Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My drug of choice...

Jonah 4:19
Then God said to Jonah, "Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?"
And he said, "It is right for me to be angry, even to death!"

James 1:20
"for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

Man's anger brings about death. As the saying goes, "anger is a poison that one drinks in the hopes that someone else will die."

So why is it that I feel so justified, like Jonah, to be angry? I get so bent out of shape when someone or something does not go my way. My pleasure, comfort and met expectations are undeserved blessings from God born out of His great mercy and grace. Were it not for His great love for me, I would know nothing but the suffering of sin and the decay of this world. So why do I indignantly expect such favor?

For starters, I don't value the things that God values. I place my selfish desires above other people. Like Jonah, I'd rather see someone else suffer than miss out on what I feel I deserve.
I also have a tendency to neglect gratefulness. I am so blessed that I've grown calloused to God's provision in my life. What are luxuries and privileges have become like an addictive drug that I cannot do without. I'll lie, cheat, steal, manipulate and fight just to hold onto the buzz of my comfortable life. The only way to overcome this addiction is with gratitude and a right recognition that these things are really undeserved blessings.

Father - reorder my values around what you value. Break my addiction to comfort and my own pleasure and make me to be grateful in all things.

Colossians 2:4 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Fear the Lord

Jonah 1:9
So he said to them, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

Like Jonah, our sin causes us to run from God. All those around us may see the shipwreck coming but we could be fast asleep and numb to God. This sinful conditions does not change who we are - Jonah was still a Hebrew and we are still Christians. However this does change our relationships with God drastically. We move from a reverent fear of God to a terrifying fear of God. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God," (Hebrews 10:31). In this fearful moment, Jonah acknowledges that he has nowhere to run. God is God in heaven, on sea and on dry ground. As David wrote in Psalm 139:7-12,
"7 Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall[a] on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.
And yet God was gracious in saving Jonah from the stormy shipwreck, the raging sea and even the whales teeth and digestive track! Doesn't this reveal something amazing?
Our great fears are most realized not when a sinner turns back to God, but when he or she refuses to! Guilt and shame are small prices to pay for the gracious restoration of the sinner who repents - and even these God graciously cleanses away. "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water," (Heb. 10:22). What an awesome God we serve.

Father - wake me up and help me realize my sin. Fill me with a reverence for You and turn my fears to repentance. Show me Your mercy and let me once again proclaim Your grace. Amen.

Monday, December 29, 2008


Philippians 4:11-12
"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."

Contentment like Paul's is rare. This quality of contentment is not measured by stuff or comfort or status or health or peace - but by the fullness of Christ. We have all met discontent people with much, with comfortable lives, great health, and favor as well as those with none of these. As is written in Proverbs 27:20, "death and destruction are never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of a man." Paul on the other hand learned to take his eyes off the things of this world and place them solely on Christ. He learned to be satisfied and filled with the Spirit of Christ rather than his own righteousness or any other worldly pursuit. For Paul, even his righteousness and pious pursuits were considered rubbish compared to knowing Christ and even identifying with His death and suffering (Phil. 3:8). Paul changed the measure of contentment in his life. (I like to think of Paul saying something like, "if at first you don't succeed... change the game!) By simply changing the measurement of contentment Paul came to realize that he could "do all things through Christ" who gave him strength (Phil. 4:13).
So the question I am faced with today is "am I content"... but instead, "am I filled with Christ?" Am I focused on my relationship with Him over all else? What am I doing to be filled with His Spirit and His strength?

Father - fill me with Your Spirit and let me know Your strength. Teach me to live and rest in Your presence. Make me content in You alone. Amen.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Anticipation of conformation

Philippians 3:20-21
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

As I struggle in this life to overcome sin and my flesh, I can live in anticipation of the day when Christ calls me home and grants me a glorified body, free from sin and temptation. While I am unable to subdue myself, He is fully able to subdue all things, even me! Furthermore, I will be free to fully serve and praise Him unhindered by my own flesh. My offering to Him will be pure, my motives will be pure.
Just the thought of this makes my heart sing!
What a glorious and fulfilling day it will be to stand before my savior unhindered by this flesh - free to love Him as I ought!

Father, help me to live in anticipation of this glorious day. May this thought drive me to purity and obedience as I seek to love you as I ought in this life. Amen.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

to both work and will...

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

Isn't free will really just an illusion?
According to this passage I am not only unable to do as will, but I am unable to even will what I may. (I'm sure there is some sort of philosophical problem with that sentence but I don't have the will to correct it.)
God not only empowers me to do His work, but also to want to do it! On my own I would not choose good nor find the capacity to do it (Rom. 3:12). But by His Spirit in me I am able to obey and desire obedience.
Thank God that He has chosen to change my will. I'm grateul that He didn't just extend to me a balance of choices. I know that I have the sort of will and appetite that struggles to do good. I know I need this degree of intervention. This truth leads me to praise God for His wisdom and grace in going to such lengths to not only ensure my salvation but also my sanctification. Christ has certainly and thoroughly done it all for me. I have nothing to boast in. He is the only author and perfecter of my faith (Heb. 12:2).

I praise You Father for Your sovereign and gracious work in my life. Thank You for moving in me to will and to work for Your glory. Amen.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Suffering for His sake

Philippians 1:29
"For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,"

There are few words that better describe the life and ministry of Jesus than suffering. Simply living in the flesh must have been uncomfortable at best. To dwell with sinful man must have been agonizing. To take our penalty and suffer the Father's wrath must have been incomparably excruciating. And it has been granted to me not only to believe in Him but also to suffer along with Him. Why is this such a privilege and gift?
Through suffering I personally and publicly identify with the person and work of Jesus Christ. In suffering His Spirit comes alive in me and His strength is made perfect (2 Cor. 12:9). Suffering is the tool God uses to mold me into His image, to conform to His nature and ways. Suffering is the confirmation that I am truly living contrary to the world (Jn. 15:18-19). Suffering is the sign that I am living a life worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I have no ability to identify with or understand this type of suffering. I suffer what is common in life, but I have little idea of what it is like to suffer for the sake of Christ. The closest that I come is sacrificing luxuries or comforts like a new car, a bigger TV, meals out or leisure time. I may occasionally risk my reputation or a relationship by holding out the Word of God or calling someone to a higher standard. I may give sacrificially within my budget if I truly feel led. However, these rarely provoke suffering and what suffering they may present pales in comparison to Christ or the martyrs around the world; so much so that it would be unfair to call this suffering.
what would I need to do or change in my life to more fully realize and experience the privilege of suffering for the sake of Christ? I would need to be more bold in proclaiming God's Word and His Gospel. I would need to give more sacrificially, more deeply according to need and not supply. I would need to strengthen my faith in God's provision, protection and plan for my life. If I truly believed that His grace was sufficient for me, I would be more likely to step out in faith and take a risk.
And yet, to follow Him in faith is no risk at all. The real risk is found in remaining the same, staying comfortable, keeping silent. The real risk is believing and not knowing intimately the reality of His presence and ministry in my life. What a tragedy it would be to believe in Him and yet not know Him or identify with Him in this way!? What an empty faith this would be!?
I want to know Him. I want to identify with Hi suffering. I want to fully participate in His nature withing me. I want to live a life worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Father - make me more faithful, more bold, more sacrificial. Bless me to not only believe, but also to suffer along with Your saints, to be counted worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Being strong in power & might

Ephesians 6:10
"Finally my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might."

How does one become strong in the Lord and in His mighty power?
It feel like I can be faithful, obedient and diligent... but strong and mighty seems a bit more ethereal. I've tried to muster up spiritual strength and I've often asked for God to display His power but the results are less than reliable. Feeling strong in the Lord is a much more spontaneous experience dependent on the Holy Spirit. At times I just sense His presence and feel Him work instead of me. All I can do is to prepare myself for when He chooses to work... oh... (Eph. 6:10-18) and put on the full armor of God, wielding the Word and dedicated to prayer. When I put on the full armor of God then I am more ready and likely to experience His strength and power. After all, what type of a king would He be lending an unarmed and armorless soldier His power to fight? He won't send me into battle unprotected and unless I'm prepared for battle, I don't need His strength or power. I guess this strength and power thing is not quite as ethereal as I first thought!

