Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Title: Locked Out! / Topic: The Key To Knowledge

Today’s Reading: Genesis 27, 28; Psalm 4; Luke 11

Scripture: Luke 11:52 “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”

Observation: Jesus is ticked! And what Jesus says here is so interesting because he mentions a "key to knowledge" and tells the teachers that they have taken it away and "hindered those who were entering." I'm not sure just what the "key to knowledge" is but it fascinates me to think that there is such a key and that leaders can do things to make it (and God) inaccessible to people.

Application: I take that to imply that leaders also have the capability to do things to make the key to knowledge more accessible to people. So that makes me ponder, "What kinds of things make this key more accessible and encourage people to enter in?"

In other words, what can I do as a leader to make it easier for people to have access to truth and access to God? Here is a list of things that come to mind: 1) providing clarity in the delivery of the message, 2) using words easy to grasp, 3) removing distractions in the delivery of the message, 4) making the word relevant to the people, 5) the teacher must have character that lines up with the message, 6) telling the truth, 7) respecting people. So these are some that come to me right now. This seems like a "John the Baptist calling": prepare the way for the Lord, make a level path by making the high places lower, the low places higher, and the crooked places straighter. Then get out of the way and let the Lord come through.

(The reverse is also true. If I don't do these things, and, in fact, do the opposite, I am working against God and people can be locked out as a result.)

Prayer: Father, help me to be a man who opens doors for people to be able to have easy access to truth and to you. May my live and message be that which makes the key to knowledge available to all who desire to unlock the door that leads to you.

This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Title: If You Do What Is Right / Topic: The Victim

Today’s Reading: Genesis 3, 4, 5; Luke 2

Scripture: Genesis 4:4-7

The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

Observation: We are not told why God accepted Abel's offering but rejected Cain's. Some Bible teachers and theologians have come up with ideas about Abel raising animals which was more dependent upon God than Cain's working the garden. But that never made any sense to me, both of these occupations are dependent upon God. The farmer can't make the plants sprout any more than the rancher can make the animals reproduce. These things happen because God created animals and plants to do what they do. I think it must have been that Abel brought the good stuff and Cain brought some not-so-good stuff. (There is a lot of produce that is not-so-good.) But whatever it was, Cain knew exactly what to do. God speaks to him and warns him about his anger and lousy attitude: "If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?" He tells him: "Shape up. Do what you know is right. And the rejection will be gone." But of course, Cain doesn't do what is right. He is ticked, but not with himself or his failure to do the right thing. No, he is angry at his brother Abel, who did the right thing. And Cain says Abel is the selfish 1% and Cain is going to Occupy Abel. And rather than fix his own problem, Cain kills his brother.

Application: Even a direct warning from God himself cannot change the mind of a person determined to play the victim. Lord help us.

Prayer: Lord help us.

This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Title: God Shows Up / Topic: Mind-Numbed Religion

Today’s Reading: Genesis 1, 2; Luke 1

Scripture: Luke 1:21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple.

Observation: The worshipers at the Temple were expecting Zechariah to come out quickly and were surprised when he did not.

Application: It seems that they had, in those days, reduced the priestly intercession in the Holy of Holies to a brief affair. Perhaps just mumbling a few ritualized words memorized over the centuries by hundreds of priests who each took their turn, one by one, in that sacred place. Just going through the motions. Mind-numbed religion. No one expected anything to happen. No one thought that God would actually show up and do business. Surprise!

I think this is not unlike us today. We "do church" pretty much the same way week after week. We show up and put in our time and go home. What if God actually made an appearance and had something to say? I suspect that some folks might be mad that the service didn't end on time.

Prayer: Lord, please surprise us and show up. And may we be expecting you and ready for you.

This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Title: Hallelujah! / Topic: The Curse

Today’s Reading: Revelation 19, 20, 21, 22

Scripture: Revelation 22:3 No longer will there be any curse.

Observation: This short phrase announces a truly wonderful blessing: The curse is lifted!

Application: Think of all the negatives on this planet since the dawn of time. They are all the result of the curse. Now think of life without the curse. The curse meant pain, hard labor, a creation resistant to fruitfulness, and a break in the relationship between male and female, and death. (See Gen. 3:14-19)

The thought of a world free of the bondage of sin and the constraints of the curse is a dream that I can't wait to experience!

Prayer: Thank you Lord for the coming age in which you reign supreme and sin and the curse are banished from the earth. This last day of 2011 concludes a year that moves us one step closer to your return and this great fulfillment. Hallelujah!

This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Title: No Easy Victory / Topic: Christian Suffering

Today’s Reading: Revelation 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

Scripture: Revelation 13:1-10 (excerpts)

... And I saw a beast... The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority... He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation...

He who has an ear, let him hear.

If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go.

If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed.

This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.

Observation: These words from John's Revelation writings are ominous and, like so much of the Revelation, shrouded in mystery. While I have long taught that Revelation's basic message is "God Wins!", these verses clearly show that it will be no quick and easy victory. There is war -- suffering -- death. And not just for the enemies of God. We see that the saints, God's faithful and chosen ones, have to suffer mightily at the hands of the beast. In fact, the text tells us that the beast is "given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them." (vs. 7) Apparently, God's plan requires a season of defeat for the people of the Kingdom of God!

Application: We often hear teachings and testimonies of victory and deliverance. I like to hear them. We want to be encouraged with ideas that God will intervene and we will be rescued from the battle. But the truth is that often, we as God's people must go through seasons of battle and even defeat. Yes: in the end, God wins. But let us remember and hold on to the words of John: "this calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints."

