Thursday, September 30, 2010

Treasure Chest

“In Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden.” (Colossians 2:3)

A social phenomenon exists in almost every human society: secret societies. These are organizations or clubs which restrict membership and participation to those who commit to them by agreeing to their rules, principles, and beliefs, and who, in many cases, undergo instruction, training, and ritual. These social groups are often shrouded in secrecy, and members are sworn to secrecy. Some of these organizations are harmless, and some even practice benevolence. Some, on the other hand, take on a religious aura and become a religion for all practical purposes.

In the first century, secret societies were far more serious in nature and were, in fact, of a religious nature. They were shrouded in secrecy and emitted an aura of mystery. They built on philosophy and on what some of them called “wisdom.” They presented their views as superior and absolute.

Folks from some of these secret societies infiltrated Christian churches, and they began to challenge Christian beliefs. In Colossae in particular, the faith of some of the believers was being challenged. Believers were becoming unsettled by these influences.

Paul thus encouraged the believers in their faith when he wrote that in Jesus “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden.” The idea is that if you are searching for wisdom and knowledge, truth that leads to eternal life, you will find it only in Jesus Christ.

Whether secret societies or other pursuits, there are many people who search for significance and meaning in life. May we present the truth to them, that it is only found in Jesus Christ. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him, and we find them when we find Him.

Lord, All our treasure is in You. Amen.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


“I believed, even when I said, ‘I am afflicted.’” (Psalm 116:10)

People sometimes go through life trauma. It may be an event. It may be a relationship. It may be health. These trauma can shake us to our foundations, depending on the severity, and they can impact our spiritual well-being. At times, some may even shake their fist at God and depart from Him like a prodigal.

It is important to ask ourselves: Is my faith such that, when I am going through extreme affliction, I continue to trust God? Or, is my faith in God more of the “fair weather” type, such that I believe in Him and trust Him as long as things are going well in my life?

Maybe we should ask ourselves: Upon what is my faith based? Upon what should it be based? Faith should be based on the truth of God as presented in His word. It should be based on love, on God’s love for us and our love for Him. Faith should be based on the promises of God, promises like, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Today, examine your own heart and determine where you stand with regard to the foundations of your faith. If you determine something is wrong with your foundation, then move to The Foundation, Jesus Christ, our Rock. That is where you will find your release to live a solidly founded faith.

Lord, Help us always to see beyond affliction and difficulty. May our faith always be strong in You. Amen.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

An Obedient Trust

“You who fear the Lord trust in the Lord! He is their help and shield.” (Psalm 115:11) “March around the city…” (Joshua 6:3)

To fear the Lord means to revere Him, to stand before Him with a sense of overwhelming awe and admiration, to worship Him as the sovereign Lord, the Creator of the universe.

Someone who thus fears the Lord also by necessity believes in Him. Why would anyone fear Him if they do not believe in Him? If we fear and believe in Him, we are then to trust Him to be our help and our shield. To trust God is to obey His commands, His truths.

That is the reality Joshua was faced with. He led the people up to Jericho from their camp in Gilgal. The city was shut up tight. Nobody in or out. No way to take the city. Seemingly.

God instructed Joshua to have seven priests blow seven of the “shofar” (ram’s horn) trumpets, walking in front of the ark, led by soldiers in front and behind, with no one saying a word, once a day for six days. On the seventh day they were to march seven times around the city and then shout. God said the walls would then fall down, and they were to then take the city.

If you were in Joshua’s sandals, would you do it? Joshua had to trust the Lord, and he demonstrated his trust through obedience. He did exactly as the Lord instructed, and the rest is history. God fulfilled His word, but only after full obedience.

Trust always requires obedience.

Lord, Help us today to demonstrate our trust in You and Your word. Amen.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Right Loyalty

“’Neither,’ He replied. ‘I have now come as commander of the Lord’s army.’” (Joshua 5:14)

An entire army of Israelite fighting men died in the desert of Sinai, none of them in battle. This was God’s judgment against Israel for their refusal to obey His command to enter and subdue Canaan, for allowing their fear to displace their faith.

Moses died on Mount Nebo. Joshua took the reins of leadership the Lord placed in his hands and led Israel across the Jordan, the Lord having parted the river. They camped at Gilgal near Jericho – their first target. All the men were circumcised since that had not been done in the wilderness. The manna stopped when people began to eat locally grown produce. And the people celebrated the first Passover in Canaan. These were days of high excitement and expectation.

