Friday, December 31, 2010

Doing My Part

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (Jn 14:12)

How convicting! I’m hard-pressed to think of any “greater things” that I have done. Of course I know that Jesus was speaking to his disciples and they ultimately worked many miracles and brought many to salvation. But he is also speaking to us: “anyone who has faith in me”. In this age God is advancing his Kingdom through the Body of Christ – the Church. As a finger or a toe or whatever, I am a part of the Body of Christ. Am I doing my part? Am I pulling my share of the load? Lord, help me to be faithful to my calling. Show me my part and guide me to fulfill it. I want to be part of the “greater things” your Church is doing in this age. Amen.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Loving Like Jesus

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (Jn 13:34)

Why did Jesus say this was a new command? Lev 19:18 says, “Love your neighbor as yourself” and Jesus even quoted that verse. What’s new here is the standard of love Jesus sets for us. It’s hard enough to love my neighbor as I love myself, but how much harder is it to love my neighbor as Christ loves me? Jesus spoke these words to his disciples as he gave them his final instructions on the night before his death. Pressing in on him was the magnitude of the ordeal he was about to endure. He knew full well what it would cost him and his heart was deeply troubled by it, but he pressed forward with a determination born of his incredible love for us. And in that hour he commanded us to love one another as he has loved us. What a tall order! That is a kind of love I do not possess in my own nature. It can only come from God. With the Spirit of God in my heart I can love like that, but it is still a hard choice, as it was for Jesus. Would I expend myself for my brothers in Christ? Would I give all that I have for them? Only by truly surrendering to the Father’s will, as Jesus did. Lord, give me a heart to love as you love.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sunday Christians

My people come to you as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. (Ezek 33:31)

Ezekiel had quite a following among the Jewish exiles in Babylon. He was evidently well known, and could draw a crowd whenever he had a word from the Lord. You can even imagine that they lined up to shake his hand at the door. “Good sermon today, brother.” “Great word! You are so anointed!” “Thank you, pastor. I needed to hear that.” Fine words, but then they stepped out into the rest of their week and their lives were no different than the week before. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? We faithfully show up for church, we say the right things, but God knows our hearts. And, too often, what is in our hearts does not reflect the image we like to project on Sunday. Lord, when I come to worship you in church may I truly be broken before you. Convict me of the gap between my words and my deeds. May I drink your word deep into my soul and be restored by it. May I focus less on the outward activity of Sunday morning and be sensitive to the inner work you desire to do in me. Then may my heart be truly yours. Amen.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Patience and Mercy

Say to them, “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezek 33:11)

Many people mistakenly draw a distinction between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. They say, the God of the Old Testament is vengeful and cruel, but the God of the New Testament is loving and kind. These people have completely misunderstood the Bible. God is a God of both love and justice. They are both essential parts of his character, and they are both on full display in both Testaments. It is true that much of the Old Testament is the story of Israel’s continual rebellion against God, which leads to God’s judgment on them. However, this beautiful verse from Ezekiel makes clear that God never enjoys bringing judgment. His desire is that all would be saved. He yearns for the wicked to repent. And, in fact, a more careful reading of the Old Testament will show God’s great long-suffering and patience, as he withholds his wrath for generation after generation of the people’s rebellion. Who else do you think can hold their temper for centuries?!

God is patient with us as well. He is patient to give us years to come to salvation. He is patient with us for years afterward as we slowly mature and leave behind our evil ways. Thank you, Lord, for your great love, which you demonstrate in your patience with me. Amen.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Praying for the Lost

I urge then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2:1-4)

It’s bothered me for some time that I don’t see the Bible talking much about praying for the lost. I pray every day for lost loved ones. I desperately want to see them be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Verses 3 and 4 in this passage are well known, and because of them I understand that God, too, desires my loved ones to be saved. But I had never connected these verses in context to verse 1 before. People always quote verses 1 and 2 together to illustrate that we should pray for government leaders. And they quote verses 3 and 4 together to show that God doesn’t want to send anyone to hell. But verse 2 is a qualifier on verse 1; it says that not only should we pray for everyone, we should pray for rulers specifically. When you leave it out and skip straight from verse 1 to verse 3 it reads like this:

