Monday, August 23, 2010

Prayer Mine

“I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength.” (Ephesians 1:17-19)

Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians is like a gold mine ready to be worked, with numerous veins of gold streaking through solid rock. There are two primary veins. First, Paul prays that God would give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation. Wisdom means to have the ability to comprehend a situation and determine the best course of action in response. Revelation means to “pull back the cover,” so that what is inside is thus revealed. This, too, deals with understanding and comprehension. So, Paul wants us to have this wisdom and understanding so that we can fully know the Lord. Wisdom and revelation are nothing unless they help us to know God.

The second vein of Paul’s prayer is that the eyes of our heart may be enlightened. The heart can often be translated in the Bible as “will.” Paul metaphorically speaks of the heart as having “eyes,” meaning that it is possible for our “will” to see the truth when it is illuminated by the light of God. When the light of God pours into our hearts, into the place where our wills are determined, it has three impacts: 1) we see God’s hope for what He did through His Son, that is, His hope that we will come to repentance and faith, 2) we see the Lord’s inheritance among the saints, that is, His status as the firstborn in preeminence in the creation, and 3) we see His power which has no limitations.

So, here are the gold nuggets from this prayer mine: God wants to know us and wants us to know Him, God wants us to understand His truth, and God wants us to rely on His strength for living this life.

Lord, May we today grow in our understanding of You and Your truth, and may we fully rely on Your strength for this day. Amen.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


“If we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25)

When Paul writes “if” above, he is not raising a question. He is not questioning whether we are made alive by the Holy Spirit. Rather, he is building on the assumption that the Spirit has made us alive. You could almost translate the “if” as “since.”

The point Paul is trying to make is in the second half of the sentence. The idea is that because we are made alive by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. Since the Spirit makes us alive, we must follow Him.

Another part of the idea is that not to follow the Spirit, since He is the One who has made us alive, makes no sense at all. Paul is almost saying, “It goes without saying that since the Spirit made us alive, we are to follow Him as He leads.” It’s sort of like a child born to parents belongs to the parents and stays with them.

And how do we know if we are following the Spirit who makes us alive? It will be seen in the fruit that is produced. Paul named some of them: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faith, and self-control. Fruit that is oriented more to the flesh, by the same token, indicates that someone is not following the Spirit’s lead.

So, the call of God to us today is to live by and follow the Spirit.

Lord, We recognize that by Your Spirit we are born again. Help us therefore to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit in the way we live, not as the product of self-effort, but simply by the Spirit’s work in us. Amen.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Lord’s Ways

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you except to fear the Lord your God by walking in all His ways, to love Him, and to worship the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 10:12)

Does God ask of us today what He asked of Israel? We say that we are on this side of the cross, that we are in “the new covenant” of grace with God rather than the Law. And so we are. Does that mean no Old Testament expectation of Israel or admonition applies?

Well, what did God ask of Israel? Moses sums it up for us in the verse above. There are three basics. God asks first that we fear Him. As in “be totally afraid of?” No, not so much that kind of fear. This kind of fear means to respect, to revere, to honor, and to be in awe of. We show this by walking in “the ways” of God, that is, in the way of right living, integrity, and right relationships. Is this any different in the New Testament?

The second thing God asks of us is that we love Him. He is our heavenly Father. What father wouldn’t want his children to love him, mainly because he loves them? So, is that different in the new covenant?

The third thing God asks of us is that we worship Him with all our heart and all our soul. Because He somehow needs it to sustain Himself? No, nothing like that at all. He asks that of us because we are the ones who need it. Is this any different in the New Testament?

God wants us to be in full awe of His glory, to love Him genuinely, and to worship Him because these actions bring out a greater realization and actualization of who we are in Christ. It draws us toward a greater fulfillment of God’s divine design for us – a personal walk with Him.

