Wednesday, December 31, 2008


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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Real Power of Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Living Dead

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Problem with Possessions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Training Tour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 1, 2008

Day of Trouble

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

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

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

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

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

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