Thursday, May 29, 2008

Look for the Heart

“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or his stature, because I have rejected him. Man does not see what the Lord sees, for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.’” (1 Samuel 16:7 CSB)

God rejected Saul as king because of his disobedience and sent Samuel to the home of Jesse of Bethlehem to anoint a new king. Samuel went there for that purpose, and also to offer a sacrifice so as to keep Saul from getting suspicious.

Samuel had Jesse bring his sons before him one by one, and with each one he thought that surely this one must be the Lord’s anointed. He went through all the seven sons of Jesse who presented themselves, but with each one the Lord told Samuel, “No, this is not the one.”

In this process the Lord spoke a clear message to Samuel. Samuel was looking at physical appearances, at stature. That is likely one of the reasons Saul had been chosen, since he was a head taller than anyone else. So the Lord taught Samuel that leadership is not dependent on appearances or on the physical. What God was looking for was for someone who had a heart like His own, and the Lord is capable of seeing into the heart. So he told Samuel to keep looking.

So Samuel asked Jesse, “Do you have any other sons?” Jesse told him he did have one other son who was tending the sheep. Samuel send for him and delayed the meal until David could arrive. When he came in the Lord said, “Anoint him, for he is the one.”

There is some tendency within us to assume that someone who has a strong physical presence and appearance and stature can make a good leader. But the reality, the real truth, is that it isn’t what is on the outside that counts in leadership but what is on the inside. Matters of the heart are far more important in leadership. That is what we should look for in leaders, and that is what we should aspire toward as leaders. We need to set our hearts on a course that leads us into full harmony with the heart of God.

Lord, May our hearts truly be hearts after Your own heart, so we may serve and influence in ways that glorify You. Amen.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sheep Bleats

“Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord?”

The evidence came in the form of sound – the bleating of sheep. Samuel had received a message from the Lord that the Israelites were to attack the Amalekites for their atrocities against Israel during the exodus from Egypt. Saul was to even destroy all livestock. But there they were: sheep and cattle, right in front of Samuel.

Samuel confronted Saul and asked why he had disobeyed the Lord. Saul responded that he had, in fact, done what he was instructed. He explained that the men brought the best of the livestock back to give an offering to the Lord. Samuel saw through the subterfuge and persisted in this confrontation, and eventually Saul admitted to Samuel that he had been afraid of the men and out of fear allowed them to bring the livestock back.

Saul’s fear of the wrong person, and his consequent disobedience, cost him the kingdom.

Speaking through Samuel, the Lord described disobedience as the same thing as divination, wickedness, and idolatry. Disobedience is allowing some thing or some one other than God to occupy the throne of one’s life. What God is seeking is men and women who will obey Him and His instructions, so that His kingdom rather than our agenda may move forward. Obedience to God is one of the foundations of leadership. God entrusts leadership to those whose hearts are in tune with His.

Lord, May our hearts be fully in tune with Yours today and each day, so that Your kingdom may grow through our witness and example. Amen.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Higher Expectation

“Much will be required of everyone who has been given much. And more will be expected of the one who has been entrusted with more.” (Luke 12:48b CSB)

Does God have expectations of us? Does He have the same expectations of all of us? The answer is: yes, and no – respectively.

We have a tendency to view Jesus metaphorically. Many prefer an image of Jesus as the caring Shepherd. He certainly is that, but no one image is totally description of Jesus. He is also an expectant Master and a Judge. As our Master, He does have expectations of all of us, but not the same expectations of us all.

In the parable of the talents, the master had expectations of all three stewards, but his expectations were based on what was entrusted to them. The more that is entrusted to someone, the greater the expectations. The Lord’s expectations of us are not based on what we cannot do or on what we do not have, but on what we have the opportunity and ability to do.

If the Lord entrusts more money to you than He does to others, His expectations of you with regard to money are higher than they are toward others who have been entrusted with less, though He expects obedience from both. If the Lord entrusts more ability or talent to you than He has to others, then His expectations of you with regard to the use of that ability or talent is higher than they are toward others, though, again, He expects obedience from both. If He entrusts more available time to you than He does to others, His expectations of your use of that time are also greater.

