Friday, September 28, 2007

Practical Directions

“Now you, man of God, run from these things; but pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the faith; take hold of eternal life, to which you were called and have made a good confession before many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:11-12 CSB)

Paul wrote a couple of pastoral letters to his “son in the faith” Timothy to encourage him and help him be more effective in his ministry. Toward the end of the first letter, he gave Timothy a lot of good practical advice. In these particular verses the advice was particularly good.

The first direction he gave was to run away from temptation. What’s the best way to handle temptation? Run. Don’t hang around. Run away as fast as you can. Keep clear of it in the first place if you can.

The second direction is to pursue what is right. Evaluate your lifestyle and choose intentionally to pursue the kind of life that is filled with values that are right, values like godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. These are really good, and they help someone live a life of positive influence.

The third direction is to fight the good fight for the faith. This is not an encouragement to be aggressive and go out looking for a fight. It just means to be a person who defends the Christian faith, who takes a stand with Christ and for Christ, and will not back down when non-believers become critical of the faith.

The fourth direction is to keep things in the perspective of the eternal. Eternity should be the backdrop for everything we do.

The fifth direction is to keep your word. Whatever word you give in public is a word you need to keep in public and in private. Keeping your word is a testimony to integrity, and integrity is as important to the function of this world as air is to the human body.

Maybe in Paul’s practical directions to Timothy, each of us may also find an encouragement for our lives today.

Lord, Help us to live through this day in ways that will bring honor to You. Amen.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


“Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I do not get involved with things too great or too difficult for me. Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself like a little weaned child with its mother; I am like a little child.” (Psalm 131:1-2 CSB)

There is something to be said for simplicity. Life can become a convoluted maze at times, full of complexity, so that the simplification of life can have a huge appeal. There are many who might say, “I would love to simplify my life, but I’m not sure if I can, and I’m not sure how.”

The first step toward simplifying life is to get the right orientation. You first have to confirm where you are in your relationship with God. The last verse of Psalm 131 reads, “Put your hope in the Lord, both now and forever.” A jumbled life begins to take on a clearer order when Jesus is Lord of that life. As Paul said in Colossians, in Christ all things “hang together.” He actually used the analogy of a key ring with all the keys hanging on it in order. Sailors once used the North Star to get their bearings in order to navigate difficult journeys, and many still do. So, when we orient our lives to the constancy of the Lordship of Christ, the pieces of life begin to come together, and we find life a little easier to navigate.

The next step toward simplifying a life is to realize that there are some complexities in life that are beyond your comprehension and your ability to manage. We come to this realization when we understand and accept our limitations. That does not mean that we avoid life’s difficulties altogether or bury our head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich. We still must face them. But with regard to some of life’s complexities, our limitations are those of a child. Sometimes we are not really capable of understanding. Some things only God can know or understand, such as “why?” Simplification gets stronger when like a child we trust God.

Father, Today may our lives be fully oriented toward You and Your sovereignty, and may we come to a deeper understanding of our human limitations and trust You in those complex situations that are beyond our capabilities. Amen.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Waiting and Hoping

“I wait for the Lord; I wait and put my hope in His word. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning.” (Psalm 130 5-6 CSB)

Most people find waiting to be no fun at all. Who likes to wait in line to check out? Who likes to wait for a car to be repaired? Who likes to wait for the busy signal to stop when you’re trying to call someone? Who likes to wait for healing to take place? Answer: Noboby. At least, no one in their right mind really likes having to wait. We generally prefer to get our gratification sooner rather than later.

And yet, waiting is such a normal part of life. In fact, life is rather filled with waiting. And one of life’s greatest values is intertwined with waiting, the value we call “hope.”

The psalmist evidently had had some turns handling the night watch. A watchman is one who stands guard, watching for any approaching danger, while others are trying to get some sleep. The watchman would like to sleep, too, but he knows that the lives of his family, friends, and neighbors may well depend on his vigilance.

When the night watchman’s eyes grow accustomed to the dark, he can see quite a bit, but even so there are shadows and dark movements all over the place. It is not easy to distinguish the movement of an enemy from the shadows made by a tree blown by the wind. Tired, sleepy, and lonely, the watchman waits for one thing – the morning light. The light brings safety, the ability to distinguish, and – for the watchman – some rest and relief. He has no doubt that the morning will come. He just wishes it would hurry up and come, but in the meantime he waits.

