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!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Renew Your Mind

Many years ago when I worked in a lab we had something called an eyewash station. Its purpose is pretty obvious -- if you splashed something toxic in your eyes you could run to the eyewash station and wash out your eyes.

We live in a pretty toxic world these days. We take in a lot of input that is poisonous to our minds. Television, radio, the internet, books and magazines, and the people around us will all throw ideas and opinions our way that are contrary to the Word of God. While we can be careful about what we watch, read or listen to it is impossible to be completely insulated. Nor do we need to be.

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (Romans 12:2)

The Word of God is like our eyewash station. The more we feed on it the more it changes us and renews our minds as we meditate on it and do it. The Word of God washes out the poison that the world lays on us. We will frequently face attitudes and actions that are contrary to what God has said. From the local gossip who works to get you to participate with them to your favorite TV show that tells you to look out for number one we are constantly presented with ideas and attitudes that the enemy will use to poison our thinking.

The antidote is God's Word. A few years ago I leaned a pretty cool trick about latex paint spills on carpet. It then really helped me when I turned over a gallon of paint on my own carpet. First you use some cardboard to scrape up as much paint as possible and put it back in the can but then comes the key part. Don't let the paint dry out. It helps if you have a wet vac. Keep pouring water and vacuuming it up. Keep on washing it. It takes a little time but it works. You cannot tell where I spilled the paint.

That's what we should do with God's Word. We must keep on washing our minds. It's not a one time thing. It's a life long necessity.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Come Together Right Now Over Me

"I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go into the house of the LORD." (Psalm 122:1)

Church ought to be something we look forward to -- not a religious rite we have to fulfill. The author of Hebrews (10:25) exhorts believers to not forsake assembling together. It is such a joy to come together with the body of Christ to worship and share the word and minister to one another. It is such a precious privilege that we can freely exercise in this country. So many believers around the world must meet in secret.

The Beatles had a hit called "Come together". One key line in that song is "Come together right now over me." That's what God calls us to in assembling together. Come together over Him. We come together to worship Him and to encourage one another. Everything we do and say should be to His glory.

This ought to be a place where we can lay down our agendas. Sadly, in dealing with fallen humanity it is often not but we just have to play through it. There are no perfect churches -- only assemblies of imperfect people who are seeking after God to varying degrees.

The assembly ought to be a place where we can freely give and share our lives with one other. The strong can help the weak. The healed can help the sick. The uplifted can help the discouraged. The prosperous can help the poverty stricken. Those who are full of the Word can help those who need understanding and wisdom.

What a marvelous opportunity!

See you there.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


"The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have [it] more abundantly." (John 10:10)

There is plenty of stress out there to go around but, thankfully, there are plenty of wonderful promises from the Word of God to go around too. What is abundant life? Too often, I think we tend to think about this in terms of money but there is so much more. Money won't buy you peace. An awful lot of rich people have lived and died in abject misery. That doesn't make money bad either -- it's the love of money that becomes the problem. Money is just a tool.

I think true abundance is really found in our relationship with Him. In knowing, walking and trusting. True abundance is found in a heart that is at peace and able to rest. Hebrews 4:9 tells us that "There remains therefore a rest for the people of God." Peace is listed as a fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5. Life is too short to spend it stressed out and yet, that's what so many of us do.

"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty." (Psalm 91:1) NIV