I urge then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone... This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2:1, 3-4)

Now you see the completion of the main thought, which is that we should pray for everyone because God desires that everyone be saved. So not only is it Scriptural for me to be praying for my loved ones, I should also be praying for everyone else I know who is not saved. Lord, thank you for this affirmation of my heartfelt prayers. Thank you for the reminder that you do love everyone, and have no desire to see anyone miss out on eternal life. I lift them up to you and pray they would realize that you are real and you love them unconditionally. Open their eyes so they can see that they need you and the free gift of salvation you offer to everyone. Amen.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Our Top Priority

Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything – so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. (Titus 2:9-10)

If you were a slave you would think your top priority would be gaining your freedom. Paul is under no illusions about the hardships of slavery. Elsewhere (1 Cor 7:21) he tells slaves that if they have a chance to gain their freedom, they should do so. But Paul’s instruction here makes clear that the top priority of every slave should be to live in such a way that the Gospel becomes attractive to their master! Every other purpose in life, even one this pressing, is subordinated to the Great Commission. Paul instructs slaves that the salvation of those around them should be their top concern. How much more, then, should that be my greatest goal in life? At work, is my top concern to live such a godly life, to serve my bosses with such excellence, that they will be attracted to the Gospel? Lord, help me be that kind of employee.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Better Country

If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Heb 11:15-16)

Abraham left his home in Ur, and God promised that his descendants would one day possess the entire land of Canaan. Yet all their lives Abraham, Isaac and Jacob lived in tents without any land to call home. They could have gone back to Ur if they wanted, but they did not. They were looking ahead to what God had promised. The author of Hebrews holds them up as examples of faith. We, too, have left the country of our birth and long for a new home in the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem. I was born into the kingdom of the world, under the domain of the prince of this world, Satan. But God rescued me from darkness and made me a new creature in him. Now I am a citizen of God’s Kingdom. My eternal home is there, but for a while my tent is still pitched in this world. This passage prompts me to ask myself, where does my heart live? Am I longing for the new country or the old? Lord, help me to keep my heart firmly set on you and your Kingdom. I am here on this earth as your ambassador. One day you will claim it all again for your own. When that day comes I hope I will have led as many people as I can into your Kingdom, to live forever with you in your heavenly realm.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Living With Integrity

The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity. (Pro 11:3)

It seems like every month we hear of some new ethics scandal of a Congressman or prominent pastor. Someone who had been held in such high esteem turns out to have been cheating on his wife or embezzling or not paying his taxes. How many fall into the trap of thinking, “No one will ever know?” But then they are found out, and their duplicity destroys not only their own lives but those of their families as well.

How often am I tempted by the same thought? “No one will ever know.” It is a lie. God knows from the very beginning. Our lives are an open book to him. But if we give in to temptation anyway, no matter how small the transgression, we have stepped onto the path of destruction. I imagine each of those failed leaders started small. No one wakes up one day and says, “I think I’ll have an affair today” or “I bet I could steal a million dollars from my company and no one would notice.” It begins with an attitude of entitlement. “Why shouldn’t I enjoy the benefits of my position?” And of course, the deadly, “No one will ever know.” But one wrong step is soon followed by another, and one day we wake up to realize our lives are a shambles.

