Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Praying for the Lost

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. (Rom 10:1)

I am struck by how few places in the Bible make any mention of praying for the lost. But here Paul prays for the salvation of the Jews. Surely we, too, can pray for our lost loved ones. Paul was willing to make any sacrifice (Rom 9:3) for the sake of his beloved fellow Israelites. Lord, may I be willing to make any sacrifice to see the salvation of my loved ones, as well.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Consequences of Sin

A man’s own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the Lord. (Pr 19:3)

Some of our biggest problems are often of our own making, yet we want to blame the Lord. Our persistent sins, the enemy’s strongholds in our life, are not without consequences. Years of pride, selfishness and idolatry take their toll. Lord, forgive me for the sins I still cling to, and help me experience true victory over them.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Extravagant Love

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. (Rom 8:16)

This is a way of knowing that the world does not recognize – that we can know something to be true not by reason or by physical experiences but by the witness of the Holy Spirit. And what a truth it is! We who have accepted the Lord into our hearts and trusted him as our Savior are children of God! What an inheritance we have in him! We are “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.” (v17) That’s pretty hard for me to wrap my head around. The extravagance of God’s love – his generosity. I do not even understand what it means to be heirs of God, but I know it is wonderful. Thank you, Lord, for your extravagant love and grace that you have poured out on us.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Habit of Mind

Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. (Rom 6:12)

This sentence contains several remarkable thoughts. First, that even in the life of a believer sin might “reign in your mortal body.” Second, that it is my choice whether or not it does so, since Paul exhorts us “Do not let sin reign.” Third, that the evil desires which lead to sin belong not to me, so to speak, but to my “mortal body.” As Paul explains later in Rom 7:16-17, “And if I do what I do not want to do…it is no longer I myself who do it but sin living in me.” That is, as a believer my heart belongs to God and that which is most truly and essentially me yearns to obey him. Nevertheless I yield to fleshly temptations and sin. I believe the battleground between heart and flesh is the mind. Where will I let my thoughts dwell? On Jesus Christ and his righteousness or on the fleeting pleasures of sin? When I sin, the pattern is always that consciously or unconsciously I push God out of my thoughts and let the temptation in. Whether it is worry, pride, anger or gluttony when I am sinning my thoughts are not toward God. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago the key is to cultivate a habit of mind that is focused on him, primarily through reading the Word and praying without ceasing. The habit of sin must be actively displaced by a habit of devotion to God.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Salvation Then and Now 2

God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished. (Rom 3:25)

As we saw a few days ago, salvation in the Old Testament is the same as salvation in the New Testament. This verse clearly shows that the blood of Christ also covers the sins of those who lived before the time of Jesus, but trusted God for their salvation. God did not overlook their sin, but simply withheld the punishment for it against the day Christ would become the atoning sacrifice.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Only You, Lord

Come all you who are thirsty, come to the waters. (Is 55:1a)
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. (Ps 42:2a)

I long for God; I yearn for God. I know that nothing else will satisfy the thirst in my soul. No one else can heal the ache in my heart. Nothing else satisfies at all. I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. (Ps 34:8) Only he can deliver me from my fears. (Ps 34:4) Lord, when I forget, when I grow complacent, bring me back to this place. Remind me of my utter dependence on you. Amen.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

No Regrets

At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. You will say, “How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction!” (Pr 5:11-12)

I don’t want to leave this life with any regrets. Of course, there are already many things I regret, but I would like for these latter days to be characterized by obedience. I have too often spurned discipline and correction. I want to be a good steward of what I have been given so that the Lord will earn a good return on his investment in me. Lord, help me embrace your discipline and correction so that I may become the man of God you have called me to be.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

To Be Found Faithful

Let love and faithfulness never leave you. (Pr 3:3a)

I want to be found faithful. So many times I am unfaithful. But I want to always choose God’s ways, always turn to him in trouble or temptation, and always believe in his power to persevere and overcome. Lord, help me to be true to you always. Amen.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Parent's Prayer

I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal. (I Kings 19:18)

