Friday, July 31, 2009

Cause And Promise

Focus verses: Jeremiah 16:1-21

God's judgment on the nation seems harsh and His separation of Jeremiah from all society seems even harsher. Jeremiah is not to marry, not to enter a house of mourning, not to enter a house of celebration.

And God tells Jeremiah the reasons why this disaster is coming upon the land. It is because the fathers of this generation were unfaithful to the Lord and followed after idols. But more than that, it is because this generation is even more wicked, following after the stubbornness of their own hearts.

God tells Jeremiah that He will scatter the nation to various lands, chiefly to the north (Babylon). But there will come a time when He will not be known as the God who restored Israel from Egypt, but as the God who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where He had banished them. He promises to restore them to the land He gave their forefathers.

Actions have consequences. And like any good parent, God will not stand between His children and the consequences of their own actions. Israel has separated itself from the Lord time and again. Her momentary repentances and fidelities have been many - and short lived. She always goes back to her own devices, following the dictates of the human heart without regard for God and His laws. This fickleness has brought on the diaspora.

When people ask about how a loving God can consign anyone to hell, they are missing the point. God does not consign people to hell. He lets them go their own way. People make the choice, not God.

There are only two places to live in this universe. One is in the presence of God. The other is away from God. The first is heaven; the second is hell.

If you choose to live in the presence of God, acknowledging His sovereignty over all things, you can live in a little piece of heaven on earth. He will honor your choice, and you will have the fullness of His presence in heaven for eternity.

If you choose to live without regard for God, ignoring Him at every turn, He will not push Himself on you in eternity. If you have chosen to live absent of God on this earth, He will honor your choice in eternity. You will have chosen hell over heaven.

Father, God,

Thank You for making it clear that Your judgments are just and righteous. Thank You for promising to restore the remnant. Help us to remain part of Your faithful remnant.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Source Of Sorrow

Focus verses: Jeremiah 13:15-27

Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet. Reading these verses, one can well understand why Jeremiah wept.

God told him to speak. God told him what to say. And God told him the people would not listen to him, but to the prophets that would tickle their ears with what they wanted to hear.

This particular passage speaks to the arrogance of the people. When a people are arrogant, they tend to glorify themselves, not the God who made them. They forget that their blessings are not earned but are a gift from God.

They grow proud (having excessive self-esteem) and become unteachable because they already know it all.

Israel's destruction is coming from the north in this passage. They had allied themselves with Babylon - had even taken some of the Babylonian dieties into their homes as objects of worship. They thought that an alliance with Babylon - a strong nation - would protect them.

In the musical "The King and I," the king sings a song called "It's a Puzzlement" in which he says:

Shall I join with other nations in alliance?
If allies are weak, am I not best alone?
If allies are strong with power to protect me,
Might they not protect me out of all I own?

Unfortunately, Israel did not consider that their only safe ally is the Lord. They turned their backs on Him. And He will turn His back on Israel in this instance.

I keep seeing our nation in Jeremiah's prophecies. We have a government system in place that fosters the idol religion of secular humanism. Everything is seen with man as the measure of all things. We have allowed this humanism to grow for almost all of the twentieth century without checking it. In the twenty-first century, we need to stem this tide and return to the basis on which we were founded.

This burden is on the people of God. He says "if my people"... Only the prayers of the faithful (God's people) can stay the coming captivity of our land. We need to be on our knees.

Father, God,

Save us from arrogance and pride. Give us teachable spirits and praying hearts. Help us to move the people of this land that we love back into the knowledge of and reverence for You.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Lord Almighty

Focus verses: Jeremiah 10:1-16

This part of today's reading is a simple comparison between God and idols.

God is creator and man is His creation. Idols are created and man is their creator. So do you really want a god that you had to make? Wouldn't it be better to have the God who created all things and had sovereignty over all things?

At this point, I'm not just talking about Baal and Astarte. I'm referring to all the things that take our attention and focus from God. We have possessions that actually possess us.

We obsess about our homes, our lawns, our cars, our fashions, our electronic gadgets, our heirlooms, our things. We let our attention to them steal time and attention from God. We polish the car in lieu of going to worship. We tend to household matters instead of closeting ourselves with our Bible and our God.

And we excuse ourselves with the rationale of time being too short for everything, service time being an inconvenience on the calendar, family demands being more urgent than scripture study.

We make time for what is important to us. Let us put God in His rightful place -- first in our lives and our priorities. The Lord Almighty is His name.

Father, God, Help us to order our lives that You may be pre-eminent in all things with us. Keep us from jumping to tend the urgent and leave the important - the vital - for the dregs of the day.
In Jesus' most precious name. Amen.


Focus verses: Jeremiah 9:23-24

People are natural braggarts.

They love to brag about their accomplishments, their possessions, their skills, their powers. But these are not things to brag about. There will always be someone who has accomplished more in less time. Someone will possess more. Someone else will have greater skill in the same field. Another person will be more powerful.