Father - dress me fully in Your armor and prepare me for the spiritual battle around me. Make me worthy and fit for your strength and power to be displayed in and through me. Amen.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

my revealing walk...

Ephesians 5:8-10
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit[a]is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.

Isn't it funny how we pray and ask God to reveal to us His will? How often have I sat and waited for God to show me what to do or move me to where He wants me to be? This is the farthest thing from what Paul teaches here in Ephesians 5. Here, Paul commands us to go and walk as children of light regardless of what we know or how we feel. Then somewhere in the journey, God's will is revealed in and through us. When we walk faithfully, we will know the will of God and we will make in known. Another way of saying this is that the best way to discover God's will is to be obediently doing what we already know to do! We ought to be walking in love (vs 2) and demonstrating sacrificial love in all we do. We ought to be avoiding sin (vs. 3) and demonstrating to the world what a true believer looks like (vs. 11-13). When we simply obey and follow in the small things, God reveals to us all things.

Father - make me to walk as light, revealing Your will in all I do. Amen.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Grieving the Holy Spirit

Ephesians 4:30
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

When Paul writes about grieving the Holy Spirit he uses the Greek word "Lupeo" which is generally associated with deep loss or death. This is the same word used to describe Jesus' sorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane when He literally sweat blood (Mt. 26:37). Paul is not suggesting here that my sin simply frustrates or hinders or irritates the Holy Spirit - it sends Him into deep sorrow as if I were dead! He cannot avoid this reality since He is the seal by which my salvation has been secured. As blood is to flesh and marrow to bone, so is the Holy Spirit to each believer. He cannot simply turn His back or step away as I do my thing, my sin is His painful reality. And while I'd rather think this reaction is reserved for greater sin, all sins are equal and equally grievous to the Holy (without sin) Spirit. It makes me wonder how much of my life is spent grieving the Holy Spirit?

Father, give me the spiritual eyes to recognize my sin and realize where I have been grieving Your Holy Spirit. Make me keenly aware of when my actions, words, thoughts and motives do not honor You. Keep me from grieving Your Holy Spirit. Amen

Friday, December 12, 2008

to make known His mystery

Ephesians 3:10
to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,

We have been saved by God not so that we may know the mysteries and wisdom of God but that we may make them known. Event the angels long to see and know what we do (1 Peter 1:12). We are the fulfillment and revelation of God's great plan of redemption for all of creation, humanity, angels and nature (Rom. 8:20-22). We are the stewards of this great story for the blessing of all creation. The implications for this are huge! I am not simply another person who stumbled into God's grace life one finding a dollar on the ground. I am a chosen tool for accomplishing God's plan of redemption. I have no small part in the drama of life, I am His story dramatically unfolding before everyone and everything around me. All of creation is counting on His church to finish telling this story of redemption. The question I am faced with now is why I keep the knowledge and wisdom of this mystery to myself rather than sharing it and living it openly? Is it fear? Laziness? Business? Doubt? Selfishness?
All of creation is counting on God's children.

God - burden my heart to reveal Your mystery to everyone and everything I cross paths with. Give me the words to say and the passion to speak them. Let all creation be blessed as Your story unfolds in my life. Amen

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Ephesians 2:14a, 17
For he himself is our peace....
And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.

By the righteous life and substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross the wrath of God toward my sin has been appeased. I am no longer His enemy but His son, His friend, His servant. Because He died in my place I have peace to live each day free from the terror of offending my Holy Creator. I have confidence in His forgiveness and courage to approach His throne in prayer. Jesus along is that peace, all else is foolishness.
This is the truth behind the Christmas claim of "peace on earth." This is what the angels proclaimed that first Christmas (luke 2:14) and what is to be our proclamation still today. It wasn't enough for Jesus to simply "be" our peace, but to be and to preach peace to all who are far off and those who are so close. We must be His proclamation of peace, His ambassadors of this good news. It is not enough for us to carry with us Christmas cheer, we must also preach peace to those we meet.
So, what will my Christmas proclamation be?

God - give me the wisdom and courage to share Your peace, real peace, this Christmas. Give me the right words to share this good news and Your peace this Christmas. Amen.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

the prayer of my faith

Ephesians 1:17-19
"that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding[c] being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power"

What an amazing prayer to offer on behalf of another believer; knowledge, wisdom, hope, inheritance, power and mighty works of God... wow! What if all these things came alive in me? What if I dedicated myself to right doctrine and study of the Word of God, to let it come alive in me in wisdom and conduct, focused on the glorious hope that awaits and the unsurpassed inheritance of heaven, unhindered by this world but empowered by His Spirit for mighty works?! Sounds too good to be true... which is why this is such an amazing (and necessary) prayer. This type of life only comes by the Spirit of God through the prayers of His saints. We have been adopted as His sons (vs. 5) and must live like one. We cannot settle for ordinary or sufficient spirituality. We cannot get stuck in the rut of religion. Our hearts must burst with the light of His truth. That we have been made children of God and granted every spiritual blessing that comes with sonship... what motivation! This is the prayer of my faith; that I might know intimately (not academically or by pious faith) the reality of my identity in Christ and that it would lead me to see and participate in the works of His mighty power for the salvation of this world.

Lord, enlighten the eyes of my heart and make me to know who I am in you. Fill me with the hope of Your glory and use me for Your kingdom. Amen.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Not mine...

Joshua 24:13
I have given you a land for which you did not labor, and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them; you eat of the vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.’

How foolish am I to live in the illusion that I somehow have earned or deserve the blessings around me? I work hard each day but God blesses my labor, without Him I'm not blessed, I'm just busy. As it says in Psalm 127:1, "unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vein who build it." Even by labor is a gift from God, each day, each breath... all gifts. And somehow I still take pride in my position. How foolish! If this truth truly sunk into my head and my heart, what would my life look like?
I would praise Him more. I would be more careful to obey Him. I would be more generous, less selfish, more peaceful, less ambitious. I'd be more grateful for sure.

Father, make me more grateful for all You have given me. Help me to recognize all Your blessings, big and small. Teach me to be humble and to give You praise.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Careful Obedience

Joshua 22:5
"But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

This warning comes after god granted Israel victory in Canaan and peace in the promised land. Comfort has a way of leading to complacency. When there is no longer a pressing enemy or urgent need, we have a tendency to relax. This is why Joshua tells them to "take careful heed." Without trouble to prompt us, we have to be even more careful to seek the Lord and guard our steps. This warning also makes is perfectly, redundantly clear that it's not a heart or head devotion, but a devotion of action and obedience. Three times the word "command" is used. We must obey and follow all the commandments of the Lord. Warm fuzzies will not do, they will not sustain us. We must be religious about our devotion to following Him.

Father, make me more aware of my steps and obedient in all my devotion. Amen.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Unfailing promises of God

Joshua 21:45
Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.

What a faithful God we serve.
Not a word failed. Every promise was fulfilled, completely.
What a faithful God we serve.

Father, make me more faithful to follow You. Amen

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Control vs. Conquer

Joshua 17:13
And it happened, when the children of Israel grew strong, that they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not utterly drive them out.

Joshua 3:10
This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites.

Numbers 33:51, 52, 55
"Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, 52 drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places.
55 " 'But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live.

God promised to drive out and destroy all the inhabitants of the promised land for Israel (Josh 3:10). He also warned them what would happen if they did not follow through and utterly destroy them (Num 33:51-55). And yet, Israel failed to drive out all the inhabitants of the land on at least three occasions in Joshua alone. These tribes chose to attempt to control the remaining sin rather than conquer it completely. When we think we can let sin and temptation remain in our lives instead of removing them completely we open ourselves up to certain harassment and failure. Sin is no slave and temptation no servant - these are only cruel masters. This is why Jesus said to gouge out and eye and cut off a hand that causes sin (Matt. 5:29-30). We cannot afford to let sin and temptation remain in our land or our lives.
So where have I made space for sin? Where have I made concessions for temptation? Where am I attempting control rather than complete conquest?

