Wednesday, May 16, 2012


“You live in a world of deception.” (Jeremiah 9:6)

            The days of Jeremiah were low times for Judah.  Pervasive idolatry and gross immorality rampaged through society.  The Lord said of them, “They proceed from one evil to another, and they do not take Me into account.” (Jeremiah 9:3)  One of these evils was that they had become experts at lying.  The practice of deception was as common as desert sand. Their world was characterized by deception.  While deceiving one another continually unraveled their social and spiritual fabric, the greatest deception of all in their repertoire was their self-deception.  They believed their own lies.
            A world that practices a lifestyle built on a foundation of humanism and self-centeredness, so that its values are the fruit of humanism, is a world of deception and especially of self-deception.  God gets sent to a corner as irrelevant in such an environment.  For these folks, the only thing that matters is having fun and enjoying life.  Work is important when it takes place, but otherwise work is simply a means to the fun life.
            In their self deception, these folks miss the meaning of life altogether.  They are deceiving themselves into believing they are living a great life, while in reality they are squandering their opportunity to experience truth and real life, one that comes when we acknowledge, recognize, and embrace the sovereignty of God.
            The superficiality of self-deception will cost them everything.  And that is sad.
            It’s not as though there are no options, however.  The good news is that anyone who has followed a lifestyle of deception or self-deception can turn around and join those who walk the path of peace, significance, and truth.  Jesus provided us with this option through His death on the cross and through His resurrection from the dead.  Going this direction takes only a decision.

Lord, Please help anyone who has not yet made that decision to decide today that he or she will follow You in faith.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Idiocy of Idolatry

“The idols of the nations are of silver and gold, made by human hands.  They have mouths but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears but cannot hear; indeed, there is no breath in their mouths.  Those who make them are just like them, as are all who trust in them.” (Psalm 135:15-18)

            What a great description of idols and of the idiocy of idolatry!  And how prophetic.  The psalmist obviously witnessed the resurgence of idolatry in his day, and, by the time of Jeremiah the prophet, the last prophet of the Lord before His destruction judgment on Judah and Jerusalem, idolatry was full blown.  Idols were even placed in the Temple.  Listen to Jeremiah: “Hear this you foolish and senseless people.  They have eyes, but they don’t see.  They have ears, but they don’t hear.” (Jeremiah 5:21)  Jeremiah was NOT, however, talking about the idols.  Instead, he was talking about the people!  They had, in fact, become like what they had worshiped.  They had eyes but couldn’t see and ears but couldn’t hear.
            Fast-forward past the exile, the return, and the intertestamental period and see Jesus in the synagogue of Capernaum.  Standing before Him was a man with a paralyzed hand.  In Jesus’ eyes, this was a need.  In the eyes of the Pharisees and other religious rulers, it was a test.  Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath.  Need met.  Test failed, in the eyes of the Pharisees, so they committed to destroy Jesus.  How interesting that the Pharisees and others like them had eyes but could not see, and ears but could not hear.
            Idolatry is not just the worship of metal or wood images.  It is the worship of anything that is lifeless, anything other than God.  And the worship of anything or anyone other than God is sheer futility and foolishness.  We become like what we worship.

Lord, We worship You, and we trust You to shape us according to Your will.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Help That Has Substance

“Men are only a vapor; exalted men an illusion. Weighed in the scales, they go up; together they are less than a vapor.” (Psalm 62:9)

            David’s question in Psalm 62 is:  Who can be trusted when you need real help (salvation)?  Who has sufficient strength and power to provide salvation?  To whom or to what should we direct our trust?
            He mentions how some place their trust in those who have high position, others in deception, oppression, robbery, or wealth.  Then, there are those who believe they can find their salvation or help through alliances with people.  To them, David suggests a piece of news: men are only a vapor, and exalted men an illusion.  If you take both and place them on a scale, the side of the scale they are on will go upward, because they and their help have no substance.
            So, David repeatedly hammers away at the truth he has discovered through experience when he needed help: “I am at rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him.  He alone is my rock and salvation, my stronghold; I will never be shaken… Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before Him.  God is our refuge.” (Psalm 62:1,8)
            Whatever help you may be in need of today, you may see before you a myriad of options, but the only “option” is the one that isn’t.  The only help or salvation before you that has any substance, that has the power to help you is Jesus Christ.  If you need help, the kind that has eternal results, then there is no other option.  Only in Him will you find the rest you need.