Prayer: Dear Father, May I be found faithful in my days of battle and my seasons of defeat. May I find strength in the constancy of you regardless of the fickle circumstances of my life. I am so glad to be in your strong and loving hands.

This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Title: It's One or the Other / Topic: Single-mindedness

Today’s Reading: Job 28, 29; Galatians 1, 2

Scripture: Galatians 2:10

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Observation: Paul is writing to confront the Galatians because they have veered away from the faith that Paul had delivered to them. They have been led onto a wrong path by false teachers and Paul is trying to persuade them to get back.

In verse 10, Paul makes a statement in his own defense that caught my heart. He points out a dichotomy: you can please people or you can please God -- it's one or the other. And he makes a strong definitive declaration. "If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ." Serving Christ and trying to please people are mutually exclusive.

Application: This is something I personally have to contend with on a regular basis. Likely rooted in my own insecurities is my hunger to be considered important in the eyes of others. Paul says this is inconsistent with being a servant of Christ. Here's what I believe on the subject: If you please God, it doesn't matter who you displease and if you displease God, it doesn't matter who you please.

Prayer: Lord I want to be single-minded in my pursuit of pleasing and serving you and you alone. Help me to find my security in your approval. I am your servant.

This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Title: Get It Over With / Topic: Jesus' Thinking

Today’s Reading: Psalm 121; Mark 9, 10

Scripture: Mark 9:25-27

When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

Observation: Jesus is confronted by a father of a boy who is possessed by a demon. The boy is rolling on the ground, foaming at the mouth, in a demon induced convulsion. Jesus stops his conversation with the father. Notice the language: "When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit." Jesus took fast action to get rid of the demon because there was a crowd gathering to see what was going on. He wanted to get it over with before the crowd arrived. Most of us would wait, welcome the crowd, and milk it for extra effect (and a big offering): "OK, everybody stand back and witness the awesome power of God!"

Jesus doesn't seem to be interested in crowds. For example, after feeding the 5,000, he puts his disciples on a boat and disperses the crowd. Here, he intentionally does a quick deliverance to avoid a show, then gets alone with his disciples.

Application: In all of today's reading in Mark, what struck me was how Jesus' thinking and approach was so totally different from the disciples. They don't listen, they don't get it, they don't understand, they want the wrong things, etc. They are really clueless. This gives me hope. If Jesus can work with those 12 guys, just maybe he can work with me too. I hope so. I just want to think and be more like Jesus.

Prayer: Lord, that's my prayer. To think and be like you more and more.

This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Title: Convenient Lies / Topic: Christian Mythology

Today’s Reading: Job 20; Mark 3, 4

Scripture: Job 20:4-5

“Surely you know how it has been from of old,

ever since man was placed on the earth,

that the mirth of the wicked is brief,

the joy of the godless lasts but a moment."

Observation: Zophar, along with Job's other "friends" in his suffering is incensed at Job's insistence on innocence. All are convinced that Job is suffering because of his own misdeeds (although they have not been able to give a single concrete example of one).

Here, Zophar repeats the accepted religious mythology: "the mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment." And, he couches it in language designed to present this as a well-established truth that no reasonable person could disagree with.

Application: The only problem with the "truth" that Zophar confidently asserts is that it is false. Other than that, it is great advice! The real truth is this: wicked, godless people often enjoy lives that evidence obvious power, pleasure, fame, and fortune. They can have wealth and ease throughout their lives. So is that "brief" or "but a moment?" Maybe in geological terms, but in terms that a suffering person relates to, no. So Zophar's assertion is not only untrue, but, compounds the ugly accusations of those who are supposed to be his comforters.

Christians have a number of convenient lies that we hold to and repeat with confidence but that are not true.

(Example: I have heard this advice given: "Don't say 'I'd never go to Africa because once you say that, God will send you there.'")

We need to look to the word of God for our information and hold tightly to the truths we find there. We can offer those as reliable truth in our counsel to others. Everything else we need to give as suggestions or opinions.

Prayer: Lord, make me a faithful teller of truth. Show me the convenient lies that I have accepted unaware. Help me to give the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.

This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Title: Get Specific / Topic: Becoming Better Communicators

Today’s Reading: Job 6, 7, 8; Acts 12

Scripture: Job 6:24-25
“Teach me, and I will be quiet;
show me where I have been wrong.
How painful are honest words!
But what do your arguments prove?"

Observation: (This post continues the theme of the previous day's post.) Job is reacting to Eliphaz words in the previous two chapters. Eliphaz's theme was the idea that good people get rewarded by God while bad people get punished. So Job and his children must have done something bad or all this bad stuff would not have happened.

This ticks off Job. He tells Eliphaz that the general nature of his points is worthless. He wants Eliphaz to get specific. Give concrete examples: "show me where I have been wrong."

And Job commits himself to being teachable, if -- and this is an important if -- Eliphaz can give him those specific places where Job has been wrong. "Teach me and I will be quiet."

But as the discussions continue, the specific examples Job is requesting are nowhere to be found, but platitudes about.

