Wednesday, December 31, 2008


“When Mordecai learned of the plot, he reported it to Queen Esther, and she told the king on Mordecai’s behalf.” (Esther 2:22 CSB)

Mordecai often hung out at the King’s Gate in the city of Susa. It was a happening place. If you wanted to know the latest news, that was the place to find it. Anybody who was anybody hung out there. It was a place of interest and intrigue.

On one particular day Mordecai heard two of the king’s servants hatching a plot to assassinate the king. He reported the incident to his adopted daughter, Queen Esther, who was also his cousin, the daughter of an uncle who was no longer alive. Esther relayed the information on to King Ahasuerus. When the plot was investigated and verified, the two wayward servants swung from the gallows. Involuntarily, of course.

This event became pivotal in the larger plot of the story of Esther. Was this an example of simply being in the right place at the right time? Or, was it an example of God’s providence? Clearly, Mordecai was in the right place at the right time, but he was there only by the providence of God. The story is far to intricate and involved for it to just be happenstance. God was at work weaving a tapestry of His providential care.

What may often appear as ordinary may actually appear to be God at work providing for His people. We must never underestimate the ordinary. We walk by faith, not by sight.

Lord, We trust Your providential care. Help us to see the extraordinary in the ordinary and see Your hand at work. Amen.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Real Power of Prayer

“Give Your servant success today, and have compassion on him in the presence of this man.” (Nehemiah 1:11b CSB)

After days of mourning, fasting, and praying, Nehemiah went in before the king. He was the king’s cupbearer, the one responsible for protecting the king’s life from those who might try to poison him. Nehemiah prayed and asked God to give him success and favor from the king. God answered his prayer and did exactly that, with the ultimate result that the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt.

Whenever there are major decisions to make, or whenever the needs are greater than anything we might accomplish, we need to bring this before the Lord. What happens is that we see what many of us call “the power of prayer.” We see prayer as the most effective means of achieving what God wants. In fact, books have been written about the power of prayer.

While we recognize the essential truth of this, there is a greater truth that comes from a distinction that has to be made. The only reason prayer is powerful is because the God to whom we pray is all-powerful. Folks sometimes have the notion that when they pray, it produces a power that sets God into motion to get something done. That, however, is not true. The truth is that the real power associated with prayer is the power of God Himself, who hears our prayers and responds according to His will. Any power that is in prayer is not actually in the prayer at all but in the God who is the focus of our prayer. That is an important and actually a huge distinction that needs to be made. We pray, and then God responds in power. God is the One who makes prayer the power that it is.

Lord, All glory and honor to You, for You are the One who has the power to accomplish what we ask. Amen.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Living Dead

“He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” (Mark 12:27a CSB)

The phrase “the living dead” might conjure up images of a horror movie for some, but for Christians it actually represents a genuine truth and a real encouragement. The statement Jesus made in the verse above is actually one of the greatest encouragements of all time.

The scribes and Sadducees decided to test Jesus with regard to the resurrection. They did not believe in the resurrection, so they challenged Jesus. Big mistake. Jesus pointed out that the Scripture, to which they were committed, quotes God as saying, “I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jesus.” Then came the zinger: “God is not God of the dead, but of the living.” Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had all died centuries earlier, but they also were all three very much alive and with the Lord.

Death is an event that we all face. It is “out there” at some point in our future, a time when this present form of life will cease. While this life may cease, life for those who die in the Lord Jesus will bloom into life in the presence of the Lord Himself as He welcomes us into His joy. By virtue of the forgiveness of sins and eternal life that we now have through the blood of Jesus’ cross and His resurrection from the dead, we will live forever. That’s essentially what Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die – ever. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25 CSB)

So, do you believe this? It is the promise of God. And it is one of the greatest encouragements we can know.

Lord, We thank You for the hope You give us, for the eternal life that is now ours because of our faith relationship with You. Help us thus to live now the life of joy that is ours for all eternity. Amen.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Problem with Possessions

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:25 CSB)

The statement Jesus made about camels and needles actually began earlier in the day. A young man, wealthy and powerful, came to Him to ask what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus reminded the young man about the law, to which the young man responded proudly that he had kept all of it. Jesus then told him that the one thing he lacked was to sell his possessions, give the proceeds away, and come follow Him. The young man went away disappointed because he had some great, wonderful, superb, valuable possessions. He couldn’t bear to part with them.

Possessions can dominate a person’s life. Just ask the “rich young ruler.” That was his story. He was willing to keep the law, but his devotion to his possessions was unparalleled. He was, in fact, possessed by his possessions rather than the other way around, and that kept him from entering the kingdom of God. He violated the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

Jesus used this as a teaching moment for His disciples and shocked them when He said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” They were stunned. The “eye of a needle” may well have been a hole in the city wall. Traders arriving at a city after the city gates were closed for the night could actually get into the city through this “needle’s eye.” The hole was just large enough for a camel on its knees to get through, with one man pulling and another pushing. But the camel had to have everything taken off its back. So, it wasn’t impossible. The disciples saw it as an impossibility, however, so Jesus pointed out that what is impossible with men is possible with God.

Wealth is not the point, however. The point is what people do with it, and how they relate to their wealth or possessions in the context of their relationship with God. Wealth has a tendency to dominate, and it will dominate unless an individual has a deep, abiding, and humble relationship with the Lord.

Lord, May we never allow our possessions or wealth to become the resource that we depend on. Help us to remember that You alone are worthy of our devotion and worship. Amen.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Training Tour

“He got up and departed from there to the region of Tyre and Sidon.” (Mark 7:24 CSB)

After taking on the scribes and Pharisees about their traditions, Jesus led His disciples on a training tour. They set out from the Plain of Gennesaret and traveled some distance northwest to the cities of Tyre and Sidon. This began the great Northern Training Tour, a time when Jesus wanted to concentrate on teaching His disciples. This story of a Gentile mother’s faith is a great one.

We first see a surprising scenario – a trip to the beach! Tyre and Sidon were seacoast cities. There was much material wealth there, but also much spiritual bankruptcy. It is also surprising to note the manner in which Jesus and His disciples went there. Jesus was rather stealthy in His approach. “He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it.” (verse 24) Also surprisingly, one of the first folks to find Him and seek out His help was a Gentile woman, and the biggest surprise of all in this scenario was her faith.

Next we see a determined desperation. This woman’s daughter was sick, but not with a physical illness. She was demon-possessed. We typically shy away from such concepts today, but Jesus did not. The unnamed woman was desperate to get help for her daughter, and she apparently had heard that Jesus could help. She went to Him in desperation, but what is remarkable is her determination. She wasn’t leaving until her daughter was healed.

Then we see a compassionate challenge. Many read the words of Jesus and conclude that He was being rather brutal toward this woman. He said, “Allow the children to be satisfied first, because it isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” (verse 27) Some think Jesus was calling the woman a dog. Actually, it was just an example. People want to be sure their children get food before giving it to their pet. I believe Jesus said this for the benefit of the disciples, so they would then hear her response. “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Jesus indeed challenged her, but He did so with compassion, knowing what He was going to do.

Then finally we see a perfect peace. The woman followed Jesus’ instructions and went home to find her daughter lying on the bed and completely healed. The demon was gone. There was a perfect peace.
The lesson: God responds to determined faith.

Lord, Help us to seek You constantly with a determined faith, because of who You are. Amen.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Day of Trouble

“In my day of trouble I sought the Lord. … I will reflect on all You have done and meditate on Your actions.” (Psalm 77:2a, 12 CSB)

A once clear sky can turn suddenly to rolling thunder and dark clouds. Sometimes it happens suddenly, and sometimes it builds gradually. The same is true for a day of trouble. Everybody gets them sooner or later. Some of them seemingly spring upon up like a camouflaged jaguar, and some we can see coming like a tidal wave. Either way, they do come.

In a day of trouble, we might consider all sorts of options or remedies or solutions, but one action we clearly need to take is to seek the Lord. He is not far away. In fact, He isn’t away at all. His Spirit dwells within us, and none of the trouble catches Him by surprise. Thus the most common sense action on our part is to seek Him.

Seeking the Lord calls for two related actions. First, we simply need to reflect on who God is. He is the God who is holy. He is the God who works powerful wonders. He is the God who is sovereign and who understands our frail frame. Second, we need to reflect on all He has done and meditate on His actions.

