Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hope Conclusion

“Hallelujah! My soul, praise the Lord. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing to the Lord as long as I live.” (Psalm 146:1-2)

These two verses that head up Psalm 146 are the psalmist’s conclusion. “I will praise the Lord all my life.” He then shows how he got there.

He first states categorically that he did not get there by the help of man. He admonishes people not to put their hope and trust in man, even if that man is a person of great character and standing, someone like a noble. Man’s help cannot be trusted because man is finite. He dies. On the day he dies, so do his plans. Thus linking your hope to what someone else can do for you places you on tenuous footing.

The psalmist says he came to his conclusion because God is the One who helped him, who blessed him. He admonishes us to put our hope and trust in God, who is not finite, who remains forever faithful.

But watch what happens next in Psalm 146. In verses 7-9 the psalmist enumerates several expressions of God’s faithfulness and compassion. Let’s think through these. Does God execute justice for all who are exploited? Does He give food to all who are hungry? If He does, how is it that some in our day still die of starvation? Does the Lord free all prisoners? Does He open the eyes of all who are blind? Clearly, in our observable reality, the answer to these questions is no, not in every case. However, when these events do happen, they come from the Lord. No man is capable of any of this. Only God is capable, and therefore only He is worthy of our hope.

Another possible understanding is that the psalmist is speaking here of spiritual realities, of spiritual injustices, spiritual hunger, spiritual bondage, spiritual blindness and such.

Mainly, these items the psalmist touches on are expressions of human hope. We thus tie our hope fully to the Maker of heaven and earth, who alone has the ability to do these things, whether in a physical reality or a spiritual reality. And that is why we sing our praises to Him, for all eternity.

Lord, Our hearts sing Your praises today, for You alone are worthy. Amen.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wise Path

“No one should deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks he is wise in this age, he must become foolish so that he can become wise.” (1 Corinthians 3:18)

Foolishness is the pathway to wisdom. That sound irresponsible, doesn’t it? Even oxymoronic. What father, for example, would say to his teenage son, “Son, I want you to become foolish”? Instead, a father would try to put his son on the pathway to maturity. Proverbs in fact advises repeatedly against the pursuit of foolishness in favor of the pursuit of wisdom. So, what in the world is Paul doing here?

For one thing, he is dealing with the “wisdom cult” at the Corinth church. Some of these folks held the view that wisdom was the means for getting into heaven, that the universe in fact revolved around wisdom. So they promoted the pursuit of wisdom. Paul’s response was that human wisdom did not even come up to the level of “God’s foolishness.”

For another thing, Paul was promoting the cross of Jesus as the means which established the possibility of eternal life for us. He spoke of the message of the cross as being viewed by the world as foolishness, and yet, the cross is God’s wisdom. The foolishness of the cross is part of the way God pushed aside any efforts to cling to human wisdom as a source for salvation. The cross was God’s way of shaming “the wise.”

Third, Paul was encouraging the Corinth church to pursue God’s wisdom rather than man’s. Since God’s wisdom is foolishness in the world’s view, pursuing God’s wisdom is thus pursuing what the world sees as “foolishness.” This particular pursuit of foolishness is, therefore, the way to wisdom – God’s wisdom.

Lord, We recognize that many in our world see the cross and our faith and call it all foolishness, but for us this path of foolishness has led us to Your wisdom. For that we thank You, and we commit ourselves today to continue on this path. Amen.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Measured Sin

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses: ‘Tell the Israelites: When someone sins unintentionally against any of the Lord’s commands and does anything prohibited by them - …’” (Leviticus 4:1)

Leviticus 4 deals with sin offerings for “unintentional” sins. These offerings do not apply to sins of open defiance or premeditated sins, but rather to sins committed without thinking, reactively. What we see in this chapter is a measured response, based on a person’s status in the community.

These laws start with the priests. A priest who sins unintentionally has to bring an unblemished bull as an offering. The same offering is required if the whole community of Israel sins. A community leader has to bring an unblemished male goat. Individuals in the community who sin are to bring an unblemished female goat or an unblemished female lamb.

This shows us that greater consequences are placed on the basis of the relational status of an individual to the Tabernacle services. The greatest consequences fall on the priests and the community as a whole, on the priest because he of all people should know better, and on the community because it is the priest’s responsibility to educate them as a whole about the law. Next came community leaders and then individuals.

The idea is that, while sin is sin regardless of who commits it, there is a graduated cost or consequence for someone based on that person’s proximity to work of the Lord. Thus, the closer someone is to the Lord’s work, the greater the expectations the Lord has of that person. The idea is that “to whom much is entrusted, much is required.”