Just as a parent has higher expectations of a 10-year old than a 2-year old but expects obedience from both, so the Lord bases His expectations of us on what He has entrusted to us, though He expects obedience from all.

Lord, May each of us demonstrate complete obedience to You today in everything You have asked us to do, and help us to use our time, talents, and money to the fullest extent possible to glorify You. Amen.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Benefit Package

My soul, praise the Lord, and all that is within me, praise His holy name. My soul, praise the Lord, and do not forget all His benefits.” (Psalm 103:1-2 CSB)

In the work world of America, one of the primary considerations a worker looks for is the company’s “benefits package.” They are looking for health insurance, retirement, vacation, “comp time” and other such benefits. As important as the salary is, for some folks the benefits package can determine what company they would like to work for.

We do not typically think about the benefits of a personal relationship with the Lord in the same manner, since benefits seem to be more in tune with work, but the fact is, the Bible tells us there is a “benefits package” in knowing the Lord. The psalmist mentions at least six of them in Psalm 103.

Forgiveness is one of them. What would life be like if we had no forgiveness and no possibility for it? Forgiveness of sins provides us with a fresh start in life.

A second benefit is healing. This doesn’t mean God heals us every time all the time throughout our lives, since we all do die, but it does mean that our healing comes from God.

Redemption is another benefit. God “buys us back” so to speak. We take a wrong turn or a detour in life sometimes, but when we return to the Lord, He redeems us and puts things back right.

Compassion is a benefit. Not only does God have compassion toward us, but His Spirit within us enables us to express compassion toward others. He “crowns” us with this.

Satisfaction is the fifth benefit. Knowing the Lord provides us with a fullness in life, a sense of completeness that is fully satisfying. It’s like an eagle renewing its strength.

Then, justice is a sixth benefit of knowing the Lord. Sometimes wrong attitudes or actions are taken toward us simply because we belong to the Lord. We may at times experience an oppression, but God is faithful and loving toward us, His people, and He will bring about justice.

Lord, Help us to never forget these benefits we have in knowing You personally. We rejoice to praise You. Amen.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Light in the Night

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” (Ephesians 5:8 CSB)

Night life has a strong appeal to many. Something about it attracts them, like a moth to a flame. They find it enjoyable, even relaxing. And it can be that. There is only one reason they find it enjoyable, however, and that is because we have devised ways to light up the night. We’ve discovered electricity and what that can do for the night. It provides light. Pull the plug, and much of the night life goes away. The more light at night, the more life at night. You do see the connection, don’t you? Life? Light?

At one time we were the darkness. We weren’t just IN the darkness, we WERE the darkness. What great sorrow that was, and what great sorrow it created, for ourselves and others as well. We were blind to the darkness. We didn’t see it because we were the darkness. What a terrible sorrow!

But all that has changed for us now. We were darkness. NOW, we are light. Jesus came. He died on the cross for our sins. He was raised from the dead. And we have believed in Him as our Lord and Savior. In doing so, the Holy Spirit came and energized us. He flipped the switch, so to speak. We became light. What a great joy that is! Our sorrow has turned into joy, all because of what Jesus has done for us. Like an electric current, His grace has flowed into us and has lit us up. Now we are the light of the world because of His light in us.

Now, we can light up the night that others live in. We can help them find their way to the Lord. The key to that is to live as children of the light, to express a life of goodness, righteousness, and truth. May each of us live our lives today in such a way that others see all of this and glorify God.

Lord, You have turned us from darkness into light by the power of Your grace. We thank You, and we ask You now to use that light in us to influence others toward You, so they may know with us the significance of turning sorrow into joy. Amen.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Imitating the Lord

“Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children.” (Ephesians 5:1 CSB)

How does someone imitate God? This sounds a little sacrilegious, but it is not intended that way in any sense. Paul means it in a genuine sense of honoring God. In our culture we sometimes say that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” By that we just mean that we imitate those we admire. And children growing up will invariably imitate their parents at one time or another. A little girl may dress up in her mother’s clothes. A little boy will try on his father’s shoes. They love mom and dad, so they imitate them. Thus, we are to imitate what we see in the Lord Jesus.