The reality is that the God who loves us has acted in our lives in ways that have brought great blessing and encouragement to us, and faith tells us that He will do so again. We believe this because we know He loves us and that He has a purpose for us. When we look back toward the works of God in our lives and remember what He has done, those meditations lead us then to a response of faith and trust and faithfulness.

Lord, In our day of trouble, help us to remember first who You are and then help us to remember all You have done to lead us to this place in our lives. Help us to respond to the day of trouble as also a day of opportunity to walk in faith. Amen.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


“And He was amazed at their unbelief.” (Mark 6:6 CSB)

Jesus and His disciples walked from Capernaum to Nazareth, His hometown. They climbed the rocky path through fragrant rosemary, and on through the olive grove, then up the hill to the village on top. He was home. Or was He?

Jesus saw old friends, some He had grown up with and had made annual trips to Jerusalem with as a boy. His mother was there, and His brothers and sisters. The town elders were there, and undoubtedly there were greetings all around. They had been hearing interesting stories about Him, though nothing much had changed for them in Nazareth. The Sabbath came, and He and His disciples went to the synagogue where He opened the Scriptures and taught. The men were amazed at His wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, but just as much, they were offended. Who did He think He was? Wasn’t this the carpenter’s son? We know His mother and brothers and sisters. Who does He think He is?

Luke says that they were even angry enough to kill Him when they heard Him on one Sabbath announce that the Scripture was fulfilled in Him and when He mentioned the Gentiles in the synagogue. They grabbed Him and intended to throw Him off a cliff, but He escaped their grasp.

Jesus left Nazareth for the last time, bewildered by their unbelief. The word Mark uses is “amazed,” literally meaning, “He stood outside Himself.”

Not much amazed Jesus. The only two things that amazed Him was the faith of a Roman centurion and the lack of faith of His hometown people in Nazareth. How sad that they had such opportunity but, because of the hold their culture and traditions had on them, could not find their way to faith and could not see the reality that was before them. How sad that even today, we see the same thing.

Lord, We thank You for opening our eyes so we could see and respond in faith. We pray for those who have not yet seen Your light, that they, too, may open their eyes and enter the kingdom with us. Amen

Monday, November 24, 2008

Praise Power

“May the Lord be praised! Day after day He bears our burdens; God is our salvation.” “God, You are awe-inspiring in Your sanctuaries. The God of Israel gives power and strength to His people. May God be praised.” (Psalm 68:19, 35 CSB)

Praise is a uniquely human expression of admiration, adoration, adulation toward one for whom there is appreciation and affection. People are created with the capacity for praise. The fact of this capability actually argues for the existence of God and the truth of creation.

Christians are people who choose to give the full praise of their hearts to God and God alone. We praise Him because of who He is and what He is like. He is a God of grace and compassion. He is also a God who instructs and disciplines as expressions of His love. He is the all-powerful Creator of the universe. He is, therefore, worthy of our praise.

We also praise God because of what He does. We know Him as the God who has saved us from the penalty of our sins. He has rescued us from the eternity of hell by His gracious act on the cross and by the power of His resurrection, so that we might have eternity with Him and with all His people and creation in heaven. He has set us free from the domination of sin now so that we can live a life of joy and peace on this earth

When we praise our Lord, this action has a way of unleashing the power of the Holy Spirit in us. It is not our power but God’s power, but we nevertheless find it energizing. It gives us a zest for life and helps us look beyond the temporal.

Lord, We praise You for who You are, because of who we are. Amen.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Patches and Wineskins

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new patch pulls away from the old cloth, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost as well as the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” (Mark 2:21-22 CSB)

A common view of this text is that Jesus was slamming the tradition of fasting. Fasting was, in fact, the context for these statements, but Jesus was not rejecting the practice of fasting. He even said that the time for fasting would come after His departure, but that since He was present, there was not a cause for fasting. What Jesus was doing was to point to the need for appropriateness in terms of tradition. We don’t observe tradition for tradition’s sake, but we observe it when it is appropriate to do so. We cannot be slaves to tradition, in other words.

We see this in the two metaphors that Jesus used. If you sew a new piece of unshrunk cloth onto an old garment, the patch will create a greater tear when it shrinks. If you put new wine into old wineskins, you will end up losing both. You have to put new wine into new wineskins.

This goes to a discussion of the importance and relevance of form in relation to content. Which is more important: the form, or the content? The answer is: both. One is dependent on the other. But if you become a slave to form, you can never have anything new; you cannot grow. If you become a slave to content, again, you will never have anything new that is also lasting. Both are required for real growth. And an important point to remember is that while the forms may need to change at times, the content does not. It is still wine that you put into the wineskins. The content is what we are looking for, but the form for holding the content, while still of the same basic material, needs to be renewed from time to time.

Lord, May the traditions we observe always serve to glorify You and never get in the way of what You want to accomplish. Amen.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Eyes of the Lord

“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to show Himself strong for those whose hearts are completely His.” (2 Chronicles 17:9a CSB)

Shortly after Asa became king of Judah, a one-million man army showed up on his doorsteps. He was able to muster an army of 580,000, which meant he was out-numbered 2 to 1. Asa genuinely cried out to God for help, and the Lord responded by routing the Cushite army. Judah enjoyed a great victory. What followed then was a great revival as Asa led the people to remove their idols and seek only the Lord.

Fast-forward about 35 years later, following great prosperity in Judah. King Basha of Israel went to war against Asa. He began to fortify the city of Ramah to choke off all trade from the north. Asa collected the gold and silver from the treasuries of the Temple and sent them to the king of Aram to get him to attack Israel so the Israelites would release their choke-hold. The strategy worked. The Israelites ceased their fortifications of Ramah and withdrew to fight Aram. Asa then sent his men to Ramah, who then dismantled the fortifications and used the materials to fortify several of the cities in Judah.

God sent the seer Hanani with a message. The message went generally like this, “The Cushites and Libyans brought a vast army against you, and you depended on the Lord to rescue you. Now, you have foolishly depended on the king of Aram for your rescue. From here on, war will be your lot.” The message angered Asa, and he put Hanani in prison. Asa developed a disease in his feet but even then would not seek the Lord.

Why is it that, when we have no resources we tend to depend on the Lord, but when He then blesses us with resources, we tend to depend on them rather than on Him? The Lord seeks those who want to tie their lives and their futures to Him in personal faith. That is why “the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth, to show Himself strong to those whose hearts are completely His.”

Lord, May our hearts be completely Yours, whether the resources You give us are abundant or not. May our hearts be fully in tune with Your heart. Amen.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Little Transparency

“For it is god’s will that you, by doing good, silence the ignorance of foolish people.” (1 Peter 2:15 CSB)

Peter has something to say about who we are and what we do. First, he says that we are “aliens and temporary residents” on this earth (1 Peter 2:11 CSB).

That means our citizenship is not here, and we are only here temporarily. That suggests that we have a stewardship of opportunity before us, and that we must take advantage of it for the glory of God.

On this basis Peter went then to the matter of what we are to do as temporary residents and aliens. He offers us several directions we are to follow. First, we are to conduct ourselves honorably in this world. We live in a world that is sometimes not entirely positive toward those who are committed Christians. In some places in our world, Christians are in fact persecuted and even killed simply because they are Christians. Some governments have even labeled Christians as perverted and evil. Peter says that our response, whatever our situation may be, is to conduct ourselves honorably, and to do so with a measure of transparency so that the world can observe the good that we do as believers and glorify God ultimately.

Second, we are to submit ourselves to human institutions. Mainly, Peter has in mind government institutions, since he particularly references the “Emperor” and “governors.” There may be times when we cannot in good conscience do this, as Peter himself demonstrated when he and John were arrested by the Sanhedrin, but as a general principle Christians are to submit themselves to the authority of God-ordained human institutions. Again, with a measure of transparency we are to do good works that are observable so that those who simply are unaware of who Christians really are and what we stand for can see the good we do and, thereby, be silenced.

Third, we are to live as free men and women, and yet, we are not to use our freedom as some sort of “license” or to conceal evil, since that would undermine all of the above.

Peter provides a summary for us in four quick thoughts: 1) Honor everyone, 2) Love the brotherhood, 3) Fear God, and 4) Honor the Emperor. And as we do so, transparency will help others to know more about who we are and what we stand for as believers in Jesus Christ.

Lord, Help us to demonstrate today the work of Your Spirit in our hearts. Amen.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


“You do not delight in sacrifice and offerings.” (Psalm 40:6a CSB)

So, what DOES God delight in. Psalm 40:6-8 points to what delights God. God is delighted, for example, when we listen. In fact, He will open our ears so we CAN listen if we will allow Him to do so, and when we actually do listen to what He wants to say to us, He is delighted.