Father - remove the sin and temptation from my life. Give me the courage to completely remove these masters from my home and my mind and my relationships. Let my life be pure and honor You completely. Amen.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Give me mountains

Joshua 14:12
"Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD said.”

Any worth while goal in life is not easy. And God-sized goals are even more challenging. The environment is often hostile and rough, the opponents are giant-sized, the prize is fortified... but the Lord will be with us.
Any "me-sized" goal is not worth chasing. If I have the ability to attain any goal within myself it will not require God's intervention or my faith... and the Lord will not be with me.
So like Caleb, give me the hill country. Give me the mountain.
Make me believe and exercise faith. Make me rely on my God.
Let my helplessness point only to His greatness.
Make me stand on the promised of God given long ago and passionately pursue them today. Let me claim His promises, presence and blessing with confidence.
Give me mountains.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My battles & God's battles

Joshua 10:42
All these kings and their land Joshua took at one time, because the LORD God of Israel fought for Israel.

If I count correctly, Joshua conquered eight kings and eight cities in one day. On that day, they traveled a long way just to begin the battle and even further in pursuit to finish it as God made the sun to stand still to prolong their conquest.
At times I limit just how much God can do through me. I expect His intervention but not that much, not eight cities and eight kings in one day! I expect miracles, but not ones that cannot be explained or reasoned, not the sun standing still. To be honest, I think this comes from my poor view of what God wants to do with me. This me and God thing is not a partnership. He does not need me. I don't fight His battles, He fights His battles. The only things I bring to the battlefield are faith and purity (Josh 7:13). These are my battles. God could and would do so much more if I let Him fight His battles and I fought mine.

God - give me the strength and favor to fight my battles of faith and purity. Give me victor and higher ground that I might see you win Your battles and expand Your kingdom. Amen.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Joshua 7:13(NIV)
"Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, 'Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: That which is devoted is among you, O Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it.

There are two important steps in consecration as illustrated by Israel regarding the sin of Achan. First, we must give ourselves fully over to God, calling on Him to sanctify us and the process as we invite Him back into the process and a new relationship. However when God reengages with with Israel, it is not for fellowship or to commune but to consume their sin. I think this is why so many of us are unwilling to enter into confession or turn to God when we have strayed - internally we bear the expectation of judgment. However, for consecration to be complete, we must allow God to do this second step of removing sin. God not only removed Achan and the accursed things, but also everything they touched; family, livestock, home, possessions. We too must ruthlessly remove sin both public and private. God know what I harbor. These are the things that stand between me and the full blessing of God.
How often have I begged the Lord's blessing while still harboring sin? I'm prove to invite God into my life, but resistant to letting Him root out the sin in my tent. I like the first step of consecration, but not the second. But to be fully consecrated to God, He must consume all that does not honor Him. His blessing demands my purity. He is worth my purity.
God, ruthlessly remove sin from my life. Uncover my hidden faults and sanctify my life and family to fully honor You. Amen.

James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Memorial stones

Joshua 4:20-24
And those twelve stones which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal. 21 Then he spoke to the children of Israel, saying: “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ 22 then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’; 23 for the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over, 24 that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”

What stones stand in my life and what do they mean? when others cross my path, what causes them to ask me a question? What prompts curiosity at my home, with my family and neighbors? At times I've set up stones of stubbornness, or statues of pride or accomplishment. These speak of my own importance, self-centeredness, status and agenda. But the stones God wants to erect in my life point to Him - He is the answer to the questions they prompt. This means more than choosing right at times or occasionally having the right attitude. It means developing the right attitude and character that are a durable and long-lasting as the boulders Israel pulled out of the raging Jordan. This means standing out in my work and neighborhood as... different, out of place - like the twelve smooth, river-washed boulders that stood on a hill in Gilgal. The end result of these stones is that the world around me would know the presence and power of God. But it begins with a boldness to step into the raging river and trust God to part the waters.
Perhaps I need to step into the water more ofter. Perhaps then I might find the stones to point others to God.

Father - deepen my trust and strengthen my character to be a memorial stone to Your greatness. Help me step into the water and show me Your greatness that I my point to You. Amen.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

God's Promises

Joshua 1:7-9
Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

In what do I place my confidence? Where do I find my courage? My strength and courage should be found in the law of the Lord and His promises.

Lord - Write your Word on my heart and make it dwell in my mouth that I may stand by its strength. Amen.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


James 5:8
You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

What would it be like if I lived each day, each moment, in the joyful anticipation of the return of Christ? How would I live my life differently if I truly believed that Jesus' return was just moments away? Theologically I believe that His return in imminent but this doesn't translate practically for me. To be honest I'm not really sure what this would look like or mean for me. After losing a parent and best friend to cancer, I feel more prepared to answer how my life would be different if I only had days to live. But what if we all had only days to go on this Earth as it is?
Evangelism would probably become a more pressing priority. I might not complain about much at all seeing as it will all change pretty rapidly. I don't think I would be as selfish, after all, I won't need any of my stuff shortly. That probably holds true for greed as well. I might be more vulnerable since others wouldn't have as much time to hold it over me. I'd probably make some confessions and seek forgiveness. I'd probably extend forgiveness too, I'd feel silly trying to carry a grudge into eternity.
Ok... so the obvious question is this; why not live this way now? If we wait until we're aware of Jesus return, we'll only have the twinkling of an eye to make our peace. Besides, His return is imminent - it could happen any time. Ready?

Father - keep your return on my mind. Let your return establish my heart in obedience and Christ-likeness. Fill me with the joy of knowing that You are breaths away. Amen.

Monday, November 24, 2008

doing good

James 4:17
Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

The Greek word translated "good" in this verse is "kalos." The range of meaning includes; beautiful, excellent, suitable, commendable, surpassing, useful, genuine, precious, morally good, noble, honorable and better. (This makes me think of Philippians 4:8-9)
This is probably not the list of meanings most people have in mind when they say, "he's a good guy" or "I'm a pretty good person." Even Jesus questioned the idea of goodness when He said, "why do you call me good? God alone is good" (Mark 10:18). So as I read this verse, I don't take the call to goodness lightly. This is not an invitation to do or be what the world would consider sufficient. We do not aim at good enough, God demands better. When we pass on doing good or settle for good enough we sin because we have held back our sacrifice from God. When we reserve our time or resources or attention or heart - we come before God with less than He demands. God wants to have and use all of me.
So where have I been holding back from God? Where have I settled for good enough? Where must I do better?

Father - open my eyes to see the opportunity for goodness all around me. Give me the courage and discipline to do good when I see it. May my life be a sacrifice that is fully pleasing to You. Amen

Friday, November 21, 2008

Wisdom from above

James 3:14-17
But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

Wisdom looks outward. Foolishness looks inward.
The wise man wins by losing, the fool loses by winning.
Wisdom begins with pure motives and a heart's desire set on God. Born out of this peace God has made with us is a peace to extend to others. And since He is in control, we do not have to strong-arm or manipulate others to make them conform, we can be gentle and sacrificial. Judgment is replaced by mercy because we know that only and ultimately God is judge. This is true in all circumstances for all people - so wisdom shows no partiality. Because this wisdom is for all time, there is no room for hypocrisy. This all begins wit ha heart focused on God and not on one's self.
So where is my heart focused? Are my motives pure, to please God? Have I made exceptions to where I practice wisdom? Is there anywhere that I am still acting the fool?

Lord, make me wise, gentle, merciful, sacrificial, peaceable, and loving. May you be honored and others edified by Your wisdom in me. Amen.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Law of Love

James 2:12-13
So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

The law of liberty is the law of love that Jesus display and which led Him to the cross. The law of love sets aside sabbath restrictions to heal the hurting. The law of love feeds the poor, even sinners, and eats with them! The law of love pays less attention to the cleanliness or holiness of others and more to one's own. The law of love errors on the side of forgiveness and sets aside judgment. The law of love challenges us to drop our stones and let the sinner go. The law of love does not worry about reputation or what others think. The law of love sets aside religion and ritual and takes time to bandage the wounds of the Samaritan. The law of love looks past differences, prejudice, hate and ignorance to both forgive and heal - to give the shirt off one's back and turn the other cheek. The law of love is to live and walk as Jesus did. Am I looking like Jesus?