Lord, Today may we walk fully in Your ways, that You may be honored in and through our lives. Amen.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Child of Freedom

“Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.” (Galatians 4:31)

In a witnessing encounter, a young Buddhist man said, “I am Buddhist because I was born a Buddhist. If you had been born in Japan, you would be a Buddhist, too.”

There is at least some truth in what he said. A lot of people tend to become religious adherents to the religion that is dominant in a given locale. That doesn’t mean they are committed necessarily; only that they are adherents.

Paul suggested a similar idea in his discussion with the Galatians about law and freedom. He asked them to think about Abraham, who had two sons, one by a slave woman named Hagar, and the other by his wife, Sarah, a free woman. Paul says that one is born into slavery and the other into freedom. He uses this as an “illustration” to make a point. It looks like more of an allegorical use of this example, but he calls their example a “tupos,” which is Greek for “type.” Literally, the word means “shadow.” Still, it’s basically just an illustration.

Paul suggests that Hagar corresponds to Mount Sinai and to the current Jerusalem, both of which were law-related. He says that Hagar’s children are thus those who are still in bondage to the Law. He goes on to say that the children of Sarah are those who are born in freedom as part of “the Jerusalem above.” He seems to be referring to a heavenly Jerusalem. Is it possible he saw the “New Jerusalem” John saw in Revelation? Whether that is true or not, Paul’s point is that Christians are not children of slavery but children of freedom.

That foundation laid, Paul challenges us then to stand firm in our freedom and never again submit to a yoke of slavery, either to the Law or to sin or to anything that would keep us for walking in the Spirit and by the Spirit.

Lord, We thank You today for the freedom we have in Christ. Help us to walk in this freedom in the ways that most glorify You. Amen.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Heart Strength

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26)

“God is the strength of my heart.” What a statement! What an encouragement! The word “heart” very often means “will,” so in this verse we can read, “My flesh and my heart (my will) may fail, but God is the strength of my heart (my will). In other words, there are times when we may more or less lose the will to continue, so that discouragement sets in, and when that happens we need to remember that God is the One who strengthens our wills, our resolve to continue forward.

The psalmist of Psalm 73 expressed all this in concrete ways. He shows us first that God is the strength of our hearts when we can’t seem to figure out why God allows the arrogant, the wicked to seemingly get by with almost anything. He writes of how the wicked seem to prosper, are well fed, don’t see the troubles that many others see, don’t have to deal with much affliction if any, and wear pride like a necklace.

It’s a fair question. Why does God allow the wicked to live and prosper? Well, if God decided just to do away with all evil, that means He would have to wipe out everybody, including you and me. So, where’s the compassion in that? God’s grace means that He allows us all the live and make our choices, but He also says that there is a day of reckoning coming.

The psalmist also shows us that God is the strength of our hearts when we try hard to live a pure life in the midst of people who just don’t care, who don’t love God at all, when that then brings us to a place of frustration. The psalmist found resolution for this, though. It came for him in worship. He wrote, “It seemed hopeless until I entered God’s sanctuary. Then I understood their destiny.” (verses 16-17)

In the presence of the Almighty, from the perspective of the eternal, we hear the voice of wisdom say, “They come to an end, swept away by terrors.” (verse 19b) That is when the stark reality of a final judgment sobers us with its terrible consequence. It spurs us on to continue on our own path and motivates us as well to keep trying to lead the wayward toward the compassion of God and away from the consequence of God.

Moses wrote of strength of heart in Deuteronomy 6. After giving what Jesus called “the greatest commandment,” Moses said, “These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart.” (Deuteronomy 6:6) When God is the strength of our heart, His word then becomes the tool for strengthening our hearts.

Lord, We thank You that You are the strength of our hearts. Amen.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


“You were shown these things so that you would know that the Lord is God; there is no other besides Him.” (Deuteronomy 4:35)

Moses said the words above to all Israel when they were poised to enter Canaan. His words came in the context of his message that Israel remain true to its worship of the Lord and not engage in the worship of idols and false gods. “These things” Moses is talking about are the miracles the Lord performed in Egypt and the Lord’s voice heard by everyone at Sinai through the fire on the mountain. The purpose of the miracles and the voice was to reveal the Lord and His power to Israel, to lead them to faith, to acknowledge Him as their Sovereign Lord.

