Thursday, August 27, 2009


“Still I am confident.” (Psalm 27:3c)

David in Psalm 27 is lofty and magnificent in his praise and prayer toward God. This expression of his confidence in God, his trust in God, and his reliance on God is genuinely at the heart level. This psalm seems to touch many of us in our own hearts and leads us to a greater depth of love toward God.

"The Lord is my light and my salvation… a stronghold of my life. My heart is not afraid… still I am confident. Wait for the Lord." These statements and others like them from Psalm 27 all speak of the confidence we can have in the Lord, a confidence not born of generated emotions from within but by consistent interaction with the Spirit of the Living God. That is, after all, the only real basis and source for genuine confidence.

Confidence is all about us trusting God. We can trust God when things don’t go so well (“though an army deploy against me”), when we come before God in worship (“I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tent with shouts of joy.”), when we may feel that others have abandoned us (“Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord cares for me.”), and even when death may be near (“I am certain that I will see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.”).

Lord, Our confidence is fully in You. We trust our lives to You. Amen.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Strong Tower

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are protected.” (Proverbs 18:10)

A contemporary praise song is built on this verse. The song says, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run into it and are safe.” This is built directly on the New International Version translation of the verse.

Two questions come to mind when thinking about this verse. First, what is the meaning of the phrase “the name of the Lord?” Hebrew names generally referred to some kind of personality characteristic or a parental hope. For example, the name “Abram” means “Exalted Father,” while “Abraham” means “Father of Multitudes.” We understand the LORD’s name to mean “I Am.” The name Jesus means “God’s Salvation.” So, the character or nature of God is salvation, power, righteousness, holiness, and so much more.

The character of God is like a strong tower or fortress that someone can go to and be safe. The need for safety is a primary human need. This particular safety, however, is not so much physical as it is spiritual. The idea seems to be that in the midst of a world where so much evil abounds, we find a safe place from the onslaught of that evil in our personal, faith relationship with the Lord. Turning to Him in a world of evil is like running into a strong tower that no evil can penetrate. He protects us from evil. When we pray, “Deliver us from evil,” we are in fact running to this Strong Tower. We trust Him for the victory over evil.

Father, We thank You that in You we have victory over evil through You. Amen.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


“To start a conflict is to release a flood; stop the dispute before it breaks out.” (Proverbs 17:14)

“Conflict” covers everything from a child saying no to a parent to a nuclear holocaust. That means everyone knows what conflict is. It is the erupting of a difference of opinion into some form of open hostility that varies in intensity depending on the strength of the opinion. We’ve all experienced conflict from one degree to another.

Historically speaking, the Japanese can attest to the fact that starting a conflict is to release a flood. Floods generally are destructive and devastating. Anyone who has been in a flood knows how true that is. Everyone in a flood loses something. The only winner is the flood. Likewise, sometimes the only winner in a conflict is the conflict itself.

While conflicts may at times be unavoidable, it is still preferable to head them off when possible. Solomon’s right: it’s better to stop a dispute before it breaks out into a conflict. That is way more cost effective than conflict management.

In any dispute in which we have either something to gain or something to lose, we each then have a responsibility before the Lord to head off that dispute. Thus, there are several steps that are incumbent on each of us: 1) we each must first come before the Lord in humility and ask Him for wisdom and guidance and remain open throughout to His promptings and reminders, 2) we each must try to put ourselves in the other person’s position to try to understand the other perspective so we can try to gain at least some appreciation for the other person’s point of view and why they feel that way, and 3) we each must seek out the middle ground where we can all stand together so that we can then together try to work toward a resolution of the dispute as much as possible.

Father, In any disputes we may encounter this day that could erupt into a conflict, help us to practice Your wisdom and seek the way of peace first so that You may be honored. Amen.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A New Light

“All a man’s ways seem right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the motives.” (Proverbs 16:2)

We all engage in self-justification when it comes to our own actions or behaviors. Self-justification is as normal to us as breathing air. We mostly don’t even notice it. We don’t like the idea that our actions might be wrong, so we rationalize them and justify them to ourselves, and we generally do so without even noticing ourselves doing it.

The Lord, on the other hand, looks on the heart and into the recesses of the mind. He is able to examine our motives and our true purposes and goals for all our actions and behaviors. He sees motives.