Father - teach me to know mercy that I might live in the law of liberty and share your love with everyone I meet. Amen.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Widows & Orphans

James 1:27
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

Religion is the practice of our faith. In many evangelical circles religion is a bit taboo. It is said that Christianity is a relationship, not a religion. However we need religion to be part of our faith. Religion is the rituals and habits that keep us in step with our faith. At the core of our religion is the truth that God loves and has a special concern for the poor; especially those who have suffered loss. The way we exercise this truth is to care for the ones who most need care, who cannot care for themselves. This we must do constantly. We can't settle for an occasional donation or drop-in. We must develop a habit and ritual that causes us to cross paths with these people on a regular basis. Caring for widows and orphans must become our ritual.
This truth is what called us to adoption and foster care and a move back to Chicago to care for our mothers. And because of these shifts in our focus, we have been richly blessed. God has proven that His blessing rests on those who focus their lives on what He values, on what is closest to His heart.

Father - thank for your sharing this ministry with us. Thank You for calling us to bigger and more meaningful dreams than we could dream for ourselves. Draw us into greater faithfulness and purity and make our religion more pleasing to You each day. Amen.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

doing good

Galatians 6:9-10
And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

It's easy to lose heart and momentum in serving and giving. We run out of time, money, emotion, energy. We get self-righteous and feel that we've reached our quota or have sacrificed enough. We fail to recognize the great harvest that comes when we practice Christ-like sacrifice. Through sacrifice others are blessed, the church is edified, the unchurched world takes notice, society is improved, community is build and God is blessed. But above all this, we participate in the divine nature of Christ when we sacrifice, serve and give. His nature comes alive in and through us. He becomes more real in and to us! Our hearts should not grow weary. Through serving, our hearts are strengthened and our faith solidified because we have been invited to walk as Jesus walked.

Father - make me a servant. Renew my heart for goodness and sacrifice. Amen.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Balance of law and liberty

Galatians 5:13-14
For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

In Galatians 5 Paul takes on the balance between the law and liberty. To focus too heavily on the law is to render Christ's sacrifice and grace useless. We then become slaves to the whole law (Gal. 5:3-4). This is "legalism." To exercise excessive liberty is to let the flesh overpower the Spirit. Again, we become slaves to the flesh and render Christ' sacrifice worthless. This is "lust."
But hen we are careful to live and walk in the Spirit we let the power of Christ live through us. This is "love."
"Love covers a multitude of sins," (Prov. 10:12 & 1 Pet. 4:8). Love does not condemn the sinner like legalism, nor condone or cooperate with the sin like lust, but instead forgives and guides and reminds others of the words of Christ - like the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit and living out love is to produce fruit like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Gal. 5:22-23).
Is my life marked by these fruit? Am I living in legalism or lust? Where is my focus?... am I focused on the law or liberty or on the Spirit who empowers me to do all things in love?

Father - make me more loving. Teach me to walk in the Spirit and let love win in me and around me. Produce Your fruit in me and may my actions edify others and honor You. Amen.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Galatians 4:3-7
Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born[a] of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of[b] God through Christ.

In the Roman world adoption had two significant steps. First, the natural father would sell his son into slavery to the adopting father - then redeem him back. This sale happened a total of three times. However, after the third sale, the natural father could no longer buy back the son. The third sale signified the father giving up all rights to the son and the finalization of the transaction. At times a father would sell his son into slavery or servanthood in order to survive or pay a debt. A father could redeem his son only twice so as to prevent children for being taken advantage of. After this step, the son would become the full property and responsibility of the adopting father.
The second step was to remove the "slave" status from the adoptee and grant him full "son" status. This step ensured him all of the same rights a natural son would have, making him a full heir in the family. Equally as significant is the fact that this adopted son could no longer be sold into bondage again, the adoption process expended all legal opportunity. The nature of this process ensures the child security in his new family and legally protected him from any form of alienation.
According to this passage, Christ was sold into bondage for my sin and redeemed from the grave as the first-fruits of my redemption. I am no longer a slave to the law and the flesh but have been granted sonship. I have new Father and a new heritage. I have been granted all of the same rights as Christ - the natural son. I cannot be sold, given away or alienated from the Father. I belong to my heavenly Father. I can crawl upon His lap like a natural son, lay my head on His chest and say "abba - daddy." I am His.

Daddy - make me more and more aware of my sonship and all the rights and riches I have in your family as a join heir with Jesus. Teach me to live worthy of being adopted as your Son. Amen.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My tutor

Galatians 3:24-25
Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

The Greek word Paul uses for tutor here is "Paidagogos" which can also be translated "custodian." In Greek households, servants would be hired to care for and guide young boys to maturity, to teach them and keep them from physical and moral harm. Before Christ, the law served as our custodian, the ever-present reminder of God's standards (Deut. 6:-9) and our failure to meet those standards (Rom. 3:20 & 7:5). However when we reach maturity in Christ through faith, we no longer need this tutor nor is the law useful. For after faith has come we are given the Holy Spirit - an inward reminder of the Grace of God (Rom. 6:14-15) and freedom from the law, (1 Cor. 10:23). By faith, through the Holy Spirit, I now live in light of the Son of God who loves me and gave Himself for me (Gal. 2:20). I need no other reminder - I need no other master.

Holy Spirit - be my tutor. Guide me and protect me. Teach me to live in light of the Grace of God and the love of Christ to the glory of the Father. Amen.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

When Paul claims to have been crucified with Christ, he speaks of a one-time event that had eternal implications. Christ died once for the sins of the world; past, present and future. There is no need nor room for another sacrifice. When we place our faith in Christ and His atoning death on the cross, there also is no need nor room for another sacrifice. Instead, the implications of identifying with the death of Christ, crucifying our flesh with Him, should have eternal effect in our lives.
If I have put to death my flesh I live by faith, not by works. My confidence is in His work, not mine. My security is found in His crucified flesh, not my own.

However, I must ask myself constantly, "How now and I living?"
I can live one of three ways. I can live by the flesh, gratifying the sinful nature. I can live by law, attempting to conquer the flesh by acts of righteous, works of satisfaction. Or I can live by faith in the Son of God and His atoning work on the cross.

Living by the flesh is to deny the death of Christ on the cross.
Living by the law is to render useless the death of Christ on the cross.
Living by faith is to proclaim the death of Christ on the cross.

How now am I living?

Father - remind me daily that I have been crucified with You and my flesh no longer lives. Grant me the faith to live each day in proclamation of your love and sacrifice for me. Set me free from guilt and law and let me celebrate the life I live in You. Amen

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bondservant, pleasing God

Galatians 1:10
For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.

I can strive to please men and win the approval of those around me only in so much as I obey and honor God above all else. When I begin to make certain concessions concerning His Gospel I stop short of full obedience - I cease to be His servant. In winning this type of approval from men, they, in turn, win my allegiance. I become their slave.
Now favor among men is a good thing - even for the sake of the Gospel. However it is also contrary to what Jesus warned His Gospel brings (John 15:18). Men hated Him and they will also hate his followers. True favor and reception to the Gospel comes only by the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 12:3). And the Spirit of God moves most effectively when I submit fully to Him as His bondservant - seeking only His pleasure.
Therefore I will hold out the Word of Truth in all circumstances that He may be glorified and magnified in me, His servant.

Father - make me bold to honor You and speak Your Word before all men. Let me seek favor in You alone. Make me to fear no man. Use me fully and help me submit fully to Your spirit. Amen

Monday, November 10, 2008

not a futile thing....

Deuteronomy 32:46-47
“Set your hearts on all the words which I testify among you today, which you shall command your children to be careful to observe—all the words of this law. 47 For it is not a futile thing for you, because it is your life, and by this word you shall prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to possess.”

reading the Bible can get dry at times (especially when grinding through the books of the law). Scripture can get too familiar and feel redundant or routine. But regardless of how we feel about Scripture and our study of it - it is not futile. Even when our attitudes toward our time in God's Word are off, His Word is not without effect (Heb 4:12). I'm certain that the routine of reading this whole book of the law multiple times each month became cumbersome for Israel (Deut. 31:9-13). But in hearing and doing the Words written here - there is LIFE. And doing does not come without hearing... repeatedly - because we are a stubborn, forgetful, selfish people prone to wander away from His Truth. Futility is what becomes of a life not focused constantly on the Word of God. So when this Word seems routine - keep reading, pray for a change of attitude and keep reading until it changes you.

