Thursday, December 31, 2009

Beginning Again

Focus verses: Genesis 1:1-31

Happy New Year!

The beginning of a new year is an opportunity to start anew. We make resolutions - some of which are very short lived. We begin self-improvement projects. We have high hopes for a future.

But the first verse of our reading says "In the beginning God..."

We would do well to consult God before we begin anything. Only those things which have His approval will prosper in this new year. Only the plans we make that fall into line with His will succeed.

God is the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega.

This week I want to challenge you. Before you start your day, ask God what He wants of you. And when you end your day, take stock of how well you have fulfilled His plans.

Keep a journal. Each morning write what you hear Him say to you. And each evening, write what you have done. Do that faithfully - for just this week.

And let me know how it goes for you.

Grace, peace, and blessings in this new year.

Father, God,

Your are our beginning and our end. Help us to be swift to hear Your plans for us and eager to fulfill them. Keep us attuned to Your voice, always.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Just a reminder, we will be posting only once a week this year. And we will try to give you a spiritual exercise or challenge each week. Check back on Friday, January 8, 2010.

Glimpses Of Eternity

Focus verses: Revelations 19:6-22:21

We begin this passage with the marriage feast of the Lamb. Blessed are those who are invited to this feast. The guests will be those who have believed in Jesus and are covered by His sacrifice. They are both guests as individuals and the bride in the community of the church.

The bridegroom is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We see the destruction of the enemies of Christ. And then we see a new heaven and a new earth - a New Jerusalem, The Holy City. The river of life flows down the middle of the main street of this city and on each side of the river stands the tree of life, bearing fruit in each season and leaves for the healing of the nations.

After these pictures, John writes an epilogue which roughly approximates the seal of a notary public. He writes down what the angel said to him. He verifies that He heard and saw these things in his vision.

Then we have the words of Jesus saying the He sent the angel to give this testimony. And He reiterates the list of those who will not - NOT - be included among those who can enter the Holy City: those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and those who love and practice lies.

After reading these things, one can only say "Hallelujah!"

Father, God,

Thank You for the testimony of Your faithful servants. Thank You for the Word You have given us in the form of these scriptures. Thank You for Your graciousness in letting us learn of You and serve You. Grant that we may be faithful for all our days and even into eternity.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Final Harvest

Focus verses: Revelations 14:1-16:21

This section of the Book of Revelations speaks of the hope of the faithful and the wrath of God on the unrighteous. It opens with the righteous safely ensconced with the Lamb upon Mount Zion. They are singing the song that only the righteous know. They are out of the way of the wrath of God.

Three angels herald what is to come. The first urges the worship of God to those not yet among the redeemed. The second proclaims the fall of Babylon the wicked who led mankind into all kinds of sin. The third proclaims the judgment of God on those who continue to follow the wicked ways of the beast.

Then we see the person of Jesus, sitting on a cloud and at the call of an angel, He swings his blade over the earth to harvest it. Then a second angel comes from the temple with a sickle in his hand, and a third angel tells the second angel to harvest the grapes. The second angel does as bidden and the grapes are tossed into the winepress of God's wrath.

Then seven more angels carry the fulfillment of God's wrath in seven bowls. Personal sores on the bodies of the wicked, a sea of blood, rivers of blood, scorching heat, total darkness, false miracles, and finally lightening, thunder and earthquake. Total destruction.

Our God is great, mighty, powerful, majestic and terrifying in His wrath. There is no escape. And those who are His chosen ones do not wish to escape. They are with Him in His triumph over the wickedness of this world.

Father, God,

Keep us ever righteous in Your eyes. Help us to remain steadfast and faithful in the wickedness of this world. Let us be the small lights of God in the darkness of this present evil.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Disaster And Stubbornness

Focus verses: Revelations 8:7-9:21

The seven trumpets in this passage herald demonstrations of the wrath of God against evil. As you read these seven demonstrations, you will be reminded of the demonstrations of God's power against Pharoah when Moses was called to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.

Look at the fifth trumpet. A star fell from the sky and opened the gateway to the Abyss (in other words, Hell). From the abyss rose billows of smoke containing locusts who were given the authority to torment people -- but only those people who did not bear the seal of the Lord. Clearly this is a demonstration of God's power against the wicked. And still the wicked people did not repent.

We live in an unrepentant society. It used to be that when people sinned against the laws of God there was some shame involved. But our culture decided to make man the measure of all things. And that shame has been transformed into a pride that glorifies the desires of the individual as primary in importance.

We seem to have placed ourselves on the throne to be worshiped and glorified. Man as the measure of all things is the worst form of idolatry. It places man as higher than God. It vaunts the atheists and humanists who claim that God was created by man, not the other way round.

But there is that small corner in every soul that knows the truth. Man has rationalized it into submission in many cases, but it is there, nevertheless. Even the enemy knows that Jesus is God. And while he growls about it, he still trembles at the name of Jesus.

What kind of stubbornness makes us not recognize the truth when it conflicts with our basest desires? And what kind of disaster will it take to make us recognize that man cannot be the measure of all things?

Father, God,

Open our eyes and our minds to see Your truth whatever form it takes. Soften our hearts to Your word and strengthen our wills to Your service.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Monday, December 28, 2009


Focus verses: Revelations 4:1-5:14

We have come close to God. We ask for a closer walk with Him. But we dare not forget His majesty. This picture from the vision of John gives us a glimpse of God's throne.

We will pass over the study of the four living creatures for the moment. If you wish to read more explanation, you'll find some of it here.

But these four creatures begin the praise with "holy, holy, holy." And the elders around the throne kneel and bow down. When these elders kneel, it is not like when we kneel in church, torso upright. This is the kowtow, the kneeling and bowing low so that the forehead touches the floor or the ground.

This throne is also a judgment seat, like a judges bench only more so. From this throne the pronouncements of God proceed. His judgments, affirmations, condemnations, all are here in the presence of these witnesses.

But for Christ, we cannot know these judgments. It is He who will break the seals on the scroll of judgment. It is through Christ that we can know God without panic. That doesn't mean we don't fear God. It simply means that we accept the sacrifice of the Lamb. We still kneel in awe around the throne of God.