Application: It is easy to spout platitudes and generalities. While most of these commonly believed sayings have some truth at the root of them, they have plenty of exceptions, and some are even flat-out wrong. When giving criticism or correction, it is important to give actual examples. This provides a handle for the person to know what it is that you are talking about and what to do to improve.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for faithfully recording these events so we can learn how to better communicate your truth to those needing guidance. Help your people to become great communicators and comforters.
This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Title: Eliphaz Has Spoken / Topic: Condescending Comforter

Today’s Reading: Job 5; Psalm 108; Acts 10, 11

Scripture: Job 5:27

“We have examined this, and it is true.

So hear it and apply it to yourself.”

Observation: This is the conclusion of remarks made to Job by Eliphaz, one of the friends that came over to comfort Job. What strikes me here is the absolute surety that is expressed in all of what Eliphaz says as clearly reflected in these words: "We have examined this, and it is true." Case closed, end of story. Eliphaz has spoken. And, as if this is not audacious enough, he concludes with: "So hear it and apply it to yourself." Not only is what Eliphaz has said fully and incontrovertibly true, it is the exact prescription for what is wrong with Job. "Job, just take the prescription and that will fix you." It's quite arrogant and condescending, if you ask me.

Application: It seems to me that many Christians today are like Eliphaz, tending to have quick, sure answers to those who are hurting around them. But, like Eliphaz, many supposed answers are not real answers at all, but are clichés and formulas that can be hurtful or offensive and often miss the issue entirely. Job's friends started well by simply being with him in his misery. But once the advice started flowing, they stopped listening and slipped into counselor mode, giving Job their pat answers and really bringing more grief into his situation. This was the last thing Job needed.

I think we need two things in this regard, greater humility concerning the things of the invisible realm, and to become better listeners.

Prayer: Lord, keep me from becoming a condescending comforter to those who are hurting and need your help. May I be quick to hear and slow to speak. And help me to recognize that I "see through a glass darkly" concerning the things of your realm so that I don't assert my opinion ignorantly as if it is fact.

This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Title: Guard the Gates / Topic: The Sabbath

Today’s Reading: Nehemiah 13; Malachi 1, 2; Acts 4

Scripture: Nehemiah 13:19-22

When evening shadows fell on the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I ordered the doors to be shut and not opened until the Sabbath was over. I stationed some of my own men at the gates so that no load could be brought in on the Sabbath day. Once or twice the merchants and sellers of all kinds of goods spent the night outside Jerusalem. But I warned them and said, “Why do you spend the night by the wall? If you do this again, I will lay hands on you.” From that time on they no longer came on the Sabbath. Then I commanded the Levites to purify themselves and go and guard the gates in order to keep the Sabbath day holy.

Observation: Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem to find gross violations of God's law. Neglect and corruption are everywhere. The tithes are being embezzled, the Levites have left their posts, an enemy of the Jews has a rented room in the temple, and the Sabbath is ignored.

So Nehemiah takes action. Here he enforces the Sabbath by ordering that the gates of Jerusalem be shut tight and guarded for the entire Sabbath (from sundown to sundown). The merchants and traders who regularly did business on the Sabbath showed up and camped out, but they were not allowed in. Eventually, they gave up and stopped coming on the Sabbath.

Application: The Sabbath principle is this: There is a part of our time that belongs to God. It is his and not ours. (This is similar to the tithe principle, which has to do with our income.) This story clearly demonstrates that there are plenty of people and activities that will try to steal God's time. And if we aren't paying attention, they will be successful. It takes real determination and effort to reserve God's time for God. This is especially true today with 24 hour TV networks, ever-present Internet on WiFi, smart phones, iPods, and the multiplication of entertainment and amusement opportunities.

We have to shut some gates, post some guards, and monitor those points of entry so that those intruders cannot get in and steal from us what is not ours to give.

Bottom line: Give God his time. It takes force to set it apart and guard it. Get alone with God. Give him at least one day out of seven. (Sabbath means seventh.)

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father,

Forgive me for my neglect of time with you. And I confess that this will be a struggle for me, as I am an easily distracted man. Help me to find the will and the ways to guard your time in my life. I want to know you more and more. May I live these words that I claim to believe.

This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Title: The Currency of the Kingdom / Topic: True Riches

Today’s Reading: Nehemiah 11, 12; Psalm 1; Acts 3

Scripture: Acts 3:6-8

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.

Observation: Peter and John encounter a crippled beggar at the gate of the Temple. They make eye contact and the beggar is hopeful that they will put some money in his jar. (Most people avert their eyes from beggars.) But Peter doesn't give him money. In fact he says he doesn't have any. But then, these words: "but what I have I give you..." are prelude to the miraculous. "In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise up and walk." And the man is helped to his feet and he can walk and even jump around! Peter didn't have money, but he had the currency of the Kingdom.

Application: Unfortunately, most of our American churches cannot say what Peter said. We would have to say, "Silver and gold we have, (some much and many a little) and that is all we can give." Today, the crippled, the blind, the deaf, the demon possessed, we can only help with money. We sponsor a program or provide an outreach. But precious few are dramatically healed by the name of Jesus.

Money has become a crutch that has crippled the church. With prosperity and acceptance, we have drifted steadily away from the miraculous. But if all we offer is social programs without the power of God, have we not just become another social services provider?

Somehow we need to get back to the true riches of the power of God and forsake the religious urge to do good with our own resources.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father,

Give us your power. We have lost so much. We say we believe in your power but we don't walk in it. Help your church repent and to come back to functioning in the power of your Holy Spirit. We would see the name of Jesus elevated, not by clever words, but by the demonstration of the power of God in our broken world. Help us, dear Lord.

