Thursday, September 30, 2010

Legacy of Faith

But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark – you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. (Gen 6:18)

To the extent that Noah’s salvation from the flood is a type (i.e., symbol) of our salvation, it is perhaps significant that Noah’s family, including his sons and their wives, were saved with him. It is reminiscent of the jailer and his family in Acts 16. In that case, not only was his whole family baptized, but it clearly says that they all believed. So clearly they were saved not by the jailer’s decision, but by their own. In the same way, Noah’s family had to be willing to actually board the ark. And yet, it does certainly indicate that a righteous man can lead his whole family to salvation. I want to leave a legacy of faith in my family. I pray they will find in me sound leadership and a good example, so that my children and grandchildren and later generations will be faithful in turn.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

King of Hearts

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. (Mt 4:23)

What was “the good news of the kingdom”? In v17 Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” The good news was that “the kingdom of heaven is near.” Jesus had come to bring the kingdom of heaven to men’s hearts. The people were expecting the conquering messiah, but first the suffering servant must come (Isaiah 53). God must first be king of our hearts before he can be king of our world. The good news was that, as surprising as it may have seemed, the kingdom of God was about to burst forth in men’s hearts through the unlikely agency of a humble carpenter’s son from Nazareth. Let us never doubt that God’s deliverance is near even when our earthly eyes see none of it. Let Christ be king in our hearts and we will never walk alone.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Water, Spirit and Fire

I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (Mt 3:11)

Baptism with water is for cleansing. When we repent we are baptized with water and symbolically the guilt of our sins is washed away. Jews in biblical times practiced this ritual cleansing regularly. John the Baptist connected it with repentance and made it a foreshadowing of the Messiah’s saving work. But John also said that the one who comes after him would baptize with the Spirit and with fire. The removal of guilt of sin doesn't change who we are. I will just sin again tomorrow. But the baptism with the Holy Spirit represents our empowerment by the Spirit, and the baptism of fire is sanctification. God’s plan for us is far more than just the removal of guilt. He wants to transform and empower us for his glory and the work of his kingdom. If we stop with water baptism we will never fulfill God’s purpose in saving us. We must go on to sanctification and a life lived in his service by the power of his Holy Spirit.

Monday, September 27, 2010

When Life Makes No Sense

Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? (Job 2:10)

God is sovereign, and we have no right or ability to refuse the choices he makes for our lives. Job had suffered as few ever suffer and he was miserable, but he understood this. He had not lost sight of God’s sovereignty and he still believed in God’s goodness. If he thought God were evil he would have cursed him (v9). If he thought God were not sovereign he would have ascribed his troubles to someone else. Job lamented his fate (ch3) but he never stopped believing in God’s justice. Job knew there was a reason for his misery; his sin was that he demanded God explain it to him (3:20). God often reveals his purposes to us, but he owes no one an explanation of his actions. And since his thoughts are so high above ours, it is likely that we would not even understand his reasons much of the time. Lord, I know this was a lesson that took me many years to learn. Forgive me when I slip back into the arrogant posture of demanding that you explain yourself to me. What a fool I am when I think that way! You are God and I am not. I will trust in you always. Amen.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Remedial Reading

…for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life. (Pro 1:3a)

Proverbs seems written especially for the young to learn wisdom – as a father might teach his son. But some of us older men still have great need of its teaching. I hope that it is never too late to “acquire a disciplined and prudent life.” I could use both discipline and prudence in great abundance. I suppose that is why it is a good idea to read Proverbs over and over again, twelve times a year. Lord, help me to learn discipline and prudence. Amen.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sirloin Symbolism

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” (Gen 1:29)

Genesis portrays the world as a very different place before the Fall. Neither people nor animals (v30) killed for food. After the Fall, the pattern we see is that people kill animals so they can live. The picture is one of sacrifice. God killed an animal to clothe them in skins (3:21). And later, in the sacrificial system established by the Mosaic law, the animal that was killed was also eaten. The priests and the Levites received their share, as did the person who brought it. This was foreshadowed in the Passover feast. Whenever we eat meat, it should remind us that a Sacrifice was required for our salvation.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Deadly Pride