Father, God,

Still the trembling in our hearts. Allow us to love You, adore You, obey You at all times and in all places. Grant us an awareness of Your majesty and our dependence.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Revelation Churches

Focus verses: Revelations 2:1-3:22

The letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelations has always fascinated me. For many years I avoided reading the Revelations because so much of it was allegorical and, I thought, difficult to interpret.

But look at these seven churches. The "allegory" here is quite simple. Take the letters literally as to seven actual churches in Asia. Read them carefully to see the nature of the congregation to whom the letter is written.

To the church at Ephesus, he writes both encouragement and admonition: You have persevered and endured hardships and not grown weary. But you have forsaken your first love.

The first love of the Christian must be Christ. If He is not first in our lives, we have lost it all. The church of Ephesus was going through the motions. The theology and fidelity were correct, but the passion for Christ was missing. The passion for Christ is the foundation of any church. Without that passion, the church is lost.

To the church at Smyrna, he writes encouragement without admonition: I know your afflictions and your poverty, yet you are rich!

Without the trappings of the world, this church was rich in the love of God and their unwavering passion for the Word. There is nothing here to admonish, just the encouragement to maintain that faith in the face of any suffering or test.

To the church at Pergamum, he writes both encouragement and admonition: You remain true in a society that persecutes the church. But you tolerate theological heresies that lead to sexual immorality.

This tolerance adulterates the message of Christ and the church. It robs the church of its vital connection to the Lord. The church of Christ is not to tolerate such things. What does not measure up to the edicts of the Lord is to be rebuked and, if not repented of, cast out.

To the church at Thyatira, he writes a similar encouragement and admonition: You are now doing more that you ever did. But you tolerate Jezebel and sexual immoralities that lead to theological heresy.

Pergamum and Thyatira are two sides of the same coin. Theological heresies and sexual immorality are two faces of the same idol. Theological heresy panders to the arrogance of the intellect. Sexual immorality panders to the physical lusts. Both the arrogance of the intellect and physical lust become idols when they are more important than the teachings of the Lord.

Making man the measure of all things is a goal of Satan. Once he does that, he can sit back and gloat because those who believe that man is the measure of all things are firmly and entirely in his grip.

To the church at Sardis, he writes: You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up!

The church at Sardis seems to have been a church of the social gospel. They had the reputation of being alive, but they had lost the breath of life. They were busy with the business of churchianity and had lost the essence of Christianity. What is at the heart is of more substance than what is seen by the world. God sees what is in the heart. That is why their deeds were not complete in the sight of God.

To the church at Philadelphia, he writes of love. Their love for Him and His love for them. And he promises them that their endurance will be rewarded by escape from the final test. You see, the love of God is at the heart of the church. If that love motivates all that is said and done, it will carry the church through all that the world can throw at it, and that church will be a pillar in the temple of God in heaven.

To the church at Laodicea, he writes the most scathing admonition yet: Because you are lukewarm I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

Can you imagine being rejected by God? Horrors! But that is what happens to the apathetic, to the fence straddlers, to the indecisive. God doesn't want namby-pamby, unconvinced and unconvicted fence straddlers. He wants people on fire for Christ and the church. People who have just enough Christianity to have become innoculated to the spirit of Christ are of no use to Him - and they are certainly of no use to the enemy either.

Let us be on fire for Christ, sharing His love to all around us, taking care of the social needs of people as an extension of that love, guarding against theological heresy and sexual immorality, remaining faithful and ardent in that first love of Christ which drew us to Him originally.

Father, God,

Restore to us the first joy of our salvation. Remind us of that original zeal and excitement. Keep us faithful to You in all things.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Dealing With Sin

Focus verses: I John 1:8-2:11

News flash!! We are not perfect and sinless. Even those who walk very closely with God still sin. The only perfect person who ever walked the earth was Jesus. The rest of us are poor followers of His example.

But God has fixed that. He has given us a way to take care of sin. If we confess it, He forgives it.

John juxtaposes darkness and light with sin and forgiveness. This is not accidental. We see our sins only in the light of His perfection. We recognize our sin when we see it as disobedience to His will. We repent of our sin when we agree with God that it is wrong.

My house was built in 1911, nearly a hundred years ago. It has twelve rooms and a full basement. When I think about cleaning the whole house, I cringe. It would take a crew of ten working a full week to get it all done at once. But if I look at one room at a time, it is a different matter. One room is not overwhelming. The whole house is.

God is gracious with us about cleaning up our lives. He doesn't floodlight all our faults and sins at once. He takes a flashlight to one corner at a time. We confess our sins, one by one, if we are serious about dealing with them. And He forgives each of them, one by one, as we recognize and confess each one.

There's another thing about a clean house. It generally doesn't stay that way. People track dirt, mud, leaves and such in on their feet. We forget to put something back where we got it, or we just lay it down anywhere, thinking to put it away later. Dust filters in through the windows and doors. And soon the house is a mess again.

The world, the flesh and the devil are working hard to keep us from holiness. The world leaves its tracks on our lives. Our flesh grows weary and careless. The devil filters in to take advantage of the slightest opening. And we need to confess, yet again.

There is bad news and good news. The bad news is that this dealing with sin will be a constant in our lives til we get to go home. The good news is that He is faithful and just to forgive us when we confess.

Father, God,

Grant us the light to see the smallest of sins before it grows into a large one. Help us to be watchful for the infiltrations of the enemy, no matter how rational his arguments may sound. Strengthen us for the daily battle against sin.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Sacrifice Of Praise

Focus verses: Hebrews 13:15-16

Whatever our circumstances, the praise of the Lord should be in our hearts and on our lips at all times. When life is good, we thank and praise Him. When life is not so good, we praise Him that He is our all-in-all, that we need nothing but Him.

The reasons to praise Him are many, but today, we celebrate the most important reason. The faithful world waited for His coming with great expectancy.

Then it happened! The Christ-child came in lowly form, but carrying all the power of the infinite God.

Jesus came because God loved us while we were yet sinners worthy of destruction.

Father, God,

Help us always to have Your praises on our lips. Remind us of Your love for us and our debt to You. Carry us close to Your heart, and put a new song of praise to You in ours.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Learning Holiness

Focus verses: Hebrews 10:11-18

Today the world focuses on the coming of the Christ-child as an infant in a manger. But our reading from Hebrews shows Him in all His power and majesty as our high priest forever.

He is the propitiation for our sins. He is our ransom from the world, the flesh and the devil. He is powerful beyond all imagining. He sits at the right hand of God waiting for all His enemies to be made His footstool.