The biblical idea of hope is not the usual idea that many people have. Many think of hope as wishing for something, but it has nothing to do with wishful thinking. In the Bible, hope is looking toward a future event that is certain. It is out there because God said it is. As a watchman knows the sun will rise, those who hope – in the biblical sense – know that the promises of God are already out there in the future, and our simple task is to wait for their fulfillment.

So, we hope in God’s word, that is, in the promises He has made, and for now we wait for their fulfillment.

Lord, We find it difficult sometimes to wait, but we know that this is a normal part of what it means to have hope. Our hope is in You and in Your word. Amen.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

He Could Have

“’He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.’” (Matthew 27:42 Scofield Study Bible)

The scoffers never really got it. These men were supposed to be the spiritual leaders of Israel, but they never perceived the truth. Jesus applied the prophecy of Isaiah to them which said that they would be ever seeing but never perceiving.

The taunts of these leaders of Israel were nothing more than that. They said they would believe if Jesus came down from the cross. This statement rings hollow, because these were the same folks who said that Jesus cast out demons by the prince of demons. People who are determined to not believe are not going to believe, regardless of any parameters they may set. So their taunts were just taunts. They would never believe.

The reality is that Jesus could have easily come down from the cross. He could have called on 12 legions of angels, but what would that have accomplished? What needed to be accomplished was being accomplished already on the cross. That was something far bigger, far more encompassing than the immediate situation revealed. Jesus was achieving the possibility of the redemption of mankind, and that required that He remain on the cross to take upon Himself the sins of mankind, so that the possibility of the forgiveness of sins might be offered to the world.

While it pains us to think of all the suffering Jesus endured through the crucifixion, we also come to the realization of gratitude that we have now been made right with God through the blood of Jesus, through faith in Him. For this we are eternally grateful.

Lord, What You did for us is almost beyond believe, unimaginable. Yet, You remained on the cross so that we might know You and know what a life of fulfillment is really like. We thank You. Amen.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Redemptive Thoughtfulness

“Joseph remembered his dreams about them.” (Genesis 42:9 CSB)

Joseph was about 17 years old when his brothers sent him off into slavery in Egypt. He pleaded for them to not do that, but they had had enough of his arrogance and insolence. Rather than kill him, they sold him into slavery. When the famine came to Egypt, however, and Joseph was by then in charge of managing the food stores for all Egypt, his brothers one day showed up at his door. At this time Joseph was about 30 years old, married, and had a couple of children. His life was doing quite well, and he had had time for the painful memories to be placed well in the back of his mind. Until that day, at least.

We sometimes have the idea that Joseph never really thought about what happened all that much, and that he was pretty much redemptive about everything throughout. We think that in part because he later made a statement to his brothers that they intended it for evil, but God intended those events for good. In reality, however, it appears to be somewhat different.

When his brothers showed up, Joseph recognized them, but they did not recognize him. He treated them harshly at first, on the pretense of accusing them of being spies. He put them in prison. He released them after three days, and told them that he would keep one of them in prison until they returned with their youngest brother, Benjamin, to prove their sincerity. He selected Simeon.

Joseph was in the midst of exacting some revenge on his brothers, and he had both the power and the right to do so based on what they had done to him, in terms of the laws of the day at least. However, there is that little statement quoted above, “Joseph remembered his dreams about them.” Presumably, this is the dream where their sheaves of grain bowed down to his.” It would seem that this was the point where God began to speak to Joseph about His purposes for allowing him to go into Egypt. Likely, God began to show Joseph the redemptive purposes He had in mind for his father and all his other family members. Over the next months he had further opportunity to reflect on the events of his life, and that fact that God had placed him at this high government position, and that is the point where he very likely began to see things more clearly.

All of us probably have had events in our lives that we have not understood. We may have been angry at God and toward others who hurt us. We may not have understood why God would allow those events to come our way. What we need to understand, however, is that the God we serve is capable of redeeming any and every situation if we will allow Him to. And it is in the redeeming of the situation that we begin to see a glimpse of the redemptive power of God. When we begin to reflect and think about our life events with the Spirit of God guiding us, some truth begins to come into focus, eventually at least, and we then reach a point where we can move forward in trusting God’s purposes for us.

