Wednesday, March 31, 2010

True Repentance

Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. (Mt 3:8)

John the Baptist rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to hear him preach. Evidently they did not come in true repentance. John’s rebuke could as well be applied to me. There are certain sins I commit over and over again. Day after day I come to God to confess and repent. But is it true repentance? Where is the fruit? Repentance is more than sorrow or regret. The core of repentance is deciding to change. That change may not be possible without God’s power, but just as essential is our choosing to do differently. Lord, help me to truly change and not just regret my sins after the fact.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pursuit of Wisdom

My son, if you accept my words
   and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
   and applying your heart to understanding,
and if you call out for insight
   and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
   and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
   and find the knowledge of God.
(Pr 2:1-5)

Wisdom doesn’t usually just hit us over the head. We must diligently seek it. That is, we must diligently seek God, who is the source of all wisdom. It is a lifelong journey – a quest to which we must continually apply ourselves with steadfastness of purpose.

Monday, March 29, 2010

It's All His

[Job] said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21)

This is Job’s response to the news that all his children and all his servants and all his wealth have suddenly been destroyed. Job knew that nothing we have is truly ours. God gives it to us and God can take it away. It all belongs to him and he is within his rights to do whatever he pleases with it. Now God has taken it all away, and even though Job cannot possibly understand why he still says, “may the name of the Lord be praised.” Not only is Job’s faith great, but also the degree of his surrender to God. Lord, help me to truly understand that all I have is yours. You could take it all away tomorrow and I would have neither cause for complaint nor need to fear the future. Financial security is good, but faith in you is better. But Lord, it is harder to face the prospect that something bad might happen to my family than to me. Surely that was Job's greatest hurt. I surrender my family to you, Lord. I know they are yours, and I know you love them far more than I. Guard them. Draw them to yourself. And, whatever happens, may we one day be together with you for eternity.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Act Now and Save!

A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed – without remedy. (Pr 29:1)

God’s patience with each sinner does not extend forever. A time comes when there remain no more chances for repentance. We must have always some urgency in our evangelism. We never know how many more chances a lost person will have.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Watch Your Flocks

Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds. (Pr 27:23)

We must give careful attention to whatever God has entrusted to us. Good stewardship requires diligence and steadfastness.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Speak Up

Like a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked. (Pr 25:26)

When people are saying bad things I tend to timidly stay silent. I need to speak up. I need to be bold to defend the cause of righteousness.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Measure of God's Wrath

I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues – last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. (Rev 15:1)

There is a measure to God’s wrath. It is not limitless or unending. As great and terrible as his wrath is shown to be in this book, there is a point at which it is completed. In fact, his wrath is proportional to our sin, and this graphically demonstrates how great our sin is. This helps me to understand how much Jesus had to suffer for my sins, and helps me realize how much he loves me. Lord, help me never to treat sin so lightly. Remind me, Lord Jesus, of the wrath that you endured for my sake.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Winepress of God's Wrath

The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. (Rev 14:19)

Too often today we share the Good News and people seem uninterested. Perhaps it is because they haven’t heard the Bad News. No one today would preach “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (Jonathan Edward's most famous sermon) and if they did they would be reviled for it. The concept of sin is just as out of fashion as absolute truth. People cannot see God’s grace because they refuse to see his wrath. Lord, help the lost to see that they need a Savior because they deserve condemnation. Help me to share the truth in a way that others will receive it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

After the Tears

“This day is sacred to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. (Neh 8:9b)

The people were weeping in repentance as they heard the law read which they had so long forgotten. No doubt there were tears of deep regret and a sense of loss for all the years they had not walked in the Lord’s ways. True repentance is often associated with tears. This is good and right. But God doesn’t want us to remain there. If we continue to mope and cry we are looking backward and not forward. God has separated us from our sin as far as the east is from the west. We are new creatures in Christ; why do we continue to mourn? Nehemiah commanded the people to “celebrate with great joy” and we should do the same. Lord, forgive me for clinging to my sin when you have cast it away and for dwelling on my regrets when you have a bright future prepared for us. Help me to truly accept your forgiveness and truly trust in your sovereignty – to set my face toward the future and not the past.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Being in the Fight

They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. (Rev 12:11)

I don’t tend to think about the spiritual warfare that is always going on around us. I feel as though I am far from the front lines, but no one is. To win in battle you first need weapons, which we have: the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. But you also need to be willing to wade into the fight despite the risk of death. Lord, help me to be that committed to you and to your calling on my life.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

This Hurts Me More Than It Hurts You

Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death. (Pr 19:18)

Children need our discipline, as unpleasant as it may be at the time for both us and them. To grow up with impulses unchecked by parental discipline leads to great suffering later.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

What's It Going to Take?

