Sunday, February 27, 2011

Giver of Good Things

I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” (Ps 16:2)

Every good thing we have is a gift from our Heavenly Father, the creator of all things. Why are we so often possessive of what we have and resentful of what we don’t have? We are possessive because we forget we are tenants only. What I enjoy here on earth is mine for a time, but when I die I will give it all back to the One who owns everything. I resent what I do not have because I am focused on created things instead of the Creator himself. It is easy, too, to forget that God has promised us an inheritance greater than anything we have enjoyed in this life. I am not talking about streets of gold here. They are just a backdrop for what the true blessings of eternity will be – basking in the brilliance and warmth of God’s presence forever and ever, in the blissful fellowship of all the saints. The good things God has given me now – family and friends and a home and a ministry – these are just a foretaste of the good things to come. Thank you, Lord, for your incredible generosity to your children. Amen.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Keep on Praying

Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. (Gen 25:21)

When we read about the lives of the patriarchs they seem so exciting and filled with miracles. And, of course, God did some amazing miracles in their lives. But the idea that their lives were an exciting pageant of miracle after miracle is an illusion. It only seems that way because all their long years are telescoped into a few chapters. This verse is in two sentences. Sentence 1: Isaac prays. Sentence 2: God answers. But in reality Isaac prayed for twenty long years that God would grant them children. He was forty when he married Rebekah and he was sixty when Jacob and Esau were born. Twenty years of prayer. But he had God’s promise to his father Abraham to cling to. God promised to make Abraham a great nation and told him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” (Gen 21:12) We have God’s promises, too, as we labor for years in prayer. But do we sometimes doubt? Do we get discouraged? I do! At such times let us remember the example of Isaac, dispatched so neatly here in two sentences. Let us remember his perseverance and God’s faithfulness. Scripture is full of those who persevered and lived to see God’s promise fulfilled. Thank you, Lord! I will always pray and not give up. (Lk 18:1)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Immediate Obedience

On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. (Gen 17:23)

When God confirmed his covenant with Abram, he gave him a new name, Abraham, and a new sign of the covenant, circumcision. God commanded that Abraham and every male in his household be circumcised, which would have been hundreds of men. (Gen 14:14) This must not have sounded like a great idea to Abraham, let alone to all his servants, but this verse tells us he did it the very same day! One of the things I love about Abraham is that he was always quick to obey. Even when he was later commanded to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac he did not hesitate. Gen 22:3 says he got up “early the next morning” for the journey to Mt. Moriah.

When God’s commandments sound hard am I quick to obey? When a sacrifice is required do I hesitate? Lord, help me follow the example of Abraham. Whatever the task, he was ready. Give me courage to obey you in times of testing. Amen.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Timeless Wisdom

The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was appointed from eternity, before the world began. (Pro 8:22-23)

Here wisdom personified is speaking, and we learn that wisdom has been around for all eternity. Before the creation of the world there was wisdom. What does that mean? Several things, I think. First, wisdom is one of the immutable attributes of God. It has always existed because God is wise, and he has always existed. Second, God formed the world by wisdom. Creation was wisely made, and everywhere we see his wisdom and his glory in it (though it is now marred by our sin). Third, this passage tells us that the world depends on wisdom, but wisdom does not depend on the world. Wisdom is timeless. It is not circumstantial. Right is always right. It is not popular to believe this today. Today people say “Well it depends,” and think themselves sophisticated and wise. Everything is contextual, they say.

Of course, being wise does depend on getting your facts straight. But too often when someone says “It depends,” they mean “It depends on me.” What I think; how I feel; what I want or think I need. Such thinking quickly leads us into pride, selfishness and delusion. True wisdom is based on God’s timeless truth which he has revealed in his Word. I need to listen to what God thinks, how God feels and what God wants. Only then will I be truly wise.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Dawn in a Land of Darkness

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. (Is 9:2)

Matthew quotes this verse to describe the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. (Mt 4:16) Light is a powerful metaphor in Scripture. We were all born into darkness – the darkness of ignorance, the darkness of error – with the shadow of death hanging over us. Jesus is the light of the world. (Jn 8:12) He is the light of truth, the light of life and the light of hope. We associate darkness with fear – the fear of death, the fear of unseen enemies or the fear of the unknown. But Jesus comes and casts out all fear. In him are knowledge and wisdom and power. Now the way forward is lit and the end is known. I will live in the light of his truth and the blessing of his love forever and ever. Amen!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Whosoever Will

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. (Rev 22:17)

What could be sweeter, or what could set the heart more at ease than this? The free, simple, open invitation to come and enjoy the blessings of God forever and ever! The hard work has been done; all debts have been paid. Jesus has made a way for us to freely enter God’s presence with everlasting joy. What madness causes men to cling to their pride and fail to enter in? There is no greater evidence of the depravity of sin than for a man to turn down such a gift! Dear Lord, thank you that you broke through all my pride and my stubborn skepticism nearly 40 years ago so that I could see the light. It was all your doing. You saved me; I did not save myself. Thank you that I will enjoy the blessings of your Kingdom forever and ever. You paid the price. You made the offer. All I had to do was open my hand to receive it. Can it really be that simple? Yes!!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

King of Kings

On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords. (Rev 19:16)

Many countries have kings and lords, but there is One who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the Sovereign of every sovereign, the Ruler of every ruler, the Chief of every chief. No matter how lofty you are in wealth or fame or power or learning or beauty, there is One who is loftier still. We constantly try to contain God in our minds or in our world, but he will not be contained. We try to level him, but he will not be leveled. Qualitatively and quantitatively he is far, far beyond anything we can conceive of. And yet...

We can know him. We cannot encompass him, but we can experience him. For all his incomparable greatness he is a Person – one who loves us and wants us to know him. Lord, I thank you for the great mystery of your love and the great joy of your presence. Forgive me for ever taking for granted the incredible gift of knowing you. Amen.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

God's Family Tree

These searched for their family records, but they could not find them and so were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. (Neh 7:64)

If you set out to read the Bible cover to cover, one of the challenges you will face is plowing through the long genealogies and lists of names. They seem to go on for pages, and to the modern reader they are dry as burned toast. What accounts for this ancient obsession with names and genealogies? Simply this: for the Israelite, his connection with the family of God is his line of descent from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To be cut off from the people of God was to be cut off from God. For the priests and Levites it was even more important. The Levites had to prove they were descended from Levi and the priests had to prove they were sons of Aaron. I read once that one of the incalculable losses of the Holocaust was the destruction of the genealogical records which the Jews of Europe had maintained for centuries. How tragic! But now I understand why, for the Christian, such genealogies are less important. Our connection to the family of God is much simpler, and our line of descent is quite short. Each one of us is an adopted son or daughter of the King of Kings. We have each been grafted in to the family tree. (Rom 11:17) For by grace we have been saved through faith (Eph 2:8) and everyone who believes has been given the right to be called a child of God! (Jn 1:12) Praise God! Thank you, Lord, for your mercy! Amen.