Thursday, October 28, 2010

Truth Costs

“’What is your decision?’ They answered, ‘He deserves death!’ Then they spit in His face and beat Him; others slapped Him.” (Matthew 26:66)

The vote was not unanimous. We know of at least two who dissented – Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. Perhaps there were others, but the overwhelming majority of the Sanhedrin cast their votes against Jesus: Guilty. Guilty of what? From their view, He was guilty of blasphemy. Jesus of Nazareth, the son of a poor carpenter in their eyes, had stated under oath before God Almighty that He was the Messiah of Israel, making Himself equal with God. For this, they killed Him.

They saw this as blasphemy because they did not believe it was true. From the believer’s viewpoint, however, they condemned Jesus to death for telling the truth.

The truth can cost. It can cost you your life, at the extreme, as it did Stephen before that same Sanhedrin just a few years later. Or, it can cost you respect. Some when they hear the truth we preach and teach, find the message ridiculous and stupid. So they scoff and ridicule us for it. Worse, some just ignore us and our message.

We have to come to grips with this. We have to decide if we are going to speak the truth of God as the Bible teaches it, understanding the cost inherent in doing so.

Understanding, we then speak on. We cannot do otherwise.

Lord, Speaking the truth proved to be costly for You. Help us to understand it can be costly for us as well as we follow You, but strengthen us to continue speaking the truth so we may honor You. Amen.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mutual Encouragement

“Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:18)

Mutual encouragement moves us forward in our journey with the Lord, but the unique quality of the effort Paul suggests is that it moves us forward together. In the church there have been far too many times when we have “shot our wounded,” because they somehow seemed a liability to us. That should never be.

One of the truths of humanity is that we all make individual progress in our spiritual and emotional growth. This growth may be rapid for some and slow for others. It may even seem non-existent in some folks, but in very general terms most people progress in their spiritual and emotional growth if there are no hindrances, in much the same way we progress physically in our growth. But just as with a physical illness, there may be times when some of us have to deal with an emotional or spiritual “hiccup.” As we need someone to come alongside and encourage us or help us when we are sick, we need others to come alongside and courage us when we go through spiritual or emotional distress. And we need to do the same when we see them go through such distresses. That’s mutual encouragement.

Paul says we are to encourage one another “with these words.” The words he refers to are his statements pointing to the Lord’s return. The Lord’s return was a message of hope, so the drift is that we are to encourage one another with words that generate and strengthen hope. This is because hope itself is an encourager. Hope helps us to see beyond circumstances. It reminds us that this life is not all there is.

If you find yourself distressed and hurting in the spiritual or emotional realm, then seek out those who will provide you with words of encouragement. If your path crosses the path of someone who is distressed in the spiritual or emotional realm, then you be the one to provide words of encouragement. Mutual encouragement builds hope.

Lord, Help us today to be hope-givers through our words. Amen.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


“For the Lord has not called us to impurity but to sanctification.” (1 Thessalonians 4:7)

Far too often the gospel has been presented as just a “just as I am” proposition. We tell unbelievers, “God loves you and wants to give you eternal life. He accepts you just as you are.” That is the truth, and it’s an absolute truth. But it is not the whole of the story. This truth is sometimes interpreted, “This is great! I can stay just as I am and have eternal life.” Even if such a thought does not come to mind, the concept can still become a lifestyle reality.

Here is the greater truth: You can come to know the Lord just as you are, but the Lord will not leave you where you are. That is what Paul said to the Thessalonians: “For the Lord has not called us to impurity but to sanctification.” He has not called us to stay where we are in our lifestyle but to move forward, to make progress in our lifestyle. The Holy Spirit works over a period of time to transform us continually into what God wants us to become. “Sanctification” sounds intimidating, but it is simply the process of transformation from what we are to what God is developing us to be, much like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.

The Holy Spirit’s intent and plan for us is that we allow Him to transform us into people whose lives honor God and bring glory to Him. He desires to ignite the light in us, so that His light can help still more people find their way to God through us.

Lord, We lay our hearts, minds, and lives before You, that Your will may be accomplished in and through us. Amen.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Out of the Depths

“Out of the depths I call to You, Lord!” (Psalm 130:1)

Out of what depths? In this case, it was out of the depths of sin and the guilt and despair that goes with it.

Psalm 130 is a genuinely great expression of one of the greatest truths of our faith: Our God is a forgiving God. If God refused to forgive, if He retained our sins and constantly rubbed our faces in it, who could endure that? There would be no hope, no joy, and no real life, and this life would be nothing but sorrow upon sorrow, hurt upon hurt. But with our Lord there is faithful love, redemption overflowing, and absolute forgiveness. This is the reason we put our hope in Him.