All these things are vain and empty.

God asks us to be proud of only one thing: that we know Him.

So exactly Who is He?

He is the Creator of all things. He is compassionate and gracious. He is slow to anger. He is loving and faithful. His love is shown by His willingness to forgive. He is righteous. He punishes the guilty. He is just.

It is only when we have a close relationship with Him and understand His ways that we have anything to boast about.

If we have accomplished anything, it's only because we've had His favor. Anything we have acquired to possess has been a gift from Him, because He has made it possible for us to acquire it.

Any skills we have are the gift of God for the natural talents He has given us. Without that innate ability we could not have acquired these skills.

Any power we may have is through His grace. Physical strength is His gift from our birth. Political strength is His gift of favor. Financial strength is His blessing.

None of the things people boast about are theirs to brag about. They are all gifts from God. He is the only thing worth bragging about.

Father, God,

Let our mouths be full of Your praise always. Let our speech reflect Your power and might and majesty. Help us to speak of You, not our selves, that we may draw all men unto You.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Can We Not Blush

Focus verses: Jeremiah 6:13-21

Jeremiah's words ring true for us today. Look at his description of the people.

Greedy for gain. People today are chasing the almighty dollar as if it could fix all their woes. We have TV programs that push consumerism and rampant greed. We purchase lottery tickets, hoping to win millions or tens of millions or hundreds of millions. We gamble on dogs or horses or sporting events or cards or in casinos hoping to gain money we did not earn.

Deceitful. Perhaps we are not all out and out liars, but we do seem to manage to bend the truth to fit our purposes. It's a matter of leaving out a detail or two -- or adding a bit of color that wasn't really there. We tell people what we think they want to hear instead of the unvarnished truth. We gloss over details in order to make a thing look better. Politicians do it. Admen do it. Employees and employers do it. Husbands tell wives only what they think the wife wants to hear. Wives tell husbands only what they cannot hide. We might as well all be fly-by-night peddlers of inferior goods.

"They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious." What can he mean here? Let's see. The moral fiber of our nation has been lost to secular humanism, our new religion. But we try to make laws - based on the ten commandments - without referring to them or to their originator. So we have rampant evil in our society. Murder and mayhem are common, so we try to fix them with incarceration as a deterrent. There is no deterrent when there is no conscience. And we have steadily educated the conscience out of our youth. We have taught them "situation ethics" which have replaced moral absolutes.

And we have no shame. We no longer know how to blush. Promiscuity, lewd behavior, grasping greed, and deceit have become our way of life, activities which are not only tolerated, but expected. And those who don't behave that way and call for a different standard of behavior are labeled "intolerant" -- the worst epithet this current generation can apply.

The Lord prescribes the cure: to look where the ancient path is and to walk in it. He promises rest for the soul, if we will but return to His standards of behavior. Are we simply too proud or too stupid to be embarrassed?

Father, God,

Help us to see the ancient path of righteousness. Give us the grace to drop our arrogance and pride and to seek You in humility and reverence. Teach us Your ways that we may remember how to blush at our faults and learn to correct them.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Two Sins

Focus verses: Jeremiah 2:10-19

The words of the Lord here are a somber charge against the children of Israel. God compares them to the nations of idolaters surrounding them -- unfavorably, I might add.

The other nations remain faithful to their idols, even though those idols are powerless to help them. But the people of God have exchanged the glory of God for worthless idols. The heavens are to be appalled and shudder with horror.

These verses are as valuable for us today as they were for the nation of Israel when Jeremiah was speaking them.

We have exchanged the glory of God for the idol of secular humanism. God is no longer the measure by which we judge ourselves. Man is to be the measure of all things.

This shift in values can lead only to destruction. It smacks of the fall of an angel to become a demon.

Our only hope lies in prayer followed by appropriate action. God calls us to pray for the nation and He promises to hear us. But there is action in the call besides just praying. Those actions are humble themselves, pray, seek and turn. Prayer is only a part of it.

Humble ourselves, recognize that we are not the measure of all things.
Pray, get on our knees and petition the Lord, recognizing His Sovereignty.
Seek, actively study to learn more of Him.
Turn, change our behaviors - another way to say repent.

We are called to these actions to try to save our nation from the destruction appointed for the idolatrous.

Father, God,

Show us our place in Your scheme of things. Keep us mindful of our pettiness in the face of Your majesty. Help us to follow Your call to action for our homeland. Stay Your hand yet a little longer while Your faithful pray and seek change.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

I Knew You

Focus verses: Jeremiah 1:4-8

The story of Jeremiah's call to be a prophet is a comfort to me because there are three truths in it.

First - God says to Jeremiah that He knew him before He formed him in his mother's womb. What was true of Jeremiah is true of every person ever born. God knew you before you were born. He knew what you would look like, how you would respond to challenges, whether you would be easily obedient or difficult to discipline. He knew all about you. (And He loved you. Still does.)

