Tuesday, June 30, 2009


“I will look favorably on this kind of person: one who is humble, submissive in spirit, and who trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:2b)

“Favor” means an act of kindness bestowed on another person who needs it. An “unmerited” favor is the definition of God’s grace. So, Isaiah describes for us the kind of people who are the recipients of God’s grace, His unmerited favor.

One such person is someone who is humble. A humble person is one who would sit at the feet of Jesus listening to Him teach. That’s because the word “humility” means “teachability.” To be humble is to be a disciple, a life-long learner.

Another descriptor of one God graces is someone who is submissive in spirit. Another translation for the word “submissive” is actually “broken.” The idea is that this person is one who is not ego-centric and willful, but one who is willing to follow and willing to serve.

Then God graces one who trembles at His word. This is a person who has respect and reverence for truth and for the God who authored it. This suggests a person who has an absolute commitment to obedience.

God looks favorably at those who are teachable, who serve, and who obey.

Lord, May these descriptions be true of us each day. Amen.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Sun Never Sets

“From the rising of the sun to its setting, let the name of the Lord be praised.” (Psalm 113:3)

The British Empire once boasted that “the sun never sets on the British Empire.” The idea, of course, was that the British Empire had extended itself so much throughout the world that the sun was always shining on at least some portion of it. Things have changed. The Empire is not what it once was.

There is a similar truth now. The sun never sets on the Christian church. That is not a boast but a praise. It means simply that the hope the psalmist expressed has been fulfilled. From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is now praised.

Of course, this does not suggest that the job is done. The missionary purpose of the church is far from being completed. We are much closer than we ever have been, but there are still millions upon millions who have not heard. There are still some places and some peoples who live in darkness.

What would the Lord have you do to reach those in darkness with the light of the gospel?

Lord, Help us not to ignore the question but to seek Your face and follow as You lead. Amen.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fishing Boat

“Suddenly, a violent storm arose on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves. But He was sleeping.” (Matthew 8:24)

On the southwest shore of the Sea of Galilee is a museum. Its sole purpose is to house one item for public viewing – a 1st century fishing boat.

During a significant drought in Israel when the waters of the lake drastically receded, fishermen found a small portion of a wood boat protruding from the mud. Archeologists were called in and eventually recovered almost a full hull of a 1st century boat preserved by the mud.

When visiting this museum and viewing this boat, your mind can imagine it once sailing the Sea of Galilee proudly on fishing forays. A Christian’s mind can wonder if this might be a boat that carried our Lord back and forth across the lake. The possibility is there at least. And a sanctified imagination might then take the mind to this story of the storm at sea and ultimately to what Jesus asked His disciples, “Where is your faith?”

A “storm” might arise suddenly in life and begin to swamp your boat, and it is almost automatic that when that happens our attention gets riveted to the storm, to “storm management,” to survival. Fear can push everything to one side, including faith.

When storms come (not if), it is very important that we remember to go straight to our “faith place.” We must disciple ourselves to remember that the Sovereign God is going to fulfill His purposes. No storm can stop that. That is part of Jesus’ intent in asking His disciples that question. We can trust God to achieve His sovereign purposes.

Look beyond the storm.

Lord, We recognize it’s easy to tell ourselves to look beyond the storm but a different thing to actually do it. Still, we recognize we need to always go to our “faith place” when storms arise. May Your commitment to fulfill Your purposes always enable us to rest before You with peaceful hearts. Amen.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Wall Is Gone

“For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14)

At the core of the temple complex was the Holy of Holies, the sacred place where Jews believed God dwelled. Only the high priest could enter and only once a year on the Day of Atonement. Just adjacent to that was the Holy Place, a room set off from the Holy of Holies by a heavy curtain. This is the curtain that tore from top to bottom when Jesus died on the cross. Beyond and around these rooms was the Court of the Men where Jewish men were allowed, and beyond that was the Court of the Women. Then, beyond all of this was the Court of the Gentiles, where Jesus overturned the money tables. Between the Court of the Women and the Court of the Gentiles, there was a physical wall. Attached to this wall were warning signs both in Latin and Greek, uncovered by archeologists, which warned foreigners not to go beyond that point, and that if they were caught beyond that point, they would have only themselves to blame for their death.

This was the “dividing wall of hostility” that Paul was talking about. But it was more than just a physical wall. The wall represented the hostility that existed toward Gentiles that was spiritual, social, and relational.

