Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Focus verses: Psalm 118

This psalm contains some of my favorite lines of scripture. It begins with "His love endures forever." That is such a comfort.

When God loves you, He never stops loving you. If you are disobedient and willful, He loves you. Even when you reject Him, He loves you. When He has to let you suffer the consequences of your own actions, He loves you. When you love Him and obey Him, you can enjoy the fact that He loves you and revel in His blessings.

God's love is the basis for all our confidence. If God be for us, who can stand against us? The ultimate victory is ours. The enemy may win a skirmish here and there, but the victory is the Lord's. When we are on His side, we cannot lose.

The assurance that the Lord is always victorious give us the strength to go forward, singing songs of His praise. We can sing, even in times of trouble and grief because the victory belongs to the Lord, not to the enemy.

Man's opinion does not count in God's world. It is God's opinion that defines who we are and what we can do. While we do not completely disregard the opinions of others, it is God's word that must define our thoughts and actions. It is God who will reward the deeds we do.

Our job is to take possession of today. God's mercies are new every morning. So today we will rejoice in Him and His provision for our lives. We cannot wallow in the regrets of yesterday. There is nothing we can do to change what has already been done. We cannot worry about tomorrow, we don't have the leisure to speculate on what if this or that. It is today that counts. We need to go about our business, singing the praises of the Lord today. He knows what tomorrow will bring and has already made provision for that as well.

We do well to "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever."

Father, God,

Help us to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for all that You are and all that You do for us. We forget that our next breath is a gift from You. Grant that we may always remember all Your mercies.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Who Will Not Learn From History

Focus verses: Psalm 78:58-72

Psalm 78 is a recounting of the Lord's munificence to the children of Israel, the way he led them out of Egypt, how he fed them in the wilderness, his driving the inhabitants of the promised land out before them. And it is a litany of Israel's infidelities to the Lord as well. This telling ends with the rule of David and praise for his skill and integrity of heart.

It seems strange to me that God should claim that David was a man after His own heart. David did some really horrible things. He stole another man's wife. He conspired to have that man killed. That's breaking two of the ten commandments right there, and it flowed out of his breaking a third. "You shall not covet."

But God remembers who and what man is. He remembers our frailties. And He looks upon our grief and repentance with mercy rather than judgment.

My grandmother used to say "those who will not learn from history are condemned to repeat it." The children of Israel are a prime example. They walked around that mountain time and time again. God would redeem them. They would prosper. Then they would add other things as idols in their lives. God would be pushed aside. And He would have to send them into exile again before they found out that He was the foundation of their lives.

How many things have we put before God in our lives? Money, position, family, possessions, ambitions? Can we take stock and say truthfully that God is first in our lives? If not, we would be well advised to change our priorities. The first commandment of Jesus is to love the Lord with all your heart and mind and strength. (My paraphrase.)

Let us make the Lord our first love and all else will fall into place according to His plans for our lives.

Father, God,

Help us to remember to seek You first. Not your favors or blessings, just Your presence in our lives. Whatever happens, we can survive and thrive if we are close to You. Grant us the blessing of closeness to You.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Focus verses: Zechariah 7:4-10

During the rebuilding of the temple, God spoke to Zechariah again, to encourage the builders and to set forth some simpler goals for the people.

The pivotal question here is why do you feast or fast? Are you fasting unto the Lord, or are you doing it from selfish motive. Are you feasting in the joy of the Lord, or is it because that is the expected thing, so you do it grumbling?

The motive for any action is as important as the deed itself. When you give to the church, do you give expecting a return? Or do you give for the use of the Lord without thought of recompense? Do you do something just because the Lord says to? Or do you do it because the Lord promises a reward if you do?

When the motive for any action is to please the Lord - regardless of consequence - then the temple of your life is restored to God's original design.

Look at what He asks of you. Administer justice, show mercy, Do not oppress the less fortunate. Do not think evil of one another. Two commands to do. Two commands to don't. That should be simple enough. But why do you do these things? Because He said so. That's why.

Only when our hearts are restored to complete obedience will we be restored totally to the Lord.

Father, God,

Grant us the keen ears to hear Your voice and the humility of heart to obey instantaneously. We thank You for the saving work of Jesus on the Cross. Keep us ever mindful of our total dependence upon You.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Crown

Focus verses: Zechariah6:9-15

Today's reading tells us of the eight visions of Zechariah which the Lord brought to him while the temple was being rebuilt. The visions all seem to be an assurance to to Zechariah that the Lord is in this work and that it will succeed.

Israel will be restored to prosperity. Israel's oppressors will be punished. God will be among His returning people. The sins of the people will be removed by someone called The Branch. God will complete this temple through His anointed ones. The wicked will always be punished. Wicked nations will be destroyed. There will be peace at last.

But our focus verses are no vision. They are a directive from the Lord.

The gold and silver are real metals, the crown is a real diadem, Joshua is a real person, a high priest. And this coronation is a foreshadowing of Christ. In Hebrew the name Joshua (the Lord saves) is the root of the name Jesus. Personally, I don't think this is a coincidence.

