Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Voice

“When Moses entered the tent of meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim. He spoke to him that way.” (Numbers 7:89)

Have you ever wondered what that was like? Moses met with the living God daily, sometimes for hours at a time, in the tent of meeting (the Tabernacle’s Holy of Holies), and God spoke to him directly and audibly. It was clearly a voice. It came from between the two gold cherubim (angelic, winged creatures), one piece with and attached at either end of the solid gold mercy seat which sat atop the Ark of the Covenant. The only light came from the “menorah” lamp just outside the curtain. The layers of covering for the tent made outside sound virtually inaudible. So, the light was dim, and it was peacefully quiet, except for the movements of Moses and his voice and the voice of God speaking.

We do not know what the conversations were, but we can surmise that during these times God at least gave Moses instructions, that He gave Moses encouragement and strength, and that He gave Moses His blessings. Just imagine.

The days of the Ark of the Covenant are long gone. Only God even knows where it is, if, in fact, it is still intact on this earth. Today, there is a “new” Ark of the Covenant, and it is your heart and mind as a believer in Jesus Christ. Jeremiah told us about it. He prophesied that the day would come when the Covenant would no longer be on tablets of stone but written on our hearts. God’s “mercy seat” now resides in our hearts, and while we do not necessarily hear an audible voice with our physical ears, we can nevertheless hear the voice of God in our hearts and minds, giving us that same instruction, encouragement, strength, and blessings. Best of all, we never have to leave the tent!

Lord, We thank You that now, by the blood of Christ, You dwell within us through Your Holy Spirit. Help us thus to live the life of the Spirit. Amen.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


“The Lord sat enthroned at the flood; the Lord sits enthroned, King forever. The Lord gives His people strength; the Lord blesses His people with peace.” (Psalm 29:10-11)

The thing about floods is: they impact everything. If you’ve ever been in one, you know it’s true. Their destruction can be devastating.

Some life events come upon us like floods. Have you ever received a phone call or a message of tragedy, something you didn’t expect? The words of those messages sweep over us like a flood, and with each passing moment the depth increases. Nothing is left untouched. It’s almost like life and activity is totally suspended while you thrash around trying to survive it. A flood of sorrow can do this to you.

David grew into a perspective in his life that may help us. In the tragedies he faced, he still acknowledged the sovereignty of God. He wrote, “The Lord sat enthroned at the flood; the Lord sits enthroned, King forever.” He accepted the flood because he recognized that in spite of it, God was still the sovereign Lord.

David also recognized that God would give his people strength to endure the flood and ultimately bring them to peace. Maybe we need that same confidence for the floods we face, the confidence that says, “I believe the Lord will see me through this.” Maybe it’s a little like the perspective Paul grew into, “I have learned the secret of being content… I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Lord, For the floods that come into our lives, help us to first recognize that You are still the Lord, that nothing can change that, and help us to keep moving toward You in the confidence that You will lead us into Your peace as You strengthen us. Amen.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Be Strong?

“The Lord is the strength of His people.” (Psalm 28:8a)

“Be strong!”

That’s what we sometimes advise others when life is crumbling around them. We also use the vernacular, “Hang in there!” or “Hang tough!” We mean well. We are trying to encourage people not to give up, to maintain their focus on hope. We might serve them better by simply saying something like that. “Don’t give up!”

An important reality calls out for recognition, like a child in a classroom raising his or her hand as if to say, “I know the answer.” The reality is the one David experienced over and over: The Lord is the strength of His people. The between-the-lines translation is: The Lord was David’s strength.

Our tendency when we face something that appears nearly impossible is to either try harder or give up. David is advising us of the third and correct alternative: Go to God. The Lord is the strength of His people, so why not first go to Him and trust Him for His strength and power and protection? We do what we can in any situation, but when the barriers are stronger than we are, doesn’t it make more sense to seek the Lord’s strength and rest in His strength? That is the way of wisdom.

Lord, Help us to be wise and act wisely today. Amen

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Camp of God

“The Israelites did everything the Lord commanded Moses; they camped by their banners in this way and moved out the same way, each man by his clan and by his ancestral house. (Numbers 2:34)

Imagine yourself standing on top of a high mountain and looking down on the valley below, your eyes taking in the massive scene of humanity below in the camp of God. The camp itself was organized by the Lord’s instruction. The tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun camped toward the east. The tribes of Reuben, Simeon, and Gad camped to the south. Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin camped to the west, and Dan, Asher, and Naphtali to the north. In the middle the Levites camped by the Tabernacle which was central to Israel’s very being, for there the Lord resided. When the Shekinah glory cloud lifted, Israel was to pack up and move out just as they were camped. Impressive, to say the least.