Father - make your Word new and fresh to me each day. Arrest my bad attitudes and fill me with a hunger and thirst for Your Word. Amen

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Serving whole-heartedly

Deuteronomy 28:47-48
“Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, 48 therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you.

Deuteronomy 28 describes the curses due Israel for disobedience. I'm sure that reading and remembering it had quite an effect on God's people - it's very detailed. However in forgetting to make God's law and Word central to their lives, this warning becomes a reality. There is no neutral ground in obedience. We cannot obey to commands of "doing" God's Word if we ignore the commands of "hearing" God's Word. We cannot celebrate the "abundance" of God's blessing if we fail to celebrate the "sufficiency" of His Word as well. His law cannot bring us hope if we lose hope in His law.
We will either serve Him whole-heartedly or we will be pulled away to serve another master. We will either serve with joy and gladness of heart or we will allow our harts to be hard and harder yet as we take our eyes, minds and hearts off of God and His Statutes.
Am I serving Him with Joy? Is my heart glad? In the midst of trying times, do I identify His blessings? Where will I set my eyes today?

Father - help me focus my eyes, mind and heart on You - to serve You whole-heartedly in joy and gladness, no matter the circumstances. Amen.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Complete Rejoicing

Deuteronomy 26:1-2,10-11
“And it shall be, when you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, and you possess it and dwell in it, 2 that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground, which you shall bring from your land that the LORD your God is giving you, and put it in a basket and go to the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide.
...and now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land which you, O LORD, have given me.’
“Then you shall set it before the LORD your God, and worship before the LORD your God. 11 So you shall rejoice in every good thing which the LORD your God has given to you and your house, you and the Levite and the stranger who is among you.

Rejoicing in God's blessing and provision is more than just proclaiming His goodness. True rejoicing involves placing God's blessings back into His hands to be multiplied in the lives of others. True rejoicing is a proclamation of God's blessings confirmed by offering back to Him every good thing which He has given us. Worship without offering or sacrifice is incomplete.

God - help me to identify Your blessings. Teach me to generously give back to You for the blessing of others. May my rejoicing and worship be complete and true. Amen.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween advice... & the nature of God

Deuteronomy 22:5
“A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the LORD your God.

Somewhat ironic and fitting on Halloween. :-)
The reality behind this is God's design in gender. He has created us in His image as male and female to reflect His nature and glory in specific roles and character. When we fail to reflect His nature by act, attitude and appearance, we dishonor His very nature. Living into God's nature in regards to gender means recognizing and embracing roles of leadership, accountability, submission, sacrifice, strength, tenderness and the like. We are to be clothed with the vary nature and character of God in all that we do (Col. 3).

Father, clothe me with your character and empower me to be the man You have designed me to be. Teach me to be humble and strong, wise and gracious, resourceful and generous, and to look like You in all that I do and say. Amen

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Battle belongs to God

Deuteronomy 20:1-3 & 8
When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. 2 When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. 3
8 Then the officers shall add, "Is any man afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his brothers will not become disheartened too."

"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God," (Psalm 20:8). In battle it's not about the size of the army, the number of weapons or the depth of resources - it's about faith in God. Without His blessing and our faith, no amount of well equipped warriors will ever prevail. Conversely, no army, no matter how small and humble, who believes in the God who fights for them, will ever fail. Since the battle belongs to the Lord, men without faith are no help at all. As we battle in our churches for the salvation of the lost, do we believe that the battle is God's or are we more focused on budgets, numbers of volunteers and facilities? If we have our faith focused on God, we have no excuse and no need for one - the battle already belongs to the Lord.

God, strengthen my trust in You and help me keep my eyes on You rather than on the tools and resources you have given me. Grant Your church the battle for the lost and may Your name be blessed. Amen.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Prophet like Moses

Deuteronomy 18:18-19
I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. 19 And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.

I am always struck by the Old Testament prophesies about Jesus. At times I think we overlook His role as Prophet. Jesus spoke God's words, not His own - the Father's words, not his. He gave signs and confirmations about what was to come and what was required of both Israel and the Gentile world. His words were true and undeniably wise... yet simple and accessible. If we study His words we find abundant life, light, security, confidence, joy, meaning, purpose, direction, hope and so much more. And we must study the words of this Prophet; they are like none other because they are not only from the Father, but of the Son. They are powerful beyond all other words for they are the declarative words of God.

Father - help me to know and remember the words of Your Prophet Jesus. Help me to Hide Your Word in my heart that I may not sin and that I may know abundant life. Amen.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A good word for Mr. President

Deuteronomy 17:18-20
“Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, 20 that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.

What a fitting reminder to all leaders. The king, president or head of any people, should be a man personally and intimately acquainted with the Word of God. How wise that the king should himself copy for himself the laws and statutes of the Lord. At this time of election in our country I can only pray that the man who will occupy the White House will become a man of this book.

Lord - may our leaders and presidents be men of this book. Drive them to know Your ways and live into Your law. Amen.

Half Hearted Sacrifice

Deuteronomy 17:1
“You shall not sacrifice to the LORD your God a bull or sheep which has any blemish or defect, for that is an abomination to the LORD your God."

Sacrifice that is not whole hearted and pure is not sacrifice at all. our minds are not challenged, our faith not tested, out hearts not strengthened when we offer up that which is not of utmost priority in our lives. Anyone can give from the change under the car seat or a few random minutes while waiting (or avoiding another dreaded priority). True sacrifice is to five of the deep reservoirs we have saved up and treasured - savings accounts, vacation time, me-time, etc. Sacrifice must cost us what we otherwise thought we could not give... or else it will cost us what we never thought to measure.

God - give me a heart of sacrifice and surrender. Drive me to give from my deep treasures. May my mind be on You and my faith strengthened by my sacrifice. Amen.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Healthy Heart, Open Hands

Deuteronomy 15:7-8 “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, 8 but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs.

God's heart is certainly for the poor. We, those who are blessed, are God's tools for meeting the needs of the poor. It's not about fairness or right or quantity or measure - it's a heart thing. Hard hearts disobediently hoard while healthy hearts generously give from open hands.
And when our hearts are right and healthy with God, we do not give according to what we have to lend, but according to what is needed. God calls us to give sufficiently to the need, not adequately according to our resources. God knows what we have and what we will have at all times. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10) and can use each one as He chooses. I can be certain that He will care for me as I care for the poor.

God - soften my heart to those in need and give me open hands. Help me to give according to needs, not resources. Amen.

You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

the blessing of curse

Deuteronomy 11:26-28
“Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: 27 the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you today; 28 and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known."

How good it is that we serve a God of both blessing and curse. It would be just and fair to simply remove His hand of blessing when we do not follow, but instead He chooses to actively push us back to Him. He chooses to show us by Word and experience when we have wandered from His ways. How good it is to know that we serve a God who goes to such lengths to demonstrate His presence and will to those He has chosen. He is not silent; in obedience or disobedience.

God - help me to know Your blessing and recognize your correction. Make me honor and follow you always. Amen.

Friday, October 17, 2008

To fear, walk, love, serve & keep

Deuteronomy 10:12-13
“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good?

To "fear" Him is to understand who He is and who I am in relation to Him; to have the right mind regarding the Lord.
To "walk" in all His ways is to give Him my body and all that I do as a perpetual act of worship.
To "love" Him is to give Him my heart and full commitment.
To "serve" Him is to offer up my time, talents and treasures in ministry to Him and for His kingdom.
To "keep" all His commands is to make a public habit of demonstrating my allegiance to Him in full obedience; to show the world that God is alive and living within me. To keep His commands is to openly display the grace of God before a world desperate for His grace.
This is for my own good that I may conform to the fullness of the image of God in me and fully enjoy His presence forever.

Father - help me remember my calling and follow this call today, and each day, that I may know Your goodness. Amen.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Humble me

Deuteronomy 8:3
So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.

