Thursday, February 25, 2010


“When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not fear.” (Psalm 56:3-4)

Trust is a decision. It is one of two responses to a dangerous situation that disturbs our equilibrium. The other response is fear.

Fear is our normal response to threat or danger. We describe fear as a primal emotion. It is simply how we are “wired.” This emotion, when it kicks in, trumps almost everything else. It tends to take over. Then once the adrenalin surge dissipates, the will gradually regains its control.

This does not mean we absolutely lose control. Fear may be the strongest influencer when it’s at its operating peak, but the human will still works. Decisions can still be made in the midst of fear. In fact, it is possible to deny fear its full impact, as in a combat situation when soldiers fight an enemy in spite of (or sometimes because of) their fear.

This is why trust is a decision, and it is a two-fold decision, first, to reject fear, and second, to choose trust. We can choose our response to danger or threat, but we have to will to do so.

God is trustworthy. When we are afraid, we can choose to trust in Him. Trust is a decision.

Lord, Help us to make the decision even now that when fear begins to encroach the peace we have in You, we will choose to trust in You. Amen.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


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

Puzzled people have tried to explain away Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. He has been portrayed as a righteous Zealot, upset that Jesus refused to destroy the Roman occupation forces. He has been portrayed as taking an action designed to force Jesus into a position where He had to act decisively against the Romans, only to be stricken with remorse when Jesus was crucified. Judas has even been portrayed as a victim, chosen by Jesus because He knew Judas would betray Him and, therefore, was an innocent victim of a divine play.

The fact is: We have no clear-cut knowledge of why Judas did what he did.

The closest we can get to knowing is from Luke’s statement: “Satan entered Judas.” Some would, again, call Judas a victim. They would say it is like being drugged or drunk: Judas was not the responsible party. But that doesn’t hold water either.

Judas walked with Jesus for three years. He saw the miracles. He heard the teachings. He fellowshipped with the Messiah, the Son of God. That means that Jesus, in choosing Judas, gave him three full years of opportunity for commitment. Eventually, whatever his reason or motivation, Judas turned away from Jesus, and THAT is when Satan entered Judas. Judas was not a victim. He was a perpetrator.

The Lord gives opportunity to everyone to turn to Him, to commit to Him. He holds each of us accountable for our decisions and the actions that follow. Choosing to commit to Him is the life path.

Lord, Choosing to follow You in faith and commitment has brought the greatest joy we can know. We thank You for Your grace. Amen.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


“Be on your guard, so that your minds are not dulled from carousing, drunkenness, and worries of life, or that day will come on you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come on all who live on the face of the whole earth. But be alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36)

In the days leading to His crucifixion Jesus taught His disciples what was to come in the future. This discussion began with a remark from the disciples about the beauty of the stones of the temple. Jesus replied that not one stone would be left on another. The temple would be destroyed, as would Jerusalem itself. Jesus prophesied two events in that teaching session: 1) the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and 2) His second coming.

At the end of the session Jesus told His disciples to be on their guard and be alert, with regard to these future events. He did not want the disciples to be caught off guard by them and wonder what was happening and why. He also wanted them to have the strength to escape the events and the strength to stand before Him in a day of accountability.

The future, the end times, the second coming – these have long been of interest to believers. We find them fascinating. Something in us wants to know what is coming and when. Part of our motivation is the need to deal with the “why” question: why is this happening? Jesus doesn’t want us to be surprised by anything that happens. He wants us not to panic, but to simply understand. He does not want us at an extreme, that is, paranoid about it all, but He does want us to be alert and prepared for it to happen at any time. This does not suggest we drop everything, go sit on a hillside, and wait for it to happen. It only suggests that we be aware of what is going on around us and be alert, while we continue our advance into the world with the gospel.

Lord, We thank You that we, in fact, have a future, and that that future is with You. We look forward to it. Amen.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Directional Decisions

“For it was the Holy Spirit’s decision – and ours – to put no greater burden on you than these necessary things.” (Acts 15:28)

All decisions are direction-changing, but some decisions have greater impact on direction.

No decision has had greater impact on the direction of the church as a whole than the one made at the Jerusalem Conference in Acts 15.

Pharisees who became believers brought their thinking and influence to the life of the church. They influenced theology toward the view that the full observance of the Law was a requirement for Christians. Their movement began in Jerusalem and spread soon to Antioch. Paul and Barnabas had just returned from the first missionary journey, however, and they entered into “serious debate” with these men. The question ended up in Jerusalem in a full conference of the church.

