Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Accurate Representation

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

            If you were the only Christian an unbeliever were to be exposed to in his or her lifetime, what sort of judgment would he or she make about your Christ?  If he or she were to have one opportunity only to meet a Christian, and would then come to a conclusion about what Christians are like based on that encounter with you, what conclusions do you think he or she might reach?
            Some of us who are part of a church and who are regularly around other Christians cannot imagine that we would be the only Christian someone might meet.  But, let’s be reminded that there are literally billions of people in our world who have never heard even the name of Jesus even once.  Some of them actually are in our country.  So, this is not as impossible as it might seem.  Thus, the question remains.
            Jesus tells us how to be sure that we represent Him accurately to our world:  we are to love one another as He has loved us.  This is a love we are to feel toward one another, a love we are to demonstrate toward one another through our actions, and a love we are to practice toward one another habitually.  It is not a love we can generate ourselves but is a love that is possible only when the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts.  This is God’s kind of love.  Loving one another with His kind of love is what will represent Jesus accurately to our world.

Lord, Your Spirit within us is the only hope we have for accurately representing You to our world. Fill us with Your Spirit.  Amen.

Monday, November 21, 2011

No Greater Life

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

            Let’s unpack this verse.
            First, our God – the only One there is – is the God of hope.  His love, His grace, His mercy, and His compassion toward us point toward the truth that He is Himself our hope, and that He instills hope in us by virtue of His presence.
            Second, our God is capable of filling us with joy and peace.  We can know a life of joy and peace, but there is a condition:  we must believe.  We must commit to Him in a decision of believing before He will commit to us His joy and peace.  Faith is the key.  Anything else is a cheap imitation that has no eternal substance.
            Third, the power of the Holy Spirit, whom the Father sent to dwell in our hearts in a spiritual union, is what causes us to overflow with hope.  The Holy Spirit has the ability to change (or grow) us and to sustain us.  When He dwells within us, it is like a spring of water continually gushing and pouring out its life-giving waters.  
            So, this is the life God gives to us when we respond to His grace with faith.  This is a life that overflows with hope, with the certainty that He will keep His word eternally.  There is no greater life than this!

Lord, You are the Author of this life, and You are worthy of our praise and our thanksgiving.  Amen.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Our Foundational Reliance

“For the word of the Lord is right, and all His work is trustworthy; He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the Lord’s unfailing love.” (Psalm 33:4-5)

            The word of the Lord and the work of the Lord are conjoined.  Each depends on the other.  Where one goes, the other goes by necessity.
            The Lord speaks, and all creation comes into being.  He spoke into existence the heavens, the stars, the waters, and humanity with all other life.  The Lord speaks and reveals also His heart for us to see:  righteousness, justice, love, and His desire that we respond with hope and faith in Him and love toward Him.  This response He seeks is expressed by waiting on Him in trust for deliverance and strength.
            We tend, however, toward self-reliance.  We practice it, and we teach it to our children.  Our first response to difficulty is to “figure it out” and take action to resolve it.  In normal, everyday situations this is as it ought to be, and, in fact, this is good.  The problem comes, though, when we let this tendency rule every area of life.  Sooner or later we all face life situations that are beyond our control, problems we cannot “figure out.”
            What we need to understand and apply is that, while God does expect us to practice a routine sort of self-reliance for day to day situations, He also calls us to practice a much broader and larger reliance on Him in the heavier matters of life.  Relying on Him, waiting on Him, trusting in Him is to be our foundation for everything, because His word is right, and His work is trustworthy.  Any self-reliance must be built on the foundation of God-reliance.

Lord, There is no other Foundation.  You’re it. Help us to build our confidence on You as our Foundation of life.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ultimate Significance

“I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself.  But if it dies, it produces a large crop.  The one who loves his life will lose it, and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”  (John 12:24-25)  “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.  If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord.  Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” (Romans 14:7-9)

            The paradox of life says that it is only in dying that life is discovered.  So many spend lifetimes and fortunes trying to find life and peace and significance only to discover that the more the reach for it, the more elusive it becomes.  Their frustration can take them to cynicism. Those who actually do find life and peace and significance, however, find it only as a by-product, a result of a dying to self, self-centeredness, and self-interest.  They discover that the more they give of themselves, the more fulfilled they become, the more alive they are.
            This is a life principle paradox, but the concept itself does not produce ultimate significance, defined as “eternal life.”  That comes only when the principle is practiced with regard to a personal faith walk with the Lord in the context of His grace.  His grace toward us provides eternal life when we respond with personal faith, which may be described as a dying to self-effort.  The deeper we move into this faith walk of giving our lives away, we begin only then to explore the depths of the meaning of eternal life.