Maybe one of the best things we could be part of, one that that could open our eyes to a greater self-awareness and, consequently, lead to a greater humility would be to ask God to shine His light and help us see the motives behind our actions from His perspective. This could then help us to have not only a clearer perspective about our actions but could also lead as well to either a change in behavior or even to a decision to not engage in some action. Such an endeavor could bear out what Stuart Akins (The Name of Your Game) suggests: Self-awareness (knowledge) is the gateway to growth.

Lord, Open our eyes today to see what You see about our actions and behaviors, so that our motives behind them are clear. Then, help us to proceed forward only as You lead. Amen.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


“The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Proverbs 13:20)

A tree fell in a primordial forest. Day after day, week after week, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, and so on, the tree was in contact with water and minerals, which little by little leached into the cells of the tree until eventually it became what we know as “petrified wood.”

How does someone become wise? How does someone become a leader? For Joshua, it was from hanging out with Moses. It was from submitting to the influence of God’s Spirit.

We have long known that people tend to become like those they hang out with. Proximity provides opportunity for influence, and whether that influence is intentional or passive, like osmosis, it still happens. We are often influenced just by being around someone.

Therefore, it makes sense that we should choose carefully who will be our closest companions. This is not to say we need to wrap ourselves up in a cocoon to avoid people who may not have the greatest reputation. To do that would run counter to the example and instructions of Jesus. But it is to say that we need to learn how to be in the world but not of it. We clearly need to learn how to spend time with people who need to know the Lord, so that we become their influencer rather than them becoming ours. Our deepest fellowship must take place among the community of the redeemed. At the same time, relationships we influence must take place in the world.

Lord, Help us to find the right balance in this fulfills Your intention. Amen.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word cheers it up.” (Proverbs 12:25)

Currently, there is a commercial on TV about financial stress that features a fuzzy little white dog. The dog is worried about losing its bone. In the background a song is playing that features one word only: “trouble.” It goes, “Trouble. Trouble. Oh, trouble trouble trouble.” Over and over. With the song on-going, the dog first buries the bone to protect it, but he’s still worried, so he goes and digs it up and takes it to the bank and puts it in a safety deposit box. But he has nightmares about that and goes to retrieve it and bring it back home. At the end of the commercial the dog’s anxiety is resolved by trusting its bone a particular company. Cute. Not real.

Anxiety, worry, frustration, trouble, stress – however you term it – that reaches down into the heart can weigh a man or woman down. It feels heavy, and it hurts. The “heart-hurt” from anxiety is very real and can ultimately take its toll on us. But a good word from someone, some good news, can cheer up a heavy heart. This is a proverb from Solomon, and it’s safe to assume that he learned this from personal experience.

Today, maybe you can be the one to deliver a good word to someone who is weighed down by anxiety.

Lord, Put a good word in our hearts and mouths today that we can share with someone who needs to hear it. Amen.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Two Weapons

“May the Lord direct your hearts to God’s love and Christ’s endurance.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5)

Paul asked the Thessalonians to pray for him and his fellow travelers. He gave them two specific prayer requests, in fact: 1) that the Lord’s message would spread rapidly, and 2) that he and his team would be delivered from wicked and sinful men intent on stopping that message. He reminded them that in their task, which was the same as his, the Lord would strengthen and guard them as well from the exploits of the evil one.

Paul knew for certain that Satan would try to block the faithfulness and the work of the Thessalonians. He knew the Thessalonians were facing untold difficulties. But he also knew that two weapons were at their disposal which could guide them and sustain them through these difficulties: 1) God’s love, and 2) Christ’s endurance.

In any difficult task we face in kingdom work, knowing that God loves us, and remembering what Christ endured for us inspires, strengthens, motivates, guides, and sustains us. On those days when the work does not advance the way we hoped it would, we need to allow the Spirit of God to direct our hearts to the love of God and the endurance (steadfastness) of Christ. On those days when it seems that the forces of evil are effectively blocking our attempts to share the message of Jesus, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to direct our hearts to the love of God and the endurance of Christ. On those days when frustration produces discouragement, we need to submit to the Holy Spirit as He directs our hearts to the love of God and the endurance of Christ.

Lord, Indeed, direct our hearts to Your love and Christ’s endurance throughout the day as we follow You. Amen.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Confident Life

“I keep the Lord in mind always. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 16:8)

How does someone live a life of confidence and assurance? The psalmist seems to have an answer: “I keep the Lord in mind always.” Let’s think about that for a moment. Is it possible to keep the Lord in mind always? What about all of those other distracting thoughts that race across your mind, some of them screaming for your attention? What is the psalmist talking about?