In this atmosphere, one day near Jericho Joshua looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword. Rather ominous. Joshua asked Him, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” It was a question of loyalty. The man’s answer stunned Joshua: “Neither.” His answer further revealed that His loyalty was not to any human endeavor but to the Lord, to His concerns and His plans and His will. That led Joshua to then bow down and worship Him.

Loyalty is not to an “us or our enemies” scenario. It isn’t about us or them. It is all about the Lord and loyalty to Him.

For Moses it was the burning bush that was not consumed where he learned this truth. For Joshua, it was the commander of the Lord’s army. Both were told, “Take of your shoes, for you are standing on holy ground.” The ground was made holy by the presence of the Lord.

Lord, May our loyalty be always toward You and never toward our own agenda. Amen.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fear and Strength

“Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified of them. For it is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous.”… “The Lord commissioned Joshua, son of Nun, “Be strong and courageous.” (Deuteronomy 31:6-7, 23)

Interesting. The phrase and command “Be strong and courageous” is repeated three times almost in succession. Moses spoke the first command to all of Israel, and then to Joshua who was to replace him as the leader of Israel. Then the Lord spoke it directly to Joshua when He commissioned him as leader. In Joshua chapter 1, the Lord repeated the phrase two more times to Joshua.

The repetitions suggest that feelings of fear and weakness were in abundance in the Israeli camp. For about 40 years these folks had been nomadic shepherds in the desert. They had had their first taste of fighting against two Amorite armies. They were victorious, but now they were facing the armies of Canaan, and they had heard from the parents all their lives that “there were giants in the land.”

Why would this feel like such a challenge to them? Maybe a snapshot will help us see. For one thing, look at a picture of the Israelite army. It speaks volumes. They had some significant numbers, but none of them had had military training. They had only the weapons they had confiscated in the two previous battles. There were no uniforms and no uniformity. This was pretty much a “rag-tag” army.

For another thing, the task ahead was intimidating. They were going up against established nations, trained armies, and fortified cities. Undoubtedly, there entered the minds of some the thought, “We don’t have a chance against these.” They all recognized that they did not have the strength for what was ahead, and it no doubt left them feeling fearful, maybe even powerless.

So, what was God trying to achieve in saying repeatedly, “Be strong and courageous”? He was trying to get them to rely on His strength rather than their own. He was trying to get them to intentionally reverse their emotions and attitudes rather than just going with the flow. He was trying to get them to see beyond appearances rather than just accept at face value what they were seeing.

The call to be strong and courageous is a challenge to trust God’s strength, to move beyond feelings, and to look beyond appearances.

Lord, Help us today to rely on Your strength, to not trust our feelings as reality, and to look beyond appearances to the potential You have for us. Amen.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Incomes and Outcomes

“The foreign resident among you will rise higher and higher above you, while you sink lower and lower. He will lend to you, but you won’t lend to him. He will be the head, and you will be the tail.” (Deuteronomy 28:43-44)

Shortly before his Mount Nebo ascent, Moses addressed Israel and reminded them of their covenant with the Lord and of their obligation to obedience. He reminded them that obedience would result in great prosperity and establishment in the land. God would bless them for their obedience. He reminded them also that disobedience to God would result the loss of prosperity and being displaced in the land by “foreign residents.” God would curse them for disobedience. He would allow foreign entities to dominate them.

If the people of God are walking with Him, they will know His blessing. If the people of God turn away from Him to go their own way, they will know His cursing, which is expressed as a domination by foreigners.

Many in America believe that this country was founded on Christian truth. Certainly, not everyone in those early years of our nation felt that way when they crafted the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, but the majority did. References to God in those documents are proof positive. That being true, there has historically been something of a “covenant” between the Lord and this country. God has greatly blessed this nation through the years, because many in and out of government have lived in at least some form of covenantal relationship with God.

In these days, there seems to be an increasing domination from foreigners. There is a growing economic domination through currency exchanges and through the oil industry outside of our nation. There is talk of reducing dependence on “foreign oil,” but mostly it is just talk. There are political challenges from outside our nation from those who challenge our nation’s leadership in that arena, and there are political and religious challenges within our nation from citizens of those nations who have now become citizens of our country, all through legal means. The growth of non-Christian faiths has and will have an impact. There is also the challenge of hedonism and materialism in our nation which has enamored our nation’s youth with “the glitter of gold and glitz.”

Is it possible then that our nation is turning increasingly away from God and away from a covenantal relationship? And if that is the case, can we honestly expect the blessings of God? Should we not expect God to allow an increased foreign domination over our nation if our nation does not return to a covenantal relationship with Him.

