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.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Angry in Spirit

“When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who had come with her crying, He was angry in His spirit and deeply moved. ‘Where have you put him?’ He asked.” (John 11:33-34 CSB)

This particular translation of John 11:33 translates a word as “angry in spirit.” It’s an interesting word. It literally means “to snort like a horse.” The King James Version translated it as “groaned in His spirit,” while the New American Standard Bible renders it as “troubled.” This word is used elsewhere to describe the emotion of Jesus, for example, in the Garden of Gethsemane.

When Jesus came to the outer area of the place where Lazarus, Martha, and Mary lived, Martha went out to greet Him. In that conversation Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.” Martha then went to get Mary, who came crying, with some of the Jews who came with her also crying. Then occurs this verse that when Jesus saw this He was “angry in His spirit and deeply moved.”

We might wonder what prompted this strong emotion in Jesus. Could it have been the fact of the death of Lazarus, and, if so, what about his death brought on this emotion? Could it have been the apparent victory of sin at that moment, represented in the disbelief of those He saw and their sense of hopelessness? And we might also need to ask whether this emotion was anger in the sense we understand anger or whether it was really more of a deep groaning related to sorrow as a result of all the disbelief and sin that was at work in the lives of these people.

We actually may not be able to answer these questions to our satisfaction, but it is clear that there was a deep feeling of indignation and groaning in Jesus’ spirit in this event. It seems that this emotion was prompted by the reality that these folks still had such little comprehension of who He was, that they still did not get it. Their lack of discernment, resulting in a sense of hopelessness, is likely what caused Jesus to feel this indignation.

Before we come down too hard on these folks, we should probably take a little stock on our own levels of discernment. It may well be that there remains a serious lack of faith in us, a serious lack of discernment about just who Jesus is and what He can do. We say we believe, but belief requires action. Someone who prays for rain should be going out to buy an umbrella. Faith in Jesus trusts all of life to Him. And there is no room for hopelessness in that kind of faith.

Lord, Help us to act out our faith in You, and help us to be more discerning about who You are and what You can do. Let there be no room in us for hopelessness. May Your victory over sin on the cross also be our victory. Amen.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Powerful Praise

“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)

All of the psalms are wonderful, but psalm 103 is one of those that soars with a crisp, majestic beauty. It points us to powerful praise that impacts the deepest reaches of our souls. Note the content.

“All that is within me” is to praise the Lord. So, what is in me? This would include my: soul, spirit, heart, personality, thoughts, emotions, attitudes, and values, to name a few. We bring all of this that is within us before the Lord so that all of it may give praise to God.

We also must not forget all of His benefits. Throughout the psalm, the writer points to many of these: forgiveness, healing, redemption, love, compassion, goodness, and strength. All of these God provides to us for building us up in our relationship to Him and in our service to Him.

Note also what the writer says in verse 10, “He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve or repaid us according to our offenses.” Based on His absolute holiness, we deserve death for our sins, so for God to forgive us calls for Him to express a profound compassion. His compassion holds back the requirements of His holiness. We call this “grace.”

The thoughts of this psalm point us to the reality that God is the Source of all that is good in our lives. That makes Him worthy of praise from our viewpoint, but from the viewpoint of reality, God is worthy of praise simply because of who He is.

As God has graced us, so we must grace one another.

Lord, Thank You for allowing us to soar with Your Spirit today through the inspired Word You have provided. We join in Your praise and give thanks to You for the all-encompassing grace You have given us. As we have received Your grace, help us to grace one another as well.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Give Thanks in Everything

“Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 CSB)

One person receives news that his stock has split, resulting in a windfall profit, while another person receives news that it’s leukemia. One person’s children all live highly productive lives, while another person’s children seem to always struggle with one thing or another.

We read the text above, and we are to give thanks for everything, no matter what? Well, that’s not exactly what it says. It says we are to give thanks “in” everything, not necessarily “for” everything. There’s a big difference between those two little prepositions. The idea is that, whatever is going on in your life, whether it is something you take as good news or not so good news, it is important for your spiritual well being to bring all of it before God in a spirit of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, you see, is more of an attitude we have toward God.