Paul particularly uses the metaphor of “walking” to help us understand this. In fact, he make three statements about walking.

First, we are to “walk in love” as Christ did and gave Himself up for us as a sacrificial, fragrant offering to the Father. In part, this means that we are to stay away from anything that would pollute our love for God. As heirs of the kingdom of God, we are to walk in the same kind of love that Jesus displayed to the world. And we should note that it was a costly love.

Second, we are to walk in the light. Paul calls us “children of light.” We know what is good and right and pleasing to the Lord. So, we stay out of the darkness and live instead by the truth that the light revealed to us.

Third, we are to walk carefully. Paul says, “Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk – not as unwise people but as wise – making the most of the time, because the days are evil.” (verses 15-16) We avoid foolishness and anything associated with it and seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit, so that our walk will be characterized by wisdom.

Lord, Help us today to walk with You and with one another in love, in the light, and in care. For Your glory. Amen.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Techniques of Deceit

“Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, but human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.” (Ephesians 4:18 CSB)

The purpose of teaching and training of believers is to build us up as the body of Christ toward unity in the faith and in our knowledge of Christ, so that we can mature toward becoming more and more Christ-like, with the result that we will no longer be victims of those who practice the techniques of deceit, which serve to destabilize and derail us. A destabilized and derailed enemy is easily defeated or rendered meaningless.

No doubt each generation has those who practice these techniques, and there are clearly some of these techniques of deceit that plague our times.

Some of these techniques are attitudinal in nature. One prevailing attitude of our day says, “We’re all going to the same place; we just take different paths to get there.” To this Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” Another attitude says, “The church is full of hypocrites.” To this the Lord says, “First get the log out of your own eye; then you can see clearly to help your brother get the speck out of his.” A third attitude says, “Religion is for the weak-minded.” To this Paul replies, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”

Some of the techniques of deceit we encounter are more practical in nature. One technique is to use education to promote a liberal agenda or an agenda of unbelief. To this the Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean toward your own understanding.” Education is a wonderful part of this life, but it can be misused to further a teacher’s personal agenda, or even the agenda of a government. Another technique is tolerance training, where students or employees are forced to submit to classes designed to produce political correctness as demanded in this culture, which again promotes a liberal agenda. Paul replies, “Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ.”

Then, there are some belief-oriented techniques we face. One says, “Truth is relative; there are no absolutes.” Jesus replies, “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” That is an absolute. Another says, “Seeing is believing.” The Bible says, “From the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what He has made. As a result we are without excuse.” A third says, “God doesn’t really care.” The Bible replies, “God is love,” and, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but will have eternal life.”

Father, Strengthen us and guide us today and each day as we seek to bear positive witness to everyone in our culture, so that we can counter the techniques of deceit with Your truth. Amen.

Friday, May 16, 2008


“Diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us.” (Ephesians 4:3 CSB)

The word translated above as “diligently” has been translated in other ways. In some Bible versions you will read the word “endeavoring.” That’s a good word, but it isn’t strong enough. Keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace is not just an endeavor. It can also be translated as “earnestly” or “zealously.” Literally, the word means “to make haste.” That suggests to carry out a task with all dispatch, with full priority, with full speed ahead. NASA would say, “Go with throttle up.”

Christians are bound tightly together by the peace of God, the “shalom” of God. This peace comes to us through the unity that the Holy Spirit provides. It is possible for us to destroy this unity. We know this is possible because we are told to “keep” this unity, which means it is possible to not keep it, or, to destroy it through divisiveness. It thus takes an effort on our part to keep this unity, so that we may enjoy a fellowship of peace. The effort it takes from us must be put forth “diligently.” Our efforts at keeping the unity of the spirit must be zealous, earnest, speedy, with endeavor, with priority, and with all diligence. Without unity, there is no peace. Without peace, there is no love. Thus, keeping the unity of the Spirit must be a primary focus for us.