This crown is to be retained in the temple of the Lord. It is a memorial - a promise - that there will be another anointed and crowned who will rule in all harmony. All this is to be if the people will diligently obey the Lord.

Notice how often God's promises are tied to diligent obedience. Study, praise, sacrifice all have their place. But obedience is the cornerstone of fidelity to the Lord.

Father, God,

We thank You for Your promises of presence and restoration. We thank You for Your Son as the means of salvation. Help us to be obedient at all times and in all places.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Glory And Peace

Focus verses: Haggai: 2:1-9

The temple building project cannot be completed in a few days or even a few months. During the reconstruction, the Lord sends Haggai and Zechariah with encouraging messages to keep the work going. Some projects simply require more dedication, determination and effort than others.

In this passage, God reassures the children of Israel that the glory of this temple will surpass the glory of Solomon's temple. That seems counter-intuitive because this temple is smaller in size and will have less ornamentation than the former temple.

Perhaps glory is not a quality that is measured by size and ornament. Perhaps glory is a facet of essence. You see, Jesus himself will walk the halls of this temple. He will teach here. He will drive the money changers out.

"And in this place I will grant peace," declares the Lord Almighty.

Peace is much sought after in all times and seasons. There seems to be precious little of it in our nations today. And yet the greeting in Hebrew is shalom - peace. Our western custom of shaking hands is sprung from the offering to another of a sword hand that is empty of weapon - symbolic of peace.

We have no temple. This second temple has been destroyed as well. But each of us has a personal temple. We have been told that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We have been bought by the blood of Christ and belong to Him, not to ourselves. He has sent the Holy Spirit to indwell with us.

Let us consider ourselves as the temple of the Holy Spirit. Let us look for God's glory in our lives. Let us rejoice in His peace, which will bless our spirits that we might continue our work for Him.

Father, God,

Help us to see things on a spiritual plane, not just in physical earthly terms. Grant us the vision to see Your work as on-going and us as Your masons, building temple for You brick by brick.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Favor With Man

Focus verses: Ezra 5:6-6:17

The political climate around the children of Israel was in some upheaval. Rulers had changed, and the new rulers did not know that it was Cyrus' decree that the temple should be rebuilt.

Instead, they looked to the instigating letters of some troublesome people and halted the construction. When the government says "don't do" this or that, it generally behooves us to obey the edicts of the government.

But the children of Israel didn't stop there. While they halted their work (temporarily), they promptly petitioned the King Darius to look into the archives and honor the decree of King Cyrus. When the king found the decree of Cyrus, he issued a further decree setting forth the penalty for those who would continue to hinder the work of the temple.

When man tries to hinder the work of God, he places himself in jeopardy. But you will notice that the people of Israel didn't do anything against the enemies hindering them. They petitioned the king. It was he who set forth the penalty for interference.

We need to petition the KIng of Kings when things are not going well for our God-given projects. It is He who will grant us favor with man to continue the work. We simply need to move the battle into God's arena.

Father, God,

Remind us always that favor with You can lead to favor with man. Keep us ever faithful to the tasks You have set before us.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sealed Til The End

Focus verses: Daniel 12:5-13

Beginning in chapter ten, we see Daniel's last vision and the setting in which it occurs. The visions of Daniel have been the subject of much discussion. Prophecies and visions seem to fascinate us and call forth the desire to unravel them. Witness the popularity of the mystery genre in popular literature.

In verse eight, Daniel asks the meaning of the vision. But the angel tells him that the "words are sealed until the time of the end." He tells Daniel to "go your way."

God reserves some knowledge unto Himself. There are things we are not meant to know. No matter how curious we get, God has a plan that He doesn't let us in on entirely. Sometimes we get glimpses of what He might have had in mind. Those glimpses are a privilege, not a right.

We are not, cannot be, as wise as God. We cannot wrap our finite minds around the plans and wisdom of an Infinite God. Might as well try to empty the ocean with a teaspoon. We'd have just about as much success.

Just like Daniel, we have a role to fulfill. We are to occupy this earth as His stewards until Christ returns. We are to be as ready as if He were to arrive in the next breath, and we are to occupy as if it will be another thousand years. The timing is not ours to know.

We must be content to go our way, doing the everyday things that a faithful servant of God will do. We must be content to leave the knowledge in God's hands and simply trust Him. After all, that is what trust is: relying fully upon God because of His own character.

Father, God,

Grant us the wisdom to trust in You alone. Help us to curb our prying arrogance that wants to know it all before the appointed time. Give us the grace to be content in You.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Restoration And Rebuilding

Focus verses: Ezra 3:7-4:5

After seventy years of exile, the children of Israel are allowed to return to their homeland. King Cyrus of Persia not only restores the people, but he also returns the sacred vessels that King Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple.

Very shortly after their repatriation, the Israelites built an altar for their sacrifices. And they collected donations toward the rebuilding of the temple. Fourteen months after their arrival back home, the rebuilding of the temple began. It seems the people were all of one accord on this because everyone participated.