His work is done. When from the cross he said "It is finished" that was exactly what He meant. It is finished, completed, done, all over.
...because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy (v. 14).
There seems to be a contradiction in this subordinate clause. How can we be already completed as perfect and still undergoing the process of being made holy?

We are perfect in the eyes of God the Father because He sees us through the lens of Christ's sacrifice on our behalf. We are "complete" in Him. But we are continually being set apart from the world for the kingdom of God. We are growing in His grace and under His guidance through the Holy Spirit.

My grandmother used to say "It's a wasted day if you haven't learned anything new." Each day, we learn more and more about Him and His ways. We walk closer and closer in His footsteps.

Father, God,

Although You see us as perfect through Jesus, our earthly lives are filled with stumbles and shortcomings. Grant that we may walk closer and closer in the footsteps of Christ with the guidance of Your Holy Spirit.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Blissful Rest

Focus verses: Hebrews 4:1-10

When I was a child, my sainted grandmother used to say "there's no rest for the wicked." Only later did I realize that she was echoing scripture.

But there is rest in obedience to God. If you take in context the verse that says
"So I declared on oath in my anger,
'They shall never enter my rest.'"
You will see that he is talking about the Israelites coming out of Egypt. But you can extrapolate that to mean any person who grumbles and is dissatisfied with what God is doing for them.

God's plan is for every one to come to a saving knowledge of Christ, to learn from Him, and to be obedient to Him.

Jesus Himself invites us to be yoke-fellows with Him.

My grandfather had a small plot of land, but it was too big for him to till with the large wheeled, walk-behind-and-push plow that he used on smaller areas. So he hired a neighbor with a pair of horses. I used to watch them. The horses were perfectly matched, in size, in color, in age -- but not in temperament. The horse on the left was always impatient. When the driver picked up the reins, and clucked, the left horse lunged ahead, while the horse on the right stepped slowly and methodically just after the left horse lunged.

When I asked him about it, our neighbor explained that in every span of horses, there is a starter and a carrier. Dancer on the left always moved first, but after he had started the load, Dobbin on the right carried it to the end. Dancer was just along for the ride, striding in unison with Dobbin.

When we are obedient to Christ, we are like that brace of horses. We move first by coming to Christ. Then He carries our load, and all we need to do is match His steps. We are just along for the ride.

We have rested from "our own" work and begun to step along-side Christ in His work.

Father, God,

Still our hearts to hear Your words. Teach us to walk with You as some of the patriarchs did. Help us to rest in Your provision by our obedience to Your will in all things.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New Righteousness

Focus verses: II Peter 3:1-13

Peter's letter touches on the second coming of Christ. He paints a picture of our day. One need not look far to find scoffers, scoffing and following their own evil ways.
But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. (v.5)
We have deliberately forgotten to teach our children the truth of the scriptures. We teach, instead, theories of men as if they were proven fact. We extrapolate scenarios from flimsy evidence. But the ultimate victory for the enemy of our souls is that we strive to make man the measure of all things.

God sets the standard. His measuring rod is the one we must live up to.

Peter answers the question about the slowness of Christ's second coming. It is because God is graciously giving us the opportunity for all to come to the saving knowledge of Christ. He is not willing that any should perish. But do not be deceived. He will let each of us reap the fruit of our own beliefs and actions. If someone persists in unbelief and ungodliness, He will not interrupt the logical consequences of that belief and action.

The picture he paints of the second coming is frightening. It comes suddenly, with a roar of the heavens. The earth is destroyed by fire. How interesting! Fire is what separates the gold from the dross. Fire is a purifying element. It burns the temporary to ash that is scattered on the air. But what is valuable remains.

I work with precious metal clay. If I choose a hollow shape for the piece I am working on, I create a papier mache type form the size and shape of the hollow I wish to create. I can make a ball of this papier mache and form a lattice work with the precious metal clay all around it. I let it dry and then fire it in the kiln. The papier mache burns away to nothing, and I have a hollow globe of silver lace to work with as a jewelery element. I didn't want a papier mache ball covered with silver lace. I wanted a hollow ball of silver lace. The fire removed the dross.

Our lives must be the righteousness that survives the fire. We are to be the pure gold and silver of God's creation. In the new heaven and new earth, all will be righteousness and peace, but the righteousness of the new heaven and new earth will be those who have been righteous here and now.

Father, God,

As we travel through this journey of life, help us to burn away the dross in our lives. Teach us what is holy and righteous. Grant that we may seek only Your righteousness all our days.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Set Apart

Focus verses: I Peter 2:1-12

In every group of people there is someone who always swings to the ultimate arc of the pendulum. Peter was that person among the disciples. He was the one who answered Jesus' question "who do you say that I am" correctly. And Jesus called in blessed in that revelation. But just a few verses later, when Jesus tells the disciples of his coming death, Peter is the one who says "never, Lord." And Jesus says "get behind me, Satan."

Again when Jesus washes the disciples feet, Peter first says no, then not only my feet but my face and hands as well.

It is strange that such a volatile personality, from one extreme to the other, should become a patriarch of steady resolution, recommending self-control the the scattered churches. Peter has grown wiser and more stable.

We are indeed a peculiar people, we Christians.

We have a different hope from the rest of the world. We have the hope of heaven and God's glory. Our lives are to be testament to that glory. We are to be the examples to the pagan. Ouch!

When we look at our lives, do we see the shining example that Peter describes here? Or are we sort of tarnished mirrors, reflecting God only dimly?

Let us examine our lives in light of His Advent.

Father, God,

Help us to see what You would have us do and be obedient to that vision. Grant that we may polish our dim mirrors so that You are reflected more clearly in our lives.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Consider It All Joy

Focus verses: James 1:1-8

The book of James is filled with practical advice for the Christian. It was written to the tribes of Israel in diaspora and conveys practical applications of the faith for Christians today.

The opening sounds like an oxymoron. Consider it pure joy when you face trials. My first reaction is "Bah, humbug!" Who enjoys trials and persecutions and difficulties? Certainly not me!

But having been through a few of them, I can tell you that the presence of the Lord is nearest when you need him the most. When you are about to face the totally unthinkable, He will give you the exact knowledge you need precisely at the moment you need it.

The presence and nearness of the Lord will give you the strength to persevere through anything - absolutely anything - that the world and the enemy can throw at you.