Second - He says to Jeremiah that He set him apart for a particular calling. This is also true of you. God has a particular calling in mind for each person. There is an appointed time and place for you in His universe. Your highest achievement is to be faithful to that calling.

Third - He promises Jeremiah that He will never leave him. As Jeremiah goes where God tells him and says what God commands him to say, the Lord will be with him and will rescue him from whatever comes against him. This promise is also true for you. When you are doing God's work, He will be your shield and protector.

Just consider.
God had you in mind when He spoke the words "Let there be light."
God has a purpose for your life - one designed just for you alone.
God will never leave you.

If we believe these three statements to be true, what can stop us from being the ambassadors God wants to send to His hurting world? Of what need we be afraid?

I love the saying "The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you." Let us resolve to stay in the will of God.

Father, God,

Thank You for Your promises to us. We are grateful that You choose to be involved in our lives to the smallest details. Help us to be faithful to You, listening closely for Your will, obeying Your calling instantaneously.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sing And Rejoice

Focus verses: Zephaniah 3:8-17

Despite man's unfaithfulness and despite the Lord's anger, there is yet hope. Reading these verses we see that we are told to sing and rejoice.

This is because after the Lord's day of wrath, there is a recalling of the remnant of the faithful. Those who have been faithful will survive the day of judgment and will be found victorious.

The Lord says He will purify the lips of the peoples. that all of them may call upon His name. This reminds us of the picture of Isaiah.

Remember when he found himself in the throne room of God, with all the angels. The glory of the Lord was so heavy that he fell on his face saying "woe is me for I am a man of unclean lips." And an angel took a coal from the altar and touched his lips to purify them. Then he was worthy to speak the name of the Lord as an emissary of God.

Here too, God says He will purify the lips of the people. Those of us who are faithful to God should rejoice in this passage. It means that we will speak the righteousness of God to the nation. We are to be His emissaries in this hurting world. It is our duty and our privilege to speak for the righteousness of God, the love of God, the mercy of God and the wrath of God in equal proportion.

It is only when we tell the whole truth of God that we can be rightfully called His emissaries.

Father, God,

Open our ears and hearts to learn of You. Purify our lips to tell of You. Send us wherever You wish to spread the good news to all people. Soften our hearts to love all Your children.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Lest We Believe We Are Privileged

Focus verses: II Kings 23:25-27
Background: II Chronicles 33:18-25

The descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob comprised the chosen people of God. The two separate kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judah in the south, were essentially all cousins - several times removed, but still cousins.

These are the people whose destruction is documented in our focus verses. God is speaking His intention to remove them from His presence. Oy vey!

If God will separate His presence from His chosen people simply because of their faithlessness and bad behavior, how much more will He remove Himself from those of us who are merely "grafted in" when we are faithless and idolatrous?

Even the godly character of King Josiah was not enough to quench the smoldering anger of the Lord against Judah. This is a case of the sins of the father being visited on the sons and the grandsons for generations. Manasseh was the king who inflamed the Lord's anger. Josiah was his grandson. The story is not yet completed.

We sit in a nation that has been favored by the Lord for two hundred years and more. But we persist in doing what is evil in the sight of God. We put things ahead of God in idolatry. We comfort ourselves with euphemisms like "freedom of choice" and "alternate lifestyle" when what we are naming is sin. Calling stink weed a rose will not make it smell any sweeter.

Even were we to have a Josiah in our midst, the anger of the Lord is surely smoldering against us as we speak. Our knees should be calloused in prayer and our voices should be heard in this wilderness of sin, calling people to repentance and to the Lord.

Father, God,

Stay Your anger a little longer. Give us the opportunity to become more faithful to You, more vocal in Your causes, more winning in our ways, so that we may bring our nation back to the fold of Your love.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

God's Wrath

Focus verses: Nahum 1:1-6

"The Lord is slow to anger and great in power." One reason the Lord is slow to anger is His great love for mankind. He is not willing that any should perish, so He withholds His anger until it is obvious that the sinner or the sinful nation is not about to repent.

Remember His conversation with Abraham over Sodom. He would have withheld His anger with Sodom had there been but a few righteous men in the city. There was, in fact, only Lot. And He made a way for Lot to escape.

In Jonathan Edward's famous sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God", we read "The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given, and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose. "

Personally, I tremble for our nation. The abominations and desecrations we tolerate in the name of political correctness have earned us the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. God is withholding his anger, I believe, because of the remnant of the righteous who still are here and still praying for the nation.

Social responsibility would have every Christian evangelizing and bringing people to God. Let us resolve to be the buffer between our nation and the hands of an angry God until we can turn this nation back to its roots in faith.

Father, God,

While we are Your children, never let us for get that we have a responsibility to bring all men unto You. Help us to see ways to woo the lost for Your kingdom so that Your righteous anger will be quenched.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

God Of Wrath

Focus verses: Isaiah 65:11-16

In today's world we talk about a God of love. And God is that. He surely is love. But He is also a God of wrath.