“Keep the Lord in mind always” is more or less an interpretation of the more literal phrasing of this text, which actually reads, “I will keep the Lord in front of me all the time.” The interpretation mostly makes sense, but in this case the literal meaning may actually be more instructive.

Keeping the Lord in front of you all the time means that you are committed to following Him, to carrying out His will, to listening to and learning from Him. The psalmist is saying that a person who is committed to God’s will in this way can never be shaken. The person who makes every life decision on the basis of whether it takes him away from God or keeps him on the path of following God is a person who can live with full confidence and assurance before the Lord. Such a person cannot be shaken.

Lord, Help us today to practice Your presence, to keep You in front of us at all times. Amen.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fundamental Practice

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Anyone who has been part of church life for a significant period of time has likely seen some form of conflict in the church. It may be a mild disagreement or a severe one. It may be an exchange of words where feelings get hurt and relationships consequently bruised, or maybe even broken. Most of us are aware that “church splits” sometime take place when conflict cannot be resolved.

What would it be like if a church would adopt a fundamental practice of encouraging one another and building each other up? Is that too idealistic? Is it unrealistic? Is it too much to expect of those who are supposed to be filled with the Spirit and have a common hope?

Certainly, sin does sometimes enter the equation and can jam the works like a monkey wrench. That we know. But it only remains when people allow pride to take root and determine their directions.

Maybe if a church were to adopt “encourage one another and build each other up” as one of its fundamental task statements, it might make a real difference in the church’s fellowship and, consequently, its effectiveness in the world. It could be that this would actually deepen the church’s appeal to a lost world when the world sees that it can happen. Obviously, there would be slip-ups, but if encouraging one another and building each other up is a stated fundamental for a church, the church can at least continually go back to that.

Lord, Help us to remember that it’s Your church. Help us to put in place those fundamentals that most honor You. Amen.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hope Foundations

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

Death seems so final. Whether someone we love dies, or it's someone we just know at some level, our observations of the finality of it all can overwhelm us. It has always been that way, ever since death began. This finality has a way of seizing hope by the throat to choke the life out of it.

If Christians are anything, though, we are a people of hope. Our hope is built on the promises of Almighty God, who is sovereign over both life and death. He has promised resurrection to His people. All who die believing in Him, who are unified with Him, who are eternally committed to Him, will be resurrected to eternal life with Him. Those who have already gone before us are, in fact, with Him now, and we all await His timing for the resurrection.

Jesus has also promised a second coming, when He will return in power in some visible way and take us then to be with Him for all eternity. We have no idea when this will happen, but it is because we trust Him and His promises that we wait in hope.

We are a people of hope because of His promises.

Lord, You are our hope. Apart from You there is none. But because of our union with You, hope is ours and will never die. Help us to live and exhibit that hope today to our world. Amen.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sancti- What?

“For this is God’s will, your sanctification.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3a)

Sometime when you’re feeling especially aggressive, stop someone on the street and ask, “Do you know what “sanctification” is?” and see what answer you get. Ask the average church member the same question, and you’re likely to get a similar answer. Some people have no clue what sanctification is, and some are very uncertain and unclear about what it is. And yet, Paul says that it’s God’s will for you. If it’s God’s will for us, it seems that maybe we should know what it means.

Sanctification is the process of spiritual growth that changes your behavior and your relationships. It is a maturing process that leads us toward right living and right relating. This process is instigated and guided in our hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit who exposes us to God’s truths, creating spiritual movement or flow that moves us continually closer to God and others. This leads us to see particular behaviors or ways of relating in the past in a new light, with the result that we conclude that those behaviors and ways of relating are wrong. This conclusion then leads us to act and relate in new ways that God’s Spirit teaches us. This process continues throughout life, continually moving us toward a closer and deeper walk with God and others. There may be setbacks from time to time, like a boat dropping anchor in a river, but God’s Spirit is unrelenting and will work to help us weigh anchor and start moving forward again.

Lord, We thank You that You do not let us just stay where we are, but that You help us to grow past where we have been so that we can move more and more toward You. Amen.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Not Abandoned

“Those who know Your name trust in You because You have not abandoned those who seek You, Lord.” (Psalm 9:10)

There is no greater truth than the truth that those who know the Lord are never abandoned.