When you need to know what to do next, you simply ask Him. He will tell you the next step to take. But there is a stipulation here. You need to be so familiar with His voice and His thoughts that the enemy cannot lead you astray. Those who spend time in His word will know His voice. To them it will be almost as audible as if He were speaking aloud an entire room full of people.

At times when I have been driving in the car and mulling over something that needed handling, His voice has been as audible as if He were in the seat beside me, speaking directly into my ear. Actually, for the Christian, He dwells within your heart and speaks directly to your spirit.

Our job is to be so familiar with His voice that no one can counterfeit it. Consider it all joy that you know His voice at all times and in all circumstances.

Father, God,

Draw us ever closer to You. Teach us the nuances of Your voice so that we may ever be obedient to Your word and always edified by Your presence.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Keep On Keeping On

Focus verses: II Timothy 2:10-13

Enduring is an unpopular occupation, but we have been given the grace through Christ to do just that. Enduring hardship serves to strengthen our resolve and make us less soft or brittle. It works much like annealing steel or glass.

My daughter does glass lamp work. She heats a rod or small length of glass til it is molten in the flame. She works with it and shapes it into the form desired. Then she puts it into an annealing oven so that it does not cool quickly, but slowly, over a period of many hours. This process makes the glass much stronger and less breakable.

It seems that God does that with some of our lives. We endure hardship of many kinds until we have been shaped into what God wants us to be. And even then, He does not turn off the heat. We sit in the annealing oven for an extended period so that we come out more serviceable than ever.

We can endure all this by focusing on Jesus Christ.
11Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him,
we will also live with him;
12if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
13if we are faithless,
he will remain faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.
He is the source of our life and hope. He is the reason for our faithfulness. He is our all in all. So we can keep on keeping on.

Father, God,

When life gets very daily and the going gets tough, reassure us that all things work together for good to those who are called to Your purpose. Help us to keep the faith, doing all that You have commanded, so that we may remain faithful, just as Jesus is faithful.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Teaching Righteousness

Focus verses: Titus 2:1-15

Paul's letter to Titus sounds very much like his first letter to Timothy. In fact, both Titus and Timothy were planting churches and facing the same challenges.

In the letter to Titus, however, Paul spells out who ought to be teaching whom. You will notice that men teach men and women teach women. There is a good reason for that.

A teacher in those days spent considerable time with the pupil. Jesus taught his disciples by living with them, day in and day out, for three full years. He invested Himself in them. He gave them all He had to give, and they loved Him in return.

When a teacher invests himself in a pupil, a close relationship grows between them. Can you imagine the havoc that close teaching relationship might wreak if teaching were done between the sexes? It would be an open temptation to many and could cause much damage to the church. That's why Paul separates the teaching by gender.

In my work, I talk to many people by long-distance phone. One man has called several times and explained his problems to me. He is a man who wants to be good, but he is living out of accordance to the will of God. After our last phone conversation, I realized that he was looking at me as a teacher. So I wrote him a short note to encourage him. But in that note, I suggested he find a local man to mentor him. He needs an older and wiser man to rein him back into submission to the word of God.

You cannot claim the word of God and live against its teachings. That is self-deception at its worst. If you believe in God and want to claim His promises, your actions must conform to what He has taught.

Look at Paul's list of virtues to be taught.

Older men are to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, sound in faith, love and endurance.

Younger men are to be encouraged in self-control, integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech.

Older women are to be reverent, not gossips, nor drunkards, but teachers of what is good.

Younger women are to be taught to be loving (to husbands and children), self-controlled, pure, industrious, kind, and submissive.

We can successfully be taught all these things because the grace of God assists us. We can teach these things because the grace of God gives us that authority. Paul says "encourage and rebuke with all authority." When you have learned what God would have you teach, you can speak with boldness and authority because God is the author of what you are teaching.

Oh, and by the way, we are all called to teach.

Father, God,

Help us not to stumble when we teach what we have learned of You. Keep us on the right path so that our words are supported by our deeds. Remind us that we are what we are only by the grace You so freely gave.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

From Father To Son

Focus verses: I Timothy 6:3-21

Today's reading is the entire letter of I Timothy. Here we have a father-figure speaking to someone he loves as a son. The letter covers the gamut of Christian conduct and church structure. It contains encouragements and admonitions from Paul to Timothy.

I am sure that Timothy treasured this letter, read and re-read it over and over. And he probably shared it with the churches he was planting.

But I want to focus on the last two verses.

20Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, 21which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.
Grace be with you.

When Paul says "guard what has been entrusted to your care," he is talking about the gospel, the good news of Christ's redemption of sinful man. Earlier in this letter, Paul has talked about himself as the worst of sinners, recalling how he once persecuted the church.

This good news that Christ can change the vilest sinner into the serving saint will change our lives, if we but hear and believe. What we believe shapes our actions, and our actions shape our lives.

Paul admonishes Timothy not to be drawn into "godless chatter and the opposing ides of what is falsely called knowledge." We have a lot of that going on in our lives right now. We have scientific theory being taught in our schools as if it were proven fact when it is in direct opposition to the Word of God.

There is an arrogance in the intellect that wants to believe that we can "know it all," that we can wrap our puny finite minds around the knowledge and purposes of an infinite God. That's never going to happen.

Paul's concluding remark is "Grace be with you." Grace, God's endless mercy, God's righteousness at Christ's expense. Grace, you were bought with a price. You are not your own.

Father, God,

Help us to be faithful to Your word at all times. Keep us from wandering into endless philosophies and arguments about the faith. Remind us that Your word is the final word on everything.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hold A Good Thought

Focus verses: Philipians 4:2-9

There was division and dissension in the church at Philipi when Paul wrote this letter. Two of the ladies (I can see them now), probably strong-minded and willful, had disagreed on some point. The rift grew between them and started to fracture the congregation.

That happens when people focus on the differences between them and on the ugliness each of us shows.

But Paul is telling them to focus on the good things. Our minds naturally dwell upon the things that are important to us. But the reverse is also true. We begin to become the things we let our mind dwell upon.

My friend and I meet weekly, to visit, to encourage one another, to talk about the Lord. We do not always agree. She sees things from one perspective. I see them from another. But we do not argue. She allows me my focus, and I respect hers. Frequently we edify one another because between the two of us, we have a binocular vision of what the Lord is doing in our lives.

