Saturday, December 12, 2009

He Came As One Of Us

"And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:7)

Now there's a mystery. God coming to earth and fully taking on humanity, experiencing the full gamut of the human existence, including the indignity of being born. He had to be changed and cleaned up like any other baby. When it was hot He sweated. When it was cold He shivered. He knew hunger and thirst. Thus "we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).

"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, [and] coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to [the point of] death, even the death of the cross." (Philippians 2:5-8)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Abundant Grace

"And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus."
(1st Timothy 1:14)

Yes it was. And Christmas is such a wonderful time to remember that. In giving gifts we reflect the nature of God who gave such a wonderful gift to us in Christ Jesus. It boggles the imagination. Jesus Christ was given to us with one condition. The same condition that goes with any gift ever given -- it must be received. Imagine giving a gift on Christmas morning to someone only to be told, "I won't take it. I don't want it." You'd be pretty hurt wouldn't you?

God's grace is such a marvelous concept. God rescues us. He save us. He gives us Himself. He does this in spite of our sin and shortcomings. He does this, not because we are good, but because of His great love for us. Let's remember that this Christmas. We really do have so much to celebrate!

"How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift is given
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him, still
The dear Christ enters in."

(O Little Town of Bethlehem by Phillips Brooks)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thanks Giving

"And when you offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the LORD, offer it of your own free will." (Leviticus 22:29)

My wife has been posting daily notifications on Facebook about things that she is thankful for. I've noticed some others doing this too. Thankfulness is such a great heart attitude to cultivate. It keeps us, at the least, somewhat focused in the right direction.

As we approach Thanksgiving it is a wonderful attitude to hone in on. Look at the word. Thanksgiving is a combination of "thanks" and "giving." Thankfulness is a wonderful healthy heart attitude but it can only truly be done with a sense of giving -- it can't be done grudgingly or forced. It really has to come from within BUT it can be cultivated.

Cultivate it in the small things. Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of life we forget that. Be appreciative of the small things that others do for you. Let them know how grateful you are. Count the blessings that God has given you today. Take some time to express it to Him!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Not of this World

"I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world." (John 17:14).

This is tough for us to grasp sometimes. Most people want to be liked. Christians are no exception. Usually believers are actually pretty nice folk. Unfortunately, needing to be liked can be a trap. Jesus was never in bondage to making sure people liked him or accepted him. He went around speaking the truth without ever being in bondage by the need to convince. He spoke the truth and moved on. We can learn a lesson.

"Not of this world." That's a phrase that we struggle with sometimes. It seems (I leave room here that I could be wrong) to me that it' a phrase that doesn't seem to resonate as sharply among believers as it did 20 or 30 years ago. We want to reach out but I'm afraid that in our efforts to be "seeker friendly" we've found an excuse to comfort our need to be liked.

Jesus said that we would be hated. Isn't it interesting that you can talk about God as long as you keep it generic but the name of Jesus is offensive. Peter wrote (1st Peter 2:8) that Jesus is "a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense" to unbelievers.

The challenge for us is to not cave in out of our need to be accepted or to become hateful ourselves when we are hated. We are not of this world. We are pilgrims passing through but pilgrims with a very important assignment -- to share the love of Jesus in a lost and dying world.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Fruit Test

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)

The fruit of the Spirit is outward evidence of our walk with God. When the conditions are right a tree produces fruit naturally. It doesn't have to strain and make fruit occur. If the soil is good and it gets the proper amount of rain and sunlight it will produce fruit. A healthy tree produces good fruit.

Likewise, when our walk with the Lord is healthy fruit is produced! The list in Galatians 5:22-23 provides a wonderful checklist for our lives. If something is missing what is the problem? It won't be God, it will be me. If I don't have peace or joy, why not? I can then talk to the Lord and see where I'm missing Him or if the problem is some kind of external stress He can help me deal with that also! We have an awesome Heavenly Father.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." (2nd Timothy 1:7)

One of my favorite acronyms is for the word fear --False Evidence Appearing Real. Fear is one of the most powerful weapons the enemy can use against us. As believers we are called to only fear God. The fear in that context is a reverential awe not a stark raving terror. Fear works against in terrible ways. It makes us sick in body and soul. Fear is based in our belief of a bad outcome in a certain situation. The situation can involve pretty much anything but health, finances, job, and family seem to be the ones that really hit home. When developed to an extreme fear can lead to crippling phobias. Fear can also be an extremely tough thing to battle.

