Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fearing God

The Israelites said to Moses, “We will die! We are lost, we are all lost! Anyone who even comes near the tabernacle of the Lord will die. Are we all going to die?” (Num 17:12-13)

The Israelites who had grumbled against the Lord have now seen his power repeatedly displayed, and finally they fear him. This is an important step in their spiritual development, but it is not yet the whole story. There is a progression that many follow in coming to know the Lord, and that the Israelites were following. Initially they were ignorant of God altogether. Then they came to understand him as one of many gods. Now at last they have understood that he is the one true, all-powerful God and they fear him. But there is one more step each of us must take – to know that he is our God and he loves us. Perfect love casts out fear. (1 Jn 4:18) God is fearfully strong. But because I know he is good and loving I know that he desires only what is best for me. Saved by his grace I can rest secure in his arms. Our High Priest Jesus has made atonement for us. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence,” not fear. (Heb 4:16)

Lord, thank you that you have made a way for us to boldly come before you. Not by our righteousness but by your grace. Thank you that I need not fear your presence! Amen.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Rescue the Weak

Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. (Ps 82:4)

It’s easy to sit in the suburbs and think the urban poor just need to try harder and they can “make something of themselves”. But what if you don’t know how to try because no one ever showed you? Or what if you are convinced it is pointless to try because nothing you can do will change your situation? Some people can make it on their own, but most are too weak – weakened by their upbringing and the evil that surrounds them. They are preyed on by drug dealers, bullies and thieves, exploited by politicians and ignored by most of the rest of us. God commands us to rescue the weak and needy – to bring the light of hope through the gift of love, to lend a hand and to show the way. Truly they need Jesus, but Jesus will only come to them in the person of ordinary Christians like you and me who are willing to be obedient and get involved. God, forgive me for my selfishness and laziness. You have given us your commandments and your example. I want to do my part to rescue the weak and the fatherless and bind up the brokenhearted. Teach me to be “Jesus with skin on”. Use me to show your love and mercy to the world. Amen.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Following an Unseen God

Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen. (Ps 77:19)

How do you follow an unseen God? Here’s a hint: when the waters part and a path opens up through the sea, God has gone before you to lead the way. Most of the time the circumstances of our lives are less dramatic but the principle is still the same. A door opens and the still, small voice of God nudges us forward. Some Christians I know are always looking for a sign from God. Sometimes they interpret seemingly inconsequential events as a sign. I don’t experience the presence of God in my life that way. God’s Word is filled with his wisdom and his commandments, and he has given us a mind to know them and apply them. No doubt my friends are sometimes reading too much into everyday events, but just as surely I believe I have often missed God’s leading. We have to leave some room for the miraculous in our lives. God’s will is not always “reasonable”. His Spirit will never contradict his Word, but his plan far exceeds our comprehension. Sometimes the next step will seem risky or strange. Lord, teach me to hear your voice. I don’t want to miss that open door which leads to the center of your will for me. Thank you, Lord, for your Word and your Spirit. Lead me on your path for my life. Amen.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Promised Redemption

No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him – the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough. But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself. (Ps 49:7-8,15)

Sin brought death into the world, and no man can do anything to change that. We have sinned and we will die. We do not have the power or the righteousness to defeat death on our own. But God! I love those two words. He is the answer to all our predicaments. I cannot defeat death. But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself.

This much was known to the psalmist in ancient days. He looked ahead to a redemption he knew was coming but he could not see how or by whom. How blessed we are to be born into these latter days! We know the joy of a daily walk with Jesus, our Blessed Redeemer. He paid the debt I could not pay. The blood of Christ is sufficient for all our sins. Lord, thank you for the great joy of knowing you, of experiencing your presence every day. Thank you that I enjoy now the eternal life of which the psalmist could only dream. Even though my body will one day die, death will never separate me from you, my Lord and Savior. Amen.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Serial Stupidity

Though you grind a fool in a mortar, grinding him like grain with a pestle, you will not remove the folly from him. (Pro 27:22)

In the Bible, being a fool is a moral failing. A fool is one who rejects God’s wisdom and makes evil, self-destructive choices. But, as this verse reveals, the very core of folly is the failure – or refusal – to learn from one’s mistakes. The book of Proverbs teaches us that sin has consequences. When I care so little about myself or others that I will continue to sin regardless of the consequences then I am truly a fool. My first reaction is to say, why would anyone do that? But then I realize I myself do it, over and over again. When I choose the pleasure of the moment I am being the fool. For a moment’s satisfaction I would trade a lifetime of consequences. I am thinking about gluttony here but it is just as true for anger, selfishness, pride or any other sin.  Lord, forgive me for my rampant foolishness. Teach me to walk in wisdom. Amen.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Don't Be a Hittite

Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I’m disgusted with these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.” (Gen 27:46)

I’ve always found this verse amusing. There’s more than a hint of cattiness to it. But there’s a serious side also. God’s will was for Abraham’s descendants not to intermarry with the pagan Canaanites. Yet Esau had married two local Hittite women. Gen 26:35 says “They were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah.” How, exactly? The Bible does not say. No doubt it was partly their pagan religion. But I think this verse hints at more than that.