They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God who had control over those plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him. (Rev 16:9)

At the very end of the tribulation God sends the “seven bowl judgments,” seven plagues that afflict everyone on earth who worshiped the beast. Even though they know that these plagues are sent by God to afflict his enemies, astonishingly they refuse to repent and glorify God. Their hearts are truly hard and they are captive to their own pride. Maybe some of the very people I know today will be among their number. And there are many others who may not live to see that day and yet God knows their hearts. He knows they are just as stubborn and prideful as these who would endure the seven bowl judgments without repenting. The condemnation and punishment of such men is truly just. They have surely chosen their own fate. They would only deal with God on their own terms, and so he will deal with them on his.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Real Message of Revelation

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. (Rev 1:1)

What are we to see in Revelation? I've always struggled to understand this book. It is filled with many strange images and symbols. There are as many interpretations of it as there are interpreters. What is the point? This is what we see:
  • First and foremost, we see the sovereignty of God over his creation.
  • We see God’s glory and power and majesty.
  • We see his justice, in that there will be a day of judgment. No sin will ultimately go unpunished. 
  • We see that God has a plan and a purpose for his creation. History has a direction and an end, which God has already ordained. 
  • We see God’s great wrath against sin. 
  • We see that our enemy, the accuser of the brethren, will finally be completely overthrown, cast down, and locked up forever. 
  • We see God’s great love for the saints.
  • We see that we have a bright and glorious future with him, forever and ever. 
  • We see the restoration of our complete, unhindered fellowship with God, which was lost in the Garden of Eden. 
  • We see the restoration of all that was lost, the healing of every wound, and the banishment of sorrow and pain forever. 
So even if I can’t make heads or tails of half of the symbolism, I still find great comfort and insight from this book. Thank you, Lord!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

That's Not Funny

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

I am too fond of sarcastic humor. My words are full of cutting remarks meant for a laugh. Of course, I am “just saying it to be funny,” but there is often a grain of truth in it which is able to wound my target. Sometimes my remarks are very clever and funny, and sometimes they are just artless insults. Most of the time everyone laughs, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok. Lord, forgive me for this peculiar form of pride and selfishness. I want my speech to always be wholesome and wise. Help me to control my tongue and be a blessing to those around me.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Foundation of Wisdom

My son if you accept my words and store up my commands within you… and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding…then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. (Pro 2:1,3,5)

This passage directly tells us that if we want to be wise (“understand the fear of the Lord”) and know God we must devote ourselves to studying his word and to prayer. We don’t magically or instantly become wise, but as we lay up his word in our hearts and cry out to him day by day we slowly come to see things the way he sees them. And that is the foundation of all wisdom.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Battle Is the Lord's

This is what the Lord says to you: Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. (2 Chron 20:15b)

Jehoshaphat faced a vast army that had come against him from Moab, Ammon and Mount Seir. But he did not panic. He turned to God in prayer. The prophet’s words to him could also be for us. When trials come, remember that the battle is the Lord’s. God miraculously defeated Jehoshaphat’s enemies that day. Sometimes God will allow us to suffer for awhile, but always God’s plan for us is secure. He has charted our path, and will see us through. The battle is the Lord’s.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Different Peace

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (Jn 14:27)

Jesus says this immediately after saying he will send them the Holy Spirit to live in the disciples' hearts and teach them all things. So it is through the Spirit that we will experience this peace and freedom from fear. It is only in complete surrender to the Spirit that we can truly live free, with the inner peace that comes from complete trust in him. This is not the peace the world pretends to offer, which comes only from the absence of conflict. This is the peace of God, which continues in the midst of conflict and trouble.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

True Friends

A man of many companions comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Pro 18:24)

Companions are people who are just along for the ride. There is no commitment. As soon as it’s not fun anymore they are gone. If these are the only kind of relationships we cultivate, when hard times come we are going to be in trouble. A true friend is committed. True friends love each other and will stand by each other in hard times. I must make it my business to cultivate true friendships with other men. In our society the male culture is a companion culture. This is not good. I must work to overcome the desire to stay safe and distant, uncommitted to those around me. The best way to make a friend is to be one. I must demonstrate my commitment. And the truest friend of all is Jesus. Lord Jesus, help me to be like you: to love others selflessly and to be faithful to them when hard times come.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Watchman