The most impressive feature of all was simply the centrality of the Lord’s presence among the people of Israel. This was impressive because it provided access to the Lord from any direction. That doesn’t mean that anyone could go into the holy of holies for a direct audience with the Lord, but it does mean that everyone had an equal access to the Lord through prayer. All had equal access for worship as well.

The centrality of the Lord’s presence was impressive also because it brought order to the chaos. Earlier, Israel was just loosely organized, but with these instructions to Moses, the Lord organized them.

The application of this in terms of “take-home” truth is two-fold: 1) We all have equal access to God in faith, and 2) the Lord’s presence in our lives brings peace out of the chaos we sometimes experience in life.

Lord, May Your Spirit dwell at the very center of our being, and may we be at the very center of Your will. Amen.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


“These are the names of the men who are to assist you.” (Numbers 1:5)

The Lord told Moses and Aaron to take a census of Israel to register all the men 20 years old or more, those who could serve in the army. The Lord then specified by name all the leaders of the tribes of Israel who were to assist. Moses and Aaron did exactly as the Lord commanded and registered a total of 603,550 men.

We see two lessons of intrinsic spiritual value here, though they may not be all that apparent.

First, why would God call for a census when He already knew what the number was? Obviously, it had to have something to do with Israel’s need, not His. Did He just want them to see what a huge army was possible among them? Was He trying to instill confidence in them? Maybe. A better understanding is that God wanted them to see just how much He had blessed them. They were 70 in number when they arrived in Egypt. Some 430 years later they were 603,550 men, not including the women and children. This was in spite of the decimation of their numbers from the killing of infants at Pharaoh’s orders, despite the suffering, affliction, and death due to their slavery in Egypt. God had taken their original number and grown it to as many as 3 million. That is a testimony to God’s sovereignty, and maybe that is what He wanted them to see.

Second, God mentioned all the leaders of Israel’s tribes by name. That means He knew each of their names. Personally. And it further means that he knows your name. Personally. The God who is God of the many is also God of the one. He knows you.

The point of both lessons is inescapable: God is trustworthy. That is what He wanted them to know. It is what He wants us to know today.

Lord, We recognize Your trustworthiness, and in trust we follow You. Amen.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Angels and Dreams

“After they were gone, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, ‘Get up! Take the child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. For Herod is about to search for the child to destroy Him.’” (Matthew 2:13)

Joseph had at least four encounters with angels and dreams which determined major decisions. The first came when he learned of Mary’s pregnancy. “An angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream,” was the first statement. (Matthew 1:20) The second instance, from the text above is stated almost exactly the same way. The third instance occurred in Egypt after Herod died. “An angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream” is the statement in Matthew 2:19. The fourth time came when Joseph was “warned in a dream” when he learned that Archelaus was ruling in place of Herod and withdrew into Galilee and settled in Nazareth.

Have you ever had what you felt was an encounter with an angel of the Lord in a dream?

If such an event were to occur in your life, how would you know whether this is truly an angel of the Lord, or that your dream was something from the Lord?

First, the appearance would be sudden. He would simply be there. Second, the angel would not claim any allegiance to himself but would represent God. Third, the angel would deliver a message from God or otherwise give a direction that is from God which would not in any way conflict with what is already written in the word of God. Fourth, the message would be something intended to further the kingdom of God centered around the divinity and authority of Jesus Christ, or to prevent a major hindrance to the kingdom of God. The criteria is steep. It was then for Joseph as well, given what was at stake.

Lord, We seek Your will, and we seek a personal communion with You in which You speak to us in ways of Your choosing. Help us to be perceptive to the ways and the times when You speak, whatever form that takes. Amen.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Future View

“Lord, You are my portion and my cup of blessing; You hold my future.” (Psalm 16:5)

The future beckons to us, dreamlike, calling us to enter into its aroma of possibilities. Sometimes it seems to say, “Anything is possible.” Sometimes when we peer into them, we feel more like, “That’s not possible.” So our thinking about the future fogs up like a car window in the winter.

The truth we need to hear is instead: “With God, all things are possible.” There may be any number of determinative decisions we could make that might impact the future we have, but for Christians we hold this truth close to our hearts: The Lord is our portion and our cup of blessing; He holds our future.”

Those who believe anything is possible will move into the future probably with some excitement, as well as some anxiety and worry, because they have hitched themselves to currents and eddies formed by chance.

Those who believe that with God all things are possible will move into the future with excitement and peace, because they trust the purposes of the Sovereign Lord for their lives. They know the future is secure for them, regardless of the direction the Lord leads them.

Lord, May we rest in Your eternal purposes for us as we move into the future you have for us. Amen.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

People Pleasers?