God humbles us and uses things like hunger to teach us life's most important lessons. He uses need to show us His provision. He uses weakness to demonstrate His power. He uses foolishness to display His wisdom. He may let us starve physically so that we may not starve spiritually. When we refuse to be humbled we refuse the lesson and blessing of God. When we embrace the physical condition God has placed us in, then and only then can we fully attain the spiritual condition God has in mind for us.

God - humble me. Give me peace and faith to not struggle against my humble position. Help me to open my ears and eyes to You and receive Your lessons and blessings. Amen.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Infinite Mercy

Deuteronomy 5:9b-10
For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 10 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

God's mercy is infinitely greater than His wrath. This is not to say that He is easy on sin or would not punish the sinner - only that His desire is for mercy rather than wrath. For God disciplines those He loves, (Heb. 12:6). God's mercy can be seen in so many ways; patience, forgiveness, discipline, revelation, answered prayer, comfort, consequences, etc. Punishment only comes in degrees of wrath until the day of final judgment. Through mercy God is more glorified (Rom. 5:20-21); for this He is jealous. His desire is for His glory through His infinite mercy. We are the means by which He is glorified. We are a critical step in His glorification.

Father - make me a means for Your glory and the subject of Your infinite mercy. Teach me to love and obey You above all things. May love and obedience be the marks of my family for generations and may Your mercy abide with us forever. Amen.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Acts 3:28
But command Joshua, and encourage him and strengthen him; for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which you will see.’

Moses job was to empower Joshua to lead others where he could not go. Moses was given the vision but Joshua was given the blessing. as a pastor and leader my job is to empower people to advance the kingdom into places I cannot go; schools, municipalities, the market place, neighborhoods. Moses did this by commanding them to obey, encouraging them in faith and strengthening them for the battle. the plan is not different for me. As I lead, I must emphasize obedience, faith and mission. If these values are solidly ingrained in all I do as a leader and pastor, I can have confidence that the vision will become reality. I can be certain that God will accomplish His plan through us. The question I must consistently ask is "how can I better command, encourage and strengthen those entrusted to my care?"

Father, guide me in obedience, faith and mission that those who follow me may find Your will and experience Your presence and possess Your blessing. Teach me to be a better pastor and leader. Amen.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Cost of Obedience

Deuteronomy 1:25-27
They also took some of the fruit of the land in their hands and brought it down to us; and they brought back word to us, saying, ‘It is a good land which the LORD our God is giving us.’
26 “Nevertheless you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the LORD your God; 27 and you complained in your tents, and said, ‘Because the LORD hates us, He has brought us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us.

How often have I identified God's blessing or His potential blessing in my life but refused to pay the price? Here Israel weighted what they thought would be the price of obedience against the promised blessing of God. There is always a cost. However the cost of obedience is never as high as the cost of disobedience, regardless of the promised blessing. This is not to say that obedience does not cost us. At times the cost will be very great. And yet God has the ability and desire to fight for us and carry us as we obey (vs. 1:30). So instead of asking if it's worth the cost to obey, I should ask if it's worth the cost to disobey - to miss the blessing of God and arouse the anger of my gracious God.

Father - may I never weigh the cost of obedience. Give me faith to know Your provision and follow Your promises. Grant me a willing and firm heart to pay the price of obedience always. Amen

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Bound in Chains

Acts 28:20
For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you , because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.”

Paul was not in chains for breaking the law. On the contrary, his chains were voluntary. Paul invited the physical chains because he had already bound himself in spiritual chains to the Gospel for the sake of Israel, his brethren. He was a spiritual slave to God and embraced no less physically in order to reach his brethren in Rome.
How often have I embraced a spiritual truth, confessing it to be true but doing everything in my power to avoid it tangibly? I know God will care for me in want and need but I cheat Him financially and with my time to avoid poverty and make ends meet. I know He will bless my boldness when speaking His Word yet I avoid confrontation, favoring comfort or favor with my neighbors. I know He answers prayer yet I prefer to work things out myself rather than demonstrate publicly my dependence on God and risk my prayers going unanswered. To truly follow Christ, my spiritual chains must become physical.

God - make my faith tangible. Bind me to You in all ways that I may follow You... the hope of all men. Amen.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

be like me...

Acts 26:28-29
Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”
And Paul said, “I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.”

What a bold statement. While the bit about the chains was a joke, Paul was 100% serious about others following his example altogether in every way. Paul was proud of and confident in his obedience to Christ. Even under such scrutiny before king Agrippa and Felix and Festus, Paul knew there was nothing to hold against him but full obedience to both God and the prophets (vs. 22).
I want to like this life. I want to know this confidence. I want others to be almost and altogether persuaded by my life and obedience to Jesus.

Father- make me more consistent in my walk with You. Give me self control and discipline to obey in all circumstances. Make me and example to others in obedience and faithfulness. Amen.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Clear Conscience

Acts 24:16
This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.

Paul's strive was not favor nor peace. His aim was a clear conscience. The offense he avoided was not hurt feelings or differing opinions or intolerance. Paul was purposeful not to offend either God or man by sinning. His aim was purity not popularity, faithfulness, not favor. And while he attempted to be received by all men, his obedience clearly offended his fellow Jews. As Peter wrote quoting Isaiah 8:14, Jesus would be the "stone that makes man stumble and a rock that makes them fall" (1 Peter 2:7-9). This stone the builders rejected had become the capstone, putting great pressure on the stones laid before. The weight of the claims of Christ, and Paul's obedience to them, were too much for the rulers to bear - even while Paul professed to be all things to all men (even Jews) in order to win them to Christ (1 Cor. 9:19-20). Paul's offense was not in his behavior but in his obedience to a way contrary to the hearts and minds of sinful men. Do I seek to be accepted or favored or to not offend? I should seek obedience first and accept whatever follows by the grace of God.

Lord - may my offense be found in my obedience alone, not my attitude. Amen.

Monday, October 6, 2008

To be found worthy...

Acts 23:11
But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.”

Here in Jerusalem, Paul was beaten, imprisoned, betrayed and cheated... and God's response is "be of good cheer"... more is coming. Paul's cheer and joy came in knowing that the Gospel was being preached and that God was using him in such an audience as Jerusalem and Rome. Paul was glad to be found worthy of such suffering - such pressure for the sake of the Gospel.
Where do I find my joy and gladness? Is my joy in comfort or personal advancement or popularity or relationships or status?... too often the answer is yes.
I wonder what it would be like to be found worthy to suffer for the Gospel? What would I have to do or change to be called into such a ministry? I guess Paul didn't wait for such a ministry to arise but instead pursued Jerusalem and all the suffering that he was warned about.

God, give me the courage to pursue the most challenging of ministries for Your sake, for the sake of Your Gospel. Let my joy be found in You alone. Amen.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Evangelism or disobedience

Acts 22:14-15
Then he said, ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. 15 For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.

What a calling! How clear, how direct, how exciting would it be for God to make known to each of us His will for our lives!

He has. Each believer is no different than Paul in that we have all been called to be His spokespersons for all that He has done for and in us. Each of us is called to the Great Commission - to follow Christ into ministry daily and call others to follow along. There is no doubt about this calling. I am at all times an evangelist calling others to know and hear and see the Word of God unto salvation.

Anything less that this is disobedience.

Father - compel me to share my story and Your Truth with everyone I meet. Amen

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bound and Determined... in the Holy Spirit

Acts 20:22-24
And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. 24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Jesus & Paul

Acts 19:4-11
Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”
5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. 7 Now the men were about twelve in all.
8 And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. 9 But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. 10 And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.
11 Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul,

So much of this passage hints of Paul continuing and copying the ministry and model of Jesus. Both followed up on the baptism of John. The Holy Spirit was the sign and result of receiving the resurrected Christ by faith. Both began with 12 disciples. Both went first to the Jews in the synagogues in their region. When rejected by the Jews, both turned to non-Jewish people and began teaching in public and private to all who would listen. Both rook their disciples on missionary field trips around their region so that the Word of God spread in scope and power. Both ministries were marked by unusual miracles.

