Tuesday, July 27, 2010

An Indescribable Gift

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Paul’s statement in the verse above came in the context of proving our commitment to God through generous giving for the Lord’s ministry. Paul was gathering an offering to take to the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem from the Gentile Christians of Macedonia and Achaia. In this section he focused on the right motivation for giving. Our giving must never be because someone pressures us into it, but purely out of thanksgiving to God for His overwhelming and indescribable generosity toward us in sending us His Son. Giving is a service that must come from and be decided in the heart of each person, and we give trusting God to provide for our need. Giving like this glorifies God and serves further to point to the validity of the gospel in changing lives. And it serves to build up and strengthen relationships.

This giving is the product of the indescribable gift which was given to us. Jesus took the penalty of our sins upon Himself when He died on the cross in our place, and through the power of His cross and His resurrection He has now given us peace with God through faith and forgiveness of sins, ushering us into eternal life as citizens of His kingdom. Our ability to comprehend such grace in light of the absolute holiness and righteousness of the God of all glory is extremely limited. About the best we can do is simply say “thank You” and then demonstrate our gratitude through our service, one of which is giving.

Lord, Help us today to give from our hearts because You did. Amen.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dynamic Duo

“When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.’” (Matthew 9:36-38)

Know anyone who feel "weary and worn out?" Many feel this way because they are beset by problems and illness and bad news. Jesus compared people in this situation to “sheep without a shepherd.” They have no one to protect them, no one to help them find food and water, no one to help them when they are sick and injured, no one to care for them. They are easy prey.

Jesus saw people in this condition, and He was moved to compassion. This was not just an inward feeling of sorrow for their plight, though; it was a feeling within that moved Him to overt action, which is what compassion is.

Jesus acted to take care of the needs of these people, and then He made that striking statement, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” This is a statement which we apply to evangelism. It’s interesting that in compassionate action Jesus’ thinking went straight to evangelism.

What we thus learn here is that compassion and evangelism go together. Whereas we today tend to compartmentalize our lives, Jesus did not. We tend to put compassion in one category and evangelism in another. Maybe what we really need to do is to restore the wholeness approach and create stronger ties between compassion and evangelism, and not neglect one over the other.

Lord, Help us today to practice compassion that is evangelistic and evangelism that is compassionate. Amen.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cultural Tension

“Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)

A nearly constant tension Christians live with is the question of cultural compatibility. To be sure, few Christians go around thinking about that, but whether they realize it or not, it is happening all the time. The question is: How can we live in the world and yet not be of the world. In cultural terms: How can we be part of our culture and yet not be influenced by the evils in it?

Some Christians, like the Puritans, sought to build a culture of purity within their own ranks and withdraw from the world around them. Some of that has spilled over into the Amish communities of today. Is this the solution, to withdraw from the world?

On the other side of the issue, just a casual glance at the American Christian church of today will show that our culture is nearly fused with Christian expressions. It’s difficult at times to know where “the world” ends and “the church” begins.

Donald McGavran, a church growth expert of several decades ago, said that 95% of culture is innocuous, so that many cultural forms are of no real consequence to Christianity. It just means that Christian expressions will differ from culture to culture. But he further suggested that there can be no compromise with the other 5%. But what does that 5% look like? It would have to include such things as: values, relationships, and moral standards.

We might learn something helpful from gold. Gold can be shaped into rings, necklaces, and bracelets. It can be molded into watches. Gold is used today in computers. It has medicinal uses. Probably its most important use is that it serves as the foundation for our monetary system. But regardless of how it is used, the fact remains that it is still gold. That doesn’t change. The fact that it is valuable never changes either.

Peter told us that our faith is like gold, which, when tested by fire, serves only to remove the dross and result in a purer gold. But not even the fire can change the fact that it is still gold.

The point of all this is that Christians need to be Christians, whatever their role in a given culture. When Christians adopt the values of the world, the world’s standard in relationships, and the world’s standards of morality, that would be like mixing gold with lead. The gold gets diluted and loses value.

Let gold be gold. Let Christians be Christians: actively involved throughout culture, but not changed by it.

Lord, We recognize the validity of this, but we also know that it’s a little harder than it sounds. We need Your Spirit’s power within us to enable us to live this way. Amen.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ; certain that God is appealing through, we plead on Christ’s behalf, ‘Be reconciled to God.’” (2 Corinthians 5:20)

The essential role of an ambassador is to represent. He or she represents not himself or herself, but the government of his home country. The tasks of an ambassador include: facilitating official communications, acting and making decisions for the good of his home country, presenting the views of his home country, and providing avenues for others to visit and/or enter his home country.

As ambassadors for Christ, we represent Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God to our world. We communicate God’s truths to our world, proclaiming salvation in Christ alone. We appeal to our world to be reconciled to the God who provided the means for their reconciliation through the cross of Jesus, and we invite the people of our world to enter into the citizenry of the kingdom of heaven through personal faith in Jesus Christ.