How do we treat our in-laws? Do we love them like our own flesh and blood? When Ruth went to live with her mother-in-law Naomi she said, “Your people will be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16) The words of Rebekah suggest that this was not the attitude of Esau’s wives. How might they have grieved her and Isaac? Were they critical, disrespectful, rude or selfish? We don’t know. But we do know that God expects us to love our in-laws, to graciously accept them and to honor them by deferring to them. Lord, I don’t want to be a Hittite! Help me be like Ruth. Teach me to be loving and gracious to my whole family, whether by blood or marriage. Let your light shine in me and through me. Amen.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Give Him Your Heart

The lamp of the Lord searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being. (Pro 20:27) 

When we say that we have “given our hearts to Christ” these are not idle words. He is going to move in and take ownership, and the first order of business is spring cleaning. Sanctification is not always a pleasant process. If we continue to walk with him, drinking in his Word and seeking his will, he is going to shine the light of his truth on the dark corners of our hearts. Lord, sanctify me by your truth! (Jn 17:17) I know I often resist you, but my heart of hearts truly desires to be conformed to your image. (Rom 8:29) Forgive me when I pull back. I have given my heart to you, and it is yours forever. Amen.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Great Wives Need Great Husbands

He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord. (Pro 18:22)

What a blessing my wife has been to me! Thank you, Lord, for your favor. I cannot imagine what our lives would be like without each other. In this day when marriage is under attack and good marriages seem so rare, how blessed have I been to have such a wonderful wife! I think about how many people give up on marriage – men and women who are disappointed in the person they married. Especially, I am saddened by men who grow bored or disillusioned with their wives and leave them for what they think will be greener pastures. It seems to me a lot of men get the wife they deserve – one might even say the wife they have created by their mistreatment of her. If he is selfish she will be resentful. If he is lazy she will be a nag. If he is distant she will be cold. If he has a wandering eye she will be jealous. If he is not affectionate she will be emotionally needy. If he is irresponsible she will be insecure.

Lord, so much hurt and sorrow can be avoided if we are obedient to your commands! Forgive me for my failings as a husband. Thank you that I have a wife who is so much better than I deserve. Thank you for teaching us how to love each other. I pray that the men in our society, especially the Christians, will step up to the challenge of being loving and faithful husbands as well as wise and loving fathers. Comfort and encourage those women whose husbands have not fulfilled their vows. I pray that the church will lead the way in restoration of marriage to your God-given design. Amen.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Teachable Spirit

Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge. (Pro 19:27)

One of the most important attributes of a humble Christ follower is a teachable spirit. At one level, it should be obvious that when you stop listening you stop learning. But the danger is deeper than that. The real danger is letting pride overtake my heart. If I think I have nothing to learn from others, I will soon find that I am not listening to God, either. “Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Rom 1:22 NASB) is how Paul described such men. My knowledge is always incomplete and imperfect in this life. I must continue to study God’s Word and to learn. And I must continue to read and listen to the teaching of godly men, as an important check against my own errors of interpretation. Lord, I want to have a teachable spirit. Convict me when pride raises its ugly head. Sanctify me by your Word – both to know it and to obey it. Amen.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Dishonest Scales

The Lord abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight. (Pro 11:1)

This is one of those verses that seem so foreign to us culturally. In Biblical times, every merchant would have a scale and a set of weights for measuring the goods exchanged. A dishonest merchant would keep two sets of weights – lighter ones for weighing his product and heavier ones for weighing your payment. This must have been a common scam because it is condemned many times in the Bible. In our day, everything comes prepackaged at the store and we pay whatever is rung up on the cash register. So in one sense this verse no longer seems to apply to us. But the sins of dishonesty and selfishness are still with us.

As I reflect on how this verse may yet apply to my life, I realize that I do indeed keep two sets of weights. With one I weigh what others do for me and with the other I weigh what I do for others. Like the dishonest merchant, I overvalue what I do to serve others and undervalue what others do to serve me. I am quick to be put out when others ask for my help and slow to show gratitude for the help I receive. Lord, forgive me for my selfishness, which I compound by my dishonesty and ingratitude. By your Incarnation and your death on the cross you gave us the supreme example of servanthood. Convict me when I fail to follow in your footsteps. Amen.