God is delighted further when we do His will. Not only when we do His will, but when it delights us to do His will, He is delighted. When doing His will is a great joy in our lives, it is like a pleasing aroma to Him.

When we respond to His instruction, God is delighted. David said it this way, “Your instruction resides within me.” When His instruction resides in us, He is delighted. His instruction resides in us when we invite it in, when we meditate on it, when we learn it, and when we practice it. That’s when it takes up residence.

What in your life will delight God today?

Lord, May every aspect of our lives serve to delight You. Amen.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ready for Action

“Therefore, get your minds ready for action.” (1 Peter 1:13 CSB)

A strong message from Peter to believers is to get ready and be ready, because of the living hope that is in us. Ready for what? Well, ready for action. But what action? Essentially, the action of following Jesus faithfully throughout life. And to help us know how to do this, he offers us several basic admonitions.

First, he says we need to be self-disciplined. There is a sense in which all discipline is self-discipline. We must decide that we are going to learn and apply what we learn in the ways that we live out our lives.

Second, he encourages us to set our hope totally on the grace of God, which will be revealed fully at the return of Christ. That means that we do not put our hope in anything else or anyone else. We may have some other hopes, but in terms of living as a Christian, we focus our hope only on Jesus.

Third, we are to be holy and to act holy. We cannot act holy until we are, and we are when Jesus says we are. He says we are when we believe in Him, because His blood covers over all our sins. As believers, we are called into holiness, and we, therefore, have an accountability to conduct ourselves in reverence before God.

Fourth, we are to love one another. We apply truth to our lives and follow the Lord in obedience, and because we do God’s love in us expresses itself in terms of a sincere love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. The new birth we have received from the Holy Spirit enables us to do this.

Lord, Help us today to be ready for anything that comes our way, by being self-disciplined, setting our hope in You alone, being and acting holy, and by loving one another as You have loved us. Amen.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Living Hope

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope.” (1 Peter 1:3a CSB)

What a great way to describe what we have in Christ – a living hope! We have hope that is alive, vibrant, and working.

This living hope we have is founded on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. If Jesus died and was not resurrected, then our faith is dead and so is our hope. The resurrection is an absolute essential to this living hope. Our hope is alive because Jesus is alive.

The nature of our living hope is an “imperishable inheritance.” We have hope not because of anything we have done but because of the active grace of God in which He has now claimed us as His children. Since this life we have is eternal, the inheritance that comes with it is eternal and, therefore, imperishable.

We also have a guarantee for this living hope. It is found in the protection we enjoy from the power of the Almighty God. This does not mean that we are protected from all kinds of physical threat. It simply means that there is no power anywhere that can destroy our personal relationship with the Lord, nothing that can take us away from Him. Our relationship is eternally protected.

This living hope further has a “refinement” aspect to it. Sooner or later, as a result of our faith in Christ, we will undergo various trials and difficulties, but we should understand that these are part of the process God uses to refine our faith, much in the way that gold is purified by fire.

Then, there is the joy of a living hope we enjoy. Our faith leads to our eternal salvation, and that salvation produces an indescribable joy, a joy that can endure anything. It comes not from us. It is not something we can manufacture from within. Rather, it comes from the presence of God’s Spirit within us. It is His joy we experience.

Thank You, Lord, for this living hope You have given us. Amen.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Learning about Fear

“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He rescues them.” “Come, children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” (Psalm 34:7, 11 CSB)

Just as there are different kinds of love, there are different kinds of fear. Some fear becomes destructive, causing us to hesitate when we should not. The Bible repeatedly says, “Fear not.” So, fear that leads us to hesitate in following what God has commanded must be overcome, and that happens in the decisions of faith and courage and commitment.

The same Bible, however, teaches us to “fear” the Lord. This kind of fear is not at all destructive. On the contrary, this fear teaches “respect” for God, and this is something that builds us up. The Bible tells us it is good and positive, and that there are great benefits from it. For example, the angel of the Lord encamps around those who “fear” God in this way, who revere God, in other words.

David helps us to understand what this fear of the Lord is. He gives some further explanation in Psalm 34, and basically, we see at least three aspects involved in the fear of the Lord. We might see these as admonitions. First, we are to watch our words. The idea is that we need to control our tongues and avoid speaking evil. Second, we are to choose the good over the evil. This is a decision of faith that honors God. We are taking our stand with Him. Third, we are to pursue peace. We seek it, we pursue it, and we live it.

Lord, We bow before You today in worship and praise. You are awesome! Amen.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Habitual Practice

“You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, because the Lord’s coming is near.” (James 5:8 CSB)

Patience is something we should avoid praying for, but something we should definitely practice. That which creates patience is generally something very difficult, like suffering, and if you ask God to give you patience, He may well answer and give you some circumstances that will build patience in you.

The concept of patience James has in mind here is not the kind where we sit idly by, waiting for something good to happen. Rather, this patience means we proactively pursue the fulfillment of our calling, which is a call to endurance, to continue bearing whatever load may be necessary as we move forward.

The way we do this is to “strengthen” our hearts. Strengthening comes from habitual exercise. The “heart” deals with the will. We are, thus, to habitually exercise our resolve to follow the Lord faithfully as we anticipate His return, enduring any and all experiences that come our way, regardless of the nature of those experiences. In doing so, we will see the compassion and mercy of God at work both in our own lives and in the lives of those with whom we have fellowship. We will also see it at work as He brings more and more people into His kingdom through us.

Lord, We commit to strengthening our hearts so we may serve You faithfully. Amen.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sin Pain

“Many pains come to the wicked, but the one who trusts in the Lord will have faithful love surrounding him.” (Psalm 32:10 CSB)

Sin is painful. Many try to explain away that fact or otherwise pretend it is irrelevant. In fact, some elements of our western societies, particularly entertainment and media, for example, engage in imaging to present and promote what, according to the teachings of the Bible, is sin to be the preferred social standard, perfectly acceptable. They label it “freedom” or “freedom of expression” or “my right.” When the cameras and glitz are gone, however, and people are along with their thoughts and are honest with themselves in their own hearts, an awful truth rises up to strike: sin hurts.

That is the downside, though. There is good news through Jesus Christ. Those who acknowledge their sin, confess it to the Lord, turn away from it, and trust in the Lord will find themselves surrounded by God’s faithful love and forgiveness. They will bask in the glorious love of God through their faith in Jesus.

Sin is painful, and that is an absolute truth. But forgiveness is available. And that, too, is an absolute truth.

Thank You, Lord, for Your amazing grace. Amen.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Safe Haven

“Lord, I seek refuge in You; let me never be disgraced. Save me by Your righteousness.” (Psalm 31:1 CSB) “But I trust in You, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ The course of my life is in Your power; deliver me from the power of my enemies and from my persecutors.” (Psalm 31:14-15 CSB)

A refuge is a “go-to” place. It’s the place you go to when danger is lurking. It is a safe haven, a safe harbor against the storms, a place that is safe, where harm cannot get to you. It is a fortress and a stronghold against attack.

David knew about refuges. He spent years out in the wilderness running for his life from a madman king who wanted to destroy him. He found some great places of refuge where he and his followers could be safe from harm. But along the way he discovered something of immense importance to him: there is no comparison between an earthly refuge and the refuge that comes from knowing the Lord. He was able to sing with experience, “Lord, I seek refuge in You,” and also, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” He understood experientially that God offers the best of all refuges.

That is why David could also say, “But I trust in You Lord.” The refuge that God gave him generated trust, and in trust he could always go to the God who was his refuge. That is also why David could say, “May the Lord be praised, for He has wonderfully shown His faith love to me in a city under siege.” (Psalm 31:21 CSB)

The Lord is our “Safe Haven” against all harm. He is our source of strength and our victory.

Lord, To You be all glory, honor, and power forever. For You are Lord, the Creator of all things. Amen.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Force to Be Reckoned With

“And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among the parts of our bodies; it pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell.” (James 3:6 CSB)

James apparently had some experience with the tongue. He uses some interesting metaphors to describe its power. He saw its power as a teacher, on the positive side. He noted that a bit is a very small device that can be used to control a powerful horse. He mentioned that the pilot of a ship uses a relatively small rudder to control a huge ship that is driven by powerful winds. He compared the tongue to a small fire that ignites a devastating forest fire. He noted that man has tamed every animal on earth in some way but has not been able to tame the tongue. He reminds us that out of the same mouth comes both blessing and cursing, which ought not to be.