But "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2nd Corinthians 4-5). The weapons of our warfare are not carnal (natural) but they are MIGHTY! Take a close look at this passage and discern the argument Paul is making. Pulling down strongholds; casting down arguments; and everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of God and bringing thoughts (all of them) into captivity to the obedience of Christ. The battlefield here is the mind. Satan doesn't show up with his pitchfork, rather, he whispers in your head.

Meditating on a dread outcome is giving in to fear -- believing that "false evidence appearing real." Taking those thoughts captive changes the picture! To do that though we have to something else to stand on. To cast down an argument we have to have something to counter that argument with. How about the Word of God! The Word of God is full of wonderful promises for God's children but you won't know too many of them unless you get in there and dig them out!

How does this work? Let's say you are given a difficult task at work. You might start having negative thoughts like, "There's no way I can do this" or "This is just way too hard. I can't believe I got stuck with this." If you know the the Word that says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13) then you can cast down those thoughts and bring them into captivity to the obedience of Christ. It is pretty simple but it does takes little discipline and perseverance. You can do it.

Don't let F.E.A.R. have its way in your life!

Monday, October 26, 2009

The 23rd Psalm

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever." (Psalm 23:6)

"Follow me on Facebook or Twitter." Social networking that combines the internet, cellphones and PDAs is really, really popular these days. Initially considered the domain of the young, people of all ages are now using technology to keep up with one another's activities in real time. With the right technology (and motivation to keep it up) people can literally stay connected and follow one another (in a virtual sense) around the world.

Long before Twitter and Facebook though there was a precious promise that David grasped. That was a promise that the goodness and mercy of God would follow him all the days of his life. The 23rd Psalm is truly a wonderful little psalm but I fear that sometimes we've heard it so much it loses its impact. It has been put on plaques and paintings and clocks (I have one myself) and needlepoint and hundreds of other things beside.

The reality, though, is that this psalm is an awesome revelation of the goodness of God. It has wonderful promises for His children and portrays His love and care in such a marvelous manner. Take some time to meditate on it today. Don't say "I've read it a thousand times, I already know it." Read it again. Let God speak to your heart. It'll encourage and bless you! God will once again reveal His goodness and mercy to you in new fresh ways!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Rejoice Today!

"This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24)

Sometimes the challenges of the day can seem overwhelming. That's when we need to change our focus from the challenges to the possibilities. We need to change our focus from our circumstances to an expectation that our wonderful Heavenly Father is there for us today. We have his Spirit dwelling within and so many wonderful promises from God's Word. If we look for Him in the midst of the day we will find Him! He doesn't leave us or forsake us. He is a very present help in time of need. He has made this day! Rejoice and be glad in it!

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble." (Psalm 46:1)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Come Apart Before You Come Apart

"For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you." (2nd Corinthians 1:12)

Simplicity is a good thing. In a culture that strives to find happiness in the acquisition of material things simplicity is almost a foreign concept. Stress seems to be a present reality for most folks. Fear about the economy and the world situation compounds our anxiety.

There really is something to be said for a peaceful and quiet life. We really need to take some time to unplug. You can't be of much help to others if you are overwhelmed yourself. A friend of mine used to say, "Come apart or you will come apart." It's something you really have to be intentional about. It is amazing how voids in our schedules can quickly get filled up. My oldest son is working two part-time jobs and going to school. A few weeks ago he had a situation where he got the inevitable text from a coworker-- "What are you doing Friday evening?" This person wanted him to work for her. He didn't actually have anything going on that evening. That didn't mean he was obligated to work her shift. He declined the opportunity.

Take some time to come apart. Spend time with the Lord. Take a walk. Go sit by a lake and watch the water. Do what it takes to recharge your batteries. Take a look at your life and see what's not working. Take a look at what is working and what is not. Ask the Lord to direct your steps!

"You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." (Psalm 16:11)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Praise The Lord!

"Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all you stars of light! Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, And you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the LORD, For He commanded and they were created." (Psalm 148:1-5)

It is easy to get caught up in the stress of life where all out prayers and thoughts seem to get focused on dealing with our issues and struggles. Sometimes we just need to step back, take our gaze off of our circumstances and place it squarely on the Lord. Praising Him is a wonderful way to do that. If you don't know what to say open up the book of Psalms. The Psalms are filled with wonderful declarations of praise and worship.

Here is the rest of Psalm 148 for your enjoyment.

"He also established them forever and ever; He made a decree which shall not pass away. Praise the LORD from the earth, You great sea creatures and all the depths; Fire and hail, snow and clouds; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word; Mountains and all hills; Fruitful trees and all cedars; Beasts and all cattle; Creeping things and flying fowl; Kings of the earth and all peoples; Princes and all judges of the earth; Both young men and maidens; Old men and children. Let them praise the name of the LORD, For His name alone is exalted; His glory [is] above the earth and heaven. And He has exalted the horn of His people, The praise of all His saints-- Of the children of Israel, A people near to Him. Praise the LORD!" (Psalm 148:6-14)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

He Will Deliver Me!