Lord, As much as it depends on us today, help us to give all diligence toward keeping the unity of the Spirit. Amen.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Truth and Love Combo

“But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head – Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15 CSB)

Efficiency comes in combinations. Right? If you go to the drive-thru at a fast food restaurant, the menu offers all sorts of “combo’s.” If you order the items separately, they cost more, and it takes longer to get your order together. But the fast food combo approach makes everything simpler, quicker, and thus more efficient.

There are some great “combo’s” in the Bible. One that comes to mind is “faith, hope, and love.” Another one is faith and faithfulness. There is also “the way, the truth, and the life.” And in this text above we find a great one: truth and love. These two make a great combination.

Truth itself is a great concept, and it’s an absolute concept. By itself it is wonderful, but it can also be rather stark. The truth can be like a rock – hard and rough. Likewise, love by itself is a wonderful concept, and having a feeling of love toward God or others can be exhilarating. But if all we have is the feeling, it blesses us but may not accomplish much else. But if you put truth and love together, you get a synergistic effect. It’s like mixing hydrogen and oxygen and lighting a match. You get an explosive effect that produces water. Speaking the truth can injure. Loving someone can make you feel good. But speaking the truth in love can result in personal, spiritual growth and can provide ministry to others at the same time. It can help others grow as well.

Lord, Help us to speak the truth in love today, so that we may grow and also help someone else grow with us. Amen.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Life’s Fountain

“For with You is life’s fountain. In Your light we will see light.” (Psalm 36:9 CSB)

The way of wickedness and rebellion is useless. Those who follow this direction have no real dread of God. In their pride they celebrate their ability to do evil and seem to get away with it. They see wisdom as useless, and they spend their strength on looking for ways to get deeper into their life of evil, as if it will somehow do them some good.

But why? Why would anyone want to live a life that is bent so much toward evil, toward self-centeredness? Interestingly, it is because, although they think they understand life and themselves and are fully free, in reality they are living in darkness and are walking through a spiritual desert, oblivious to the truth.

Here is the truth: God’s faithful love reaches to the heavens, and His faithfulness to the skies. He is the Preserver of life, as well as the Author of it. The Lord is the Source for a fountain that gives life. When people open their eyes to His light, that is when they realize how much they were in the darkness.
God offers His love to everyone. He invites everyone to come to the light, and to drink from His fountain of life. But He does not force anyone. If someone wants to sit around planning evil, He allows them to do so. There will be a price to pay for this, in that those who choose this direction for their lives will ultimately fail and fall and will be unable to get back up. Still, to all God holds out His hand of grace and invitation and calls everyone to come and drink the water of life.

Lord, How wonderful it is to drink from the fountain of life You have provided through the cross and resurrection of Jesus. Thank You for life and for light. Thank You for the opportunity to live a life of significance with You. Amen.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Sorrowful Statement

“In those days the word of the Lord was rare and prophetic visions were not widespread.” (1 Samuel 3:1b CSB)

This has to be one of the saddest statements in the Bible. It begs the question, “Why?” Why was the word of the Lord rare?

The answer comes from what was going on “in those days.” We see hints at it in earlier chapters and later verses. Essentially, the Tabernacle leadership had taken turns toward evil and slovenliness and had rejected leadership responsibilities. The two sons of Eli violated laws related to the animal sacrifices, devising ways of getting more of them for themselves. They also violated the young women who came to serve at the Tabernacle doors. Eli spoke to them about it but did nothing about it. That is, he took no action, abdicating his leadership responsibility. Further, they made a habit of allowing the Lord’s lamp in the Holy Place to go out nightly, which was a violation of what God wanted, and they were using the Tabernacle essentially as their dwelling place. Samuel slept in the Holy Place, near the Ark of the Covenant. Eli and others were apparently just doing whatever was needed to get by, and their hearts were not really in it. So, they were basically just not listening and not willing to listen. That is because true listening calls for a true response.

