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.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Faith Power

“Jesus replied to them, ‘Have faith in God. I assure you: If anyone says to this mountain, “Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore, I tell you, all the things you pray and ask for – believe that you have received them, and you will have them.” (Mark 11:22-24 CSB)

Two little boys were talking. They both read the text above in Sunday School, so one said that he was going to ask God to move the mountain behind his house into the sea. The next day, the other little boy saw him at school and asked him how it went. The boy replied, “Well, I prayed before I went to bed, but the mountain was still there this morning. I knew God wouldn’t do it.”

Is it possible that Jesus really meant what He said in this text? A lot of people pray for a lot of things that do not happen. They muster up as much faith and determination within themselves as possible, but still God does not do what they ask. So, why not?

The simple answer is: 1) God is not willing, or 2) we do not really believe in our “heart” that He will, or 3) there is unforgiveness in our hearts that keeps God from blessing us (read the rest of the paragraph in Mark 11).

Sometimes we pray for things that we feel we need or are in our best interests or the best interests of others, but in reality what we are praying for may actually NOT be in our or their best interests, because only God knows what is or is not. So, we must first seek the will of God.

If we are convinced that we have understood the will of God, and if what we understand is in agreement with the teachings of His word, and we pray for this to take place, and believe in our hearts that God is going to do this, then He will. We need also to remember that God is a loving Father who loves His children and who will give good gifts to us. We ask, and we trust.

We must be aware also, though, that if there is a degree of unforgiveness in our hearts, we cannot expect God to bless us or respond to our prayers. The word tells us that when we pray, if we have anything against someone, we must first forgive him or her, so that God will also then forgive us. That is a pre-condition for God’s responding to our prayers.

Lord, in our union with Your Spirit, may we seek your will, believe in our hearts that You will give what we ask for, and seek You with a heart cleansed of sin. Amen.

Monday, October 15, 2007

He Sympathizes

“Therefore since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens – Jesus the Son of God – let us hold fast to the confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.” (Hebrews 4:14-16 CSB)

We all understand what it means to struggle. All of us have had enough problems in life to deal with that have created varying degrees of stress, anxiety, worry, doubt, and even exasperation. Some of this comes from the relationships we have with others, but to be honest some of it simply the result of our own sins.

Whatever the source of our struggle, the great advantage we have as Christians is that we have a heavenly advocate, a Great High Priest we can go to. And we can go to Him anytime and with boldness.

We can go to Jesus in boldness because as our Great High Priest He represents us before the Father. His blood shed on the cross “covers” our sins, so that he brings us before the Father as pure as fresh snow. He stands as our Advocate.

We can go to Jesus in boldness also because we know that He sympathizes with our weaknesses. Jesus Himself has been tempted and tested in every way we have. He understands human frailty. He overcame all temptation and testing. He was sinless. But because He experienced all of this as one of us, we know that He understands and sympathizes with us, and He will be merciful and gracious to us in our time of need.

Because Jesus has thus committed to us, we need then to remain firm in our commitments to Him.

Lord, May we truly be faithful and true to You this and each day in all ways. Amen.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Experience Encourages

“For since He Himself was tested and has suffered, He is able to help those who are tested.” (Hebrews 2:18 CSB)

Experience is a great teacher. We, therefore, seek experience so that we can learn, so that we can deal with tasks as they come, and so that we can teach others what we have learned.

Some experiences we would prefer not to have, though. The experiences that involve suffering and pain, or those that lead to extreme distress, are the ones we would rather not go through. Who wants pain? And yet, such experiences are there, and we all go through them from time to time. Certainly, we wonder why we have to.

Though this is far from a complete answer, at least one of the results of the suffering or testing we experience is that they have a way of making us stronger, and the difficulties that we encounter enable us to then become encouragers of others who go through similar experiences.

In the Philippines there were two young teenagers who both contracted the same virus. It put them both in wheelchairs. The mother of one of the boys essentially had to become his servant and did everything for him. The mother of the other boy, however, did passive exercises for her son every day, and eventually forced him to do his own exercises. The first boy is still in a wheelchair. The second boy got stronger and stronger, little by little, and was able to get rid of his wheelchair.

Not all stories turn out quite that way, of course, but it does illustrate that the suffering and testing that we experience can serve a higher purpose if we will let it.

Jesus went through testing and temptation and suffering beyond everything any of us have encountered. Now, he is able to help us because of what He went through. Thus His experiences encourage us, and ours can encourage others as well.

Father, Today may the difficulties, problems, testings, and sufferings that we may have been through enable us to encourage someone else. Amen.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ways and Works

“The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and gracious in all His acts.” (Psalm 145:17 CSB)

The ways of the Lord are righteous. We may not always understand His ways, but they are always characterized by right-ness. A “way” is a road, a path, or a means of operating. With that in mind, consider some of the pathways where we find God operating, where we see His right-ness displayed.