"Then David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied." (1st Samuel 17:45)

David's confidence was in the Lord. The quote above is David's response to a threat from Goliath that "I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field." Goliath was insulted that the Israelites would send such a young man out to challenge him. We know how it ended and there wasn't much to it. David pulled out his sling, slipped in a rock, whirled it around, let it fly and took Goliath down with one shot.

When David volunteered to fight Goliath no one believed he could beat the giant. Saul had tried to talk him out of it but David's response was, "The LORD, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine" (1st Samuel 17:370). David had experienced God's help before and was confident in it again. David had developed the habit of spending time with God and getting to know Him. In knowing God David learned to trust Him through what would be, for most of us, some pretty trying adventures.

Learning to trust God is a wonderful adventure. God is with you and will be there for you in whatever you are going though. He is your help and your deliverer! Look to Him!

"The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower." (Psalm 18:2)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What a Wonderful Gift!

"As God has said: "I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people." (2nd Corinthians 6:16)

What a precious promise from the Word of God! What a wonderful fulfillment we have in Christ. "I will be their God and they shall be my people." I believe that in this verse we really see the heart of God. Adam walked with God in the cool of the day. Abraham was called the "friend of God." David had a heart after "God's own heart." We were created for fellowship with God.

I believe that this verse expresses the heart of God. He loves humanity. He paid the greatest price that we could be pardoned. He really couldn't have made it any simpler. But, someone might ask, why not just accept everyone regardless? I could write a really long response to that but here's a question to ponder -- is it the fault of the gift giver if someone refuses to accept their gift?

"But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe." (Galatians 3:22)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Living Continually with God!

"Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, And afterward receive me to glory. (Psalm 73:3-4)

We have such a loving heavenly Father. In Hebrews 13:5 we are told that "I will never leave you nor forsake you." The promises we have as His children are wonderful. People will fail us. They will hurt us and let us down. But God is not like the people in our lives. He is faithful and true. He is full of mercy and compassion. He loves us with a love so wonderful that it is really hard to wrap our brains around it. It is a love that we catch glimpses of in our love for one another but it is so much more. His love manifests in action. His love was manifest when Christ went to the cross and will be manifested in our day to day walk with Him.

"You hold me by your right hand." We can see in that a picture of a parent and child holding hands but when we understand that in Hebrew thought the right hand represented power and strength the picture enlarges. His power and strength is more than enough for what you are going through today. He will never leave you or forsake you!

"To know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:19)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pray for One Another

"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy." (Philippians 1:3-4)

Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of life we forget just how important it can be to pray for one another. It is such a blessing when you have been going through a rough time and someone comes to you and says, "I've been praying for you."

Often we are well intentioned but forget. We tell someone at church that we will really be praying for them and then life comes along and we forget. Be like Paul was with the church at Philippi. Be intentional. When you sit down to read the Word or fellowship with the Lord take some time to remember situations that have been brought to your attention. Most churches have a prayer list of some kind. Sometimes just taking a moment to think about it will give the Holy Spirit a chance to jog your memory and remind you of some needs.

Prayer is more than just some psychological exercise. Prayers prayed in faith have power. Prayer is a wonderful ministry that you can do for others in your life!

"Pray without ceasing." (1st Thess. 5:17)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Rich in Mercy

"But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us." (Ephesians 2:4)

What a picture of the goodness and love of God. He is rich in mercy. He has an abundance of mercy. When we look at Jesus we see such a wonderful manifestation of God's love for each us. The same God, that sent His son to die for us, is not sitting up there waiting to smack you as soon as you make a mistake. We need a savior because of our inability to live up to God's standard. Instead of changing the standard, He makes a way for us that we could never make on our own, ultimately, changing us. Sometimes people think they've just been too bad to be born again or they think that God has had it with them. But He is rich in mercy. He has more than enough and it is freely available to those who will humble themselves before Him.

"For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

My Rock and My Salvation

"He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken." (Psalm 62:6)

I am so thankful that we have a heavenly Father who loves and cares for us so much! Hebrews 4;16 says that we can "come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." I have seen the goodness of God manifested in my life over and over again. Not just in emotional help to deal with problems but in real tangible "God episodes" where His provision and help came to bear. God still works in His people just as he always has. When you are in a hard place look to Him. Run into Him.