Even in times of great apostasy there is always a remnant. As parents, we struggle with fear when we think about the spiritual environment our children encounter at college. But no doubt there are many, perhaps thousands, in those places who have not bowed the knee to Baal. Even in the darkest places God is no less sovereign. His arm is not too short. When believers go into dark places they go with the Spirit of God in their hearts. Wherever they go there is light, because the light is within. And they will encounter many who also carry that light within. Even our children who do not know the Lord go with God, because our prayers are with them. Lord, please preserve and protect our children as they go out into the world. Guide them to the right friends and the right places. Bring to their hearts and minds the words we have taught them. Let them experience in a fresh way the wonder of your presence and power as they find that wherever they go, you are already there. Amen.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

One True God

I am the Lord and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. (Is 45:5a)

This whole section of Isaiah (chapters 44-46) is such a marvelous declaration of God’s sovereignty and power. In chapter 44 he is mocking idols of wood and metal. In 44:24 he proclaims himself creator: “This is what the Lord says – your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens.” And again in 45:7, “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I the Lord do all these things.” In all these passages we clearly see the main outlines of theism – God is a person who speaks and acts. He is immaterial; he is all powerful; he is the creator of all things; he is sovereign over his creation (45:9); he knows the future (46:10). We also see his love and concern for us in his desire to save us. He is our Redeemer and savior. (45:8) Praise him!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Reflecting His Glory

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:18)

The veil which blinded us to Christ has been removed, and we now reflect his glory, as Moses’ face reflected God’s glory coming down from Mt. Sinai. So we have already been transformed – we already reflect the Lord’s glory. But wait, there’s more! The transformation – the sanctification – continues and we continue to become more like him. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is not something we can do, but God alone. Our part is to yield, to receive. Lord, teach me to yield. Thank you that my sanctification does not depend on my strength. Thank you that you are faithful. I will follow you, and let you do your work in me. Amen.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Salvation Then and Now

I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more. (Is 43:25)

God is the only Savior (see v11), and he always has been – even in the Old Testament, even to the Jews. What we know, which was not revealed to them, is how he blots out our transgressions: through the blood of Christ. Nothing about the nature and manner and source of salvation has changed from Old Testament times until now. Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.” (Jn 8:58) The Old Testament saints trusted God for their salvation from sin, which was coming and they knew not how. But they knew that by faith they were forgiven.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

How to Stand Firm

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. (2 Cor 1:21)

There is nothing I can do in my own flesh to live the Christian life. It is only God’s Spirit indwelling, directing and empowering me that will produce a life of godliness.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

True Masculinity

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love. (I Cor 16:13-14)

Many Christians today believe that the contemporary American church has feminized the Gospel. And it does seem like you are more likely to hear “Do everything in love” at church than “Be men of courage.” But there is really no conflict between these two. We have to remember what true Biblical love means. True love is acting in the best interest of others. True masculinity is not to be equated with selfishness or rashness but with strength and self-sacrifice. It is nevertheless true that I can’t recall every hearing verse 13 quoted in church. And, personally, I don’t think of myself as being particularly firm, courageous and strong. I've never been one of the guys who sit around talking about sports, hunting and physical abilities. It is easy to think of myself as less of a man because I am not physically robust and have different interests. But I don’t think Paul was speaking of physical strength, necessarily. I can be a man of faith, courage and strength of character. This is the kind of masculinity we most need and which is most lacking. I am no less a man for my lack of athletic skills. To be a real man, a godly man, I must cultivate an inner strength, the kind that comes only from God. Holy Spirit, mold me and shape me to walk in faith with courage and integrity, as a true man of God. Amen.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fame Is Fleeting

All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. (Is 40:6b)

In the larger scope of history, one man’s life is just a brief moment. All our accomplishments soon fade. They fall into disrepair and are soon forgotten. Only a very few are remembered at all. Yet people strive to be remembered. They long for immortality. How tragic that so many would seek such ephemeral fame. How poor and unsatisfactory an immortality it is, to exist only in the memory of others – and that for only a few generations. The truth, unrecognized by these glory seekers, is that we are all immortal. Yet if we spend our lives building monuments to ourselves it is all in vain and will be forgotten. If we spend our lives for God's glory, it will be to our everlasting reward. Lord, help me to store up treasure in heaven, to build on your foundation in gold, silver and costly stones. Let my works be to your glory, not mine. Amen.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fit for His Purpose

But in fact God has arranged the parts of the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. (I Cor 12:18)

