him, and we do that because we have done it before and because God has responded. He has been a refuge for us and a strong tower of protection when it has seemed that we had no strength left.

David certainly experienced this feeling many times over, as expressed in this psalm, and he says that he will live in God’s tent forever and take shelter under the shelter of God’s wings. God’s “tent” is a reference to the tabernacle of God, which represented the presence of God with Israel, the place where people could go and worship God. The reference to God’s “wings” is not a reference to literal wings, however, but to the mercy seat of God. The ark of God was a wooden box that had a solid gold cover called the “mercy seat.” On either end of the mercy seat were cherubim, which were child-like looking angelic beings hammered out of solid gold, whose wings were spread out over the mercy seat. The presence of God hovered over the mercy seat between the wings. So, when David is talking about taking refuge under the shelter of God’s wings, he is talking about coming before God in the Holy of Holies place within the tabernacle, to be as close to the presence of God as someone could possibly get at that time.

When days come that challenge your very will to continue, the thing to do is to seek God and be as close to Him as you possibly can be. Since His Holy Spirit dwells in your heart as a believer, you need only turn to Him with a humble heart, and He will give you the strength you need.

Lord, What great joy and peace there is in knowing that Your Spirit dwells within our hearts, so that we can seek You any time we need to and can known that You are with us wherever we are and wherever we go. Strengthen us this day so we may serve you well. Amen.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

True Greatness

“But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and whoever leads, like the one serving.” (Luke 22:26 CSB)

Some folks are great in their own minds, and some give the appearance of being great. Some will even “jockey for position” in seeking to be the greatest of the great, that is, the supreme leader of all.

Interestingly, a discussion of this nature took place during the Last Supper. We would like to think it was all just friendly banter, spoken in jest, about who was the greatest among them, other than Jesus of course, but more likely this was a serious discussion as they were trying to establish the pecking order for the kingdom.

Jesus made it clear at the last Supper that the kingdom of God was immediately at hand, that something major was about to happen. The disciples’ thinking had been shaped by their culture, by the popular belief about the Messiah. That means they were expecting a fight to take place in which the Messiah would summon supernatural forces, along with the sons of Israel, and lead them in the overthrow of the Gentiles, the Romans, to expel them from Israel, and then lead in setting up the kingdom of God in Jerusalem. In that scheme of things, the kingdom would have to have leaders to oversee the kingdom, leaders ranked down from Jesus, from the greatest to the least. Thus, the discussion about who was the greatest.

Jesus tried to correct their thinking. Their thinking was the world’s thinking. The greatest is the one who serves other. That was the point Jesus made. The world tends to think that idea is foolish. Yet, Jesus pointed out that He, the Son of God, was among them as One who serves.

True greatness is, thus, in serving others. Luke does not record it, but John points out that Jesus washed the feet of the disciples to demonstrate that those who lead must be those who serve others. Leadership is servanthood. And that is the basis for true greatness.

Lord, Help us to not be concerned about position, but rather, help us to focus on serving You and serving the needs of others. Help us to follow Your example. Amen.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Campfire Stories

“During the day, He was teaching in the temple complex, but in the evening He would go out and spend the night on what is called the ‘Mount of Olives.’ Then all the people would come early in the morning to hear Him in the temple complex.” (Luke 21:37-38 CSB)

From the temple gates you could probably see a tiny point of flickering light through the night across the Kidron Valley on the Mount of Olives. Gathered around the fire, trying to keep warm from the night chill were Jesus and His twelve disciples. There was an air of expectancy among the disciples. They knew something was about to happen. They thought they had an idea what it might be, which is part of the reason a couple of them had knives. In reality, they were clueless about what was really going to happen. It was to be the greatest surprise of their lives to this point, although it would pale in comparison to the surprise that would happen a few days beyond that event.

The smell of smoke hung in the air and clung to their clothes as they huddled by the fire. The enjoyment of the campfire fellowship rested in the minds of each one of them as they heard Jesus speak further about the kingdom of God, about faithfulness, and about what lay ahead. They no doubt had a few laughs and a few good stories before retiring for the night.

The early morning cool and the damp air brought a re-kindling of the fire. After whatever breakfast may have been available, Jesus led the way back to the temple area, where He would again speak with those who would listen.

The Passover was nearly at hand. And with this one would come the fulfillment of Christmas.

Lord, Remind us today of the real purpose of Christmas. Help us to never lose sight of that. Amen.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Unique Way

“The Lord spoke to Moses: ‘Speak to the entire Israelite community and tell them: Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.’” (Leviticus 19:1-2 CSB)

Leviticus 19 is a reiteration and expansion of the Ten Commandments. In Exodus 20 the commands are listed, but here in Leviticus the same commands appear but with additional explanation and expansion. In both cases, however, the holiness of God appears at the outset.

In these first two verses, God commanded Moses to tell the people to “be holy.” The first thing that suggests is that “being” must always precede “doing.” One cannot do what is holy until he or she is first holy. And that holiness is set in place by the blood of the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus declares us holy, and we accept it on the basis of faith, just as the Israelites had to.

The word “holy” means “separate” or “other.” The idea is that we as believers are to follow a way of life that is unique in comparison to the world we live in. These commandments help us to see the degree of uniqueness the Lord calls us to follow, and there are several basic principles that we derive from them.

First, we are to do no harm to our relationship with the Lord. That sounds like a negative injunction, but its meaning is positive. We are to give priority to our relationship with the Lord, but from the text we learn that we are not to engage in idolatry or in anything that would damage our fellowship with the Father.

Second, we are to do no harm to the land we live on. Why would God be concerned about that? The answer is: because the land is what produces the harvest that sustains our lives. Through the land God blesses us, among other ways, of course.

Third, we are to do no harm to our relationships with others. We are not to engage in any kind of behavior that produces harm to others and otherwise serves to destroy the relationships we have with family members and our neighbors. Stated positively, we are to build up those relationships.

A world that is separated from God and does not know Him is not concerned about these matters to the degree that God calls us to be concerned about them. They may indeed have some concerns about the land and about family and neighbor relationships and may even seek to relate to these in positive ways. That is commendable, of course, but the world tends to leave out the foundation for all of this, which is a personal relationship with the God who created us. That relationship is available only through Jesus Christ. This relationship makes all the other relationships worthwhile and causes them to become what they are supposed to be, separated unto God, so that we can follow a unique way.

Lord, We thank You for the day You have given to us today, and we pray that we may walk in this unique way You have called us to. Amen.

Monday, December 10, 2007


“My heart is confident, God, my heart is confident. I will sing, I will sing praises.” (Psalm 57:7 CSB)

Confidence is based on perception. Perception is derived or learned. Parents, for example, want their children to grow up and have a strong sense of confidence as they approach life, so they try to instill a healthy self-esteem in them in the hope that this perception about self will, in turn, produce confidence. This is not at all a bad thing, of course, but its weakness comes from the fact of the basic human condition which is flawed by sin. Real confidence comes from a perception of the self as it relates to God, our Creator. This is what the psalmist came to understand.

We have confidence in God purposes for us. Psalm 57:2 reads, “I call to God Most High, to God who fulfills His purpose for me.” God has a purpose for each of our lives. He created us with a purpose in mind, and knowing this, or having this perception about our lives produces an unshakeable confidence. It frees us to rest in God and trust Him to fulfill that purpose when we walk with Him.

We have confidence also in God’s faithful love. Psalm 57:10 describes this for us: “For your faithful love is as high as the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.” Life ultimately reveals many uncertainties, but one universal constant we can count on is the faithful love of the God who created us. God has committed His love to us, and He is genuinely faithful. This perception is based on the reality of our experience with God and in the truth of His word. Thus, our confidence is in God.