I love the picture in Hebrews 4:16. We run boldly to the throne of grace. When we do that we find mercy and grace when we most need it -- not when everything is just right and we have it all together but when things are hard and we've made mistakes. That's a verse we can can grasp in the midst of our brokenness and pain. In the throes of our fallen nature we can run boldly into Him because of what Jesus has done for us!

Psalm 46:1 says that "God is is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble." Look to Him first. Don't try to fix everything in your own strength and when that doesn't work try God. Run into Him first. Ask Him for wisdom and help. Trust that He is at work in your life. We serve a wonderful God.

"Whosoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock" (Matthew 7:24-25).

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

New Wineskins

"Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved." (Matthew 9:17)

Wineskins, in Palestine, were usually made of tanned goatskins. New wine would be stored in new wineskins. The weight of the wine and the process of fermentation would stretch the skin to its maximum elasticity. The collagen in the wineskin would break down during this process. As the wine and wineskin aged together the wineskin became stiffer and stiffer. Putting new wine in an old wineskin would risk the loss of the new wine as the old wineskin would break.

In a way we are like those wineskins. We need to remain pliable before God. When you think you've figured it all out where God is concerned you have become an old wineskin. The Christian life is an ongoing process of growth and change that should continue until we die. Don't become an old stiff wineskin. When you read something in God's Word that challenges you don't try to explain it away. Be willing to submit to what God has said! When you are tested with something from the Bible that seems out of synch with your particular group don't fall back on the group and say "we don't believe that." I know ministers that will only teach passages of the Bible that line up with their beliefs. They refuse to even deal with passages that will cause them difficulty.

Let the Word of God challenge you! Let it test you! Dare to wrestle with it instead of trying to neatly package it in some palatable form. In doing so you will remain anew wineskin that God can pour into!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Humble Before God

"The humble He guides in justice, And the humble He teaches His way." (Psalm 25:9)

As we humble ourselves before God we allow the process of transformation to work in our lives. As fallen human beings we are prone to be self-centered and prideful. We want our own way. We want to do our own thing. James 4:6 tells us that "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."

God calls us to submit our lives to Him. It's easy to say but sometimes hard to do. Of course, most of us (Christians anyway) say we do. We don't find out of if we really do until we are tested. Change and growth is a process. We all have areas we need some help in.

I have a son who works in a Christian Bookstore and he has related a lot of disturbing stories about Christians who behaved badly. Almost every story he has shared relates to people not getting their way. People wanting to use expired coupons or wanting discounts but then getting angry when they couldn't get them. He even had someone tell him he wasn't very Christian when he wouldn't take back a CD. This person had opened it up and wanted to return it. It's against state law to allow returns on opened music because of potential copyright violations.

I always wonder -- do they read the Bible? Have they been taught at all? That old self- centered behavior exhibits our ugly side for sure! The only solution for it is to humbles ourselves and submit our ways to God in everything we do. Then you begin to understand that you live for Him and not for yourself.

"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the [life] which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 5:20)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Bring Those Thoughts Captive!

"For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." (2nd Corinthians 10:4-5)

So many of the battles that we face in life occur between our ears. Our minds can really be a battleground. That's why it is so important to submit even our thoughts to God. Sin doesn't happen in a vacuum. Wrong attitudes and beliefs don't magically spring up. They sometimes happen because of bad teaching or no teaching but, many times, they simply happen because we don't submit our thoughts to the Word of God.

For example -- somebody hurts your feeling. What is your response? Do you walk in humility, love and forgiveness? Or do you think about it and stew over it until it becomes a real resentment issue in your life? If you're living you are going to have problems. It's critical that we respond as God would have us respond. A key in doing that is to bring those thoughts that are contrary to God's Word captive. Bring them into obedience. How do you do that? By making a decision to change what you are thinking about. Replace the angry or fearful thoughts with some scripture. Talk to the Lord about it. Pray for the person who wronged you. Don't take a thought and make it sin by dwelling on it!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Good Word

"The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary." (Isaiah 50:4)

Proverbs 18:21 tells us that "death and life are in the power of the tongue." Ever notice how much quicker some folks seem to criticize instead of encourage? And yet, you can, by the words of your mouth be an incredible blessing and encouragement to someone else. Jesus told us that "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks."

If you only criticize and tear down it's time to examine your heart. We can use words to hurt or to heal -- to harm or to help. Satan is called the accuser of the brethren and we sure don't want to participate in that ministry.

Some folks say they're just speaking the "truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15) when in reality they are using that verse to excuse their behavior. I've seen a lot of truth spoken among Christians that was not handled in love.

