Thursday, December 31, 2009


“Then He said to [them] all, ‘If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23)

Just before Jesus said “if anyone wants to come with Me,” He warned them that He was going to suffer “many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.” The operative word here is “suffer.” There was not a promise of perpetual tranquility for those who wish to be Jesus’ disciple, but rather a prediction of suffering.

The idea behind “take up your cross” is one of suffering and burdens. This expression essentially means to bear your burdens. Jesus told them the burdens He was to bear so they would understand what to expect if they followed Him. Taking up His cross, so to speak, would lead Him to the cross.

To follow Jesus, we are thus called to lay aside our own willfulness in order to pursue God’s will and to bear whatever burdens must be borne in order to follow Him faithfully. Daily.

Discipleship is daily. We don’t have days off from discipleship. Each day is a new day for us as His disciples, a day of new opportunity to walk with God, to serve and love others, and – if necessary – suffer for His sake. Each new day, therefore, calls for its own intentionality of commitment.

Lord, As we consider today and the days ahead, help us to be fully aware of Your call for intentionality in our commitment to You, and may we each follow You faithfully, being aware of the cost and willing to pay it. Amen.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What Is Good

“He has told you men what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: Only to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

“Good” is a word we spread around rather thinly. The Bible says that only God is good, and the God who is good has communicated to us what good He expects of us. Among other aspects of what is good, Micah points us toward three.

Good is acting justly. That means acting rightly and standing for what is right, and ensuring that justice is carried out. This is social goodness. The Lord is telling us through Micah that He wants us to be involved with social justice and goodness and rightness.

Good is loving faithfulness. Faithfulness is open-ended commitment. It is an absolute commitment that has no end-date, no expiration date. Loving this kind of a life, this kind of a commitment is something God sees as good. It is good because it builds up and sustains and does not hinder or hurt.

Good is walking humbly with our God. The more someone walks with God, the more he or she wants to walk with God. There is no life or lifestyle than can even come close to it in comparison. Walking with God is significance, meaning, purpose, and fulfillment. Walking with God in humility means to walk with Him in a life of learning. To be humble is to be teachable. We walk with God, continually learning from Him. That is good.

Lord, May our lives demonstrate acting justly, loving faithfulness, and walking humbly with You. Amen.

Monday, December 28, 2009


“The Lord values those who fear Him, those who put their hope in His faithful love.” (Psalm 147:11)

People are impressionable. In fact, we are easily impressed by things that go “boom.” A fireworks display we find awesome. Bringing down an old building with a series of dynamite charges impresses us with immensity. The flight of a massive rocket, or the explosion of a nuclear device shouts “power” to us. Military power in general impresses us.

What impresses God? Answer: Not much, really.

We sometimes ascribe our thoughts to God, even though the Bible tells us His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. Still, we think that surely God is impressed with all the knowledge we have amassed. We know so much more now than we once did. No? Well, if not that, then surely God is impressed with our technology. Just look at what we can do with our computers. We can send people to the moon and bring them back safely. No? Well, how about our political systems? Surely God is impressed with our abilities to govern ourselves with democratic governments.

No, no, and no.

Only one thing impresses God. God values those who fear Him, those who find in Him their true sense of the awesome, those who put their hope in His faithful love. To fear the Lord is to stand in awe of Him, to be impressed with Him over everything else. Putting our hope in His faithful love is counting on Him to fulfill His word, counting on Him to fulfill His purposes for our lives, and trusting Him regardless. That impresses God.

Father, Help us to look beyond the shallow superficialities of what impresses our human minds and recognize our need to find genuine impression in Your awesomeness. Amen.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Calm Faith

“Then He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves. So they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’” (Luke 8:24b-25)

After the disciples shoved the boat out from the shore an exhausted Jesus laid down under the stern’s platform and slept. Not long after, a sudden storm arose on Lake Galilee. The boat was being swamped with water, along with the hopes of the disciples. They saw themselves going down. When they got a quick second they woke Jesus up and “upbraided” Him for sleeping on the job and for not caring. He got up and shut the wind down and smoothed out the waves, all with a word. Then He had a word for them. “Where is your faith?” They were stunned by His awesome display of power. But they had no answer for His question.

Do we?

Their very real experience on the water sometimes reminds us of the events of life that can come our way. Some of them are very much like a raging storm that can threaten our very existence.

Where does this calm faith Jesus pointed His disciples toward come from? It comes from trusting in the sovereign purposes of God. That is what Jesus did. He knew that His life’s destination was not yet reached, and that He would continue on until He reached that skull-shaped hill on the outskirts of Jerusalem. That was the Father’s purpose for His life. So He put His entire confidence in the sovereign purposes of the Father.

