Thursday, May 28, 2009

Happy Mourning

“Blessed are those who mourn, because they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4 HCSB)

The second beatitude can be as puzzling as the first. Those who first heard these words uttered would likely have found it so. Why would those who mourn be spiritually prosperous, or blessed, or happy? Everybody mourns sooner or later, because everyone experiences loss. Some may mourn the loss of property from a devastating storm or flood, for example. Or, a loved one may die. Eventually, people work through such events and their mourning dissipates. At least some measure of comfort returns. So how does this make someone blessed?

The meaning of this beatitude is derived from the first one. Those who come to realize their spiritual poverty because of their separation from God and who then turn to God will be blessed. In that same vein, those who mourn because of their previous life of separation from God, who are filled with sorrow because of how they once lived, are spiritually prosperous because the Holy Spirit is going to replace that sorrow with comfort, the comfort of forgiveness, reconciliation, redemption, and restoration.

Lord, We thank You for redemption and restoration You have given us through the cross and resurrection. We thank You for the power of the life we now live. We thank You that You have turned our mourning into comfort through Your Spirit within. Amen.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Blessed Spiritual Poverty?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.” (Matthew 5:3 CSB)

Sounds a little mysterious, doesn’t it? How can it be that someone who is poor in spirit is blessed? How does this make any sense? Consider that Jesus promised that those who believe in Him would have an eternal spring of water gushing up from within. Consider that He promised an abundant life in the Spirit. Yet here, He seems to be saying just the opposite. How are we to make sense of this?

Being spiritually poor is a perception. When someone comes to perceive in his or her heart the crushing reality of a spiritual bankruptcy, the reality of his or her desperation to know the Lord personally and deeply, there comes a turning to the Lord, a humbling of self before the Lord, and a seeking after the Lord, and invariably that results in finding the Lord and the kingdom of heaven. When that happens, this person is then turned into one who is spiritually prosperous, which is what the word “blessed” actually means.

We are blessed when we recognize our absolute eternal insignificance apart from a personal relationship with the Lord, because that recognition turns us to Him, and He then ushers us into the kingdom of heaven.

We thank You, Lord, for building a spiritually prosperous life from the ashes of what we once were, through the power of Your redemption. Amen.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


“And no wonder! For Satan himself is disguised as an angel of light.” (1 Corinthians 11:14 CSB)

There is a fish in the lower, dark depths of the Pacific Ocean that has an antenna on its head with a glowing light on the end of the antenna. Its unsuspecting prey see the light and go to it, unable to see the danger that is attached at the other end. By the time they do see it, it’s too late.

Deception can take many forms. It may come into the form of misdirection, where someone is taken off target by a misrepresentation of truth. A similar form is disinformation, which essentially is an intentional lie that represents information as factual for the purpose of influencing decisions. Military and intelligence agencies around the globe have often used misdirection and disinformation to confuse their enemies.

In essence, this amounts to speaking a lie as if it is truth, presenting it as light. All forms of deception overlap, but the purpose is the same: to mislead and defeat.

Paul spoke of how Satan disguised himself as an angel of light. He said this in the context of talking about those who were “false apostles,” that is, those who presented themselves as apostles of Christ while, in fact, they were representatives of Satan, sent to mislead believers by presenting themselves as the true light.

So, how are we to know when what looks like the light is really not? First, we have to have already experienced the genuine light that comes from a personal relationship with the Lord by faith. Second, we have to watch the works of those who say they teach the light. If their works demonstrate inconsistency with what the Bible teaches, or if they teach something that does not exalt Christ, or if they attempt to lift man up to the level of Christ, then they cannot be of the light. Third, we have to stay in the word of God, so that the Holy Spirit can keep our minds and hearts tuned to the truth.

Lord, Help us today to not be misled by that which appears to be the light but really is not. Help us to remain firmly committed to the Lordship of Christ. Amen.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Quiet Confidence

“For the palace will be forsaken, the busy city abandoned… until the Spirit from heaven is poured out on us. … Then justice will inhabit the wilderness, and righteousness will dwell in the orchard. The result of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quiet confidence forever.” (Isaiah 32:14-17 CSB)

Redemption is not just a noun; it’s a process. To see it, you have to back it all the way back. It begins with man’s arrogant rebellion. Man decides he can do without God, and that his own abilities are sufficient. God gets relegated to the corner in his life, if that. Or so he thinks. That’s when judgment comes crashing into his life. Blessing becomes elusive, and sorrow ensues and persists even when man inserts all sorts of “pain killers” into his life to try to ease the pain. Still the judgment is there. In the process, though, if repentance comes, then so does forgiveness, and God then pours out His Spirit, like a desert deluge. Life springs forth, particularly in the form of justice and righteousness. These lead to the renewal of peace. This right relationship then brings about “quiet confidence.”