Lord, You and You alone are worthy of our trust.  We thus commit our trust to You for the help we need each day, and for our eternal salvation as well.  Amen

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Spirit’s Blessing

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

            How do we “follow” the Spirit?  How can we follow Someone we cannot see?  We follow Him the same way we follow anyone.
            Following begins with commitment.  There must first be a commitment to follow, a decision of the heart that says, “No turning back.”  We keep nothing in reserve.
            Along with commitment comes alertness.  One who is committed to following another must keep alert, so that when the one we follow moves or changes direction, we know it, so we can make our adjustment.
            Alertness then produces observance.  When we follow someone, we observe their actions and movements, so that when they move out, so do we.  Their action prompts action on our part.
            God sent Elijah to anoint Elisha as his successor.  Elisha was to follow until Elijah was gone.  Elisha requested a double portion of Elijah’s “spirit,” and Elijah told him this would happen only if he witnessed his departure.  For Elisha to follow Elijah, there had to first be a commitment to follow.  He had to remain alert, and he had to stay observant, so that anytime Elijah moved out, Elisha went with him.  This was the only way he could receive the blessing he sought.
            The blessing of the Spirit of God is received when we follow Him in the same way:  commitment, alertness, observance, and action.

Lord, May each of these qualities be at the forefront of our lives this day.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


“Send Your light and Your truth; let them lead me.” (Psalm 43:3)

            Darkness and uncertainty are the twin enemies of the wholeness God wants us to have.  Darkness can lead to uncertainty, and uncertainty can feed the darkness.  These two enemies are like a spiritual cancer that eats away at peace, wholeness, and wellness.  The darkness of depression and the uncertainty produced by sorrow can devastate the human spirit and cause us to feel abandoned and alone, wondering where God is and why He does not seem to respond.  They create an inner turmoil that deprives us of peace.
            Twin antidotes are needed to combat these.  One is light, but not just light in general, and not light that is human in origin.  God’s light is what we need.  In his darker moments, David realized this and asked God not to send light but to send HIS light.  The only antidote for the spiritual darkness of depression (not to be confused with clinical depression, which is physical in nature) is God’s light, and God sends us His light through His word, which is one of the reasons we must stay in His word.  We pray and ask God to send us His light.
            The twin antidote of God’s light is God’s truth.  Again, the truth we are interested in and desperately need is not human in origin, but truth that comes from God.  The truth, like His light, comes through God’s word, and it is what sets us free.  This is the truth that He loves us, and that in Him there is hope.  His hope comes to us smiling and unlocks the door, so we may enter His light and His truth.
            Put your hope in God.  Praise Him as Your Savior and Lord.  Let His light dispel the darkness.  Let His truth settle your sorrow.  Then the turmoil will subside, so that peace may return and again reside within.

Father, On those days when darkness and uncertainty are strong in attendance, help us to remember that our hope is in You, and help us to turn especially to Your word where we will find the light and the truth we need.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

All or Not

“The person who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; the person who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.  And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.  Anyone finding his life will lose it, and anyone losing his life because of Me will find it.” (Matthew 10:37-39)

            One of the most fruitful discussions you can have with yourself occurs when you answer the question: What does it mean to be a Christian?  How is a Christian defined?  That question, by necessity, leads to a lateral question: How did Jesus define a Christian since He is the Author and Finisher of our faith?  After all, it’s His definition that counts.
            Jesus defined a Christian essentially in the verse above along with its preceding paragraph.  A Christian is a believer, follower, and disciple of Jesus, one who loves Him and follows Him regardless of anything or anyone else, one who does not seek his or her own life, but seeks the Lord.  A Christian is one who is committed to a faith relationship with Jesus that impacts every aspect of his or her life.
            This concept may challenge some of the thinking in our society.  For example, one popular idea today suggests that people “make Jesus a part of your life.”  The idea behind this is that we each have a life segmented into various facets – family, work, social activity, education, religion, and so on – and thus we are to invite Jesus into our hearts to make Him “a part” of our lives.  We give Him a room in the house, so to speak.  When you hold this idea up to the light in one hand, and then hold the previous idea up to the light and compare the two, you discover that they do not, in fact, match.
            This being the case, maybe we need to consider what we can do to help others see the reality of the true teaching of Jesus so they can make some adjustments in their message.  Jesus does not want to be “part” of your life; He wants to be “central” to your life.  

