Monday, May 31, 2010

Learning from Adversity

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. (Ps 119:67)

Why do bad things happen to good people? Here's one reason. God allows hardships and heartache to come into our lives to chastise us, and to train us to turn to him in good times and bad. Maturity and wisdom come chiefly from difficult experiences. As he says in v71, “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.”

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Strong Resolve

Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me. (Ps 119:5,8)

The psalmist longs to be obedient to God’s commands. Yet it is clear in v5 that he is not. Otherwise why long for it? But in v8 he doesn’t say, “I’ll try harder next time.” No, he makes an affirmative statement: “I will obey your decrees.” Sometimes I feel hypocritical making such statements because I know I’ll probably fall again. But I think having a strong resolve is important, as well as avoiding a defeatist attitude. When we stumble and fall we repent and get back up again, and immediately reaffirm our strong resolve: I will obey your decrees.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Calm in the Storm

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" (Mk 4:39-40)

The disciples were afraid of the storm, even though Jesus has power over storms. They had at least the excuse of not fully understanding who Jesus is, but we do not. When I am afraid of the future, it is because I lose sight of who Jesus is. I forget that he is with me. As John says, perfect love casts out fear. (1 Jn 4:18) Lord, remind me that you calmed the storm, and you are with me.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Light of Dawn

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man. (Ps 112:4)

In the hard times the light still dawns. I think sometimes we might not even see it though it is already there. The light of God’s favor is on us, but to our eyes it is still dark. We must remain faithful and continue to walk in righteousness, even when the world seems dark.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

No Long Faces

Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them.” (Mk 2:19)

We have Jesus with us every moment of the day. This should be a cause of great joy! (“You will fill me with joy in your presence.” Ps 16:11) One mark of a disciple should be joy. Lord, teach me to enjoy your presence throughout each day.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Touch Me, Lord

Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said, “Be clean.” (Mk 1:41)

A couple of weeks ago I encountered this thought in the Old Testament. Here it is a again in the New. When Jesus touched the leper he was immediately clean. Normally, if something that is dirty touches something that is clean, the thing that is clean becomes dirty, but the thing that is dirty doesn’t become clean. In the law, if you touched a leper you became ceremonially unclean. And in fact, if a well person touches a sick person they may become sick, but the sick person does not become well. Jesus took this well-established principle and turned it on its head. When he touched the sick they became well! When he touches the sinner we become clean! In the same way that light drives out darkness, his purity drives out impurity. Lord, you have washed away my sins in salvation. I pray by your cleansing touch you would sanctify me as well. Touched by your purity may I become pure. As I continue to seek you I pray that you would continue to mold me into your likeness. Amen.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Drop Everything

At once they left their nets and followed him. (Mk 1:18)

I’ve always been intrigued by the image of the disciples literally dropping their nets, leaving their companions behind, and immediately following Jesus. This intrigues me because I think I would never do anything so precipitous. I am always second-guessing myself and it leads to hesitation and inaction. Was it the uniqueness of this moment (the calling of the disciples) that made such precipitousness ok, or am I simply too cautious as a follower of Christ? Lord, I want to be bold as your disciple. I want to be capable of decisive action. Give me the faith to not be always hedging my bets – keeping Plan B as an option in case stepping out in faith doesn’t pan out. Lord, increase my faith!

Monday, May 24, 2010

What God Has Given

Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases. (Ps 103:2-3)

Lord, let me never take for granted all your wonderful blessings, beginning first and foremost with the gift of salvation. David commanded his soul to praise you, and this is wise. May we never cease to praise you, no matter what trial we might be enduring. Amen.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Old, Old Story

Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord. (Ps 102:18)

That’s us! Down through the centuries we hear the marvelous reports of how God rescued his people and we praise him! From generation to generation God’s goodness is praised. His mercy is a beacon to all generations. Lord, thank you for your many mighty and wonderful deeds on behalf of Israel, so that we might know your love and faithfulness.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Miracle of New Life

Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead? (Acts 26:8)

When we think about it, we realize that if God exists it is no problem for him to raise the dead. But we are deceived by the ordinariness of our daily lives. I’ve never seen anyone raised from the dead. Yesterday was much like today and tomorrow promises to be just the same. We think “everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” (2 Pet 3:4) A subtle doubt creeps into our hearts. The enemy taunts us: “Did God really say...” (Gen 3:1) To believe in miracles I must see with the eyes of faith. I must look at what is eternal, not temporal. (2 Cor 4:18)

Lord, I know that you are real, and that you are a worker of miracles. In my own heart I have experienced the miracle of salvation. Forgive me when I begin to think pessimistically about the people I am praying for. You created the universe, and you can move the hearts of the lost. Turn their hearts to you. As you indwell them and sanctify them may I once again see death overcome by life. Your life. Amen.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Lord Reigns!

The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice. (Ps 97:1)

If Israel rejoiced to know that God reigns, how much more should we? They had only the promise of salvation; we have the blessed fact of it. They had the Temple; we have the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Thank you, Lord!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Follow the Cloud, Not the Crowd

In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out – until the day it lifted. (Ex 40:36)

How marvelous to think about the Shekinah glory of God hovering over the tabernacle! And what a great picture of what it means to be truly Spirit-led. Lord, I want to go when you go and stay when you stay. I want to dwell in the middle of your presence. Give me spiritual eyes to see the movement of your Holy Spirit, so I might always be led by you.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Intentional Sanctification

Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. (Ps 89:15)

This is something that has to be learned. It is the process of sanctification, and it is intentional. Through long practice I learn to acknowledge God and praise him all day long, and to be aware of his presence and actively led by him. I learn to be yielded to his Holy Spirit throughout the day.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

An Overflowing Offering

Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: “No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” And so the people were restrained from bringing more, because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work. (Ex 36:6-7)

What pastor ever had this problem? We need an epidemic of generosity in the church. We are rich, but we hold onto our “stuff” too tightly. And many of us are stingiest of all with our time. Lord, forgive me for being selfish in how I decide to spend my time and my energy, as well as my money.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sins of the Fathers

And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation. (Ex 34:6-7)

Moses has just returned to the top of Mt. Horeb to get a new set of tablets inscribed with the law, after Aaron and the people had made a golden calf to worship. The Lord came and stood there with him, and here he proclaims himself to Moses. This is God’s description of himself! What does he lead off with? Compassion, grace, patience, love, faithfulness and forgiveness! What a wonderful picture. The psalmist even sings these words back to God in Ps 86:15, “But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” But there is still judgment. Sin must be punished. God speaks of both his love and his justice.

Lord, thank you that you have so clearly declared your compassion, grace, patience and faithfulness. You have declared them by both your words and your deeds, because you cannot be untrue to your nature. Lord Jesus, thank you that you took our sins upon yourself, so that we may abide in your love. Thank you for being so patient and compassionate with me. Lord, I know that the temporal consequences of sin do not disappear when we repent, but I pray your mercy on my sons, that you would spare them from suffering for my mistakes. I want to be just the father they need. I don’t want to pass on to them my own sins, or the sins of my own father. Let the chain stop with me. He made mistakes; I made mistakes. Help me now to overcome them and correct them by the power of your Spirit. Amen. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Pure Mind

The Lord detests the thoughts of the wicked, but those of the pure are pleasing to him. (Pr 15:26)

Oh Lord, I know you see every thought! May my thoughts be pleasing to you. Forgive me for thoughts which dishonor you. Lord, make my heart and mind pure, full of your truth and your grace, for your glory! Amen.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Cleansing Touch of Jesus

You shall consecrate them so they will be most holy, and whoever touches them will be holy. (Ex 30:29)

In the Mosaic Law, normally when something clean touches something unclean, the clean thing is defiled. Sin ordinarily spreads the same way. Here, though, when the Tabernacle and its articles are consecrated to the Lord it is their holiness that spreads by touch, not defilement. This reminds me of, and seems to prefigure, how Jesus cleanses us. When Jesus touched a man with leprosy (which no one else would do!) it is not Jesus who is defiled but the leper who is made clean. In the same way, when we meet Jesus our sins are washed away by the power of his blood. Among the lost, sin is “infectious”, but among the saved, God’s righteousness is, instead.

