Wednesday, June 30, 2010

We Are Precious to Him

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Lk 12:6-7)

It is impossible for us to truly grasp how well God knows us and how much he loves us. He knows us completely. Nothing is hidden (v2). Jesus expresses this by saying the hairs of our head are numbered, a task that seems humanly impossible. Today we would say he knows every atom or cell in our bodies. Even though he knows us so well he still loves us. I do not think that would be true of any human who knew me that well. There are limits to our love, but not to his! Jesus further tells us that he knows and values every sparrow, so how much must he value us? Don’t be afraid! If God loves us that much and knows us that well, what reason do we have to fear? Lord, when I am afraid it is as though I doubt you. Forgive me for my fear and lack of faith. I know that you are God and I trust in your love. Amen.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Father's Delight

So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Lk 11:9-10)

This is such as simple and marvelous promise; no wonder it has been a favorite through all generations. Yet my cynical mind immediately begins to think of exceptions, conditions and limitations, so that it is robbed of its impact. It is as though I am afraid to get my hopes up. Yet this morning I decided to let the simple thrill of this verse wash over me. Do we really have a Father who loves us this much? Yes we do. He will not answer us reluctantly, like the friend in the parable who had already gone to bed (v7). No, our heavenly Father delights to give us good things, if only we will ask. Lord, I know that you desire to give us good things. When we ask for a fish you will not give us a snake (v11). When we ask for a snake, you will not give us one either. You desire to bless us! Help me to grasp that truth at the deepest level of my being.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Go and Do Likewise

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Lk 10:36-37)

How much do I bestir myself to help those around me? Oh, I might help a family member or a friend. But there are needy people all around me who are practically invisible to me. When have I ever even felt compassion for them, let alone made any effort to help? This is not right! The cornerstone of our witness is our willingness to help those in need, even if they are not family or friends, or of the same ethnic group, or fellow Christians. Why would they listen to what we say about the love of Jesus if they don’t see that love in us?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Greatest Joy

However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. (Lk 10:20)

However blessed we are by any gift or power or ministry God has given us, our greatest joy must always be that our names are written in the book of life. Let us seek no greater fame or glory than that.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Plan Ahead

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

When a crisis arises, those who refused to be instructed in wisdom will seek for it but not find it. Wisdom is hard to acquire “on demand”. We must steep ourselves in biblical wisdom over a long period of time so that it is slowly absorbed. Then it will be available to us in a crisis. This is why it is good for me to read Proverbs over and over again month after month, even though most of the verses don’t apply to my situation right now. They are slowly becoming familiar to me so God can call them to my remembrance in my hour of need.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Limited Beings

As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. (Eccl 11:5)

This was a metaphor that worked for thousands of years, and yet today we actually do know much about the “path of the wind” and “how the body is formed in a mother’s womb.” And so we are tempted to think that man has no inherent limits to his knowledge or his power, but this is not so. Every explanation we uncover with science has within it new mysteries, and ever discovery of science shows how much larger and more intricate the universe is. But we are so captivated by the success of science we sometimes forget there are whole classes of questions to which science can never yield any answers. There are spiritual, theological, philosophical, social and moral issues totally outside the realm of science. We must recover our humility and recognize that God’s ways and his knowledge and power are still far, far beyond us. We are inherently limited beings, dependent on him for life and truth and love.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Razing Canaan

It is not because of your righteousness or integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you…” (Deut 9:5)

Popular critics of the Bible portray the God of the Old Testament as a vicious tribal deity because he ordered the Israelites to conquer Canaan and slaughter all its inhabitants. People think God was cruel to them and unfairly favored the Israelites. But here we see the real story. The Canaanites were destroyed for their great wickedness – child sacrifice, temple prostitution, idol worship, etc. God explicitly tells the Israelites it is not because they deserve it or are holy – they themselves are a “stiff-necked people” who continually rebel against him. They only avoid the fate of Canaan because they acknowledge God as Lord and repent of their rebellion.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Saving Faith

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven…Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Lk 7:48,50)

In Luke chapter 5 Jesus told the paralytic his sins were forgiven. Here he does the same with the woman who anointed his feet with perfume. But in this case he makes explicit why her sins were forgiven. It is her faith in Christ that saved her – the same basis as our forgiveness. Scripture also says that Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him as righteousness (Gen 15:6). Abraham didn't know the name of Jesus, but he knew he needed a Savior, and he knew God alone could save him from his sins. Whether a person lived before Jesus' lifetime, during his lifetime, or after his lifetime, there is and always has been only one basis for salvation: faith in our God and Savior Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Lord Is God

You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides him there is no other. (Deut 4:35)

For all their history the Jews have remembered their great deliverance from Egypt and the miraculous way God brought them through the desert and into the promised land. They repeated the story over and over. (See Acts 7.) It defined them as a people. It was no accident that God established the nation of Israel with such signs and wonders (v34). He did it to establish beyond any doubt that he is God and there is no other – and Israel is his chosen people. It is also worth noting that even though earlier in this chapter Moses refers to “other gods,” in this verse he clearly states that there is only one true God. Some people read these early Old Testament references to "other gods" and conclude that monotheism was a later invention, but verses like this make clear that it was not. From their earliest days the Jews have proclaimed that God is One.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Ecclesiastes - The Cliff Notes Version