One of God’s ways is sovereignty. Our God is a sovereign God. All power and all authority belong to Him. He is the sovereign Creator of the universe, and all of it belongs to Him. As sovereign Lord over His creation, God both controls the occurrence of some events but also allows some events to take place in keeping with the physical laws He put in place. He is sovereign over physical laws, but He often simply allows physical laws to work as He designed them to.

Another of God’s ways is redemption. Our God is a redemptive God. He is a God of restoration, and He often will take a situation that appears to be nothing but destructive and turn it into some constructive. God works all things together for the good of those who love Him and who are “the called” according to His purposes. That is what it means to be redemptive. God brings something good and tangible out of the ashes of life.

The works of God are altogether gracious. Just as His ways are righteous, so His works are gracious.

One of the works of God is salvation. God sent His Son, Jesus, to show us what it means to live, and what it means to give your life for a higher purpose. Jesus did not have to die on the cross, but He willingly went there so that we might by faith enter into a personal relationship with the Lord, which is how we define “salvation.” Jesus graciously accomplished the possibility of salvation by the cross and resurrection.

Another of God’s works is called “sanctification.” That seems like a rather lofty word, but it is very simple in mean. Sanctification is a process of spiritual growth whereby we move away from the flesh and toward the life of the Spirit. We move from a life characterized by sinfulness and waywardness to a life characterized by holiness and obedience. In other words, spiritually speaking we grow up in our faith.

The ways of the Lord are righteous, and the works of the Lord are gracious.

Lord, We follow You in Your ways, and we thank You for Your gracious works in us. Amen.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Broken Spirit, Hard Labor

“Moses told this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their broken spirit and hard labor.” (Exodus 6:9 CSB)

As far as the Israelites were concerned, Moses had done a royal job of messing things up and making their lives the worst they had ever been. Some leader! After the first meeting with Pharoah, Pharoah decided the people had too much time on their hands, so he ramped up the intensity by requiring them to get their own straw for meeting their brick quota.

A distressed Moses took the matter to God, and God simply told him to tell the Israelites He was going to deliver them from the Egyptians and take them to the land of promise. By this time, however, the Israelites were in no mood to listen to Moses. Their spirit was broken, and the labor was harder than it had ever been. This did not appear to them to be the direction of a deliverance. Actually, it did not appear that way to Moses either. When the Lord told him to go back to Pharoah, Moses’ response essentially was, “Well, first, I’m a really poor speaker, and second, why should Pharoah even bother listening to me?” God simply told Moses to go anyway. So he and Aaron did as the Lord commanded.

Sometimes people’s lives can get to a point where they feel broken in spirit, which intensifies the feeling that their work or labor is sometimes unbearable. They do not feel like listening to anyone, and they just limp along through life with not a lot of hope or happiness. At such times, what can family and friends do that will help?

The first thing they can do is simply intercede for them to the Lord, that is, pray for them and ask the Lord for help in finding ways to minister to their needs. The second thing is action. Once the Lord shows a way or opens a door, they need to follow through with action to do “as the Lord commanded.” In other words, we have to trust God to lead and to accomplish what He says He will do in someone’s life, and for our part, we simply need to act on whatever the Lord leads us to do. As with the Israelites, that could make things even more difficult for a while, but ultimately it is going to lead to deliverance.

Lord, For those we see hurting today in some way, who may be broken in spirit and dealing with hard labor, show us the way You would have us minister to them, and then help us to act on Your leading. Amen.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A Way to Begin the Day

“Let me experience Your faithful love in the morning, for I trust in You. Reveal to me the way I should go, because Iong for You.” (Psalm 143:8 CSB)

Every new day is unique. We may repeat some of the same routines day in and day out, and that may sometimes become mundane. Even so, each day has a unique character all its own because we actually live in real time moment to moment. We never know what a day will bring our way, even with those events that we typically expect to occur. So, we need to treat each day as unique, and especially so as believers.

The psalmist got it right. The best way to begin any day is by first experiencing God’s faithful love, first thing each morning. We do this by reading His word, by spending some time with Him in prayer, and by simply listening to anything He might want to say to us.

At least part of what we need to ask the Lord each morning, and what we need to be listening for, is the guidance that God will give us in any given day. Our prayer is that the Lord would “reveal to me the way I should go.” Our need for God, our desire to walk with Him and to experience His will for us on a daily basis drives this prayer. God may tell us the direction He wants us to go each day, but He may also simply reveal it to us one step at a time. Either way, we know that His guidance is trustworthy, even when we do not quite comprehend all of His purposes.

Today, and each day, let your morning begin with Him, so that He can set your feet on solid ground.