When she is in the middle of a crisis, she doesn't see the hand of the Lord working because of the stress of the crisis. I can see through her crisis to a plan that the Lord might have for her. The reverse is also true. When I'm in crisis, I see mostly the crisis, not the eternal perspective. She helps me put a different spin on the matter.

Frequently we agree to disagree - that is to hold different opinions of a matter. We are both aware that our opinions are not God's law - they are merely personal interpretations of the facts. Both of us are old enough and wise enough to know that we are not the ultimate authority.

So she thinks about the things in me that are good. And I think about her good points as well. We are, in the best sense, sisters in Christ.

But if we each focused on the short-comings of the other, we would never have become friends. I have way too many faults. And even she has her share. I recognize her failings, much as I recognize my own. But I don't labor the point either with her or myself.

Together, we have become better people, with fewer faults than we each had at the outset. Focusing on the good, the true, the praise-worthy, we have gained some of those virtues. I sincerely hope we can gain more of these virtues to swallow up our remaining faults.

Father, God,

Thank You for putting Your church together with diverse people. Help us to see the good in all the members of Your body. Keep us focused on building one another up so that the church is strengthened.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Personal Righteousness

Focus verses: Ephesians 4:17-32

We are dichotomous people. We have two natures. There is the nature of the spirit that longs for God, but there is also the nature of the flesh which seeks self-gratification in worldly things.

There are two kinds of righteousness. One is the righteousness we have because of our belief in Christ Jesus our Lord. The other is the righteousness which we seek to manifest in our lives. The latter is merely the outward reflection of the former.

The righteousness Paul is speaking of here is not a righteousness to earn our way in to God's good graces. It is the righteousness that springs forth from our gratitude to God for having made us righteous in His sight.

When our lives and actions do not reflect the righteousness of God, people are justified in asking what makes us any different from everyone else. They think it isn't important whether you are a Christian or not.

People who are not actively seeking God will probably not read the scriptures. But everyone around you will watch what you say and do. Your life may be the only bible they ever read. So how can we make our lives reflect the Jesus of the word?

Paul has it down pat, right here.

You are living in a society that has no understanding of God and His precepts. It is, instead, a society that has given itself over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

We see it every day. Video games exploit sex and violence to our teenagers. Vocal minorities insist that their wrong behavior is a right and demand that we not only allow, but make laws to condone it. Other voices demand that freedom of choice not be called murder while they take the life of a pre-born infant, called forth by God. And the list goes on.

We are called to a higher purpose. We have been called to be Christ's visible presence on earth. We can only do this if we exhibit His righteousness. And Paul tells us what to do.

Speak truth at all times.
Do not sin in anger against your neighbor.
Work with your hands.
Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth.
Do not nurse grievances, but forgive one another.

These are the traits of righteousness that spring from our righteousness of God in Christ.

Father, God,

Help us to move the fleshly person of ourselves out of Your way. Give us the grace to manifest Your righteousness in all we say and do, that we may become a beacon for the lost.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Now About Submission

Focus verses: Colossians 3:18-4:1

In my work, I talk on the telephone with a lot of people in various places. At one point, I was speaking with a lady who was in financial straits.

"I am preacher's daughter, and I know we're in this financial trouble because my husband won't tithe. And I can't speak to him about it."

"Why can't you speak to him?" I asked.

"Well, you know I'm supposed to be a submissive wife."

"Oh, my dear, you've been taught wrong about submission." And I went on to explain.

Submission is not biting your tongue and knuckling under. True submission to a husband is letting him see all of who you are. You tell him what you think and believe. You elaborate as to why you think and believe that way. Then you leave the decision in his hands.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul says that we are all to submit to one another. This mutual submission doesn't work if your definition is biting your tongue and knuckling under.

Imagine four people going out to dinner. They get into the car, and the driver says "where do we want to eat?"

"Wherever you'd like."
"Any place is fine with me."
"What do you think?"

And the conversation would circle like that until finally someone says "There's the Chinese place, or Bill's Barbecue, or if we'd like a buffet, we could go to the Groaning Board."

At that point, people begin to express opinions. Then a joint decision can be made.

True submission is letting people see exactly who you are - warts and all. Then as Christian brothers and sisters, we can hold one another up in prayer. We can help one another overcome faults and difficulties. We can give one another the benefit of a different perspective on what's going on.

This mutual submission is the pattern for the church. As the body of Christ we can work in harmony only when we submit one to another.

Father, God,

Grant us the grace to be mutually submissive. Give us the generosity of spirit that allows for diverse opinions without causing strife and division. Knit us together as a body of various parts that work together as one for Your kingdom.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Circuitous Route

Focus verses: Acts 27:1-28:15

Paul, although a Jew, was also born a Roman citizen. Therefore when he is put on trial, he appeals to Rome for justice. I don't believe that he thinks the ultimate outcome will be any different than had he simply been tried in Jerusalem.

However, his journey takes him to places where he can spread the gospel by speaking and healing. A trial in Jerusalem would have changed some things.

A boatload of people, 276 in all, would not have been told that God had a plan for their lives.

The sick on Malta (we don't know how many) would not have been healed.

How many lives were changed during this trip? We have no count. But can't you imagine that the prophetic words of Paul changed at least one or two lives from the ship? How many lives were changed because the the people healed on Malta?

We may never know the count. But Paul's presence there surely had some effect.

Then Paul himself was reassured when the faithful men from Rome came to meet him.

Paul has expended himself in doing good throughout the trip. He is refreshed by the sight and love of the brethren when he finally arrives at his destination.

God sometimes allows us to take the circuitous route in our lives. The shortest distance between two points may be a straight line, but it also touches the fewest places. If that line arcs, it touches more points. If you are going through something right now and wonder why God doesn't just carry you through in a straight line, it may just be that He has a plan that your life will touch more people on the circuitous route.

People watch Christians through a magnified lens. As Christians, we are expected to be better, to do better, than all the rest of the world. When we go through trials, sometimes we are simply being an example of how to live with adversity.

A friend of mine is undergoing cancer treatment for a second time. I know this lady. She prays wherever she goes. She does all things with grace and equanimity. She touches lives with her love and prayers. I have no doubt that the cancer is actually gone. And I have no count of the lives she has touched with her encouragement and courageous example of faith.