Can you as a believer imagine living day to day without hearing some word from the Lord? Some believers do not have a very strong devotional life, so some in fact can imagine this, but in reality, we have a ready word from the Lord every day if we have a Bible. The Bible is the word of the Lord, and we can hear from Him simply by opening it. If we are willing to listen in the true sense, God will speak to our hearts from His word.

Those who are leaders, appointed by God, need to take these verses in 1 Samuel to heart and recognize that God expects excellence from them in their leadership. God will not bless a slovenly leadership. He calls for excellence and commitment, for those who are committed to overcoming pride and fear so that they can focus their service on Him and on the needs of His people.

Lord, We ask You to speak to our hearts today through Your word, and we ask You to help each of us to commit ourselves to excellence in the ways we influence others in Your name. Amen.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Honor Priority

“You have honored your own sons more than Me…” (1 Samuel 3;29b CSB)

Eli was the priest at the Tabernacle in Shiloh. His two sons, Hophni and Phinehas assisted him as priests, and they were a lecherous pair. They were wicked men. Eli spoke to them about the evil they were doing, but he took no action to remove them and no action to restrain them, with the result that they simply continued.

God sent a prophet to announce to Eli that God was removing the priesthood from Eli and his family. He told Eli that Hophni and Phinehas would both die on the same day. The short of it was simply that Eli had honored his sons more than he had the Lord God, and for that he would receive God’s judgment on his family.

This story serves to remind us that as Christians we need to honor God first of all. God wants us to honor our families as well. He does not want us to neglect them or to dishonor them in any way. But as believers we are to honor God above all others and all else. Beyond that we are to honor our families and then others.

In fact, the Ten Commandments are set up this way. The first four commandments deal with how we are to honor God, followed by the fifth commandment where we are to honor our parents. Beyond that we are to then honor our families and others. It is possible to make your family your “god” so to speak. But we need to remind ourselves that we are to honor God above all others, including our families. That is what serves to keep our lives ordered before the Lord.

Father, Help us to carry out on a day to day basis our desire and need to honor You above all others, so that all of our other relationships will take on the priority that is needed. Amen.

Friday, May 9, 2008


“The Lord sat enthroned at the flood; the Lord sits enthroned, King forever. The Lord gives His people strength; the Lord blesses His people with peace.” (Psalm 29:10-11 CSB)

Most people have probably seen pictures of a flood. Probably very few, comparatively speaking, have actually experienced one. A flood touches everything in its path. Nothing is left unscathed. Floods are massive, and, interestingly, they are both destructive and constructive at the same time. They sweep some things away. They also provide avenues for new growth. They are as natural as rain, and trying to control one is a significant undertaking. Most of us just have to look for ways to survive them.

The psalmist spoke of the majesty of God and especially the voice of the Lord in Psalm 29. Because of this majesty those who worship Him all cry, “Glory!” That is when the psalmist adds that God sits enthroned over the flood. That means God is sovereign over such experiences we go through, and throughout the experience He gives us strength and blesses us with peace. Strength and peace from God become our traveling companions through the floods of life when we come to God in faith.

There are days when it feels like a flood of one sort or another has overwhelmed us.

One flood we may go through is loss. Sooner or later we all experience some kind of loss. A child’s pet may die. A man or woman may lose their means of financial support. Someone may lose health with the progress of age. A husband or wife may lose a spouse, or a father or mother a child or vice versa. Loss can be a flood that devastates everything. But God, in His sovereignty, is also the God of redemption who can still use a loss to provide an avenue for something new. And He will strengthen and bless His people with peace.

Another flood we may go through is responsibility or task. It would not seem so until we think about it, but sometimes we can be overwhelmed with “things to do.” Having a great deal of responsibility and more tasks to handle than there is time in the day can produce a great sense of frustration. It can feel the same as a flood. Even in this however, the sovereign Lord can strengthen His people and bless us with peace.

Lord, We thank You that whatever flood we may experience in life, You are able to strengthen us and bless us with peace in spite of it. We ask You to continue strengthening and blessing us. Amen.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Don’t Simmer

“Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the Devil an opportunity.” (Ephesians 4:26-27 CSB)

Anger is as normal a human emotion as any other emotion is. Even God gets angry. Anger is the state of thought where expectation crosses swords with frustration, resulting in an explosion of emotion. Anger happens when an “oughtness” fails to occur when expected.