All of our experiences help us to grow. Whatever the experience, or event, or news that comes our way, God is able to help us grow, and we give thanks to Him simply because He is with us to sustain us, strengthen us, and challenge us, as well as to comfort and encourage us. Giving thanks to God in the midst of any and every experience actually has a way of lifting us up and pointing us toward hope. It is an affirmation of faith and an acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty. And that serves to build up our relationship of trust with our Lord.

Father, Help us through this day to give thanks to you in the midst of any experience we go through. Amen.

Monday, July 21, 2008


“God said, ‘Ask. What should I give you?’” (1 Kings 3:5b CSB)

What if God asked that question to you?

God appeared to Solomon in a dream and told him to ask. He said, “What should I give you?” You know the rest of the story. Solomon asked God for wisdom, for a discerning heart, so that he could rule Israel wisely and render good judgments. God gave him that and much more.

But what if God said to you, “Ask. What should I give you?” How would you answer? If you were sure that God would give you one thing that you asked of Him, what would you ask for?

Your answer to God would speak volumes about you, just as it did for Solomon. If you say to God what you value. It would speak of what drives your life.

In the New Testament we read, “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and don’t receive because you ask wrongly, so that you may spend it on your desires for pleasure.” (James 4:2c-3 CSB) We hear Jesus say, “Keep asking, and it will be given to you.” (Matthew 7:7a CSB) So, in the realm of possibilities, we might ask Jesus for that one thing we would like God to give us, and it might be granted. Thus it is important that we think about what is so important to us that we would ask God to give it to us. Who knows, He may just do that.

Lord, Help us to evaluate in our hearts and minds today those “things” of this life that drive us, so we can better know how to ask. Amen.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Cost of Sacrifice

“The king answered Araunah, ‘No, I insist on buying it from you for a price, for I will not offer to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.’” (2 Samuel 24:24 CSB)

David got it. He understood the concept of sacrifice and worship, offering, and giving. There is always a cost associated with it, and for it to be genuine, the cost has to be borne by the one giving it. That is what makes the offering significant. That is why it isn’t how much someone gives, but the cost of the giving that is important. Jesus remarked to His disciples once about a widow who put her last two pennies into the temple treasury as her offering that she gave more than any of the others did, though the size of her offering was miniscule in comparison. Sacrifice determines significance, and sacrifice costs.

Our American forefathers, the pioneers of our nation, paid some huge costs in order to give the sacrifices they gave, so that we could have this life of freedom we now enjoy. Millions of others along the way have contributed their sacrifices as well. That is why each year we give thanks to God during a season we call “Thanksgiving.”

Paul said to the Thessalonians, “We always thank God for all of you, remembering you constantly in our prayers.” (1 Thessalonians 1:2 CSB) He went on to remark about what he recalled when he prayed. He recalled their “works of faith, labors of love, and the endurance of their hope.” These were their sacrifices, each with a cost: faith, hope, and love. So their sacrifices prompted thanksgiving. It always does when we take the time to remember and recall how we’ve gotten to where we are.

Lord, We thank You for the sacrifice You gave on the cross for us, a cost we cannot even begin to understand. Yet, we accept the grace of Your sacrifice, and we do so today with hearts of thanksgiving. Amen.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Three Invitations

“Come, let us shout joyfully to the Lord, shout triumphantly to the rock of our salvation! Let us enter His presence with thanksgiving.” “Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, the sheep under His care.” “Today, if you hear His voice: ‘Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah.’” (Psalm 95: 1-2, 6, 7b-8 CSB)

Psalm 95 is an invitation to worship, and this invitation relates to giving thanks. We are invited to express our worship to God and our thanksgiving because of the salvation He has provided for us, because of the provisions He has supplied for us, and because of His promise of rest.

The last portion of the psalm points to a time when the people of God were not interested in giving thanks to God for what He had done for them. These were the wilderness years. The Scripture tells us that those folks hardened their hearts against God, even though they saw firsthand the works God performed in Egypt and in the desert. God said that He was disgusted with that generation for 40 years. He described them as “a people whose hearts go astray; they do not know my ways.”

Truly giving thanks to God is a way that keeps our hearts tuned to His. When we acknowledge what He has done for us, that has a way of keeping our hearts on track so that we move forward. And moving forward – both past event and future event – is what thanksgiving is about.