But God knows. He knows who will stand and draw closer to Him in times of struggle. That visible lifeline between them and Him becomes a beacon to those seeking encouragement and security.

If you find yourself on a circuitous route, give thanks. He is using your trip for an eternal purpose.

Father, God,

Help us to see a larger picture than just the current difficulty we face. Grant us the vision to be faithful to You in all circumstances and to understand that we are not necessarily the focus of your purpose on this trip.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Almost Is Not Good Enough

Focus verses: Acts 25:23-26:29

Paul tells his story time and again. In fact, from the testimony in his trials, we should be able to assume that this is the message he preaches when he talks to the people. Conversion after conversion follows Paul in all his travels.

But in Jerusalem, he is prosecuted as a trouble maker. He stands trial three time, before Felix, before Agrippa, and before Festus. Each time he tells the same story of his life as a Pharisee, his encounter on the road to Damascus, and his life after his encounter with Jesus.

In fact, Agrippa is so moved by his testimony that he says he is almost persuaded (KJV) to become as Paul is.

Paul's reason for appealing to Rome for his trial is not told here, but it would seem reasonable that he was playing for time, more opportunities to speak his piece in front of gentiles. At least that is the effect it had.

But what has this to do with us? Today there are people with a nebulous sense of God. Many people pray in times of crisis. But whether we have had a dramatic encounter like Paul's on the road to Damascus, or a simply a growing in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, some of us are not truly Christian.

We are almost persuaded by our intellect, but we have not made the commitment that Paul has made. We have not put telling the story of Jesus at the head of our to-do list each day. We are his witnesses in this world. Our need to defend our faith in Him should be the motivation for all we do and say.

We cannot be a sometimes Christian. We must not be a pseudo-Christian. We must be fully committed to Christ alone. Our fidelity to Him must be foremost in our lives.

Father, God,

Help us to put You first in our lives. Keep us from being distracted by this world. Grant that we may serve You completely, wholly committed to spreading the good news of Jesus and Your love for us.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Paul Tells All

Focus verses: Acts 21:40-22:21

We have been told of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus when he became Paul the apostle. Here we have it in his own words.

First he speaks to the priests and rabbis as one who was trained as they were. He is a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee. He studied under one of their most respected teachers. He knew and kept the laws of Moses.

Then he simply tells the facts of how he met Jesus on the road to Damascus and where he went after that.

He doesn't gloss over the fact that he was present as an instigator at the stoning of Stephen. He isn't proud of it, either. It is a fact, and he relates it as such.

Then he tells them he was sent to the gentiles because the Israelites would not not accept his teaching.

While he is speaking, the mob is quiet. He is speaking to them in Aramaic, their own tongue.

We could emulate this example when speaking to others about our faith. There are several evangelistic principles contained herein.

First, speak to your hearers in language they understand. Keep it simple. You need not speak in polysyllabic philosophical terms or use esoteric Christian terminology. Tell it so a child of six could understand.

Second, tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Some people can wrap their silver tongues around a lie and entice you to believe it. But those lies will out at some point or another. Truth is the basis for a relationship with God. You can't pull the wool over His eyes. He knows all about you, and He loves you in spite of it.

Third, you take them from what you believed at first to what you believe now, tracing your personal journey so that they can follow along. What convinced you may just convince them.

This journey is all we have to convince others of Jesus. We simply make the introduction and let Jesus take it from there. This is simple evangelism.

You are not responsible for the reactions of those to whom you speak. You cannot change anyone. What you can do is share the truth. Leave the rest to God. He will bring forth the fruit of your labors.

Father, God,

Keep us ready at all times to explain the hope that is within us. Give us open hearts and truthful tongues. Let us not get so caught up in our story that we lose the focus of Jesus' story.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Focus verses: Acts 20:22-21:14

What makes people do what they do? In this passage, Paul says he is compelled by the Holy Spirit.

We are moved by hunger, desire, ambition, greed, need, love or lust (they are not the same thing), or any number of other motivations. But the Christian is moved, or should be moved, by the Holy Spirit alone.

The first desire is, or should be, to please God. In order to do this, we need to know what He wants of us. He has told us very specifically in His word. Love Him and love one another.

Love is not just a feeling, it manifests in action. Those actions are led by the Holy Spirit if one is a Christian. It is the Holy Spirit that leads us into all truth. The Holy Spirit is our guide, our interpreter of God's will. Our spirits are connected to the Holy Spirit by the grace of God.

This is the Comforter of whom Jesus spoke. When one is convinced by the Holy Spirit of a specific course of action, he will not be dissuaded from it.

The brethren entreating Paul not to return to Jerusalem always reminds me of Peter when he told Jesus they would not allow Him to be taken and crucified. The will of God is the essence of the Holy Spirit. When we voluntarily surrender our free will to the will of God, nothing can change us just as nothing can change Him.

Paul was unmoved from his decision to return to Jerusalem. His steadfast purpose finally convinced those who would have persuaded him otherwise to simply resign themselves to God's will -- which is where they should have been in the first place.

Father, God,

Grant us the wisdom to seek Your will in all our endeavors. Your plans are perfect. Keep us steadily on the path You would have us travel.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Shun Troublemakers

Focus verses: Romans 16:17-20

After a long letter in which Paul has admonished the Romans to love one another and to live at peace with one another; to repay evil with good and to tend the needs of your enemies, he makes this startling statement:
Watch out for troublemakers (paraphrased according to Judith)
But just who are these troublemakers? They are members of the congregation. Were they pagans, the congregation would not be deceived by them. These are people to whom being a Christian is socially and politically advantageous.

And every congregation has them.

They are the people who ask what they can pray for you about and then spread your need in the form of gossip - under the guise of praying.

They are the people who offer to see to the treasury so that they can help determine how the monies are spent - coincidentally advantaging their own pet projects at the expense of others equally worthy.

They are the people who push the beliefs of their conscience onto others in areas where that belief is not critical to the life in Christ.

So what does Paul mean when he says: "Keep away from them"?

I think he means keep away from their influence. He has already said do good to those who do evil toward you. He has already said live at peace with all men. I think he means disregard their conversation and do not make their opinions part of your own.

Paul wants the Romans to be "wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil." I believe the Amplified says it best.

If you are well-versed and wise about what is good, you will recognize evil without having to participate in it, either to find out if it is evil or to see how far you can go in deceiving people. This is one place where you do not want to push the envelope.