The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands. (Rev 9:20a)

The stubbornness of the human heart is amazing. The pride not to admit fault or error is so strong in our fallen nature it infects even the believer. How many Christians are locked into their spiritual immaturity by an unwillingness to admit their need to change? How attached we are to our preening egos and our false pleasures! They keep us locked in impotence and defeat. No wonder it seems that half the book of Proverbs is devoted to the wisdom of receiving correction and instruction (e.g. Pro 12:1). We need it!

Friday, March 19, 2010

When It's Good To Feel Guilty

Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence. (Ezra 9:15b)

When we sin we need to be as keenly aware of our guilt as Ezra was. Too often we are like the priests and the Levites who were breaking God’s commands. When Ezra was on his knees before God where were they? They weren’t even present. Lord, help me to truly understand how deeply my sins grieve you so I might truly repent.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Forget About Plan B

I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, "The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him." So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer. (Ezra 8:22-23)

Ezra was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers to protect them on their journey, because he had told the king the gracious hand of God was on them. So they fasted and prayed for divine protection. This is the kind of faith I see and hear about in other believers’ lives. But that kind of faith is rarely seen in my life. I have a hard time thinking of an example where I stepped out in faith without a safety net, knowing that if God did not act I would fail and suffer harm. In this most practical way I fail the “true faith” test. I suppose that too often I really don’t believe God will answer my prayer. I always want to have a Plan B. I always wonder if I have really heard God’s voice. No wonder my ministry and my life have had so little impact for the Kingdom of God. Lord, help me to grow in my faith and learn to hear the voice of my Shepherd.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

He Who Overcomes

To him who overcomes I will give the right to sit with me on my throne. (Rev 3:21)

In these letters to the seven churches Christ continually promises a reward “to him who overcomes.” I wonder exactly what is meant by “overcome” here. I think it means living a life characterized by persevering through trials and resisting temptation. I think I see that “obedience” theme peeking through again. God is clearly making strong demands on us. He really expects us to live out our lives in a particular way, which doesn’t involve taking the easy road or doing whatever we feel like. Not that our salvation depends on it, but our reward does, not the least of which is the satisfaction of knowing that God is pleased with us. We were created for this. Nothing satisfies like living out the purpose for which God created us.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Dead in All the Wrong Ways

I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. (Rev 3:1b)

This hits uncomfortably close to home. For the past couple of years I feel like I have been going through the motions. No outward sign of any overt sin, but inwardly a poor attitude and little commitment. This One on One with God study has really helped me refocus on living for the Lord. I want to be dead to sin and alive to Christ! (Rom 6:11)

Monday, March 15, 2010

As in the Beginning

Yet I hold this against you: you have forsaken your first love. (Rev 2:4)

It seems inevitable that our initial ardor will cool somewhat over time. We see this almost universally in new believers. It is also our common experience in other human relationships and interests. Are we being asked to overcome this universal tendency? I’m not so sure. I think what we need to recover is not the emotional high we first experienced when we came to know Christ, but the depth of our commitment. True Biblical love is not an emotion but an act of the will to honor and serve another. In that sense, too, we have often forsaken our first love. We have let the cares of life and its distractions draw our focus and commitment away from God. Let us in that sense return to our first love. With passion, yes, but more importantly with devotion and single-mindedness of purpose, let us recommit ourselves to God our Savior, who loves us with an everlasting love.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Falling at His Feet

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. (Rev 1:17)

We are far too protective of our own dignity and our old bones to ever fall down in worship these days. Yet there is something to be said for adopting a physical posture of complete humility as an expression of our reverence for the awesome power and majesty of God. John by this time had lived a very long and very hard life. His knees were no doubt far creakier than mine, and his bones more fragile. Yet he “fell at his feet as though dead.” Lord, please give us a glimpse of your power and majesty. May we humble ourselves before you. May we for once lay aside our inflated sense of our own dignity and importance, and so reveal by our actions a truer understanding of how very much greater you are.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Who Is Influencing Whom?

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. (3 Jn 11a)

It is so important that we pick the right role models. Too often we let ourselves be influenced by the culture and wind up imitating evil. The way we talk, the way we dress, the things we invest time in. We must be wise to recognize those aspects of our culture that are not worth imitating.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Why Obey God?

This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. (1 Jn 5:3)

John puts it so simply: love God = obey God. Why do we obey him? Because we love him. Why do we not obey him? Because we don’t love him enough. If I am passionately in love with him I will want to obey him. And it won’t be too hard because God has given us his Spirit. The same power that overcame death in the Resurrection can overcome the world in me. If only I truly love him. I have set myself the task of knowing him more deeply and intimately. Out of that intimacy comes an ever-increasing love for God that impels me to obey, and to do so joyfully, empowered by his Spirit. That’s what it means to be a true disciple.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Children of God

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! (1 Jn 3:1a)

We need to regularly try to wrap our heads around this thought. If we have any inkling of who God is then we understand how extraordinary it is to be called his children. What an honor! What joy! The Lord of all that is looks at me and says, “You are my son and I love you!”