Be a blessing. Be an encourager. God is simply looking for those who are available.

"Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers." (Ephesians 4:29)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Our Help in Time of Need

"Look!" he answered, "I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God." (Daniel 3:25)

Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego had refused to bow before the idols of Nebuchadnezzar. For this offense they were thrown in a fiery furnace. The fire was so hot it killed the men who threw them in. But then an awesome thing happened. God showed up. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego walked out of the fire.

We serve an awesome God. When you are going through the fire turn to Him. He will be there for you. Don't just believe for comfort but believe for help. We serve a real God who works in real ways for His children. God is greater than your struggle and difficulty!

"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Hearing of Faith

"Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" (Galatians 3:5)

Paul is asking a rhetorical question here. The obvious answer is by the the "hearing of faith." The hearing of faith is, in a nutshell, hearing what God has said and believing and applying it to our lives. Paul is addressing the trap that Christians easily succumb to as fallen human beings -- thinking that God's work in our lives is based on our goodness. In reality it is based on His goodness.

That's not to say that there is not a price for sin and disobedience. There is. Sin hurts us. One of the ways it hurts is that it gnaws at our conscience and gives the enemy a place to speak into our lives with thoughts like, "God doesn't listen to your prayers. Look how you sinned." It plays out in our lives by creating a paradigm for God's work in our lives that is based on our ability. We think that God helps us when we're good and abandons us when we're not so good. We've made ourselves the standard.

Paul nails that with this question. God supplies His Spirit and works in our lives by the "hearing of faith." He doesn't do this because we keep the rules and live a really good life. He doesn't do this because we are good but because He is good.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Growing Up

"But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever." (2nd Peter 3:18)

Just as we grow and change physically we ought to be growing and changing in our walk with the Lord. It is sad to see people who have sat in church for years and years who are still immature in Christ. A common saying is "people don't change." Well, thankfully, God is in the change and transformation business but it does require some response from us.

Too many people blame God for their issues. I once had a guy complain to me about his struggles with lust. He said he had prayed about it and couldn't understand why God had not taken it away from him. Like a lot of folks he was blaming God for his sin but Jesus already paid for it! I talked to him about renewing his mind and bringing every thought to the captivity of Christ (2nd Co. 10:5). The problem we have is that that path requires a little work and discipline on our part. I'd rather just pray a quick prayer and have the Lord remove the feeling.

Growing in the Lord requires some pressing in. We need to spend some time in the Word and in fellowship with the Lord -- hopefully each day. We need to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. We need to make good decisions about what we watch and listen to. Growth requires something of us. It doesn't just happen magically. The Lord is there for us and walks with us through the process. It takes time but it will happen.

"Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature." (1st Co. 14:20)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Whole Hearted Walk

"I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, And I will glorify Your name forevermore." (Psalm 86:12)

I love the phrasing here -- "I will praise You... with all my heart." It is so easy to approach life and even our walk with the Lord in a half hearted manner. We're told in Colossians 3:23, "And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men." Life is full of distractions that draw our hearts away from what is good. This relationship we have with the Lord is a 24 hour a day, seven day a week relationship. He is always with us. The problem is that we often approach the relationship in a half hearted manner.

We do that, for the most part, because we are distracted by life. Life is busy and stressful. That's why we need some alone time with Him even more. Yes, He is with you wherever you go but there need to be some times when you give Him your full attention. Not for His sake, but for yours.

Doing this really requires you to be intentional. It won't happen by accident or happenstance. Like any other worthy goal in life such as losing weight or trying to exercise it requires some discipline and pressing in. If you don't make it priority it won't be. It's also not about some legalistic quiet time that God requires of you. Please don't approach your fellowship with God as some kind of painful obligation. Walking with Him is the most wonderful thing there is!

"He has shown you, O man, what [is] good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Rest for the Soul

"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:29)

Rest. We all need it. We understand that from a physical perspective but what about rest for our souls. The Greek word for soul here is psyche. It literally means the breath which animates the body. The soul is generally considered to be the seat of our mind, will and emotion. Soul and heart were used interchangeably in Hebrew and Greek usage.

The connection between mental stress and our physical health has been heavily correlated. The problem is that we live in a stressed out world. We live in a broken fallen world. We can't insulate ourselves from that. We have to have a way of dealing with the troubles in our lives.

In Jesus we find the answer. He calls us to Him. To cast our burden on him because He cares for us (1st Peter 5:7). We do that through worship, prayer, humility and time in the Word. We can really have a peace that passes all understanding. Peace and rest are good things. Spend some time with Him each day. Give your burdens and worries and struggles to Him. He can handle them a whole lot better than you can.