The problem with anger is not in getting anger, but it the way we handle it. Some of us try to ignore it as it standings behind us snarling like a dog. Some of us try to bury it, but like a zombie it keeps coming back to life. Some of us think we ought to embrace it, only to have it strike us like a snake. And some of us tend to just spew it out all over everybody, because somebody told us we shouldn’t hold it in.

Probably none of the above works very well. At least not for long. It may be that one of the biggest problems many of us have is that we do not handle our anger very well.

Here are a few facts to remember: 1) anger is normal, 2) anger can be expressed, 3) expressions of anger should be more about how I feel than who you are, and 4) anger needs to be resolved, and quickly.

In the verse above, Paul first quoted from the Old Testament, “Be angry and sin not.” That means it is not a sin to be angry about something. That means it’s ok. Some things that happen, or some actions others take can make us angry, and it’s truly ok for us to be angry when that happens.

The real problem comes when we fail to resolve anger and let it set up its tent with us, to camp out with us. Holding on to anger certainly cannot get back at the person who made us angry, and it certainly can just hurt us (and generally nobody else). What this means is that it is to our best advantage to get rid of anger and not let it dwell with us. When Paul said, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger,” he simply meant that we need to try to handle it immediately. We don’t want to let it simmer on the stove, because it won’t just simmer; it will ultimately boil over and mess up everything.

To handle anger, first remember that it is an emotion, and emotions – all of them – do ultimately subside. It just takes a little time. Second, let anger be released in a controlled fashion. In other words, don’t stick a pin in the balloon, but rather, let the air out in a controlled way. Third, let anger be what it is; let it be more about how you feel than about what you think about the person who caused it. The emotion belongs to you, and it is yours to handle. Fourth, as the emotion begins to subside, think about how gracious God, in His anger toward you and your sin, actually forgave you, so that you can begin to work toward the forgiveness of the one who offended you.

Lord, We recognize that anger is part of our lives as human beings, and You have given us this emotion. Help us to be good stewards of our anger. Amen.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

New Skins

“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new win will burst the skills, it will spill, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine should be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine, wants new, because he says, ‘The old is better.’” (Luke 5:37-38 CSB)

The lesson above has nothing to do with wine. Wine and wineskins is not the subject of the lesson but are simply tools Jesus used to teach something important.

A question came from the Pharisees and their scribes, having to do with fasting. John the Baptist and his disciples fasted, as did the Pharisees and their scribes. So, Jesus, how come Your disciples do not fast? Jesus responded metaphorically that wedding guests don’t fast as long as the groom is with them, but only when he is taken away.

Jesus then used two examples. You don’t sew a new cloth patch on an old garment. If you do, the new cloth will tear the old cloth, making the hole even bigger. And you don’t put new wine in old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will destroy the old skins, and you lose the skin and the wine. Instead, you put new wine in new wineskins. Even so, everybody likes the older wine better.

These examples have to do with Jesus, His purpose, His methodologies, and His leadership. They deal with change. They relate to old and new, tradition and innovation, the established and the new work. Jesus represented something new and fresh. He was not bent on the destruction of tradition per se, and He seems to have respected it, based on this example. But Jesus also knew that the crucifixion and resurrection and the Church was coming, and that these would constitute something entirely new. They were the plan of God. But God’s intent was not so much to take away as it was to add to. Change was necessary, but the effective way to bring that change about was not by destroying the old but by giving birth to the new.

What is the most effective means of bringing about change? It is not through a destruction of the old but by adding the new.