Lord, You are our life.  Apart from You we have no life. Our desire is that You be central in our lives, and that every aspect of our lives revolve around our relationship with You.  Amen.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


“The Lord sat enthroned at the flood; the Lord sat enthroned, King forever.  The Lord gives His people strength; the Lord blesses His people with peace.” (Psalm 29:10-11)

            Life has its truly wonderful and magnificent moments, but if you live long enough you discover that it can also have its overwhelming and debilitating moments.  When those moments come, it feels like a flood.
            In a flood, nearly every aspect of daily life stops.  Work stops.  Education stops.  Shopping stops.  Travel stops (unless you have a boat).  Shelter is dubious.  Heating and cooking and even sleeping may be suspended.  A flood essentially brings daily life to a halt, and all you can do is just sit there, watch the waters slowly recede, and focus on surviving.
            When the events of life become overwhelming like a flood, it is very much like everything stops until some sense of normalcy returns. 
            David wanted us to see the overwhelming events of life as a flood, but what he especially wanted us to understand is that the Lord sat enthroned at the flood, King forever over the flood.  That means that He is sovereign over the flood, which then suggests by implication that either the Lord sent the flood, or the Lord allowed the flood to come.  Either way, He is sovereign over the flood, and whatever the reason, the Lord has a purpose.  We may not see it immediately, and quite possibly we may not see it ever; but He does have a purpose.
            And here is what David pointedly wants us to know:  the Lord gives strength to His people, and He blesses His people with peace in the midst of the floods that come.  We simply need to seek Him when the floods come, and ask Him for His strength to endure and for His peace to maintain an even keel, so that we can see beyond the flood.

Lord, We have difficulty understanding Your purposes at times, especially when the floods come, but we trust in You in the midst of the flood.  Give us Your strength and Your peace, that we may see You beyond the flood and move that direction.  Amen.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Heart Prayer

Lord God, Creator of the universe, Almighty God and Father of us all, my heart is filled with praise prompted by the presence of Your Holy Spirit!  I turn to You in my searchings and longings because You and You alone are God.  There is none like You, and there is no one else to turn to.  You are sovereign God over all things and all life in your universe, seen or unseen.  You give life, and You recall life to Yourself, and while there is much I cannot comprehend, my heart rejoices before You with the angels and saints of heaven, and I join them in saying, "Blessed be the name of the Lord." You and You alone are God.  Only You are worthy to receive praise.

Your creation speaks to me of You.  The heavens declare Your glory, and the earth expresses Your creative hand.  The stars pour forth knowledge night after night. Some among us considered humanly intelligent look into the heavens and see only stars and planets and matter, and in their arrogance they say they see no evidence of You.  I see nothing but evidence of You.  Their thinking is one-dimensional and has blinded them to the truth.  They have turned themselves into spiritual anorexics.  They are starving spiritually while thinking they stand for the truth.  I am saddened by the spiritual poverty they inflict on themselves, and I pray they may open their eyes and minds to true Intelligence, because they, too, are loved by You.

May my mind and heart be drawn to You this day and riveted to your grace and goodness and compassion.  May I walk with You today in ways that cause others to honor You.  Amen.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bird Feathers

“Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent.” (Matthew 10:29)

            What encouragement!  Even when a tiny sparrow, practically worthless in the eyes of many, falls to the ground, our heavenly Father knows it, and it never happens without His consent (literally, “apart from your Father” [HCSB footnote]).  How many of us have been encouraged by this thought, especially when the problems mount?
            The context of the verse adds to its encouragement.  Jesus spoke these words as part of His challenge to His disciples, as He was sending them out to minister.  He warned that persecutions would dog them.  He knew this would produce fear, so He told them not to be afraid.  That would seem to be a little like a doctor saying, “Don’t worry, this won’t hurt much.”  Still, He told them not to be afraid.
            Our heavenly Father knows everything we go through.  No detail escapes His notice.  Nothing will happen to us apart from Him, that is, apart from His knowledge and consent, and although we may not comprehend that thought very well, it says to us that whatever happens to us has no relevance to our value to the Lord.  It happens only according to His purposes, which, like a sparrow, we simply cannot fathom.  We only need to know that Jesus is thus challenging us to trust God and His purposes.
            Such trust serves to free us from our fears.  It helps us to relax.  It further frees us to move forward in serving Him, whether the issues we face are small or great.  So, keep moving toward trust.