We can walk fully in confidence in our God. That is the kind of confidence that is everlasting. Kind of makes you want to sing, doesn’t it?

Father, In our hearts we sing praises to You for Your purpose for us and for Your faithful love toward us. Our confidence is in You. Amen.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Proud versus Humble

“But I am like a flourishing olive tree in the house of God; I trust in God’s faithful love forever and ever.” (Psalm 52:8 CSB)

Psalm 52 contrasts the way of the proud versus the way of the humble. The proud boast of their evil, loving evil rather than good, lying instead of the truth. Those who walk humbly with the Lord, however, experience His faithful love, and their life becomes a producer of fruit. They thrive on the nutrients that come from their relationship with God, so that their life becomes a source of good to many others around them.

We all make choices, and certainly we can choose whether to walk that way of pride that sets itself up against God, or the way of humility that plants one’s life deep in the soil of the richness of God. Each path leads to a different destination, and each produces its own unique results. Psalm 52 makes it clear what those results will be.

Today, may the people of God choose to walk fully in the way of humility, so that our lives will bear fruit that becomes a blessing to others.

Lord, We ask that today we may indeed walk with You and learn from You, so that Your Spirit will produce the kind of fruit and the abundance of fruit that blesses You. Amen.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Right Kind of Sacrifice

“The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart.” (Psalm 51:17 CSB)

David sinned against God, and he came to understand, as he worked through it, that the blood of bulls and goats, that the giving of burnt offerings to God could not remove the guilt of his sin. The animal sacrifices were only intended to be symbolic of something deeper, but as happens in many religious systems, the focus got put on the system rather than on the deeper significance. David thus came to the conclusion that the sacrifice that pleases God is the giving of a broken spirit and a humbled heart.

The adversarial view would say that God is harsh and goes around trying to crush people, to break their spirit. That is exactly opposite of the truth. God does not break people’s spirit or their will. The reality is that their own sin has broken and crushed them. That is the source of their guilt. What God does is to invite those who have a broken spirit to humble their hearts and bring their brokenness to Him, so that He may forgive, and heal, and restore. The one Sacrifice given for all once and for all by Jesus now shows the pathway to freedom from sin and the guilt that goes with it. His sacrifice brings us to Him to seek and receive His forgiveness. The Bible promises us that when we do so, God will be pleased to bless us and will never despise our brokenness. He gives us a clean heart. He seeks to heal and to restore us to wholeness.

Father, What a great joy it is to be in Your mercy and grace, to receive Your forgiveness and restoration. Your Spirit in us a truly a Breath of fresh air. Amen.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Summons

“God, the Lord God speaks; He summons the earth from east to west.” (Psalm 50:1 CSB)

There is no one way to describe who God is. Some try to simplify and describe God with words like “love.” John tells us, in fact, that God is love. Some of us would like to believe that that is the definitive statement about God. It certainly is one of them, and it is descriptive of God. But love is just one facet, like a facet of a multi-faceted diamond.

The Bible gives us many other descriptors for God. While God is love, God is also the Judge of the earth. We tend to not like that term less because of what it communicates, but the Bible makes it clear that judging is part of what God does and who He is.
The psalmist tells us that God summons the earth. The earth does not summon God. The thinking is flawed that believes it can put God in our box, or somehow make Him like us, or think that He has to respond when we summon Him. God is the Judge of all the earth and summons the earth and everyone on it to appear before Him. He is the sovereign One. We are not.
The point of this is simply a reminder that God is an awesome God, who is in charge of the entire universe, and that in the immensity of all that exists, He knows us, He loves us, and He cares about the way we live. And He calls us to a walk with Him.

Lord, We worship You for the awesome God that You are, and we thank You for the life You call us to, and for the expectations You have of us, which help us to live a life that glorifies You. Amen.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Wealth and Understanding

“A man with valuable possessions but without understanding is like the animals that perish.” (Psalm 49:20 CSB)

The fact is: all perish. Not exactly the happiest morning thought, is it? Yet, we all know that death is a reality for everyone. The psalmist makes the point that the rich and the poor, the wise and the foolish all alike are pointed toward the experience we call death. He particularly notes, however, how the wealthy can reek of arrogance as if their wealth constitutes real power in terms of life. The foolishness of such thinking is apparent whenever those with wealth come up short in terms of understanding. They will perish like dumb animals, who also have no real understanding. He points everyone toward the truth of redemption, that there is a God who can redeem life and supply understanding and wisdom with regard to wealth, and power, and influence, so that those who have these may also serve Him as good stewards of what He has supplied.

Wealth is relative. Some have more than others, but all have more than nothing. So, the degree of wealth one has is not the point. The point is whether someone has understanding to go along with whatever degree of wealth he or she has. Such understanding or wisdom comes from God, who gives freely to all who ask for it in faith.

Father, You have blessed all of us and have supplied us with what we need, and many times with an abundance. Whatever the degree of blessing we have, may we serve before you as good stewards of all of it, and may we give priority not to this but to the life of the redeemed. Amen.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Provision for Poverty

“But if she doesn’t have sufficient means for a sheep, she may take two turtledoves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. Then the priest will make atonement on her behalf, and she will be clean.” (Leviticus 12:8 CSB)

In the purification laws of Israel, following a prescribed period after childbirth, a mother was to take an offering to the temple. The instruction of the law was that this was to be a year-old male lamb and a young pigeon or turtledove. There was a “loophole” in this law so to speak, however, that provided for mothers who were in extreme poverty. In place of the lamb they could give another pigeon or turtledove.

So, why should you care about this?

Luke tells us why. He wrote that after Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary took Him to the temple at the prescribed time for his dedication to the Lord, and they took their offering according to the law: “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” This law was a provision for those who were in extreme poverty.

Remember that Joseph and Mary were a young couple just starting out in life. Joseph did not have much money as a carpenter in those days. And what he had, he had to give to the Roman government since a tax decree had gone out from Caesar Augustus. This simply underscores for us that the Lord Jesus, the Savior of the world, was born into extreme poverty. There were no Christmas trees, no shiny ornaments, no parades, no glitzy glamor of any kind. Just cold and poverty.

We may sometimes wonder why God allowed His Son to be born into circumstances like that. We do not know how to answer that, but it is clear that God demonstrated His power through His One and only begotten Son to change the world and to save people from the penalty for their sins, regardless of His circumstances.

Lord, Teach us today the truth that the only real Resource we have and need is You. Amen.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Fire from the Lord

“Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu each took his own firepan, put fire in it, placed incense on it, and presented unauthorized fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them to do. Then, flames leaped from the Lord’s presence and burned them to death before the Lord.” (Leviticus 10:1-2 CSB)

These two verses above can be perplexing. On the surface, it appears that Nadab and Abihu were performing their priestly ministries normally and doing what was expected of them, and that God took their lives because He did not like the source of the fire they brought before Him. Further thought, however, is enlightening.

First, Aaron and all his sons had been warned repeatedly that they must carry out the commands of the Lord fully as specified. Not to do so would result in the forfeiture of their lives. Nadab and Abihu knew this.

Just prior to this event, a number of offerings were placed on the altar as burnt offerings to the Lord. When the glory of the Lord appeared, fire came out from His glory and then consumed the offerings on the altar.