Paul and Barnabas gave a report of the great strides the gospel made during their journey, especially among the Gentiles. The Pharisee party members responded that the Gentiles must be circumcised and told to keep the Law. After much debate Peter stood and spoke against trying to force Gentile believers to be circumcised and keep the Law, on the basis that salvation is by grace through faith. Barnabas and Paul spoke again, and then James, the current leader of the Jerusalem church stood and agreed with Paul, Barnabas, and Peter, and suggested that they simply make Gentile believers aware of certain practices they felt would bring peace. Thus the decision was made, and the understanding the church had about this decision is that it came first from the Holy Spirit, followed by their affirmation.

This decision began the momentum for moving the church away from Judaism as its primary practice and toward the practice of freedom in Christ. It marked a change in direction that picked up greater and greater momentum as time went by.

What major decisions in your life have been direction-changing?

We need to first hear the Holy Spirit as we wrangle with issues that call for a decision, whether personal or corporate, and then affirm what we believe He is saying.

Lord, May all our decisions each day come from the leadership of Your Spirit. Amen.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Anyplace Anytime

“He went by stages from the Negev to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tend had formerly been, to the site where he had built the altar. And Abram worshiped the Lord there.” (Genesis 13:3-4)

After his arrival in Canaan, Abram built an altar and worshiped God there, between the villages of Bethel and Ai. A famine drove him and those with him to Egypt where the “Sarah-Pharoah” debacle occurred, and from there Abram and company returned to Canaan to the place where he had first built an altar between Bethel and Ai. There Abram worshiped the Lord. Later, when he moved to the Oaks of Mamre near Hebron, he built and altar there also and worshiped the Lord.

We learn something very important about worship from Abram. We can worship God wherever we are, or wherever we go. He built an altar, presumably for sacrifice, wherever he went to express his worship. This suggests that the place of worship is not necessarily the most critical aspect of worship, although we should all have a place where we can personally worship the Lord. Place is relevant but not critical. It also suggests to us that the form of worship is not its most critical aspect either, though there should be some form to it. Form also is relevant but not critical.

The purest worship is often the simplest.

Lord, May our daily worship before You not be encumbered by questions of place and form or anything else. Help us instead to come before You in simplicity to worship You from the heart, for Your glory. Amen.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Faith or Insanity?

“So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran.” (Genesis 12:4)

Abram was born in the city of Ur of the Chaldees, which today is in the nation of Iraq. His father Terah led their entire family to migrate to Haran which is part of Turkey today. While in Haran the Lord spoke to Abram and called him to leave his land, his relatives, and his father’s house and go to a land He would show him, with the promise that God would make Abram a great nation.

“So Abram went.” This is a great statement of faith. It was an amazing faith.

If this were to happen today, however, many might call it something else. They might call it a “mental breakdown” or a “schizoid break with reality.” Some would see it as emotional instability. They might say things like, “Abram, are you crazy? You think God actually spoke to you and told you to leave your only real hope for prosperity and go wandering around like a vagabond in a place you’ve never even seen? And God is somehow going to make you a great nation? Don’t you realize that you’re jeopardizing the safety of your family? This is sheer insanity!”

What makes this faith and not insanity, and why was it faith rather than insanity?

We could always argue from the viewpoint of current results and show that the promises of God were fulfilled for Abram, thus confirming faith, but faith after the fact is then fact. Faith is only faith before the fact, not after.

The nature of faith is believing some thing or some one without seeing everything. Faith is a personal response of belief to a partial picture or promise. Abram believed in his mind and heart he had been in the presence of God, and that God spoke to him clearly. Faith is taking a risk that what you experience with God through His word in your personal walk with Him is truth and reality that calls for the action of obedience.

What made this faith and not insanity is the relationship, which was characterized by trust and love. Those who challenge faith itself simply deny its validity, claiming that it has no basis in fact or reality. Those who champion faith experience its reality through personal relationship with the God who created us.

Lord, We recognize that we walk by faith, not by sight, and we do so because we trust You and love You. Amen.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Word Power

“The Lord said, ‘If, as one people all having the same language, they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan will be impossible for them.’” (Genesis 11:6)

At one time there was one universal language everyone used. We don’t know what the language was, but we do know that a significant group of people settled in what was called “the Shinar valley,” (Babylon, Iraq today), and these folks began to build a tower. Their intent was to build a tower to the sky. Their understanding at that time was that the sky was the abode of God, so they determined to build their own way to get there. Having everyone speak the same language made construction much simpler and easier.