Lord, How grateful we are to know that Your purposes will be fulfilled in us, even if we are unable to understand them.  We thank You for the encouragement of Your care.  Amen.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Help Needed

“I will lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1)

            Drill down into this word “help.”  Help is something everybody needs at one time or another.  Help is that which is needed when something vital needs to be accomplished, and when the one who sees the need lacks the capability to accomplish it.
            Two blind men heard that Jesus was coming their way.  They had heard of His miracles, so when Jesus arrived at His home in Capernaum, these men went to Him and asked to be healed.  Their going to Jesus was an act of faith.  Jesus helped them by healing them.
            A man possessed by a demon and unable to speak needed Jesus’ help, so some friends took him to Jesus.  Again, this was an act of faith on the part of these friends.  Jesus evicted the demon, and the man spoke.  The people all said they had never seen anything like this before.
            Crowds gathered around Jesus.  Some may have just been curious on-lookers, but many of these folks needed some help.  Many were discouraged and needed hope.  Jesus spoke words of encouragement to them that gave them the hope they needed.
            So, what help do you need today?  You can “look to the mountains,” but you are not likely to find any help coming over the horizon.  Or, you can look to the Lord and realize that your help comes from Him.  Act in faith.  Go to Jesus, and ask Him for His help.

Lord, You are our help and our strength, and to You we go. Amen.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Strong and Weak

“For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10b)

            That doesn’t make much sense, humanly speaking, does it?  Any athlete will tell you that strength comes from conditioning, and the goal is to get stronger and stronger so you can defeat your competitors and win.  Seeing strength in weakness is not on the radar screen of one whose goal is to be strong.
            So, what did Paul mean by this?  After all, he was himself an athlete, so it’s not as if he didn’t get it.  Actually, strength was his goal.  He wanted strength in his life.
            Think this through.  A newborn baby is totally weak and helpless.  It is only as strong as its parents.  One lone soldier is weak when facing a platoon of enemy soldiers, until the rest of his own platoon shows up accompanied with a couple of tanks.  A child being bullied by several other kids is weak until his brother, who is 10 years older, shows up; then, he’s strong.
            Paul had some sort of debilitating physical problem he called his “thorn in the flesh.”  He asked God to remove it, but God’s response was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  Weakness thus gives opportunity for strength to rise to the surface so that its source can be revealed.
            So then, strength is as good as its source and is derived from its source.  If God, then, is that Source, then that is when we are actually at our strongest.

Father, We thank You that Your strength is now ours through our faith in Christ.  Amen

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Live Out Your Worship

“Let the name of the Lord be praised both now and forever.  From the rising of the sun to its setting, let the name of the Lord be praised.” (Psalm 113:2-3)

            Worship is to be lived.  That is God’s intention.  He never intended that worship be confined to a building, or to a place, or to a time.  We gather for worship at a place, at a building, and at a time, but if there is where it ends, we are off target.  We gather for worship in order to then scatter for worship.  We take it with us into the world, so that daily we may live out our worship of the Almighty, allowing His light in us to shine onto and into the lives of others.
            Worship is walking with God in the awareness of His constant presence.  This is to be experienced at the personal level first and foremost, and then it is to be expressed, demonstrated, and lived out before the world, so that others may come to glorify God with us.