On another day Nadab and Abihu brought coals to offer incense before God, but these coals did not come from the altar. They apparently assumed that it did not matter, and that coals from any fire would be all right. In other words, they simply disregarded God’s warnings and His instructions about these worship matters, and since this was a the very outset of the Levitical priesthood, a disregard at this point would certainly set the stage for further disregard later. Therefore, God could not allow this breach of His holiness, and He sent judgment on the two. In the Old Testament “fire from heaven” appears twelve times. Six times it is beneficial, and six times it is a judgment, and it was certainly a judgment on Nadab and Abihu.

While this story may seem harsh and disturbing, it points us to a very important truth that the worship of God is not something to be taken lightly. Not “just any old thing” will do. Worship is to be sincere, and we are not to treat it as if it does not matter. It isn’t that we have to “get everything right” in our worship. Rather, we are to hold a genuine reverence in our hearts toward God and love for Him and His word, and worship given in that sense is always acceptable to Him.

Lord, May the meditations of our hearts and minds, and may all our worship of You be acceptable in Your sight. And may all our worship before You come from the heart in ways that truly honor You. Amen.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sudden Glory

“Fire came out from the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell face-down on the ground.” (Leviticus 9:24 CSB)

If we were to suddenly see the glory of God appear as it did that day to Israel at the tent of meeting, or as it did on the road to Damascus as it did to Saul of Tarsus, I dare say we would all no doubt do exactly as they did and head for the ground. We would find it absolutely terrifying, as they did, and we would fear for our lives. Such an awesome display of glory and power would deplete every last ounce of energy we would have in our knees. Such is the impact of the revealed glory of God.

Currently, there is a sort of “veil of invisibility” that prevents us from seeing the actual glory of God. The glory of God is veiled from us, but that by no means suggests that it is not there. God is there before us, and so is His glory. God just does not reveal it to us because He knows it would scare us half out of our wits, and because He knows it would be a dangerous thing for us to see. The time will come, as the Bible promises, when we see certainly see Him in all His glory.

The reality for Christians is that the Holy Spirit dwells within each of our hearts, and, therefore, the glory of God also resides within us. That suggests that every day we need to come before the Lord and bow to His glory within, thank Him for it, and ask Him to let His light in us thus shine out through our lives, so that our influence will be used to bring others to know Him as we do.

Lord, Indeed, that is our prayer, that Your light and glory in us will serve Your purposes in shining into the life today of someone who needs to know You and Your great love for them. Amen.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

When Things Go South

“I am deeply depressed; therefore I remember You from the land of Jordan and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.” (Psalm 42:4 CSB)

Depression is a complicated matter. Not everyone is even sure of the definition of depression. The literal meaning of the word is “to press down.” Webster’s dictionary says it is the state of feeling sad or feeling dejection, marked by difficulty in thinking and concentration, a lowering of vitality. The cause of this is equally complicated. Often it is the result of certain events that take place in someone’s life, such as the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, or some kind of failure. It can also be brought about by anger that is not handled adequately. At least one definition or description of depression is “anger turned inward.” Someone gets angry at someone else, and rather than deal with the anger appropriately, the individual turns it inward toward himself or herself, resulting in a state of depression. And, of course, we know also that depression is the result of chemical imbalances in the brain. This can be the result of events that take place as mentioned above, but it can also simply be physiological, that is, the result of a lack of the right nutrition, or changes in one’s physical wellness. We call this “clinical depression.”

Clinical depression is treated adequately these days with medications that help the brain to restore its natural level of hormones that normally fight depression. Depression that is not clinical in nature, however, does not have to be treated by this method. It probably is treated this way all too often, but there is a spiritual treatment the Bible prescribes for depression that comes as the result of some loss or trauma. The prescription, which David used successfully, was to remember the Lord.

Even with the medical treatment of clinical depression, remembering the Lord is still the way to go. When we remember that God has been good to us and has “rescued” us time and time again, possibly without our even knowing it, this has a way of restoring some spiritual and emotional equilibrium. Remembering that God is with us and is able to strengthen and help us creates in us a sense of hope. It points us toward a “light at the end of the tunnel,” so to speak.

If you find yourself dealing with some depression that is impacting your vitality, the road to recovery begins with remembering the Lord.

Lord, Turn our hearts and our minds to You in this day, and help us to remember that not only are You with us, but that You sustain us and give us hope. Amen.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Keep the Fires Burning

“Fire must be kept burning on the altar continually; it must not go out.” (Leviticus 6:13 CSB)

Offerings given to the Lord in the worship of Israel were placed on the altar of fire. Part of the symbolism of this worship expression is the totality of the giving. An offering given by fire could not be taken back, and, therefore, it was totally given over to God. The offering itself was symbolic of the worshiper. The idea is simply that the worshiper giving the offering is also totally given over to God.

The fire of the altar was to be kept burning continually, even when the Israelites were moving from one place to another. That suggests a couple of truths. First, fire was symbolic of the Lord’s presence with Israel, and thus it was imperative that the altar fire remain constant. Second, this suggests that those who are leaders have the responsibility to keep the worship of the Lord foremost in the minds of God’s people.

The people of God need to know that God is with them constantly, that He will never abandon them or forsake them. His presence and love and warmth is a constant, and our security is to be found in that fact. The way we come to this realization is through worship, and worship is to be constant on our part. While we may engage in worship on a regular basis corporately as a church, we worship individually on a daily basis. Individual worship is the basis for all worship. And beyond this, worship is a fundamental, foundational attitude of heart and mind which, when constant, will bless us and turn our hearts toward joy. That is the whole idea of worship. God’s intent in worship has always been to build us up by means of our communion with Him.

Father, We recognize Your constant presence with us and in us through the Holy Spirit, and we give ourselves to You wholly in worship today and each day, and moment to moment. May our lives express our worship of You. Amen.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Going through the Motions

“You do not delight in sacrifice and offering; You open my ears to listen.” (Psalm 40:6 CSB)

David was a man of deep spiritual insight. In his day animal sacrifices were practiced day after day in their worship system. No doubt he himself participated in it. People would bring the prescribed animal to the altar to be sacrificed. They performed the prescribed slaughtering of the animal, and then the priest would go through the required steps for placing it on the altar.

David watched day after day as people went through the ritual of sacrifice. It seems that he wondered if this had any real impact on the lives of people. The sacrifices were not intended to become mere ritual, but undoubtedly in many cases that is exactly what they became for some. David likely saw this happen in his own life, and thus his statement to the Lord, “You do not delight in sacrifice and offering; You open my ears to listen.” The Lord’s intent in worship is that His people open their ears to listen.

It is all too easy for worship to become little more than ritual, a religious procedure we go through because we think we have to, but which has no real impact on who we are or what we do. It is possible to go through the motions of worship without truly worshiping God.

Worship only has impact when we open our ears and actually listen to what the Lord is saying to us. “Listen,” in this sense, means to hear and to obey the word of the Lord. That is the outcome of worship that God intends and desires for us. God knows that when worship is genuinely from the heart that it will change us for the better, strengthen us, and fulfill us.

If you find yourself just going through the motions of worship, then pause for a moment, acknowledge that before the Lord, and ask Him to enable you to focus your mind and your heart entirely on Him, so that you may hear what He has to say to you.

Lord, May each day become a day of worship for us, and may we truly hear what Your Spirit wants to say to us, so we can follow You. Amen.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


“Lord, Your faithful love reaches to heaven, Your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountain; Your judgments like the deepest sea.” (Psalm 36:5-6 CSB)

One of the ways we often describe God is to say that He has no boundaries, no limitations. We apply this description to other descriptions of God as well. As David did in the verse above, we describe God as faithful. How faithful is God? His love reaches to heaven, and His faithfulness to the skies. As far as David knew, the sky and the heavens had no limit. So he used the best description he could think of to try to express what he believed and felt about the love and faithfulness of God.