Lord, Help our nation to open its eyes. Amen.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Good Things

“You, the Levite, and the foreign resident among you will rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given you and your household.” (Deuteronomy 26:11)

The Lord instructed the Israelites to take some of the soil’s first produce to place where the tabernacle would be when they first entered the land. This would not be from the crops they grew, but from crops produced by others. They were to do this to express their acknowledgement that God had kept His promise to bring them into this land and give it to them. After a confessional statement, they were to then place the container before the Lord and bow down to Him. Then all were to rejoice before the Lord for all the good things He had given them and their household.

On days when there seems to be one discouragement after another, on days when it feels like difficulties outweigh normalcy, on days when it seems that the task ahead is just overwhelming, it would be helpful to take a few moments and reflect back over all “the good things” the Lord has provided, come before Him in prayer, and then rejoice in the goodness of God. Remember that it takes intentionality to do something like this, and rejoicing intentionally makes a statement of faith.

Lord, You indeed provide us with many good things, and for this we are grateful. We acknowledge Your sovereign provision and Your commitment to Your promises. Amen.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Red Glass

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)

When I was a child, I can remember once holding up a piece of red glass to my eyes and looking through it with childhood wonder at how everything was then red.....

Looking at the verses above, on the surface we have to wonder if this is even possible, or if we understand it, or if our understanding of it is somehow “colored.” We also have to wonder if the first to hear these words understood them either.

Jesus spoke these words at Caesarea Philippi. Before speaking them,
Jesus asked His disciples who people said He was. They told Him. Then He asked them who they say He is. With no hesitation, Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Way to go Peter! God revealed that truth him. Jesus thus commended him.

What happened next was like rain on a parade. When Peter objected to Jesus’ explanation of what would soon happen to Him, Jesus had to rebuke Peter because his understanding of Messiah was extremely limited and incorrect. His understanding of Messiah was like seeing everything through red glass – it was colored by his culture. The culture he grew up in saw the Messiah as a strong, powerful, kingly, military ruler who would destroy the enemies of Israel and re-establish the Davidic kingdom. That view colored Peter’s understanding. Jesus said that he was concerned about the things of man, not about the things of God.

We would like to think we have progressed beyond where Peter was. Do you think we have? We may have more of a post-resurrection understanding that is more informed, but the real litmus test is: Are we more concerned about the things of God than we are about the things of man? Are we more concerned about the lostness of humanity than we are about houses, lands, cars, money, church buildings, and so on? None of these are bad things at all in and of themselves. How we approach them or relate to them or value them in comparison with what was important to Jesus provides a standard by which we can determine if we have made real progress in our understanding of the things of God.

Lord, Through Your Spirit within us, please remove anything that discolors the reality You want us to see. Help us to see the truths You want drive us. Amen.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Heaven Maker

“For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.” (Psalm 96:5)

What a great statement to underscore the sovereignty to God: “but the Lord made the heavens.” This is a “bottom-line” statement. The “gods” some people worship are idols, made of: wood, stone, silver, gold. But God made the heavens. Idol worshipers may protest, “But our idols are so beautiful. They represent the beauty of the spirit within them. And they’re powerful.” But God made the heavens. God created the universe. Totally foundational.

Before we rush to judgment, though, let’s understand that we can apply this truth to anything people place their trust in other than God, which is the general definition of idolatry. For example: “We have a free country.” How many of us see our freedoms and our Constitution as permanent and iron-clad? But God made the heavens. “We have a powerful military.” Oh yes, we certainly do; shock and awe stuff. But God made the heavens. “We are a wealthy nation.” Yes, and we should probably remember what Jesus had to say in the parable of the rich farmer who said, “I’ve got it made now.” But God made the heavens.

Almighty God, Creator of the universe, we bow before You and glorify Your name because of Your sovereignty. Help us to turn away from anything that might serve to supplant who You are in our hearts. Amen.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


“He sent His word and healed them.” (Psalm 107:20) “For they are not meaningless words but they are your life.” (Deuteronomy 32:47) “So My heavenly Father will also do to you if each of you does not forgive his brother from his heart.” (Matthew 18:35) “Speak the message fearlessly.” (Philippians 1:14)

What’s in a word? Maybe more than we think.

