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.