Lord, As we experience worship in this day, help us also to live it out for Your glory.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Because He Loves Us

“Keep asking, and it will be given to you.  Keep searching, and you will find.  Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

            Psalm 107 recounts the loving and faithful works of God.  The psalmist spoke there of those who wandered in desolation and destitution.  God rescued them and let them to a place where they could then live a full life.  The psalmist spoke of those who sat in darkness and gloom, prisoners and exiles because of their rebellion against God.  They cried to the Lord in their trouble, and God brought them out of the darkness and into the light.  The psalmist spoke of those whose sins were deep, but when they turned to the Lord, God sent His healing word.  The psalmist then spoke of those who traveled to distant places and faced great danger and lost their courage.  They were helpless, but God stilled the storm when they cried to Him in their distress.
            Jesus may not have had Psalm 107 in mind in the verse above, but His application certainly fits.  Keep on asking, seeking, and knocking, because you know the Lord is a loving and faithful heavenly Father.  Our Father loves His children, and when we keep turning to Him, He will give us good gifts – the ones we need.  Just because He loves us.

Lord, Apart from Your love we would dwell in darkness, but by Your love we are made alive like water on a desert flower.  Thank You for loving us.  Amen.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Blindness of Self-Deception

“So if the light within you is darkness - how deep is that darkness.” (Matthew 6:23b)

            Interesting.  Jesus spoke of darkness in the context of materialism in Matthew 6.  He began this part of the Sermon on the Mount by admonishing people to lay up treasures in heaven rather than on earth, because focusing life on possessions is the equivalent of making them your master.  Materialism can morph us into slaves, and in reality we may not even be aware that it is happening.  In that context comes His almost cryptic discussion or illustration using the eye.
            Jesus said that the eye is the lamp of the body.  If the eye is good, it is like the body is full of light.  If the eye is bad, it is like the whole body is full of darkness.  And if the only light you have in you is darkness, then that darkness runs deep and is, in fact, pitch black.  So, how does what we perceive as light become darkness?  Through self-deception.
            When we believe that our earthly possessions are the real fabric of life, we have succumbed to self-deception.  While it may feel like we are in the light, free and comfortable, and feeling good, we are unknowingly in the dark.  Self-deception has mastered us, and we never saw it coming.
            So, how is the blindness of this self-deception overcome?  It takes three conditions:  a realization, a decision, and an action.  In our hearts we first must recognize the truth of the temporal nature of possessions.  Then we decide that we would prefer to live in the light of God’s perspectives.  Third, we begin to live out our lives in relation to Him, serving Him as our life priority with all we have, including our possessions.  When we reach this point in faith, that is when the lights come on.

Father, Open our eyes to see the realities today You want us to see.  And help us then to respond in ways that glorify You.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Impact of God’s Love

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)

            How far is “the east” from “the west?”
            Well, pretty far.  We all know that if you start walking due east and keep going, eventually you come full circle to your point of origin, because the earth is a globe.  The psalmist did not know this, though.  It’s not that he was not as smart as we are; he just did not have as much information as we have today.  He had never heard of “earth science.”  In his understanding, you could walk east and never find the end.  To him “the east” was infinite, and so was the west.  He did not think circular but linear.  So in his view, if you walk east and keep going, you just keep going infinitely.
            The psalmist helps us see that with God forgiveness is total and absolute.  When God forgives, it never comes back.  This is true because, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His faithful love toward those who fear Him.” (v11)
            May we be reminded today that our heavenly Father is compassionate toward us as His children, that He know we are “dust,” and that when He forgives us it is total.  His forgiveness is linear, not circular.
            The proper response to this is gratitude and praise.  And there is one more response that is equally appropriate:  just as He forgives us, we must forgive one another, compelled by love.  Forgive linear, not circular.

Lord, Help us today to practice linear forgiveness and unending compassion toward others because of the example we see in You.  Amen.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Effective Praying

 “Whenever you pray…” (Matthew 6:5)

            Not IF you pray, but WHEN you pray, says Jesus.  Note the assumption and expectation of Jesus that His people would pray.  That understood, He gives us several basics that can help us pray effectively.
            First, we are to privatize and personalize our prayers.  He cautions us not to be like hypocrites who love to make their prayers public and long so people would be impressed.  All of us have heard people pray and wondered if they would ever finish!  Some of those “people” could even be us.  We should remember that it is God we seek to impress, not people, and He is impressed by prayer that is personal and private.  Alone, before God we pray.
            Second, we are to simplify our prayers.  God, who sees and knows the heart, is more concerned with the content of our hearts than with the multiplicity and complexity of our words.  Babbling before God is a useless waste of time and effort.  Simplify.
            Third, we are to contextualize our prayers.  We need to come to the realization that God already knows what we need before we ask.  Nothing catches Him by surprise.  We need to keep our prayers in the context of God’s constant awareness and His constant care for us.
            Effective praying is characterized by privatization, personalization, simplification, and contextualization.