Isaiah uses the term “quiet confidence” on more than one occasion. Always it involves peace and righteousness and the Spirit of God. Confidence never requires bravado’s support. Genuine confidence is the kind that comes from God and is placed in God. It doesn’t need to be fanned into flames, because it is an eternal flame of quiet confidence born of redemption.

Lord, We commit this day and each day to You in the quiet confidence that comes from Your Spirit. Amen.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


“For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To some we are a scent of death leading to death, but to others, a scent of life leading to life. And who is competent for this?”

The aroma of coffee in the morning is so inviting. It gets our attention, and we go looking for it. To some the aroma of coffee can be nauseating. I guess it depends on what you like or don’t like.

Fragrance. The “fragrance of Christ” we are. Our walk with Him gives off an aroma. Those who know Him and those open to Him find it inviting. Those hostile to Him are repulsed.

Who is up for such a thing? Anyone who thinks he or she can handle this must not be in touch with reality. Or maybe they are inexperienced when it comes to hostility toward Christ. Being the fragrance of Christ in our world is a crushing responsibility. It is a wonderful thought, an affirming thought in the context of the Christian community, of course, but we have not the strength to bear up under the load of being regarded as the scent of death. Being the fragrance of Christ among those who know Him, that we can handle, but being regarded as the scent of death, being viewed as repugnant because of our relationship with Jesus, we are not sufficient for that. Our only option is total dependence on Jesus for His strength. Only He can give us the strength. He is able to make us stand.

Lord, We are who we are in You because of You. We rejoice that we are regarded as the fragrance of Christ, even though that is the scent of death to some. We humble ourselves before You and proclaim our total dependence on You for this task. To You alone we stand or fall. Amen.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


“You are not limited by us, but you are limited by your own affections.” (2 Corinthians 6:12 CSB)

Some of the believers at Corinth were extremely libertarian in their views and lifestyles. Paul tried in his letters to help them understand that this was neither the way of Christ nor the meaning of what it means to be free in Christ. He tried to help them see its destructiveness to them. Undoubtedly, either some of them responding by accusing Paul of trying to control them, or else Paul anticipated that they would. Thus, he stated that he was not limiting them or trying to control them. Then he went beyond that idea and noted that what really limited them was their own affections. Their what? Their affections.

So, what is an “affection”? An affection is an object of your desire, something you like and enjoy, something you value and are willing to expend money, time, or energy to obtain. It is what you treasure. Treasure… Does that remind you of something Jesus said? It went like this, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” What we treasure or value is what tends to limit or control us.

One of the daily recalibrations we each must make comes from reflecting on what we value. That will determine more than anything else what we do and how our day goes.

Lord, Show us how our own affections or values can limit who we are and how things go, and once we see this, help us then to recalibrate our values, so that what we value is the same as what You value. Amen.

Monday, May 18, 2009


“Nevertheless, to remind you, I have written to you more boldly on some points because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, serving as a priest of God’s good news.” (Romans 15:15-16 CSB)

A priest is someone who represents truth, performs functions prescribed by that truth, and serves the spiritual needs of others. He serves as a spokesman of the truth, an instructor of the truth, and as an intercessor on behalf of believers.

This is part of how Paul viewed himself in his apostolic commission. He was serving as a priest of the Lord’s gospel among the Gentiles.

Have you considered that this may be an approach the Lord would have you to take? Maybe all of us need to see ourselves serving in priestly ways in our fellowship. We represent Jesus and His gospel. We intercede on behalf of others before God when we pray. We speak the truth of the gospel to one another. We instruct others in the way of His truth, seeking to serve the deepest spiritual needs of those who know Him and walk with Him.

Today, may we all be encouragers of one another as we serve one another in some priestly way.