Make no mistake about it – the tongue, or speech, is a powerful force. Nations have been set on collision courses by it. Napoleon was a powerful orator who whipped the French nation and army into a nationalistic frenzy that stood Europe on its head. Adolph Hitler was an even more powerful orator who used his communication abilities to ignite a world war. This tiny part of the human body has done enormous damage in human history.

But the tongue is only the tool. Like everything, its value is in its use and in who is using it. A bit can control a horse to get someone to a place of ministry. A rudder can control a ship to bring food and needed supplies. A fire can either destroy a forest or cook a meal. It all depends on purpose, intent, use, and control.

To use the tongue in the ways that God intended, we must keep constant vigil on the heart and the mind. Those are the “hands” behind the use of the tongue. These must be brought under the control of the Holy Spirit. That is how to reckon with this powerful force. Discipline of the tongue, empowered by the Holy Spirit is how we can use it for good.

Lord, May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to You, and may they be used as a force for good in our world. Amen.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Forever Blessed

“So now, You have been pleased to bless Your servant’s house that it may continue before you forever. For You, Lord, have blessed it, and it is blessed forever.” (1 Chronicles 17:27 CSB)

The words above came from David in a prayer of thanksgiving as he prayed before the Lord. David’s gratitude to the Lord reveals a humble heart.

We learn something significant from David’s prayer. When God blesses, His blessings are forever. They are eternal.

To “bless” means to speak or act in ways that benefit someone, or that lead to prosperity for someone. When we hear the word blessing, we often think of material blessings, such as money and possessions and wealth. Blessing of the sort David is talking about has more to do with a “spiritual prosperity” than with material gain, however. Spiritual blessing is the sort that has an eternal character to it.

God does not bless and then turn around and curse. When God blesses, He means it, and He gives us the kind of blessings that endure eternally. The physical world and its blessings may come and go, but the spiritual prosperity God gives us will last forever.

Lord, Show us the true nature of the blessings You give. We thank You for all these ways that You have blessed us. Amen.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Think about It

“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 2:19-20 CSB)

Have you ever known someone who seems quick to speak when he or she hears a statement made? Often when that happens what is said is laced with emotion, sometimes of the anger type. These folks will also often finish your thoughts or your sentences for you.

Somewhere between “hearing” and “speaking” a reaction takes place in the mind. It is that reaction that leads to speaking. Sometimes folks hear something they don’t like, and the reaction is immediate, swift, and then – boom! – an explosion of emotion and a cacophony of words. We generally excuse this by saying, “Well, he’s just ‘wired’ that way.” Maybe so, but we should probably still not excuse it.

James advises us to adopt a practice that should be considered a “grace” practice. He uses two modifying words to help us see this. The practice is twofold: 1) quick to hear, and 2) slow to speak. What this does is to give the normal reaction between the two events time to sift, time to settle, and time to stimulate a thoughtful response in place of a reaction. Reactions generally do not help because most of them go straight to anger, which, says James, does not accomplish God’s righteousness, or, what God wants. Reactive anger is generally all us and not much of God. The grace practice is to think about it before we speak. We must be eager to listen, but we must also be slow to speak, so we can hear from the Holy Spirit in our thought processes.

For those who have a quick mind, this is easier said than done. But, practice makes perfect. Deciding that we are going to be quick to hear and slow to speak is the starting point.

Lord, Help us to practice this grace of being quick to hear and slow to speak, so that we can serve more fully according to Your will. Amen.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Life Paradox

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24 CSB)

This verse and those that follow comprise one of the great paradoxes of the Christian faith: Life is discovered by giving it up. If you seek after your own life apart from God, you will lose your life. If you give up your own life to the Lord in order to follow after Him and His will rather than your own, you will find life. This is almost like saying that with slavery comes freedom. Who thinks that makes sense? But that’s what a paradox is: a truth that does not make sense logically but is nevertheless true. Paul, for example, considered himself a slave of Christ, but this same man also wrote of the great freedom that we enjoy in Christ. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free,” is what Paul wrote to the Galatians.

As you consider directions for today and what you hope will happen and what your goals will be, remember that the more you serve the Lord, the more life you will find life.

Guide us, Lord, into all truth, so that we may more fully understand that which is not so easy to understand, and help us make the application of Your truth day by day. Amen

Monday, September 29, 2008

All About Him

“But He turned and told Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns, but man’s.’” (Matthew 16:13-28 CSB)

Seemingly just moments earlier Jesus commended Peter for his “good confession.” Peter at least had enough spiritual discernment that he could receive a revelation from God that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the living God. When Jesus began to explain the suffering, death, and resurrection that was ahead for Him, however, Peter rebuked Jesus and swore that he would never let that happen. Then came a stinging rebuke from Jesus, showing that Peter was on the way but not there yet, in terms of his understanding of Messiah.

Peter’s response shows that the focus of his thoughts was all on man, on earthly ways, on the restoration of the Davidic kingdom in Israel. His thinking was at least related to the Lord’s, but it was focused on man. Jesus pointed out that “the things of God,” that is, the purposes of God are the real priority. Everything else serves that.

Humanism exalts mankind. Nothing is higher than man in humanistic thinking, and it places mankind at the very center of the universe and causes everything to revolve around humankind. Because we are human, we all have a tendency to think that it’s all about us. The reality is far different, however. The universe is all about God. Humanity is part of His creation. That is not to minimize us, of course, because God did, after all, send His Son to suffer and die for us, and be raised from the dead, to point us in His direction, so that we might have the opportunity for eternal life. Yet, the fact remains: It is all about Him. He is central to all else.

May this day be all about Him rather than us. May it allow us the privilege of bringing honor and glory to our God.

The writer of Hebrews issued a challenge in 13:13: “Let us then go to Him outside the camp, bearing His disgrace.” As the One who sacrificed Himself for us, Jesus died outside the city walls on the cross and was resurrected as well outside the city walls. The call of God is thus to go to Him outside our comfort zone and follow Him. Not humanism, but discipleship is the call of God to us.

Lord, Help us to understand the truth that everything that exists is all about You. Amen.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Faith and Persistence

“’Yes, Lord,’ she said, ‘yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table!’ Then Jesus replied to her, ‘Woman, your faith is great. Let it be done for you as you want.’ And from that moment her daughter was cured.” (Matthew 15:27-28 CSB)

What the woman wanted was for her daughter to be cured. Her daughter was demon-possessed, tormented. So, even though she was a Canaanite woman and not one of the lost sheep of Israel Jesus was searching for, when Jesus came to Sidon she heard about it. His reputation apparently preceded Him, so she went to Him and kept crying out to Him to heal her daughter. Jesus ignored her, but she kept following and crying out. The disciples grew annoyed and asked Jesus to send her away. But she kept coming. Finally, Jesus made a metaphorical statement to her, that it was not right to take the children’s bread and give it to their dogs. Jesus was not comparing the woman to a dog. He was simply using an example to show her that His priorities were for the lost people of Israel. That is when her retort impressed Jesus with regard to her faith, with the result that He cured her daughter.

This story points out a connection between persistence and faith. We do not always connect the two. We tend to keep the concept of persistence in its box, and we keep faith in its box. We tend also to think that if our faith is strong enough, there is no need for anything else, like persistence. But what we see in this story is that Jesus was impressed with this woman’s tenacious faith. This tells us that God seems to have a great appreciation for persistent asking in faith, maybe a little like the faith we see in Jacob when, wrestling with the angel of the Lord, he refused to let go until the angel blessed him.

Persistence and faith is a combination that honors God.

Lord, May our persistent asking in faith today fully honor You. Amen.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Enduring Forward

“Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.” (Hebrews 12:1-4 CSB)

Say the word “endure,” and all sorts of images come up in people’s minds. Most probably have the idea of enduring pain or some ordeal until it passes. For many endurance is static, in other words, but endurance as spoken of in Hebrews primarily means enduring forward. We endure as we are moving forward and in order to move forward. Our interest is more in thriving than surviving. That is the call of the Spirit.

The writer of Hebrews shows us three pathways that can help us endure forward. The first one is the “crowd factor” pathway. In athletic events, the crowd can influence their team toward optimal performance, and we have a great crowd supporting us, called a “cloud of witnesses.” Hebrews 11 mentions even some of the names of those who are supporting us and cheering us on toward an endurance that takes us forward.