As we enter into this day, may we remember that we represent not ourselves but Jesus Christ in this world as our first priority. May those we meet this day recognize us as His ambassadors, and may the Lord use us to bring others into His kingdom today.

Lord, Help us to serve today as Your faithful ambassadors. Amen.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Gadarene

“At that the whole town went out to meet Jesus. When they saw Him they begged Him to leave their region.” (Matthew 8:34)

The story of the Gadarene demoniac is fascinating at several levels. In Matthew’s version of this story there are two violent, demon-possessed men living among the tombs, apparently one quite vocal and the other not so much. Jesus cast the demons out of them and allowed them to go into a nearby herd of pigs. The pigs then ran down a steep slope into the lake and drowned. The townspeople got the report of the incident and went out to meet Jesus. They saw the former demoniacs clothed and in their right mind. They saw the herd of pigs floating on the lake. Then, they begged Him to leave. Why?

The herd of pigs represented a significant source of income. The loss of an entire herd did a great deal of damage to the local economy as well as their food supply. From the townspeople’s viewpoint, for Jesus to remain there created an economic risk they did not want to face. So, they asked Him to leave.

From Jesus’ viewpoint, something more important than the economy was at stake. His priority was healing and restoring the lives of two men, liberating them from the torment of spiritual forces. He was more interested in the spiritual condition of people than He was in economics. Should that not say something to us?

This suggests that maybe our priority should also be the spiritual condition of people’s lives and hearts rather than on economics. In a time when the local and national economies are stressed, it’s easy to get caught up in that fear, but it is more important that our priorities match the Lord’s priorities. And His priority is people.

Lord, Help us daily to re-order our priorities according to Yours. Amen.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Unfading Hope

“He has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

Moses used to spend hours and hours in the Tent of Meeting in the presence of the shekinah glory. As a result, when he exited the tent, his face was glowing brightly. The light on his face came from God’s glory. When people saw it they were afraid. Then, gradually the glory light would fade from the face of Moses, and that created a greater fear for the people. The light on his face represented hope and connection to the people, so when it faded, that represented the loss of hope and connection. This was so unsettling that the people went so far as to have Moses cover his face so they would not see the fading of God’s glory.

Paul referred to this in his letter to the Corinthians and used it as a launch point to teach a New Covenant truth: We now have the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in us, the light in the face of Jesus Christ, which never fades. The Holy Spirit now dwells in us, and the glory of God is, therefore, in us now. Invisible, yes, but nonetheless there. And this is permanent. No fading. Thus, because of Christ in us we now have an unfading hope.

Lord, You are our hope, and Your light now shines in us. Help us to let the light out, so others may find their way to You through us. Amen.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Spirit Freedom

“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)

The most significant functional reality of life may well be the freedom that comes from knowing the Lord. We could easily point to other realities that are extremely important to us, but knowing the Lord and living in liberation from the tyrannical power of sin provides a release that is humanly indescribable. The Holy Spirit produces this freedom, wherever He is, and when He dwells in us, that is one of the results.

This freedom of the Spirit is a freedom of relationship, a freedom of enlightenment, and a freedom of transformation. We are free to walk with God and with one another. We are free to grow in our understanding and knowledge of God. We are free to become the men and women God always intended for us to become. Could anything be greater?

The Lord reached through the veil of our spiritual blindness and removed it, so that we could see His light. He welcomed us into His kingdom with open arms, though we did nothing to deserve it. He is transforming us by the radiance of His glory.

Lord, For all this we give thanks to You. Lead on, and we will follow. Amen.

Monday, July 12, 2010

“I Could Never Do That!”

“He has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit produces life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6)

“Oh, I could never do that!”

A missionary colleague once decried how it seemed that he heard that statement or one like it over and over, and he was tired of hearing it. This particular missionary went regularly into some of the remotest regions of our world to some of the remotest unreached people of our world. He waded through leech-filled rivers and climbed high mountains to get to his people. His stories genuinely amazed people, so that nearly every time he spoke, people would come up to him later and say, “Oh, I could never do what you do.” His response became nearly automatic. He said, essentially, “Sure you can. Anybody can do what I do.”

Obviously, some folks have physical limitations that would not permit them to do what he did, but this missionary understood a basic truth that we sometimes need to be reminded of: The work of God’s kingdom is not so much dependent on our skills or competencies but on the competency give to us by the Holy Spirit. All we need to do is make ourselves available to God, trust ourselves to His will, and He will then make us competent for any task He assigns us. This is what then brings glory to God.