Friday, May 14, 2010

God and the Philosophers

A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others. (Acts 17:34)

Greece was the center of learning in the Roman Empire, and Athens was the center of learning in Greece, and the Areopagus was the center of learning in Athens. And here Paul was bold enough to preach the Resurrection of Jesus. Although learned himself, Paul would have seemed rustic and barbarous to these Athenians. His strange tale was one to be sneered at (v32). Yet Paul was not deterred. He no doubt relished the opportunity. And that day, even in such a place, there were those “appointed for eternal life [who] believed” (13:48). An actual member of the council, Dionysius, was saved that day. Despite all his learning and all his sophistication, his heart was open and he believed. I must never censor myself because I presume that my audience is too educated or sophisticated to be receptive to the Gospel. Paul was eager to preach in the synagogues and market places, knowing that most would just want to argue and many would ridicule him. Lord, may I be no less eager. Make me bold to testify at every opportunity.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mighty To Save

You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. With your mighty arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. (Ps 77:14-15)

The Israelites were fond of recalling the mighty deeds of God on their behalf. It reminded them that they are God’s chosen people. And it reminded them of God’s great power, and his willingness to use it on their behalf. When I am afraid I would do well to remember the same. Lord, you have displayed your power and by your mighty arm redeemed your people. Praise to you, Lord! Your power to save is no less today. Only by a long string of miracles has each of us been redeemed, and you are not done yet. You continue to bring new believers into the fold. Thank you, Lord!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Holy to the Lord

Make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it as a seal: HOLY TO THE LORD…It will be on Aaron’s forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate. It will be on Aaron's forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to the LORD. (Ex 28:36,38)

The whole tone of this passage is that Aaron approached the mercy seat tenuously and cautiously, anxiously hoping that all the ceremonies and sacred trappings had been performed just right so he would not die. But we “approach the throne of grace with confidence” (Heb 4:16) because the blood of Jesus is a better sacrifice than the blood of goats. And again, “we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus.” (Heb 10:10) The blood of Jesus is the perfect and eternally secure covering for our sin, so that for us the plate of gold Aaron wore becomes a beautiful symbol of our salvation. I wear on my forehead a golden seal which says Holy to the Lord. And it is not of my own making. “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” (Rom 5:9) “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5:1) Father, thank you! Thank you for this perfect peace that comes from your eternal and perfect gift of your Son. Thank you for the seal of the Holy Spirit in my heart. I do not need to wear an outward seal, but I too am declared “Holy to the Lord” by a salvation more secure than what you had yet shown your people in Aaron’s day. Thank you! Amen.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Showing His Kindness

Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy. (Acts 14:17)

I don’t know why I have never noticed this verse. Paul clearly believed that the beauty and order and bounty of the universe speak directly to the existence of God. (See Rom 1:20). How our modern minds have been twisted so that the secular mind sees nothing of God in his Creation! But God's common grace speaks not only of his existence but also of his character.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Say It Ain't So

There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers. (Pr 6:16-19)

The Lord must really hate lies. It made the “top seven” list twice! I'd like to think that I never lie, but I know that's not really true. There is the subtle twisting of the truth, the half truth, and the strategic withholding of information. Always the goal is to make myself look a little better in the eyes of others. Lord, forgive me for my deceitfulness and pride.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Look Who's Watching

For a man’s ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all his paths. (Pr 5:21)

