Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Spirit of Truth

“He is the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:17 CSB)

Jesus spoke to Nicodemus of the Spirit and the wind. “The wind blows where it will. You hear the sound of it, but you don’t know where is comes from or where it’s going. So it is with the Spirit.” In His statement, the word for “wind” and the word for “Spirit” are exactly the same in the Greek language. That may be one reason Nicodemus seemed a little confused.

Jesus spoke of the coming of a new Counselor, the Holy Spirit, to His disciples as He prepared them for His departure. He told them the Spirit would speak truth to them and remind them of all truth and would point them to Him. He would be the Enabler of the church, our Guide. He would dwell in us and unify us.

This is why we can say with the psalmist, “My heart is confident God… I will praise You, Lord… For Your faithful love is as high as the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the skies. God, be exalted above the heavens; let your glory be over the whole earth.”

Today, may the Counselor, the “One Called Alongside” us, the Spirit of truth impart wisdom, strength, and blessings to each of us today as we walk with Him.

May it be so, Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

In Jesus’ Name

“If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:14 CSB)

Somewhere along the way, somebody must have decided to add the phrase “in Jesus’ name” at the end of prayers before “amening” everything. Many of us do this now, as a result, without really thinking a thing about it, which is not likely what Jesus had in mind for this. Of course, this goes back to the verse above from John 14. The idea is that if we ask something of God in Jesus’ name, He will give it to us. The practice of adding this phrase to our prayers has produced in some folks, however, an attitude that borders on manipulation, maybe even on animism, where people attempt to control spiritual forces. Is that what Jesus had in mind when He said this to His disciples?

To ask “in Jesus’ name” means to ask as Jesus Himself would ask, which is to ask according to the will of God. It means to think through what you are asking for, being fully in tune with God, and to be as sure as you can be in faith that what you’re asking for is what Jesus would ask for. It means to ask with His integrity, to the degree that we can. And the key to it all is the Holy Spirit, who makes it possible for us to do that.

As you pray, ask the Holy Spirit to guide your thinking and help you be so fully in tune with the will of God that when you pray “in Jesus’ name,” you understand what you’re asking, and that it is in harmony with the will of God.

Indeed, Lord, that is our prayer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cast Your Burdens

“Cast your burdens on the Lord, and He will support you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” (Psalm 55:22 CSB)

A “burden” is generally a heavy object that has to be carried. A “beast of burden” is typically a donkey that carries heavy loads, or an ox that pulls a plow, or a horse that carries a rider. Carrying these heavy loads requires great energy that may be in short supply. Struggle and pain may be involved, and the only relief that comes is when the load is off-loaded.

People carry burdens of a different sort, but what is true of a beast of burden is essentially how those who carry a burden of heart or soul feel about it. The load is heavy. It takes a lot of energy that may not be there. Struggle and pain are often involved. But there is a difference. A beast of burden cannot do anything about the load it bears. We can.

We can cast our burdens on the Lord, and He will support or sustain us. In other words, we can bring our burdens before the Lord, and He will help us in one of at least two ways. First, He may help us “off-load” them. He may bring complete resolution to what burdens us, as He did with King Hezekiah. Hezekiah was burdened with illness, and God sent Isaiah to tell him to put his house in order since he was going to die. Hezekiah cast his burden on the Lord, and the Lord healed him.

Second, if God does not off-load our burdens, He will give us the strength to carry them and cope with them. Paul had his “thorn in the side.” Three times he asked God to remove it, but God simply said, “My grace is sufficient for you.” And God enabled Paul to live with that burden and to thrive in spite of it.

Lord, Help us today to cast our burdens on You and trust You with the outcome. Amen.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dressing Up

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 13:14a CSB)

If you live in a very cold climate like Alaska and need to go outside, before you leave your warm house you put on a coat. Then probably another one. And maybe even another one. If you are in the military, before you report for duty, you put on your uniform, which has to be worn properly. If you work around radiation, before you engage in your work, you put on your lead-lined radiation suit. Before you go swimming, you put on swimwear. We all put on some sort of apparel every day, and we do so for three specific reasons: protection, identity, and appropriateness.