Wait a minute. Didn’t the Israelites all have faith in God already?

Many have the idea that all the Israelites knew the Lord and worshiped Him only, but that is not the case. Many did know Him in faith, but many did not. Remember the “golden calf?” The fact is, Israel had been in Egypt for 430 years. That means that for 430 years they were exposed to Egyptian culture and religious values and practices and beliefs. By comparison, our own nation is only about 244 years old. Consider how far astray we have gone from the intent of our founding fathers in a little over half the time the Israelites were in Egypt.

Just as God was making a statement to the Egyptians about their gods through the 10 plagues, He was equally making a statement to the Israelites about who is God. God had the same intent as He spoke through the fire on Sinai. So, the purpose of the miraculous has always been to establish faith, to lead people into a personal faith relationship with the God who loves them.

Lord, We acknowledge You as our Sovereign Lord through the miracle of the new birth. We thank You for Your forgiveness and for the eternal life You have now given us. Amen.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Heart Overflow

“For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.” (Matthew 12:34b)

“The man drives out demons only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.” So said the Pharisees about Jesus, and that brought a pointed response from Jesus about how a divided kingdom cannot stand, and about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and its unforgivability. Their statement also set the context for Jesus statement above, “For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.”

The heart is like a storeroom: in it we store what we treasure, what we value. If we value our walk with God, then we will store in our hearts what we learn from walking through this life with Him. When that is what we then value in our hearts, we will find our conversation gravitating toward the things of God. The same is true about family, friends, politics, education, or whatever else we may value. We will store it in our hearts, and we will then speak from that overflow.

We should note as well, as Jesus Himself did, that the same is true on the negative side. If we value what is evil, we will speak from that overflow. If, for example, we are focused on greed or pride, then those values will ultimately flow out of the heart and color everything we say. Thus, the statement the Pharisees made gives an indication that their hearts were far from the Lord, in that they lacked the spiritual perception to realize that the Spirit in Jesus was the Holy Spirit of God. This is one of the reasons we are told in Scripture that we will be judged by our own words. What we speak comes from the overflow of what is in our hearts.

Thus, the call of God to us is to bring our hearts before Him and ask Him to fill them with that which is good and right, that which honors Him. A heart filled with the Holy Spirit does just that.

Lord, May we each be filled with Your Spirit, that our actions and our words may bring honor to You. Amen.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Hope

“All the earth will worship You and sing praise to You. They will sing praise to Your name.” (Psalm 66:4)

What is the psalmist talking about here? Is he prophesying a time to come when all the earth will worship God? Or, is he expressing a hope that all the earth will worship God? Or is there something else going on?

The fuzziness begins to clear when we start back at verse 1 as the psalmist calls for all the people on earth to shout joyfully to God, to sing the glory of His name and make His praise glorious. This is a hope, a desire. He calls for all to say to God, “How awe-inspiring are Your works! Your enemies will cringe before You because of Your great strength.”

A time is coming when all who dwell in the kingdom of God will sing His praise. That is a prophecy of the Bible. Until then, those who belong to Him are to sing His praise in the hope that all the earth may come to know Him by faith, love Him, and join in with the chorus of praise.

Lord, That is our hope and our prayer. May we be faithful this day in praising You. Amen.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


“Finally, brothers, rejoice. Be restored, be encouraged, be of the same mind, be at peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11)

You have heard of “beatitudes?” These are attitudes or characteristics of “being” that the Bible prescribes for approaching life. The first dozen verses of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, for example, are considered beatitudes. They suggest this is the way to be.

In the verse above we have what might be described as “bereals.” These are life situations believers face in which we need to “be real.” These are attitudes, to be sure, but they are much more than that; they are behaviors. These are action situations which ought to be fully real for us, or fully realized in how we actually live our lives.

