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.