Lord, make me wise not to fall for this lie. Keep me on the path of the upright. I will be truthful to you and all those around me. My life is an open book to you. May it please you and honor you in every detail. Amen.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

God Yearns for the Lost

Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him, declares the Lord. (Jer 31:20)

No matter how long the children of God stray or how far, God still loves them and yearns for them. The previous verse (v19) speaks of repentance after a misspent youth. “After I came to understand, I beat my breast.” This could be my testimony, too. The fact is that God rescues many in later life who strayed when they were young. Lord, I pray for my loved ones who are lost, that they will come to understand your love for them and their need for you. I know that may take a while but I pray it will not be too long. Guard them as they stray and open their eyes to your truth. I trust them into your hands. Amen.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Everlasting Love

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. (Jer 31:3)

The Lord spoke these words to Israel through the prophet Jeremiah after Babylon had conquered Judah and carried off its people into captivity. In such a dark time God gave these words of hope. These words remind us of the certain hope that we have, because God’s love never fails. He has drawn us to himself, and he will never abandon us. At such times do I trust my feelings or do I stand on his promises? He has loved me with an everlasting love! No one is more faithful than God. I will stand on his promises.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Slow Learners

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. (Heb 5:11)

Ouch! The author of Hebrews doesn’t pull any punches. He has just been explaining that Jesus is a “high priest in the order of Melchizedek.” No doubt if the Bible were a college, Hebrews would be an upper level course. But the author doesn’t say, “It is hard to explain because it is complicated.” He says, “It is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.”

What makes us slow to learn? Ask any teacher. It’s not the brightest kids who learn the most; it’s the ones who make the effort. In this passage the author of Hebrews chides his readers for not investing the time, for not being like “the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (v14) In this respect we are no different than the New Testament readers of Hebrews. Why is it so hard to invest the time to study the Bible daily? The flesh rebels. There are so many other things to do with our time. Bible study is like an investment. We invest a portion of our day in it consistently and over time we reap great rewards. But there are always other things we could spend our money on that will yield immediate gratification. And so with our time as well.

Lord, thank you that you have brought me to a place in my life where I have been reading your Word consistently every day. Forgive me for taking so long to establish that discipline. Help me to overcome the daily temptation to spend this time in other ways. Help me to keep my priorities straight. Thank you for the blessings that I receive when I am faithful to stay in your Word. Amen.

Monday, December 20, 2010

All Work and No Play

Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. (Pro 23:4)

Most of us have to work hard for a living, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But there comes a time for some of us where we cross a line. Work itself becomes our main object - or the money we make from it - and it begins to crowd out every other good thing. We wind up sacrificing the health of our families, out spiritual lives and our own bodies on the altar of worldly success. I remember the first time I really began to understand that. It was 1986 and our entire extended family had made plans to spend Saturday at a special Texas Sesquicentennial Celebration (the 150th anniversary of Texas Independence). I was facing a project deadline and I decided at the last minute that I needed to work all day Saturday instead. My wife was very disappointed by my decision. She went on with the rest of the family and had a great time. But one thing she said stuck with me. “A year from now, you won’t even remember what you were working on today.” And you know what? She was right! But I sure could remember the fact that I missed a fun and memorable experience with my family.

The proverb says, “Have the wisdom to show restraint.” A wise man doesn’t make his job his idol.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Prophesied By Name

This is what the Lord says: A son named Josiah will be born to the house of David. On you he will… (I Kings 13:2)

This is the second instance I’m aware of where a prophecy names someone by name. Isaiah also names Cyrus by name. I'm told this is one reason some Biblical scholars say the second half of Isaiah was written much later than the first. They say that nowhere else is someone prophesied about by name, but I guess they didn’t know about this verse!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Does God Change His Mind?