From God’s viewpoint, everyone speaking the same language created a dangerous situation for them spiritually. It created a pride, the intent of which was to exalt man to the position and place of God. That’s what the tower of Babel represented – man’s pride. That led to an action from God to confuse the language of man, so that they all spoke a different language. Now, we have to study other languages if we want to communicate with people of different cultures.

God recognized (in His statement) an inherent power that exists in communication. When people speak the same language, they have a greater capacity, a more powerful potential to create, to build, to achieve. When that capability is unredeemed, it has the greater potential to create evil. When it is redeemed by the power of God, however, and energized by His Spirit, it has the capability for being used by the Lord to help build His kingdom.

Lord, May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight. May we communicate today in ways that honor You and build Your kingdom. Amen.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Waters Receded

“God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the water began to subside.” (Genesis 8:1b)

The story of Noah and the ark fascinates us. The events of that story are sometimes challenging, sometimes encouraging, and always interesting. Sometimes, though, we pass over details that teach great truth.

Many have the idea that the flood just lasted a few weeks or maybe a few months. The waters receded, but very slowly; painstakingly slowly in fact. The Bible says that in the 600th year of Noah’s life, on the 17th day of the 2nd month, the flood began (Genesis 7:11). Then it tells us (8:14) that the ground was dry enough for Noah and his family and the animals to exit the ark on the 27th day of the 2nd month of Noah’s 601st year. That means a total of 1 year and 10 days that it took for the waters to recede, which means also that Noah, his family, and the animals were on the ark for more than a whole year. That’s a long time to live on a boat.

We learn a truth from this that may encourage us today. Sometimes “floods” that come our way linger for long time. The only action possible when that happens is to wait patiently and persist in whatever opportunities and activities are available to us, maintaining our hope in the promises of God. We are to be faithful, trusting God as we wait for those waters to recede. And eventually they will.

Remember this the next time you see a rainbow.

Lord, We’ve all experienced some of life’s “floods,” but we know with the psalmist that You are King “over the flood.” So we trust You, and we will walk with You faithfully as the waters recede. Amen.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Passing Through

“He entered Jericho and was passing through.” (Luke 19:1a)

The story of Zacchaeus captivates children. Adults, too, actually. It is a story of compassion, repentance, forgiveness, redemption, restoration, and salvation. It touches our hearts. But the only reason the event happened was because Jesus was passing through Jericho, where Zacchaeus lived, on His way to Jerusalem and ultimately Calvary.

If Jesus were to pass through your neighborhood, would you be among those who go out to see Him? And if you did, what would you ask of Him? What an experience that would be!

BUT – we actually already have something better than that, don’t we? He dwells in us. We do not have to wait for Jesus to come to our town, and neither does He just pass through. He has “moved in” as the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts and in our minds. We are now one with Him. We can talk with the Lord any time. We can fellowship with Him any time. We walk with Him all the time. He is no longer just passing through. We have an eternal relationship with Him and He is now eternally present with us, and ultimately we will be eternally with Him.

Throughout the day, let Him remind you of this.

Indeed, Lord, please do remind us throughout this day and each day that You are with us as we walk through this life. Amen.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Freedom Threatened

“…and he killed James, John’s brother, with the sword.” (Acts 12:2)

Luke tells us that “Herod attacked some who belonged to the church.” Why he did so is anybody’s guess. It doesn’t seem to make much sense. The church was non-violent. It contributed positively to society by providing food for the poor. It did not intentionally antagonize the government or other leaders, though it did aggressively evangelize and teach. There is no evidence that the Jewish leaders of the day asked this of Herod, although Luke does note that when Herod saw that his beheading of James pleased the Jewish leaders, he took it to the next level and also arrested Peter and scheduled his execution. The church’s freedom was now on the chopping block. Indeed, the church itself was facing a potential bloodbath.

After Saul’s persecution of the church dissipated, there was a period of peace and growth, so this insane attack from Herod seems to have come from out of nowhere. It was completely unexpected, and it was the next major crisis the church had to face. We learn at least four very important truths from their experience: 1) Satan will do his best to do his worst when the church is least expecting it, 2) the greatest weapon available to the church to deal with severe crisis is earnest prayer, 3) we all must be prepared to take our stand with Christ whatever the cost, and 4) God will always preserve a witness to achieve His purposes. While all of this has application to the church, we should also note that it has application to individual believers as well.