You might want to take a moment now to bow before the Lord to give thanks for all He has done and will do for you.

Thank You, Lord, for saving my soul; thank You Lord, for making me whole. Thank You, Lord, for giving to me, thy great salvation so full and free. Amen.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Everything You Do

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

Two essential expressions of this life are words and actions. We need words to communicate, to express ideas and thoughts, to share our lives with one another. Words are not just words. Each one represents something important to the one speaking them, just as they have meaning for the one hearing them.

We also communicate through our actions. Sometimes an action is just an action, like tightening a screw, or painting a house, but just as often, an action we take can communicate caring concern. Painting a house may be just painting a house, but when a group of young people get together to pain a house for an elderly person who is unable either to do it or afford it, it communicates more than just painting a house.

This is why Paul says that our words and our deeds need to be expressed in the name, or in the “character,” of the Lord Jesus Christ. Words and actions from a Christian are not just expressive of the individual, but also reflect the individual’s walk with the Lord. So, as we live the Christian life, we want to conscientiously ensure that all our words and actions show forth Christ.

Important to all of this is the “background.” Every beautiful painting has some kind of background, which is sometimes noticed and sometimes not so much. But in the background of our words and deeds, we need to continually give thanks to God the Father. We thank God for the opportunity first to be a Christian, and for the opportunity to live this Christian life in serving the needs of others. We thank God for every breath we take, since He is the Author of life. And we thank Him for all of His abundant provisions for us.

Lord, Help us to remember today that every word and action on our part is in some way a reflection of our walk with You. As we live out our lives this day, help us to do so with genuine thanksgiving. Amen.

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Day of Mixed Blessings

“Ziba answered, ‘The donkeys are for the king’s household to ride, the bread and summer fruit are for the young men to eat, and the wine is for those who become exhausted to drink in the desert.’… Shimei said, ‘Get out, get out, you worthless murderer! The Lord has paid you back for all the blood of the house of Saul in whose place you rule, and the Lord has handed the kingdom over to your son Absalom. Look, you are in trouble because you’re a murderer!’” (2 Samuel 16:2, 7-8 CSB)

David had a really bad day, as noted in 2 Samuel 16. It was a day of mixed blessings, to say the least. His son, his very own flesh and blood, Absalom, had succeeded in taking the kingdom from David, so David was fleeing from Jerusalem with those still loyal to him. Along the way, a man named Ziba, who was the servant of Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, son of Saul brought went to meet David and give him so provisions for his family and his men. That was a blessing David appropriately acknowledged. A little further along the way, a man named Shimei came out to meet David and hurled rocks and curses at him, accusing him of murder with regard to the house of Saul. Ironically, David actually expressed some appreciation for this curse when one of his men thought Shimei should be struck dead. David said that he thought that if the Lord heard Shimei’s curse, maybe He would be merciful and restore the goodness of His blessings. So, it was a day of mixed blessings for David, but whether blessing or cursing, David continued moving forward, because he knew the task that was ahead of him had to be carried out, even though it was one he did not look forward to.

We all have them, don’t we? We have days when some pretty rough events come our way, along with others we’re not very sure about. These events can rock us and cause us to dig deep for more sand for the sandbags. What needs to be done is often obvious, so the best we can do on days like this is to just keep moving forward the best we can in the strength the Lord gives us, trusting ourselves to Him because we know He loves us.

Sometimes a stray dog may wander into a neighborhood where there are lots of other dogs. When that happens, a sudden cacophony of barking erupts. The little critters all stand at their gates or fences, some running back and forth, but all letting this stray dog know this is not his turf. The stray dog never goes up to one of the fences to have a friendly conversation, though. He just keeps on moving, pretty much ignoring the others, moving to wherever it is he is going.

We don’t want to press that example too far, but we do learn a lesson here: in times when things may not go quite as well as we might like, we simply need to stay focused on where the Lord wants us to go, and just keep moving toward that goal.

We move forward because we first know that the Lord is trustworthy, that He loves us beyond any measure, and that He will use every event that comes our way for our good ultimately, whether we see it at that point or not.