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Rejoice Today

"This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24)

In troubled times and economic uncertainty it is easy to look down the road and be fearful of the future. That kind of fear will rob you of the joys of today. Embrace this day as a gift from God. Live it to His honor and glory. Jesus told us to not worry (be fearful) about tomorrow. Today is a blessing! Take some time to be thankful for all the wonderful things the Lord has done. Run the race today with an expectation that you will see God's hand in your day.

Have a wonderful day in Jesus!

Friday, September 25, 2009

In Need of a Savior

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." (John 3:16-19)

John 3:16 is possibly the most well known Bible passage but you really need to see it in context to get the full impact. God sent His son to rescue us -- that we might be saved. He who does not believe is condemned already. That's powerful. We are born in sin. We are born into darkness. That's a little unpalatable. We like to think that children are sweetness and light and little blank slates full of goodness. The truth is somewhat different. The Word of God places a heavy responsibility on parents to raise and train their children. Why? Because humans don't have to be taught to do wrong. They have to be taught to do right.

Folks love to whine about the transgressions of Christianity. They'll point to the inquisition, the Crusades, witch hunts or religious wars as proof. That's a game they don't want to play. Yes, some terrible things have been done in the name of Jesus by people who, for the most part, were probably not believers. And yet,the evil that so-called Christians have done is a pittance when compared to those who have rejected God. This last century witnessed the rise of some of history's biggest mass murderers at the head of atheist regimes. I know a few deluded souls who actually claim that Hitler was a Christian but he rejected Jesus Christ for a bizarre blend of mysticism and Norse-Germanic mythology. Hitler was no more a follower of Jesus Christ than was Mohammed.

Man apart from God is pretty nasty. We were created to know Him and outside of that fulfillment are angry, searching and selfish. The heart of man is rebellion. The heart of man is to rule and dominate his fellow man. Look at history. Look at the world today. Western intellectuals are scared to death of Christians while refusing to take a look at the rest of the world. It's not such a wonderful place is it? That's why we needed to be rescued. We need a savior because we are completely unable to save ourselves. But men love darkness, rather than light.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Full of Compassion

"But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth." (Psalm 86:15)

There was a song back in the Nineties called "God is Good." It was pretty popular and had a really good message. Sometimes in our human efforts to "figure out" God we come to faulty conclusions. We have trouble reconciling the God of the Old Testament with the God of the New. But that is usually because we have a superficial view of God and when we read the Word we go looking for Him with major preconceptions and misconceptions. One of these days I'll delve further into that when I have a little more time.

The truth is that God frequently gets a bad rap. We blame Him for our sin, our mistakes, our hurts, our pain, our disappointment or anywhere we've felt let down. We blame God for all the circumstances of life that mostly we cause ourselves. Not all. Sometimes life will deal you a bad hand. We live in a fallen world. Humanity is broken and creation is sundered. Humanity, outside of Jesus, is in a state of rebellion God. God is not the problem. We are.

But there is good news. When we look past our preconceived notions about God and we look a little deeper at the Word one of the common themes that comes out again and again is the Goodness of God. He is merciful and compassionate. Psalm 34:19 tell us that "Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD deliverers him out of them all." God is not our problem. He is the solution for it. He is our rescuer. The history of God dealings with humanity is a story of God's drawing us to Him. He loves us with such a wonderful love. Jesus laid down His life for that love.

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love." (1st John 4:7-8)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Receive the Word

"But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept [it], and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred." (Mark 4:20)

In Mark 4 Jesus told a story about a farmer who went out and sowed seed. Some of the seed was eaten by birds, some fell on hard ground and some was choked out by thorns. But some of the seed fell on good ground and produced a good crop for the farmer. When Jesus explained the story to his disciples he told them that the seed was the Word of God and that the good ground was those people who hear the word, accept it and bear good fruit. The difference in how God's work plays out in our lives often hinges on whether we receive what He has said. Too often we are interested in making the Bible say what we want it to say. We try to bend the scripture to our theology instead of submitting our theology to the scripture.

Sometimes the Word of God does test us. It may say things we don't understand or have trouble accepting. We tend to judge the Bible by our experience instead of judging our experience by the scripture. When you run across scripture that challenges you how do you handle it? Maybe it's something about belief? Or faith? Do you let the Word challenge your heart or do you try to explain it away. For example, the Bible is clear that if we will listen God will talk to us. Does that challenge you to want to learn to hear His voice or do you just fall back on your theology that says God doesn't do that anymore? Your answer to that question has very real ramifications for your life and walk with God.