Some might then say, “Why should I try to get closer to the Lord, then, if it’s just going to cost me more if I sin against Him?” We do not make the determination to grow in our relationship with the Lord based on what sin might “cost.” In fact, God Himself has already paid the ultimate “cost” for our sins. Here is what this text is saying: the closer I am to the Lord, the more it hurts me when I sin against Him, because I have a better understanding of what the offense of sin does to God’s holiness. Thus, the closer we move toward the Lord, the greater our desire to not sin against Him. So, the call of God to us is to grow in our faith walk with Him.

Lord, Help us to grow more toward You today, and in our understanding of Your holiness and in our understanding of how You want us to live our lives. Amen.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Couple of Pigeons

“’Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When any of you brings an offering to the Lord from the livestock, you may bring your offering from the herd or the flock.’” (Leviticus 1:2)

God gave Moses specific instructions about burnt offerings. People could choose whether they would give a bull (from the herd) or a sheep (from the flock). The Lord then laid out the entire procedure in detail to be followed.

Interestingly, after all these instructions a “third option” from the Lord emerged. “If his gift to the Lord is a burnt offering of birds, he is to present his offering from the turtledoves or young pigeons.” Then followed the procedural instructions for birds.

So, why is this of interest?

Not everyone had a herd or a flock. But anyone could come up with a pair of turtledoves or pigeons. This means that no one was to be excluded from worship because they did not have enough money for an offering. Anyone could go out and catch a couple of birds, plus, since they were so abundant they cost almost nothing. This opened the door for all to participate, even the poorest of the poor. This was thus God’s compassionate embrace of the poor.

Guess who needed this option? Joseph and Mary.

Thank You, Lord, that no detail ever escapes Your notice. Your constant care for us is a constant comfort. Amen.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


“But from Him you are in Christ Jesus, who for us became wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, in order that, as it is written: The one who boasts must boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)

What God has done for us through the grace of the cross has brought us into Christ, so that we are now “in Christ.” This is one way of understanding the concept of salvation. As we might be in a room, or in a building, or in some country even, so we are likewise in Christ. As someone comes in out of the rain, so we have come into Christ out of the world of sin. Except, this goes almost indescribably deeper than that, because coming into Christ is not just entering a place or a status or some residence; it is relationship. To be in Christ is to have an eternal union with Him. On the basis of a faith commitment, a union takes place between our souls and the Spirit of God, described as “in Christ.” We’re in.

Christ thus becomes our everything, so to speak. Paul defines it in four ways. Christ is our wisdom, our understanding about how life is to be lived. Christ is our righteousness, through whom we have a right standing with God. Christ is our sanctification, or our “holy-fication,” (to coin a word) whereby through Him we grow closer and closer to God and more and more Christ-like. Christ is our redemption, the One who, by the blood of His cross, “bought us back” from the depths of sin.

The point of all of this is simply that we accomplished none of it, nor could we. We were slaves to a life of sin. But what Christ did on the cross has set us free. Now, we are free to live the life God always intended that we have.

Lord, We thank You for the freedom we now have in Christ Jesus. Help us to live this life now in all the ways that honor You. Amen.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cross Wise

“…Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom.” (1 Corinthians 1:24b)

Not much has changed in 2,000 years. To some, the cross of Jesus is offensive. To others, the cross of Jesus is ridiculous. Those are the two primary rejections the world, that is, those who do not know the Lord, gives to the cross. To those who open their hearts to the good news story of Jesus and His cross and resurrection and receive Him into their hearts by faith, the message of the cross is one of power and life and freedom. It represents God’s salvation, the way He has chosen and ordained to rescue us from the penalty of our sin. He is the One who pronounced judgment on our sin, and that is because of His absolute holiness. He is also the One who pronounced forgiveness of our sin, and that is because of His grace in response to the blood of Christ, given on the cross.

The world is in love with its version of power, but it knows very little of real power. The world is in love with its version of knowledge, reality, and wisdom, but it knows very little of real knowledge, reality, and wisdom. Real power and wisdom belong to God, and they are expressed fully in Jesus Christ.

Today, pray for those who are deluded by this life, that their eyes may be opened to the truth of the gospel, so they may come to experience the real power and wisdom of God that is found in Christ.

Lord, May others come to faith in You today through our prayers and our witness. Amen.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


“I will give You thanks with all my heart; I will sing Your praise before the heavenly beings. I will bow down toward Your holy temple and give thanks to Your name for Your constant love and faithfulness. You have exalted Your name and Your promise above everything else. On the day I called, You answered me; You increased strength within me.” (Psalm 138:1-3)

Pressure-packed days can drain energy, wilt wills, and glaze eyes. Would that be a good time for a personal retreat? Whether a few minutes, a few hours, or a few days, a personal retreat is mainly just a time set aside just for personal communion with the Lord. David saw the wisdom of this in Psalm 138.