We all use one description or another, but all of them point to the eternal and limitless love of God, His faithfulness to us His children, the heights of His righteousness, and the depths of His judgments.
Carry this truth with you close to your heart throughout this day. God loves you with a love that has no boundaries, and He will walk with you faithfully through any and all experiences, even when others may not. If you have committed your heart and life to God, then He has fully committed to you. Knowing this gives us great encouragement to persist and keep moving forward in our growth and in our journey with God.

Lord, We thank You for your love, faithfulness, righteousness, and judgments. We thank You for including us in Your kingdom. We ask You to remind us often throughout this day of Your loving and limitless presence with us. Amen.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


“The cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses was unable to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud rested on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle… the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and there was a fire inside the cloud by night, visible to the entire house of Israel throughout all the stages of their journey.” (Exodus 40:34-38 CSB)

Imagine the sight that must have been – a bright, shining cloud in the daytime, and a cloud with fire in it at night. What reassurance that must have been to the Israelites! God was present with them in their midst. When the cloud lifted, the Israelites would break camp and follow it and then pitch their tents wherever the cloud settled. They did this for 40 years in the desert.

We sometimes think that it would be so great to have the visible, physical, tangible presence of the Lord with us here. Indeed, it would be a great experience.

In reality, however, we actually have something better. We have the Holy Spirit dwelling in the heart and mind of each of us. Anyone who is a Christian has received the Holy Spirit of God. The “glory” of God now dwells in us, and He is truly “Emanuel,” God with us. We follow Him wherever He leads us, and He is with us wherever we are and wherever we go.

You may want to take a moment to thank God for putting His Spirit in you. As you walk through this day, ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of His presence, and then follow as He leads.

Lord, We do truly thank You for putting Your Spirit in us, and we pray that as You speak and lead, that we may follow and carry out Your will this day. Amen.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Holy Encampment

“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.” (Psalm 34:7 CSB)

The angel of the Lord appears variously in the Old Testament. We see him, for example, as a sword-wielding angel who meet Joshua just before a battle. He is God’s representative and messenger to carry out the will of God.

David tells us that this angel of the Lord “encamps” around those who fear God. The word “encamp” suggests a military metaphor. An encampment was normally a gathering of soldiers in a camp who were preparing for battle. So, the idea is that the angel of the Lord comes as a solder to encamps around those who fear God in order to protect them, rescue them, and deliver them from the enemy.

To “fear” God in this sense is not to cower in a corner, but to come before God with reverential awe. Those who fear God are those who love Him, worship Him, and submit their lives to Him.

With these understandings, what we understand David to say here is that the God we serve is trustworthy, and that He will take care of His children who call on Him in their need. Verse 17 further below reads, “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit.” The idea is, thus, that we can trust ourselves totally to the Lord to take care of us and provide for us.

Lord, What a great comfort it is to us to know that You take care of us, and that we can trust You completely. Guide us through each day that we may serve You well. Amen.

Friday, November 16, 2007

What A Relief!

“How happy is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How happy is the man the Lord does not charge with sin, and in whose spirit is no deceit!”

What a true statement that is! One of life’s greatest joys is experiencing the forgiveness of sins. It is like being caged for years and years and then being released. Forgiveness is both liberating and exhilarating. Sin no longer has any teeth, so to speak, when forgiveness takes place. It is no longer the tyrant of one’s life, no longer the dominating influence over lifestyle. We may still sin from time to time, but we have a loving God who forgives us. Forgiveness frees us to actually live.

To be charged with sin by the Lord is to be condemned to death, to an eternal existence apart from God with no hope. What could possibly be worse than that? But our transgressions and sins are “covered.” That is, they have been covered over by the blood of Jesus Christ, so that God no longer sees them, and, therefore, no longer charges us with sin. Thus, through Jesus Christ we now have the joy of forgiveness and the genuineness of a life that is already eternal. We can live a life of honesty and integrity before the Lord.

What a great life this is! What a happy, blessed life! We who believe in Jesus are forgiven.

Father, Our hearts are filled with gratitude for the gracious gift You have given us through the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. We rejoice in our forgiveness, and we pray that we may live a life each day marked by honesty and integrity. Amen.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Life Course

“But I trust in You, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ The course of my life is in Your power; deliver me from the power of my enemies and my persecutors.” (Psalm 31:14-15 CSB)

The course of a life is very much like the course of a river. It has a starting point, a source where the water flow begins, and it is moving toward a destination, the sea. What happens between those two points depends on the influences experienced. Other rivers may flow into it, making it larger and stronger. Along the way it may encounter large rocks below the surface, creating turbulence, or what we sometimes call “white water.” In some places the river bed runs deep and wide, giving the flow a very calming and soothing appearance. The influence of hills and low spots along the way help to determine the course of its flow. But flow, it does, and it continually moves toward the sea.

We each experience a variety of influences in our lives that can determine the course of our lives. These may be circumstances, people, decisions, and values. Some of these influences may tend to be diversionary. Satan certainly desires to divert our lives toward his directions. Some of the influences actually aid the flow of our lives, and it is when we come to the faith decision in which we say, “Lord, You are my God,” that the course of our lives take on real power. The power of God is what provides us with true life-course. His power in our lives is what provides the victory over those influences that would want to divert us. By placing our lives in His hands, He will take us to that ultimate victory.

Lord, We trust in You. The course of our lives is in Your power, and thus we follow You. Amen.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hearts Moved

“So Moses summoned Bezalel, Oholiab, and every skilled person in whose heart the Lord had placed wisdom, everyone whose heart moved him, to come to the work and do it.” (Exodus 36:2 CSB)

We have all heard singers in the secular world who have what must be an angelic quality to their voice, who have a way with music notes and words in song that have a truly pleasing sound. Yet, some of these have absolutely no place in their hearts for God or the things of God. In fact, in some cases it may be just the opposite, where they express hostility toward anything good or right and choose a way of loose living. They become the definition of “licentiousness,” which simply means “free license” to live any way they desire.

It is one thing to have a great ability. It is entirely another thing to actually use it the way God intended. What is the difference between one who turns an ability into a self-aggrandizing money-maker, and one who uses an ability to glorify God? We find the differences in two areas.

One is wisdom. Simply put, wisdom means knowing the right thing to do. We tend to believe that wisdom sometimes comes with age, but not necessarily. Wisdom, in fact, comes from God. James tells us in his letter that if anyone lacks wisdom, he or she should ask God to give wisdom. God is the Author of wisdom. Those who have wisdom from God know what is right. But that is not the same thing as doing what is right. That comes from the second area of difference.

The second area is heart. Heart refers to the will, the place where we feel and where we decide, the place where we hold our values. It is the heart that moves us to action. When we know the right thing to do, it is important then to do the right thing.

Moses called for Bezalel and Oholiab to begin work on the tabernacle. But they could not achieve all of it themselves. They needed help. So, Moses called for everyone who heart moved him to come and join in the work of building the tabernacle.

That is also the best solution for God’s church. In terms of building up the church of our Lord, many of us know the right thing to do, but it is those whose hearts are moved by the Lord who actually do the right thing and build up the church.