The second pathway is the “double-tracked” pathway. Imagine this as a railway – two parallel ribbons of steel. One rail calls for us to “lay aside the sin that so easily entangles us.” The other rail calls for us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us.” These two rails, traveled upon simultaneously, will help us to get to the destination of “enduring forward.”

The third pathway is the “north star” pathway. This is the one where we “keep our eyes on Jesus.” Like the north star, Jesus is constant. He is our Guide. He is described here first as the Source of our faith. It all derives from Him. Then He is described as the Perfecter of our faith, or the One who makes it complete.

We are called not only to endure but to endure forward.

Lord, Help us today to endure forward in ways that bring glory and honor to You. Amen.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Spiritual Perception

"On the seventh day of the fifth month, which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan, the commander of the guards, a servant of the king of Babylon, entered Jerusalem. He burned the Lord’s temple, the king’s palace, and all the houses of Jerusalem; he burned down all the great houses.” (2 Kings 25:8-9 CSB)

The victory of the Babylonians and destruction of Jerusalem was described in much detail in 2 Kings. There is a glaring omission in the account, however. The name of Jeremiah the prophet is nowhere mentioned. Jeremiah was a major player in those days, and yet no mention whatsoever. Why not? What would prevent this?

In Matthew 12:14 we read, “But the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him.” Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath. This angered the Pharisees, and they concluded that they needed to get rid of the man named Jesus.

In Hebrews 11:17-19 we see an account of the faith of Abraham, in which we are told he was willing to offer up his son, Isaac, the son of promise because he believed that God was able to raise him from the dead.

What is the common element involved in all three of these instances? Is it not spiritual perception? Jeremiah was a man of great spiritual dimension, and there should have been an account or at least a name mention in 2 Kings. He is mentioned elsewhere, but not here. It would seem to be a spiritual perception issue, perhaps a sense that the spiritual element was not all that relevant in these stories of intrigue.

The Pharisees were spiritually imperceptive in that they did not recognize Jesus and even blasphemed the Holy Spirit in saying that Jesus cast out demons by the hand of Beelzebul. Jesus later said of the, “Brood of vipers! How can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.” (verse 34)

Spiritual perception is given by the Holy Spirit. He not only gives it but develops it in us, maybe a little like a farmer working the land. Thinking metaphorically, the “ground” must be prepared and fertile. Faith is the earth in which the seed of spiritual perception is planted. Humility waters it. Hope is the sun that shines on it. The word of God is the roots that mine faith and bring sustenance and growth to spiritual perception.

Blessed are those who are spiritually perceptive, because they know God.

Lord, We thank You that You are the Author of any spiritual perception that is in us. All that we are and have comes from You. Help us to perceive Your guidance and leadership and Your will this day. Amen.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Anointing of the Lord

“The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and freedom to the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair. And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the Lord, to glorify Him.” (Isaiah 61:1-5 CSB)

Jesus stunned His hometown synagogue when He read the words above to them and announced that the prophecy was now fulfilled in their hearing. His announcement was that He was the Messiah. They did not take Him seriously enough to believe Him, but they did take Him seriously enough to take Him to a cliff. Their faithless response was a portent of what was to come a few years later.

Jesus came in fulfillment of the prophecy of the “Anointed One,” which is the meaning of “Messiah.” The Father sent to Son as His chosen and anointed One to bring a message of the good news of liberation and the release from despair into festivity. He came to bring freedom from the tyranny and domination of sin, and to replace that with healing. That is what His coming is all about.

Jesus has passed on His mission to us, His disciples, so that generation by generation we might continue to proclaim the year of the Lord and help people find the freedom they are desperate for. When we think about the coming of the Lord Jesus to this earth, our very next thought should be that we are part of His on-going mission to bring people – all who will believe – to salvation, so they can know what life is all about.

Lord, We thank You for sending someone to speak Your message to us, and we thank You that You now invite us to join You in Your mission. Help us to demonstrate a full faithfulness in sharing the good news with this world. Amen.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Strength Source

“He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless. Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:29-31 CSB)

Through Isaiah the Lord gave words of comfort and hope for the coming of One who would provide us a true source of strength. Weakness, powerless, and weariness are not necessarily the afflictions of old age. Physically that may be true at least much of the time, but this prophecy has more to do with those who experience spiritual weakness, powerlessness against Satan and his cohorts, and weariness from trying to remain faithful to the Lord in the face of intense social and cultural pressures to conform. That can afflict anyone regardless of age. It can be devastating, but against this comes the word of the Lord that God provides the strength we need and will send One who will provide a way for us to soar on wings like eagles and run and not grow weary.

Jesus came to this earth, God incarnate. He came as Messiah, to bring the comfort that comes with strength. He provided this source through His cross, sealed it with His resurrection, and sealed our salvation with the sending of His Spirit, who now dwells in us enabling us to deal effectively with weakness, powerlessness, and weariness. The Spirit of God in us is now our source of true strength. Now, we can soar.

Lord, You are the Author of strength and power, and in You we find our true Source of strength. You enable us to soar spiritually and run with endurance the race that is set before us. Thank You. Amen.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Branch

“Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him – a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and strength, a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” (Isaiah 11:1-2 CSB)

We can only wonder: Did any of this go through Mary’s mind as she held her new infant in her arms? Did she realize the extent that the Spirit of the Lord would be upon Him and where this would lead? Wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, and worship – all would be exemplified in this One.

Isaiah speaks of the fruit of the life of the One who could come through the line of Jesse and his son, David. This fruit would include wisdom and knowledge and all the other attributes listed above. He would further lead His people to justice and righteousness and would install a kingdom of peace where there would be no violence of any kind.

A kingdom like this with a Leader like this is an impossibility on this earth. It has never happened and will not, and for that reason the only conclusion we can reach about what Isaiah prophesies here is that he is not talking about an earthly, physical kingdom but a heavenly, spiritual one. He is talking about the salvation life that was to be offered, and that was achieved on the cross of Calvary and sealed by the resurrection of Jesus. The word “Spirit” is to key that leads us to this interpretation of Isaiah’s prophecy. All of this is of the Spirit of the Living God. That is the only way it can be eternal and effective.

What remains, then, is for us to submit our lives to that same Spirit of the Living God, so that we may be shaped more into the image of Christ, so that the fruit we see in His life may also be produced in ours.

Lord, We humble ourselves before You and ask that You fill us with Your Spirit so that the lives we live will bring the honor and glory that is due to You. Amen.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


“For You have shattered their burdensome yoke and the rod on their shoulders, the staff of their oppressor, just as You did on the day of Midian.” (Isaiah 9:4 CSB)

On the “day of Midian” the Lord routed a combined army of about 200,000 soldiers without the Israelites ever having to attack or be attacked. It was purely the work of the Lord in sending the Midianites fleeing.

Isaiah says that the Messiah who was to come would shatter the burdensome yoke and the rod of the oppressor. The oppressor is the one we call the Devil. He is the one who oppresses people with their sin and guilt, the one who revels in death and destruction and hate. The Lord is the One who loves us and who wants us to be released from our fears and terrors related to sin and guilt and punishment. He is the Author of true freedom. It is not surprising that people would take these ideas to mean that the Messiah would come as a warrior to defeat the enemies of God’s people, but the true idea is that the real enemy is a spiritual one. As Paul wrote, “We do not wrestle with flesh and blood.” (Ephesians 6)

Jesus came in fulfillment of this prophecy, to destroy the works of the Devil. He came to free us from sin and its sting, which is death. He came to show us that there is a way to real life and freedom through faith in Him. He showed us what He is willing to do to help us have this freedom. And that is what His coming was all about.

Lord, We are forever grateful to You for Your act of mercy and kindness toward us. We deserved none of it, but You acted out Your grace through Jesus and His cross. The power of the resurrection now opens to door into the light, and we thank You for calling us to enter. Amen.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Who should I send? Who will go for us?’ I said, ‘Here I am. Send me.’” (Isaiah 6:8 CSB)

In that powerful vision of heaven the Lord spoke to Isaiah, and Isaiah heard the message. It was a message about missions, and the Lord gave him a mission to speak His word to the people of Israel. Isaiah had no hesitation in accepting this mission.

Some 600 years later, Another would come, sent from the Lord with a message He was to speak both verbally and graphically. He came via the virgin birth prophesied by Isaiah, grew up, and then moved into that mission when He was about 30 years old. For three years He preached and taught and healed, until that day came when He was lifted up between earth and heaven on a cross, building a bridge for us, so that we may respond to God’s grace and enter into heaven with Him.