Father, God,

Put hedges around our hearts that we may not be led astray by silver-tongued self-promoters. Help us to remember that anyone whose speaking does not point to You and reflect exactly what You have said is probably a troublemaker for us. Give us the grace to deal with them kindly, but firmly.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Focus verses: Romans 11:25-36

You may have seen this acronym for grace:

Riches (or Righteousness)

We sing about grace. We talk about grace. But do we really understand grace?

The unmerited favor of God is our richest blessing. It means that He loves us with a boundless love. He called us forth from our birth to be His chosen children. He has made provision for every turn in our life's journey.

He knows well the sins of the flesh that we are heir to. He recognizes our arrogance and pride. And yet He loves us.

To me, that is the greatest miracle of all. Healing a body is wonderful, but healing a spirit is more wonderful. Turning water into wine is spectacular, but turning a pagan into a follower of God is more spectacular.

This grace, greater than all my sin, blesses us richly. Our response to this grace of God determines our eternal future. Grace is offered freely. We must accept freely. We need to take God at His word and remain faithful to that word, even when we don't see the fruit of it.

Our response to His grace must be our unending, unwavering faith in His word. For our God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He never changes. He is the one certainty in this uncertain world. When all else fails us, He never will.

He is our eternal security. There is no other.

Father, God,

Help us to rely upon You and your grace to us. Teach us Your ways, that we may remain steadfast in the storms of life. Let us see Your grace in our lives, that we may extend a similar grace to those whom we encounter on this journey.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Wages And Consequences

Focus verses: Romans 6:5-23

Most people work to earn a living. In our capitalistic society, you gain money by providing either goods or services to someone who is willing to pay for them. It works fairly well in a free market.

Many religions - even some Christian sects - focus on works as a means of earning heaven. Were that so, one would be putting God under an obligation to pay for some service. Wait a minute!

What does God need - NEED - from us? Absolutely nothing. There is no service we can do for God which He cannot accomplish without us. There is no physical thing we can provide which He does not already own. So how do we earn our place in heaven?

We don't!

Our place in heaven is a gift from Jesus. He gave it because He loves us. He satisfied our debt and freed us to live without blood-guilt.

The only thing that can keep us from this blessed gift is us. We need to accept by faith that He has paid the price. That there is nothing we can do to earn a place in heaven.

By the same token, we need to serve God - not because He needs our service, but be cause we need to serve. Only by serving His purposes can we express our gratitude for what He has done for us.

What we do is the evidence of our faith, more evidence than what we say.

My grandmother use to mis-quote this poem as follows:

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

I love you, Mother," said little Nan,
"To-day I'll help you all that I can;
Busy and happy all day was she;
Helpful and happy as a child could be.

How do you think that mother guessed
Which of them really loved her best?
My memory is what I was taught all those years ago. It isn't the way the verse is written in the references, but that happens frequently with truisms. The sense is the same, even if the wording and details are different. You can imagine my surprise to learn that the second girl's name was "Fan" not "Nan" in the original.

The point is that love and faith lead to behavior. If we love God, we behave in loving ways. If we love the world, we behave in selfish, thoughtless ways. Actions are evidence not origins.

We earn the wages of sin by our actions -- but we need only accept the gift of Eternal Life

Father, God,

Give us the grace to accept Your gift of life by faith in You. Grant that we may be truly grateful for the sacrifice of Your Son and evidence the same by our daily walk. Help us to reflect the light of Your love in this world.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Focus verses: Romans 1:18-32

There is an agenda in this society to shame Christians with their "intolerance" for immorality. Some things in the Word of God are not debatable.
  1. You are to love God.
  2. You are to love your neighbor.
  3. Jesus is the only way to salvation.
  4. You are to tell the truth at all time.
  5. You are to spread the good new of Jesus.
Here we have the proscription against homosexuality. But not only in this passage, we find it in the Old Testaamenlt as well. I really prefer the King James translation of this verse.

But we live in a society which wants us to be quiet. Christians are all right as long as they stay cloistered in their churches and don't make waves for the rest of the world.

Political correctness insists that we not only turn a blind eye to this sin, but we are to support all its perversions. There are laws that could make it illegal for a preacher to read this passage in church. And Heaven forfend that we should speak of this sin as a sin.

This is the kind of convoluted thinking that leads a criminal to sue his victim for injuries he sustained on the victim's property during the commission of his crime.

We need not describe sin in detail. There is that in every man that knows right and wrong. We need to be definite about not compromising the principles of moral behavior.

God has no patience with sin. He exacted a price for our sins.

Our only defense is to recognize that price and honor the One Who Paid by conducting ourselves as He would have us behave and not tolerating legislated misconduct.

Father, God,

Give us the boldness to speak Your truth at all times. Help us to be courageous enough to call wrong "wrong" even when it is dangerous to do so.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Focus verses: II Corinthians 10:1-11

Paul is speaking to the Corinthians about a dichotomous world. There is the world of the corporeal, the flesh, the concrete things we can see. Then there is the world of the spirits. And while most of us cannot see this world, it is none-the-less real. In fact, it is sometimes more real than the illusions we call reality.

We live in a society where things are all-important. The biggest houses, the sleekest cars, the newest electronic gadgets, the most money and similar non-essentials seem to dictate who is or is not important. Balderdash!!

From the least to the greatest, each person has the same value in the eyes of God. That value is the price of Jesus' life. From the holiest saint to the vilest sinner, He paid that price for each of them as if there were only one.

Having accepted the sacrifice of Christ in our place, we have been adopted from Adam's sinful household into God's family. Therefore, we have the resources of that family to draw upon.

Our most valuable "resource" is the indwelling Holy Spirit. This comforter that Jesus promised His disciples is our lifeline in this battleground we call life.

I love the KJV wording of verses four and five.
and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
This verse is the key to integrity. When our every thought is captive to the obedience of Christ, we are truly whole and one with God. Please don't misunderstand that last phrase. I'm not thinking that we can be god. We cannot, we are not, we never will be god. But we can be His devoted servant-child - thinking as He thinks, doing what He would have us do, feeling the things He feels.