Jesus tore down this wall. He removed all of the barriers that prevented anyone from having access to the Father. He replaced all this hostility with peace, and this peace was derived from the shedding of His blood. The giving of His life brought peace with God and peace among the true people of God, those who approach Him in faith and trust.

Since Christ has torn down a wall of hostility, let us make sure that we do not erect any new ones. Let us be committed to pursuing the shalom of God and living our lives by it.

Lord, Help us to walk with one another in the peace that passes understanding. Amen.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Abundant Mercy

“But God, who is abundant in mercy…” (Ephesians 2:4a)

This verse states a wonderful core truth – we were dead, but God acted. God acted on our behalf because of who He is, because of His nature. Mercy is part of the nature of God, and we know through the word and through experience that God is abundant in mercy. This mercy flows from His great love for us.

Paul points us to several results of God’s mercy: 1) He made us alive when we were dead and separated from Him, 2) He raised us up spiritually and seated us with Christ in the heavenly realm, 3) He saved us from the penalty of our sins, and 4) He prepared in advance a life of good works so that we could help others find their way to Him also.

Mercy sounds like some abstract concept until you need it and experience it. That is when you realize the power of its healing ability.

Lord, Your mercy is new every day, and we thank You for it. Amen.

Monday, June 22, 2009


“He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head.” (Isaiah 59:17)

Paul wrote the Ephesians about putting on “spiritual armor” for the struggle against the powers of darkness. He likely drew this imagery from the praetorian guard who guarded him, but interestingly he may also have drawn from Isaiah 59:17 where we see similar imagery. The difference in Isaiah, though, is that God is the One who is clothed with the breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of salvation, while in Paul’s statement we are the ones who are to wear this armor.

At least part of what this suggests is that we are to put on GOD’s righteousness and GOD’s salvation as our armor. And to follow suit, we are to put on the belt of GOD’s truth, the boots of GOD’s good news, faith in GOD as our shield, and the sword of GOD’s word. In short, God is the One who provides this spiritual armor we need. Therefore, we are to rely solely on Him for the weapons for fighting the darkness of our world.

It’s all about Him.

Lord, You are the Source of our strength and the weapons of our warfare. We trust in You. Amen.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hot Day in the Temple

“…for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations.” (Isaiah 56:7c)

Remember the cleansing of the temple incident? Jesus made a whip, turned over money changer tables, and drove all the vendors and their animals out of the temple. He said, “It is written, ‘My house will be a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” That was righteous indignation on display.

Many assume Jesus did not like all the animals and the trading going on in the temple, and that this was the motivation for His actions. That may be part of it, but a closer look shows us the real motivation. For that, we look to Isaiah.

Isaiah prophesied a time when the temple would have a place for the Gentiles. Following the exile, the Israelites followed up on that and added the “Court of the Gentiles” just outside the Court of the Women. Its purpose was to provide a place where the Gentiles, the “nations,” who want to worship God could go to pray and give their offerings and sacrifices. By the time of Jesus’ arrival on the scene, the Court of the Gentiles had been turned into a trading post. What incensed Jesus was that worship and prayer were being denied to the Gentiles, so that vendors could make their money. Worse, that was a clear statement that the Gentiles had zero worth. It was evidence that once again the Israelites missed the point: they were supposed to be a light to the Gentiles, so that the Gentiles too could enter into fellowship with God. This was the real issue in the heart of Jesus when He took this strong action.

The gospel of Jesus is for everyone or no one.

Lord, Help us to share the gospel with everyone who will listen, and help us to not make excuses for not sharing. Amen.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Word Power

“So My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please, and will prosper in what I send it to do.” (Isaiah 55:11)

As rain falls and brings forth life, God’s word will always accomplish its purpose. That is the great assurance God gives us. His word is 100% reliable, and that is simply because God is reliable. When God says, “I forgive you,” we can know with all certainty that we are totally forgiven, but His word doesn’t stop there; it also sets us free to live with a renewed joy and gracious peace. His word accomplishes not only its essential purpose, but it also produces a prosperity that goes far beyond. The power of God’s word is that it is GOD’s word.

Lord, Because we trust You, we also trust Your word. We thank You for it. Amen.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The God of Extremes

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His faithful love for those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:11-12)

There is nothing small about our God. Of course, He created small. He created the atom, which is barely visible with the best electron microscope. Then, there are sub-atomic particles like electrons, protons, and neutrons which we cannot see at all yet. And now we are told that there are even smaller particles that make up the “fabric” of the universe, something called “dark matter.” Interesting. So, God created small, but there is nothing small about Him. He created the universe, which we are unable to measure.