Help us, Lord, to pray thus effectively.  Amen.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Long View

 “Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good,’ for he thought: There will be peace and security in my lifetime.” (Isaiah 39:8)

            The “word of the Lord” Hezekiah referred to was the prophecy of Isaiah: “The time will certainly come when everything in your place and everything your fathers have stored up until this day will be carried off to Babylon; nothing will be left.” (Isaiah 39:6)  Isaiah prophesied this because King Hezekiah had shown Babylonian envoys everything in his palace, including his treasuries and his armory.  His action was a foolish expression of pride that would cost Judah.
            The only thing more foolish than Hezekiah’s action was his response to Isaiah’s prophecy.  Generally he said: “Well, that’s ok.  At least there will be peace and security in my lifetime.”  His response was self-centered and short-sighted.  Most self-centeredness normally turns out to be short-sighted.  Short-sightedness wastes future opportunities, and it impacts others beyond our view.
            Go for the long view.  Follow the God of the long view, who loved us before the foundations of the world were laid, and who brought millennia-long plans to fruition in sending His Son, so that we might have eternal life.  He is the One we need to follow, for it is in following Him that we break through our self-centeredness and our short-sightedness.  

Lord, We choose the long view, and we trust You to lead us in Your sovereignty to use us as You will in carrying out Your plans.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Return from the Wilderness

“And the redeemed of the Lord will return and come to Zion with singing, crowned with unending joy.  Joy and gladness will overtake them, and sorrow and sadness will flee.” (Isaiah 35:19)

            God revealed a prophetic vision to Isaiah beyond Jerusalem’s destruction and beyond they the exile.  He showed him a wilderness, a dry land, a desert that would be restored.  This wilderness would bloom with joy by the glory of the Lord when the Lord would redeem His people.  The Lord promised healing and restoration, and a road, a way to get there, a highway that would be safe to travel.  Only those redeemed would have access to this road, and they would return to Zion with singing, gladness, and unending joy. 
            No doubt those who first heard these prophetic words discounted them.  They found the message incredulous.  Consider why.  Jerusalem was not under siege.  There was no threat to fortress Jerusalem.  So Isaiah’s message would not have resonated with them at all.  Their spiritual myopia would be their undoing, but the day would come when these prophetic words would become more of an encouraging message of hope. 
            This side of history we know of Jerusalem’s destruction, the Babylonian exile, the suffering, but also the joyful return to Jerusalem as God redeemed His people as promised.  But we cannot stop there.  We must go deeper into this prophecy, because it is a messianic prophecy.
            Isaiah’s description of an arid wasteland speaks of the spiritual condition of those who do not walk with God, who have turned to follow their own path.  God would provide a way whereby people might turn to Him and “return” to enter into an eternal joy.  This joyous return describes what takes place spiritually when we turn from sin, enter faith, and walk with the Lord on the basis of the way Jesus provided on the cross, thus bringing this prophecy to its full completion.

Lord, How we thank You for the power of Your redemption! Amen.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


 “For You have made me rejoice, Lord, by what You have done.” (Psalm 92:4)

            So, what has the Lord done that makes us rejoice?
            He created all things.
            He put a plan in place that took millennia to bring to completion.
            At the right time He sent His Son, born miraculously of a virgin.
            His Son lived a perfect, sinless life.
            His Son took the penalty of our sins upon Himself by giving His life on the cross.
            His Son was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven forty days later.
            His Son promised to return.
            He sent His Spirit to fill His disciples so they could proclaim the good news with power.
            Through faithful witnesses over 2,000 years He sent someone to lead me to faith.
            He put His Spirit in us, just as He did with His disciples.
            He speaks to us through His word.
            He has multiplied manifold blessings in our lives and through our lives.
            He blesses us daily.
            What is there NOT to rejoice about?
            This is what He has done for us.  Rejoice we must.  Joy is like a fire in our bones, like an explosion that demands release.