Some of life’s traumas can lead us to feel abandoned. The wicked prosper and seemingly get away with it. The oppressed suffer because of it. In the midst of such hurt people wonder where God is, and why He allows such occurrences.

When death comes to someone we love and we experience that awful ripping away of part of our hearts, we wonder where God is, and why He allowed that to happen. Especially when that hole in our lives seems to always be there, again we wonder.

As people grow older and sometimes harder to communicate with and some stop going to see them and mostly forget about them, we wonder.

When we stack up experience against truth and the truth does not seem to bear out the way we think it should, that is when we wonder where God is and why He allows evil to even exist.

Is there an answer to this question? The question has been around a long time.

Part of the answer in is knowing the Lord. To know the “name” of the Lord, as the psalmist writes, is to know His character. To know His character is to know His integrity. And to know His integrity is to know that He keeps His word. He has promised to never abandon or forsake us. Because we know His character and integrity, we trust Him, and we believe that when people seek the Lord they find Him. He is very “findable.”

It may seem sometimes that God has abandoned us, but that is because we have this idea that God should be subject to our every demand. We deny that, but the reality proves otherwise. What we need to recognize is that in every experience of life, there is something God wants us to learn. What we need to recognize is that if we expect God to eliminate all evil, that could even put ourselves at risk, because even in the best of us there may lurk at least a little bit of evil, so if God takes it all out, that could include us. To think otherwise would put us in the company of the arrogant.

Those who know the Lord are never abandoned. He is always with us, and walks with us through all of life’s experiences, teach us as we go.

Lord, We still find it difficult to comprehend, but even so we take our stand with You because we believe You never abandon us. Amen.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

An Early Choice

“At daybreak, Lord, you hear my voice; at daybreak I please my case to You and watch expectantly.” (Psalm 5:3)

There aren’t that many people, or so it seems, who witness daybreak. People like their sleep, and with so much electricity and entertainment around, they like to stay up late. They say, “I just can’t seem to get up early for a devotional time.” Sometimes it may be “can’t,” but more often than not it’s “don’t really want to.” Yet, twice David mentions “daybreak” in the same verse. He recognized how exhilarating it can be to witness the daybreak with the Lord, to come before the Lord in the quiet and solitude of the early morning.

In his early morning devotions, David made two choices that impacted his day. You see it in the rest of Psalm 5, and, in fact, it’s repeated twice. His first choice is to reject evil opportunities he would encounter in the day. He was determined that he would not stand with those who delight in wickedness and lies and pride and bloodshed and other kinds of treachery.

His second choice was to walk with God in faithful love, giving the Lord the worship of his heart, standing before God in all His awesomeness, and committing himself to the Lord’s righteousness.

Whether you make it in time for daybreak or not, you might find that your days work a lot better when you choose early that you will not walk the paths of wickedness, and that you will walk the paths of fellowship with God’s Spirit. The earlier the better.

Lord, May each of us determine that we will make these choices early each day. Amen.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sound Life

“My son, don’t forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commands; for they will bring you many days, a full life, and well-being.” (Proverbs 3:1-2)

The first dozen verses of Proverbs 3 guide us to five admonitions that help us live a “full life” and a life of “well-being.”

The first admonition is to practice loyalty and faithfulness (verse 3). Loyalty is the commitment we express in our relationships with family and friends. It may also be the commitment we hold toward the values that drive our lives. Faithfulness is pretty much the same thing, but this is directed more toward our relationship with the Lord. Faithfulness is the expression of a faith commitment to God in real life terms of how we actually live our lives.

The second admonition is one that is well known from this chapter. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) These verses encourage us to place our total trust in God for everything in life, to walk with Him through life, so that He can guide us in all our decisions and actions.

The third admonition is a negative one: Don’t consider yourself wise (verse 7). Why not? Well, imagine someone saying to another person, “You know, I really am very wise. I mean, I really know a lot, and I always do everything right.” How does that sound? It sounds rather prideful. The idea is that wisdom comes not from within ourselves but from our walk with God. God is the One who gives us any wisdom we may have, so we need to acknowledge Him and follow His wisdom.

The fourth admonition is to honor God with our possessions (verse 9). That’s because they are actually God’s possessions, and He allows us to manage them. God is the Provider who gives us what we need, and we need to, therefore, honor God with everything we receive. At least part of what that means is that we should return to God some portion of what He gives us, in order to express our honoring of Him.