Don't fight against the Word of God. Take Him at His Word and begin to submit your life to it. You will be glad you did.

"But without faith it is impossible to please [Him], for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Better Covenant

"But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second." (Hebrews 8:6-7)

Hebrews, along with Galatians and Romans, is absolutely critical to our understanding of God's Word -- particularly the relationship between the Old and New Covenants. Trying to mix the two gives us a confusing schizophrenic blend of law and grace. Hebrews 8 talks about Jesus as the mediator of a better covenant that was established on better promises. The comparison here is between the Old Covenant, given through Moses, and the New, established in Jesus Christ. Let's be clear here -- the New is better than the Old and established on better promises. The first covenant was faulty. It sounds almost blasphemous to say that but it's okay -- God said it first.

Why was it faulty? If we keep reading in Hebrews 8 we find that "they did not continue in My covenant." Man couldn't keep his end of the covenant. The covenant was continually being broken. Reading on in Hebrews 8:10 we find that God says, "I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people." The Old Covenant was an external law to be followed but it didn't change the heart. The New is written on our hearts. The Old was based in keeping rules, the New is based in relationship.

In Hebrews 9 we read that Christ came as High priest with the greater and more perfect Tabernacle and not of this creation (9: 11). The elements of the priestly service in the Old Covenant consisted of things made with wordly things. Every element, from the wood and gold to the goats and calves, was part of this creation. But Jesus came from outside of this creation as the perfect sacrificial lamb with the shedding of His own blood. This is critical. The Old Covenant was cut between God and man, who as we have seen, always failed to keep his part. The New Covenant was cut between God and Jesus. God came from outside and entered His creation to bring us redemption. God, literally, cut covenant with Himself. God upholds both ends of the covenant so it cannot be broken. We are partakers of this covenant by faith.

Now that is good news!

"And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance." (Hebrews 9:15)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tested Love, Proven Love

"But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just." (Luke 14:13-14)

The poor, the maimed, the lame and the blind? Wow! What a powerful point Jesus is making here! One that really tests our hearts too. Give to people who can't give back. Help people who really can't repay. I think, as Christians, we kind of get that in some ways but miss it in others. I think the real challenge comes when we have to deal with people on a personal level. Donating money to an orphanage or a project overseas is wonderful but we're often disconnected from the reality of people's actual lives.

Sometimes the poor, the maimed, the lame and the blind don't come with physical wounds that you can see. Sometimes they come with wounds of the soul that make them tough to deal with. We've all known people like that. We may have seen them at church. We avoid them. We rationalize with excuses like , "I just don't have anything in common with someone like that." We're polite but we keep them at a distance.

I think one of the wonders of this thing we call church is when we really do become a body and people begin to find a place in it. They find a home -- they find a family. It is not always easy. There are inherent challenges in relationships under the best of circumstances. We tend to gravitate to people who are like us. Church provides an opportunity for us to grow (when we allow it) by putting us in a position to love people who are not like us at all.

Love is only proven where it is tested. It's easy for me to say I love you when I never have to deal with you. "Church" ought to shake that tree a little bit. Knock off some of the selfishness and the unrealistic expectations of others. We often want a lot more grace than we are willing to give out. I think one of the most wonderful things about the body of Christ is when the walls are torn down and true relationships form between people of widely divergent backgrounds and experiences. For that to happen though I have to be willing to step out. To give. To help those who don't look like me or act like me.

"But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them." (Luke 6:32)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Truth

"Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day". (Psalm 25:5)

In John 18 we read the account where Jesus stood before Pilate and made the statement, "Everyone that is of the truth hears my voice." Pilate answers, "What is truth?"

In some ways that is the eternal question but also the eternal excuse. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). Jesus makes a pretty bold claim concerning himself here. This is the kind of claim that troubles people in a post-modern world. Relativism is everywhere. Everything is shade and nuance. That's why Christianity is so offensive to some people. Christianity makes some bold and definite claims. Jesus made some bold and definite claims. They test the heart. They divide and separate. They can be tough.

God is holy and supreme. In Christ God did an awesome thing. He revealed Himself to us by becoming one of us. He humbled himself to let His very creation kill Him. In doing so He paid for our pardon. He then rose from the dead, showing His power and authority. God went above and beyond to draw us to Him. But He is still God. He's the one who sets the terms. We must conform to Him. He is God and we are not, although we would like to be. God deals in truth. Truth is a funny thing. It is sometimes uncomfortable and inconvenient. But it's what is real.