Like putting on clothing, we are to “put on” the Lord Jesus Christ. We do so for protection against the temptations of the world and the flesh. We do so because it identifies us as belonging to Him and serving as His witnesses. And we do because it is the most appropriate clothing for one who belongs to Christ. It is the right thing to do.

As we approach this day and any day, may we put on the Lord Jesus Christ so that we may live effectively and bring glory to Him.

Lord, In faith we commit this day to You and seek to honor You. Amen.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Why This Sacrifice?

“When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals, one on the right and one on the left.” (Luke 23:33 CSB)

Why couldn’t God simply forgive us without Jesus having to go to the cross? It would seem so much simpler and involve far less pain to just leave the crucifixion out altogether and say, “You’re forgiven.”

Several reasons make that impossible. First, the absolute holiness of God and the justice of God require our condemnation and destruction. Our minds are incapable of grasping the reality and validity of this, but God’s perfect holiness cannot permit sin. It requires the destruction of anyone who violates it.

Second, if God were to simply say, “You’re forgiven,” we would have no real appreciation of what our forgiveness cost Him. That would say to us that sin is no big deal, that it’s important, but that in the long run sin is ok. The cross communicates the cost.

Third, the cost of our forgiveness communicates the love behind the event, the motivation of God’s heart. In the cross we see God’s compassion for His lost children, His desire to provide us with an opportunity for eternal life, and His invitation to faith.

Lord, What You have done for us, for me, is still beyond my ability to comprehend. All I can do is accept this in faith and thank You for it, and then live my life in honor of You. Amen

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

“The Sky Is Falling”

“When the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3 CSB)

Remember “Chicken Little?” He got hit on the head by a falling acorn and concluded that the sky was falling. Told everybody he saw. Panic mode.

The verse quoted above is in that same vein. The question was posed by a pessimist, a cynic, who sees the shape the world is in and advises people to run for their lives. The idea is that when all the essentials of right living are virtually non-existent in a society, there really is nothing much that righteous people can do. So, we may as well sit down and shut up and give up. But believers have a response to this, as indicated in the rest of Psalm 11.

The first response is to remember. We remember that God is sovereign. God sees everything. He knows everything. Nothing escapes His notice, and He knows those who do evil. He knows also those who live rightly. And He reminds us that His judgment is coming. The triumph of His sovereignty will be forthcoming.

Our second response is to trust. We trust God with our hearts, our lives, our very souls. We also trust Him and believe that He will carry out His will. He is thus our Refuge. So, to Him we go and find rest and peace.

The pessimist, like Chicken Little, is wrong. The righteous remember and trust.

Lord, Guide our thoughts today once again to Your sovereignty and Your power. Help us to respond with remembrance and trust throughout the day. Amen.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Unity vs Disunity

“Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve.” (Luke 22:3 CSB)

Hollywood’s “spin doctors” have attempted to portray Judas as a victim, as a man who was himself betrayed and who was the real victim in the events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus. Such attempts are purely speculative in the extreme and wholly untrue. The Bible records the truth about Judas. He was money-oriented. Satan found an open door. Judas cooperated willingly and knowingly with the opponents of Jesus and betrayed Him. The twelve had enjoyed a strong unity previously, but he introduced the element of disunity among the disciples when he decided to go to the chief priests and Pharisees.

And oddly enough, from Judas’ negative example, we learn at least one positive lesson. We learn that when unity is solid, it is like armor plating. When disunity enters or is allowed to enter, it is like a corrosive acid, or like a cancer. The solidarity of unity produces synergistic strength, where we are stronger together beyond the sum of our parts than we would be alone. Disunity or divisiveness, on the other hand, weakens us and makes us vulnerable to the attacks of Satan.

So, how do we achieve and maintain unity? First, we make it our number one priority to follow Jesus over everything else. Second, we learn what the Bible teaches us about the will of God and give His will priority over our own or anyone else’s. Third, we live a life focused on humility before God rather than pride and ego, which are the real sources of disunity. Fourth, we ask God to help us have the spiritual perception to realize when Satan is trying to get his foot in the door and create disunity, so that we can take our stand together against him. Fifth, we rely on the Holy Spirit to fight this battle and help us overcome all disunity and develop unity as fully as possible.