If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. (Jer 18:7-8)

Here we see a clear explanation for why God sometimes appears to change his mind. He is warning them of the potential consequences of their actions. Verses 9-10 also speak of how he may withdraw his blessing when a nation does evil. Jeremiah is prophesying the destruction of Judah in the context of Judah’s apostasy. God wants them to understand clearly that the prophesied judgment is only a fulfillment of the conditional promises of the covenant he made with Israel. God himself does not change and his covenant is not revoked, but God responds to the choices we make, according to the promises by which he has bound himself.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Deeply Rooted

But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. (Jer 17:7-8)

Here again is the metaphor of the tree we find in Psalm 1. The echo of it is in Col 2:6-7 as well, which speaks of being rooted in Christ. I love when Jeremiah says, “It does not fear when heat comes.” The living water that flows from Christ is inexhaustible! Being rooted in him, my spirit will not wither when the world turns up the heat. I can be like the tree of life in Rev 22, bearing fruit in every season. Lord, I will trust you when hard times come. I know you will never fail me. Thank you for the life you have given me. May others look at me and see the fruit of a life spent deeply rooted in your word and your Spirit. Amen.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fool's Gold

How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver. (Pro 16:16)

Why? For the simple reason that if you receive wisdom you get to keep it. A foolish person who gets rich will soon be poor again. Wisdom leads to right living, which is more profitable for the soul than great wealth.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Biblical Anger Management

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger. (Eph 4:26 ESV)

This verse is often mistakenly used to excuse anger. The conventional wisdom says that anger is natural and inevitable. Therefore, when you get angry you need to find healthy ways to express it or you will just bottle it up and become bitter.

This is partly true. Anger is natural and inevitable, but that doesn’t mean it is good. Sin is natural because our flesh is sinful. Paul is recognizing that, but he is not intending to give us a pass just because anger is inevitable. The conventional wisdom says, “If you don’t let the anger out you will just bottle it up and cause further harm.” But here the conventional wisdom is wrong. There is a third way: forgiveness. It turns out that many people are taking verse 26 out of context. Let’s look at v31-32:

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. 

When I get angry at someone the answer is not yelling at them to make myself feel better. The answer is forgiving them. There is no better way to do that than to pray for the person who has angered me. “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” doesn’t mean get it all out of your system by nightfall. It means do not go to bed that night until you have forgiven them. We need to get down on our knees and pray until we are able to forgive. This takes the power of the Holy Spirit. Lord, help me forgive those who hurt me. Replace the anger with compassion. In no way will the supernatural power of your Holy Spirit in our hearts be better demonstrated than when we rise above our sinful natures to forgive and to love others as you have forgiven and loved us. Amen.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Not So Clever

To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. (Pro 8:13)

What is it that I love so much about the sharp retort or the smart putdown? When I say these things that hurt others why do I feel good? This verse gives a hint – it is pride. My sinful nature thinks that the way to lift myself up is to put others down. And it works for a moment. I feel a momentary thrill from the clever putdown, but it is always followed by the icky feeling you get when you know you’ve done wrong. One of the most important things we need to do to live a righteous life is to bridle the tongue. (James 3:3) Lord, forgive me for hurting others with my tongue. Let my speech always be full of grace, seasoned with the salt of your truth. (Col 4:6) May my words not be barbs but blessings. Amen.

Monday, December 13, 2010


The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. (Gal 5:19-21)

The apostles seemed to go in for these long lists of sins. It’s like a dragnet – sweeping up every one of us in one way or another. When we read these lists, though, we seem to focus on the big sins, which is convenient because I don’t commit too many of those. I want to pat myself on the back because I stay away from orgies. But a second look at this list proves that I have little to boast about.

It seems to me that this list divides rather neatly into three categories: the sensual, the spiritual and the social sins. The sensual sins are: sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, drunkenness and orgies. These sins involve abuse of the body. The spiritual sins are idolatry and witchcraft. They involve a direct challenge to the supremacy of God. But the social sins involve disharmony between people. They are hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy. Ah, now here is a list that I cannot so easily absolve myself of! It is remarkable that this is also the longest list. And again, it is remarkable that Paul finds so many synonyms for “conflict”. These are the sins that so easily find their way into the church. While we are congratulating ourselves for avoiding the sensual and spiritual sins, we find our community riven with factions, disagreements and petty jealousies. We’re too spiritual to let them out in the open usually, but they subtly invade our speech. “Can you believe what he said?” “Did you see what she was wearing?”