As you read these verses, you can't help feeling sorry for those who forsake the Lord. And it seems a terribly harsh ending.

Look at it carefully, however. God gave man a free will. Man can choose whether he wants God as a part of his life or not. If he chooses to have God in his life, God will honor that. As man repents his wrongdoings, God is merciful and loving and swift to forgive. Like a doting parent, He spoils us and gives us what we want.

The people to whom God is speaking here are those who decided they wanted no part of God in their lives. And again, like a doting parent, God is letting them have their own way. He will not inflict Himself on them in life. Nor will He presume the keep them in His presence after death.

There are only two places to live in this universe. One is in the presence of God and the other is away from God. One is heaven, the other is hell. We choose. And God honors our choice because he gave man a free will.

If we choose to live in the presence of God, we can have a piece of heaven on earth. If we choose the other, well....

Father, God,

Help us to choose wisely. Keep us ever mindful of Your presence and Your will. Grant that we may be ever obedient to Your promptings and swift to obey. Deliver us from waywardness.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Promise Fulfilled

Focus verses: Isaiah 61:1-3

This passage proclaims the coming Messiah. Jesus Himself tells us that when he reads from Isaiah's scroll in the temple at Nazareth. "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

Isaiah is speaking of both himself (this is what he has been commissioned of the Lord to do) and of the coming Messiah. Their purposes are the same purpose: to proclaim the salvation of the Lord to the world.

This promise has been fulfilled. But it is still being fulfilled. The purpose of the Christian is to be Christ-like. Therefore this commission is what God has called all of us to do. We have been anointed to preach the Good News, the gospel of our Lord.

It is our task to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, to proclaim the day of vengeance of our God.

How are we fulfilling this job description? Do we proclaim the good news to all we meet? Are we kind and tenderhearted towards the poor and brokenhearted? Are we proclaiming the day of vengeance of our Lord?

Judgment is coming. The Lord will have a court date with this world. By our tolerance of aberrant behavior and our mealy-mouthed, puny objections to wrong in our justice system, we have failed to proclaim the day of the Lord's vengeance. We do no one any favors when we keep silent. We are to speak out - in love - the truth of God.

Things he calls "abomination" must not be tolerated. What he calls "sin" should be seen as evil in our sight and those practices at least discouraged, if not eradicated.

Silence in the name of tolerance is intolerable. We have been commissioned to speak. Let us speak truth to all around us - always with Your love.

Father, God,

Give us the courage of Your convictions and Your truth. Make us bold to speak Your will throughout the land. Grant us a tender heart for those who have not heard, do not know, or have been led astray from Your paths.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Empty Ritual And True Worship

Focus verses Isaiah 58:1-12

My grandmother used to say "Actions speak louder than words." This adage wasn't original to her, but she mentioned it frequently. And she used to quote this poem.

"I love you, Mother," said little Nell.
"I love you more than tongue can tell."
Then she teased and pouted half the day,
Till Mother rejoiced when she went to play.

"I love you, Mother," said little Nan.
"Today I’ll help you all I can."
Busy and happy all day was she,
Helpful and cheerful as child could be.

God is saying something very much like that in these verses. All your rituals and Sunday pomp and circumstance are totally empty if they don't make a change in your Monday through Saturday.

If we fast and put on sackcloth and ashes, it doesn't mean a thing unless the product of our fasting is to help someone else. Abstaining from food is not the end itself. It is a means to provide food to others. Our God has a social conscience. Read verses 6 through 12 again carefully.

These are the social responsibilities of the child of God. Do we measure up?

Father, God,

Keep us from being so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good. As long as we are here, show us how and where to help Your hurting world, and help us to be faithful to the true worship of You as expressed in service to others.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Seeking Him

Focus verses: Isaiah 55:6-13

"Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near."

This verse seems to carry a timetable. "While he may be found" implies there will be a time when God will no longer be "findable."

That doesn't necessarily mean that God will change. I believe it means there is a time when we might quit seeking. We might let the things of this world mean so much to us that we no longer have the desire to seek Him. At some point we may become content with the status quo and not look for anything beyond ourselves. Eventually we harden our hearts to the point where no one could drag us to the Lord with a winch.

The verses that follow challenge us to come out of ourselves and become what God would have us to be. He has a vision for each of our lives that is beyond what we can hope or imagine. If we fall back into the "content with what is" category, we will never realize the full potential that God has given us.

He assures us that His word does not come back void, but it accomplishes the purpose for which He sent it forth. When we take God at His word, we can never be disappointed. The vision He will give you as you seek Him will come to fruition in your obedience.

There is a promise of joy and peace in our obedience to Him. And there is also exultation. In the words of the song "The hills are alive with the sound of music." We have been promised a celebration. Let's party.