By the time the foundation was laid, there was a huge celebration. There were shouts of joy from the younger people. But those who were old enough to remember the temple before its destruction responded with tears.

I would imagine that their joy was bitter-sweet. They were probably ruing the lost years. Seventy years of exile because of their faithlessness. They might have been rejoicing that there was a new beginning. And perhaps they were thinking of the work ahead and the probability that the younger people would not have a complete appreciation of all that entailed.

Restoration is a wonderful thing. It is a chance for a new beginning. God wipes the slate clean and allows a fresh start. But restoration comes only after a loss. It is the fruit of grief. Therefore it is not an unmixed blessing.

You can be sure that once God has restored something to you, the enemy will be on hand to see that the restoration is not completed.

Look at the verses in Ezra 4. First the enemy comes to "help" with the work. And when their help was rejected, they started scheming how to discourage the workers and hinder the work.

Our major task in restoration and rebuilding is not to let the enemy discourage us. We must keep our eyes on the task ahead and move forward without hesitation. If we stay focused on the Lord and the work He would have us do, we will remain faithful. When we allow distractions to enter the picture, we have begun the fall into infidelity yet again.

Father, God,

Keep us ever faithful to Your plans. Let us not be drawn away by the enemy, either by dissuasion nor temptation. Strengthen our heart and hands to Your service at all times.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Habits And Lions' Dens

Focus verses: Daniel 6:16-23

Most people are familiar with the story of Daniel in the lions' den. But the version we learned as children left out one particular. King Darius prayed for Daniel. "May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you." It wasn't a formal prayer, but what I call a "shotgun" prayer. It was a simple request directed toward God.

The other key phrase in this passage is "whom you serve continually." Daniel was in the habit of serving God. He prayed three time a day - every day - for his entire adult life. He prayed whether it was politically correct to do so or not. In fact, it was his habit of praying that led him into the lions' den.

The children of God will face lions' dens today. The enemy, the accuser, will see to that. He only attacks the children of God. It is they who can do his plans the most damage. The people who are not worshiping God faithfully escape the enemy's notice. They are no threat to him.

But the faithful children of God have no need to fear Satan. Jesus has given them power to defeat the enemy. So that when they are thrown into the lions' dens, the mouths of the lions will be sealed, just as they were for Daniel.

If you are facing a lions' den today, you can rejoice. It is an opportunity for you to be faithful to God in public witness. If you are not, get prepared. There will be a lions' den shortly. Hold fast to your confidence in the Lord.

Father, God,

Grant us the wisdom and grace to receive Your words and Your power as Your children. Help us be ever faithful to You, both in private and in public. Give us the confidence to face the lions.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Seventy Sevens

Focus verses: Daniel 9

The ninth chapter of the book of Daniel is divided into two parts. The first part is Daniel's prayer of contrition for the nation of Israel. The second is the appearance of the angel Gabriel with an answer to Daniel's prayer.

The message from the angel Gabriel has been the subject of much discussion and interpretation. We're not concerned here so much with the end time prophecy it brings as the principal by which it came.

Daniel was in prayer for the nation. He was confessing the sins of Israel and asking the Lord's intervention on Israel's behalf. While he was still in prayer, Gabriel was sent to answer him. He was in prayer for the nation. He wasn't waiting, pacing, and wringing his hands. He was in prayer.

So our first principal is that prayer is the communication line to God. This prayer was not unusual. It was Daniel's habit to pray morning, noon and night. We're not talking here about a perfunctory grace before meals. We're talking about a designated time of prayer, time set aside to worship God alone.

The second principal is found in verse 24. Seventy sevens are decreed. When God issues a decree, it is without change or mitigation. The seventy sevens are the time decreed for atonement. This number is essentially graven in granite, not sketched in sand. It will not change because of Daniel's fervent prayers.

Daniel is being given this information, probably to reassure him that God has not forgotten Israel or cast His people totally aside. This is essentially a "time out" for the nation to teach them the futility of following any other gods. It is the just consequence of their many infidelities.

Daniel, in prayer, had put himself in a position to hear the words of the Lord as brought by Gabriel. His habit of prayer had caused him to be highly esteemed. Imagine! An angel comes to Daniel and says "God thinks a lot of you."

Have we been on our knees enough that God esteems us highly? Have we been in constant prayer for our nation, our officials, and our culture?

Father, God,

Help us to learn to pray for our nation. Keep us ever faithful in Your ways, that we may pray with pure hearts. Teach us how to help effect change in our world.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Visions And Dreams

Focus verses: Daniel 7

Daniel's dreams and visions in this passage have to do with the end of times. As such, they can be compared with the book of Revelation which also has to do with the end of time.

These visions are enigmatic. People have tried to interpret them in light of the nations that exist now. But I think that is probably a futile effort. God is bigger than man. His meanings are beyond us unless He reveals something directly.