We cannot understand the storms of life. We cannot understand why God allows them. But we believe that the Scripture teaches us to trust ourselves into the sovereign purposes of God. The writer of Hebrews reminds us in chapter 11 that this is what the faithful servants of God through the ages were commended for.

God calls us to trust His sovereign purposes, and when we do so, that yields a calm faith.

Lord, We recognize this is not easy for us to do, but help us to genuinely trust Your sovereign purposes for our lives through every life encounter we have. Amen.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hear Do

“But He replied to them, ‘My mother and My brothers are those who hear and do the word of God.” (Luke 8:21)

Jesus’ mother and brothers went to see Him, but they could not get to Him because of the crowd. So, the passed on the word to Him through the crowd one by one until it finally reached His ears. “Your mother and brothers are here and want to see You.” That is when Jesus remarked that His mother and brothers are those who hear and do the word of God.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, was there as well with their mother. At that moment, James did not believe in Him as Messiah and Lord. He was more of the opinion then that Jesus had “flipped out,” so to speak. Later, after the resurrection, when James did believe and served as the leader of the Jerusalem church, he wrote, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” Interestingly, that sounds very much like what Jesus said to the crowd that day. Hearing the word of the Lord is great, but just hearing it has no life-impact. We need to do the word, that is, live what it teaches. That is what distinguishes us as the family of Jesus.

Genuine faith always expresses itself through action. We believe it. We live it. That’s part of the way the world then gets it. During this Christmas season, let's do everything possible to be sure the world "gets it," insofar as it depends on us.

Lord, Help us daily to hear Your word and then live it. Amen.

Monday, December 21, 2009


“Then the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” (Jonah 2:10)

Jesus was the only baby born to die. He was born to become the sacrificial Passover Lamb. His birth in Bethlehem set in motion events that spanned about 33 years that, by the plan of God, would reach their climax at a place called Golgotha, or Calvary.

Along His journey, a day came when some of the religious leaders challenged His authenticity and demanded that He given them a sign if He was the Messiah. Jesus commented first about their generation and then responded, “No sign will be given to it [this generation] except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.” (Matthew 12:39-40)

Jonah 2:5-6 reads, “The waters engulfed me up to the neck; the watery depths overcame me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. I sank to the foundations of the mountains; the earth with its prison bars closed behind me forever! But You raised my life from the Pit, Lord my God.” Then came verse 10, “Then the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.”

The sign of Jonah was death and resurrection. So Jesus was saying to these religious leaders that His death and resurrection would be the only sign of authenticity they would be given. Since they were not to be in that group that would actually see the resurrected Jesus, Jesus was telling them they would have to make a faith decision. Thus, the sign of Jesus’ Messiahship can only be received on the basis of faith. Jesus was calling for repentance and faith, and He pointed them toward prophecy and its fulfillment as at least part of the basis for a faith response.

Jesus was the only baby born to die. Thus, Christmas paved the way for Easter.

Lord, Your thoughts are so far beyond ours. You planned Christmas and Easter before the foundations of the earth we laid. And now You have called us to walk with You on the road You paved for us. So we thank You. Amen.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


“Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Look, the Devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will have tribulation for 10 days. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10)

Jesus said those words in His message to the church at Smyrna. The church there was poverty-stricken and had been faithful to God throughout their history.

This raises a question or two doesn’t it? To some, it’s the question that’s been around for a long time: Why do good people suffer? The more cynical folks phrase it rather differently: How could a good God let His people suffer? Their question masks an underlying belief that either God is not good, or God is not sovereign, or there is no God. But among those who are faithful, the question is an honest one, especially when they undergo intense suffering. Why does God allow this?

The stock answer, and the only real answer to the question, is: We don’t know. But the question does deserve some elaboration.

The fact of our suffering does not negate the sovereignty of God. Nor does it elevate the power of the Devil. Satan can only do what he is allowed to do by God. God’s sovereignty is at work in our suffering, at least in some manner. God allows our suffering to test (strengthen) our faith, much in the same way as He did with Job.

Also, our suffering does not mean that God does not love us. Just the opposite, it proves that He does. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that if a father loves his son, he will discipline (teach) him because he wants his son to grow strong. A father who does not discipline his son does not love him.

We should further remember that suffering is only a temporary situation. It may not seem that way sometimes, but all situations do change. The suffering of the church at Smyrna was for “10 days,” which simply means, “for a brief time.” Their faithfulness through their suffering would in turn produce a positive witness about their love for God and their dedication to Him regardless of what comes their way, and that in turn would draw others to a faith like that.

Though this elaboration still does not fully answer the question, it does help point us to the reality that Paul understood. “And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

Let your suffering lead you to rejoicing.