Son of man, I have made you watchman for the house of Israel, so hear the word I speak and give them warning for me. (Ez 33:7)

God tells Ezekiel he will hold him responsible for the lives of the lost if he hears a warning from God and does not give that warning to the people. He uses the analogy of the watchman on the walls. We, too, have the obligation to speak a word of warning to our lost friends. When I am silent I risk condemning them to eternal separation from God. My fear of embarrassment or rejection is no excuse for my silence. Fortunately, we don’t just have a warning, but also good news to share. Shame on me if I am ashamed of the gospel! I must be bold to speak for the sake of those I love.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Beginning of Wisdom

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Pro 9:10)

The fear of God teaches us to obey his commands, and obedience to his commands is the very definition of wisdom. God’s commands reflect both his great love toward us and his complete understanding of our circumstances. Thus the wise choice is always the obedient choice. God is the embodiment of truth and the Creator of all that is. Therefore, knowledge of him is the only way to gain a full understanding of ourselves and the world around us. Through our senses we can often learn the “what” and the “how” but only in the heart of God can we discover the “why”.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Food That Endures

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. (Jn 6:27a)

Jesus isn’t actually saying we shouldn’t work for a living. He is using hyperbole to make the point that if our goals and all our energies are directed solely to the things of this world, we will have missed what is of most importance. It is the eternal things that matter most. After Jesus had spoken to the woman at the well, he told his disciples, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about. My food is to do the will of him who sent me.” All the world’s pleasures are fleeting and ultimately empty and unsatisfying, but to love God and seek his Kingdom satisfies forevermore.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Running from the Light

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (Jn 3:19)

Many people have a bias against believing the Gospel. They are not open to it because to believe the Gospel is to expose their sin and require that they repent. So, because they are attached to their sins, they refuse to believe either that they are wrong or that they are in need of a Savior. Unfortunately, the same condition sometimes afflicts Christians. We, too, are attached to our favorite sins. We will engage in great mental gymnastics to ignore the truth in front of our face. Lord, help me to be honest with myself about the areas that I still need to surrender to you.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Father Who Listens

When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. (Pro 10:19)

I think there are several ways in which this is true, but one simple truth is the need to listen. This is the key to many relationships, but as a father I realize this is one principle I need to apply with my sons. I listen to them for a moment, diagnose what I see as their error, and then proceed to download a long set of instructions, information and opinions. I know I need to listen more and not be so quick to jump all over them to correct their “mistakes”. Lord, help me to hold my tongue!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Foolish Fears

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. (Pro 29:25)

My fears are so silly, especially since they mostly consist of fears of embarrassment or rejection and not mortal or spiritual danger. My fears are a snare when they prevent me from fulfilling my responsibilities or living out my calling from the Lord. Lord, help me to remember that even in mortal danger I need not fear, for my soul is secure in you. And help me to look past my foolish fear of embarrassment so I may be bold to speak and act in your name. Amen.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Rooted in Christ

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Col 2:6-7)

A great picture of sanctification! It reminds me of Psalm 1, which compares the righteous man to a tree planted by streams of water. I picture that tree with its roots sunk deep into the living water, growing tall and strong. Lord, make me like that tree!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Blameless and Pure

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life. (Phil 2:14-16a)

Everybody likes to gripe. At my office we complain about upper management – like probably a million other offices in the country. I gripe, too. And when I do I miss out on a wonderful opportunity to shine like a star in the universe. If I am just like everybody else, what good is it to the Kingdom? Those who daily walk in love, joy and peace stand out from the crowd. They earn a platform from which to be heard as they “hold out the word of life.” What does it do to my testimony when I gripe and complain like everyone else? My opportunity to be a testimony to Jesus Christ simply disappears. Lord, help me to shine like a star in the universe in my daily life, so I can hold out the word of life in a way that people will listen. Amen.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Show Yourself a Man

I am about to go the way of all the earth. So be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires. (I Kings 2:2-3a)