The fifth admonition is another negative one: Don’t despise the Lord’s discipline (verse 11). Just as sometimes a father or mother may discipline a child, sometimes God will discipline us just because He loves us and wants to show us the direction to go with our lives. God delights when we go the directions that honor Him and bring good.

It is important that we hear and understand these admonitions, and it is even more important that we implement them into our lives and actually live this way.

Lord, Help us today to apply all of these admonitions to our hearts, so that we may gain Your wisdom in living this life. Amen.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Hope of Planning

“For I know the plans I have for you – this is the Lord’s declaration – plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

The great message of hope in Jeremiah 29:11 was sent to a people in deep despair. This verse was contained in a letter Jeremiah was instructed to write to the exiles of Judah who had been force-marched to Babylon. In their midst were several false prophets who kept telling the people that God was going to destroy Babylon and take them back home shortly. These were the same prophets who told them the Babylonians would never take Jerusalem and would soon be broken by the Lord. We might imagine the Babylonian battering rams breaking through the wall of Jerusalem as they spoke. To counter their on-going bizarre prophecies, the Lord instructed Jeremiah to send a letter of real hope. When you read the entire message, it does not give what the people wanted to hear, however.

Jeremiah told them to settle down, to put down roots. He told them to build houses and live in them, plant fields and gardens and live on the produce, marry and have children, and increase their population. He even told them to pray for the prosperity of Babylon. That one didn’t likely set well, but it had to make logical sense to them, since the prosperity of Babylon would mean prosperity for them.

God did promise judgment on Babylon for their atrocities, but He told them that would not happen for another 70 years. At that time, the exiles would be invited back to Judah and Jerusalem. Of course, many of the older ones would die in Babylon. But their descendants would return to their Judean homes.

So, what future? And what hope? It almost sounds like they would one day in the future have some hope maybe, but not now. How was this message a word of hope?

What makes this a message of hope is in the word “plan.” The Lord said, “For I know the plans I have for you.” This was God’s plan for restoring right living, His plan for giving the people 70 years to think about why they were where they were, 70 years to put things right, and 70 years to put the world leaders in place who would then carry out His redemptive plan for Israel. It was the fact of God’s plan that was to give them hope. The fact of His plan meant that they actually had a future and would not simply be absorbed into Babylon and totally lose their identity. It meant that God was not finished with them. What they had was the hope of redemption. That hope was found in God’s planning.

God has plans for each of us in our futures. Some of those plans may come soon, and some may be yet far off into the future, but His plans are there. His call to us is to, therefore, put our hope in Him and trust Him to lead us into the future He has for us, while also being faithful in the present to act and speak in His name the message of His love and of the hope He gives to His people.

Lord, We thank You for the plans You have for us, and we commit to move forward day by day in trust, as we look for the ways and the time You will fulfill those plans. Amen.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Jesus Leadership

“But Jesus called them over and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them. It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life – a ransom for many.’” (Matthew 20:25-28)

Jesus made the statement above because 10 of the disciples got angry with James and John. They were indignant because James and John, via their mother, asked that one of them sit on Jesus’ left and one on the right in His kingdom. We would call this “jockeying for position.” They were looking to have the two dominant roles in the kingdom of God. The problem with that was that the other 10 disciples figured they would be one of the ones to have a dominant role in the kingdom. They were all influenced by the leadership styles of the world which were evident everywhere. So Jesus rebuked all of them and taught them the “Jesus leadership” style He expected of them.

The Jesus leadership style does not employ coercive power to force people to conform to the demands of the leader. Coercion is the world’s style. This does not mean there are no demands or expectations either by the leader or toward those being led. It means simply that coercion is ultimately ineffective. Real leaders lead rather than forcing.

The Jesus leadership style employs the concept of servanthood to lead. Those who are called to lead or who desire to lead must lead as a servant. When some folks hear this they think the word “doormat.” But that is not at all a servant style of leadership.

Consider the way Jesus led. He led as a servant. But was there ever any doubt among the disciples that He was the One in charge? Answer: No, there was never any doubt. Did He have clear expectations and demands of His disciples? Answer: Yes, He had huge expectations and demands. Jesus led by giving His life. Did He ever try to force the disciples to yield to His expectations and demands? No, He never did. He just invited them to follow and learn from His teachings and from His example.

Some in our world have called this a “weak” model of leadership, but here is the reality: There has never been a greater leader, a more influential leader, than Jesus Christ. The evidence is undeniable.

Lord, Help us to follow Your example of servant leadership. Amen.