This same One, Jesus, raised from the dead and ascended into heaven, said to us, “As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.” Thus, the message of salvation, the message of the cross and the resurrection, the message of God’s love and grace, the message of eternal life is now the mantle that has fallen upon us. Now, the mission is ours to carry out.

Lord, We thank You that You have chosen us and have set us apart to carry on with Your mission. Thank You for Your coming and Your calling to us. May we be forever faithful to You in our stewardship of missions.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Special Child

“For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:8 CSB)

All children born are special; the One Isaiah prophesied, however, was extraordinary. This One would be the Messiah of Israel, the Savior, the Son of God. He would become the Ruler of God’s people, and He would have at least four names. “Name,” in this context, is not a formal name as we know them but is a means of naming His character, His attributes.

This Son would be “Wonderful Counselor.” “Wonderful” speaks to us of the miraculous, that which creates a sense of wonder in us when we see it. He is One who comes alongside us with a life that is full of wonder and amazement.

This Son would be “Mighty God.” In Him would dwell all the power of Almighty God, for He would be God Incarnate. There is no limit to His power. It is absolute.

This Son would also be “Eternal Father.” The union of the Trinity would cause Him to be not only the Son, but also the Father, and the Spirit all at the same time. So, He would take on the characteristic of the Eternal Father, the Creator.

Then, the Son would be “Prince of Peace.” He would be the Prince who ushers in peace, who rules with peace.

This Son would be the Leader and the Ruler of God’s messianic kingdom. The Jesus of history, however, did not appear to the people to whom He was sent to fit these descriptions. His appearance was rather humble and modest. He was a carpenter from Nazareth as far as they could tell, one who fancied Himself a rabbi. He talked a good talk but didn’t have the credentials from their viewpoint. This is because they missed the point. The messianic kingdom is not an earthly kingdom but a spiritual one. They failed to see beyond because they lacked spiritual perception, as evident in the interview between Jesus and Nicodemus.

Jesus is the fulfillment of all Isaiah’s descriptions, and He will come in wonder, in power, in eternity, and in peace to lead us into His kingdom of light. That was the point of His first coming, and it is the same point of His second coming.

Even so, Lord Jesus, come. Amen.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Light vs Dark

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of darkness, a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2 CSB)

So, which one wins: light or darkness? Light always wins.

The “land of darkness” referred to by Isaiah went by the name “Galilee.” Galilee always suffered first from invading armies who arrived with no warning, and they suffered the most. Living there was like living in the darkness. Life and security were precarious at best.

But that was the bad news; the good news was that a “great light” was prophesied to arrive in Galilee, bringing joy, liberation, and victory over that pervasive darkness. That light came in the form of Jesus Christ.

John the Apostle wrote, “Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.” (1:4-5 CSB) Again he wrote, quoting Jesus, “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” (8:12 CSB)

The coming of Jesus marked the entrance of light into the darkness of sin that has resulted in so much human suffering. His light shows us the way out of the darkness and the way into His kingdom of light. Those who choose to follow Him into the light will never know that dark again. That’s because light always wins.

Lord, We thank You for the light of Your life and Your love. We follow now as You lead. Amen.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Take a Dip

“So Naaman dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, according to the command of the man of God. Then his skin was restored and became like the skin of a small boy, and he was clean.” (2 Kings 5:14 CSB)

You may know the story. Naaman was a general in the army of Aram, and he had a “skin disease.” It was what they called “leprosy” in that time, and no one was able to cure it. Naaman had taken a young girl during a raid on Israel to be his slave, and she mentioned to someone that if he were to seek out the man of God in Israel he could be healed. When word got to him, he spoke to the king who sent a letter of introduction to the king of Israel asking him to heal Naaman. When the king of Israel got the letter, it seemed to him that the king of Aram was picking a fight, because he knew he couldn’t heal Naaman. When word reached Elisha about this, however, he sent word to the king, “Send him to me, and he will know there is a God in Israel.”

Naaman came, loading down with treasure for payment. He was prepared to carry out all monumental tasks required of him. Elisha said, “Go and wash in the Jordan River seven times, and you will be healed.” Naaman was enraged and stormed off. He noted that the rivers of Damascus were far cleaner than the muddy Jordan. His advisors spoke to him about this, however, and reminded him that he was prepared to go to any great length the man of God might have required of him, so shouldn’t this matter of dipping himself into the Jordan River seven times be much easier? He realized then his foolishness and then returned and followed Elisha’s commands. He dipped himself into the Jordan River seven times, and when he came out he was completely healed.

Great story. It teaches us something important. First, it teaches us the perils of pride. Pride may appear to not be all that potent, but in reality it is one of the greatest dangers people face. It can ultimately destroy.

Second, the story teaches us the advisability of humility before God. Humility employed is heaven engaged. When we turn down the temptation to pride and instead humble ourselves before the Almighty God, we find redemption and experience the power of God.

Third, the story teaches us the efficacy of obedience. Obedience is not hard, and yet it is extremely hard. What makes it hard to accomplish, however, is pride, and once that is dealt with, it actually is an easy thing. Obedience is built on belief and trust. Doing what God says is an expression of faith, and additionally it leads to and strengthens faith. So it was for Naaman.

When Naaman got his pride out of the way through humility and obeyed the commands given to him, he experienced healing, and that led to a basic faith in God. He requested two mule-loads of dirt he could take back with him to Aram. He said to Elisha that from henceforth he would worship only the Lord.

The practice of humility deals a death blow to pride, and obedience releases faith to accomplish God’s purposes for us.

Father, We recognize that pride is a sinful hindrance to our lives, and we, therefore, humble ourselves before You. We commit ourselves this day to follow You and Your commands in faith, trusting You for all the outcomes. Amen.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Incredible Birth

“Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14 CSB)

In context, Isaiah 7:14 is part of a statement Isaiah made to King Ahaz, calling on Ahaz to ask the Lord for a sign at the time Judah was invaded by a foreign army. Ahaz refused to ask for a sign, thinking that would be testing the Lord, so Isaiah volunteered this one. The word “virgin” can mean “young woman,” so in that particular time the sign could simply have been that a young woman would give birth to a son, and before the boy was old enough to reject the bad and choose the good, all those foreign armies would be gone.

Since the word “virgin” can also simply mean “virgin,” however, this verse became one of the great prophetic verses pointing to a virgin birth in the future that would give rise to Immanuel, “God with us.” This verse prophesied to coming of the Messiah, God Himself, dwelling with us. John spoke of it this way in its fulfillment, “The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 CSB) And, of course, Matthew quoted from Isaiah 7;14 to show that the fulfillment of the prophecy took place in the virgin birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:23)

A God who can do something like this is worthy of worship and awe, respect and love. He is trustworthy, in that He gives His word and carries it out in His sovereign timing. He is Someone in whom we can place our total trust. We can trust our very souls and our hearts to Him

Lord, You are truly worthy of glory, honor, and praise. You turn impossibilities into possibilities. You do that not only in carrying out Your word, but also in redeeming our lives. For that we thank You. Amen.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion; it cannot be shaken.” (Psalm 125:1 CSB)

Mount Zion is the location of the city of David, Jerusalem. Modern Jerusalem has spread out, of course, but in the years of the kings of Israel and Judah it was just the one mountain, which is more of a very high hill than a mountain, with steep slopes on three sides. Those steep slopes plus a wall built entirely around the city turned Jerusalem into a fortress that was considered impenetrable. It eventually took Nebuchadnezzar 2-years of ramp-building to breach its walls. When the psalmist speaks of Mount Zion as “cannot be shaken,” this is what he is talking about. In his mind, Mount Zion was a fortress and stronghold where the people dwelled in complete safety.

When the writer wanted to express the truest depth of the meaning of trust, he used a metaphor that represented the ultimate to him in reliability – Mount Zion.

Trusting in the Lord is a decision of the will. When threats lay siege to us and create inner anxiety, stress, and worry, when uncertainty invades our future and leaves us feeling somewhat indecisive and insecure, we need to head toward that decision to trust in the Lord. Think of the greatest and strongest fortress you can possibly imagine, and the decision to trust in the Lord puts you in that place. Trusting in Him is like being in a place that cannot be shaken.