One point of interest in this passage is Daniel's description of the Ancient of Days. The caricature of God looking like an old man might have some of its roots in this passage.

Daniel was a faithful servant of the Lord (even though he served many years in the halls of several evil kings). It is to His faithful servants that God reveals the arcane and unknown.

From the description of the dream, it seems that there are four kingdoms involved, not simultaneously but in sequence. The times of these nations will be a time of hardship and oppression of the people. But the fourth kingdom to arise will be stripped of its power, not by the might of another kingdom, but by the hand of God. At that time, God will bring about a just world where He will be universally worshiped and obeyed.

This ultimate outcome should bring enormous comfort to all who are undergoing hardship of any kind. God is ultimately the conqueror. He is the eternal Sovereign. He is the Ancient of Days.

Father, God,

Help us to see that our times are temporary. Keep us aware that whatever the circumstance, this, too, shall pass. Grant us the wisdom to know that only You are eternal and never changing.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Focus verses: Psalm 123

When it comes down to the bare bones, we have no claim on God. Our only hope is in His benevolent intentions toward us, His fallen creatures.

Mercy is an intangible of inestimable value. It is a quality of character which was captured by the Bard in his Merchant of Venice.

Jeremiah recognized God's faithfulness and mercy in Lamentations. It is the basis for the old hymn "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" which has been a rock in my personal foundation of faith. "Morning by morning new mercies I see." Each day brings forth another of God's mercies towards us.

In the Catholic ritual, the Kyrie expresses both the plea for the Lord to have mercy and the gratitude that the Lord is continually being merciful.

Mercy isn't given once and then withdrawn. God is faithful to extend mercy to us literally forever. It is only by His mercy that we have the means to spend eternity with Him. Christmas is the greatest mercy of all.

Father, God,

Open our eyes to see Your great mercies in our daily lives. Make us truly grateful for Your kindness toward us. Grant us the favor of walking closely with You.
In Jesus' most precious name. Amen.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Unfailing Love

Focus verses: Psalm 44

"Rise up and help us; redeem us because of your unfailing love."

The hand of the Lord reaches to His people because of His love, not because of anything we have or have not done. There is none pure enough to stand righteous in the face of God on his own merits.

We are a weak and sinful creation. Left to our own devices, we fall into sin and wantonness. We tend to follow the lust of the flesh rather than the love of God. We satisfy our immediate appetites regardless of the consequences. We behave as if there were no consequences.

This psalm should be our prayer for our nation today. Look at all the things we've done.

We've allowed prayer to be stripped from our schools.

We have gagged the word of God and removed symbols of our faith from public lands.

We've misconstrued our own Constitution and the amendments thereto, twisting them to read that not only can government not interfere with religion (which was the original intent), but religion can have no say in government (which was not true even when the constitution was written).

The Declaration of Independence refers to a Supreme Being three times. Look for these three phrases: "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" - "endowed by their Creator" - "the Supreme Judge of the world."

The foundation of our freedoms lies in our understanding of God and His moral laws. Having flouted those laws and turned our backs on the Author of those laws, we are now reaping the consequences of His disfavor.

Father, God,

Remember our beginnings. In Your unfailing love, draw our nation back to Yourself. Restore us to the values of our roots and cleanse us from our iniquities.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Informing God

Focus verses: Job 40:1-14

In today's reading, we have done with the thoughts of men and hear directly from God. Hearing directly from God is terrifying. Those who have heard God's voice have always had one reaction. "I'm unworthy."

That is Job's cry here. It was Isaiah's understanding. The centurion and John the Baptist were aware of their unworthiness.

The presence of God is awesome! In His presence we are tongue-tied and totally inadequate. His greatness makes us acutely aware of our smallness. His infinite wisdom shrivels our arrogant assumptions to nothingness.

So God asks Job if he can do all the things God has done. The obvious answer is "no."

You see, God is omniscient. He knows all things - past, present and future. I have never taken anything to God in prayer and had Him respond "oh, really? I didn't know that."

More often His response is something like "at last you brought this to Me." We cannot inform God anymore than we can replicate all of creation. When we speak to God, He simply wants us to admit to Him all that we think or want or plan. He wants us to share our hearts with Him willingly. That is our invitation for Him to take control and be truly sovereign in our lives.

You see, God limits Himself in only one area. He will not override man's free will. If you choose to live a life without Him, He will let you. And He will let you reap the consequences of that decision. If you choose to follow Him, He will help you. And you will reap that harvest as well.

The only information we can give to God is the information of our choice (which He already knows anyway). But He asks us to inform Him directly, verbally, and preferably in public.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to be a closet Christian. If you are a Christian, your life will reflect the presence of God. Your actions are determined by His statutes. Your attitudes become like Christ's attitudes. That is one goal of the Christian life, becoming Christ-like.

The other goal is to inform others of God - more by actions and attitudes than by oratory. We've all heard the platitude "actions speak louder than words." Nowhere is that more true than in the life of the disciple of Christ.

