Friday, January 30, 2009

Never let go

Psalm 55:22
"Cast all your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall."

Taken at face value this verse is so comforting. Looking deeper, this passage is both a strong call to faith and a call to daily reliance on God. For those who have not placed their trust in God of cast their "lot" or "burden" on Him (as is translated elsewhere) David declares that He is worthy and able to bear all our load. Not only is God able to bear our load, but also to declare us righteous. He is able to restore our right standing before Him and preserve that standing for eternity. We are secure! This is a powerful and encouraging call to faith.
For those who have cast their lot with God, this is a strong reminder of His faithfulness and worthiness of our trust. We do not have to worry about any tempest or storm (vs. 8) enemy or foe (vs. 12) nor companion or friend (vs. 20). God is in control and will not let those He declares righteous be destroyed. We can endure (vs. 8) because of who He is.

Thank You Father for your faithful provision, protection and care for me. Help me surrender more and more of my burden each day and find You more than faithful. Amen.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Impulse Control

Psalm 51:6
"Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom."

The Hebrew words for "inner parts" and "hidden parts" are rare phrases in Scripture and somewhat mysterious. David is not talking about the heart, the seat of emotion and will, but somewhere deeper and more unknown even to one's own self. This is the place where impulses and sinful indiscretions spring and surprise us. Proverbs 18:4 says, "The words of a man's mouth are deep waters...." Proverbs 20:5 says, "Council in the heart of a man are deep waters, but a man of understanding will draw them out." God desires truth, understanding and wisdom in the deep, dark, murky waters of our lives. God wants to control even our mysterious impulses. Paul wrote in Romans 7:15, "for what I am doing I do not understand, for what I will to do, that I do not practice, but what I hate, that I do!" So how can I give God full control of the place in my life that I do not control or fully understand?
Proverbs 1:7 says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." I must live every moment in full knowledge and expression of the presence of God. He must be my conscious thought and the song on my lips at every moment; to pray without ceasing, to inhale His Holy Spirit and exhale His praise moment by moment.

Father - teach me to breath Your presence, to inhale Your Spirit and exhale your praise. Teach me to know You in my inner most parts. Control my impulses and guide me in Your understanding and wisdom. Amen.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Awake and Alert...

1 Peter 5:8
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour."

I get the image here of a hunter who, with gun in hand, has gotten drunk and passed out on his own front porch as a roaring (yes loudly) lion casually approaches for the easy kill. As believers we possess powerful weapons of spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:12-18), we have strong shelter in Christ (Prov. 18:10), we have been given the very sharp mind of the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:16) - and yet we tend to get drunk on pride or self-centeredness and fail to even see the obvious dangers right in front of us. As believers, servants for the advancement of God's kingdom, we are even greater targets for the Devil. He is not lazy nor careless in his pursuit of us (Job 1:9, 2:7, Zech. 3:1, Luke 4:1-2, Luke 22:31). His aim is not to maim us but to consume us and our lives completely; our faith, our character, our passion, our time, our families, our relationships, our churches... leaving nothing behind. The stakes are very high. I cannot relax, coast, take for granted or become content in my walk with Jesus or my dependence on the Holy Spirit. I must resist the devil with everything I've got (1 Peter 5:9, James 4:7).

Father - make me keenly aware of the spiritual danger in my life. Keep me humble, sober-minded and vigilant for the attacks of the Devil. Strengthen my resolve to resist temptations and defeat the accusations of my enemy. Preserve and protect me, me and my family and my family of faith. Amen.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Manifold Grace of God

1 Peter 4:8-10
"And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."

God has blessed me in so many ways. I can't even count all of gifts of "the manifold grace of god" in my life. I feel like the billionaire about whom it is said he couldn't possible spend all his wealth even if he tried. The only way to truly appreciate and actualize this type of blessing is to give it away. We must become the Bill Gates of God's grace and leverage God's gifts to change the world. Yet sometimes I grumble. I grumble about not having enough money, time, stuff, energy, talent, etc.... The reality is that I don't have enough love. Love covers a multitude of sin and grumbling and more. If I loved others more than I loved the manifold gifts of God's grace in my life I would gladly give them all away. If I truly understood this command to "minister" them to others, I wouldn't hoard them. Peter never wrote for us to enjoy, treasure, save up, parcel out sparingly or reserve the gifts of God for a better opportunity. The command is to joyfully and lovingly pass along all of the manifold grace of God to one another. Will I hold tightly to these blessings or give freely of God's grace?