Lord, Indeed there is much we feel we could never do, but we also understand that if You call us to a task, You will make us competent to complete it. Amen.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Opportunity Lost

“The Lord responded, ‘I have pardoned them, as you requested. Yet as surely as I live and as the whole earth is filled with the Lord’s glory, none of the men who have seen My glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tested Me these 10 times and did not obey Me, will ever see the land I swore to give their fathers. None of those who have despised Me will see it.” (Numbers 14:20-23)

The Lord told Moses to choose 12 men, one from each of Israel’s tribes, and send them to spy out Canaan. The 12 returned, and 10 of them said the land was great but filled with fortified cities and giants. They said they felt like grasshoppers in comparison, and their conclusion was that entering Canaan was impossible. Caleb and Joshua, however, said the land was great, and that Israel could enter and take over the land because the Lord would give it to them. The people accepted the majority report. Fear blazed through the camp, like an electric shock. There was talk of choosing a new leader to lead them back to Egypt. There was talk of stoning Moses and Aaron for getting them into this mess. The appearance of the Lord’s glory, however, prevented that, and then came the judgment of God – one year in the wilderness for each day the spies were in Canaan. They would wander in the wilderness for 40 years, until that generation all died. Opportunity was lost.

The failure to act in faith often results in the loss of opportunity. God’s patience may endure for a time, but eventually a refusal to obey the Lord’s command or direction can lead to the loss of the opportunity the Lord provided. All people have left then is their thoughts of “what could have been.” Some might call that “tragic.”

The Lord gives us “timed opportunities.” We need to follow Him in faith and obedience in His timing if we want to live the opportunities He provides rather than having to reflect back on what might have been.

Lord, Help us to be perceptive to Your leading and responsive in Your timing in all the opportunities You give us. Amen.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Beyond Our Strength

“For we don’t want you to be unaware, brothers, of our affliction that took place in the province of Asia: we were completely overwhelmed – beyond our strength – so that we even despaired of life.” (2 Corinthians 1:8)

Sometimes God leads us into life experiences that take us beyond our strength. We might describe some of these with the word “affliction” because that is how it feels. We should probably distinguish, though, between those that are of God and those that are of our own doing. Affliction that is the result of our own wrongdoing is clearly not of God, unless by judgment. Peter warned us about these. He suggested that suffering for doing wrong has no benefit to us, while suffering because of some good we do does have spiritual benefit to us.

These afflictions that Paul writes about are afflictions we go through as a result of our walk with God, when we find ourselves “in over our heads” so to speak. The task is far beyond our ability to carry out. The endurance is beyond our personal capabilities. The suffering is beyond our personal strength. As a result, the only option we have is to rely on Him, to trust Him, to cast ourselves upon Him and His care and power.

If we follow Christ seriously, eventually we end up in this place. We must remember that the way He went led to a cross, and if we follow Him we need to be prepared for such. Sooner or later, we will be in a situation that is beyond our strength. But that actually becomes the time when we can be the strongest, because in our weakness we must rely on His strength. And to Him will go the glory.

Lord, We thank You that we do not have to depend on our strength for those experiences that are beyond us. Amen.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Birds

“The Lord answered Moses, ‘Is the Lord’s power limited? You will see whether or not what I have promised will happen to you.’” (Numbers 11:23)

What the Lord promised in the verse above was meat for his people. They had complained to Moses about having none. All they had was “this manna” every day. So Moses took their complains to the Lord, and the Lord promised to give everyone a 30-day supply of meat.

Remember – they are out in the desert. The terrain is rocky and barren in all directions, and not all that suited for supporting animal life. Moses mentioned that they had 600,000 foot soldiers. If you factor in a wife and children for each, you can guess that there were more than 3 million people here to feed. So, Moses was thinking “impossible.” And basically, that’s what he said to God. Thus, the Lord’s response, “Is the Lord’s power limited?”

The Lord indeed fulfilled His promise. Tons and tons of quail suddenly landed right beside their camp. Everyone then had meat. Promise fulfilled.

Moses learned two lessons that day: 1) Never question the Lord’s power in any realm of life, and 2) What the Lord promises He will fulfill. What may seem impossible to us requires only a decisional action from the Lord in relation to His promise.

Maybe we need to apply these truths to our lives as well.

Lord, Help us to live this day recognizing the possibility of the impossible, simply because of who You are. Amen.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


"But when you fast, put oil on your head, and wash your face, so that you don’t show your fasting to people but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:17-18)

Something in us appreciates recognition. It somehow seems to validate us. It leaves us with a sense of satisfaction and gratification. We feel appreciated. Recognition can serve good purposes, and it can genuinely encourage people.

The need for recognition can, however, become a negative, a detractor if it becomes a driving force in our lives. Demonstrating a particular behavior to others so that we can gain their recognition reveals a need for acceptance, a need for someone to provide a validation of one’s life. If we thus serve for the recognition that is given, once it is given that is all the reward we will receive, because the eternal factor was ignored.

Serving, giving, and otherwise helping others can have eternal rewards. It offers an eternal recognition from the Father. It is His recognition that provides us with the greatest of rewards. But that recognition is lost, along with its reward, if we serve, give, or help in order to be recognized by other people. So says Jesus.

Father, May our actions serve first to honor and glorify You always. Amen.