Lord, We give thanks to You for all the blessings of this life. You have truly blessed us abundantly. And even for those events that don’t feel very much like blessings, we thank You that You will find a way to use them for our good and Your glory. Amen.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Prayer and Thanksgiving

“Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 4:2 CSB)

Staying alert in prayer may sound easy, but anyone who has tried knows better. The disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before the crucifixion of Jesus discovered that it is easier said than done. In observation of this Jesus said to His disciples, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Staying alert and focused in prayer is, in fact, not at all easy. Some thoughts run screaming across your mind like a child throwing a tantrum and demanding your undivided attention, while other thoughts may plow through your mind like a rooting hog. Still other thoughts can drop by to just “hang out” for a while.

Satan does not like it when we pray, so he will do whatever he can to try to distract us. Often that has to do with thoughts pointed in directions other than God, and sometimes it has to do with the actions of others when you are trying to pray.

This is why the key to staying alert and focused in prayer is found in the word “devote.” To have an effective prayer time and to stay focused during that time requires that you set aside, or devote a time when you can do this. A sufficient quantity of time has to be set aside so that the quality of that time can be established. You also have to take whatever measures are possible to ensure the fewest possible distractions. This means that a particular place needs to be found where you will have the least amount of interruptions. When those random thoughts then begin to show up, you then need to be intentional at identifying them and then bringing them “captive” to Christ. One measure you can also take is to identify one by one all the things that you want to thank God for. Giving thanks to God for one thing in your life leads to thoughts about other things in your life you can thank God for, and that then helps you to remain alert and focused in prayer.

Father, Help us to recognize that there is one who does not want us to pray and, when we pray, wants to throw us off track. Help us to learn how to pray and stay alert through thanksgiving. Amen.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


“The Lord struck the baby that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill.” (2 Samuel 12:15b CSB) “See, you are well. Do not sin any more, so that something worse doesn’t happen to you.” (John 5:14 CSB)

Does someone’s illness come about because God made them sick because of some sin they have committed?

In a very general sense, all sickness is the judgment of God on mankind’s sin. Illness and death are, in fact, the result of Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden. Their sin “broke” the universe for everyone. God’s judgment was that man’s rebellion would not be tolerated, so man must die. Thus, the Lord condemned man to death, which means illness entered into the world. So, sin is the general cause of all illness.

But what about one individual person’s illness? Is that particular illness the result of his or her sin?

The text above points to two examples in the Bible where illness was the result of someone’s sin. The baby borne to David and Bathsheba was stricken with an illness from the Lord. That is what the Bible tells us. It may seem unjust in our way of thinking. We certainly do not understand it, but we simply trust that our Sovereign Lord had some good reason in making that decision. Clearly, it was punishment on David and Bathsheba for their sin, which included adultery, the murder of Uriah her husband, and the deaths of a number of other soldiers who happened to be near Uriah when it happened.

In the New Testament, Jesus healed a man who had been sick for 38 years. When Jesus found the man later in the temple He told him, “See, you are well. Do not sin any more, so that something worse doesn’t happen to you.” That suggests to us that the man’s illness of 38 years was related to his personal sin, and that further sin would result in an even worse condition.

On another occasion, the disciples asked Jesus about a sick man they saw, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?” Jesus told them that neither of them sinned in a way that resulted in that illness. And remember Jesus’ friend, Lazarus? He got sick and died, but that was not related to sin.

So, here is what we understand. There are certainly times when God afflicts people with an illness as the result of their sin. Not every illness, however, is necessarily the result of someone’s personal sin. Yet, all sin is the result of the original sin.

When someone gets a serious illness, he or she should first examine himself and determine if there is sin that needs to be dealt with, but no one should just assume that an illness is the result of personal sin. To do so would be to put yourself in the place of an all-knowing God. If we cannot point to a personal sin that resulted in our condition, we need then to simply realize that it is not related to personal sin, and simply seek healing from the Lord.

Father, Help us to be honest before You and with ourselves in any illness we may face and seek Your heart as to whether there is sin in our lives that does not belong there. Help us also to accept as truth when sin is not part of this, as Your Spirit may testify to that. In either case, we seek Your healing, whether spiritual or physical. Amen.