“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, do everything for God’s glory. Give no offense to the Jews or the Gentiles or the church of God, just as I also try to please all people in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.” (1 Corinthians 10:31-33)

In Chapter 1 of 1st Corinthians Paul has already said that the message of the cross is an offense to Jews and foolishness to Greeks. Comparing that statement with the verses above, clearly Paul is talking above about something other than the gospel message. When Paul says we should give no offense to the Jews or the Greeks or the church of God, he is obviously meaning something other than the message, and in fact, he is talking about the more practical matter of how we live our lives in the larger community.

The life principle here is to live our lives in ways that will cause others to glorify God. Two spin-offs of this principle come into play: 1) avoid any offensive behaviors, and 2) employ pleasing behaviors.

It may be hard for some to see Paul as a “people pleaser,” but that is actually how he describes himself. He wrote, “I try to please all the people in all things.” Never at the expense of truth, of course, but what Paul is suggesting is that we try to be people who are pleasant to be around.

Interestingly, sometimes in our zeal Christians who want to be seen as committed to the Lord will take on an aura of harshness. In some folks’ eyes, that seems to be the epitome of one given over to God, but in reality it wins few people to the Lord. We might need to remember that bees are drawn more to honey than to vinegar. It is one thing to be committed to the truth of the gospel, regardless of what people think of it. It is another thing to behave in ways that cause people not to want to seek the Lord.

What gives glory to God is when people are drawn to the Lord because they feel loved and accepted when they are around us.

Lord, We do indeed stand firm in You for Your truth. Help us to be as committed to being those who are pleasant to be around, so that others may be drawn to You through us. Amen.

Monday, June 14, 2010


“Therefore, my dear friends, flee idolatry. … You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons.” (1 Corinthians 10:14, 21)

In the Roman Empire, idolatry was THE belief system of the day. Nearly everyone worshiped the Roman (and Greek) gods, and some even considered the emperor a god, so they worshiped his image as well. To most in the empire, this was much like breathing air: something everybody needed, something everybody did. No one saw anything evil about it. Just the opposite, they considered it all good and proper, that which good citizens did. Not to do this would be the mark of an ungrateful citizen, an anti-social, anti-government subversive.

Paul understood this. He was, after all, a Roman citizen himself. He recognized that an idol is nothing but wood, stone, or metal and not a god at all. He also recognized that these idols represented demons, and that those who participate in their worship were in essence participating in the worship of demons, so he challenged believers to run away from idolatry in all its forms. To engage in any form of idol worship, including temple feasts, represented to him a compromise of the blood of Christ. He wanted to be sure that no one lost his or her testimony by participating in such events, which was the danger that they faced.

Idolatry is by no means dead in our world today, but certainly in this country it is not something we see much of. The introduction of Buddhism and Hinduism in America have, of course, introduced such elements, but as of this date those religious belief systems have not been that engaging. Still, what we must understand is that idolatry is a belief system, and there are many kinds of belief systems beyond idolatry. Materialism is a belief system, is it not? Patriotism can be turned into a belief system. Spiritism can certainly be a belief system. There are lots of “isms” out there.

The principle we need to remember is that the gospel of Jesus Christ is our belief system as Christians, and all that goes along with that, and it is important that we ensure that our testimony to Jesus Christ never gets compromised. We want the world to know that our belief in Him supersedes everything else.

Lord, Help us to maintain a consistent and faithful witness to You in all the ways we interact with our world. Amen.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Little Knowledge

“But if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.” (1 Corinthians 8:3)

We have no record of it, but from the context we can mostly re-construct one of the questions the Corinthians sent to Paul: “What should we do about eating food offered to idols? Some are saying that as Christians, we have a knowledge that idols are nothing, so it really doesn’t matter. Some are saying that it’s just wrong to eat food offered to idols, and it bothers them when they see other church members doing this. Some of them have said that they were pressured into eating meat offered to idols, and now they feel guilty for it. What should we do about this?”

For Paul the resolution involved looking at the tension between knowledge and love. Faith in Christ brings salvation and thus freedom from the bondage of sin. We are set free to live, to walk with Christ. With this freedom comes a liberating knowledge also, a knowledge that the Lord is God. There is no other. Thus, an idol is nothing but a piece of wood or stone or metal.

The problem comes when some folks reach this level of knowledge while others are not there yet. The problem is two-fold. This knowledge can lead to pride in those who have reached that point, and this pride can then come to dominate them. Then, the exercise of one person’s knowledge can become offensive to someone who believes differently, that it’s wrong to eat food that is dedicated to an idol, for example, with the result that fellowship is adversely affected. If someone who believes it is wrong to eat such meat eats it at the urging of someone who is “knowledgeable,” it can result in guilt and possibly even a turning away from the Lord. Knowledge can thus become destructive.

The resolution to this problem is love, God’s kind of love, the kind that seeks the good of the other person. Paul says that those who have “knowledge” must allow love to supersede that knowledge. The priority is love and relationships over knowledge. Love does not change someone’s understanding or knowledge. It only changes behavior. It leads to behaviors that build up rather than torn down.