Lord, Help us to always move quickly and immediately to the decision of trust hen threats and uncertainties come our way. Amen.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ask First

“But Jehoshaphat said to the King of Israel, ‘First, please ask what the Lord’s will is.’” (1 Kings 22:5 CSB)

King Jehoshaphat of Judah visited Ahab, king of Israel for a powwow. Ahab invited Jehoshaphat to join him in attacking and reclaiming the city of Ramoth-Gilead. Jehoshaphat essentially said, “Sure, glad to.” But then he added, “First, please ask what the Lord’s will is.” Way to go, Jehoshaphat!

We often have ideas about what can be done, what needs to be done, and what we intend to get done. Some ideas are small and don’t need much of any thought, but there are some ideas that can be monumental in their outcomes. Throughout our thinking processes, we need to be sure to first ask what the Lord’s will is. In reality, for believers this is a critical question to ask. It really doesn’t matter how good an idea may be or how good it may sound; if it is not of the Lord, it won’t accomplish what is needed. The writer of Proverbs said it this way, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who labor are laboring in vain.” The validity and success of any idea or action is directly tied to whether it is the Lord’s will or not.

The way we know the Lord’s will is to first of all ask. James tells us, “You have not because you ask not, and when you ask you ask for the wrong reasons.” Jesus told us, “Ask, and it will be opened to you.” Finding the Lord’s will and His guidance is first and foremost a matter of asking. We need to first ask Him, and we need to persist in our asking until His will is made clear to us. Then, we act, and we act in faith.

Lord, Help us today to first remember to ask Your will in all our actions. Amen.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


“In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me.” (Psalm 120:1a CSB)

Two essentials of a joyful life are honesty and peace. The psalmist who wrote Psalm 120 had little joy, because he was surrounded by dishonesty and hostility. His life was full of stress.

Not having honesty and peace around us creates a life of turmoil. When honesty is lacking in those around us, building trust is a near impossibility. At the very least, it limits trust, and we end up having to construct “levels” of trust.
When peace is a scarcity around us, the ensuing hostility consumes our resources, especially our most valuable resource – time. The lack of peace rivots our attention in the wrong directions and re-focuses our priorities. That happens because the default of life is actually peace. We were made for that, not hostility.

So when dishonesty and hostility prevail, distress becomes the order of the day. The solution for distress is to “de-stress.” Easier said than done, but the psalmist learned the solution: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me.” We call, the Lord answers. The solution is the relationship. God is very present. He is with us, and He provides the power to de-stress our lives. Does God take us out of those situations to accomplish this? No. It is in our relationship with Him that we experience an all-sufficient grace to walk through the turmoil, hearing His voice of encouragement saying, “I am with you.” And that is enough.

Lord, You truly are the answer for all of our needs. When we find ourselves in deep stress, help us to move toward de-stress by recognizing Your presence when we call on You. Amen.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Unspoken Questions

“None of the disciples dared ask Him, ‘Who are You?’ because they knew it was the Lord.” (John 21:12b CSB)

Not only did the disciples not ask, “Who are You?’ but there are very likely some additional questions they did not ask aloud.

This was the third resurrection appearance of Jesus, and it occurred by the Sea of Galilee. At least eight of the disciples were away from Jerusalem at the time, for reasons unknown. Maybe they were in need of money and went to the only means they knew for earning money – fishing. Maybe they were being impatient and seeing no need to remain in Jerusalem at that particular moment. We do not know the reasons or the motivations. They were somewhat in the same boat with regard to Jesus and His post-resurrection activities.

We can imagine – and probably accurately – that the disciples had a number of questions which either they did not ask or were not recorded. At least one of those questions would be obvious: “Lord, now that You have been resurrected, why do You not stay with us now? Why do You keep coming and going?” Undoubtedly, the time between the crucifixion/resurrection and the Day of Pentecost were perplexing days for these disciples. There was no shortage of the unknown. Only on the Day of Pentecost, with the coming of the Holy Spirit, did they finally begin to understand the Lord’s purposes.

Disciples today have many questions as well. Some are asked, such as, “Lord, when are You coming again?” Others may ask, “Lord, why do You allow Your people in some places in our world to suffer so much?” Questions abound, and some are simply unasked. Answers do not appear to be forthcoming for some of those questions. It may well be that only when the Lord comes again or calls us home to be with Him will we understand.

For now, we need simply to move forward in faith, plowing the ground as we go, sowing the seed, following in obedience, and trusting Him to produce the fruit and the harvest as we abide in Him in trust.

Lord, The discomfort of the unasked questions and the non-answers leaves us perplexed sometimes, but we are grateful for the opportunity to know You and follow after You. Help us today to simply move forward in trust. Amen.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Many Compassions

“Your compassions are many, Lord.” (Psalm 119:156a CSB)

Indeed, they are. The compassions of God are more than can be counted, and that is the literal truth. Just start with creation. The creation itself expresses the compassion of God. And every breath we take is the compassion of God expressed. Our living and our dying to go be with Him forever in heaven – all is part of God’s compassion. The compassion of God touches everything and everyone, acknowledged or not.

God, in His compassion, never leaves us or forsakes us. He is with us at all times. In those robust moments of exuberance in life, God is with us. In those times of affliction when nothing much makes sense, still God is with us. He walks through all the events of life with us, whether we understand those events or not. This is why Paul was able to say, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

The next time you go through some event that is perplexing to you, or an event that feels as though it may be crushing you, remember that the compassions of God are many. You may not feel that way at the moment, but a faithful trust in God will lead you through to the victory and to the realization anew that His compassions are many.

The next time you experience a monumental victory in your personal life, that, too, is the time to remember that the compassions of God are many. God deserves that recognition because He is the God of compassion.

Lord Jesus, We thank You for Your compassion, especially as we see it played out in our minds in a vision of the crucifixion and resurrection. We thank You that You love us this much. Remind us through the day of Your compassions that are ever with us. Amen.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Diligent Worker

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15 CSB)

One of the most significant ways we can honor our parents is in how we live our lives. The living of life is a reflection of values and a reflection of influences, so how we live is at least as important as that we live. Just as this is true for honoring our parents, it is true as well in terms of relationships with all of our family members. And certainly, it is true of our relationship with God.

What in our lives brings honor to our God? At least one thing is certain: how we handle the truth of God placed in our hands brings either honor or dishonor to Him. When we handle the word of truth correctly, that brings honor to God and results in our approval from Him and, thus, no need to be ashamed of anything. If we handle the truth in a haphazard, slovenly way, or if we treat the word flippantly, that will dishonor God before others. That is something God does not approve, because His word is important to Him. Because that is true, we need to take all diligence in making sure that we treat His word as He Himself does. When we approach His word in that manner, He approves. We then have nothing to be ashamed of.

Father, Thank You for the opportunity to serve You. Help each of us today to exert all diligence in our service to You and especially in our handling of Your truth. Amen.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Loyalty to the Faith

“Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who lives in us, that good thing entrusted to you… And you know how much he ministered at Ephesus.” (2 Timothy 1:13-18 CSB)

Paul gave Timothy three admonitions which were intended to help him maintain his loyalty to the Christian faith. It isn’t likely that Paul was worried about Timothy wandering away, but he knew that some others in the church at Ephesus where Timothy was serving were, in fact, wandering away. He knew that Timothy as the leader had to set an example for others to follow. Thus, these admonitions.

The first admonition was to hold to the pattern of sound teachings. Paul first modeled these for Timothy. That’s what good leaders do. Now, Timothy was to hold on to that pattern and in turn teach others to do the same. His approach was to be from faith and love.

The second admonition was to guard what was entrusted to him by the Holy Spirit. That would include: truth, spiritual gifts, and the opportunity to serve. It was necessary to “guard” these because they were under attack by those who were deserting the faith and the truth.

Paul mentioned two men – Phygelus and Hermogenes – who were among those who wandered away, and he then mentioned Onesiphorus, one who had remained faithful, both in serving Paul’s needs in Rome as well as having ministered effectively in Ephesus. These mentions underscored the second admonition, and they pointed also to a third one.

The third admonition was to minister to the needs of people from the heart, thereby building relational loyalty. Onesiphorus was the example of this. Paul noted both his commitment to relationships and his determination to minister effectively from people. This man was thus a man of great heart, and Timothy was admonished to observe the example of Onesiphorus and thus seek to minister to the needs of believers in Ephesus from the heart.

Loyalty to the faith includes thus holding on to sound teachings, guarding all that is entrusted to us, and ministering from the heart.