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Confident and Unashamed

And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. (1 Jn 2:28)

I picture myself standing before him on that day, and that’s how I want to be: confident and unashamed. Confident to stand because the blood of Jesus Christ has covered all my sins, and unashamed because I have been faithful to him. To continue in him is to remain in him, abide in him, walk with him and obey him. Lord, help me to live my life in you.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Know Who Your Enemy Is

The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (Jn 10:10)

This was the text of yesterday’s sermon by Richy Fisher. He said that in the context that Jesus spoke, the thief was the Jewish leaders and their legalistic system (e.g. not allowing healing on the Sabbath). But more broadly, the thief is the world system and Satan. It was new to me to think about the whole world system as being in view here, but it is true. Through it the enemy robs us. Our life is in Christ and we must live it in him. We must not settle for less. We will only know his voice if we listen to him. Not just talk about him or at him, but listen.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Study Now or Pay Later

Then they will call to me but I will not answer. (Pr 1:28)

Wisdom must be gained by diligent study and practice over a period of time. When foolishness has led to disaster it is difficult to suddenly find wisdom at the moment of need. And wisdom gained after the fact will not undo the consequences of foolishness, although it can guard against further foolishness.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Who Are You Listening To?

Wisdom calls aloud in the street…at the head of the noisy streets she cries out. (Pr 1:20-21)

So many messages and philosophies vie for our attention. The streets are indeed noisy. We need to focus very intentionally on hearing the voice of wisdom or we will miss it in the noise.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Rod of Correction

A servant cannot be corrected by mere words; though he understands he will not respond. (Pr 29:19)

See also:
The rod of correction imparts wisdom. (Pr 29:15)
Discipline your son, and he will give you peace. (Pr 29:17)

Discipline is essential in every authority relationship, not just child rearing. And mere words of correction are insufficient; there must be appropriate consequences for inappropriate behavior. This is true at home, at school, in the workplace, in the military, and regarding the law. When I am in authority, as a parent or at work, it is not inappropriate for me to bring correction to the one who is under me. Indeed it is better for both of us. And for the same reason God disciplines us as well.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Rebuking in Love

He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue. (Pr 28:23)

My first instinct is to always watch out for hurting someone’s feelings, so I often hold my tongue when I perhaps ought to rebuke them. I know this verse can be abused by those who like to vent their anger and call it “rebuke.” But sometimes I do more harm than good by holding my tongue, and instead finding something to compliment them on. Especially as a father, there are times I need to bring correction. Lord, help me to choose wisely in each situation. Help me to know when encouragement is needed for failure and when rebuke is needed for waywardness.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Feeding the Flesh

Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of man. (Pr 27:20)

My flesh will never be satisfied. I cannot give it a little (a little gluttony, a little lust, a little laziness) and expect it to stop bothering me. No, the more I give in to such temptations the more they consume me. That path ends only in Death and Destruction. Do not take even the first step on that road.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sharpening Stones

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Pr 27:17)

We have to be a bit abrasive if we are going to help each other, and we have to be in close contact. There’s no substitute for meeting regularly and sharing what’s really going on in our lives. There’s no substitute for speaking frankly with each other when the situation warrants it. Not that we should ever be rude, but speaking the truth in love. Of course we should be encouraging, too. But when a brother is deceiving himself, when he is blind to his self-destructive behavior, we must tell him if we truly love him.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Let's Speak Up

Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow. (Jn 18:27)

I can so easily see myself doing just what Peter did. I may not have actually, verbally denied Christ, but I have often remained silent when several guys are standing around, joking and making statements that I know are contrary to God’s truth. Rather than risk alienation from the group, rather than being thought prudish, unsophisticated or foolish, I remain silent and give tacit consent to sin and falsehood.

Yet Peter didn’t stay like this, and what changed him? Pentecost! Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended on them like fire and Peter preached to thousands. Now I know I have the Holy Spirit already because I am already saved. What I need is to be filled with the Spirit, not to quench the Spirit. Lord, I surrender to the control of your Spirit today. Fill me, take control of me, and make me bold for you as I yield control to you.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sanctified by the Truth

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (Jn 17:17)

By applying ourselves to God’s Word we are sanctified – made more like him. In Jn 8:32 when he says “the truth shall set you free” he is saying the same thing: victory over sin. It comes only through careful obedience to his Word, which is only possible as we immerse ourselves in it.