Father, We confess that we do not always understand Your purposes, but we know You and we trust You. And for that reason, we trust Your redemptive purposes as well. Amen.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Heart Directed

“May the Lord direct your hearts to God’s love and Christ’s endurance.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5 CSB)

Some days are more difficult than others, some less encouraging than others. We never really know sometimes what we will wake up to in the day as it unfolds. We would like to wake up to a sunshiny day every day, feeling great, walking ever onward ever upward, face to the sun. We do have days like that, but we also have days when things can go terribly wrong. Such events are not necessarily of our own doing. They just come, and some of those events can pulverize us. So, what then?

Paul’s solution is a good one. When incidences come that seem to hurt or destroy more than help or develop, “may the Lord direct your hearts to God’s love and Christ’s endurance.”

God’s love is solid. It is something called “agape.” This kind of love is not the emotional, sentimental type. It is the kind that is action-oriented and focused on the one who is the object of that love. It is love that produces results. When days come with difficulties beyond your control, may the Lord direct your heart to God’s love.

Christ’s endurance demonstrates that “agape.” He could have come down from the cross and mustered 12 legions of angels, just by willing it. But instead, He endured the beating, the crucifixion, the pain, and the humiliation of it all. Whatever problems came, whether on that day or on any day, He set the example of endurance. So, when some difficulties come into our day, may the Lord direct our hearts to Christ’s endurance.

Lord, We place our hearts in Your hands. In each day that we live, please direct our hearts to Your love and to Jesus’ endurance. Amen.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


“They perish because they did not accept the love of the truth in order to be saved. For this reason God sends them a strong delusion so that they will believe what is false, so that all will be condemned – those who did not believe the truth but enjoyed unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:10b-12 CSB)

“They,” in the verse above, is those who choose to follow Satan and his representative, referred to as “the lawless one.” Paul says that these folks are perishing as the result of their decision to not accept a love of the truth about God and sin. Because they made that choice, God allowed strong delusions to come their way that actually increased their disbelief and accentuated their rejection of the truth, bringing even greater condemnation. Those who choose to disbelieve the truth go further and even “enjoy” unrighteousness.

You may have noticed that society and culture in America can seem at times almost extremely enamored with itself. Nearly anywhere you turn, you see examples of people in the limelight who wish to flaunt their enjoyment of sin in the public eye. It many respects it even appears to be promoted as the “new standard” for American life, and huge numbers of people appear to have bought into the lie.

The Bible makes it very clear that people who follow a life of sin, thinking that God is OK with it and doesn’t really mind, are deluded. God does not like sin. He will forgive sin when people turn to Him in repentance and faith and seek His forgiveness. The Bible promises us that He will forgive us. But that does not mean that God is OK with sin. Sin – our sin – is what put His Son on the cross.

God does not want us to buy into the lie that is placed on our plates every day from a godless media (television, radio, newspaper, etc), and from people who think it is all right to liberalize lifestyles so that people can be encouraged to do anything they want to do and believe it is all right. God seeks to build in the hearts of people a love for the truth, and love for the truth results also in a desire to follow the way of truth and not be deceived by those who are on the broad path that leads to destruction.

The delusion is there. Many choose to believe it, mainly because they want to do whatever they want to do without consequence. Those who are wise open their eyes to the truth of God. When they do, they find Him.

Lord, Help us today to follow You in the way You are going. Amen.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Flashlight Innovations

“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” (Psalm 119:105 CSB)

Even in ancient days, people needed to get up at night and go outside on occasion. Streetlights did not exist. No electricity. There were no flashlights. No batteries. There were, however, cobras and scorpions on the pathways. People being the creative creatures that we are, someone actually invented a flashlight that did not have to be a hand-held flaming torch. They took a small oil lamp with a lighted wick and strapped one to each ankle, so they could avoid the cobras and scorpions and get back in the house safely.

This is what the psalmist is referring to with regard to a “lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” He is saying that the word of God is like that. In a world of darkness and danger, the word of God provides light so that we can first see the path we should walk and second avoid any dangers along the way and safely arrive at our destination.

Today, let the word of God light your way.

Father, We thank You for Your word, and for the light is provides us on the way. We ask that You speak to us today from it and guide us through our day. Amen.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Blessed Influence

“…the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house because of Joseph.” (Genesis 39:5b CSB)

The story of Joseph is one of pain and sorrow on one hand and a story of great joy and ultimate triumph on the other. He experienced the pain and hurt of a family rejection and separation at age 17. His brothers nearly killed him but decided instead to sell him into slavery. You can imagine some of the emotions that flowed through his mind. But Joseph never lost sight of the truth of God’s sovereignty, and he worked within his circumstances to focus on excellence. You know the rest of the story – Potiphar, Potiphar’s wife, prison, dreams, Pharoah, in charge of Egypt’s economy and second only to Pharoah, and then his brothers bowing before him in fear, followed by a great family reunion.