When we examine ourselves carefully, we find that what Jesus said is true. We often can manage to control our outward appearance and behavior, but it is what's inside a man that makes him unclean. (Mt 15:18-19) And then I take a second look at the sensual and spiritual sins and find that, while I may be keeping my actions clean, I have not always kept my heart clean. Lord, bring conviction when my heart strays from you. Thank you for these verses that remind me how very far I am from your holiness. Teach me to walk in your ways. Amen

Sunday, December 12, 2010

In Wrath Remember Mercy

Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy. (Hab 3:2)

Habakkuk lived and prophesied in a time of great apostasy (1:3-4). God’s wrath was ready to be poured out on Judah via the Babylonian conquest and captivity (1:6). Habakkuk longed to see God once again perform great miracles, as he did long ago during the exodus. He was praying for mercy. He was praying for revival. We, too, live in a time of great apostasy. Western civilization is turning its back on its Christian heritage. Our nation forgets its roots. Whole denominations are abandoning Biblical truth. I read the New Testament and think of the miracles God did long ago. I, too, long to see them renewed in our day. I remember the revivals of earlier generations and pray for a revival of faith today. I, too, pray that God would remember mercy. Lord, let your Spirit again fall on your people, that we would be faithful witnesses to those around us. Let your light overcome the gathering darkness. I pray for the salvation of millions of people who today have only the vague cultural memory of faith in you.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Clothed With Christ

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Rom 13:14)

Once again here is the principle of consciously deciding to focus our thoughts on Christ, as opposed to “immorality, debauchery, dissension and jealousy.” (v13) Paul gives us this beautiful image of how to do this: “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.” I want to be covered, enveloped, surrounded by Jesus. I want to take on his identity, his standard of beauty. I want people to look at me and see him. Lord, help me to clothe myself in you. Envelop both my thoughts and my actions with your truth and your glorious righteousness. Amen.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Knowing God's Will

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Rom 12:2)

I frequently wonder what God’s will is in various situations. I marvel at the clarity that some of my friends seem to have at discerning his will. This verse is telling me that the secret to knowing – and doing – his will is to be transformed by the renewing of my mind. The world has certain patterns of thought, and they are far from the heart and mind of God. (Is 55:8) If instead I would have the mind of Christ (I Cor 2:16) I must steep myself in his Word and meditate on his truth. The renewal of a mind is not a simple or a quick process. It takes the persistent pursuit of truth and the consistent application of it, to be conformed to his pattern rather than the world’s. Lord, I give you my thoughts; let them become your thoughts. I give you my mind; fill it with your truth. Teach me your ways, that I would walk in them. Amen.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Discover Your Calling

I am the apostle to the Gentiles. (Rom 11:13)

Paul knew his calling. There is a marvelous clarity and simplicity to this statement. God had made clear to him what his role was to be. Paul was certainly an unlikely candidate for the title of apostle to the Gentiles, at least at the outset. A “Pharisee of Pharisees” and persecutor of the church, no one who knew him would have guessed what he would become. Indeed, it was likely not clear to him for some years after his conversion. But he willingly went with Barnabas on that first missionary journey, and discovered his calling. Lord, help me to be receptive to your leading and open to your call. I would love to have the clarity about my calling that Paul had. Help me to be so surrendered to your will that it will become clear to me as it was to him.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Let It Go

It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel. (Pro 20:3)

How ironic that when a prideful man is quick to quarrel with a perceived insult, he does more damage to his honor than if he had graciously overlooked the slight.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Excuses, Excuses

All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord. (Pro 16:2)

Each of us has an enormous capacity to rationalize our own actions. We tend not, as Paul urged us, to “look at ourselves with sober judgment.” (Rom 12:3) Instead, I tell myself “it’s only right,” “it’s only fair,” “I can’t help it,” “he deserved it” and so on. But God sees our true motives, and all too often they are selfish. If we are ever to become Christ-like, we must begin to see ourselves as he sees us. Paul declared himself the “worst of all sinners.” (1 Tim 1:15). Was he really the worst? Not likely. But he had grown enough in his knowledge of God to appreciate the vast gap between who he was and who he wanted to be – between who he thought he was and who he really was. Spiritual growth is always preceded by humility. If we do not humble ourselves, God will humble us. (Pro 16:18) It’s that important.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Why Stick Around?