For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. (Eccl 2:21)

A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This, too, is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. (Eccl 2:24-26)

I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him. (Eccl 3:14)

The first time I ever read Ecclesiastes I was puzzled by it. If you take one verse out of context you can misunderstand the point of the book. But I think the few verses shown above contain the core of Solomon’s message in this book:
  1. Nothing you build on earth will last forever, not even your name. 
  2. Therefore, to make these things your purpose in life is meaningless and foolish. 
  3. What God does is eternal and it does matter. 
  4. Therefore we, too, should make it our purpose to join with God in doing what will last for eternity. 
  5. Freed from the need to find our eternal self worth in our wealth and work, we can simply enjoy them today for the blessings they are.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Unbowed and Unbroken

If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. (Lk 6:29)

There is a common concern today that this passage seems too “wimpy” to take literally. Many people look for ways to explain it away by appealing to various ancient customs. A friend was telling me just the other day about such a Sunday School lesson he had heard. But I think Jesus meant what he said, and I don’t think it is wimpy at all. There is tremendous strength and dignity in being able to take every blow of the enemy and stand tall, unafraid of the next blow. The same is true of enduring the hardship of an oppressor. By our strength and our refusal to retaliate we send a powerful message that we will not be broken, neither will we descend to the level of our adversary.  I think the man in v29 who turns the other cheek is a lot like the house in v48 that was built on the rock and withstood the onslaught of the flood. Jesus exhibited this kind of strength on Calvary. Let us emulate our Lord and do the same.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Patchwork Christians

No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. (Lk 5:36)

All too often, we want to take a little bit of the new life in Christ and graft it onto our old life in the flesh. We don’t really want to give up our old, comfortable ways. So we just add a little God stuff to what we’re already doing. But the two can never mesh – they are like night and day. Think of how much we give up of our new life in Christ when we do that! We get a tiny little, ill-fitting patch that only serves to remind us of the abundant life we are missing out on! God, I want all of what you have for me. I know I’ll never have it as long as I cling to my old, selfish and sinful ways. Show me how to cast aside the worn out tatters of my old life and truly begin to live as the new creation you made me to be.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Jesus Had a Quiet Time

At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. (Lk 4:42a)

In one sense it has always seemed remarkable to me that Jesus, who after all is the Son of God, would need to have a daily quiet time. And yet, think of what he gave up to come to earth as a human being. In heaven he enjoyed continuous, direct fellowship with the Father and the Spirit. Now as God incarnate he still enjoyed the triune fellowship, but he had the new experience as a man of being disconnected and distracted. Knowing as he did in his divine nature the sweet communion of that fellowship, he surely felt the lack of it in his human nature. And thus he was able to model for us one of the core elements of a strong and vital walk with God – setting aside a time of solitude every day for communion with God.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Shine for the Lord

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart. (Pr 17:3)

God will test us, and the implication is that it will get pretty hot. In that same metaphor is also a suggestion of his purpose: to refine and purify us, and finally to mold the purified raw material into a vessel both beautiful and useful to him. Some of the glory of the temple was in its gold and silver furnishings, and God allows us to reflect his glory in the same way.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Who Is Your Captain?

In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. (Pr 16:9)

God’s sovereignty over our lives is in view in several verses of this chapter (verses 1, 3, 4, 9, 33). I think this verse is saying that the choices I make are real and important, but God determines the outcome. Though we are free moral agents, our power to control events is limited. God’s is not. The lesson of this verse is that to plan for the future without taking God’s will and his commands into account is the height of folly. The vain man imagines that he is the captain of his ship, but the humble man knows he is only the wheelman, and he steers the course set by the captain.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Reckless Words

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Pr 12:18)

Lord, forgive me for the hurtful words I sometimes say to others when I am upset or stressed. Forgive me for hurting those closest to me. Lord, I thank you for my friends and family. Help me to be a blessing and an encouragement to them.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sins of Omission

Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins. (James 4:17)

I am guilty of both sins of commission and sins of omission. Sometimes it seems that the sins of omission are the more difficult. Lord, help me to be bold, determined and steadfast. I want to be your true servant and not a passive observer. Mold me and shape me into a true man of God.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Never Stop Growing

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen! (2 Pet 3:18)

This is Peter’s charge at the close of his second epistle. He charges us to grow. Living things are never wholly static. If they are not growing they are dead. In the same way, our faith is a living faith and it must be growing. Healthy relationships grow, too. So must our relationship with God. We are to grow in grace and knowledge. I think growing in grace means to be living out God’s love toward others “in ever increasing measure.” We do that by knowing him closer and better. If we truly know him then we love one another.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Keep Your Eyes on the Road

Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. (Pr 4:25)

I want to stay focused on Jesus, who is my Lord and my purpose for living. I do not want to be distracted or derailed by sin. Looking aside is a perfect metaphor for being distracted. I remember a story told by some friends of ours. Their son Steve was learning to drive. They were letting him drive on the way up to their place in the country. Whenever he would see something interesting, like a deer grazing in a field, he would turn his head to look at it. And whatever direction his head turned the car began to follow. They would have to yell, “Look out, Steve!” That’s just like us when we take our eyes off of Jesus. The car begins to head into the ditch.