Someone capable of such feats is unlimited and, in fact, is extreme. We sometimes watch “extreme sports” on television, but that is paltry in comparison to what we’re talking about here. That’s like comparing a drop of water to the ocean.

Our God is God of the extreme. Those who “fear” God are those who revere Him, and they revere and worship Him because they know Him. We know Him because we believe in Him and trust Him. And He loves us with a love that is immeasurable, like the universe He created. God’s love for us is forever faithful.

God’s forgiveness of our sins is also extreme. How far is “the east from the west?” There is no end. When God forgives us, it is total. Paul wrote, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) When God forgives our sins, our sins no longer exist. We are free. And that’s because God is extreme, and worthy of extreme praise.”

Lord, We have no means for measuring Your love and Your forgiveness. We only know that they exist. The cross helps us understand something of Your love and willingness to forgive, and yet we know that Your love goes beyond even that. We thank You, and we give You the praise of our hearts. Amen.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Law Matters

“Don’t assume that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17) “The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith. But since that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:24)

Does the Old Testament law have any relevance to Christians today? The answer probably depends on how “relevance” is defined, but the short answer is yes and no.

No, the law has never had relevance in terms of creating righteousness in our hearts before God. It has never been able to “make us right with God.” Observing laws has never been able to save anyone. That never was its purpose. The law’s purpose was to serve as a guardian or teacher appointed by the Father to care for, guide, and instruct the children of God in the right way to live. Children do not understand and need to be trained. But once children grow into adulthood they then know how to live rightly. They then live on the basis of a trust relationship, living out what they have learned. Faith takes over.

The coming of Christ and all he did served to complete or fulfill the law and its purposes, so that now faith is the standard that guides us through life. The grace of God is what saves us, through faith, and that faith creates a “standing” of righteousness in our hearts before God. Faith, in fact, is the union of our hearts with the heart of God.

Yes, the law does have relevance to Christians today. Since its purpose was never to save but to guide and instruct, it still helps us to have a set of guidelines for knowing the kind of life that honors God. As Jesus did, we summarize the law in saying that we are to love God, love one another, and love the world as God loves it.

Lord, We thank You for the law that expresses Your heart. Help us to live it as an expression of our relationship with You. Amen.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Certainties of Life

“The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)

The only thing certain about life is that there isn’t very much of it. Whether someone lives one year or a hundred, life is still short. That’s because life is relative. It is relative to eternity. In that sense, a life is barely an imperceptible blip on a screen. This is why it makes no sense for someone to be zoned in on his or her own life. Just as grass withers and flowers fade, a life just as easily and quickly comes and goes. The substance of a life, therefore, depends on how it is related to eternity.

The word of our God remains forever. That means “eternity.” The word of God is His promises, His expressions of Himself, His truths, and His invitation for us to go with Him. The God of all eternity beckons us to tie our lives to His. That is the only path to a substantive life. Anything else just turns to dust.

Lord, We thank You for the certainty of Your love, and the certainty we have for eternal life with You through faith. Help us to live that way today. Amen.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.” (Matthew 5:10)

There is nothing particularly joyous about persecution itself. Persecution is painful, hurtful, and destructive. There is not necessarily any spiritual prosperity in that. Ask any Christian who was beaten and imprisoned if that experience, in and of itself, created a joyous blessing for them, and you will likely see a grimace come to their face. So, if this is the case, how is persecution related to spiritual prosperity?

Jesus ties this to the cause of persecution. He ties it to the cause of righteousness, and He then elaborates in verses 11 and 12, “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and false say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Persecution experienced because of committed faithfulness and obedience to Jesus produces blessing, spiritual joyous prosperity, because Jesus blesses it, and it brings with it a heavenly reward. That reward will only become evident when those persecuted arrive in heaven. Those thus persecuted rejoice NOT because of the persecution but because of the outcomes.

Lord, Persecution is no one’s preference, but if that is what we must go through in order to be faithful in our witness to You, give us the strength to do so. Amen.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


“Blessed are the peacemakers, because they will be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

Hostility, whatever the form, destroys. It tears down. Peace, on the other hand, builds. Peace is marked by life, wellness, wholeness, safety, freedom, and prosperity. Life is enhanced and expanded where there is peace.