Lord, May we die to self today and each day, and live unto You.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Limitation of Perception

“But some of them said, ‘Couldn’t He who opened the blind man’s eyes also have kept this man from dying?’” (John 11:37)

            Martha was the first to verbalize this negative sentiment:  “Lord, if You had been here my brother wouldn’t have died.”  Later, Mary reinforced it:  “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”  Some who came to support them in their grief aimed the same feeling toward Jesus in the question above. 
            Understand this as a criticism of Jesus.  That’s what it was.  The real thought being expressed but not actually stated is:  “So, why weren’t You here when we needed You?  Why didn’t You come when we sent word, when You had the chance to save Him?  Now, it’s too late.  You should have and could have done something about this, but You chose to delay.  We thought You were his friend.”  See the anger and hurt in their eyes.
            Think a moment about perceptions.  Martha saw Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God.  Mary no doubt did too.  Whether others around them did or not is not clear.  But the typical understanding of Messiah in that time did not see the Messiah as necessarily divine but as a warrior son of David, anointed by God to restore Israel.  In their view, the Messiah would be endowed by God with great power and authority.  So now, some of the people are doubting Him.  The real problem they were dealing with was their perception:  they did not see beyond what they were seeing.  Their perception of Him was limited, governed by their surface understanding.  Their perception would soon be challenged as Jesus began to walk toward the tomb of Lazarus.  In fact, their entire understanding of Jesus would be stunned with the raising of Lazarus.
            We sometimes think we have a complete understanding of who Jesus is, of who God is.  To be sure, the Bible provides us with a clear and in-depth understanding of the Lord, but it is tailored to our capabilities of perception.  We can build a solid theology of God and of Christ, but we still must recognize that who God is goes beyond our perceptions.  That is why we have faith.  The first question Jesus asked Martha was, “Do you believe…?”  Faith is what carries us beyond the limitation of our perceptions.

Lord, We see, but we don’t see all.  We understand, but we don’t understand all.  For that which is beyond our perceptions, we turn to You in faith and trust You.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


“Even zeal is not good without knowledge; and the one who acts hastily sins.” (Proverbs 19:2)  “I can testify about them that they have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” (Romans 10:2)

            Paul bared his heart in Romans 10 as he expressed his deep desire for the salvation of Israel.  When we read these words we feel the anguish of his soul, probably because we also know folks who are not saved, people we would dearly love to be saved.  In Israel’s case, Paul noted that they certainly have a great zeal for God, but they do not have knowledge.  What does that mean?  It means they had a “head” knowledge of the Scriptures and of God, but they did not have a heart understanding of how Jesus fulfilled the Scriptures.  They did not have a personal knowing of the Lord by faith.  It seems that Paul, in part at least, drew on this concept from Proverbs.
            Zeal is a good thing.  Nothing wrong with zeal.  But zeal uninformed is a wild horse:  beautiful but untamed and not really useful. For zeal to hit its mark, it must serve the purposes of God.  It has to be bridled and hitched by knowledge and understanding that are derived from a personal walk with God in faith.  When truth is brought to fruition through personal understanding impacted by a personal faith relationship with the Lord, zeal gets hitched or bridled or saddled, and that is when it moves toward fulfilling the purposes of God.
            By all means, may we be a people of zeal, but let’s be certain that our zeal is informed by the Scriptures and by our personal faith walk with God, so that our zeal will not “miss the mark.”

Lord, Today please help us to let Your Spirit in us develop the kind of zeal that will bless You and fulfill Your purposes.  Amen

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

THE Door

“So Jesus said again, ‘I assure you: I am the door of the sheep.’” (John 10:7a)

            Our word “door” has multiple meanings.  The most obvious is the physical one.  All houses have them.  But there is also the metaphorical meaning.  “Door” can refer to a means to an end, or to an opportunity.
            In addition to meanings, doors have uses.  They are entry points to another place.  They are also used for exclusion, that is, to limit who may enter.  Sometimes we even lock them to further limit entrance.
            When Jesus said, “I am the door,” He was speaking metaphorically.  He was communicating to His listeners that He is the entrance to the kingdom of God, that He is our opportunity for entering eternal life, that He is the means to our salvation, and that only those who enter the kingdom through Him are valid, and there is no other door.
            In a society where religious pluralism appears to be the acceptable norm and even a core value, the idea that Jesus is THE door (and the only one) often meets with rejection, resistance, or skepticism.  The Bible is very clear, though.  We who follow the teachings and derive our beliefs from the Bible must hold the line and remain faithful to the truth, whether or not it is socially and culturally acceptable.  The Bible teaches us that Jesus and only Jesus is the door through which we may enter the kingdom of heaven for eternity, and with that truth we are to take our stand.

Father, We recognize that many in this nation do not accept this exclusiveness, but we recognize it as the truth because of who Jesus is and because of what He has done.  Thank You for allowing us to enter through Him.  Amen.