This is David's charge to Solomon. What a tremendous example for us fathers! We must not neglect to do the same. Lord, help me to hold out a true, Biblical picture of manhood for my sons, in both my words and my deeds. I know I have not always modeled it the way I should. God forgive me and help them to see by my example what true manhood is like. Help me to model it better than I have before. Amen.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Objects of Wrath

What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath – prepared for destruction? (Rom 9:22)

This verse is often taken to mean that God predestines some to destruction – that he created them with the intent to destroy them. But I do not believe that. First of all, Paul says “what if”. He only means to say God has the power and right to do so if he chooses. Second, he speaks of bearing them with great patience. What is the purpose of the patience? To demonstrate his compassion, sure, but also to allow those who would be saved plenty of opportunity to do so. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9) And third, we find in Eph 2:3 that all of us, even the elect, were at one time objects of wrath: “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” Praise God for his patience and his mercy! Without them no one would be saved, least of all me!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Live by the Spirit

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Gal 5:16)

The Holy Spirit is the key. This verse echoes Romans 8. “The mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Rom 8:6 NASB) The message in both places is that the flesh is corrupt and draws us away from God, but the Holy Spirit who dwells in us will empower us to live a righteous life if we turn our hearts and minds to Him.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Walking into the Light

The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. (Pro 4:18)

The wicked stumble on a dark path, bereft of true wisdom, but the righteous pursue God on a path that grows better lit the longer they travel on it. When you start on either path it is dark and hard to see. But as we begin to pursue God we see the way things really are more and more clearly. We learn wisdom. Thank you, Lord, for the light of your truth.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Egypt and Assyria

You will be disappointed by Egypt as you were by Assyria. (Jer 2:36b)

So often in our spiritual immaturity we move from one worldly thing to another seeking to have our deepest needs and desires met. But one by one they disappoint us. What we want may be money, popularity or entertainment, but what we need is God and God alone. The Israelites wanted safety. They allied themselves with Assyria and were double-crossed. They allied themselves with Egypt and were let down. In a few short years they were carried off to Babylon. Lord, let me not forget that you alone are my salvation, my strong tower and my provider. Help me to see when I am trusting in Assyria or Egypt rather than you alone. Amen.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Heavenly Hope

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Rom 15:13)

No matter grim our prospects here on earth might seem, we have an eternal hope that far outweighs the suffering of this life. The reason the persecuted church thrives, in fact, may be that those who clearly see they have no hope in this life are set free from it to rejoice in the hope of the life to come. As we trust him for eternity we have joy and peace in the here and now. That hope which we enjoy is from the Holy Spirit, with whom we were sealed as a sign of the certain hope to come. If we also find in this life reasons for hope and rejoicing, we are doubly blessed. And God does pour out blessings here and now, even in the midst of trial. Thank you, Lord!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Slowly But Surely

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Rom 12:2a)

Toward this end, one very practical thing I can do is to devote myself daily to prayer and reading God’s Word. Another is in verse 1, “offer your bodies as living sacrifices.” I daily pray a prayer of surrender. And as many times during the day as my mind snaps back to it, I confess my love and service to him again. These are the very practical disciplines which I was taught in the One on One discipleship study. It is sometimes disheartening to me that I am so far from being the man of God that I aspire to be. Yet I believe and trust that slowly, almost imperceptibly, as I faithfully execute these daily disciplines I am being molded into that man of God. I know his word will not come back void, nor his Spirit fail to move.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

One Day at a Time

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

It's not our part to set out with the idea of doing great deeds for God. The daily instructions for a believer are more immediate. I am to take care that my relationship with God and with others is right and be obedient one day at a time. This is just the same thought as the Great Commandment. Great deeds may come, but it will happen while we have set our hearts and minds to the task of being faithful every day to God’s commandments.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Heaven Bound

Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose [to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, v4] and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (2 Cor 5:5)

I have true knowledge, true confidence, of the resurrection to come by the presence of God’s Spirit in my heart. The more tangibly I experience his presence and his activity in my life, the more certain I am. This is why we can say that we know it is true and not just that we think it is true.