This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Title: Do You Tremble? / Topic: The Fear of the Lord

Today’s Reading: Ezra 9, 10; Psalm 131; Luke 21

Scripture: Ezra 9:3-4

When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled. Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me because of this unfaithfulness of the exiles. And I sat there appalled until the evening sacrifice.

Observation: Ezra has just been informed that many of the Israelites have intermarried with the nations around them. And Ezra is appalled. He tears his clothing and pulls out hair from his head and beard -- a sign of his deep distress. And there are people that join him in his sorrowful travail. They are described as "everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel." That means that also among God's chosen people there were those who did not take God seriously. Apparently, many were casual and nonchalant about God and what it meant to be a God follower. And those casual Israelites did not understand what Ezra was making such a fuss about. Why make a big deal over who marries whom? Doesn't God love everybody anyway? And what's with this trembling at the words of God? That seems pretty extreme.

Application: Today we Christians have a "personal relationship with God." God is our friend. God is gracious and kind. He gives us 12 steps to freedom, happiness, prosperity, fulfillment, family harmony, church growth, etc. Just raise your hand and accept Jesus as your personal Savior and you are set for eternity. There are not too many people who tremble and the words of God. We take our assurance of relationship with God as a done deal. But is our casual approach to God right?

After all, the word does tell us that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" and that there is a "wide road that leads to destruction and a narrow road that leads to life and few find it" and that we are to "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling" in order to "somehow, attain to the resurrection from the dead." In Luke 21:36 (today's reading) Jesus admonishes us to pray that we "may be able to stand before the Son of man." This doesn't sound like I should glibly count on this being a done deal to me.

Our modern casual approach to God is based on partial truth. We need the rest of the story: God has expectations and makes demands of those who would follow him. And we ignore these things at great peril. When was the last time that the words of God caused me to tremble? How about you?

Prayer: Lord, have mercy on me a sinner. Enable and strengthen me in my inner being to love you and pursue you with all of my heart and mind and strength. Help me to be able to stand before you on that day.

This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Title: Ears To Hear? / Topic: Listening For Today

Today’s Reading: Zechariah 10, 11, 12; Psalm 126; Luke 14

Scripture: Luke 14:35 ..."He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

Observation: Jesus is speaking to the crowds with instruction peppered with parables. The topic is the cost of following Jesus. He says that to follow him will cost a person everything, even his family! And Jesus uses parables to encourage us to count the cost in advance. He likens following him to building a tower and to going to war, both intensive undertakings. He sums up in verse 33: "In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." Then, using salt as a picture of the true disciple he says this: "Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out." I don't know of any way for salt to lose it saltiness except to be polluted or thinned by having other stuff mixed in. Lastly he gives the words which are the subject of today's post: "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

Application: As a person who has read through the Bible scores of times, I often come across familiar passages and say to myself, "yeah, yeah, I know what that means..." and the like. I can actually tune out because I have heard it all before. And I found myself doing this today, as I read Luke 14. "Yeah, yeah, hate your family, build a tower, go to war, be salt, zzzz..." Then I got a jolt: "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." I realized that I don't have ears to hear. I had tuned it out. So I want to say,

Prayer: Lord, give me ears to hear -- ears that are wide open to always hear whatever you are saying to me today -- ears that never assume that I know what a passage means simply because I have read it before. It is so good to know you always have something fresh for me each day. Give us this day our daily bread.

This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Title: Let The Children Play / Topic: God Shows Up

Today’s Reading: Zechariah 7; Zechariah 8; Zechariah 9; Luke 13

Scripture: Zechariah 8:3-5

This is what the LORD says: “I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain.”

This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.”

Observation: These words of the prophet speak of a future time of God's blessing upon Jerusalem. The Lord promises to return and dwell in Jerusalem. I love how the effect of God's physical presence in the city is described: safe streets. Men and women of "ripe old age" [you gotta love that phrase!] sit in the streets which are also "filled with boys and girls playing there."

Application: You don't see safe streets in most places in today's world. We have mean streets. Old people, particularly women, are not safe in our mean streets. And most parents wouldn't think of allowing their kids to be out in the streets playing. We can't let our kids out of our sight. But when God shows up, everything changes. God's presence results in people simply being able to live in a safe and fun place. The old folks hang out in the streets. Boys and girls at play fill the streets. I can't wait for the Lord to show up in Jerusalem. Let the children play.

Prayer: Lord, you are so amazing. You are holy and awesome and almighty and powerful. And yet when your presence comes into the realm of humans, it's recess for the kids! That's fantastic. Help me to be a person who walks in your power in the way that old folks and children feel free and at ease to just enjoy life.

This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Title: The Main Event / Topic: Focus

Today’s Reading: Haggai 1; Haggai 2; Psalm 129; Luke 10

Scripture: Luke 10:38-42

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Observation: Martha is busy and distracted with so many things: "all the preparations that had to be made." Mary prepared herself for the main event: sitting "at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said."

Application: "Only one thing is needed." That is what Jesus said. We need to remember these words of Jesus and the example of Mary. Stay focused on the main event. It is Jesus.

Prayer: Dear Father,

Thank you for this little story that always brings me back to my Savior's feet. Help me to stay put in that place.