So whose ministry and model am I continuing? Would those entrusted to my care experience Jesus' ministry or mine? Do my results resembles Jesus'? If not, I need to rethink how I go about making disciples of Jesus Christ. I need to walk as Jesus walked in I expect my students to walk as He walked (1 Jn. 2:6).

Father - help me walk as Jesus walked. Make me more consistent to walk with Him each day & may this ministry look more like Jesus. Amen

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Vigor in Evangelism

Acts 18:24-28
"Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.27When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ."

When was the last time my evangelism could be described as "vigorous?" Timid, casual, comfortable, subtle, gentle, yes... but vigorous would be a stretch. I've argued vigorously, forcing my opinion on others. But Apollos reasoned and refuted them vigorously using the Scriptures. His strength and confidence and vigor was not in his own understanding or ability but in the mighty Word of God; pointing to Jesus Christ. And all this he did in public!... unashamed and exposed for his radical faith at a time when such claims were met with violence. So where did such vigor come from? Luke tells us in verses 24 & 25 that Apollos was "mighty in the Scriptures" and "fervent in Spirit," even before he knew the full truth of the Gospel and the person of Jesus Christ. Apollos was a true seeker who hungered for God, devouring his Word and drinking deep the Holy Spirit. I must daily do the same - with vigor, so that I may also share my faith with vigor.

Father - make me vigorous in study, vigorous to listen for your voice, and vigorous to share your Gospel. Amen.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pointing & Groping

Acts 17:27
so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;

God has done so much in and around us to force us into a God-hunt. Not only is there a God-shaped hole in each of us... but there are God-shaped things all around us that declare His presence and supremacy. Creation, nature, life , biology, genetics, order, morality, ethics, law, art, truth, relationships, conscience, history, literature, even fantasy... the list of hints is truly endless. God has not been lazy in providing us signs of His presence. My job is to point out just how close He is to each of us. I must find the signs and hints of God and declare His presence "so that they should seek the Lord, so that they might grope for Him and find Him." And I must not be surprised by the clumsy groping of a lost and confused world. Instead, I must point them to Jesus with confidence and prayer that their groping hands might lay hold of Him.

God, help me point others to You.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Grace; the source of joy

Acts 16:25
But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.

After being wrongfully and maliciously accused, beaten with rods, flogged and locked up in stocks in the deepest darkest dungeon of the prison; Paul and Silas sang hymns, encouraging the hearts of the other prisoners. Where does this joy come from? Grace.

When we come to understand the grace of God, the great gift of redemption, the freedom in Jesus Christ - no earthly circumstance can touch us - for we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). Intimacy with God through obedience to Christ, by the fellowship of the Holy Spirit produces full joy (John 15:10-11) that empowers us to love all people sacrificially - even our persecutors (Acts 16:27-34). The source of such love and joy is knowing the amazing grace of God in Jesus Christ - that He has set us free and secured our destiny and promised us His providence and protection.

Is my life marked by such joy? Am I more prone to complain or to sing songs of praise? Do I more often pray or pout? Is my joy contagious; setting others free in the grace of God... or is my joy shackled by circumstances?

Father - help me to know more fully Your grace in Jesus Christ that I may live a life of joy and love each day. Set me free from worldly thinking and give me the mind of Christ. Amen.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Faith + Grace = Salvation + Good Works

Acts 15:10-11
Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”

It seemed right to James and the other apostles not to burden Gentile believers with works such as circumcision. In agreement with the Holy Spirit(28) and in accordance with Scripture (15) nothing is to be added to faith to activate the grace of God for salvation. The equation is [Grace + Faith = Salvation + Good Works] (Ephesians 2:8-10)... not [Faith + Good Works = Grace + Salvation. We cannot substitute anything for the grace of God. Too many Christians try to add to their faith and pressure others toward the same with things that seem good and right and "Christian." The burden of the Christian yoke can easily be made as heavy as the Jewish yoke. But Jesus yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30). Because His yoke is rooted in grace (charis in the Greek) it is the source of joy and loving kindness and freedom by which good works are born. The burden of Christ is no burden at all. It is not our lifestyle or religious preferences that should be contagious - it is our joy!

Father, may I only burden others with the Joy of Your grace that they may experience Your grace in me and joyfully receive Your yoke. Amen.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Enduring Faith

Acts 14:21-22
And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”

As the great commission was being fulfilled, the apostles and especially Paul, came to understand the fullness of the commission. To accomplish what they were called to do would mean suffering, sacrifice and persecution. It would demand their comfort, their hopes and dreams, their time (all of it) and their lives! It would require resolve, strength, exhortation, unity and accountability. Tribulation was not an option or possibility; it was the only reality through which their faith would continue. For Paul, easy, cheap faith was no faith at all.
So why do I complain or get depressed when things doing go my way?... forget about tribulation, at times I can't even get over my own attitude or emotions! I feel so weak in faith.

God - strengthen my soul and my faith. Make my faith something of substance - however you wish. Let me see beyond myself and find an enduring faith to both promote and enter into the kingdom of God. Amen.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

As they Ministered to the Lord...

Acts 13:2
"As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said...."

I often wonder why I rarely hear from the Holy Spirit. I ask and pray for His guidance and that I would hear His voice. I spend plenty of time in the Scriptures. My full time job is to minister to the Lord in His church. So what am I missing?
I'm not suggesting that there is a formula that I can follow that automatically unlocks the Holy Spirit. I don't believe God can be manipulated this way. That was Simon the magicians sin in Acts 8. However, there has to be a way to organically and authentically connect with the Holy Spirit of God every day... at all times even. We see this pattern in Jesus and in the apostles here in Acts. They spoke of Him and to Him in such a way that makes me believe that He was right there next to them as much as was Barnabas or Mark or Silas.
In this passage, what strikes me most is the smallest word... "as." These guys didn't set aside time to be pious and meditate. They didn't hole themselves up in the mountains to copy texts, write letters or purify themselves. These guys got dirty connecting with the lost in the synagogues and cities where people most needed the news of the Gospel. They did not avoid the poor or the needy, they ministered! And "AS" they went about the work of the Lord, in prayer, the Word of the Lord came to them through the Holy Spirit.
While there is time and need to get away and alone (as Jesus did) I can't forget that God most often spoke while the apostles were obeying and ministering as God has already commanded. As I get busy with the work of God, ministering, I can't get so distracted by what I'm doing that I don't hear the Holy Spirit redirect me and subtly guide me. As I minister, I am not a problem solver or an event coordinator. I am the very representation and message of Christ to those around me. I must be in tune with the Holy Spirit.

God, slow me down and help me focus on You. Sharpen my ears to hear Your voice as I minister. Make me see opportunities to follow You and lead others to Your grace. Amen.

Unbelievable Answers to Prayer

Acts 12:14-15
When she (Rhoda) recognized Peter’s voice, because of her gladness she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate. 15 But they said to her, “You are beside yourself!” Yet she kept insisting that it was so. So they said, “It is his angel.”

Isn't it ironic that the followers of Jesus, Peter's friends, did not believe that they had received what they had been praying for all day and all night long?


Acts 11:24
For he (Barnabas) was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.

I want to have this same reputation.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Those who seek Him

Acts 10:2, 4, 34, 35, 43, 44
2) a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.

4) And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?”
So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God.

34) But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.

43) To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”

44) While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.

Every once in a while I hit a verse or passage that totally taunts my nice little neat box of theology. My friend Keith would be so happy with this taunt! This story challenges the idea that "none seek after God" and there is "no one who does good, no not one" (Rom. 3:11-12). It forces me to reconsider Hebrews 11:6, "without faith it is impossible to please God." There is such a thing as a "pre-christian." God does honor those who seek glory (as in God) by good deeds (Rom. 2:5-11). God loves those who seek Him (Prov. 8:17). And I must believe that the crowd Cornelius gathered at his home put a smile on the face of God. With God's grace I can applaud good deeds and affirm that these pre-Christians are not far from the kingdom of heaven (Mark 12:34, Romans 17::26-28). And if I can put my boxy theology and prejudice aside, like Peter I can point to Christ and to the completion of their faith (10:43) - the forgiveness of sins and the fullness of the Holy Spirit (10:44).