Father, God,

Thank You for being as near to us as our next breath. Keep our hearts soft and searching to know You better, to hear Your word more precisely, to move in instantaneous obedience to Your directives.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Good News

Focus verses: Isaiah 52:7-10

In the old movie "Yours, Mine and Ours," there is a scene of Christmas morning. Six-year-old Phillip comes down the stairs to see that Santa Claus has been there. He turns around and rushes back up the stairs to tell everyone "Santa Claus been here!" And fifteen more sets of feet come pounding down the stairs.

Excitement, chaos, glee, laughter, joy, song all have a part in this scene. I mean this was very good news to all those children.

That same kind of joy and abandon floods our hearts when we hear our good news. Our God reigns. He is sovereign. It will be made obvious to the whole earth.

From Handel's "Messiah" the chorus booms "And all flesh shall see it together."

The good news is that God is Sovereign and all of earth and heaven and hell will someday acknowledge His sovereignty. For every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

But there is a special joy for those who confess not that He is Lord, but that He is my Lord. Our lives are purposeful and useful and eternal only when He is not the Lord of something distant or nebulous, but He is the Lord of our lives.

The bumper sticker that says "God is my copilot" is all wrong. God is the pilot; we just fasten our seat belts and come along for the ride. Oh, sometimes we are the flight attendants serving the other passengers, but make no mistake, God is piloting this craft.

That's the best news of all. Not only is He sovereign, he is immediately involved in our daily lives.

Father, God,

Thank You for caring about each and every one of us to the point that you know the number of hairs on each of our heads. Help us to be daily, hourly, moment-by-moment conscious of Your presence in our lives.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Foreshadowing Of The Messiah

Focus verses: Isaiah 50:4-13

Although these verses really speak of the coming Messiah, they can also be said of the devoted Christian.

The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. Our tongues can know the words God would have us speak. We need only to listen to Him, read His word, obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

God does not speak to us simply to tickle our ears and give us something about which to be smug and supercilious. He speaks to us for the good of His body, the church universal.

Look at the progression here. He wakens me morning by morning -- every morning -- to listen like an avid learner listens to a favorite teacher.

Who wakens us? The Sovereign Lord. It appears four times in this passage. Sovereign Lord. When God is our Sovereign, there is nothing the world can do to shake us and our security in Him.

The second part of the progression is "I have not been rebellious." We cannot put our wills against the will of God and be either right or successful.

The third part is "I have not drawn back." I have not been timid nor slow to obey what my ears have heard. When we listen to God, our obedience must be immediate. We are not to question God's directives. There is a time for doing each thing. If we miss the time because of reluctance or timidity, we have actually been disobedient. Not a thing which a child of God should wish.

The fourth part of this progression is one I'd just as soon not look at. I offered my back to those who beat me... This is definitely a picture of Christ at His trials before the crucifixion. And it goes on with the pulled beard and mocking and spitting. Ugh!

I'd just as soon not have to go through stuff like this. But He did. And if He did, those of us who bear His name will go through similar trials as well. Don't take my word for it.

Jesus is speaking here: John 16: 33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

And this is the end of our progression. If our Sovereign Lord has overcome the world, if He is our vindication, then nothing the world can do to us will have any lasting effect in eternity.

Father, God,

Help us to be eager to listen and swift to obey. Keep us faithful in Your service no matter how the world responds to us.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Every Knee Shall Bow

Focus verses: Isaiah 45:15-25

God is, and always has been, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But here He claims He will be God for those who are not blood descendants of Jacob (Israel).

He calls the fugitives from the nations to an assembly. He invites them to turn to Him, not the idols of this world, and be saved. What a precious invitation!

No longer do you have to be a descendant of Jacob to be God's chosen person. You can be anyone, from anywhere. God's arms are open to all.

It is the precursor of another verse.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16 KJV

Whosoever... Whosoever can be replaced by any name in the world. Annie, Bob, Carl, David, Elizabeth, Frank, Genevieve, Harriet, Irene, John, Kenneth, Larry, Martin, Nathan, Olivia, Pearl, Quinton, Ralph, Sarah, Tess, Ursula, Victor, Wendy, Xavier, Yvonne, Zelda.

When we turn to God, our knees bow in adoration. But this passage also says that every knee, not just those who turn to Him, will bow. Can you imagine the consternation of not having turned to the Lord and ultimately finding yourself in the position of bowing to him in terror?

Let us resolve to be ambassadors and evangelists so that the number of trembling, terrified knees is lessened and the number of adoring knees is increased.

Father, God,

Help us to reflect Your light to this darkened world. Let us be beacons, leading the lost to You. Grant us the gentleness and tenderness to woo them into Your kingdom.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Remember No More

Focus verses: Isaiah 43:16-25

Wallowing in the regrets of the past is counterproductive. When we keep thinking about what is gone or lost, what we have done or have failed to do, we have neither room nor energy for going forward and developing the new things that God has planned for our lives.

God wants us not to dwell in the past. He specifically asks us to look for the new things He is doing. In the old hymn, "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" we sing in the chorus "Morning by morning new mercies I see." That's the ticket.