Lord, Show each of us today the right things You want us to do, and help us to allow Your Spirit to move our hearts to join in the work of building Your church. Amen.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Gifts of God

“Moses then said to the Israelites: ‘Look, the Lord has appointed by name Bezalel son or Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. He has filled him with God’s Spirit, with wisdom, understanding, and ability in every kind of craft to design artistic works in gold, silver, and bronze, to cut gemstones for mounting, and to carve wood for work in every kind of artistic craft. He has also given both him and Oholiab, son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others.’” (Exodus 35:30-34 CSB)

How is it that some people are good at some aspect of life. Have you ever noticed this? Some people are just artistic. Many of them have never formally trained in art, but they seem to have an innate ability to create art. Some are very good at dealing with numbers and mathematics and such. Some folks have a way with words and are able to use words effectively in communications. Some are natural engineers and are always looking for better and easier ways to get tasks accomplished. So why is this? Is it because they somehow work harder than others?

The reality is found in what Moses had to say to the Israelites. The time came when Israel needed a formalized worship system that revolved around the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle was to be built according the pattern that God showed Moses. But who was to build it? God had placed specific abilities within two men – Bezalel and Oholiab – specifically for this task.

The fact is, God gifts people with the abilities that they have. All of us have been gifted by God in some way. This is not necessarily the same thing as what we call “spiritual gifts,” since those are spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit to Christians for building up the church. Abilities, on the other hand, are gifts that God gives to all people. He gives everyone some ability.

So, what abilities has God given you? Are you good at mathematics, or art, or writing, or building, or ideas, or what? And whatever the abilities are that God has given you, are you using them in some way that brings glory and honor to God? That is, after all, the reason He gave them to you. You may certainly use your abilities in terms of your livelihood, but how are you also using them to bring honor to God? Something to think about today.

Father, We thank You for the various abilities You have given us, and we ask You to show us how we can use them to honor You. Amen.

Monday, November 12, 2007


“When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face shone.” (Exodus 34:30 CSB)

The Latin word for “face” is “persona.” We have pulled this word directly into our English language as another way for referring to a person’s face. You may also find it interesting that the same word is the root for our word “person.” Someone’s face is thus the expression of the person.

Moses spent some significant amounts of time with the Lord. On more than one occasion he spent 40 days on a mountain with God. He was in the direct presence of the Almighty. The effect of this time with God is that the face of Moses, his “persona,” radiated the glory of God. It was frightening to those who saw it. Moses did not know it himself until he saw the fearful actions of others and they then told him why they were afraid. The glory on his face would fade after a while, but each time he was in the presence of the Lord thereafter, he would come away from it with his face shining.

While we may not have such an experience from spending time with the Lord in prayer, even so, it should be evident in our faces, our “persona,” that we have been in the presence of the Lord. When people meet you on a given day, is there anything in your face that will indicate that you belong to Him, that His Spirit dwells in your heart, that you are spending time with Him?

Maybe this is something we should ask the Lord to accomplish in our faces on a daily basis.

Father, Today and each day, we pray that as we spend time with You, that there will be something in our faces, something in our eyes, that will communicate to others that we belong to You, and we pray that the “personhood” in each of us will bring glory to You. Amen.

Friday, November 9, 2007


“Dear friends, don’t let this one thing escape you: with the Lord one day is like 1,000 years, and 1,000 years like one day.” (2 Peter 3:8 CSB)

To God, time is irrelevant. Timing is not, but time is. That is the point that Peter is making to his readers in the verse above. Many were saying, “So, where is this return of Christ you keep talking about?” Peter and others often preached as if Christ were going to return in their lifetime. Of course, that is the proper attitude for any Christian in any age, but the reality is that we do not know when He will return. We only know that He promised He would, and God always keeps His word. The timing is all His.

With eternity, time really is irrelevant. We measure time in human terms, as accurately as we can, and we tend to see life in terms of linear time. But that is not the way it is with God, who is eternal. With no beginning and no end, time really has no foundation. It is always the same time in heaven. It never changes. And part of what that means, of course, is that all of us who go to heaven arrive at the same time.

Only timing is important to the Lord, and the timing of Christ’s return and all else that accompanies that great event are determined by the Father. We, therefore, simply trust that to Him as we continue to walk with Him faithfully.

Lord, Today may we rest in this truth of timelessness, and may we simply trust You faithfully for all things. Amen.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Enthroned on Praise

“But You are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.” (Psalm 22:3 CSB)

Most of us have seen a picture of a throne, and some may have even seen a throne in person at one time or another. There are all sorts of them. In western countries they tend to be elaborate and gold. In Asia they tend to be colorful and sometimes golden. In the Forbidden City in Beijing, for example, the ancient throne of the Chinese dynasties was made of wood, with steps leading up to the seat. The wood is carved and ornate, and all around it are beautiful colors with red, gold, cobalt blue, white, and so on.

All thrones are built on some kind of foundation. The thrones of human kings are build on the ground, or on wood platforms, or on concrete. The throne of God, however, is totally unique. It has one foundation and one ornamentation.

The foundation of God’s throne is His holiness. God is holy. Holy is one of the ways that the Bible describes God for us. He is “wholly other” than anything else we can know. His holiness provides the foundation for his throne and our worship of Him.

The ornamentation of God’s throne is praise. Because God is holy, we praise Him. And God is enthroned on the praises of His people. His throne does not require our praise, because His kingship is not dependent on anything human beings do or think. We praise Him simply because of who He is, and our praises are offered to Him in worship. Thus, our praise becomes the decoration or ornamentation of His throne.

Lord, You are absolute holiness, and we give You the praises of our hearts this day to add to the decorations around Your throne that have come from myriads of worshipers who love You. Amen.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Sin and Sickness

“Reaching out His hand, He touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be made clean,’ and immediately the disease left him.” “Seeing their faith He said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven you.’” (Luke 5:13, 20 CSB)

Is there a connection between sin and sickness? What does the Bible teach about this?
In a very general sense, all sickness is the result of sin. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve lived lives of perfection, where there was no sin and no disease of any kind. It was literally heaven on earth. There was no death. It was life at its apex. Their disobedience to the Lord’s command constituted the first sin, however, and that brought the judgment of God not only on them but on all mankind. Sin brought death, and it introduced disease. So, in a general sense all disease is the result of sin.

In a more specific sense, though, can we trace a sickness we have to sins we have committed?

The answer to that question cannot be universal. In the same chapter in Luke, Jesus healed two men. One man had a serious skin disease all over his body, but there is no indication that it came because of sin he committed. In the other case of the paralytic who was lowered through a roof so Jesus could heal him, Jesus said to him, “Friend, your sins are forgiven,” and Jesus healed him. The first case did not seem to be related to specific sin, but the second case clearly was. In another instance, the disciples asked Jesus if a man was born blind because of his own sins or the sins of his parents, and He responded that it was neither of the above. It was in order to glorify God when he was healed.

In reality, we cannot know whether another person’s sickness is the result of sin, and that is not up to us to judge. Sometimes, we do not even know whether a sickness we have comes from a sin we committed. Paul, for example, had a “thorn in the flesh,” evidently some kind of illness, but there is no indication it was because of sin. We do, however, sometimes have a fairly good idea about some illness we experience as the result of sin we have committed. For example, if two people got into a fight so that both end up in the hospital with serious injuries, you can be sure that those illnesses resulted from sin. Sometimes it is obvious, but sometimes we just do not know. If we honestly conclude that some illness we have is the result of sin, then that suggests first the need for repentance, and it suggests further that we seek the Lord’s forgiveness and then His healing. If we are not certain, then we simply need to just ask the Lord for healing and trust the matter to Him.