The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death. (Is 57:1-2)

There are many today who set their hopes on the prospect that medical science will find a way to greatly extend the human lifespan. A lifespan of centuries may be possible, some think, if only the processes of aging could be understood and arrested. Without exception, those who write and talk about such ideas share a common worldview. They are all convinced that our physical existence is all there is. They believe that when your body dies everything that you are is gone. How sad! As one who loves God, I don’t want to die young, but to live here on earth, in this body, for centuries when I could die and be with Jesus is a terrible idea. God keeps us here on earth to serve him as part of his plan, but then he takes us to heaven as a reward. When our loved ones die we grieve, but when we die it will be inexpressible bliss.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Never Fight Alone

Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God? (1 Sam 17:26)

For forty days Goliath had stood before the Israelite army, issuing his unanswered challenge. They were all terrified. There is safety in a crowd. Against all odds men will master their fears and run forward together in battle. But to advance alone against such an overwhelming opponent was more than they could bear. David, however, saw the situation clearly. The true soldier of Israel never fights alone, for God is with him. This “uncircumcised Philistine” may be nine feet tall, but he is doomed to be defeated because he has dared to challenge the living God. David did not go into battle armed only with a sling. He went into battle with the power of the Almighty to defend him. Goliath, in his arrogance, thought he had the overwhelming advantage. He never knew what hit him.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Poor For Our Sakes

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Cor 8:9)

If we had never heard of the Crucifixion or the Resurrection, we would already have been astonished by the Incarnation. Before the Lord Jesus had ever been beaten or mocked or harmed in any way, he already had shown the depth of his love for us by laying aside his glory to become a man. That he, who lives enthroned in heaven, would leave it behind to step into frail human flesh is already a sacrifice too great for us to comprehend. Truly, he became poor for our sakes. And now we have his promise, paid by his blood and sealed by his Spirit, “that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (I Jn 3:2) Then we will truly be made rich, to live forever in the glory and splendor of his presence.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Compelling News

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. (2 Cor 5:14)

Paul was a man of action. When he thought that Christians were blaspheming God, he sought them out to persecute them. When he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, within a matter of weeks he was preaching and teaching about Jesus in the synagogues. For Paul, to know the gospel is to be called to action. If we know that Christ loved everyone enough to die for them, why would we not tell them? How can I know the truth and not share it with my friends and neighbors at least, let alone the rest of the world? Lord, forgive me for keeping this wonderful news to myself, when the whole world is literally dying to hear it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Fill the Earth

He who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited. (Is 45:18)

As marvelous as the earth is in its own right, God did not create it just so he could admire it. He created it to be inhabited. He placed Adam and Eve in it and told them to subdue it and fill it (Gen 1:28). Today there are those who see man as a cancer on the earth. They imagine it would be a better, more beautiful place without us. But God says the earth would be empty if we were not in it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What Is Man?

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

How do we reconcile this verse with the idea that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”? (Ps 139:14) Are we great or are we nothing? The tie that connects these two together is the sovereignty and majesty of God. God is so much higher, greater, purer, stronger and more beautiful than we are. Yes, we are fearfully and wonderfully made, but compared to God we are like grass. There are precisely two things that give us worth and importance: that God loves us and that he has made us in his image. If I am just a primate on a spinning planet in a backwater corner of the universe, I am truly insignificant. But God bestowed on us the imago dei so that his marvelous character and nature are reflected in us. David asked, “What is man that thou art mindful of him?” (Ps 8:4) To which God replies, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” (Jer 31:3)