This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Title: Those Pernicious Jews / Topic: Israel Under Attack

Today’s Reading: Ezra 4; Psalm 113; Psalm 127; Luke 9

Scripture: Ezra 4:12-16

The king should know that the Jews who came up to us from you have gone to Jerusalem and are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are restoring the walls and repairing the foundations. Furthermore, the king should know that if this city is built and its walls are restored, no more taxes, tribute or duty will be paid, and the royal revenues will suffer. Now since we are under obligation to the palace and it is not proper for us to see the king dishonored, we are sending this message to inform the king, so that a search may be made in the archives of your predecessors. In these records you will find that this city is a rebellious city, troublesome to kings and provinces, a place of rebellion from ancient times. That is why this city was destroyed. We inform the king that if this city is built and its walls are restored, you will be left with nothing in Trans-Euphrates.

Observation: A remnant of Jewish exiles have been allowed to return to Jerusalem. Their neighbors stand in strong opposition to any thought of the repatriation of the Jews in their homeland, or the reestablishment of the Jewish capital. Leaders of the anti-Jewish forces deliver a defamatory and accusatory letter to the emperor, an excerpt of which is the scripture above. The result was that the Jews were compelled by force to stop the rebuilding of the city.

Application: History is repeating itself. Just this past Friday, the President of the Palestinian Authority spoke before the UN General Assembly to ask for a permanent state of Palestine, with Jerusalem as its capital. Much of his speech was an attack on the nation of Israel:

"...the occupying Power [Israel] continues to impose its blockade on the Gaza Strip and to target Palestinian civilians by assassinations, air strikes and artillery shelling, persisting with its war of aggression of three years ago on Gaza, which resulted in massive destruction of homes, schools, hospitals, and mosques, and the thousands of martyrs and wounded. The occupying Power also continues its incursions in areas of the Palestinian National Authority through raids, arrests and killings at the checkpoints. In recent years, the criminal actions of armed settler militias, who enjoy the special protection of the occupation army, has intensified with the perpetration of frequent attacks against our people, targeting their homes, schools, universities, mosques, fields, crops and trees."

These Jews sound really, really bad! (This strikes me in a similar way as the letter from Ezra 4. Hmmm...)

Also on Friday, the Prime Minister of Israel addressed the same body. He pointed out that the nation of Israel has been "singled out for condemnation more often than all the nations of the world combined. Twenty-one out of the 27 General Assembly resolutions [passed in the history of the UN] condemn Israel..." That is truly stunning.

What is going on here? Why is Israel under such vicious attack today and all throughout history? It must be those pernicious Jews, right? How ironic that the one true democratic government in the middle east is so vilified. I believe the true reason is that Israel is the only Jewish nation on the planet and the Jewish people have been selected by God as his unique people. So satan, who hates God, also hates his people, so he has been busy throughout history stirring up all kinds of hateful attacks against them.

Bottom line: Christians, God's "other" chosen people, must prayerfully and actively support Israel. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Pray for our world. Pray for God's truth and justice to prevail.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father,

Lord, our world needs your help. And right now, there is a strong tide against the Nation of Israel. Father, I ask for your strong hand of protection to be over this nation. Encourage those people who are the scorn of much of the world. And I ask that you would begin to unmask the deceiver and neutralize the deception and lies that propagate hatred and undermine the prospects for true and just peace. Defeat the enemies of Israel I pray. May there be peace and security for Israel. I pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Title: How's Your Credit Rating / Topic: God's Rewards Program

Today's Reading: Daniel 11; Daniel 12; Luke 6

Scripture: Luke 6:32-36

"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

Observation: Jesus gives an incredibly difficult challenge to us mortals here. He shares a standard that is so high that without divine intervention, we just can't do it. In fact, this is one of the earmarks of authentic Christianity: it is impossible to do in our human strength. Any system of religion that can be accomplished by people trying really hard is a man-made system. God's true system is beyond our ability. God himself must empower the human or it can't be done.

So Jesus says, "So you're a nice, honest person. You love and do good and even lend to others. That's nice. But that won't help your heavenly credit rating. Anybody can do those things. But how about loving and doing good and lending to your enemies? Without expecting to get anything back? Now if you can do that, your credit rating will soar -- and you'll earn lots of God's Reward points."

Application: Of course, the rub is that humans can't do what Jesus suggests. I mean we could be nice or love or lend to an enemy once or twice, but humans cannot live this kind of radical counterculture lifestyle consistently. And I think it is really hard even with God's help! It seems the point here is that all of us must realize how far short we fall of the kind of amazing person that we can be in God -- the kind of person that Jesus was. And that should cause humility to grow and inspire a hunger and a seeking after more and more of God.

Prayer: Lord help me to fix my heavenly credit rating. I need so much more of you and so much less of me.

This I pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Title: The God of Second Chances/Topic: God's Willingness to Forgive

Today’s Reading: Ezekiel 33; Ezekiel 34; Ezekiel 35; Revelation 18

Scripture: Ezekiel 33:14-16 And if I say to the wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ but he then turns away from his sin and does what is just and right — if he gives back what he took in pledge for a loan, returns what he has stolen, follows the decrees that give life, and does no evil, he will surely live; he will not die. None of the sins he has committed will be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he will surely live.

Observation: The people of Israel were under great duress because of God's judgment that had fallen heavily upon them. They knew that they were getiing their just desserts. They had no one to blame but themselves. And they just gave up. But God tells Ezekiel to let the people know that their situation wasn't hopeless -- things still could change! In these verses the prophet gives God's words of hope: "If the wicked person stops being wicked, turns around, and starts doing the right things, he can experience blessing."