In the midst of the story stands that remarkable statement, “The Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house because of Joseph.” The same thing happened when Joseph was in prison. Then, it happened again with Egypt itself. Wherever Joseph was, and in whatever he did, God blessed those who were around him, regardless of their relationship to Him.

Does God bless those who are around you, those you work with, play with, or live with just because of His relationship with you? Are you a blessing to others just because of that relationship with Him? If you answer yes, then that is worth celebrating, whatever your circumstances. If you are not sure or answer no, then the question would be: why not? And the question would be: Are you living your life with others with openness in regard to your personal relationship with the Lord. And one other question: What would it take for that to happen?

Today, let’s ask the Lord to cause us to be a blessing to all those who are around us, just because of our relationship with Him.

Lord, That is our prayer before You today. Bless everyone we come in contact with today because of our relationship with You, and help them to know that that is why they are being blessed. Amen.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Find Your Treasure

“I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11 CSB)

Find your treasure, find your heart. Your heart is with whatever you treasure.

At least one faithful believer found his treasure in the word of God. He wrote the verse that is quoted above. Other translations read, “I have hidden Your word in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” Treasure, because we value it so personally and so highly, is something we typically store in a very safe place where no one can get to it or steal it from us. Thus, it is equally valid to translate the verse to say “I have treasured Your word.” To store this treasure in one’s heart, at the place where the will is shaped and determined, is the safest place to keep it. That is because the human will is made of steel, so to speak. To place the word of God in one’s heart is, therefore, to allow the word to shape the will.

Sin is also a matter of the heart. At least, that is where it begins. Jesus clearly said that out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, and every sort of sin you can think of. It all begins in the heart, the place of the will, so that just as one’s heart is shaped by the will, sin also becomes a matter of the will. Contrary to the popular belief, sin does not just “happen.” It comes from the will. Always. Anyone who thinks otherwise is deceiving himself or herself.

So, treasuring the word of God in the heart, where the will is shaped and where sin originates, may be one of the smartest things a human being can do. In reality, that is one the key secrets in dealing with temptation and with outright sin. During the wilderness temptations, Jesus quoted Scripture each time Satan tempted Him to sin. His victory and example underscore that treasuring the word of God in our hearts may be one the best things we can ever do to improve the quality of our lives.

Lord, Show us the truth of treasuring Your word in our hearts, and help us to give the time that it takes to learn Your word. Amen.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Never Abandoned

“How can I repay the Lord for all the good He has done for me? I will take the cup of salvation and worship the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of His people.” (Psalm 116:12-14 CSB)

The God of creation is faithful and compassionate toward all He has made. He has demonstrated His love time and again, and most especially on the cross of Calvary. Each breath we draw is a gift from Him. He brings good to our lives, even when it may not seem that way.

Sometimes God allows His children to walk through dark valleys. Death, torment, trouble, and sorrow may come into our lives rather unexpectedly. Such awful distress can lead us to wonder where God is and why He has allowed such grief to come our way. It seems that we are capable of suddenly forgetting our history with the Lord when such anguish overwhelms us. And yet, we instinctively turn to Him. That is because we know that He is gracious, righteous, and compassionate.

God does not abandon us when we walk through a bleak valley. He has not moved away. Ultimately, we return to the realization that, in fact, God has truly been good to us. We reflect on our lives and realize that He has actually blessed us beyond belief. And we wonder, with the psalmist, how we could ever repay God for all the good He has done for us.

In reality we know that we can never repay God, but we can respond in ways that bless Him. We can take up the “cup of salvation.” Salvation is essentially a personal relationship with the Lord, and taking up that cup means to engage in fellowship with our Creator. That involves and leads us to worship, and genuine worship leads us further still into a deeper walk with Him so that we can carry out the commitments we have made to Him.

God has never abandoned us. And He never will.