Father, Help us today to not set ourselves up as judge over anyone’s maladies since we do not know what You know, and even with ourselves, Lord, we turn to You seeking Your blessing. Amen.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Power of Humility

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:6 CSB)

Exalting oneself is a dead end street. Some go that way, thinking that in doing so they are taking charge of their lives, and they do just fine for awhile, until the street runs out. They will ultimately discover that “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:5) They come to understand that such pride is misplaced and inappropriate for God’s people, and devoid of any real power. The real power is to be found in humility. “When I am weak, that is when I am strong,” says Paul. This is one of the paradoxes of our faith. It shouldn’t be true, but it is. This is because God honors humility. Humility, in fact, puts us in the position where we draw on the power of God. It allows us to channel His power through us. Ultimately, He will exalt us through His might.

When this happens, we discover that there is also a positive side to pride when it is redemptively understood, when it is properly placed. Here is how the psalmist said it, “Some take pride in chariots, and others in horses, but we take pride in the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7) The “pride” he is referring to is confidence. Any army with chariots and horses was considered far more powerful than one with only an infantry. In other words, their pride and confidence were in what was considered a superior fighting force, but we see this in a different light. We “take pride” in the name of the Lord our God. Our confidence is in the character of God. “He gives victory to His anointed.” (Psalm 20:6) This pride or confidence is properly placed when it is directed toward the Lord.

God gives us victory, and He exalts us in due time. He does this because he cares for us and because we cast our cares upon Him, trusting Him to take care of us. And He does.

Father, We humble ourselves before You and cast our cares upon You, trusting You exercise the might of Your character in our lives. Amen.

The Power of Humility

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your car on Him, because He cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:6 CSB)

Exalting oneself is a dead end street. Some go that way, thinking that in doing so they are taking charge of their lives, and they do just fine for awhile, until the street runs out. They will ultimately discover that “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:5) They come to understand that such pride is misplaced and inappropriate for God’s people, and devoid of any real power. The real power is to be found in humility. “When I am weak, that is when I am strong,” says Paul. This is one of the paradoxes of our faith. It shouldn’t be true, but it is. This is because God honors humility. Humility, in fact, puts us in the position where we draw on the power of God. It allows us to channel His power through us. Ultimately, He will exalt us through His might.

When this happens, we discover that there is also a positive side to pride when it is redemptively understood, when it is properly placed. Here is how the psalmist said it, “Some take pride in chariots, and others in horses, but we take pride in the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7) The “pride” he is referring to is confidence. Any army with chariots and horses was considered far more powerful than one with only an infantry. In other words, their pride and confidence were in what was considered a superior fighting force, but we see this in a different light. We “take pride” in the name of the Lord our God. Our confidence is in the character of God. “He gives victory to His anointed.” (Psalm 20:6) This pride or confidence is properly placed when it is directed toward the Lord.

God gives us victory, and He exalts us in due time. He does this because he cares for us and because we cast our cares upon Him, trusting Him to take care of us. And He does.

Father, We humble ourselves before You and cast our cares upon You, trusting You exercise the might of Your character in our lives. Amen.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Being Clear-headed

“Now the end of all things is near; therefore, be clear-headed and disciplined for prayer. Above all, keep your love for one another at full strength, since love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Based on the gift they have received, everyone should use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God. If anyone speaks, his speech should be like the oracles of God; if anyone serves, his service should be from the strength God provides, so that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

Peter and other believers in the first century believed that the return of Christ was imminent in their day. We are now in the 21st century, and Christ has not yet returned. The promise of His return is still valid, of course, simply because it is the word of God. God gave His word, and He will keep it as He always does. So, just as they lived with the view that Christ would return in their lifetime, it is important that we also take that view.

The effect of doing this is to make us clear-headed, or alert, and it leads us to a life of discipline that is characterized, among other things, by prayer. Prayer helps us to be clear-headed, and it requires a discipline on our part to schedule a daily, normal time for communion with our Lord in the Spirit.

Peter goes on to point us to some actions that we can take in addition to prayer that will enable us to remain clear-headed and disciplined.

He says that we should keep our love at full strength. Loving other people means in part that we do not set ourselves up as their judge for the sins they commit, but just as God does, we love them while hating the sin, since sin is destructive. We seek to draw people to the Lord by loving them.

Peter also says we should be hospitable toward one another. Hospitality means to make yourself and your resources available to others who need your help. That is not always convenient for us, and there may at times be a temptation to complain, but Peter says we should practice hospitality without complaining.

Then, Peter says we should use our spiritual gifts to serve others. We develop a servant leader mentality. In particular, when we speak, we should do so as one who is representing the Lord, and to be effective in doing so, we must know what His word says. Our service to others must be based on the strength God provides, because otherwise our own strength will fall far short in terms of sustaining us.

We serve the glory of God, and our desire is to walk with Him and with others in the fellowship of His Spirit as we look forward to the Lord’s soon return. With that in mind, may we practice discipline and be clear-headed as we serve one another.

Lord, Guide us this day as we seek to live a clear-headed and disciplined life. Amen.

Friday, November 2, 2007

The Normal Christian Life

“Now finally, all of you should be like-minded and sympathetic, should love believers, and be compassionate and humble, not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing since you were called for this, so that you can inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8-9 CSB)

Probably the definition of what constitutes a “normal” Christian life depends on who you talk with about it. So, let’s talk with Peter about it. What he describes in the two verses above is his definition. This is the way it should be.

The first part of his definition is that Christians who live a normal Christian life should be of one mind. We should be agreed on what is true. To be like-minded is not to be a programmed robot. It means to choose to agree and to think essentially the same way, being sympathetic to one another and loving toward one another.

The second part of his definition has to do with compassion and humility. Jesus was often moved to compassion. We reach that arena when we jettison any harshness or hard-heartedness and replace it with humility, a teachable spirit, a heart that is open to being moved.

The third part of his definition is that Christians who live a normal Christian life should respond to hurtful situations in exactly the opposite way the world responds. When evil is done to us, or when we are insulted, we should not respond in kind but to the contrary bless those who do this to us. In blessing, we receive a blessing. In blessing where blessing is not deserved, we are engaging people in the ways of our Heavenly Father, for that is what He does.

Lord, Help us this and each day to live out the normal Christian life, as taught in Your word, and not according to our society or culture’s definitions. Amen.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Declaring His Praises

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9 CSB)

Christians are God’s chosen people. This is not because we are somehow better than all the rest of the people in the world. It is because we chose Him. God chooses those who choose Him. In that sense, we are the chosen people of God, and God has a purpose for us. Our purpose is that we might proclaim or declare His praises to a world that gropes in the darkness.

One of the praises we declare is freedom. God has called us out of the darkness of lostness and sin, and we have responded in faith by accepting His call to move into the light. The light of God lights the pathway for us, so that we now know how to live life in freedom from the tyranny of the domination of sin and darkness. It is a great freedom to have, and God has provided it to us. We declare this praise to the world.

Another praise we declare is fellowship. God has made us a holy nation, a people of His possession, putting us into fellowship with all believers everywhere and in smaller groups we call “church.” We share in life with one another, and this fills our hearts with rejoicing. We walk with God and with one another. We have a sense of being aliens and strangers in this world, and God empowers us to engage in a spiritual warfare to overcome the attempts of the darkness to encroach on our freedom and our fellowship through the temptation of sin and evil. His power enables us to experience the victory.

These are at least two praises that we declare to our world.

Father, Help us this day to be faithful in declaring Your praises to our world. Amen.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Refiner’s Fire

“You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to be distressed by various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith – more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7 CSB)

Stress is a normal part of life. It is actually a good thing, in that it contributes to creativity. If there were no stress at all, we would not learn, we would not grow, we would not set goals, and we would not achieve much of anything. A certain amount of tension is necessary to life and is actually healthy.