Application: I love the fact that God want to see wicked people change and not suffer. (Read verse 11.) He is a God of second chances. So the application is something like this: "If you're doing stuff that is bad, knock it off! Start doing the good stuff and you can get the good stuff from God." Yeah!

Prayer: Dear Father, Thank you that you love to give second chances to people, even when they have been stupidly subborn. Thank you that you are always looking for the lost sheep to bring it back into the safety of your flock and into the care of you as the Good Shepherd. Help me to do the good stuff.

This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Title: Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later / Topic: God's Justice

Today’s Reading: Leviticus 26; Leviticus 27; Acts 23

Scripture: Leviticus 26:40-43

40 "But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their fathers—their treachery against me and their hostility toward me, 41 which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies—then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, 42 I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. 43 For the land will be deserted by them and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them. They will pay for their sins because they rejected my laws and abhorred my decrees."

Observation: Moses is concluding his instructions to Israel and here the Lord is speaking to the people through him. God is urging the people to follow Him and listing the blessings of obedience. But also,

God warns the people against disobedience and lists the severe consequences of rejecting Him. This passage, near the end of Moses' comments, is a part of the summary and in it God gives a way back to Him even after a season of rebellion. What I notice here is that God tells the people that even if they don't observe the sabbaths that God has proscribed, they will be observed through judgment. God will see to it.

Application: So I can obey and do what God is requiring, or I can disobey and not do it, but either way, it will get done. For if I don't do it, God will get it done another way, usually to my pain and loss. God says, "You can pay me now, or pay me later, but either way, I will get paid!"

Prayer: Lord, I choose to pay You now. Help me to remember this choice always, especially in times of temptation and doubt. I choose You as my Lord and not myself.

This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Title: When Can Kindness Be Cruel? / Topic: God's Perspective

Today’s Reading: Leviticus 23; Leviticus 24; Psalm 24; Acts 21

Scripture: Leviticus 24:10-23

10 Now the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites, and a fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite. 11 The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name with a curse; so they brought him to Moses... 12 They put him in custody until the will of the LORD should be made clear to them.

13 Then the LORD said to Moses: 14 "Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him. 15 Say to the Israelites: 'If anyone curses his God, he will be held responsible; 16 anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Whether an alien or native-born, when he blasphemes the Name, he must be put to death...

23 Then Moses spoke to the Israelites, and they took the blasphemer outside the camp and stoned him. The Israelites did as the LORD commanded Moses.

Observation: What a tough passage! My bride and I listened to today's reading, including this passage, with my mother-in-law, who we are visiting this weekend. She is a fairly new Christian and I felt a bit awkward as we listened with her to the story of the stoning of the blasphemer. If these are difficult passages for mature Christians, how much more are they for newbies? So my wife and I made a few comments about the fact that this is a difficult story but that God's plan was for His people to be holy and that meant ridding themselves of polluting influences. But even that was not thoroughly satisfying.

I am reminded of a phrase from Proverbs: "the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel." (Proverbs 12:10) A good example of this is those who have sympathy for terrorists and want them accorded the rights of American criminals. By trying to be so kind to these evil killers, they risk the lives of many innocents. Rather than being willing to give any discomfort to the terrorists (I am not talking about torture -- burning with hot irons or pulling out fingernails or shocking sensitive areas), they become willing to allow innocent men, women, and children suffer the cruelest kinds of pain as the result of terrorist acts that might have been prevented. Good-headed people understand the difference between unallowable torture and the wise, limited methods of maximizing the potential of getting the terrorist to divulge information that could save lives. One has to keep this difference in mind and maintain a long-range view.

Application: And that is what God, our Heavenly Father, has -- a long-range view. He saw that if this blasphemer was spared, significant damage to His people would be unavoidable. The message would be loud and clear that God could be blasphemed without consequence. The fear of the Lord, a vital factor to be maintained, would be effectively neutralized. (And remember, that this was a day where Moses had been communicating the instructions about "solemn assemblies unto the Lord.") God's kindness and mercy for "the innocents" required this man's death. Do I like it? No -- and neither did God, I believe. But it was right, and necessary, and ultimately the kindest thing God could have done for everybody.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for who You are -- that You have great wisdom that transcends ours and that You allow us to grapple with these things by including the difficult stuff in Your word. I am grateful that You have such great love for Your people that You are willing to make the tough calls. Help us to embrace Your wisdom and to humbly accept the limitations on our understanding and the subsequent "not fully knowing" that results. Keep me close to You, Lord.

This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Title: One Helpless Man / Topic: The Power of a Praying Church

Today’s Reading: Exodus 39,40; Psalms 15; Acts 12

Scripture: Acts 12:1-5
1 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. 4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.
5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

Observation: I love verse five! This verse hints to what is really going on. The maniacal King Herod and the compromised Jewish leaders collaborated to destroy the Church. And after slaughtering James, their thirst for blood and power drove them to deal their death blow by killing Peter, the leader of the Church, as well. All the power of the Roman Empire was lined up against this one helpless man. "...but the church was earnestly praying to God for him." (vs. 5) Unbeknownst to Herod and his cohorts was the fact of an unstoppable Unseen Power behind this one helpless man. And the praying church was in the process of unleashing this Unseen Power against the Empire of Man. The situation was bleak as far as the church was concerned. But it did not stop them from "earnestly praying to God for him."

Application: 1) It is better to be one helpless man relying on the power of heaven than a mighty king with all the resources of earth. 2) The praying church may look helpless, but it unleashes a force against which nothing can prevail, so 3) Pray and keep praying.