Father, We thank You for Your loving-kindness toward us. Thank You for the commitment You have made to us as Your covenant people. Help us today and each day to simply walk with You. Amen.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Being An Example

“As a result, you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.” (1 Thessalonians 1:7 CSB)

Paul had high praise for the Thessalonian believers. Almost from the outset of their faith, persecution swooped down on them like an owl on a mouse. It was severe. But these hardy believers worked in faith, labored in love, and endured in hope. The message of the gospel was such good news to them that they were willing to accept the persecution that went along with it. The gospel gave them freedom, release from the power of sin through forgiveness, and eternal life. They got rid of all their idols, freed from the tyranny and fear of idolatry.

Paul also told these Thessalonian believers that their example had been shared with other believers in Macedonia and Achaia. This is a reminder that, in fact, all of us are examples of something. The Thessalonians are examples of believers who face extreme difficulty with a shining faith, hope, and love. The question is: What kind of an example am I for those in darkness? What kind of example is my church?

Some churches are examples of how to fight and not play well with others. Some are examples of extreme liberalism that grieves the Spirit of God. Some are examples of warm loving fellowships that are Bible-centered.

The real question at the personal level, though, is: What kind of an example am I setting for others? That’s a tough question because in some respects it is difficult to know. We know what our actions are, and the Bible can help us know what those actions communicate. But we only really know what our example communicates by how it is impacting the lives of others around us. If others seem to get something out of being around us, we might call that a “plus.” If being around us does not seem to benefit others much, or results in them being less blessed, we might see that as a “minus.” When the “pluses” outweigh the “minuses,” we might then conclude we are setting a good example for the most part.

Whatever the self-evaluated results we come up with, maybe what we really need to do is to simply make a personal commitment before the Lord that the example we will try to set before others is one that will bless them and glorify God.

Lord, Help ME today to be the best example I can possibly be of what it means to be a believer. Amen.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Wisdom Walk

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Your speech should be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.” (Colossians 4:5-6 CSB)

Perhaps a paraphrasing of these two verses would be helping in understanding them: “Live your life in ways that demonstrate sound and right thinking, particularly with regard to those who are not yet believers, so that you may have an opportunity to be a positive influence toward them. Anytime you speak, you should strive to speak in ways that influence others positively toward Christ, and, especially when they ask questions, follow this same principle rather than trying to argue with them or putting them down.”

Essentially, Paul says two things here. First, we need to walk the talk. We need to live our faith. There is little use in trying to share the truth of the gospel if we are not first living it ourselves, or at least making the effort to do so. A changed life must first be evidenced. Otherwise, our words are irrelevant.

Second, Paul says we need to talk the walk. For believers, just living the Christian life is not enough. To make the picture complete, we also need to speak the truth. We need to verbally communicate the story of Jesus and our personal testimony about how we have ourselves experienced Him, so that they, too, may come to know Jesus.

So, the admonition is simple: live it, speak it.

Lord, Today, may we do just that. Amen.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Gratitude Attitude

“He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan.” (Luke 17:16 NIV)

Ten men disfigured and devastated by a disease called leprosy waited on a border road between Samaria and Galilee, cowbells hung around their necks so they could give warning. An advantageous place on the road leading to a small village provided at least some opportunity for them to hope for some kind of alms from passersby.

On one eventful day Jesus and His disciples passed the lepers’ way. His reputation preceded Him, and their chorus rang out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” He did. And He did with just a few words, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” Showing oneself to the priest was a requirement of the law for someone healed of leprosy or other infectious skin disorders. If the priest saw skin devoid of disease, he would pronounce the individual “clean,” and he or she could then return to their home. The ten were cleansed of leprosy as they went.

One of the ten, noting that he was now free from his leprosy and his cow bell, returned to where Jesus was, praising God loudly, threw himself on the ground at the feet of Jesus, and thanked Him. Jesus noted that of the ten only this Samaritan, supposedly the least likely to do so, returned to say thank you.

It is difficult to know exactly what prompted this Samaritan to do what he did, but it is apparent that, instilled in him was something of a gratitude attitude. Was it something his parents had taught him when he was a boy? Was it an attitude he developed through his life-experiences? We cannot know for sure, but it was certainly there. Had it not been, he would have stayed with the other nine.
One of the most difficult tasks at times, and, yet, one of the most rewarding, is to develop a gratitude attitude. It is sometimes easier to grumble or complain or talk about “fairness.” It takes a great deal of effort, discipline, and training to develop a gratitude attitude with any life-experience that comes your way, whether positive or negative.