Thomas O. Chisholm, the writer of the lyrics of this hymn, evidently knew very well God's desires as expressed in our focus verses. The hymn is filled only with evidence of God's faithfulness. Nothing of man's past appears until you get to the third verse: "Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside."

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. At one of the hardest times in my life, when I thought grief would drown me in the sea of sorrow, that hymn would well up from the middle of my spirit, and I would be comforted.

Verse 25. "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more." God distinctly remembers forgetting our sins when we have confessed them. He doesn't hold them against us once we have dealt with them. Each confessional brings a new beginning. The slate has been cleaned. And God can write upon our lives the new things He has planned for us.

Father, God,

We thank You that You are so generous with us, that You want the past to be the past and not some chain to hold back the future. Help us to rid ourselves of the arrogance that our memories are more important than Yours. If You forget, help us to forget -- not the lesson learned -- but the sin itself.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Role Of The Messiah

Focus verses: Isaiah 42:1-7

God gives us a glimpse of the coming Messiah. He tells us that Messiah will bring justice and mercy to the people. And he Promises that He will keep us in His covenant, in His righteousness.

What a beautiful promise!

The tenderness of the Lord in these verses is nurturing and supportive. He will not break a bruised reed nor quench a smoldering wick. His justice is tempered with mercy.

Can we say the same of ourselves?

It has sometimes been said that Christians are the only group of people that shoot their wounded. People who have weaknesses are sometimes not welcome in our services. We look down upon them, as if we could not fall into a similar plight. Those of us who have had relatively painless lives can have a tendency to become smug and self-satisfied. A tendency to feel superior to those who have not been so fortunate as we.

A little humility is in order here. Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. We need to have patience and mercy with the hurting lest we find ourselves in similar circumstances.

Father, God,

Imbue us with Your mercy and tenderness. Keep us from the sin of self-righteous pride. Help us to deal tenderly with Your hurting world.

In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Comfort And Praise

Focus verses: Isaiah Chapter 40

I cannot read the 40th chapter of Isaiah without hearing the music of George Frederick Handel's "Messiah" oratorio.

The bass starts with "Comfort ye my people." And the chorus swells with "The Glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together."

There is such comfort and joy and praise in this entire passage. It is merely a whisper of the comfort and joy and praise that awaits the faithful in the presence of God.

Occasionally we get glimpses of the glory of the Lord, the full glory of the Lord. Anticipating the full presence and glory of the Lord is the joy and hope of every Christian. The heart swells to bursting. Our minds cannot comprehend.

But Isaiah has given us a picture. One we can hold in our hearts against the day when we can see with our own eyes, hear with our own ears the chorus of angelic praise, feel with our senses the presence of the Lord, immediate, overwhelming, and completely surrounding us.

This is an invitation to fulfill our desires for knowledge of and closeness to the Lord. Remembering this, we can hope and anticipate whatever God has in store for us.

Father, God,

We thank You for this glimpse of what heaven must be like. Grant that we may hunger and thirst for You and You alone. Help us to be single-minded in our search for You.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Fallen Away

Focus verses: II Kings 21:2-16

Today's reading shows us two things. Manasseh was the son of Hezekiah. Hezekiah's reign in Judah was one of spiritual renewal. But Hezekiah died when Manasseh was only twelve years old, so Manasseh didn't have the maturity in the Lord to keep the faith that his father had passed on.

We are not told whether Manasseh had bad advisors, or whether his mother, Hephzibah, could have influenced his waywardness, but he fell back into idolatry and pagan worship.

God has no grandchildren. Each must come to God of his own free will. It is a unique relationship. It makes no difference if your father was a priest or a pagan. It isn't important whether your mother was a servant of God or a princess of Baal.

The relationship with God is unique to each person. Just as a parent loves each of his children differently, God loves each of us differently -- not less nor more -- but taking into consideration the uniqueness of the relationship with each child. Each of us must come to the knowledge of God on his/her own.

The second thing we learn is that the consequences of infidelity are the same from generation to generation. A return to idolatry and pagan worship will be rewarded with destruction.

Father, God,

Help us to appreciate the uniqueness of our relationship with you. Teach us Your ways so that we can impart them to our children and lead them to the knowledge and worship of You.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Nothing New

Focus verses: II Kings 19:20-34

In days of old I planned it, now I have brought it to pass... (v. 25)

This verse gave me much comfort in a time of bitter trial. It let me know that God had this event in mind before it happened.

Because God gave man a free will, many things happen that God would not have ordained. But God is all-knowing and is aware of the bad choices that man will make. Because He is aware, He makes provision for our frailties and turns the evil of this world into eventual good.

That is not to say that He needs the evil in this world to bring about good. He simply redeems the situation from it's evil by using it for good. Joseph told his brothers who sold him into slavery that what they meant for evil, God used for good.

There is nothing new under the sun. The evils man has done in the past will be continued in the future. And the redemption that God has planned will continue as well. Our only hope is in Him and His provision for our well-being. God is never surprised.