Lord, Help us to recognize how important unity is to You and to us as Your people. Help us to live together as Your people in the full unity that pleases and honors You. Amen.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Dose of Reality

“For they did not take the land by their sword – their arm did not bring them victory – but by Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of Your face.” (Psalm 44:3 CSB) “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6 CSB)

Something in us does not like to wait. Most of us have a disdain for patience. We prefer to take action to guide events (and sometimes people) toward our objectives. And there is something in us that makes us think we actually can. We tend to believe that we can be in control.

Maybe we need a dose of reality. The psalmist got his dose. He came to realize that the victory of the Israelites in their invasion of Canaan was less about Israel’s military prowess and way more about God’s power. The Corinthians got their dose. Paul reminded them that the growth they experienced in their church came not from Paul’s actions (planting) or Apollos’ actions (watering) but from God’s action. God gave the growth.

Here is our dose of reality: 1) God’s purposes are greater and deeper than ours, 2) God knows what He’s doing, 3) God knows what He wants to accomplish, and 4) the only role we have is to be obedient to whatever He leads us to do. That was true for the Israelites. It was true also for the Corinthians. And now, it is true for us.

Our objectives and desires must be guided by the template of God’s objectives and desires. Anytime we move beyond what He wants, we begin to experience with what we want, and that makes it far too easy to miss the target. God will let us try, so that He can make a point. His point is that the only real success, the only real victory, is that one that He achieves when we follow His lead in full obedience.

Lord, Open our eyes today and show us once again the truth and wisdom we need today to make Your objectives our objectives, and to live life in obedience to the leading of Your Spirit, for Your glory. Amen.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


“Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:11 CSB)

Clinical depression diagnosed by a physician normally requires a medical solution. Sometimes, however, we may experience depression that is not quite that severe and is more temporary. Like a headache, it may not feel temporary, but actually it is. This kind of depression is more the result of circumstances that “get us down.” A life situation such as your job, your family, your finances, or your health can result in this kind of depression.

The psalmist went through this kind. And HOPE is what brought him through it. He put his hope in God. He DECIDED to put his hope in God. Hope, like love and trust, is basically a decision we make. We decide we are going to do it and thus do it. Indeed, a decision to put your hope in God is also a decision to love Him and trust Him.

Hope is defined in some circles as “the feeling that things will turn out for the best.” That is a rather popular view, culturally inspired. But that is not what Christians believe. We do not believe that things just turn out OK. We believe that God works all things together for good, for those who love Him and who are called according to His purposes. That is why we decide that we will put our hope in Him.

Lord, In faith and out of love for You, we put our hope in You for everything we encounter this day. Amen.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Foolish Message?

“For those who are perishing the message of the cross is foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 1:18 CSB)

What is the message of the cross? It’s very simple, really.

There is a God who is sovereign over the entire universe, which He created, including mankind. Originally, mankind was sinless but was given the freedom to make personal choices. When tempted, mankind disobeyed God’s clear instructions and committed sin. God then condemned man and in His holiness and righteousness decreed that man must die for his sin. However, because of His grace and love, God planned a means for providing man an opportunity to be saved from the penalty of sin. He sent His Son, Jesus, to take the penalty for man by dying on the cross, thus taking on Himself the judgment that was due man. Jesus died in man’s place. The blood Jesus shed on this cross spiritually “covered” the sins of man, thus, providing the means for man’s forgiveness and, therefore, his salvation. To seal this and demonstrate the power of the cross, God’s power, Jesus rose from the dead. Anyone who therefore believes in Jesus, the Messiah of God, the Christ, God’s Anointed One, His Son, who receives Jesus into his or her heart by a faith commitment, receives also the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

Only those who receive this message into their hearts on the basis of a faith commitment actually understand it. They understand because they personally experience God’s power and His illumination through faith, through personal commitment.

Those who deny the reality of sin, who believe that humanity is the epitome of all existence, the highest order in the universe, or who are committed to human rationality find this message to be nonsense and foolishness. The pride of humanism keeps them from knowing the truth. Unfortunately, that same pride will lead them to their destruction.

There is nothing at all foolish with God’s grace and the cross of Jesus. The only thing foolish here is the destructive pride that so many prefer.

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 rich and free. Amen.