We rejoice, Lord, because of what You have done.  Amen.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


 “Isn’t the fast I chose: To break the chains of wickedness, to untie the ropes of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and to tear off every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:4-7)

            Fasting is ancient.  It is not limited to Christian faith practices but has long been used in various cultures, sometimes for religious ritual, and sometimes as a body-cleansing technique.  It can be used as a weight loss technique.  And, as we see in the bible, fasting has been intended as a means of drawing closer to God, to deepen our spirituality and our faith.  Christians may fast when they carry a heavy burden, seeking resolution from the Lord.  In Isaiah’s day, people practiced a self-denying type of fasting, the “sackcloth and ashes” sort.  Their practice devolved into mere ritual, however, and its effect, says Isaiah, was that people just ended up angry and irritable.  Somehow, they lost the vision of what it was supposed to accomplish.
            So, God challenged the Israelis on their fasting practices in the verse quoted above and in the verses that followed.  He said that the fast He chose for them had two fundamental intentions: 1) breaking the bondage people have to wickedness, and 2) providing for those in dire need.  In other words, this was to be a fast in which people were to deny themselves their self-centeredness rather than food.  And that gives totally new definition to the concept of fasting.
            Maybe the kind of fasting that most honors God is the kind where we deny ourselves from engaging in self-centeredness, and by focusing instead on the needs of others.  Come to think of it, maybe this kind of fasting should be a daily practice.

Lord, Help us to turn away from self-centeredness and turn instead toward You and the life You have called us to.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Trust Is Learned

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

            Whatever the event Paul was describing above, it was not recorded in the Book of Acts.  The riot in Ephesus could possibly be the event, but Paul’s behavior and attitude in that event was not consistent with someone who despaired of life itself.  This event, whatever it was, totally overwhelmed him and his team.  They thought they were going to die.  This felt like a death sentence.
            Paul explained what he felt was God’s purpose in allowing this to happen to them:  “so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.” (verse 9)
            How many times have you wondered why God allows us to experience events that are uncomfortable, hurtful, distressing, or even life-threatening?  While we may not have a good grip on understanding this, we can at least come to the same conclusion Paul reached:  God wants us to learn to trust in Him and in His purposes, and not in ourselves.
            Our abilities have built-in limitations.  Our ingenuities also have limits.  Our resources as well.  We prefer to think of ourselves as having no real limitations.  We even teach our children:  “You can do anything, if you just put your mind to it.” We are taught to think that we can be anything and do anything, and we like that thinking until those overwhelming events rise up and show us our limitations.  Maybe that is the point where we are then teachable.  That is when we learn that God and His power is the only real resource we have when the floods sweep over us.

Lord, Help us today to recognize that You are the One true Source of strength and power for enduring those events in life that are beyond our capabilities.  Amen.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Real Strength

“For the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said, ‘You will be delivered by returning and resting: your strength will lie in quiet confidence.’ But you were not willing.” (Isaiah 30:15)

Picture a man staggering in a desert, days without water, his clothes ripped and ragged. He is sweaty and gritty with sand. He sits down by a lush oasis, but he does not drink the water because he thinks he can find something better. So, he moves on. How messed up is that? It borders on insanity.

Essentially, that is what Judah did. In the Lord, they had access to all the power they needed to stand up to the Assyrians and others, but they decided that an alliance with Egypt would be more effective. That was a lame decision. Thus, the Lord sent Isaiah to voice His displeasure and to call them to return. The message was clear: “You will be delivered by returning and resting.” Interesting. Returning is the same is repentance. Resting essentially means trusting. Then Isaiah completed the message: “Your strength will lie in quiet confidence.”

Real strength does not have to be brash or boisterous to be genuine. Our human mindset tends to see those who are strong as being like that. The appearance of strength through bravado and posturing is little more than “smoke and mirrors.” The person who can be faced with overwhelming life circumstances and yet approach them in quietness and confidence in the Lord is someone who is truly strong. This quietness and confidence is found when we turn to the Lord and rest in Him. This is both a constant attitude we should have as well as a daily action. Resting in the Lord is a continual decision. The extent of our turning to the Lord and resting in Him determines the degree of our quietness and confidence in the Lord in the face of overwhelming circumstances. Today, turn to Him and rest in Him, and let His quietness and confidence bless you.