Lord, We ask You to reveal Your will and Your guidance for us today and each day. Amen.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Paying Attention

“The people believed, and when they heard that the Lord had paid attention to them and that He had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.” (Exodus 4:31 CSB)

When Moses first returned to Egypt he conveyed the Lord’s message to the people of Israel. In the beginning they believed the message, and when they heard that the Lord had paid attention to their suffering they bowed down before the Lord and worshiped Him.

Sometimes people go through intense or prolonged suffering (or both) and wonder where God is, or why He has not responded. The people of Israel had long suffered in Egypt under some cruel taskmasters as slave labor, and undoubtedly they had some of those same questions.

It is difficult for us to know or comprehend why God allows some folks to go through problems or suffering or “misery,” and some honestly wonder if God really cares. As with Israel, the reality is that God never misses even the slightest detail of what we go through. He is fully aware of it all. He stands with us through all of it.

The question that generally follows this thought is: If that is true, then why does He not do something about my suffering?

That question is one of the more difficult ones to answer. The essential answer, after everything else is boiled away, is: we don’t know. The real answer is a very complex one. Consider these questions for example. Is it possible that the suffering someone may be going through is actually of their own doing, such that God is allowing the consequences to proceed in an orderly way? Is the suffering that God is allowing someone to go through actually for a higher purpose than can be explained in human terms, such that God is trying to produce a quality or attitude in this person that will ultimately make him or her a better and stronger person? Is it possible that there are timing issues involved, such as there were with Israel? The bottom line is still: we don’t know. These questions at least point out, however, that there may well be a rationale for suffering that is beyond our ability to know or comprehend.

There is still a reality here that we need to be reminded of, however. The fact is: God does pay attention to what we go through. And in faith we believe that ultimately God will act. Our response to this truth should be the same as Israel’s. They bowed down and worshiped.

Father, Though we truly do not comprehend the “why’s” of life, we know that You are fully aware of everything that happens in our lives, and trust You and Your purposes for us. Amen.

Friday, October 5, 2007

By Their Works

“They profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works.” (Titus 1:16a CSB)

Along with the verse above, consider this one spoken by Jesus, “You’ll recognize them by their fruit,” (Matthew 7:16) and this one written by James, “Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works.” (James 2:18)

Jesus, Paul, and James all agree – faith, in order to be real, must be expressed and is, in fact, expressed in how we live our lives. That certainly does not mean that we can just engage in good works and expect that to equal faith or become faith. That is like putting the horse before the cart. The life of the redeemed begins with faith, and that faith then finds expression. We believe, then we do. It is always in that order.

By the same token, some folks think that just “believing” is all that is needed, and that the life we live is unrelated to that. In other words, they believe that living life any old way is just fine. Any lifestyle is all right, they think.

The Bible is very clear about this. Real faith finds real expression in real actions in real time. This is how it always is. This is the life of the redeemed, those who have come into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, based on faith in Him.

Lord, Help us each day to live the life we say we believe. Amen.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

God of Integrity

“I will bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to Your name for your constant love and faithfulness. You have exalted Your name and Your promise above everything else.” (Psalm 138:2 CSB)

The God who loves us is a God of integrity. God has so many attributes that help describe Him for us, and certainly integrity is one of them. God has exalted His name, that is, His character by His integrity, and He has exalted His promises because He keeps them. That is the meaning of integrity. God keeps His word.

God promises that He will be with us wherever we are, wherever we go. His presence is a sustaining and encouraging influence to us day after day, moment to moment. His Spirit who dwells within the hearts of each of us whispers throughout the day that He is here, and that He loves us. Pure encouragement.

God promises that He will take care of us and provide for us. The birds of the air do not sow seed. They do not reap. They have no barns. But God provides for them. The flowers of the field do not spin thread to make clothes, but God clothes them with beauty that far surpasses anything Solomon ever wore. And if God does that for them, then we should know for certainty that He will provide what we need.

God promises that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. He promises eternal life and forgiveness of sins to all who turn from sin and receive Jesus into their hearts as Lord and Savior. He promises that if we confess our sins, He will be faithful to forgive us and cleanse us.

God has exalted His name and His promises above everything else. He does that just because of who He is. He is the God of integrity, and we can count on Him.

Lord, We trust our very souls to you. Guide us and strengthen us through this day, that our lives may serve as a testimony to You and glorify Your name. Amen.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Good Ground

“But the ones sown on good ground are those who hear the word, welcome it, and produce a crop: 30, 60, and 100 times what was sown.” (Mark 4:20 CSB)

Jesus told a story about a farmer who scattered seed that fell on four kinds of ground: a hard-packed pathway, shallow and rocky ground, ground where there were lots of weeds, and ground that had been plowed and prepared. Seed that fell on the hard-packed pathway never had a chance, but the birds did. Seed on the shallow ground came up quickly but died just as quickly because the roots couldn’t get to the deep soil. Seed that came up with the weeds got choked out. The seed that fell on the good ground that was plowed and prepared produced a bumper crop.