Sometimes I think that I am rather lacking in spiritual gifts, that I would better serve the Body if I had different gifts or a different personality. But here Paul is affirming that God has shaped us and arranged us just as he wants us to be. I don’t have to be a different person to serve. I can serve God as who I am. Some parts are out front and some are behind the scenes. But all of us serve. I am part of his design for the body of Christ.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Living for His Glory

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (I Cor 10:31)

I wrote this verse on the first page of this journal. It makes a great “life verse.” Truly, if God is Lord of all, if this body and this world are passing away, then there is no higher end to life than to live it for his glory. It is not just a matter of avoiding sin, we must actively seek to glorify him in every decision, every act. Lord, please remind me of this verse every day. Amen.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Prize Fight

No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (I Cor 9:27)

In this life our flesh is still unredeemed, and we have a fight on our hands if we want to live for God. The Holy Spirit empowers us to win that battle. The book of Romans shows us how. “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.” (Rom 8:9) Jesus Christ has (past tense) set me free from this body of death. (Rom 7:24-25) “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law but under grace.” (Rom 6:14) I think Romans 6:13 contains the key: “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin…but rather offer yourselves to God.” The key really is to cultivate a closer walk with God through the spiritual disciplines of prayer and the Word, and by forming the habit of mind to turn to him continuously throughout the day. Then when temptation comes we are to instantly turn to him for deliverance. The more I cultivate a heart that is rich toward God the more likely I am to turn to him when I am tempted. It is not simply that I must have strong willpower within myself, but that I must be in communion with God when the temptation comes.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Grace for the World

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? (I Cor 5:12)

Within the church, among those who have acknowledged God and his rule over their lives, we must bring discipline to those who willfully defy God’s commandments. But to those outside the faith our message must be one of grace, not judgment. In no way must we deny the fact that God has set a clear moral standard for all. But rather than judge those who fall short we must offer the grace of Christ’s sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin. It is not our place to condemn them, even as we proclaim God’s truth.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

It's All Gonna Burn

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. (I Cor 3:11-14)

On the Day of the Lord fire will destroy the earth. All our earthly accomplishments will be destroyed in that day. Only our eternal accomplishments will survive. Ultimately, only what is eternal matters. Our reward is based on the eternal impact we have. Our goals for this life should be eternal. Everything that matters is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, and that foundation will last forever.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Mind at Peace

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. (Is 26:3)

If I truly trust in God my mind will be steadfast, and I will have perfect peace. If we know that God is real, God is here, God is all powerful and God loves us, then we can trust him completely without wavering. He is fully and completely trustworthy. If I fully trust him in all things, I have no reason to fear or worry. Then real peace is mine. As the hymn says, “It is well with my soul.”

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Through and Through

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. (I Thes 5:23-24)

Paul prayed for the Thessalonians’ sanctification, and he gave them a promise that God is faithful and he will do it. God doesn’t just call us and leave it at that. He has a plan for us. He intends to “keep us blameless” until his coming. Will we never sin? No, but our sins are covered. We have full assurance of salvation, and ultimately sanctification. Lord, I’m so glad you will never give up on me. I’m so glad I will one day be fully sanctified. I pray that in this life I will be “sanctified through and through” to your glory and for your service. Amen.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Father's Words

For you know we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. (I Thes 2:11-12)

Lord, help me to do this with my own sons. I want to be encouraging and comforting, without neglecting to urge them to godliness. Help me never to be silenced by discouragement or complacency, but continually to speak your love and your truth to them. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” May I be so full of your Spirit that spiritual words of love and truth would come bubbling up naturally from who I am, unselfconsciously and sincerely. May the testimony of my life also proclaim your love and your truth, even when no words are spoken. Amen.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Send Me!