Lord, Help us to see the truth of what You taught, so that we may become effective change agents. Amen.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Purpose versus Need

“When it was day, He went out and made His way to a deserted place. But the crowds were searching for Him. They came to Him and tried to keep Him from leaving them. But He said to them, ‘I must proclaim the good news about the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because I was sent for this purpose.’ And He was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee.” (Luke 4:42-44 CSB)

Jesus went to Capernaum and preached in the synagogue and after that healed a man. He went home with Simon Peter and healed his mother in law. Then, crowds who heard of what He could do made their way to Simon’s house, bringing their sick and demon possessed friends and family members, and Jesus healed them on into the night. Early the next morning He went to a secluded place in the desert area outside the town to pray. When people found Him they tried to persuade Him to stay there, but Jesus simply told them He had to move on to other towns to proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom, since that was His purpose in coming.

This event in the life of Jesus points us to a very important truth: purpose trumps need. Certainly, Jesus responded to the needs of people wherever He went. He healed people and cast out demons. On occasion He even raised the dead. There was never a shortage of people with needs. But Jesus knew and said that the purpose of His coming had to take priority.

It is important that we always be in touch with what we see as the purpose of our lives. We find it all too easy to fall into a “needs-response” mode, where we respond to one need after another, only to become distracted from the main purpose of who we are and what God has called us to do. When we spend time with the Lord and seek His face, however, He keeps our purpose at the forefront and reminds us of it.

As we journey through this day, may each of us stay focused on our overarching purpose while serving the needs of others as we are able.

Lord, Thank You for showing us how to focus on purpose and still minister to needs along the way. Help us to follow Your example. Amen.

Friday, May 2, 2008

A Non-Gentile Gentile

“Therefore, I say this and testify in the Lord: You should no longer walk as the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their thoughts.” (Ephesians 4:1 CSB)

When is a Gentile not a Gentile? Answer: When the Gentile is a Christian.

The Jews saw two basic groups of people: Jews and all others. The “all others” group they called “Gentiles.” But now, by faith we have departed from the world of the Gentiles and have entered into the kingdom of God by faith. We have become God’s children. Because that is true, we are to no longer live the way the Gentile world lives. The Gentile life is the way of futile thinking, thinking that is focused on promiscuity, on the worldly life. Their thinking is darkened – as we know all too well – by two major influences: ignorance of God and His ways, and hardness of heart.

Entering into this faith-based personal relationship with Jesus Christ has led us to put away the old nature and put on the new nature. By faith, we decided to take off the “old clothes” of corruption and to put on the “new clothes” of spiritual renewal. We have come to the truth of Jesus.

By faith we have chosen to live by the truth of Jesus, and that translates into several practical applications. We have replaced lying with speaking the truth. We have replaced anger with compassion and forgiveness. We have replaced dishonesty with honesty and sharing. We have replaced hostility toward God with a desire to no longer grieve Him but to please Him instead.

Lord, Guide us this day to live according to this new nature and to no longer allow the world and its values to influence our thinking. Amen.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Body Life

“But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head – Christ. From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.” (Ephesians 4:15-16 CSB)

The human body is a remarkable entity. It is an extremely complex unit that requires careful and constant coordination in order to function properly. It is composed of numerous systems: circulatory, respiratory, sensory, nervous, digestive, connective, reproductive, skeletal, and immune systems, for example. Within each system are a multitude of parts, each with its own function. In some cases, a part by itself may seem only to exist, but put that part where it belongs and let it function as it is intended, and you will contribute to the welfare of the body, whether in large portion or small. All the parts of the body have value. The little toe would not seem to have a great deal of value, but kick it real hard into an unseen table, and it will tell you how important it is. A ligament that holds a knee together seems to just be there, but put some intense pressure on it, as in a football game injury, and you will learn quickly how important it is.

The church, the body of Christ, is likewise extremely complex. For the church to be what God wants it to be, to grow in the way God wants it to grow, and to serve in the way God wants it to serve, all of the parts need to first be there, and then they need to each actually function. That is when body life takes place, and that is when the church not only exists but grows. Each believer, working individually but also in cooperation with all the other believers in the body, serves to take care of the body and build it up.

Lord, Help each of us function today in Your body, the church, as You have intended. Help us to never conclude that our function is not really important or crucial to the work of the body, and help us instead to simply and faithfully carry out the tasks you have assigned us, for Your honor and glory. Amen.