Father, God,

Help us to put into perspective the temporal things that seem designed to destroy us. Reassure us that nothing can separate us from Your loving provision.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

For The Record

Focus verses: Isaiah 30:8-14

From time to time, God instructs us to write His words as an everlasting witness. He didn't intend that His words fall into thin air and not be remembered. Writing the words of God provides a lesson for future generations, not just the people to whom He was speaking originally.

God's principles remain constant. What was a valid principle then is a valid principle now. God's children were rebellious, deceitful and unwilling to be instructed. They didn't want to hear the truth of God or have to face their shortcomings.

It's not so different now. Even in Christian circles, we are willing to listen to preachers and teachers who will tickle our ears rather than expound the word of God.

As a society, we justify all kinds of selfish and aberrant behavior. We do not hold our actions to the standards of scripture, but indulge our whims and vices. These actions carry consequences. Consquences we may be unprepared to bear.

We should renew our commitment to read the word of God and use it as the yardstick for our behavior.

Father, God,

Thank you for Your faithful people who have written Your words so that we may read and learn from them. Keep us faithful to daily reading and learning.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Adulterated Worship

Focus verses: II Kings 17:27-41

This passage just blew me away. I had always assumed that the children of Israel had worshiped either the Lord or the gods of the land where they were living. Here we're told that the king of Assyria sent a priest of the Lord back to the land of Samaria to teach the people how to worship the Lord.

But the people living there had their own gods so they simply added the worship of the Lord to the worship of the gods they had. Despite being warned against the practice of worshiping the Lord as just another god to appease, the people continued in their multiple gods form of worship.

"Even while theses people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their fathers did." (v.41)

So what has this passage to do with us today? We don't necessarily call it worship -- perhaps hero worship -- but it's not the same thing, is it?

Yesterday, and for the last week, the news has been filled with the death of a single musician whom the tabloids and media hype called a king. We have a TV program titled "American Idol." We follow celebrities and their movements, their causes, their love lives, their clothing choices, their hairstyles. And many of us try to emulate them.

If that weren't enough, we have other idols that vie for first place in our lives, our professions, our influence, our finances, our positions of power.

God wants our whole heart - not just a small corner of it. Not even the top corner of it. He wants it all. Every other action or desire must flow from our love of God and His primacy in our lives.

All else is the worst form of adultery.

Father, God,

Help us to become more single minded, setting our hearts upon You alone. Teach us how to keep the other necessities of our existence in their proper place, subordinate to You.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Spiritual Renewal

Focus verses: Isaiah 29:22-24

Today's reading is full of promise. Promise of forgiven sins, returned blessings, restoration and spiritual renewal.

There is to be a time when the people will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob and will stand in awe of the God of Israel. People who have been rebellious will learn of Him.

In conversation with a friend yesterday, he mentioned a class reunion. He said that when they graduated half the class was Christian and the other were simply secular. But at this reunion, it seems that all had come to a saving knowledge of the Lord. One who had had a miserable childhood with no instruction of the Lord had become a strong proponent of God. Another has a blog where the prayers and writings are evangelical and strong teaching.

His question was, given his experience, why do we not hear about the growth of faith in this country. We came to the conclusion that the media hypes the exception, not the rule. The strident voices do not necessarily represent the majority, just the most vociferous.

Our conversation reminded me of the passage in II Chronicles 7:14 "If my people who are called by my name...."

Although we all know those who have no understanding of the Lord, there are many who do. And if we who know Him continue to teach, explain, and provide example for those who don't, He will draw all of them unto Himself.

Every Christian is the seed of spiritual renewal in his circle of influence. Let us be fruitful.

Father, God,

We ask for a fresh wind of Your Holy Spirit to sweep across our land. Breathe on us the renewal we so urgently desire. Help us to be fruitful in this time of harvest.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Empty Worship

Focus verse: Isaiah 29:13

Many people in this country attend church regularly. If the door is open, they are there. We tend to assume that people who are actively working in church are somehow super spiritual.

That isn't necessarily the case. This verse should bring us to examine our motives and our hearts.

These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men. (v.13)

What constitutes a heart of worship? Where does God rate in our schedules and our scheme of things? Is He, in fact, first? Or is He just an afterthought?

When do we seek Him? Daily? Hourly? Moment by moment? Or do we just call upon him when we have come to the end of our selves and need emergency intervention?

God tells us specifically that He doesn't care about the trappings of worship, that worship is an attitude of the heart. Only when our hearts long for Him above all else can we worship in spirit and in truth.

Father, God, Fan the flames of hunger for You in our hearts. Show us that seeking You, Your face and heart, not just Your helping hand, is the way to eternal contentment.
In Jesus' most precious name. Amen.

True Security

Focus verses: Isaiah 26:1-13

Today's reading is rich with promise.

Isaiah talks about the promise of the Lord for perfect peace. It is a verse I memorized in the King James version: "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee." (v.3)

In this world, the only thing that isn't transient is the Lord. Only He is permanent. Everything else will change or move or evaporate, but He is firm and sure and unchanging.