Thank You, Lord, for Your abiding presence. We turn to You, and we rest in You. Amen.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Perfect Peace

“You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You.” (Isaiah 26:3 HCSB)  “Thou wilt keep Him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, for he trusteth in Thee.” (KJV)

            Perfect peace.  Who wouldn’t want that as a characteristic of his or her life?  It sounds wonderful.  To be a “Rock of Gibraltar” in a world of turbulence has genuine appeal.  But is it attainable in a real world?  Perfect peace is an absolute concept, and absolutes are not all that common.
            Peter had a moment of perfect peace.  He climbed out of a boat onto a rolling sea and walked on the water toward Jesus, but that moment left quickly when he took his eyes off of Jesus and saw the wind and the waves.  It was more than just a sinking feeling.
            Isaiah says that perfect peace is a mind dependent on the Lord, one that is stayed or fixed unwaveringly on the Lord.  A mind that depends on the Lord is one that trusts continually in Him.  Perfect peace is thus a product of perfect trust.  Such trust is not hot and cold, or hit and miss.  It is constant and consistent.
            But is it attainable?  Well, it wasn’t for Peter, other than for a moment, and it may not be 100% attainable for us, but it is approachable.  Like many of our goals, we work toward them.  With some goals the best we can do is to get close to achieving them.  Maybe perfect peace through trust should be our goal, and the strength of our trust in God will thus determine how close we will get to it.

Father, You are the Author of peace, and with You it is a perfect peace.  Help us today to find the strength for trust fully in You. Guide us as we move toward this goal daily.  Amen

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Psalm

Lord, You are worthy of all praise!

Hope jumps onto the wind
            and soars into the heights
            at the mention of Your name.

My heart is filled with gratitude
            that You would call me Your child,
            that You would place Your Spirit in me.

I am overwhelmed by Your love and faithfulness.
            They lead me to the place of peace and serenity.

The universe is Your dominion,
            and it cannot contain You.
            It is too small,
            and it creates small thinking.

Heaven is Your domain,
            and yet, neither can heaven itself limit You.
            Nothing in existence can limit You,
            or contain You,
            or define You.

Yet, we can know You.
            And you care for us
            who are the dust of the earth?

Lord, You are worthy of all praise!

I am overwhelmed by Your love and faithfulness.
            They lead me to the place of peace and serenity.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

When Impatience Rules

“’I’m going fishing,’ Simon Peter said to them.”… “’Men,’ Jesus called to them, ‘you don’t have any fish, do you?’ ‘No,’ they answered.” (John 21:3,5)

            For reasons unexplained by Luke, some or all of the disciples left Jerusalem and returned to Galilee.  Luke does not include this event, but we may find a clue to the reason in Matthew’s gospel.  The angel at the tomb told the women to go tell His disciples that the resurrected Jesus was “going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see Him there.” (Matthew 28:7)  Apparently, after the Jerusalem appearances, they returned to Galilee briefly before then returning to Jerusalem.
            Jesus did not appear and remain with them the whole time they were in Galilee.  His appearances were occasional. Peter’s volatility and impatience got the better of him once again when he said, “I’m going fishing.”  Peter was an action kind of guy.  He wanted to see things get done.  All that sitting around and waiting for something to happen tasked him.  Remember: the Holy Spirit had not yet come.  So, Peter reverted to what he knew best.  He went fishing.  The others joined him.  They fished all night but caught nothing.  In fact, we might conclude that God made sure they caught nothing, because an important lesson was needed.
            Early next morning Jesus stood on the shore and called to them.  They were about a football field’s length away.  He told them to cast their net on the right side of the boat.  They did and caught 153 large fish.  John then knew it was the Lord.  When he said that, Peter couldn’t wait to row to shore, so he jumped into the water and swam there.  Jesus made breakfast with some of the fish.
            We can trust that the lesson of patience was not lost on the disciples since they lived it, but for ourselves we need to see that impatience can rule over us if we let it.  Sometimes our desire to see things happen, to see good things come about can cause us to launch out ahead of God and His timing.  Faithful patience in following the Lord’s instructions and the Holy Spirit’s guidance will yield the results that glorify God.  Our God is a God of timing, and taking action in His timing is what glorifies Him.

Lord, Something in us doesn’t especially like having to be patient, but help us today to see the wisdom in it.  Amen.