God is. Jesus Christ is Lord of all. Our belief doesn't change that. Our belief only changes how we relate to Him. As Keith Green wrote in Altar Call, "You're gonna find out He's the way, no matter which way you choose but i pray you fin out by His love for you."

Jeremiah 29:13 "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart".

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Delight Yourself in the Lord

"Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart". (Psalm 37:4)

What a great promise. But what does it meant to delight ourselves in the Lord? The Hebrew word for delight here is anag which means "to be soft and dainty." It also means "to be happy about" or "to make merry over" something. Those concepts flow out of the primary definition of being soft and dainty. Have I lost you yet? The etymology comes out of the concept of a woman (in Hebrew culture) becoming what a man might want in order to attract him.

Don't worry guys -- the verse doesn't meant we have to be soft and dainty. It does mean that we should be willing to become who God would have us to but also to "make merry over" and "be happy" about Him! When you are young and in love that other person becomes the biggest thing in you life! You want to please them. You want to make them happy. And you are happy to be in that relationship. How many of us enjoy relationships with morose people? Take delight in the Lord. God is good!

"For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13)

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Only Way

Our Spiritual Barometer

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23)

The fruit of the Spirit listed here is a great spiritual barometer. If these characteristics are not being manifested in my life, why not? They are called the fruit of the Spirit for a reason. They are a direct outworking of our walk with the Lord. When we're spending time with the Lord and in the Word of God and doing things that encourage and build us up we will see the outworking of that fellowship in our lives. When we're not we'll see an outworking there too but it won't be exactly what we want. Our first and foremost calling is to know God. When that relationship is healthy then other things seem to better fall into line. That doesn't mean we'll have a perfect stress free life -- there's no such thing -- it does mean we'll be better equipped to deal with what comes along.

"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Love One Another

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)

Love one another -- sometimes easier said than done but that's what Jesus told us to do. He said that the world would know we are his by our love for one another -- not by our big buildings or programs or ad campaigns or but by our love for one another. A biblical understanding of love involves a paradigm shift in our thinking. Biblically, love is not so much about what I feel but about what I do. When I understand that it becomes easier to love others.

Understanding that love is an action changes my reaction. If my ability to love is based on how I feel then when someone hurts me or makes me angry I will withdraw or even try to get back at them. G.K. Chesterton wrote that "Love means to love that which is unlovable; or it is no virtue at all." Loved that is based solely in emotion can never do that. Other people then determine our love for us. As believers we are to be led by God's Spirit and be doers of His Word. That puts responsibility squarely back on us but that's a good thing. Then you are in charge of your love, not someone else.

"And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour." (Ephesians 5:2)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Right With God

"I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain."" (Galatians 2:21)

Paul makes a very powerful statement here using a negative comparison. If righteousness comes through the law then Christ died in vain. The obvious implication is that righteousness doesn't come through the law, in other words, we are not made right with God by keeping rules. And yet, that's what so many believers base their whole walk and concept of God upon -- keeping rules. God wants me to do this or He doesn't want me to do that. The problem is that there is truth in that belief, it's just misplaced.

Sin is very real and still hurts us. There are very definitely things that God would have us do and things we are not to do. The issue is why. Motivation does matter. I cannot earn my salvation by good works. In Galatians 3:11 Paul goes on to say that "no one is justified by the law in the sight of God."

Jesus didn't die so that we could keep a bunch of rules. He died to bring us into fellowship with God. Using the marriage relationship as a comparison -- there's a very real difference between the man who doesn't cheat on his wife because he's afraid of getting caught and the man who would never do such a thing because he loves his wife. Neither man is cheating on his wife but the first man's attitude is wrong. The law may constrain sin but it doesn't fix the heart. Grace can fix the heart.

God calls us to a love relationship. Ticking off our checklist of do's and don'ts is a poor substitute for the real thing.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith,and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, that no man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My Sheep Hear My Voice

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. (John 10:27)

What a precious promise from the Word of God! And yet, I think it's something we struggle with. We're so afraid of hearing amiss, making a mistake, or hearing the wrong voice that we can become afraid. The truth is that the Holy Spirit dwells in the people of God. We should be able to hear God's voice. We're not going to hear perfectly. We'll make some mistakes. I don't always hear everything my wife tries to tell me either but that doesn't negate the fact that she does talk to me.

Jesus said "My sheep hear my voice." Take Him at His word. Fear of not hearing or hearing amiss is a huge hindrance. If you are unsure that it is God speaking you will stay paralyzed. God can deal better with you when you are willing to try, even if you fail. What good does it do God to speak to you if you will never act on it? Believe today, by faith, that you can hear His voice! Jesus said we do!