Prayer: Lord, thank you that you are not restricted by what we see. Thank you that you are not restricted by anything but your own will and purpose. And thank you that ultimate justice will be done in the final analysis. I am one helpless man who trusts in you. Thank you for receiving me.
This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Title: Two Talented Guys / Topic: Skill Requirements

Today’s Reading: Exodus 35, 36; Acts 10

Scripture: Exodus 35:30-35
Then Moses said to the Israelites, "See, the LORD has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts- 32 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 33 to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic craftsmanship. 34 And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. 35 He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them master craftsmen and designers.

Observation: Moses and the Israelites are preparing to fabricate the Tabernacle. Now the Tabernacle is the very first officially-designated place where God will meet regularly with human beings! (Maybe it's the second one, with the garden of Eden being the first.) And Moses has invited the people to bring all kinds of raw and finished materials that will be needed to put this Tabernacle and all its furnishings together. And now it is time for the work to begin. Here Moses discusses the people that will be in charge of doing this one-of-a-kind task. What gets my attention is that these guys, Bezalel and Oholiab, are highly skilled craftsmen. In fact, that seems to be their only qualification! (Oh, and they could teach others too.)

Application: Sometimes in the church, we don't put enough emphasis on the skill of those doing the work. That is, we select people because they are willing, and because they say they have "a call from God." But sometimes, the work done by "willing" and "called" volunteers is not up to par. Now I'm not advocating that we select people for tasks in the church based only on their skill -- character and spirituality are vital considerations as well. But I think that if we want excellence in the results of any ministry, then high skill should be one of the primary requirements for those leading and carrying the bulk of the load.

Lord, send highly skilled people to the church to do the tasks in a way that creates results that are in keeping with Your excellence. Let us not excuse slipshop performance by claiming that the "anointing" makes up for the poor quality. May we always be excellent in result, as well as in character and in spirituality.
This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Title: Give Me All Of God / Topic: Wise, Godly Leadership

Today’s Reading: Exodus 33; Exodus 34; Psalm 16; Acts 9

Scripture: Exodus 33:13-18 (excerpts below)
13 "If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people..."
15 Then Moses said to him, "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here..."
18 Then Moses said, "Now show me your glory."

Observation: Moses and the Lord are having quite a conversation here. God is telling Moses that the people have serious problems and that leading them is going to be challenging. What I love here is how Moses responds to the Lord. He just keeps asking for more and more of God.

Application: What this reveals about Moses is the key. Moses knew he needed God -- all of God -- to succeed. There was no option -- Moses would do it no other way. He asks for God to teach him His ways (vs. 13), give him His Presence (vs. 15), and show him His glory (vs. 18). I'm sure Moses was a gifted leader. But gifting is not enough for Kingdom leadership -- a Kingdom leader needs the King -- his ways, his presence, and his glory.

Bottom Line:
If you want to lead in the Kingdom with wise, godly leadership, talent, training, and skill are not enough. You need ALL OF GOD. So make the pursuit of God Himself your primary pursuit and let that be the foundation upon which the skill, talent, and techniques that you acquire as a leader.

Prayer: Lord, help me to know you and have your ways, your ongoing presence, and your glory as the obvious foundation of all you have called me to do, and the leadership responsibilities you have given me. May I exercise them faithfully, in a way that pleases you and blesses those you have called me to serve.
This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Title: God In A Box / Topic: Mystery

Today’s Reading: Ezekiel 1, 2, 3; Revelation 2

Scripture: Revelation 2:17
...To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

Observation: Today's reading in Ezekiel and Revelation is full of strange visions -- some really weird stuff -- like "hidden manna" and "a white stone with a new name written on it." What's that all about?

Application: Every time I read these passages, I am reminded that God cannot be put in any box. Whenever I think that I have God figured out, and that I can put him into some sort of system, God moves out of my box and my system as if to simply remind me that he is God and is beyond my ability to fully know all about him. Now that should never stop me or you from doing all we can to learn about God, nor should it cause us to doubt what he has already revealed to us about himself, but it should keep us humble and seeking to learn more about him and his ways.

Bottom Line: "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." 1 Cor. 13:12

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you that you are a big God and beyond our ability to contain all that you are. Thank you for your mercy in reaching out to us and enabling us to know you, however imperfectly. Enlarge my understanding of you and keep me from ever presuming to know all about you. Thank you for being such a good, loving, and powerful Lord.
This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Title: They Love To Be First / Topic: False Believers

Today’s Reading: Jeremiah 50, 51; 3 John

Scripture: 3 John:9-10
9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. 10 So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.

Observation/Application: There are have been and there always will be false believers in the church. And, like Diotrephes, they sometimes end up in leadership positions. This is just a part of dealing with fallen people in a fallen world.

Bottom Line: Keep your eyes on Jesus, your feet on the ground, and your beliefs grounded on the Word. And watch out for those who present themselves as an authority disconnected from your established structure. Jesus is always right on -- other, not so much.

Lord, thank you for being a rock upon which we can always stand. Help me to live in submission to you and to your word and to those in authority over me.
This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Title: "I Will Give The Order" / Topic: God's Power

Today’s Reading: Jeremiah 33, 34; Psalms 74; 1 John 5

Scripture: Jeremiah 34:21, 22
21 "I will hand Zedekiah king of Judah and his officials over to their enemies who seek their lives, to the army of the king of Babylon, which has withdrawn from you. 22 I am going to give the order, declares the LORD, and I will bring them back to this city. They will fight against it, take it and burn it down. And I will lay waste the towns of Judah so no one can live there."