We know that when we cry out to God from the depths of sin and guilt, His ears are attentive to our cries. He cares, and He loves us enough to forgive us and cleanse us. That love was displayed openly at a place called Golgotha. There the Lord revealed His love for us with a statement unequaled anywhere.

One of the enduringly warm joys of our lives is that with our God there is faithful love and forgiveness. And that is something we want our whole world to know.

Lord, As we have experienced Your forgiveness and redemption, help us to share that truth with others who need to experience it as well. Amen.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Elemental Power

“We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work of faith, labor of love, and endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 1:3)

Paul laid out three elemental principles of a powerful life for the Thessalonians, and these apply to us as well.

First he says that faith works. That doesn’t mean that faith works in the sense of getting us what we want. We sometimes treat prayer in the same way when we say, “Prayer works,” and by that suggest that we should pray because it gets us where we want to go. But prayer works in that it leads us into communion with the God who is all-powerful. Faith works in the sense that when we have it we will express it through the works we do. A real faith always expresses itself through action.

Second Paul says that love labors. Real love has feet and hands. It isn’t just a warm, fuzzy, positive feeling toward someone. Real love labors – long term – to build relationships. It finds a way to express itself.

Third, hope endures. That is the nature of hope, in fact. It is enduring. It never gives up, and it never dies – not if it is real hope.

So, faith works, love labors, and hope endures.

Implementing a working faith, a laboring love, and an enduring hope all at the same time produces a synergistically powerful life. No one element by itself can do this, but all three working in tandem can produce a life that is far more effective than just one element working on its own can produce. So, if you want to experience an elementally powerful life, then act out your faith, express the love of God that is in you, and endure in the hope, the certainty that God will guide the outcomes.

Lord, Help us today employ the elements of faith, love, and hope for Your glory. Amen.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

David’s Son

“While the Pharisees were together, Jesus questioned them, ‘What do you think about the Messiah? Whose Son is He?’ ‘David’s,’ they told Him.” (Matthew 22:41)

Among the religious leaders and in the general populace, the basic belief of the Messiah was that He was to be the son of David. There was not an expectation that He would be the incarnation of God the Son. They understood the promise to be only that a future descendant of David would come, send from God and endowed with the blessings and power of God to defeat their enemies and restore the throne of Israel to the line of David.

Jesus knew this, but still He asked the question because it was time to expand their horizons. “Whose Son is He?” The response was obvious. The next question was not. “How is it then that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls Him ‘Lord?’” Jesus quoted Psalm 110:1, and then asked, “If David calls Him ‘Lord,’ how then can the Messiah be his son?” They were unable to answer.

Of course, the answer is that David calls Him “Lord” because He is the Son of God incarnate. This makes Peter’s earlier confession all the more astonishing, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” The Pharisees didn’t get it. Peter did. And he got it through revelation.

This is actually THE supreme question in life: What do you believe about Jesus? The answer we give is direction-setting.

Lord, We thank You that You have revealed Yourself to us and in us through Your Spirit who dwells within. We acknowledge You as the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, and in You we put our trust. Amen.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Set Your Mind

“Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2)

“Too other worldly for any earthly good!” That’s the phrase some have used to describe Christians who have a heavenly focus. Another derisional and descriptive phrase sometimes used is “pie in the sky, by and by.” In fact, some Christians do present that persona, and in part they base their perspective on this verse in Colossians and others like it.

Let’s just ask the question: Is there something wrong with this perspective? It is somehow evil? The answer is a flat: No. Being heavenly minded is a good thing. Christians should be looking forward to heaven and thinking about it. In fact, probably most of us are not heavenly minded enough.

Second question: What is the emphasis Paul is making in this verse? Is he suggesting that we check out of the world and enter into a kind of “heavenly stupor?” The context of the verses around this one suggests that this is not his emphasis, because he is talking overall about how Christians should live in this world.

“Set your minds on what is above” does not mean that we are to walk around with our heads in the clouds, oblivious to what is going on around us in the world. Paul certainly did not do that. It means rather that we are to derive our values, our understanding of what is truly important, not from the values of this earth but from the values of heaven. In other words, we are to live on this earth motivated and driven by heavenly rather than earthly values, because that is part of our witness to this world. Thus “set your minds” is, in reality, a call to a heavenly and an earthly integrity.

As you move through the world today and bear witness to Jesus, keep your mind set on the values that are derived from heaven. That will help others around you know that your life is about more than this present earthly reality.

Help us, Lord, to be faithful to the values of Your heart. Amen.