A gratitude attitude is one that looks for the positive, builds on experience, looks toward hope, re-visits the positive past on occasion, and learns as it goes. It is easier said than done, but once done, it is the sort of thing the Lord takes note of.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to know what became of this Samaritan former-leper in the years that followed? I wonder if he ever made a trip to Jericho….

Lord, We commit to building a gratitude attitude. Give us the strength and the determination to reach that goal. Thank You in advance. Amen.

Monday, September 10, 2007

What’s In a Name?

“And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17 CSB)

So, what is in a name? We use nouns to “name” things, that is, to give them identity, and we give people names for the same basic reason. Names help us to distinguish and identify people, and sometimes names are given to describe a hope that parents have for their child. The angel told Joseph, for example, that Mary’s child was to be named “Jesus,” and that He would save His people. His name means “salvation.”

The idea of name, however, goes beyond the idea of just identity and hope, at least in biblical terms. A person’s name referred to his or her character. To take some action in another person’s name meant not only to represent the other person, but to take that action in the same character of the other person, that is, just as the other person might do it.

Paul says that every word we speak and every action we take should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus. We are to take these actions in the character of Jesus, or as Jesus Himself would do, so as to bring glory to God.

This verse is thus a call to excellence. It is not a call to perfection, for that is something we cannot be, much less carry out. But most certainly, this verse calls us both to speak and to act with excellence in everything we say and do. Excellence is the target. We are to give our best to and for Jesus. He is our Lord, and He deserves our very best.

Lord, May we each day do and speak with excellence in Your name, for Your honor and glory. Amen.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Best Focus

“Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2 CSB)

One of the criticisms of social action oriented folks with regard to Christianity is that we are too heavenly minded to do any earthly good. The truth, however, is that Christians are not nearly as heavenly minded as we ought to be.

Paul says we are to set our minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. Clearly, we are to focus on the heavenly, but that is not all this means. Our focus on the heavenly means we are to move away from a non-heavenly lifestyle. In later verses we read that we are to “put to death” everything that is worldly. We see there a list of evils we are to get rid of, everything from immorality, to greed, to idolatry, to anger, to foul language. These are the “worldly” things Paul has in mind that we should put to death. And then we are to “put on” a lifestyle that is reflective of a heavenly life, including holiness, love, compassion, kindness, patience, humility, gentleness, and forgiveness. That does not sound at all like people who have their heads in the clouds. Our focus on the things above is intended to impact the ways we live our lives here.

This life is possible only for those who are dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus Christ. It is otherwise impossible to carry out the instruction of this verse. In the spiritual realm, believers are people who have already died to sin and have been spiritually raised with Christ already. That is what frees us to live a heavenly life.

Lord, We thank You for Your redemptive power in our lives, and that You have made it possible now for us to truly set our minds on what is above. Help us in our understanding and application of what that means for us each day. Amen.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Our Fortress

“Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught and overflowing with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6-7 CSB)

How high can a tree grow? It mainly depends on the roots. The deeper the roots grow, the higher the tree can grow. Limit the roots, limit the tree.

How great can our faith grow? It mainly depends on the depth of our “roots” in Christ. The deeper we go with the Lord, the greater our faith becomes, and the more we overflow with thanksgiving.

Paul was writing to the believers in the church at Colossae, knowing from reports received from Epaphras that many were being unsettled in their faith. Among the believers there were some folks who were introducing humanistic philosophies which were “competing,” so to speak, with Christian theology. In part, that is why Paul wrote to the church. His intent was to help them not be deceived by the foolishness of empty philosophies and to remain fully committed in their walk with Christ. He pointed out to them that in Christ all the fullness of God’s nature dwells, and, therefore, no human philosophy can compete with that. He knew, however, that people can sometimes be deceived by logical argumentation which was used by these so-called philosophers. That is why he encourages them to let their roots grow deep into Christ. He wants to see their faith soar.

In our day and age, there are more philosophies and religions than you can shake a stick at. Some folks commit to these, and some think we have to be inclusive of everything, which in itself is a philosophy called “pluralism.” Youth and children are particularly susceptible to these philosophies, particularly when they are espoused in the public school system. The danger for younger folks and for believers who are not so deep in their faith is that they could be deceived into wandering after these “pied pipers.”