Lord, You give us one opportunity after another to serve You and serve others. Help us today to fulfill the role You have assigned us. Amen.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Where the Spirit of the Lord Is

“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17 CSB)

One of the unique characteristics of our Christian faith is freedom. Some, of course, go too far in their understanding of this concept and take it toward an extreme liberality, meaning that you can live your life any way you want to without it mattering. But that isn’t the concept at all. In this idea there is freedom “from” and freedom “to.” We are given freedom from the tyranny and domination of sin, and we have freedom to walk with the Lord in the fellowship of His Spirit. Other religious belief systems are more about binding people up. Our faith is about setting people free to fulfill God’s purposes for them.

This freedom comes from the presence of the Holy Spirit. Wherever He is, there is freedom. And that freedom takes us to peace. The indwelling Holy Spirit produces this peace in us, and the more we focus on Him, the greater our peace. As Isaiah wrote, “Thou dost keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, for he trusteth in Thee.” (Isaiah 26:3)

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Thank You, Lord, for this freedom to walk away from sin and whatever else dominates our lives and to walk toward You so we can experience the peace that comes from reconciliation. Amen.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


“You, indeed, have made my days short in length, and my life span as nothing in Your sight. Yes, every mortal man is only a vapor.” (Psalm 39:5 CSB)

Well, that’s not exactly an encouraging thought, is it? Anyone like to think of his or her life as a “vapor?” Someone who lives 60, 70, 80, or 90 years or more would like to think that there was at least some degree of substance to his or her life, some legacy. The human perspective says it is so. History books seem to be saying that some lives have had real substance, real impact. The eternal perspective says something different, though.

In the eternal scheme, a life really is little more than a vapor. It is like the “dash” between the dates on a grave marker.

While this thought might be somewhat distressing and depressing for some, the psalmist’s point is not to produce that effect but rather to remind us of the importance of forsaking sin and seeking God. A few verses later he wrote, “My hope is in You.” Our hope for a significant life, one of substance, one that has a legacy to it is found only in a personal relationship with the Lord.

Lord, Teach us to number our days rightly, so we may gain hearts of wisdom. Amen.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Happy Camper

“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.” (Psalm 34:7 CSB)

What a great assurance! The angel of the Lord sets up camp around those who fear (respect, revere, worship) the Lord, and rescues them.

This very thought yields at least three effects. First, it creates a sense of safety. We can be at peace and rest within and know that everything is all right because of the Lord’s presence. Though raging events may surround us, knowing that the Lord’s “camp” is around us produces a sense of safety within.

This thought also yields a feeling of freedom. The confidence that comes from the truth and reality of God’s presence actually allows us to live free from the fear that can paralyze. That fear is supplanted by a sense of awe. The presence of a sovereign God vaporizes fear.

This thought further yields a harbinger of hope. God’s presence gives us the absolute assurance and certainty of our salvation. He rescues us. He saves us. The fact of His presence sends forth this harbinger to say that everything is going to be all right. He calls us to trust.

Lord, May we place our trust totally in You as we move through this day, knowing this truth that the angel of the Lord encamps around us. Amen.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Comfort in Affliction

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3 CSB)

You should read the whole first paragraph of 2 Corinthians 1. In one short paragraph Paul mentioned the word “comfort” 9 times. It is difficult to know Paul’s motivation for writing this, though his objective is clear. He wanted to point the Corinthians to the truth of God, the truth that God comforts us in our afflictions. The church apparently needed that encouraging word, and based on the larger picture of what Paul wrote, he and his team had just experienced some overwhelming affliction, probably in Ephesus. It isn’t clear what the affliction was, but it was severe enough for Paul to write, “We even despaired of life.” (verse 8)

Affliction comes in many forms. Regardless of form, though, the impact is universally some degree of devastation. There will be pain, whether physical, emotional, social, or spiritual. We can try to “tough it out” until it passes. On occasion that may work, but affliction that goes to a level of devastation beyond our ability to deal with or resolve or endure leaves us feeling powerless, so that the only thing we can do is go to God.

God does not prevent affliction. He may prevent it at times, but not always. Paul could give clear testimony to that, just as many of us could. While we may not understand fully why God allows this to happen, what He wants us to know is that it is in the midst of affliction that, when we turn to God, we experience the comfort only He can bring.

Lord, We sometimes find it difficult t make sense of some of the afflictions we go through in life, but we trust Your purposes. And we look to You for mercy and comfort. Amen.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Wise Grief

“For with much wisdom is much sorrow; as knowledge increases, grief increases.” (Ecclesiastes 1:18 CSB)

Wait a minute, Lord. Are you sure about that? I mean, I know this is Your word, but I’m not sure I fully understand this.