Father, There is so much we do not understand, but we recognize that we do not always have to understand. Help us to simply be faithful and to rejoice for the ways You are going to use our difficulties to make us stronger. Amen.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


“Hear this! The days are coming – this is the declaration of the Lord God – when I will send a famine through the land: not a famine of bread or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.” (Amos 8:11)

I can’t imagine anything worse. A famine of the words of the Lord would be to me the worst thing imaginable.

The Lord gave Amos those words to the people of Israel. I’m sure it increased his popularity! Actually, he had already been asked to leave Israel because of the veracity of his prophetic declarations, but he had another Master to obey rather than the king.

The reason the Lord gave the message was that the people of Israel were not listening. They were ignoring the words of the Lord, treating His words with contempt, and basically following the whims of their every desire. Indulgence was their logo. Injustice was their standard. Irrelevance was their destination. They were about to be relegated to insignificance. The Lord was about to use a “dirty broom” (Assyria) to level Samaria and exile the Israelites. Only, they didn’t see it coming. That’s because they were not listening, and that’s why there was about to be famine of the words of the Lord.

Nothing good comes from not listening to the word of the Lord. Anytime a nation begins to turn away from the word of the Lord, or begins to seek its own path apart from the Lord, God will be patient for a while, but if nothing changes that “grace period” will end. And no one will like the results.

We need to pray that our nation, which sometimes appears to be not listening very well, may turn around and move in God’s direction, to hear His word and heed it.

Lord, Forgive us for when we do not listen. Help us to hear, help us to respond, help us to turn daily toward You and seek Your word. Amen.

Monday, December 14, 2009


“I will show you what someone is like who comes to Me, hears my words, and acts on them.” (Luke 6:47)

Jesus went on after the statement above to describe a man who built a house. He first dug down to the rock and built the foundation on the rock. When the floods came, the house stood firm. Then Jesus described a man who built his foundation on sand, and when the floods came his house was swept away. Jesus said that the second man represents those who hear His words but don’t act on them.

Two thoughts emerge. First, it is important to have a solid foundation for life. Paul said that there is no foundation other than Jesus Christ. Only He is sufficient to serve as our foundation for life. Jesus and His word provides us with the solid foundation that braces us against the floods.

The second thought is that regardless of who you are, the floods do come. When a flood comes no one in the area is immune. Jesus taught elsewhere that God sends the rain both on “the just and the unjust.” It follows also that the floods of this life, those overwhelming events of life, come both upon the just and the unjust.

Being related to the Lord does not exempt us from the struggles of this life. But it does prepare us for them and provides us with the ability to endure. We can trust Him to bring us through them.

Lord, Some of the events of life overwhelm us at times, but how thankful we are that we know You. You are the foundation of our lives. Amen.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Heart Flow

“For each tree is known by its own fruit. … A good man produces good fruit out of the storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of his heart.” (Luke 6:44-45)

One of the reasons there is no cause to judge others is that the substance of someone’s heart will always become self-evident, sooner or later. A heart filled with the goodness of God will express that goodness. A heart that is filled with evil may be able to fool people for a time, but evil will eventually find its way to expression.

For example, Jude warned about “certain men [who] have come in by stealth; they are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into promiscuity and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” He described them as “discontented grumblers, walking according to their desires; their mouths utter arrogant words, flattering people for their own advantage.”

Goodness of heart is a fundamental, foundational, elemental condition. It cannot be manufactured. It has only one Source – the Holy Spirit. He produces this goodness when faith catalyzes a spiritual union with Him in a life event we describe as “being born again,” being saved. Consistent, life-long goodness flows from the heart of one who believes in Jesus. Maybe that is part of what Jesus meant when He spoke of an overflowing fountain.

Lord, May the flow that comes from our hearts always serve to honor You. Amen.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


“For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38b)

We have a modern day proverb that says, “What goes around comes around.” We generally use this when we want to warn someone about how their actions might come back to haunt them later on. There is some similarity between that thought and what Jesus said, “For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Jesus stated this principle with two negatives and two positives: judging others, condemning others, forgiving others, and giving to others. The idea is that if you judge others, whatever criteria you use for judging them will be applied to you. Whatever criteria you use to condemn others will be applied to you. Also, if you forgive others, you will be forgiven by that criteria, and to the degree that you give, actually much more will be given to you.

The point Jesus makes here is that it is better not to judge or condemn others at all and focus instead on bringing your own life into greater submission to the life God has called you to. To the degree we do that, we then have a clearer perspective of how God relates to all of us.

Lord, Help us today to remain focused on bringing our lives into conforming with Your will. Amen.

Monday, December 7, 2009

American Idols

“Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21)

John wrote his letters to 1st century Christians, and in the 1st century Roman Empire idolatry was rampant and pervasive. Not only did people regularly go to the temples to worship the Roman pantheon of gods, but most families even had their own personal small idols they could wrap up and even take with them on trips, “gods in a bag,” if you will. It was a common practice and so much part of the culture that it wasn’t even noticed. It was normal and expected then.