It is important that believers let their roots grow deep into Christ and deep into His word so that, not only we will ourselves be strong, but so that we can help and encourage and strengthen those who are not quite there yet. Letting your roots grow deep in Christ is the greatest fortress, the greatest protection against the enemy.

Lord, Keep us in Your word, and help us to grow strong in our faith in You by letting our roots deepen as much as possible. Amen.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

True Treasure

“In Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden.” (Colossians 2:3 CSB)

Treasure hunting is fascinating. There is something intriguing about doing serious research, for example, about treasure ships that were lost at sea laden with treasure, and then implementing a plan to go find it. It takes teams of people committed to the task. It takes a great deal of time and patience just to find the sunken ship. It takes some very specialized high-tech equipment. And, it takes a lot of money. While the monetary rewards are sometimes a major part of the motivation, true treasure hunters are more motivated by actually finding and retrieving the treasure. They relish the process as much as the find, if not more.

Treasure is something of value to someone. Like beauty, treasure is in the eye of the beholder. Jesus spoke of a pearl merchant who found the pearl of his dreams and went and sold everything he had just to buy that one pearl. Jesus used that parable to describe the importance of seeking the kingdom of God.

Jesus also taught, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” It is very important to note that it’s not the other way around. It isn’t where your heart is, there your treasure will be, but where your treasure is, there you will commit your heart. Your life revolves around what you treasure.

Paul said that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ. Real treasure is the kind that does not fade with time and which cannot be lost or taken away. Jesus advised us to look for that kind of treasure. If you want to know how to live life fully and with great satisfaction, do your treasure hunting in Jesus Christ. There you will find the greatest treasures, and there you will put your heart.

Lord, Help us to remember that the streets of heaven are paved with gold, and that seeking after such a
s that is no better than just seeking pavement. Help us to understand what real treasure is and where it can be found, and point us in that direction. Amen.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Before All Things

“He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17 CSB)

Jesus is pre-eminent in everything. He is “before all things,” in at least two ways. He pre-existed all creation, and, in fact, he was the One who created all things. All of it was created by Him and for Him. He is One with the Father and the Spirit in Holy Trinity, God for all eternity, with no beginning and no end.

Jesus is also “before” all things in terms of priority. He is the Head of everything, in charge of everything, and He rules. He has pre-eminence in all realities, whether physical or spiritual.

Jesus is the One who holds everything in the universe together. His sovereignty over the universe keeps it together and operating. All physical laws exist and operate according to the ways He created them to operate. Anything that science “discovers” Jesus already knows, since He is the One who created it. He is sovereign even over man’s science, in spite of the fact that man thinks he is in control. These discoveries all point to a Master Hand, a Creator as the only explanation that makes any real sense. The complexity and the vastness of the universe cause us to understand that it could not have just “happened.” It was all created, and Jesus is the Author of that creation. Further, He is the Sustainer of the creation. In Him, all things hold together.

This awareness increases our understanding of the great significance of God’s grace. The One who is pre-eminent in all things reconciled us to Himself, the Father, and the Spirit by the blood of His cross. The giving of His life opened the door for us to enter into life. And the power of His resurrection points to His pre-eminence over the creation.

Father, We bow before You this day and acknowledge Your sovereignty and pre-eminence over anything that exists in any and all realities. We thank You for Your grace, and we give ourselves to You now in worship. Amen.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Dark to Light

“He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13 CSB)

We once lived in the dark domain. It may not have appeared all that dark, though. The domain of darkness masquerades as a life of normalcy, because the ruler of the dark domain himself masquerades as an “angel of light,” according to the Bible. People in darkness actually live ordinary, normal lives by the world’s standards. They are unaware of their spiritual domain and how lost they are, and this is due to the subtleties and deception of sin.

We were once there until we came to faith in Jesus. His truth has now freed us from the chains of darkness. When we received Him into our hearts by faith, He rescued us. He led us into the kingdom of light. He forgave our sins. He redeemed us. It was like being born again. Now, His light and the light of His truth shines in us, and the pursuits of our lives follow a different set of values from those of the world.

We seek to be filled with His knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual depth. We seek to walk in ways that are worthy of Him, pleasing to Him, fully fruitful, especially in terms of endurance, patience, and joy. We seek the strength that comes from the communion of a personal relationship with Him, that will bring glory and honor to Him. We seek to share His light with a world that dwells in darkness but does not know it.

Father, Show us how we can share Your light today with someone in darkness. Amen.