Father, God,

Help us to remember our place in Your plans for this world. Grant that we may always be and think and do as You would have us. Teach us at all times.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Echoes Of Eden

Focus verses: Job 34:1-4

The words of Elihu struck as arrogant. The younger man is presuming to teach his elders. And he ends with "Let us discern for ourselves what is right; let us learn together what is good."

So here we have a young man determining what is good, and by inference what is evil. It seemed to me an echo of the conversation in the Garden of Eden between Satan and Eve. "You will be like God, knowing good and evil."

Man's intellect falls short of understanding God. He is too big for us to wrap our tiny little minds around. We cannot see the eternal ramifications of our actions. God has no such limitations. We are better served to listen to His teachings on good and evil rather than to make up our own minds on a case by case basis.

My grandmother used to say "when God wants to let you know how small you are, He gives you your own way." The implication being that He also lets you reap the fuit of your selfishness - because most of our desires are naturally selfish.

God has a plan for each of us. We are well advised to ask Him for the itinerary of our lives.

Father, God,

Help us not to be so caught up with our own thinking that we have no room to listen to You. Keep us seeking You and Your will first in our lives that we might know what You say is good and do it.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Focus verses: Job 28:1-28

In response to Bildad's claim that man cannot be righteous, Job leads him into a study of wisdom. He likens it to mining for precious metals and jewels. It takes a lot of digging and earth moving to acquire wisdom.

But you have to know which hill or mountain contains what you seek. God knows where wisdom dwells. Job takes his friends to the fear of God for wisdom.

Wisdom would tell you that there is reward in virtue itself. The list of virtues Job continues with are nothing without the fear of God as their root.

Doing good for the sake of doing good is laudable. When we do good in an effort to manipulate the benevolence of the Lord, that is something else again. God sees the motives as well as the actions.

God's judgment of the motives of men reassures me that when I fail, he will see that my intent was pure. He recognizes that the people He created are fallible, imperfect, prone to sin. He sees the heart, not just the actions.

When we act out of love for God and fall short, we are not judged for our imperfection, but for our intentions. If perfection were a requirement, none of us could stand. But fear of the Lord and love of God are the keys to our right standing with God.

Father, God,

Preserve us from the folly of trusting our own intellects. Grant us Your constant presence in the Holy Spirit as our guide and teacher.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Monday, September 14, 2009

God Is All

Focus verses: Job 23:1-12

Job's friends still insist that he must have done something wrong to bring this calamity upon himself. Even though Job's life outwardly has been righteous, they tell him there must be some hidden sins that caused all this mess.

But Job knows he did nothing wrong. He is not an unrighteous man. He worshiped God and shunned evil.

But there are times when God seems very far away. His lament here is that he cannot seem to find God. Where ever he looks, God is not to be found. This is simply because God has let Satan have charge of his earthly life for the moment.

Contrast this lament with Psalm 139. Here David says there is no place he can go where God is not. He cannot hide from God.

Nor does God hide from Job. He merely allows him to be tested by the enemy. And Job knows that if he can plead his case with God, he will be vindicated as a righteous man.

Father, God,

Help us to remain faithful in the most dire of circumstances. Grant that we should walk closely with You all the days of our lives, no matter what the enemy throws at us.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Key To Surviving Suffering

Focus verses: Job 19:23-27

After a tragedy in our own family, the comments I heard most from the people I know and the people I work with were: "You are so strong" and "I don't see how you do it."

In fact, I'm not strong. I simply know where to lean and that makes me look strong. When one has a relationship with God and knows that the wrongdoing is not of his own making, he can endure much.

Will he like it? Of course not. Will it be easy? No. Can it be done? Yes, it can. Many have already done it. And in Job, we have a prime example.

The key is found in verse 25. "I know that my Redeemer lives..." It is one of the highlights Handel's "Messiah" oratorio.

This knowledge is a foundational rock for our faith. When God is ultimately the judge and the king, all wickedness will be recompensed appropriately as will all righteousness. Knowing that the ultimate judgment will be handled by the righteous God - the God who created me and loves me and wants only the best for me - lets me endure anything life can throw my way.

That's how Job got through this trial by Satan. It's how anyone can endure anything.

Father, God,

Help us to plant our feet firmly on this foundation stone of faith. Reassure us that You are the ultimate judge and will redeem the faithful from any suffering. Grant us the grace to draw closer to You so that we may withstand any of the darts of the evil one.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Cold Comfort

Focus verses: Job 16:1-17

The dialogue between Eliphaz and Job continues. Eliphaz continues that it is the wicked whom God afflicts. And that Job cannot possibly be righteous.

Job, however, has been righteous. And he knows it. He claims it. He doesn't understand why God allowed this to happen, nor does he buy into the lie that he must have done something to bring it on himself.

Too often, we tend to blame the victim. If a woman is the victim of domestic violence, she carries a double shadow. What did she do to deserve this? Why doesn't she leave him? So the situation becomes her fault -- somehow.

If you are not prospering in your business or personal relationships, it must be that you have done something wrong. You are not pleasing the Lord, or He would make things prosper for you.