The problem comes when “stress” turns into “distress.” When stress gets out of control, out of balance from what is normal, it then becomes distress, and distress can then become the focus of our lives. Distress creates pain and suffering, and we do not like it. It threatens us, and it hurts. And we do not understand why God allows it to come into our lives.

Peter had a perspective about this. He certainly endured more than his fair share of distress. His answer for why God allows us to go through distress and various trials is that it purifies our faith. It tests the genuineness of our faith, and beyond then, it purifies our faith, making us stronger and better equipped for life.

Peter compared this to the process of refining gold. Intense, sustained heat is applied to gold ore, totally distressing it, until the genuine gold is released, so that the dross can then be removed, leaving pure gold. And each time the gold go through the refiner’s fire, the process makes it purer and purer, and consequently more and more valuable. So it is with our faith.

Distress is not permanent. It may seem at the time that it will never end, but eventually it does. The end result will be a stronger and purer and more powerful faith, which is invaluable. That is why God allows us to go through various trials and distresses.

Lord, Whatever distresses we may be going through today, or those we may eventually encounter, help us to remember that Your purpose in allowing them to come is to strengthen our faith. Amen.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Law of the Donkey

“If you see the donkey of someone who hates you lying helpless under its load, and you want to refrain from helping it, you must help with it.” (Exodus 23:5)

Why do we do what we do? What is it that motivates us to the actions we take?

Sometimes our actions seem to be tied to our relationships and, in particular, to the level of closeness of those relationships. If a relationship is strong, warm, and vibrant, our actions tend to be good, positive, and proactive. If a relationship is weak, cool, and distant, then our actions tend to follow suit. We gravitate toward those relationships that are good, and we stay away from those that are bad. This seems to be pretty much humanly normal and par for the course.

In the donkey law mentioned above (yes, there is one) in Exodus 23:5, we actually see the specific mention of a donkey. We may find that a little odd. Donkeys were used – and still are in some places in the world – for carrying heavy loads, and sometimes the load got too large and heavy and exceeded the donkey’s strength, leaving it lying on the side of the road, helpless and unable to get back up. Many folks would tend to want to help the donkey. But what if you knew that the owner of that donkey was someone who hates you? Some might be tempted to say, “Serves him right,” and pass on by. Such actions are tied to relationships.

In the community of the redeemed, we cannot tie our actions to either the closeness or the distance of a relationship. The strength of that relationship is not to determine our actions one way or another. What is to determine our actions is the need that we see, regardless of whether a relationship is positive or negative. We must look for the right thing to do and then do it, no matter how we may feel about it, or what the nature of the relationship is that may be tied to that action. This is what the community of the redeemed does, and that is why we do not follow the normal ways of this world. This is what distinguishes us from the world. This is “agape” at work.

Lord, How marvelous are Your teachings and Your ways. Help us to live according to them. Amen.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Bad Day to Good

“I will sing to the Lord because He has treated me generously.” (Psalm 13:6 CSB)

David either had a day that started badly and got worse or was going through a doleful time. He began Psalm 13 by saying to God, “How long will You continually forget me? How long will You hide Your face from me?” Have you ever had days when you felt that way? David was feeling forgotten by God. Anxiety ruled, and his enemies dominated him. Everybody seemed to have the upper hand but him. So, things were not going so well for David, and he pleaded with God to consider and answer and restore him.

The lesson is in the progress here. The first four verses of the psalm described the situation. Then, verse five looks to the past, “But I have trusted in Your faithful love.” David remembered how blessed he had been. Then, in the same verse he turns to the future, “My heart will rejoice in Your deliverance.” He goes on to then say in verse six, “I will sing to the Lord because He has treated me generously.”

What we see here is a journey of faith. It began with an acknowledgement of the situation and David’s feelings about seemingly being forgotten by the Lord. Then, it turned to the past to remember how blessed he was. Then, it turned to the future to express faith and confidence in what God would do.

When we go through a day that is not going so well, or through a period that feels rather down, we need to remember that a journey of faith will take us through the tunnel. A journey of faith considers and identifies the present circumstances, it looks to the past to count blessings, and then it moves intentionally toward the future that God has in store for us.

Lord, Guide us today on this journey of faith. Amen.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Faith Translation

“For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26 CSB)

When people think about faith, the first thing that comes to mind is belief. For many, faith is simply “believing something to be true.” For some, that is as far as it goes. They have a belief system about what is true, but it does not always get translated into life.

In order for faith to be real, to be what God has intended that it be, it has to be translated into action. The point James makes is that a faith that never has any impact on how a person lives his or her life is a faith that has no relevance to anything. It doesn’t make a difference in that sense whether you have it or not. Faith that is real always has to express itself in works, in action.

Commentators on the Bible have a times tried to paint this teaching of James as a contradiction of what Paul taught, but what Paul taught is exactly what James taught. They approach the matter of faith from different viewpoints, but Paul says that we are saved by grace through faith for good works. Check out Ephesians 2:8.

Faith is the starting point, and from there we run the race. We begin in faith and continue in faith, and throughout our lives we translate that faith into a lifestyle that reflects the glory of God and expresses what we believe through our actions.

Lord, Today and each day help us to translate our faith in You into actions that point others toward You. Amen.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Slow versus Quick

“My dearly loved brothers, understand this: everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.” (James 1:19 CSB)

Some of us are slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to get angry. Or so it seems at least. Depending on how a day may be going, we can have a short fuse, and it doesn’t take much to set us off. Sometimes when the heat is on the pressure builds to the boiling point. So, how do we get to the point where we can live out what James says? What would that look like?

A couple of verses beyond James 1:19 we read, “But be doers of the word and not hearers only.” The word of the Lord was not meant just for reading, and understanding, and enjoying. It was meant also for doing. When we incorporate the principles taught in the word, such as love God with everything in you and your neighbor as yourself, and such as “trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding,” and we actually live according to those precepts, we discover what James called “the perfect law of freedom.” This freedom then enables us, even in the pressure-packed situations, to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

In your day today, what principles would God have you to live out?

Lord, Show us today the teachings that You would have us to incorporate into our lifestyles, so that we may live according to Your perfect law of freedom. Amen.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


“Lord, our Lord, how magnificent is Your name throughout the earth! You have covered the heavens with Your majesty… When I observe your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You set in place, what is man that you remember him, the son of man that You look after him?” (Psalm 8:1, 3-4 CSB)

Few words do justice in describing God. We think of the various attributes that help us to understand more about who He is and what He is like, but descriptive is as close as we can get.

The word “majestic” does not cover the territory either, but it is at least one that helps to produce in us at least some semblance of what God is like. Our minds go to other forms of majesty for comparison, such as the majesty of royal celebrations, events, and parades, complete with their glitter and splendor. Of course, that is like comparing a donkey cart to a 2007 Mercedes, but at least they both have wheels. We at least have the concept of majesty in mind.

Maybe the closest we can get to understanding majesty is in looking at the night sky on a clear night. The moon and the stars and the sheer vastness of the universe with all of its complexity combine to point our minds toward the majesty of the Creator of it all. Humanity seems so small, so insignificant in comparison to all that is out there. And yet, this God who is the true definition of “majestic” knows each of our names, and He loves us with an infinite love. Another word comes to mind when we think about that, the word “astounding.”