A peacemaker is one who serves as an instrument or vehicle or catalyst for bringing about peace where there has been hostility. A peacemaker works to resolve the causes of hostility, which then results in peace, and that peace then fosters life as it takes root in the lives of people.

The peacemaking Jesus had in mind is of a spiritual sort. These peacemakers are folks who seek to bring people into peace with God, to a reconciliation with God. Jesus, the Son of God, resolved the issue with His crucifixion and resurrection, and those who build on that foundation by bearing witness to Him, by leading people to repentance, faith, redemption, reconciliation, and restoration are His peacemakers and, thus, sons of God.

Lord, Help us to be kingdom peacemakers today for Your glory and for the good of those who desperately need You and the peace You can bring. Amen.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Heart Purity

“Blessed are the pure in heart, because they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

So, how pure? How pure in heart do you have to be to be blessed so that you get to see God? Only a western mind would ask such a question. The question is actually irrelevant.

Let’s see if we can unpack this.

First, think about “heart.” The physical heart is nowhere in Jesus’ mind here. The heart described in the Bible refers to what is at the center of a human life. It is the center of thought, emotion, and personality, the place in us where the “person” we are resides. It is the core of our being. And most importantly, it is the place where the human will is found. In fact, the word “heart” can sometimes even be translated as “will.”

To be pure is to be free from pollutants. Salt is pure if it has no sand or dirt or other “non-salt” pieces in it.

So, “pure in heart” essentially means to be “pure in will,” to have a will, in other words, that is wholly focused on God and His will. It is to be pure in your motivations for serving God and simply doing so according to His will.

Someone whose clear life focus is, by faith, to do the will of God is spiritually prosperous, and that one is going to see God.

Father, May our hearts be wholly devoted to You and Your will this and each day. Amen.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Merciful Goodness

“Blessed are the merciful, because they will be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)

Mercy is the decision or act of relenting when there is cause for judgment, punishment, or retribution against someone who has injured you or someone else. Beyond that, mercy not only relents but even extends aid to the one who does not deserve it. Mercy overlaps with several other concepts, including: grace, forgiveness, and love. To be merciful is thus to be full of these attributes.

Our God is a God who is merciful. He is mercy in perfection. He extended mercy to us through the crucifixion and resurrection of His Son. To the degree that we understand and appreciate what He did for us and practice toward others what Jesus did for us, we demonstrate mercy.

We practice mercy because we have received it. And we receive even more mercy because we practice it.

Lord, You have expressed mercy toward us. Help us in turn to be merciful toward others. Amen.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Hungry and Thirsty

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, because they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)

The source of unrighteousness is a life separated from God, a heart turned away from Him. When self-centeredness reigns, so does all manner of evil. Self-centeredness is a breeding ground for the parasite called “sin.” Where the focus is on loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself reigns, there is peace and freedom. Such life is an antiseptic for sin. When love reigns, when life is filled with it, people are genuinely happy. Relationships are right. Life itself is right. Everything is right.

The person who hungers and thirsts after a life like this, who sees this as an absolute foundation for life, fundamental in every respect, will find it, and he will be filled with it. Living life this way will make someone spiritually prosperous.

Lord, A great desire in our hearts is to be filled with Your righteousness, so that we will know the spiritual prosperity that frees us to live this life with joy. Amen.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Gentle Paradox

“Blessed are the gentle, because they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)

The word we see in most translations is: “Blessed are the meek.” The word “meek” apparently has a bad rap. It rhymes with “weak,” for one reason, and that is generally the idea that comes to most people’s minds when they hear it. They think of someone who is cowardly, who has no spine, no courage, and not much of anything else either. So some use the word “gentle” in newer translations to try to overcome these preconceptions.

The underlying idea of this word is teachability. It describes someone who has a teachable spirit, who is interested in learning, someone who is not so caught up in her or her own ego that they cannot listen to what someone else has to say. It takes a lot of personal security and confidence to be a learner. Learners become leaders, and leaders know how to take care of things, like the earth. They are trustworthy because they listen.

Moses was described as “the meekest man on earth.” A leader like that is anything but weak. His leadership was powerful because he listened to God. The power of his life came from the power of the One he served. It was because he listened to God that God anointed him as one of the premier leaders of all time. That is what gentle is.

Father, Reveal in our hearts the reality of what real strength is all about. Amen.