It doesn't work that way. And those people who insist that is does should stay away from sorrow and tragedy in other people's lives. The last thing a sufferer needs is someone to shake a finger in his face and point out his shortcomings.

Father, God,

Help me to speak words of life and comfort to those around me who suffer. Let me reflect some of Your light and love into each life I touch.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Trust Through It All

Focus verses: Job 13:1-19

The third of Job's friends, Zophar, accuses him of what amounts to arrogance before God. The idea that Job could speak with God to plead his case seems a mockery.

But Job is not being arrogant. He has legitimate questions for which he seeks answers. And he rebukes his friends as wicked, deceitful and argumentative.

His hope is in God alone. No matter what happens, he will trust in God. Living or dying is all one to him. He simply wants an explanation from God for the evils that have befallen him.

Many times we question the reasons for things that happen. What did we do to bring this calamity upon ourselves? Sometimes calamity just happens. It may be a freak of nature. It may be the result of someone else's free choice.

I've discovered that it isn't so much what the world does to you that matters. It's how you respond to what happens. If you continue to respond with faith, believing that God knows the end from the beginning, you will save yourself a lot of worry.

Nothing that happens surprises God. He knows what is around the next corner. No matter how much we worry or try to fathom the reasons for things, He know them - and we don't.

Moreover, He sees the individual incidents we frustrate over as part of a larger whole. John Donne knew this truth. What happens in your life can have ramifications you will never realize til you see God face to face.

Father, God,

Help us to submit gracefully to Your will. Grant us the patience to endure without knowing cause. Give us the wisdom to remember Your blessings in all seasons.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

An Arbiter

Focus verses: Job 9:32-35

Job's friend, Bildad, argues that since God is just, there must be some reason Job is undergoing this trial. So Job must have brought this on himself. But if Job will just humble himself and turn back to God, God will accept him again and restore him.

But Job knows what Bildad does not - that he has done nothing to bring this upon himself. He speaks of the difference between God and man. And then he asks for someone to bridge the gap between God and himself.

He is asking for the Messiah. Without knowing it, he has asked God to send Jesus to earth. The function of Christ was to die for all sin, to become the bridge between God and man, to be the arbiter or advocate at the throne of God for those who believe on Him.

You see, Satan is still before the throne of God, accusing the faithful. And he is still throwing things into our lives that would discourage us, defeat us, make us unfit to serve the King of Kings.

But Christ is also there. When Satan brings up an offense, Jesus says to the Father "I covered that at the cross. That debt is all paid."

We are not like Job. Although we may never understand the reasons for the things that befall us, we have the arbiter, the advocate that Job was seeking. We can confidently draw near the throne of God because of Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf.

Father, God,

We thank You for Your gift of Jesus Christ. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Keep us ever faithful in following His footsteps to Your throne.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What Friends - Part One

Focus verses: Job 7:17-21

Job's friends were a comfort to him as they sat in silence with him in his grief. Then they opened their mouths and blew it!

Chapters four through seven are the admonition of Eliphaz and Job's response to that instruction.

You see, Eliphaz subscribes to the theory that if you prosper on earth, you have been faithful to God. And if calamity befalls you, it's because you are harboring some secret sin. Calamity and tragedy are somehow the result of your own improper actions.

It's a very human response. We seem to need simplistic answers. "If this, then that" is the heart of our cause and effect, linear reasoning. If something bad happens, you must have done something to deserve it.

What Eliphaz doesn't know is that spiritual warfare is taking place here. There is a battle in the heavenlies that neither he nor Job can see or understand.

Job, however, does know something about proportion. He asks "what is man?" and the inference is "in comparison to God." Job recognizes the difference between God and man in a way that his friends seem not to understand. He doesn't really understand it himself.

Eliphaz is caught up in the "blame the victim" mind set. If something bad happens, it's because you did something to bring it on. That isn't necessarily so.

Job did nothing to bring on this sorrow, He was simply faithful to God. Eliphaz has failed the test for comforting friend. He has brought judgment and condemnation rather than solace.

Father, God,

Deliver us from a judgmental spirit. Fill us with faith that whatever happens, You are aware and You are in charge. Grant us the grace to rely upon You in all circumstances.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Friends In Grief

Focus verses: Job 2:11-13

This life is full of grief and grieving. We lose family and friends. We lose jobs. We lose health. We lose possessions. And these losses take a toll on our spirits and our minds.

Grieving is a natural and cathartic process. We go through the grieving to come out on the other side stronger and healthier than before.

And if we ourselves are not the grief-stricken, we probably have a friend who is. Here we have the perfect example of how to console a friend.

Job's three friends joined him in his grief. They sat in silence with him for a full week.

Sometimes just being there is the biggest help you can give. You can be ready to listen and empathize. You can help clarify by reflecting the conversation of the griever back to him. You can refrain from judging by word or deed or attitude. You can stifle the urge to put forth simple answers to deep questions. You can avoid setting forth your own prejudices and hypotheses.

