Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Little Transparency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


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

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

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

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

What in your life will delight God today?

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ready for Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Living Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Learning about Fear

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Habitual Practice

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sin Pain

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 13, 2008

Safe Haven

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Force to Be Reckoned With

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Forever Blessed

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 6, 2008

Think about It

“My dearly loved brothers, understand this: everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.” (James 2:19-20 CSB)

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

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

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

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

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