In a personal communion, we give thanks to the Lord with all our heart. Every experience, every thought, every emotion – we acknowledge these, but then we lay them down and bring everything that is within us to an apex in which we say, “Lord, from the bottom of my heart and with my whole heart, I give thanks to You.”

In a personal communion, we praise Him whether voiced or unvoiced. You can sing praises to God in your own mind. Songs of faith guide us through the gates of communion into the joy of God’s presence. “Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah.” “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” “How Great Thou Art.” “Alleluia.” “I Exalt Thee.” Try one and see how it goes.

In a personal communion, we worship the Lord. Certainly praise is part of this, but worship is essentially declaring the “worth-ship” of God and observing it ourselves. It is the expression of openness toward God and seeking the Lord from our heart, our mind, and our soul. Worship is declaring trust in the constant love and faithfulness of God, and thereby experiencing strength which the Lord increases as we worship.

In personal communion, we find strength from the Lord to face whatever otherwise would dilute it.

Lord, You are our greatest joy, the strength of life, the reason for our existence. May this day be a day of personal communion with You. Amen.

Monday, May 17, 2010


“I thank my God for you because of God’s grace given to you in Christ Jesus, that by Him you were made rich in everything.” (1 Corinthians 1:4-5)

“Rich” is probably a matter of perspective. Clearly, it’s relative. What is considered the poverty level in the United States, for example, might be viewed as crazy rich by families who work all day at Philippine trash dumps looking for food. And, children who grow up “poor” may never have any idea their family is poor with regard to money, depending on the attitudes expressed by their parents.
“Rich” is not something limited just to money. We tend to think it is, but Paul addressed the Corinthian Christians as made rich by God’s grace, and he specified that they were rich “in all speaking and all knowledge” as a result of God’s grace. They were rich in spiritual gifts. They were rich in hope and faith.
Faith reminds us that in Christ we are rich, not so much as the world deems richness, but in that which really matters. Genuine richness is faith grown up.

We thank You, Lord, that You have made us rich in what matters. Help us to share this “wealth” with others who need it. Amen.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


“Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7)

If there had been a floor debate and vote over whether it was to the disciple’s benefit that Jesus go away, Jesus would have lost the vote. The disciples either saw no benefit or could not understand it. What could be better than for Jesus their Messiah to be there in Person with them? From their view, it couldn’t get any better than that. Why would it be to their benefit for Jesus to leave them and be replaced by the One He called “the Counselor?”

Here are a few possible benefits to consider. First, Jesus lived around or with them. The Spirit would dwell in them. Then, Jesus was limited to the physical world (by choice), while the Spirit, being spiritual, knew no such limitation. Jesus had to sleep. The Spirit never does and is always available. Jesus could teach them from without, but the Spirit could teach them within and even guide them from within. Jesus could motivate them from without, but the Spirit could energize from within. Jeremiah hinted at this when he said that the covenant would no longer be on tablets of stone but on the tablet of our hearts. The Spirit, said Jesus, would come alongside and would dwell within, and He saw this as being much to the benefit of the disciples.

The Holy Spirit is our ready Counselor. He is the same Spirit who was in Jesus, and now He is in us. He is now a source of power and strength and blessing and grace, and in our hearts He now exalts Jesus. To a rationalistic and godless world this is nothing short of delusional, but for those of us who know the Lord and see this reality, the world’s rationalism is what’s really delusional.

Lord, We thank You for Your Spirit who dwells within us. Holy Spirit, fill each of us today and bless us as only You can. Amen.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Shadow

“You are to make the altar for the burning of incense… Overlay its top, all around its sides, and its horns with pure gold; make a gold molding all around it.” “Take for yourself the finest spices: 12 and a half pounds of liquid myrrh, half as much (six and a quarter pounds) of fragrant cinnamon, six and a quarter pounds of fragrant cane, 12 and a half pounds of cassia (by the sanctuary shekel), and one gallon of olive oil. Prepare from these a holy anointing oil.” (Exodus 30:1, 3, 22-25)

People read through verses like these above with glazed over eyes. This section in Exodus provides some of the “specs” for building the Tabernacle and its furnishings, and there does not appear to be much spiritual application. But maybe we should take a second look.