John knew that these idols had no power or basis in reality, so what he was warning believers about was the influence of idolatry, or the influence of its pervasiveness. He knew that the call to follow Christ was a call to the confession that “Jesus is Lord,” and ONLY Jesus. Just prior to this warning he wrote in verse 20, “He is the true God and eternal life.” That means there is no room for any other god. But John also saw the pervasiveness and total acceptability of idolatry, and he was concerned that some believers might continue to be influenced by idolatrous practices or maybe just passively ignore them. He saw the need for them to move totally away from any form of idolatry.

Believers in the 21st century need to hear this word in our context, because there is some clear application to us. Christians in some cultures in our world still face that same literal question of what to do about idolatry because in some countries it is still widely practiced. But even in our own “enlightened” western cultures, there are forms of idolatry that are practiced. Idolatry is any thing or person which usurps God’s position of sovereignty in His personal relationship with us.

In our American culture are there any more or less universal practices which are widely accepted which might constitute a form of idolatry, anything that might draw us away from our walk with the Lord? Think about it.

Lord, Help us to have no other “gods” besides You. Only You are God. Amen.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Troublesome Truth

“But He knew their thoughts and told the man with the paralyzed hand, ‘Get up and stand here.’” (Luke 6:8)

Jesus went to the synagogue on a Sabbath and taught. The Pharisees and others were watching Him closely. He had already offended their sensibilities by defending His disciples’ actions in the wheat fields. They had dared to pluck a few grains of wheat on the Sabbath because they were hungry. Jesus reminded them of something David once did because he and his men were hungry. So they were watching Him through piercing eyes.

There was a man in their midst with a paralyzed hand. Would He do it?
Jesus knew their thoughts. And He knew they were watching. No one was compelling Him to heal the man with a paralyzed hand. Would one day make a difference? Why not just wait until the next day? Why antagonize these people?

Things are not always as simple as they appear. Jesus knew that these men needed some serious readjusting of their thoughts. He knew that the next day, they would all be about their own business and wouldn’t care whether the man was healed or not. He knew that the man was there and needed healing, and He did not know where he would be the next day. Sometimes truth just cannot be postponed. So, Jesus healed the man, enraging many in the synagogue, who immediately began to try to think of ways to get rid of Jesus.

The purpose of this miracle of healing was not just the healing of the man’s hand. It’s greater purpose was to demonstrate an important truth the people were missing. Jesus knew this was going to antagonize them. Regardless of what they might think of Him, He knew their thinking needed to be challenged with the truth.

Truth antagonizes some; others it sets free.

Lord, May we humble ourselves before You and always be willing to adjust our thinking in the face of Your truth. Amen.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Of God

“Whoever does not do what is right is not of God, especially the one who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:10b)

John shows us the real meaning of what we call “salvation.” It means to be “of God.” Interesting isn’t it, how one little 2-letter word can make all the difference? To be “of” God means to belong to Him. Salvation is thus a relationship. In fact, it is a union with God, so that we are then of God. The way we then know we are of God is that we live our lives rightly in relationship with Him.

Living life rightly does not mean that we live it sinlessly. No one on earth is capable of doing that. John in fact acknowledges that we do sin. Living rightly simply means living positively in relation to God, and one specific way that is revealed is by loving others the way God does. This kind of love is not just the “feel good” stuff that movies with lofty music backgrounds portray. This is God’s kind of love, the “agape” kind. Apart from God, we are not capable of this kind of love, so when we demonstrate it we reveal that we are “of God” because He is the One who produces that love in us. In fact, when we demonstrate it, it is actually God in us taking action through us.

So, the key to living rightly and loving one another is to submit ourselves to the work of God in us.

Lord, Help us to live this way each day. Thank You for Your forgiveness in those times that we don’t. Amen.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Day

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:29)

These words above are the concluding thought of a psalm that includes this statement: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This came from the Lord; it is wonderful in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Many of us have thought of or quoted the last sentence when we’ve wanted to approach a given day with a positive attitude. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Mostly, we have taken the verse out of its context and confined its application to that particular day, but doing so misses the greater meaning. The “day” referred to here is more generalized. It is more of a “day and time” in general, and the context is the day of the Messiah. The psalm projects how the One who was rejected actually became “the Cornerstone.” That should be the cause of our rejoicing, and that is also why we say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever.” That is worth rejoicing over any day.

Lord, Each day with You is a great privilege and worth rejoicing over. We especially rejoice that the Day of the Messiah is now in effect. We rejoice over what has been accomplished through Him for us, and we thank You. Amen.