Lord, Help us to live a life of love and at the same time to grow deeper and deeper in our knowledge of You. Amen.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30-31)

When you see or hear the word “sign” what do you think of? Some of the responses might include: an advertising billboard on the side of the road, a marker on a street corner telling you the name of the street, a notice of a garage sale or lost dog on a telephone pole, and so on. For some “sign” would be what deaf people do to communicate with each other. For others it would refer to what you do when you write your name. And, of course, for some “sign” would refer to an action or event that serves as an indicator – a signal – of an intent or a desire. The bottom line for all uses of “sign” is simply: communication. A sign is a form of communication.

Jesus performed many signs. Some of them are recorded in the Scripture. According to John, most of them were not. Those recorded have a single intent: to communicate who Jesus is, so that people may believe that He is the promised Messiah of God, the Son of God, with the result that they may have eternal life through Him.

We tend to think of signs as miracles, as “stand-alone” events. For example, we think of the young girl raised from the dead and tend to see that event as an action of Jesus intended simply to restore the life of this young girl and her to her parents. Our tendency is to see miracles and signs in this way. What we need to see, however, is that all the signs and miracles Jesus did were intended primarily as announcements of who He is, and as an invitation to faith.
Next time you have an opportunity to share truth with someone, help them to see that the miracles and signs Jesus did are intended to help them understand who He is, so they may come to believe in Him and know Him.

Lord, May we serve today as effective communicators of your love and truth, that through us others may come to know You. Amen

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


“Lord, our Lord, how magnificent is Your name throughout the earth.” (Psalm 8:8)

Majesty is all around us. Its imagery stamps its impressions on our minds and hearts. Gorgeous images of natural beauty fade in and out of mind: the Japan alps, the limestone karsts of southern China, jungle waterfalls in the mountains of northern Thailand, the giant poinsettias of Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan, the rugged mountains and glaciers of Alaska, the incessant pounding of waves on sandy beaches. As if that were not enough, consider the rising of the sun. Then, there are the stars of a clear night sky, or the soaring of an eagle. The swarm of life over the face of the earth emerges in our minds as well. All majestic. All expressions of the name of God.

The “name” of God refers to God’s character. For lack of a better expression, His name is His “Personhood.” God’s name is “I AM.” Thus, all of this majesty is a statement that “God is.” For anyone to believe otherwise is foolish.

Lord, We bow before You and acknowledge Your awesome and majestic power. In everything around us, we see Your handiwork, and we praise You. Amen.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


“Do you not know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

One of the most encouraging truths of the Bible is that God has gifted us with His Spirit. The Holy Spirit came from God to dwell in us, the gift of God’s holy presence, made possible by the blood of Christ. He dwells in us now in a permanent spiritual union created through our faith response to the grace of God.

This encouraging thought is also a challenging thought. The Holy spirit makes the place where He dwells holy. By living in us, He therefore makes our bodies a holy place. “Sanctuary” means a holy place for worship, for meeting with God. Our bodies are thus a sanctuary where we commune with God’s indwelling Spirit.

We are, therefore, called to glorify God with our bodies and NOT to use our bodies in ways that would compromise the holiness of God.

Lord, May we each be a sanctuary this day and every day for Your honor and glory. Help us to reject any compromises that might serve to dishonor You. Amen.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Principle and Practice

“For I am the Lord, who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God, so you must be holy as I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:45) “Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit God’s kingdom?” (1 Corinthians 6:9)

Leviticus 11:45 is in the context of the Lord’s instructions to Moses about “clean and unclean” and about how to get clean when an uncleanness occurs. This verse and another similar one at the end of the chapter point to the foundational principle behind the instructions: God is holy, and we, therefore, must be holy. Sin compromises holiness and must, therefore, be resolved. We are to move from the unholy toward the holy, and “holy” means “to be set apart.” That’s the principle we are called to follow.

The context of 1 Corinthians 6:9 starts out with Paul decrying lawsuits among believers. He reminded the Corinthians that Christians are “saints,” which means to be set apart to God (as holy), and that Christians will judge angels as well as the things of this life, suggesting that surely in cases where an injustice has occurred, this could be handled among believers rather than unbelievers. In addition, he went on to point out that believers should not in fact even act in unjust or cheating ways. At that point Paul pointed out that the unjust will not inherit God’s kingdom, and he even specified a list of categories of unjustness or sin: the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, revilers, or swindlers. Our American culture of 2010 deems about 60% of that list currently acceptable. Nevertheless, those who follow lifestyles like these are following a lifestyle that is unjust. Christians are called to leave behind such lifestyles and move forward on the path of a life that is set apart to God. This is the practice we are called to follow.

Lord, Both in principle and in practice, may our lives bring rejoicing to You. Amen.