For those of us who believe in Him, who have a personal relationship with Him through that faith, the day will come when we will see Him in His true glory. On that day, we will come to understand the true meaning of “majestic.”

Even so, Lord, may it be. For Your honor and glory. Amen.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Good Times, Sunshine, and Hardship

“Endure it as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there whom a father does not discipline?” (Hebrews 12:7 CSB)

Everybody loves good times and sunshine, and for the most part, most of us have a good bit of both in our lives. We tend not to put the word “hardship” in the same sentence, though. Most of us don’t care much for those. But maybe we should consider viewing them in a somewhat more positive light, though.

“IT” in the verse above is hardship, struggle, difficulty, and problems. “Endure hardship as discipline,” is what the writer is saying. He also says, “The Lord disciplines those He loves,” and that this discipline, though painful at the time, will later on “yield the fruit of peace and righteousness by those who have been trained by it.”

We are sometimes perplexed at some of the difficulties we go through in life. They do not often make sense to us, and yet, they still come. While God is not necessarily the source of our hardships, He does allow them to come, and he has a purpose in doing so. His purpose is to use them for our discipline.

Discipline simply means training or learning, and its purpose is to strengthen us so that we are prepared to deal with life and to deal with greater and greater difficulties. Problems are almost like stepping stones. Discipline helps us manage life from a position of strength, and it enables us to then become a trainer of others. While we might prefer comfort, in our hearts we know that training and discipline are going to produce greater fruit in and through us, so that we, in turn, may become a blessing to others.

As you consider the difficulties of your life, a good question to ask is: What is God trying to teach me in this? What does He want me to learn? What does He want me to be able to do? The answers to these questions may not be immediately apparent, but ultimately they will come into focus.

Lord, Help us each day to learn from all of the experiences we go through, so that we may be strengthened and better able to serve others. Amen.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Persevering Faith

“These all died in faith without having received the promises, but they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on earth.” (Hebrews 11:13 CSB)

Great heroes of faith persevere and remain faithful to God and to what they believe. Perseverance and faithfulness is why these in Hebrews 11 are listed. Even though they died without having received the Messiah as God promised, they saw it coming and remained faithful even through death in some cases. Some were persecuted and killed, yet they remained faithful.

The purpose of Hebrews 11, in fact, is to encourage believers to remain faithful to the faith and faithful to God. The Letter to the Hebrews was written at a time when some believers were becoming discouraged. Jewish believers in particular were considering returning to Judaism, in part because the promise of Christ’s return had not happened, because they were being persecuted by their fellow Jews, and because they were being invited to return to the Jewish fold by abandoning their Christian beliefs. The writer of Hebrews, thus, pointed them to the superiority of Jesus over everything and to the faithfulness of those who had come before.

God calls us to faithfulness, to persevere in our faith. That is a bottom-line truth. Faith and faithfulness are two sides of the same coin. You cannot have one without the other. A call to faith is a call to faithfulness.

Lord, Today may we each demonstrate faithful perseverance in our walk with You. Amen.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Way of Resilience

“But he kept insisting, ‘If I have to die with You, I will never deny You.’ And they all said the same thing.” (Mark 14:31 CSB)

On the night Jesus was arrested, Peter, as predicted, denied Jesus three times. He was not alone in this, though. Actually, all of the disciples abandoned Jesus that night. They all insisted they never would do such a thing. But when the time came they demonstrated the truth of the old adage – talk is cheap.

Sometime later, as recorded in The Acts of the Apostles, we find these same men standing strong in their faith. They all suffered beatings and persecutions, and one (James) was even beheaded, but they did not run away. So, what was the difference?

Part of the difference is the resurrection of Jesus, which demonstrated the power of God. They watched Jesus suffer horribly and die on the cross. They then saw the resurrected Jesus on numerous occasions. This was the sovereignty and power of God at work.

Another part of the difference is the Holy Spirit, which demonstrated the presence of God. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and the Lord’s presence with them then provided the resource they needed to endure.

Before all of this happened, in other words, they relied on their own strength. Afterward, they relied on the strength that the Lord provided internally.

It is possible to rely on your own strength, ingenuities, creativities, and skills in your walk with God for a season at least, but those who do so inevitably run into a brick wall. Human limitations are what they are. We have great capabilities, but we also have great limitations. For a while, people can handle things and figure things out all right, at least until a crisis of resources surrounds them.

The better way to go, the way of resilience, is the way of the power of God and the presence of God. The power of the gospel and the presence of the Holy Spirit is what enable us to not just endure but to actually overcome.

Father, Help us to take to heart today the truth that we will always do better by relying on Your resources than our own. Amen.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Divine Night Light

“They set out from Succoth and camped at Etham on the edge of the wilderness. The Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to lead them on their way during the day and in a pillar of fire to give them light at night, so that they could travel day or night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night never left its place in front of the people.” (Exodus 13:20-22 CSB)

What a great comfort it must have been to have this shekinah cloud of glory with them. It evidently glowed brightly in the daytime and looked fiery at night. Israel had a “divine night light.” The presence of the Almighty was visible, objective, tangible.

We need to remember that these people had grown up all their lives under slavery. They were used to somebody else telling them what to do. Their lives were difficult and distressed. When folks are in that position or frame of mind, leaders cannot just turn them loose and expect everything to be all right. Being the greatest Leader of all, God provided a means whereby the people would know which direction to go, and a means which would also provide great comfort and peace.

The cloud of glory always stayed in front of the people. God never abandons His people. His people do sometimes abandon Him. These same Israelites did exactly that not much further down the road in fact. But God never abandons people. He keeps His word and His commitments. One of the characteristics of our God is integrity, and we know we can count on Him.

The Presence of the Almighty is different for us now. We might at times wish we had His shekinah with us, but in reality we have something better. We have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. He provides us with guidance, and He provides peace and comfort in any situation. He never abandons us.

Lord, Remind us today of Your call to walk with the Spirit and keep step with the Spirit. Thank You for putting Your Spirit in us. Amen.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Red Shield

“When the Lord passes through to strike Egypt and sees the blood on the lintel and the two door posts, he will pass over the door and not let the destroyer enter your houses to strike you.” (Exodus 12:23 CSB)

The Passover was a foreshadowing of what is to come.

The Passover meal consisted of the meat of a sacrificial animal, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs. The blood from the sacrificial animal was to be applied to the lintel and the two doorposts of each house, and when the Lord saw the blood, He would not let the destroying angel harm anyone inside. The first Passover occurred the night before Israel’s release from slavery. It marked the culmination of the 10th plague against the Egyptians and against their gods.

The New Testament teaches us that Jesus was our “Passover Lamb.” The blood of Jesus now covers over our sin, so that God no longer sees them. In Romans 5:9 Paul writes, “Much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by His blood, we will be saved through Him from wrath.” The blood of Jesus cleans us from all sin. And we are, therefore, set free from our slavery to sin so that we can live a life fully in relation to God. The final judgment, therefore, has no impact on us.

The key to this is in the application of the blood. It had to be applied to the lintel and to the two doorposts at the outset of that first Passover. That means it was an act of the will to do so. Likewise, for the blood of Christ, shed on the cross for us, to have its effect it must be “applied” to our lives. This means that by faith we receive God’s gracious gift of forgiveness and salvation. It is by His blood we are redeemed.

The sacrifice of the life of Jesus, accepted into our hearts by faith in Him, sets us free and changes us forever. We have entered into eternal life. For that we say, “Hallelujah.”

Lord, We thank You for the cross, and for the plan that You have worked out for our salvation, and for Your plan for our lives. May we live them now in ways that honor You. Amen.