If we could keep this truth firmly in mind it might help dissuade us from sinning. I need to cultivate being in his presence at all times. That means several things at several levels, but one of them is knowing that he is watching all my actions, even hearing all my thoughts. Lord, help me to remember you at all times. When I am tempted, help me remember that you are there, not just as judge, but as the one who both inspires me and empowers me to do your will.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Let Nothing Come Between Us

If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. (Ps 66:18)

When I choose sin, when I cling to my sins, when I cherish them more than God and am unwilling to give them up, I am building a wall between myself and God. God wants my heart. He wants to be my first love. When I give my heart to something else, how can he act as if nothing has happened? How would it glorify him to answer the prayers of an unrepentant sinner? Lord, I don’t want anything to come between us. I repent of my sins. I want you, first and most. I love you, Lord.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Desiring God

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Ps 63:1)

What a tremendous picture of seeking and desiring God. Lord, I want to desire you this much. I want to seek you as urgently as I would seek water in a desert. Lord, increase my desire to know you. If I were dying of thirst you can bet my thoughts would never be far from water. In the same way, I want my thoughts to always be for you, Lord.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Standing on the Rock

From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (Ps 61:2)

With roiling clouds above me and raging seas around me, I stand upon the rock that is higher than I. The Rock of my salvation is higher than the highest waves and stronger than the strongest gales. I am secure in the fortress of his power, while about me swirl storms that alone I could not withstand. God is my Rock; God is my Fortress. My eyes see the storm and I am tempted to fear, but my heart sees only God and I am at peace. I will call upon him, and let the peace in my heart fill also my mind. He is mighty. He is in control. He is my Father.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Remembering God's Mercy

But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. (Ex 17:3a)

They grumbled against Moses, but their complaints were really against God. It seems incredible that after witnessing so many huge miracles they would still grumble so quickly. What they were completely missing was any understanding of the character of God. Perhaps they had a pagan concept of the capriciousness of the gods. They clearly didn’t grasp that God is true, faithful, good, merciful and omnipotent. Unfortunately, although we know better we often fall into the same trap. When terrible things happen we get angry or afraid or despairing. I said “we”. I should say “I”. I show myself to be out of touch with the character and nature of God when I feel that way. Lord, I want to know you as you really are. Forgive me for doubting your goodness and your power. Remind me when I forget. “Lord, you are good and your mercy endureth forever!”

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Hope for the Lost

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. (Acts 9:3)

What opening did Saul give God? Perhaps the very tiniest. But this story as presented is the clearest example of God sovereignly intervening to save those he has chosen. I myself was saved in a miraculous way. God is well able to save any that he pleases. No one is beyond hope. We can pray for their salvation, confident that God has the power to act. Lord, have mercy on the lost! Save them, if necessary by a direct miracle. Reveal yourself to them in a compelling way, so they will know that you are God. Soften their hearts and quicken their conscience so they would receive you as Savior.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Pure Heart

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Ps 51:10)

It is only by God’s power that we are renewed and made clean. We invite him in to do the work he desires to do in us. The good news: this is a prayer he always answers. Lord, give me a pure heart and a steadfast spirit for you.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Not How I Would Have Planned It

Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. (Acts 8:4)

I suspect they never realized what role this persecution played in spreading the Gospel. Maybe they did later, looking back. But at the time, it must have looked like a complete disaster. We have no way to know how God is going to use the hardships and trials of our lives. But we must trust him, knowing that he is Good and he is Sovereign, so everything he allows to happen is part of his plan.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Peace and Safety

“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Ps 46:10-11)

In the midst of great turmoil and danger there is one who is Unmovable, Imperturbable and Indestructible. He is our fortress. We run to him and are safe. Be still my soul, when fears rush in to overtake me. There is no power that can breach this fortress. God is above every struggle. His strength is unmatched, his power unchallenged. When troubles come there is an inward peace, the gift of God who inhabits my heart. I will be still and know that you are God.