Lord, We recognize that severe threat can produce severe fear, but earnest prayer can produce a powerful shield, because of who You are. Amen.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


“I assure you: Whoever does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:17)

How does a child welcome the kingdom of God? They do so the same way they would welcome a gift. First, they generally trust the one giving it to them. Then, they accept it. They accept it with joy. They accept it with joy as theirs. They accept it with joy as theirs and then tell their friends. They accept it with joy as theirs, tell their friends, and then take their friends to the giver to see if they can get it, too.

Jesus says that whoever wants to enter the kingdom of God must welcome and enter the kingdom in the way a child would.

Lord, Being in Your kingdom is one of our greatest joys. Help us to share the good news of Your kingdom with others. Amen.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


"And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.’” (Genesis 2:16-17)

Have you ever wondered why God put the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden in the first place? He could have precluded this whole sin thing just by not planting those trees there. There would have been no temptation. There would have been no disobedience. There would have been no need for the cross. Wouldn’t it have been much simpler to leave those trees out of the equation and just say to Adam and Eve, “Eat to your heart’s content from everything in the garden.”? Simpler? Yes. But what would you really have then?

If there was no possibility of temptation or disobedience, what you would have had, in effect, was basically a prison. You would have only a restricted freedom, not real freedom. Genuine freedom of the will must carry the potential for temptation and disobedience.

So what we have in these two trees is a test of relationship. The man and the woman were created in God’s image, which at least includes a genuine freedom. Those two trees represented a choice. The choice was total fellowship with the Creator, or death by disobedience. It would seem to be a no-brainer, but the fact of our freedom carries with it the appeal to self-will and the desire to grow and become. That was the essence of the temptation from Satan. He appealed to their desire to become “more.” Also, there is something in us that cannot conceive of our actually not being alive, so the death thing is a little difficult for them to grasp psychologically.

What the man and woman failed to understand was that relating to God positively has exponential possibilities of becoming more, of expressing freedom, compared to relating to Him negatively, which immediately creates limitations and actual self-imprisonment. Self becomes our dictator. Disobedience dominates. And Satan smiles.

Lord, Guide us by Your Spirit into full fellowship with You and wipe the smile off of Satan’s face. Amen.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


“We wait for the Lord; He is our help and shield. For our hearts rejoice in Him, because we trust in His holy name. May Your faithful love rest on us, Lord, for we put our hope in You.” (Psalm 33;20-22)

If you find yourself waiting in a doctor’s office waiting room, what do you expect is going to happen? You expect that within a certain amount of time a nurse will open the door to the doctor’s office and call your name, so you can see the doctor. You keep waiting because first you expect this to happen and second because you trust it will happen.

Every human being on the face of the planet is familiar with the “waiting” concept. It’s as common an experience as breathing air. Probably no one likes to wait. You will never hear me say, “I just can wait to get in line at the store so I can wait some more.” But waiting is generally the result of not having a choice but to wait to achieve the outcome we desire.

So why do we wait for the Lord, as the psalmist says? When we find ourselves in situations where the only acceptable outcome must come from the Lord, then we do not run ahead of God and try to resolve it ourselves. We simply wait on Him, and we do so because we know the Lord is our help and our shield. We wait on Him because it is in Him that we rejoice and find our reason for being. We wait on Him because we have come to trust Him through the years.

Waiting for the Lord is simply trusting God faithfully.

Lord, We confess that we do not like to wait, but we also recognize that waiting for You is one of the ways we express our trust in You. Thank You for the joy this gives us. Amen.

Monday, February 1, 2010


“Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not conceal my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and You took away the guilt of my sin.” Psalm 32:5

Christians try to avoid sin. We recognize its hurtfulness to others or to our selves or to our relationship with the Lord and with others, so we try to stay away from it. Sometimes, however, we mess up and sin. Because it is personally embarrassing, we may typically keep it concealed from others. Some even try to conceal it from God. Why anyone would try, though, is puzzling.

David said that he acknowledged his sin to the Lord and did not try to conceal it. He apparently realized at some point that it was not possible to conceal anything from God. God knows it already. In fact, there is nothing about us He is not aware of. Nothing is hidden from Him.

David learned that the acknowledgement and confession of sin to God brings forgiveness and cleansing because of His compassion and grace. When God forgives He takes away the guilt of our sin. It is done, complete. And we need then to let it stay with Him. In other words, we need to NOT try to take the guilt back from Him. That is then how we know the joy of forgiveness and restoration.

Lord, Help us to live free today from all guilt through confession and forgiveness. Amen.