Why would this be true? It would seem to be just the opposite. How can it be that more wisdom brings more sorrow, and more knowledge brings more grief? It just looks like the wiser and more knowledgeable you are, the happier and stronger you would be.

This does seem to go along with an old proverb we all know, “Ignorance is bliss.” As long as you don’t know anything, you can be fully at peace, munching grass in the pastures with the cows, pretty much oblivious to everything else.

Here’s how it works. Knowledge leads to responsibility, and responsibility leads to a proscribed action. The truth will set you free, but that freedom will bring responsibility, so that you are no longer able to ignore those proscribed actions that become evident from your knowledge or wisdom. Knowledge creates accountability. If you come to understand that the world is lost and going to hell, you are no longer able to sit around and do nothing about it. Your heart becomes burdened for the lost, and you grieve for their lostness. Such wisdom brings grief.

Father, give us more of this wisdom, so that we can discover more ways to resolve this grief through the actions You lead us to. Amen.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


“If we have placed our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone.” (1 Corinthians 15:19 CSB)

Why? Why is it pitiable if our hope in Christ is focused only on this earthly life? Why is it pitiable for Christians to not believe in the resurrection of the dead?

Simply put, it is because, like all other religions, we would be engaging in a religious or spiritual “spinning our wheels,” or “going in circles,” so to speak. Everything would be pointless, and Christianity would then be no different from other religions. Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, animism, shamanism, and Christianity would all be served up on the religious buffet, and you could just take your pick. One would be good as another. We would be no different than a market barker hawking his wares in the midst of a cacophony of other market barkers. The bottom line is that there would be no such thing as hope. A stated message of hope would, in fact, in that case be devoid of any real hope. Worse, it would be a flat out lie.

Jesus, His resurrection, and the resurrection of the dead is the foundation of the hope we proclaim. Without it, we have nothing to say.

We thank You, Father, for the power of the resurrection and the hope it gives us. Amen.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Grace Impact

“But by God’s grace I am what I am, and His grace toward me with not ineffective.” (1 Corinthians 15:10a CSB)

Personally experiencing the grace of God is one of the bedrock truths of who we are as Christians. Paul understood this truth with great depth as he tried to express the concept to the Corinthians. He recognized that his entire identity was shaped by the grace of God and bonded to the grace of God. He had once persecuted the church, but experiencing God’s grace “up close and personal” effectively changed him, his identity, and his entire life-orientation. The old had gone, and the new had come.

We also who have personally experienced God’s grace and continually do so have been shaped by it and are still being shaped by it. We are a work in progress. Grace has had its impact. And it still does. We are who we are by God’s grace. And what we will be continues to take shape. God alone knows what this is, and He will keep working on it.

Someone once asked Michaelangelo how he sculpted such beautiful pieces such as the Pieta. His response was, “I see the image in the rock and remove what doesn’t belong.” Sometimes God’s grace involves removal of what is not needed. Sometimes it involves adding what is.

We thank You, Lord, for Your grace and for the effectiveness it has in our lives. Amen.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A National Trust

“The Lord is the strength of His people; He is a stronghold of salvation for His anointed.” (Psalm 28:8 CSB)

Americans swell with pride and emotion when we hear songs like, “God Bless the U.S.A.” Some of us well up with tears when we hear the national anthem or see an American flag. National pride is a great “feel-good.” Is it adequate, however, as a source of strength for a nation?

Americans greatly support our military. Young men and women even today are on battle fronts, putting their lives on the line on foreign soil for the sake of freedom and democracy. A strong military is a truly wonderful asset for a nation with positive values, but is it adequate as a source of strength for a nation?

Freedom is almost an indescribable wonder. So many peoples around our world are basically in pain because of the domination of tyrannical rulers. Many have never known what it means to be “pain free.” They tend to accept their status as is and can even refer to the small amount of freedom they have as freedom. To have the level of freedom we enjoy in America, however, is almost unparalleled elsewhere. But is freedom a source of strength for a nation?

There is only one real Source of strength for a nation, and that is the Lord. That nation whose national trust is in the Lord is the nation that knows what true strength is. That is the nation that is invincible.

Lord, Help our nation to return to You as its national Trust. Help us to see that true strength is found only to the degree that we trust in You our Strength. Amen