Paul says, “Be restored.” There were relational difficulties at Corinth, some of the outright broken relationships. Paul wants them to restore those relationships.

He says, “Be encouraged.” There was more than enough discouragement in the Corinthian church, so Paul wants to see that neutralized and reversed by proactive encouragement.

Paul writes, “Be of the same mind.” “Factions” seem to have been the rule of the day at the church in Corinth. The church was greatly divided. Paul called for unity, wanting them to be of the same mind in real terms.

Paul says, “Be at peace.” Again, not much peace in Corinth, but there could be because of God’s love and peace. That peace would come only when the believers in Corinth came together to lay aside differences and move into a real peace, the kind that is God-based.

Lord, Help us today to adopt these “bereals” for how we live, to be restored when relationships are broken, to be encouraged when so much discouragement exists around us, to be of the same mind with fellow believers, and to be at peace fully with You and with fellow believers around us. Amen.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Not Yours, But You

“Look! I am ready to come to you this third time. I will not burden you, for I am not seeking what is yours, but you.” (2 Corinthians 12:14)

The introduction of other apostles to the church in Corinth eventually led to some issues between them and Paul. Paul referred to them facetiously as “super-apostles.” Who exactly they were we cannot be certain, but since there were known factions of the Peter-group, the Apollos-group, the Paul-group, and the Christ-group, we might surmise that Peter and Apollos were among them, but perhaps there were others as well. Whoever these “super-apostles” were, they apparently drew on the resources of the Corinthian church, but Paul made it very clear and pointed that he was not at all interested in their resources for personal benefit. He pointed out to them that when he was in their midst he never asked for or took or received material benefit from them, nor did he want to or intend to. He wanted this church to know that he was not interested in what was theirs, but rather just in them. He saw themselves in a fatherly and pastoral role. He was interested only in what would build them up, even if that meant discipline. His burden was not to be a burden but to help them lay down their burdens, at the feet of Jesus.

Paul’s attitude toward the Corinthians is reflective of the attitude God has toward us. He is our Heavenly Father. He cares deeply for us. He is not seeking the paraphernalia that surrounds us, but rather He is simply seeking us. He is interested in what will build us up, in that which will draw us toward Him so that we might know the fullness of His Spirit and His glory, because He knows that is what is best for us.

This is the Lord we need to follow.

Lord, You lead us like a Great Shepherd. Help us to follow. Amen.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Without Strength

“I call to You from the ends of the earth when my heart is without strength. Lead me to the rock that is high above me.” (Psalm 61:2)

I have a friend, a missionary colleague from Texas. He was deep in the throes of Japanese language study, and I could see the stress etched in his face. I asked him how it was going, and he responded with a Texas idiom, “Well, I’m kind of feeling rode hard and put up wet.” For those not from Texas, that’s a horse thing. When a horse is ridden hard, its sweat literally become lather. If the horse it put up in the barn without being brushed down, not only will its muscles be sore from the ride, but all that lather dries hard, so that the horse can get almost contorted. This is similar to another Southern idiom: “stove up.” The idea in both is that we can go and go and go until we get tired or sick and just feel like we don’t have much strength left in us, if any.

Sometimes folks feel a little like David did: calling to God from the ends of the earth. People can be overcome by a sense of isolation or loneliness, or they can find themselves in a state of weakness where they feel separated from the strength that comes from the Lord. Thus David says that when his heart is without strength he calls to the Lord from the ends of the earth, and he does so because he know the Lord cares and that the Lord will provide strength. So he asks the Lord then to lead him to the rock that is high above, where there will be safety and nearness to God and time to gain strength.

If you are feeling somewhat weak, know that you can call to the Lord, from wherever you are, and experience His strength.

Lord, Thank You for the reminder from Your word today that our strength comes from You, and all we need to do is call to You. Amen.