A primary ingredient in the Tabernacle, which was to be a place of sacrifice and worship and atonement, was gold. Most of the furnishings were to be overlaid with gold. The lamp was to be of solid gold. Gold generally represents endless value and beauty and durability. It is known as a precious metal.

Incense was to be burned on an altar specifically constructed for that purpose. The formula for the incense mixture was to include: stacte, onycha, galbanum, salt, and frankincense.

The Lord further instructed Moses to formulate an anointing oil, which he was to use to anoint the furnishings of the Tabernacle, Aaron and his sons as priests, and their priestly garments. Oil would later be used as well to anoint prophets, priests, and kings. One of the primary ingredients for this holy anointing oil was liquid myrrh.

So, in this one chapter about seemingly mundane matters we find references to gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Do these ring a bell?

When the Magi from the east came following a star to meet the baby who was born King of the Jews, they stated to Herod, “We have come to worship Him.” When they finally found the child, “Falling to their knees, they worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:2,11-12)

Thus, the Tabernacle furnishings with all its details provided a kind of “shadow” of what was yet to come. Maybe verses like those in Exodus are no so mundane after all.

Lord, Help us to love Your word – all of it – more and more each day. Amen.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


“Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

There is no shortage of evil in our world. Sometimes it appears that evil seems to be winning. We see much godlessness, brutality, deception, and betrayal running rampant in our world. We see it at all levels of society and culture. In some places in our world, evil oppresses Christians directly. Governments restrict Christian activities. Leaders and people of other faiths persecute Christians. In other places the oppression is more insidious. Law and economics are used to bring pressure against Christians to get them to just keep their beliefs to themselves. Standards (called “political correctness”) are established to present a challenge to the values that Christians espouse and teach. Adherents to such things see themselves as “good.” Isaiah warned, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.” (Isaiah 5:26)

Romans 12:21 reminds us that we must not give in to evil, whatever form it may take, and that, in fact, we must actively and aggressively conquer evil with good. In the verses around verse 21 Paul shows us how we can do this.

Love is the starting point. Paul wrote that love must be genuine, not hypocritical. It is not love when we say we love someone but then act in ways that do not support that statement. Rather, that is the definition of hypocrisy. People usually know when love is genuine. They not only feel it, but they see it. Interestingly, even a dog can look into a human being’s eyes and tell if the person is friend or foe. Children have a way at times of seeing right through subterfuge. Love must be genuine, not feigned.

Pride is also relevant here. To conquer evil, we have to reject all pride and conceit as unfit for Christians. Pride ultimately creates barriers to relationships and to the expression of goodness. Humility breaks through such barriers.

Peace is important as well. The peace Paul speaks of here is relational peace, and such peace is something we can only approximate. We have absolute peace with God through the blood of Christ, but in human relationships we mostly get close and then closer. When tensions rise relationally peace wanes, but when we resolve the tensions we begin moving once again toward peace.

So, we conquer evil by practicing love, humility, and peace.

Lord, Help us today to not be conquered but to conquer any evil in our path by practicing that which is God in Your eyes. Amen.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Faith Hesitations

“Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me. Otherwise, believe because of the works themselves.” (John 14:11)

“Lord, show us the Father, and that’s enough for us.”

Three years. For three years Philip had been a disciple of Jesus. Why couldn’t he perceive the spiritual reality right in front of him? The evidence was overwhelming – healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons, incredible instructions. Thousands of miracles, many not even recorded. It’s as if someone had pieced together 999 pieces of a 1,000 piece puzzle, and Philip wasn’t satisfied unless he could see that one more piece.

Before we come down too hard on Philip, we should probably recognize and confess that we might not fare any better ourselves if we were in his sandals.

The evidence truly is overwhelming. The records are very clear. And yet, like some of the disciples and a multitude since then, we sometimes still have “faith hesitations.” A faith hesitation is a little question mark in the back of the mind that just sort of resides there. It only seems to come into play when a decision of faith is called for. It more or less whispers, “Is any of it really true?”

Jesus challenged Philip in front of everyone, probably because He knew that there were others who had some faith hesitations or challenges. He basically said that if Philip had a problem believing Him, then he should look at all the works that had taken place and believe because of them.

Many in our world hear the story of Jesus and hesitate to come to faith in Him, because the story seems so incredulous. Some never do come to faith, but what we can do is to keep pointing to the truths that are recorded in the Scripture, and let the Lord use His own words to bring people to the conviction of truth.

Lord, We pray today for those who deal with faith hesitations, that the works You have done will help to move them beyond those hesitations to the commitment of faith. We pray especially that the lost will come to faith because of the truth of Your works recorded in the Scripture and recorded as well in our lives. Amen.