Lord, Help us today to put all of these into action. Amen.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Fan the Flames

“Therefore, I remind you to keep ablaze the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” (2 Timothy 1:6-7 CSB)

Why is it that believers sometimes get discouraged in trying to carry out the ministry God has given them?

Frustration is probably the biggest culprit in this process, and it is a process. When someone begins a ministry there is typically a lot of enthusiasm. What we soon discover, however, is that it isn’t as easy or simple as it may have first appeared, and along the way there may be someone who doesn’t particularly like what we are trying to accomplish, for one reason or another. Repeated attempts met with sporadic success and frequent failure produces frustration, and frustration often leads to the dissipation of enthusiasm, with the result that additional ministry attempts lessen or altogether cease. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Paul advised Timothy to “keep ablaze” the spiritual gift that was in him. What we want to know, though, is: How exactly do you do that?

The first action you have to take is to remind yourself of your faith. That’s what Paul did for Timothy actually. He said very clearly to Timothy that he clearly recalled Timothy’s sincere faith, that first lived in his grandmother Lois and then in his mother Eunice. Timothy needed to return to his roots in terms of being reminded of Whose he is, and that success was more dependent on the Lord than on him. And the reminder of faith is also a reminder of the call to faithfulness. God doesn’t call us to success but to faithfulness.

The second action needed is a fresh recognition of the Author of the spiritual gift or gifts that are in us. God is Himself NOT a Spirit of fearfulness, but a Spirit of power, love, and sound judgment, and He imparts His Spirit to us, leading us to overcome any timidity or fearfulness and to operate on the basis of His power, love, and sound judgment.

Faith and faithfulness, along with a fresh recognition of the powerful and loving God we serve, can serve to keep the spiritual fires ablaze in us, so that we can move on in faithful stewardship of who we are in Christ.

Lord, This day before us is filled with opportunity. May those spiritual fires in us burn hot and blaze upward in praise of You as we walk through the day. Amen.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

“Repaying” the Lord

“How can I repay the Lord all the good He has done for me?” (Psalm 116:12 CSB)

An interesting question. And one that applies to everyone actually, because He “causes the rain to fall on both the just and the unjust.”

When we look back on our life and consider where we once were and where we are now, the reality is that we have a great deal to be thankful for. So the question is a fair one: How can we repay the Lord for all the good He has done for us?

Actually, we cannot. There is no way we can ever come close to repaying the Lord for all He has done for us. But we can at least respond with several important actions that the psalmist mentions to us.

First, we can take up “the cup of salvation.” In other words, we can receive the Lord into our hearts by faith and thus receive His salvation. And for those of us who have done that, we can simply affirm that salvation and live out that relationship.

Second, we can give the Lord the worship of our hearts. He is worthy of it, and it is at least something we can give when there is no other response that can be given. It is one thing that is uniquely ours to give.

Third, we can carry out the commitments we have made to the Lord. “Foxhole Christians” make commitments when the artillery shells are flying overhead, and once they stop they conveniently forget the promises they made. If we make a commitment to the Lord and give our word to Him, we need to keep our word, follow through, and carry out all commitments we make to Him.

So, although we can never repay the Lord, we can at least respond with positive actions that demonstrate our gratitude to Him for all He has done for us.

Father, We thank You for the opportunities before us today to respond to what You have done for us. May all our life actions reflect our gratitude to You. Amen.

Monday, August 4, 2008

All to Him

“Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory because of your faithful love, because of Your truth.” (Psalm 115:1 CSB)

The gods of this world demand their “pound of flesh” from those who worship them. Sometimes these gods are gold and silver fashioned into some grotesque shape similar to a human or an animal, and people even in this day and age of extreme technology still worship them. Sometimes folks just leave the silver and gold in a bland shape called a “bar” or “ingot” and worship them as is. Some prefer to just worship a general “spirituality” or the mystical. But one thing is true of them all – they all demand the slavish devotion of the adherents.

The Lord, however, releases us to freedom on the basis of our faith in Him, so that we may freely seek Him and through worship given from the heart find that which satisfies our souls overflows with abundance. We thus agree fully with the psalmist that no glory is due us in any fashion, but the name of the Lord, that is, the character of the Lord, is fully deserving of all glory and honor. We believe this because by experience we know that God’s love for us is personal and faithful and that God’s truth is absolute and final. We therefore put our trust fully in the Lord.

Lord, We glorify Your name for who You are, and we put our trust in You. Amen.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Goal

“Now the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5 CSB)

When Paul left Ephesus after the riot, he left Timothy to remain there and serve as the pastor and leader of the Ephesian church. The church was experiencing some problems with some personalities who were intent on teaching some doctrines that were false. These doctrines had to do with myths and genealogies and the law. Timothy’s responsibility was to deal with these folks especially and command them to not teach such doctrines

Paul had a word of advice for Timothy with regard to his leadership in this effort. He told Timothy that the goal of the instructions he was giving to Timothy was love. “Agape” was to be central in all of this, and Paul wanted this love to spring forth from three launch pads: 1) a pure heart, 2) a good conscience, and 3) a sincere faith. He wanted to be sure that what Timothy was asked to do would be understood by those receiving Timothy’s leadership as having the highest of motives with the highest of goals.

At least one “take-away” we receive from this is that HOW we do something is at least as important as WHAT we do. That is true in communication as well. How we communicate is as important as what we communicate. If Timothy were to use heavy-handed tactics in accomplishing his task, the goal of love would not likely be reached. Timothy needed to understand the importance of positive and lofty motives, so that the goal of love could be reached. There was no guarantee that the goal would be reached, of course, but whether reached or not, Paul knew that accountability calls for leaders to carry out ministry from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith, because if motives are doubtful, the outcomes will also be in doubt. Having the possibility of achieving the highest goal is made all the more reasonable by having the highest of motives.

Lord, Help us today and each day to base all our actions and ministries on a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith as we attempt to bear witness to You in our world today. Amen.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

When God Is Silent

“God of my praise, do not be silent.” (Psalm 109:1 CSB)

Sometimes God is. Silent. Sometimes it only seems that way, since we have the Word of God at our fingertips, but even then we can find ourselves longing from some direct, specific word from Him. That is especially true when we find ourselves entering into deep, uncharted waters. When life may not be going as well as we had hoped it might, when life that has been going great suddenly seems to go south, or when we find ourselves encountering problems, difficulties, struggles, and agonies we never thought we would, we find ourselves feeling desperate for some word from the Lord.

Whether God is being silent or it only seems that way, still we go to Him, and we go in faith, praise, and worship. Who else is there to go to? There is no other. And our history with Him tells us that when we go to Him, He will stand with us and help us, because He is a compassionate God and knows that we are “children of the dust.” If He is being silent, we simply need to abide in Him and wait for His word, and it will come as it always does – at just the right time, according to His sovereign will.

Lord, There is no one else we can go to. You are the Lord. We come to You with our praise and worship, and we come in faith. And we trust ourselves to You, even if what we hear is silence. For we know that in Your time, You will answer. Amen.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Loving Regardless

“I give you a new commandment: love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 CSB)

The Passover celebration for Jesus and His disciples began normally that evening until Jesus took a towel. What followed amazed His disciples, and it obviously even upset some of them. He washed their feet. His example was intended to teach them that love and serving go together. Then, later in the evening, Jesus gave them His new commandment to love one another as He had loved them.

We sometimes overlook an important point in these interactions. Who were those included in having their feet washed? We can understand mostly what Jesus did, this side of the story at least, but what we sometimes do not notice so much was that Judas Iscariot was included among those whose feet Jesus washed. It is important that we notice this.

“Agape” love is indiscriminate. We don’t pick and choose those were are going to love and serve. We love because the Holy Spirit dwells within us prompting us to love and to serve, and we cannot simply love some and not love others. To take that route is to go a way Jesus did not teach. We are to love our enemies as much as we love one another. That, you see, takes love to another level. It’s easy to love those who love us, and anybody can do that; but loving those who do not love us very much and who may, in fact, hate us or wish to harm us or our faith in some way takes a love that is beyond ourselves to produce. That is why Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit. We are dependent on Him to help us do this. So, obeying the commandment Jesus gave us requires that we depend on the Holy Spirit to enable us.

We may not like the “Judas Iscariots” of the world or their actions, but “agape” love requires that we love them as much as we love anyone.

Lord, We recognize, or at least we think we do, the difficulty of loving others as much as You have loved us. We only know that apart from You and Your Spirit, we do not have this capacity, so we ask You to fill us with Your Spirit and enable us to carry out this commandment. Amen.