In the movie "White Christmas" Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen sang the song "Sisters, Sisters" where one line reads:
Two different faces, but in tight places
We think and we act as one.
The quality of thinking like and acting like Jesus is ours only because of the Holy Spirit. If we bring every thought, every feeling, every action in our lives captive to the will of Christ, we have integrity. There can be no falseness in us because there is no falseness in Christ.

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

He says He is the Truth. He is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. One who has true integrity is the same inside and out. He is all of a piece. He is one unified whole. Jesus gave us the example of how to walk in integrity during His life on earth. Let us emulate Him sincerely.

Father, God,

Grant that we may be obedient servant-children in Your family. Help us to walk in the same integrity that Jesus embodied here on earth. Give us the wisdom to listen to Your Holy Spirit at all times.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Jars Of Clay

Focus verses: II Corinthians 4:7-12

The metaphor of clay in the life of the Christian has always been a source of comfort for me, but I didn't fully realize what it meant until I became involved with my daughter's pottery class.

Clay is malleable. It can be rolled, stretched, incised, imprinted, and watered down and worked again. I love working with clay.

The clay became even more special to me when I took classes in precious metal clays. You see, the "clay" part is just a binder to hold the tiny fragments of the metal together. The clay burns off when you fire the piece to harden the metal clay. If you are working with silver clay, you come out with a product called "fine" silver. It is more nearly pure silver than sterling.

But handling this clay takes special care. First it must be kept moist or wet. If you let it dry out, you cannot work with it as you should.

Then you must oil both your hands and any surface that it touches to keep it from sticking in places where you don't want it and ruining the piece you are making.

Once the piece is completed, you let it dry - sort of like a desert experience.

When it is dry, you file any rough edges or accidental protrusions.

Then you put it in a kiln - or in the flame of a torch to fire.

Once it is fired, you polish it by putting it in a tumbler with shot.

If you want special effects, you treat it with chemicals to change the color or give it the appearance of age.

Eventually you have a piece of jewelry that is 99% fine silver, a thing of beauty, and a joy to wear.

We have the treasure of the gospel in our jars of clay. But if we keep it watered with the Word, oiled by the Holy Spirit, it is fit for molding by the Lord.

We may go through desert experiences and have abrasives applied to refine our shape. We will most certainly be proved in fire of one kind or another. Then we will be thrust into a world that tumbles us with grit or shot to polish us to a high shine so that we reflect the light of Christ.

Completely yielded, we can be of service to the Lord. It's not a quick process. It takes time. Let us yield with patience to the Lord's shaping.

Father, God,

Help us to be soft, malleable clay in Your hands. Give us the grace to endure the process so that we may come out refined and useful to Your kingdom.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Focus verses: I Corinthians 15:1-34

Paul taught about the resurrection of the dead. But he didn't see Jesus til he was stricken blind on the road to Damascus - after His ascension into heaven. This resurrection sets Jesus apart from every other founder of a major religion. You can see the burial places of other founders of religion. There is only an empty tomb for Jesus.

No other prophet was raised from the dead. It is His resurrection that gives us the hope of life after death as well. Paul lays it out clearly. If there is no resurrection, then Christ cannot have been raised from the dead, either. And our hope is lost entirely. If Christ has not been raised from the dead, we are still dead in our sins.

The line from Handel's Messiah Oratorio says: "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." There is a tempo change here from grave at 60 beats per minute to allegro at 84 beats. From a dirge to a lively dance.

This is what Christ does for our lives both here and hereafter. We are dead in sin. It weighs us down and crushes our spirits. But our belief in Christ and His resurrection lifts that burden and lets us dance with joy.

That promise is as much for our lives today as it is for our life after death. Can we live today in Joy?

Father, God,

Help us to understand that time has no meaning for You, that what will be already is in Your kingdom. Teach us to live the resurrected life both before and after death.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Love Is The Key

Focus verses: I Corinthians 13:1-13

Love is the key to the Christian life. But I think, sometimes, we miss the mark on our definition of love. While this chapter is frequently read at weddings, I believe it has less to do with weddings than the everyday relationships between friends, family, neighbors and co-workers.

Jesus said the first commandment was to love the Lord. But what kind of love is this? It certainly isn't the same kind of physical desire and emotion that men and women sometimes feel for one another. It is, in fact, not a "feeling" so much as a decision and commitment. You seek the Lord and His will for your life, so that what you do pleases Him. It is His approval that you are wanting. His "well done, good and faithful servant" is your goal.

We love the Lord by loving what He created. This kind of love is committed to the well-being of the other. We are to work for the benefit of the Lord's creation. Since man was created in the image of God, when we look at another person, we should strive to see the mark of God on him or her. It is that essence of the divine in each person that we respect and admire.

The qualities of love in Paul's list spring from the recognition of God's image in man. We have no clear picture of God except what of God is reflected in man. In eternity, we shall see Him face to face - no veil, no shadow, no dim mirror.

Father, God,

Prepare us to see You face to face. Create in us Your love for all mankind. Help us to hear as You hear, see as You see, and feel as You feel.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Repeating History

Focus verses: I Corinthians 10:1-13

My grandmother used to say "He who will not learn from history is condemned to repeat it." Our culture today seems to be dedicated to chasing the new and not regarding the past at all. In our schools, history is no longer taught the way we were taught half a century ago. Our children may have to repeat history because we are not teaching them correctly.

In this passage, Paul is writing to the church at Corinth. Corinth was a notoriously wicked place in its day. Believers were in danger of yielding to the current culture rather than standing firm in their beliefs.

So Paul takes them back to the wandering in the desert with Moses as their leader. The fact that they were following Moses didn't save many of them from the consequences of their own actions. When they grumbled against God and Moses, they were bitten by snakes. But God made a way out for them with the bronze snake.

Notice that the way out requires obedience. When they look upon the bronze snake - when they do what the Lord says - then they are cured.

You see, looking to the Lord is the answer to any problem. When we are in a quandary, the answer is before us if we take the time to focus on the principles of God. When we focus on the problem, it seems insurmountable. When we look at God, the problem fades into perspective as the small matter that it is.

We need not repeat history. We can learn from it. But we must be reading the correct history text. The Bible is the history of mankind on a spiritual plane. That is the territory we must cover when we learn from history.

Father, God,

Teach us to look to You as the source of all wisdom and knowledge. Grant that we may never be so taken with our own intellect that we are beyond teaching. Give us a humility of spirit that we may be forever your students and disciples.
In Jesus' most precious name.