Just be there. Love them. Be ready to serve however you can. And remember, Job's three friends only blew it when they opened their mouths.

Father, God,

Help us to be friends to those who grieve. Let us be Your arms of comfort and Your hands of service. Give us the grace to seek their ease more than our self-importance.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Arrogance Humbled

Focus verses: Daniel 4:28-30

Daniel Chapter Four recounts the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, the interpretation by Daniel, and the fulfillment thereof.

The messenger of God came to Nebuchadnezzar in a dream. He told the dream to Daniel, and Daniel interpreted it. He interpreted it faithfully even though he was greatly afraid because of the possible consequences.

In our focus verses, the king is literally patting himself on the back for all the accomplishments of his reign. He is ascribing all the power and glory to himself, not acknowledging that without the assent of God, none of this would have or could have happened.

The self-made man is created by an inferior workman.

When we fail to acknowledge God's power and might in our lives and put ourselves in the place of God, we have committed idolatry. Our God is a jealous God. He will not tolerate being ignored or cast aside. To do so leaves us open to the consequences of our actions.

If we choose to live without acknowledging God and His sovereignty, we are free to do so. But we will spend our lives and our eternities without Him as well. We are fortunate that He is a determined and persistent God who will use every means available to draw us unto Himself.

My sainted grandmother used to say "when God wants to let you know how small you are, He give you your own way." And when we are left to our own resources, we soon find our limitations.

God will be God. He is not willing that any should perish, but He gives us that option. That is the one place where God limits Himself. He will not override your free will. But oh, how foolish it is to use that free will to flout the King of Heaven!

Father, God,

Grant us the grace to see Your will in all our endeavors. Save us from the sin of arrogance, ignoring Your hand in our lives. Give us the wisdom to acknowledge You in all our ways.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

River Of Living Water

Focus verses: Ezekiel 47:1-12

Today's reading is a long one, Chapters 40 through 48 of the book of Ezekiel. This vision of the temple seems at first blush to be a repetition of the temple specifications from Moses' tabernacle and Solomon's temple. But there are significant differences.

One significant difference is the river flowing from under the temple. This river seems to have healing and saving properties. It turns the salt sea into fresh so that fish of all kinds can live there. It waters the banks so that trees bearing fruit will be always green and fruitful. And the further from the source the water travels the deeper it gets. Hmm...

Somehow, I think this water may not be just physical water. To me, it seems to be a reflection of the Holy Spirit. And this temple might just be a representation of the temple we talked about yesterday - the temple of the believer.

So lets look at this picture again. The believer is in communion with God (service in the temple). But there is water flowing out from the temple (the believer interacts with the world outside the temple). Because he has come fresh from the temple, he brings refreshment to those with whom he interacts (the river freshens the salt sea into which it flows).

The water which is now fresh, teems with fish, and fishermen spread their nets all along the banks. Didn't Jesus say something about fishing for men?

Our relationship with God is for a larger purpose than simply our own salvation.

Father, God,

Help us to remember that You have other fish for us to draw into Your nets of salvation and love. Refresh our spirits and purify them so that we may be a representation of Your love to this hurting world.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Focus verses: Ezekiel 43:6-11

We have just read, in Ezekiel 40:1 through Ezekiel 43:5, what amounts to a blueprint for the rebuilding of the temple of Solomon. God has given the vision to Ezekiel with the same precision and similar specifications as he gave the original specifications to the children of Israel in Moses' day.

God promises that in this new temple, He will live with the children of Israel forever. Is it any wonder, then, that Israel should want the old site of the temple to be theirs for rebuilding?

The political ramifications of this promise are as alive today as they were in Ezekiel's time. The exposed wall of the temple mount - sometimes called the western wall or the wailing wall - is still a place where today's Jews gather to mourn the lost temple.

But there is this promise from God that He will inhabit that place when the temple is rebuilt. And that it will stand forever. Current opinions about the physical wall in Jerusalem vary according to the religious roots of the person giving the opinion.

There is, however, another temple. This one not made by hands, but by God Himself. That temple is the body of the believer. And there is a specific blueprint for the construction of this temple as well.

Ezekiel was told to write the plans for the children of Israel to follow. We have written plans for the temple of the Holy Spirit today. The first set of blue prints came down from the mountain with Moses. And the second set was given by Jesus Himself.

These blueprints define the believer and his behavior toward God and the rest of the world. How do we measure up?

Father, God,

Help us to keep the specifics of Your plans for our lives in mind. Teach us every day how to grow closer and closer to You, reflecting more and more of You into the world around us.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Principals Do Matter

Focus verses: Daniel 3:1-18

The story of the three children of Israel and the fiery furnace is familiar to many. We focus on the power of God to redeem, protect and save. But I think we're missing something here.

The image was set up by a pagan king in a pagan land. Nebuchadnezzar was entitled to set up whatever gods he chose in his own kingdom. And since the children of Israel were captive in that land, and subservient to the king, they were obliged in the normal course of events to do as he bid them.