The king of Babylon has been attacking Israel. They recently withdrew from Jerusalem and the people are breathing a sigh of relief. But God tells them that the attack will resume and Jerusalem will fall. What blows my mind are the words of God recorded in verse 22: "'I am going to give the order,' declares the LORD, 'and I will bring them back to this city. They will fight against it, take it and burn it down. And I will lay waste the towns of Judah so no one can live there.'" God himself will give the order to the enemy armies to return to Jerusalem and defeat the forces of Israel and destroy the city!

God has the power to use whomever he pleases to do what he wants done. Sometimes we think that the evil people are beyond God's control and that we are defenseless against them. But God has ultimate control over every power and even uses the power of evil to bring about His righteous ends.

Bottom Line:
Submit to God. Trust in Him. It can bring great confidence and peace if we rest in the truth that He holds the upper hand in all things. Therefore...
    Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Lord, You are Lord of all. And I am thankful that You called me to Yourself that I might belong to You. You are my Lord. Help me always to keep in mind that You have me in Your hand and that You have ultimate command over everything that I encounter. May I always live in Your blessing, Lord.

This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Title: Keepin' It Real / Topic: Walk With God

Today’s Reading: Jeremiah 48, 49; Psalms 67; 1 John 1

Scripture: 1 John 1:6-10
6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

Observation: Walk the talk if you're gonna talk the talk. That's the message John gives here. "If we claim" John says -- it's easy to make claims, but the proof is in how you live. If your life doesn't demonstrate the character of God, then your claims are false! Johns says it plain: "we lie and do not live by the truth." Walking with God means that we walk with others in open and confessory relationship: confession our sin, admitting our sin, not claiming that we are without sin or above sin.

Application: To have a real walk with God means that you have to be real in our walk with others. That means, we have to maintain an authentic accountability and openness that allows and even invites others to truly see what is going on in our lives and hearts and help us stay on the narrow path that leads to life.

Prayer: Lord, keep me firmly planted in the real walk with others that I may truly walk authentically with you.
This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Title: Do You Truly Love Me? / Topic: Passion & Motivation

Today’s Reading: Jeremiah 45, 46, 47; Psalms 105; John 21

Scripture: John:21:15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?"...

Observation: Confrontation! The risen Jesus challenges Peter.

You will remember that Peter had decided to go fishing. (I think that they were supposed to wait where they were, but Peter, once again, got tired of waiting.) Peter apparently loved fishing -- or at least he loved the comfort of doing something that he was good at. Now Jesus appears to them on the shore after Peter and the others came up empty after a night of fruitless fishing. He tells them to throw their nets on the right side of the boat (notice that he didn't say the "port side" or "starboard," terms a fisherman or sailor would use -- he said "right side," a term a carpenter would use). When they do it, they make a huge haul of fish. Now, back on the shore, Jesus has just fed them a tasty breakfast of fresh fish and toast.

And it is at this moment that he challenges Peter: "I know you truly love fishing. Do you truly love me more than these fish?" Peter gives him a weak response: "Lord, you know that I like you a lot." But Jesus doesn't let up and challenges him again...

Application: I want to focus on the very basic challenge to Peter which is the most foundational challenge to every believer: "Do you truly love me more than these?" And "these" refers to the things that we are truly captivated by: our stuff, our pursuits, our loves, our pleasures, our image, etc. "Do you truly love me more than these things?" Jesus asks you and me. I think that, if we are honest we, like Peter, should say, "Lord, I'm very fond of you." But my inner desire is to be able to say unequivocally, "Yes, Lord, I love You more than these things!"

Bottom Line: To truly follow the Lord, we must Love Him more than anything that this world and our lives in it would offer.

Prayer: Lord, I want to love You more than anything and to have my obedience and dedication to You motivated by that love. Assist me and empower me Lord to have and maintain a love for You that eclipses any other passion.

This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Title: Faithful Examples / Topic: Faithfulness

Today’s Reading: Jeremiah 26, 35, 36; John 20

Scripture: Jeremiah 35:8-10
8 We have obeyed everything our forefather Jonadab son of Recab commanded us. Neither we nor our wives nor our sons and daughters have ever drunk wine 9 or built houses to live in or had vineyards, fields or crops. 10 We have lived in tents and have fully obeyed everything our forefather Jonadab commanded us.

Observation: Jeremiah's attention is drawn to the clan of Recab by the Lord. And, though Jeremiah prepares and offers them wine, they refuse on the basis that their forefather, Recab, forbade them to drink wine. And the Recabites share their commitment to follow all of Recab's instructions to them.

Application: These Recabites were highly commended by the Lord for their faithfulness. But most of the people around them thought they were just plain weird. They lived in tents, they had no property, no fields, no crops -- they were nomads. What I get from this is that God can find high value in things that we would dismiss out of hand. That means we should be careful not to be hasty in judgment concerning the way that other believers are led to follow the Lord. As Paul warned against concerning "passing judgment on disputable matters": "Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind," and "stop passing judgment on one another.. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way."

Bottom Line: God has people around us who are good examples of following him. Not only should we look for such examples, we should strive to be those examples.

Prayer: Lord, help me to be as faithful to You are the Recabites were to the words of their forefather. Make me into the kind of example that You can use to show others the pathway to you.

This I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.