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Is 6:8)

This great verse inspires us to respond to God’s calling with willing hearts. Isaiah’s first thought upon seeing God on his throne was of how tiny and worthless and sinful he felt in comparison. Yet such was the wonder and attraction of God’s great majesty, power and beauty that when the call came Isaiah was moved to respond. The great picture of this awesome God, the booming voices of the seraphim and Isaiah’s tiny voice in response is stirring, almost comic. Yet this all powerful God loved Isaiah and wanted him to be part of his plan of redemption. Though we have never had such a vision we, too, are called to be part of God’s plan of redemption. The wonder of that scene in the throne room is made even greater by the contrast between God Almighty and the servant whom he loved. In the same way I must not shirk the call because I think myself too weak or too flawed for service. It is both God’s calling and his power to serve.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Untrustworthy Man

Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he? (Is 2:22)

The number one man that I need to stop trusting is me. As long as I imagine that I can do the Lord’s will in my own strength I will fail – I do fail. Lord, teach me to truly yield to you and give you control. Show me what it looks like when you are doing the work in me and not me in my own power. I’m not even sure I know that what looks like. Have I ever truly experienced it? Lord, open my eyes to your way.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Take a Stand

Because your sins are so many and your hostility so great, the prophet is considered a fool, the inspired man a maniac. (Hos 9:7b)

Just like in Israel, in our society today sin has become so prevalent and hostility to Christianity so common, that those who stand up publicly for God and biblical truth are considered foolish or insane. This means that if I am worried about what people will think of me I may as well just get over it, because if I stand publicly for the gospel I will face ridicule and hostility. This is just the price to pay for being faithful to God’s calling. But some will listen and be saved. For their sakes, and for the honor and glory of God, I must speak up and be willing to be known as a believer in Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Two Sides to Every Story

The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him. (Pr 18:17)

Every month this verse catches my eye. It is such a practical bit of wisdom. Lord, help me to be fair in all my judgments. Remind me to seek out both sides of any dispute and withhold judgment until I have heard them. Give me the wisdom to see through deception and distortion, and the grace to give each person the benefit of the doubt.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Don't Give Up

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. (Lk 18:1)

These words stirred my heart: “they should always pray and not give up.” My thoughts leapt immediately to my unsaved loved ones. Here is a verse that says it is ok to pray and pray and pray over and over again. If the unjust judge of the parable will answer the widow because of her persistence, how much more will God hear the persistent prayers of his children? The key here is faith. It takes faith to always pray and not give up: Faith in God and hope for the future. I will continue to pray!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

One Heart at a Time

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the Kingdom of God is within you.” (Lk 17:20-21)

The Pharisees were looking for an earthly kingdom, but Jesus said the Kingdom of God is invisible because it is within you. Jesus told Pilate he is indeed a King, but his kingdom is not of this world. In this age, God is not interested in setting up a theocracy in America or Israel or anywhere else. He desires to rule over the hearts of men. This type of kingdom advances quietly. One man shares the Gospel with another. A food pantry helps a woman feed her children. A teenager feels God’s call on his life. A grown man finally makes peace with his father. This type of kingdom is harder to build, too. Mass outreach has its place, but you can’t mount a campaign and conquer a city for God. Every heart must turn to him individually.

God help me finally to do my part in the advancement of your kingdom. I have been limited in my vision. Help me see that in you all things are possible. I want to really believe that and live into it. “Thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.” And in my heart as well. Amen.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Give It Up

In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. (Lk 14:33)

Jesus said this to sum up his discussion about counting the cost before building a tower or going to war. This is one of those challenging statements that we are tempted to explain away or soften. In the context of the previous verses he seems to be saying that the price of true discipleship is high. If we just want to add a little God stuff to what we’re already doing we will not succeed as his true disciples. It must be our singular focus. God is my purpose for existence! Everything else is only meaningful in light of that purpose. Everything in my life not consecrated to him, even good and wonderful things like family, careers, and friends, is nothing more than a distraction.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Nineveh Needs Love, Too

But Nineveh has more than a hundred twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city? (Jonah 4:11)

The Assyrians were cruel and powerful, and they were enemies of Israel. When you think about how often God destroyed the enemies of Israel you might easily conclude God hated them. But you would be wrong. God hated their sin, but he loved the people and had compassion for them. This wasn’t always clear to the Jews. Indeed, Jonah was angry with God for sparing Nineveh. I am moved by the compassionate tone of God’s reply, “more than 120,000 people who cannot tell their right hand from their left…Should I not be concerned?” Today we have enemies in the world who are also enemies of God. We should not forget that God has compassion on them. “He is not willing that any should perish.” (2 Pet 3:9) They may not repent and God’s wrath may finally be meted out on them, but it is not because he hates them, and neither should we.