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.