The psalmist spoke of how the Lord sent His word and healed His people. He didn’t have to show up. He didn’t have to send a sign. He didn’t need to do anything to accomplish this. He just spoke it, and healing happened. It happened just as in the same way He spoke and creation took place. This suggests that just a word from the Lord is powerful to heal. The Roman centurion told Jesus there was no need for Him to come to his home, but that if He would just speak the word, his servant would be healed. Jesus marveled at the centurion’s faith. He hadn’t seen that kind of faith anywhere in Israel.

Moses addressed the people of Israel just before his final ascent up Mount Nebo, and he both encouraged and warned the people to pay attention to the words of the Lord. He said, “For they are not meaningless words but they are your life.” He also taught that “the life is in the blood,” suggesting then that we should see the words of the Lord as our very lifeblood, in that we cannot live without them.

Jesus answered the question of His disciples in Matthew 18 about forgiveness with a parable of the steward who was forgiven his debt but then refused to forgive the debts others had to him. The steward ended up being thrown into jail after all. Jesus then said, “So My heavenly Father will also do to you if each of you does not forgive his brother from his heart.” Forgiveness thus begins in the heart, but then it has to be transformed into three words, “I forgive you.” Then, we have to act on it. We have to live the forgiveness relationally.

In Philippians, Paul rejoiced that the word of the Lord was being preached even while he was in prison. He encouraged them to preach the gospel fearlessly. It is the word of God, and the word of God has no fear in it. Rather, we are to stand in awe of it and preach it fearlessly. The message is the point.

Lord, Help us to remember today that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from Your mouth. Amen.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Testing the Word

“Until the time his prediction came true, the word of the Lord tested him.” (Psalm 105:19)

“Tested him.” Him who? This was Joseph who was being tested.

The psalmist referenced the story of Joseph. He says that they hurt his feet with irons and put an iron collar around his neck as they led him away from his brothers. They were the ones responsible for this, on the surface at least. No doubt they each remembered the dream Joseph had told them about sometime earlier, how his sheaf stood upright, while all of theirs bowed before his. That one filled them with indignation. Now, watching the Midianite slave traders drag him away screaming and in irons and begging them to help him certainly did not look anything like what young Joseph had dreamed about, and undoubtedly it did not look that way to Joseph either. All the promise and potential now seemed out of reach, inaccessible. The only resources accessible to Joseph were: time, faith, and the word of the Lord. There was no way to make a connection in his mind with his current predicament and what was to come. He could only wait, trust God, and let the word of the Lord achieve its purposes according to the will of the Lord.

Sometimes God gives us a promise. Yet, we have days that seem not so promising. These are days when we wonder, “What in the world am I doing?” and “What in the world is God doing?” On those days, we need to realize that the word of the Lord is testing our resolve and our faithfulness, and we just need to keep on trusting as we continue moving forward under the load.

Lord, May we put our trust fully in You for the fulfillment of Your word. Amen.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


“Then Jesus told them, ‘Watch out and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ And they discussed among themselves, ‘We didn’t bring any bread.’” (Matthew 16:6-7)

As a test, the Pharisees asked Jesus to give them a “sign from heaven.” He had fed the 5,000 and then the 4,000 by that time. And they wanted a sign? Amazing. They missed the signs altogether. They saw but didn’t see.

Jesus responded. He pointed out that they can see the sky and understand what the weather is going to do, but they could not read the signs of the times. He told them they would only receive the sign of Jonah. We know now that He was referring to His resurrection.

Then, a curious thing happened. Jesus and His disciples departed and went back to the other side of the lake. In His contemplations over what just happened He said, “Watch out and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” By this time, given all they had witnessed, Jesus apparently figured they would get it. Their response was, “We didn’t bring any bread,” and that told Jesus they still were not where He wanted them to be in their understanding. So with a mild rebuke He explained to them further that He was talking about the influence of the Pharisees and Sadducees, not bread. It was after this that He took them to Caesarea Philippi to teach them and to test them by asking, “Who do you say that I am?”

While we may be tempted to look down on the disciples for their slowness at “getting it,” we should probably first recognize that we ourselves may not have the level of comprehension that the Lord has of us at this point in our own lives. We may feel somewhat satisfied at our progress, but the possibility exists that the Lord has a higher expectation we may not be perceiving. So, maybe the question we need to ask of the Lord is, “Where am I in my walk with You at this point in my life, and where do You expect me to be? If I am not where You want me to be, please help me move toward Your expectations as soon as possible.”