Jesus later told His disciples that the seed represents the word of God, and the four kinds of ground represent the four kinds of responses people give when they hear it. Some folks are so hard toward it that it has no chance to have an impact. Some folks hear it enthusiastically for a while, but they turn away from it quickly because they do not allow it go deep into their lives. Some allow other concerns to have an equal priority, and ultimately these concerns choke out the word. But then, there are those whose hearts allow the seeds to put down deep roots into their lives, and those are the folks who truly see fruit produced in their walk with God.

There are two points to be made. First, this is just the way people are. There are degrees of responsiveness to the word of God. Second, people who want to see great fruit in their lives need to open their hearts to the word, let it go deep, and give it priority so as to not let anything choke it out.

So, where are you on this “one to four” scale?

Lord, Today may Your word sink roots deeper into our hearts that we may see the kind of fruit and the amount of fruit produced in and through us that brings honor to You. Amen.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

What Is He Thinking?

“Then He went home, and the crowd gathered again so that they were not even able to eat. When His family heard this, they set out to restrain Him, because they said, ‘He’s out of His mind.’” (Mark 3:20-21 CSB)

The family of Jesus – that would be Mary, James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas, and two sisters unnamed – apparently got a report from somebody. Maybe an anonymous tip? Or, maybe it was one of the local synagogue leaders there in Nazareth. Jesus was over in Capernaum, preaching, teaching, healing, casting out demons, and not resting, and not eating. The folks in the local synagogue in Nazareth had already tried to throw Him off a cliff. Maybe some made an oblique suggestion that they needed to get Him some help, or maybe they just reached that conclusion on their own. It would seem to us that, given all that happened to Mary and Joseph, that Mary would have known better, but in truth we are unable to know what her thought processes were. It may be that the second oldest son, James, took the lead in all this, since at that point he did not believe for a moment that Jesus was the Messiah. In today’s vernacular, we might imagine someone in the family hearing this report and then saying, “What is He thinking?” That means, of course, that the speaker thinks the other person is NOT thinking. What His family actually thought is that He was out of His mind. Even some Pharisees were saying, after all, that He was demon-possessed and cast out demons by the power of Beelzebul.

So, off they trotted to Capernaum, and sure enough, the house where Jesus was staying was surrounded by people. There were so many people they could not even get near the door. So, they got someone to begin passing word through the crowd that His family was outside asking for Him, and the word finally reached His ears. His response was interesting. “Who are My mother and My brothers?” And looking about at those who were sitting in a circle around Him, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! Whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother.”

There is no indication that Jesus went out to them. Maybe He did. Maybe He didn’t. For sure, they were unable to “restrain” Him. Very likely, they just left after a while and returned to Nazareth.

For those who walk with God, the most important thing in the world is to walk with God. No matter what.

Lord, Help us to do just that. Today. And each day. Amen.

Monday, October 1, 2007


“Keep in mind Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descended from David, according to my gospel. For this I suffer, to the point of being bound like a criminal; but God’s message is not bound.” (2 Timothy 2:8-9 CSB)

The gospel of Jesus Christ is unstoppable. That is because He Himself is unstoppable.

There were men who thought they could stop Him. For them, a crucifixion was the ultimate weapon for stopping Jesus, so they used a cross to kill Him. But God raised Him from the dead, according to what He had planned all along. Not even the worst they could do could stop Him.

There are people today who think they can stop Him. In some places in our world, hostile and aggressive religions and governments are trying to stop or otherwise limit the Lord and the work of His kingdom, but ironically the harder they squeeze, the faster the gospel spreads. Their efforts, while brutal, are ultimately futile.

The message of God’s grace and love toward us cannot be bound. It cannot be stopped. The purposes of a sovereign God are at work in His message, so all efforts to contain or stop it will prove unfruitful.

This does not mean, of course, that no one is going to try. Try they will. It also does not mean that there will be no cost. Some will create suffering for the people of God who serve as the Lord’s messengers. That is to be expected, since Jesus told us that some folks will feel like they are doing God and the world a favor by putting gospelizers away. Jesus said that this is, in fact, the same thing they had done to the prophets of God previously, but attempts to silence God’s message did not succeed then either. Yet, we must understand that suffering is part of the cost.

Those who stand with the Lord in the proclamation of His unstoppable message should count themselves blessed, whatever the costs may be.

Lord, Keep us faithful and keep our minds on Jesus, so that we may also follow You faithfully. Amen.