However, and this is a biggie, the rule of the king ended where the law of God began. As long as the kings edicts didn't encroach on the children of Israel's faith in God and worship thereof, they were content to do as instructed and serve the king to the best of their abilities. Those abilities were no small measure, because the king set them up as officials of the kingdom.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not hiding their disobedience, but no one was looking for it until the astrologers (probably with noses out of joint because of the positions the children of Israel held in the kingdom) pointed out their disobedience to the king.

When the king called them on the carpet, they had a good answer. God is able to save them from the furnace. But even if He chooses not to save them from the furnace, they will not bow down to some other god.

The principal here is obedience to the laws of God. When we obey Him, He is in charge of the outcome of the actions. When we are disobedient, we reap the natural consequences of our actions.

The first principal is the principal of obedience.

Father, God,

Help us to remember Your statute in all we do or say or think. Keep us ever obedient to Your will and correct us swiftly when we falter or stray.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

God's Ultimate Will

Focus verses: Ezekiel 33:1-20

Today's reading talks about responsibility. There is a responsibility for the individual. There is a responsibility for the watchman (or teacher or preacher - they are almost the same thing).

The watchman is responsible to sound the alarm. For those who heed the alarm, there is safety. For those who choose to ignore the alarm, there is judgment.

That judgment is the natural consequence of the action of the person being judged. God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to the saving knowledge of His Son, Jesus.

That may be why God waits so long for all to come to Him. He gives the people chance after chance to change their wicked ways and turn to Him in obedience.

He knows that our obedience to Him will create the best life possible for us. He has our best interest at heart as much as we do. But he has an unfair advantage. He is omniscient. He knows everything, past - present - future.

We don't have that advantage. Therefore when we make choices based solely on our own knowledge, we'll often miss the mark. If we make choices after submitting them to God in prayer, we have a much better chance of going where we want to go and accomplishing what we want to accomplish. Especially if we've been listening carefully to His answer.

The disobedience of a formerly righteous man is his undoing. And the obedience of the formerly wicked man is his salvation. (Remember we are in the Old Testament here.) Obedience is the acknowledgment of our trust in God and belief that He knows best in all things.

When we come to New Testament time, that obedience is the outward reflection of our trust in Jesus Christ. When James says "Faith without works is dead" he means that lip service faith is not enough.

Father, God,

Strengthen our faith into works. Help us to be so fully grounded in Your will that there is no question about our actions. Make everything we do and say point to Your sovereignty and magnanimity.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Restoration Promised

Focus verses: Ezekiel 38:25-29

After the diaspora, God has promised to bring Israel back to the land He gave them. His promise is to unite the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah as one nation. And further to pour out His Spirit on the house of Israel.

In this passage, He is called the Sovereign Lord. Sovereign means above all things, superlative, absolute. Check out the complete definition of the adjective.

When a promise is based on the nature of God, it is infallible. It will come to pass if He says so.

The Sovereign Lord has promised compassion to His people. Compassion means that He is aware of the suffering of His people, and He wants to alleviate that suffering.

However, God gave man a free will - the ability to choose. When we freely choose to follow God and His precepts, the blessings of God can flow to us. That doesn't mean that our circumstances will be any different from those around us. It doesn't protect us from all the evil of the world.

It does assure us that whatever has been lost to us will be restored in eternity. It does mean that the fullness of God's Holy Spirit can rest upon us in the midst of suffering and loss. It does mean that we can experience the full comfort and assurance of God.

Father, God,

As You promised restoration to Israel, grant us that same restoration of fellowship with You. Help us to come into line with Your will that we may be in unbroken relationship with You, our Abba, Father.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Power And Responsibility

Focus verses: Ezekiel 34:1-10

Those who aspire to political or social or economic power should read these words with trembling. If you are a leader, you become accountable for the lives of those you lead. In God's hierarchy, those who lead must serve the most.

Servant leadership is almost a lost concept in our day. People aspire to power - political, financial, social or religious - not for the purpose of serving, but for self-aggrandizement. This is contrary to God's purpose for leaders.

When Jesus came, He came to serve, not to be served.

Here God specifically says He will hold the shepherds accountable for the flock.

If you are a teacher, you are accountable to teach only the truth of God with a pure heart and gentle tongue.

If you are a preacher, you are accountable to preach the pure word of God without a spirit of judgment or vengeance.

If you are a political leader, you are accountable to keep all the laws of God and His justice as the core of your laws and justice.

If you are a business owner, you are responsible to behave in godly fashion toward your employees, paying a fair wage for the work they have done for you.

But if any of these leaders climb on the backs of the people and use their positions only to puff themselves up, it will go badly for him in the judgment.

Leadership in any arena brings responsibility more than power. It is the responsibility, and proper execution thereof, that will be the deciding factor when God judges.

Father, God,

Help us to seek, not so much to be served, as to be your servants. Teach us to hear Your voice clearly and inspire our immediate obedience to Your will in all things.
In Jesus' most precious name.