The basis for our security is to learn to walk in His ways, to set our hearts on Him, to put His name and reputation above our own. When we carry the title Christian, we are His representatives to those who have not yet learned of Him.

It has been said that there are five gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Christians. Most people will only read the fifth gospel. The world will judge our God by our actions. Even though the Bible is the most purchased book of all time, it is also the most neglected and dusty.

People who do not read the Bible will judge our God by our actions. What a terrible, awesome thought!

Father, God,

Help us to walk in Your ways and set our hearts upon You first and foremost. Grant that we may be ever mindful of being Your ambassadors to a hurting world. Keep us from misrepresenting You in word or deed.
In Jesus' most precious name.

PS. Happy Birthday, Sally!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Our Compassionate God

Focus verses: II Chronicles 30:1-9

King Hezekiah returned Judah to the worship of the Lord. He had the Levites purify the Temple, and he invited the northern tribes to a Passover feast. While most did not participate, a few did.

The invitation that went out said "return to the Lord, The of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, the He may return to you who are left." And it ended with "the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to Him."

Hezekiah knew the Lord well. He did what was good and right. Therefore he prospered.

Righteousness is its own reward. But it seems that prosperity of one sort or another follows the righteous person. Prosperity is not always financial; frequently it takes the form of spiritual well-being and contentment.

The wealth of the Christian is the favor of the Lord. It is the knowledge that God is always in control of whatever circumstances may be around us. For our God is compassionate and forgiving to those who love and serve Him.

Father, God,

Keep us ever mindful that our life, our hope, and our prosperity is to be found only in You. Help us to purify our temples for Your service.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Day Of The Lord Is Coming

Focus verses: Isaiah 13:9-16

As a Christian, I look forward to the day when the Lord comes again. I anticipate a day of glory and rejoicing.

Isaiah's picture of the day of the Lord is quite different. He sees it as a day of wrath and fierce anger, a day when the land will be desolated and destroyed. All of nature will be out of sync.

The Lord will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their sins. Do we live in a wicked and sinful world?

He will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and humble the pride of the ruthless. Are there proud and ruthless people in our world?

Is he talking about the judgment against Babylon? Or could he mean a judgment against us as well?

The words of God have eternal meaning. His truth is forever. His righteousness is not just for a season. It's eternal. If, as a nation, we behave like Babylon, we will share Babylon's judgment.

Father, God,

Help us to pray for our country as we should. Strengthen us to speak out against injustice and unrighteousness. Grant that we may make a difference in this world to bring it to You.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Righteous King In Judah

Focus verses: II Kings 18:1-7

After all the prophecies of doom and gloom, both against the children of Israel and against their enemies, we have a moment's respite.

Hezekiah, king of Judah, trusted the Lord and did what was right in His eyes. He removed the high places of worship to idols and cut down the Asherah poles. He took anything that could have been called an idol and destroyed it. And the Lord prospered all that he did.

In the middle of all the corruption and evil, one king brought Judah back to the worship of the true God. There are consequences for righteousness as well as consequences for sin.

The consequences of Hezekiah's faithfulness are just what you would expect. Everything he undertook was successful.

God has given us a blueprint for success and prosperity. He handed it to Moses on Mount Sinai. We are not able to follow that blueprint precisely because we are a fallen people, but God has even given us His Son to cover our shortcomings. God looks at our hearts, not just our actions.

Because we are children of Adam and Eve, we will never be able to keep the law completely. But that shouldn't keep us from striving to keep it all. Nor should it give us an excuse for not trying.

If we are faithful to Him, God will prosper the work of our hands. That doesn't mean we will all be millionaires. It does mean that our efforts will be rewarded in one fashion or another.

That reward, however, should not be our goal. Our goal is complete fidelity to the Lord. We may fall short, but we can always pick ourselves up and start again. The more we seek to follow, the better we will get at it.

Father, God,

Save us from being deluded by the lures of this world. Keep us faithful, single-minded on serving You alone.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

God's Wrath Is Real

Focus verses: Isaiah 34:1-4

Today's readings describe the wrath of God in judgment against the nations.

We sometimes forget that God is not only loving, but He can also be wrathful. We have been sold a gospel of "God is love" without the concomitant teaching that He is also righteous and will not abide unrighteousness.

When we see only one side of God, we have a skewed vision. We think we know God because we know that one facet of His character. We are wrong.

God is infinite. We are finite. There is no way we will ever wrap our finite little minds around the entirety of an Infinite God. But that is no excuse for not learning all we can know of Him.

God is loving. God is righteous. God is wrathful. And He is so much more as well. Our only hope is to continue to study the scriptures to absorb as much about Him as our minds will hold.

Father, God,

Help us to see you as the multidimensional God You are. Grant us the wisdom to seek to learn more and more of You and Your precepts.
In Jesus' most precious name.