Indeed, so may it be, Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


“Lord, Your testimonies are completely reliable.” (Psalm 93:5) “Lord, Your statutes stand firm.” (Psalm 93:5 NIV)

The NIV version of the Bible uses the word “statutes” rather than “testimonies” as in the HCSB. So what is a statute? It is a word about God, about His standards, and His expectations. Thus, it testifies to some truth about God. These testimonies are “reliable.” That means they are firm, trustworthy, and believable.

So, what testimonies is the psalmist talking about?

Consider Matthew 15:31, “So the crowd was amazed when they saw those unable to speak talking, the deformed restored, the lame seeing. And they gave glory to the God of Israel.” Many might read this verse and just focus on the miracles and say, “Isn’t that great?” But this crowd went beyond to Jesus’ intent for His miracles: they glorified God. The purpose of miracles is to glorify God. They testify to His glory.

Consider Ephesians 3:21, “To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Paul prayed for the Ephesians. He prayed that: 1) they would be strengthened, 2) that Christ would dwell in their hearts, 3) that they would be able to comprehend the full extent of God’s love, 4) that they would know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, and 5) so that they would be filled with all the fullness of God. Paul wanted this for us, the church, so that we would glorify God. We sing, “For the glory of the Lord shall come.”

So, what is the purpose of miracles? Their purpose is to glorify God, to reveal His glory. What is the purpose of our walk with God? To glorify God. Miracles and this life of redemption, which is miraculous in itself, are testimonies to the glory of God. They are invitations to faith, which also serves to glorify Him.

Lord, May our lives be testimonies to Your glory throughout the day. Amen.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Persistent Faith

“Then, Jesus replied to her, ‘Woman, your faith is great. Let it be done for you as you want.’ And from that moment her daughter was cured.” (Matthew 15:28)

The interaction between Jesus and this Canaanite woman is fascinating.

Following a confrontation with the Pharisees over the tradition of the elders, Jesus led His disciples away from Galilee on a teaching and training tour. He led them to the seacoast commercial city of Tyre, and there a Canaanite woman (some translate this as “Syro-Phoenecian” woman) heard Jesus was there. How she heard this, and how she knew of His capabilities, we do not know. The Bible tells us that her daughter was demon-possessed. Somehow this woman learned where Jesus and His disciples were staying and made her way there. She came and continually cried out to Jesus, addressing Him as, “Lord, Son of David.”

Initially, Jesus made no response. He kept silent. His disciples urged Him to send her away, but the fact that He did not tells us that He saw a teachable moment, almost as if to say to His disciples, “Watch this!”

The response Jesus finally gave seems cruel. He said He was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. What we must note, however, is that He did not say “no” or “go away.” He was baiting her. She saw the open invitation and knelt before Him and asked Him to help her. Jesus put some more bait out. “It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs.” She took the bait, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table.” Jesus then knew He had His teachable moment for His disciples. “Woman, your faith is great. Let it be done for you as you want.” And it was.

Jesus took this approach not to be hurtful to this lady, but to show His disciples what real faith looks like. Faith that is real is persistent.

Lord, May our faith in You be as persistent and “bulldoggish” as this woman’s was. Thank You for letting us also learn from her today. Amen.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sky Witness

“His offspring will continue forever, his throne like the sun before Me, like the moon, a faithful witness in the sky.” (Psalm 89:36-37)

The psalmist rehearsed the commitments God made to Israel in Psalm 89, and to David, and then launches into a rather surprising confrontation with God over his sense of abandonment. He was basically say, “God, you did some great works in the past and gave us many promises, but right now we’re in danger, and it doesn’t seem like You’re there. You have abandoned us.” This is the context of the verses above which point us to the covenant of God with His people. In addition to this, though, these verses reveal a little “side truth” to us.

The writer calls the moon “a faithful witness in the sky.” Have you ever thought of the moon as a “witness?” Witness to what?

Most of us have learned the scientific realities of the moon. It is essentially a small planet that revolves around the earth. Because of the way it revolves, we only see one side of it. It has no water, no air, no life on it. But, it’s always there, and its light services as a kind of God-provided “night light.”

The moon, like the sun, the stars, the planets, and all of nature, serves to bear witness to a Creator. Understanding its science, while a good thing, only goes so far. Seeing it, we eventually must ask, “How did it get there? How was all this created?” Such questions take us inevitably toward a conclusion: there must be a Creator.
The next time you see the moon, remember that it is a witness to God our Creator.

Lord, We thank You that You have placed everything in the universe as a testimony, as a witness to You. When we see Your creation, cause it to direct our minds and hearts to You. Amen.