Lord, I want to keep my eyes on the road you have laid out for me. I know you have given me everything I need to be obedient to you. "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." (2 Pet 1:3)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Don't Blow It

Not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. (Num 14:73)

The Israelites blew it. They had their chance to enter the promised land, but they chickened out. There are a few great moments of decision in our lives, and the consequences can be dramatic. When God puts a choice before us, we cannot count on getting a second chance. Let us pray that we will rise to the occasion in that hour and choose the path the Lord has called us to travel.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Humblest Man in the World

Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. (Num 12:3)

What a statement! Moses fulfilled a role unique in human history, and God blessed him uniquely in his ministry. Yet he was more humble than anyone else. By comparison, how silly that I should be prideful about any of my gifts and abilities. God speaks to me through his Word and through his still, small voice. He speaks to his prophets through dreams and visions (v6). But he speaks to Moses clearly, face to face (v8). Lord, teach me to have the humility of Moses, so that I will be a vessel for your service like him.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

To Hear His Voice

When Moses entered the Tent of Meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the Testimony. And he spoke with him. (Num 7:89)

There have been a handful of occasions when people heard the audible voice of God, but for the most part it is quite rare (the baptism of Jesus, the Mount of Transfiguration, Paul on the Damascus road). But Moses was accustomed to going into the Tent of Meeting and having conversations with God! How precious must those times have been. Did Moses ever begin to take them for granted? His access to God was extraordinary. Ours is, too, because the Holy Spirit now lives in us; but how wonderful it would be to hear his voice! Someday, I know, we will.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Perfect Obedience

“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mk 14:36)

It is astonishing to me that Jesus himself, second person of the Trinity, would pray such a prayer! If he can pray that way, surely we can as well. He clearly dreaded the agony he was about to endure and longed to not have to go through it. He tells the Father, “Everything is possible with you,” just as I would if I were in his shoes. Yet for all the dread and all the longing, his heart was perfectly submissive to the Father’s will. Lord, may I be so candid and honest in my prayers, and at the same time so perfectly obedient. Jesus was tempted in every way just as we are – yet without sin. (Heb 4:15) Thank you, Lord, for such a wonderful example you gave us.

Monday, June 7, 2010

From Generation to Generation

One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. (Ps 145:4)

I must not allow myself to break the chain of witness from one generation to the next. The story of God’s great deeds must not be allowed to die out. I must bear witness to my sons of all the great things God has done in my life, and in the lives of those who have gone before. Let the witness of God's mighty acts continue from generation to generation!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Money Can't Buy Security

The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it an unscalable wall. (Pr 18:11)

There is a big part of me that wants to amass the biggest nest egg I can. I long for security and I want to think that in my old age I can know that I will be well provided for. Without even realizing it I find myself putting my trust in money rather than the Lord. But this trust is poorly placed. No matter how big the nest egg, it cannot guarantee my security. I must not hold on too tightly because of fear. My faith is in the Lord. Even in the midst of some future catastrophe, I can trust him completely. He is sovereign and he loves me – what more security could you ask for?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

No One Is Beyond Hope

With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God. (Mk 10:27)

It is harder for a rich man to be saved than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Yet Jesus says, with God this is possible! No one is beyond the reach of salvation – no one. Lord, thank you for the encouragement to keep on praying for the lost people whom you have laid on my heart.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Get with the Program

Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. (Ps 127:1)

Our job is to align ourselves with God’s program, and not the other way around. If we labor toward our own goals it will be in vain – often because we fail outright, but always because our work will not stand the test of fire. (See 1 Cor 3:13.)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Peace Through Obedience

Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. (Ps 119:165)

There is such a peace that comes from knowing and obeying God’s laws. We have a path to follow. We don’t need to rely on ourselves to know right from wrong. God sets his laws like a wall of protection around us. Your rod and your staff comfort us. You are our shepherd and if we follow you no one can make us stumble.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mission Impossible

But he answered, “You give them something to eat.” (Mk 6:37)

Jesus knew the disciples had no food to feed 5000 people. He also knew what he was going to do. Still he commanded the disciples to feed the people. God will sometimes tell us to do seemingly impossible things, and we must not think that we misheard him. Instead, we must realize that it is an invitation to participate in a miracle! It is time to step out in faith and begin such preparations as we are able, bringing what we have to bear on the problem and trusting God to multiply our efforts. We can expect that he will usually give us our detailed instructions one step at a time.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Lighting the Way Home

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Ps 119:105)

I picture myself in a very dark forest at night, stumbling over tree roots and unsure of my direction. Then I remember that I have a light to guide my steps. I remove a tiny lantern from my pocket. It casts a brilliant white light in all directions. Now I can see the path clearly. There are signposts showing the way which are clearly visible in the brilliant light. I walk confidently, stepping over tree roots and following every twist and turn of the path, until I arrive at my home, warmly glowing from the light within.