God - help me to lay aside my prejudice and good intention; help me to hear Your voice and follow Your Holy Spirit alone. Amen.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fear and Comfort

Acts 9:31b
"And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied."

At first read, these two phrases really struck me as odd; "fear of the Lord" and "comfort of the Holy Spirit." What is most odd is that fear and comfort don't often come from the same source. Yet here, the church is balanced in their walk by God's unique blend of fear and comfort, direction and freedom, correction and consolation. It's almost as if God has two hands stretched out alongside of His wobbly church, tipping it back and forth to keep it upright.

Father, help me to discern and receive both Your correction and consolation, to know both fear and comfort. Teach me to walk daily in this balance and enjoy Your increase in Your church. Amen.

Strength in the Holy Spirit

Acts 9:22
"But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ."

When Luke notes that Saul increased in strength he is not talking about physical strength. Saul set aside brute force, the authority of the government and his power to bind believers at the roadside to Damascus. I have to believe that his increase was in the strength of the Holy Spirit. While Saul received the Spirit through Ananias' laying on of hands in verses 17-18, I must believe it took quite a bit of work, if not a while, for him to learn how to discern the promptings of the Holy Spirit which he been resisting for so long (Acts 9:5). His strengthening and toning of his Spirit ears began back in verse 11 as he prayed. He continued to grow as he spend time in the fellowship of the believers at Damascus (vs. 19). Added to this was his worship and testimony for Christ int he Synagogue (vs. 20). And of course this all began with the vary Word of God - Jesus Christ, the risen Lord who had appeared to him on the road (vs. 4-6).
If I want to increase in strength in the Holy Spirit, I must give myself fully to the Word, worship, fellowship and prayer - just as did the early believers of Acts 2:42, just as Saul did here. There is no secret formula - simply discipline to continue steadfastly in the Word, worship, fellowship and prayer.

Father - make me disciplined in my walk with You. Strengthen me in your Spirit that You might use me more fully with each new day. Amen.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Seed planting & harvesting

Acts 8:5-8
"Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. 6 And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. 8 And there was great joy in that city."

I wonder if Philip knew that Jesus planted a seed at the Samaritan well years earlier? I wonder if the woman at that well in John 4 was still around to encounter Philip and his words and wondrous works? Were the people still focused on the prophet and messiah that passed through their forgotten city? Were they still waiting for His return and triumph? John 4:39 says that many believed in Jesus as prophet and Messiah. Here they complete their faith and take Him as their personal Savior and Lord. And just as Jesus said, the time had come to worship in Spirit and in Truth - no longer was it a matter of public location, alternate sites or general redemption, it was now personal, authentic and genuine.
I wonder how often Jesus Himself has planted a seed for me to tend to... just to watch me pass up the opportunity to water and harvest something miraculous? How often have I let my fear or prejudice prevent me from seeing the harvest prepared for me by Jesus Himself? (John 4:38)

God - give me ears to ear Your Spirit's leading. Give me boldness to speak and faith to know that you have gone before me planting seed. Keep me from fear, prejudice and poor thinking. Let me be lead by You and nothing else. Amen.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Cut to the Heart... hearing the Holy Spirit

Acts 7:54-55
"When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit...."
Acts 2:37
"Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
Acts 7:51
You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you."

The other time the phrase "When they heard these things they were cut to the heart" is used, in Acts, the people are asking what they must to in obedience to the man Jesus. When the Holy Spirit moves in Acts 2:37 the result is full submission, obedience, salvation. Here, just as Stephen identified in 7:51, the stiff-necked religious leaders violently resist the Holy Spirit and His work. And just to emphasize how thoroughly they resisted the Holy Spirit, Luke contrasts their response by identifying that Stephen was "filled with the Holy Spirit."
It's mind-blowing to consider the vast difference in response and consequence. In both instances the Holy Spirit is speaking and working. The tipping point for each is found in vs. 57; "then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears" Their voice was louder than the Spirit's and their ears were closed off to what He was saying.
It is so evident here in the book of Acts and even within my own life that the Holy Spirit is always at work, always speaking. I must listen - especially more-so when I am "cut to the heart." I must learn to keep my mouth shut and my ears open; to be still.
So do I have the ears to hear His voice and a circumcised heart to be cut and receive His word? Where have I stopped up my ears or hardened my heart? Where have I been moved by His prompting?

God - give me ears to hear and a sensitive heart to receive Your Holy Spirit; to discern His voice and submit to Your will. Amen.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Priority of Prayer

Acts 6:2-4
"Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

There certainly is no shortage of distraction - even good and noble ones - in the life of a pastor or spiritual leader. No one could possibly bear the load of a God-sized ministry alone. We must pick and chose wisely what we will focus on and what we will pass on.
For the apostles, their priority was first on prayer and on the ministry of the Word. From the text, I get the sense that prayer was a non-negotiable and the ministry of the Word was a wise choice. Prayer consistently pops up in the early church and the foundation stages as the strongest calling. Without prayer, the ministry of the Word lacks power. Without prayer, the ministry to the poor lacks discernment. Without prayer, miracles cease to occur.

So is prayer my priority? Is prayer something I schedule and plan for or do I squeeze it in between other responsibilities? Do the people in my care see it as my passion or simply a tool I use to open, close or transition my messages and meetings? Do I set aside tasks, even noble and necessary ones, to spend extended time in prayer seeking God's wisdom, favor and presence? Do I practice the prayer discipline of listening for God to speak back? Is prayer my first priority?

God - make prayer my priority. Not only remind me to pray, but make prayer my passion - give me a heart and dependence on prayer that drives me to your presence daily. Amen.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Worthy to Suffer... for His Name

Acts 5:41-42
"So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ."

I don't fully understand the joy of suffering, mostly because I have not suffered - for His name or any other cause. In itself, suffering is not, cannot be, a good or joyful thing. But the phrase "for His name" changes the experience completely. In suffering the apostles identified with Jesus, feeling honored to follow in His steps. Yet even more than identifying with Jesus in their suffering, their joy came from knowing they suffered for His name. This suffering was not just a response to good deeds or even revolutionary teaching, this was a direct response to their use of Jesus name. This joy and purpose came from knowing that suffering exalted the powerful and authoritative name of Jesus, by which men must be saved and may be restored. Even after the beatings, when they would be asked about their bruises and scars they would be able to exalt His name and tell their story. His name made all the difference.
So why don't I know this joy?
Perhaps if I exalted the name of Jesus more often I would at least give God a chance to count me worthy to suffer and bear His name with joy. They maybe one day I'll understand.

Father - make me bold to speak the name of Jesus Christ, my savior and God. Find me worthy to identify with Him in suffering and worthy to carry with me the scars and joy and story as I exalt Jesus name. Amen.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Name of Jesus

Acts 4:12
"Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

I chuckled out loud thinking about the question exchange between Peter and John and the Jewish rulers. Peter and John must have been thinking, "you want to know what?... really?... Cool! Alright, here goes... you asked for it!"
Knowing that this same group had Jesus crucified just weeks before, they could not help but proclaim the power and authority in Jesus name. Even after being told not to speak Jesus name, they couldn't help but proclaim it! (vs. 17-20).
So why do I have such a tough time with the name of Jesus? I'll say "God," or "Lord," or even "Christ" but rarely Jesus. I'm not proud of it, I'm actually embarrassed. I think its because I associate the name "Jesus" with all the children's' songs and flannel graph stories I learned in Sunday School. "Jesus" seems so juvenile. But exactly the opposite is true, when it comes to the names of God, we have given children the nuclear bomb of names! And for some reason, the older we get, we exchange this powerful name for pea shooters and sling shots. Perhaps if I better understood the power and authority in Jesus name I would speak it more often. There is not denying it - there is unimaginable power in the name of Jesus.

Jesus - fill me with boldness to proclaim your name through the power of the Holy Spirit. Teach me the power of Your name. Amen.

There's Just Something About That Name
Author Unknown

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
There's just something about that name
Master, Saviour, Jesus
Like the fragrance after the rain
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
Let all Heaven and Earth proclaim
Kings and kingdoms
Will all pass away
But there's something about that Name.