Father - make me hold loosely to the billions of blessings in my life. Push me and teach me to give freely of the manifold grace of God. Keep me from grumbling and worry and make me a cheerful giver. Amen.

Monday, January 26, 2009

good husband

1 Peter 3:7
"Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered."

My blessing, my inheritance from God, is directly ties to my relationship to my wife. We are one flesh and I, being the head and more sturdy, common vessel, am responsible to fill her up with love, honor and respect. The image I get here is of a clunky tea kettle filling a fine china cup with sweet smelling tea. When I neglect to fill my wife, I neglect my own calling and forfeit the blessing of that relationship as well as the blessing of my relationship with God (Prov. 19:14).
In every instance where the phrase "dwell with" is used in the New Testament,it is referring to either marriage (3 times) or God's dwelling within us (5 times). This means that my understanding and honor regarding my wife ought to be as constant and unchanging as the Spirit's presence within me. As God lives in me, so I live for my wife. Similarly, as I live for my wife, so God's Spirit lives within me; neglect for neglect, honor for honor, blessing for blessing. We are in this life together, as one-flesh heirs of God's good gifts. It is my duty and privilege and in my best interest to fulfill this role and invite God's blessing into our marriage.

Father - make me a better husband. Humble me and strengthen my ministry to my wife. Let me fill her more with blessing and honor and respect. Make me more understanding. Draw us close together as we draw close to You and hear our prayers for Your pleasure. Amen.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Suffering in His Steps

1 Peter 2:19-21
For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us,[f] leaving us[g] an example, that you should follow His steps."

To follow in the steps of Jesus is to take the path of righteousness and wrongful suffering. Perhaps no other word describes the life and ministry of Jesus better than suffering. Ordinary men will suffer for their faults but we are commended when we, like Jesus, patiently endure suffering for righteousness, doing good for the sake of God's glory. If my life is not marked by such suffering or even hints of it, I must ask myself if I am truly following in His steps. To this, to suffering for righteousness, I was called. I was not called to comfort or happiness or peace or praise or honor or influence. I was called to holiness (1 Peter 1:16) that leads to suffering. So when I suffer, I should not ask God why or beg for mercy but instead rejoice to be counted worthy to walk in His steps and to bring such glory to God. This is my calling. I want to be Holy, to suffer in His steps.

God take away my fear and timidity. Make me bold to speak out and step out in holy obedience to You. Make me less selfish and less busy so that I may follow in Your steps. Teach me to suffer for Your glory, to be found worthy to walk after Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Holiness - to be like Him

1 Peter 1:14-16
as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (Lev. 11:44-45)

1 Peter 1 is so packed full of deep and beautiful passages that I had a hard time focusing on just one. I must have read and reread this chapter 5 times. This portion however is so inspiring and challenging that I kept coming back to it. Oh to be Holy!

When do children become obedient children?... Not obedient out of fear or consequences, but out of character, values and truth. This obedience comes when a child matures and understands the character of their parent who has guided them through the lust and impulsiveness of ignorance. To know the Father and to have an intimate relationship with Him is to know His Holiness - the motivation of His calling and the fabric of His character, His nature. Then the relationship deepens and we desire to be like Him, not simply obey Him. I want to be Holy because my Heavenly Father, the Great I AM is HOLY.
Like a child who walks through the house in his father's shoes, tie and hat or her mothers jewelry and heals, we must take joy in reflecting the image and character of our Heavenly Father. To know Him is to desire to be like Him.

Heavenly Father - make me Holy. Let me know you and fill me with a desire to be like you in every way, in all my conduct. I want to he Holy. Amen.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Ruth 4:9
And Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, from the hand of Naomi.

While Israel played the fool, Boaz played the redeemer. His character, integrity and conduct clearly foreshadow the vary ministry and work of Jesus Christ redeeming those who were his own (Naomi) and those who were not (Ruth, the Moabitess). Even Chillion's land and his inheritance were redeemed though Orpah (1:14-15) did not return. Similarly Christ's blood and sacrifice covers sin completely and fully satisfies the debt for all humanity - even those who do not return. I wonder what ever became of Orpah? Did she ever return in desperation? Would she ever hear of the redemption that was accomplished in Bethlehem? How sad to think of the millions of people who wonder in sin, unaware of their redemption born out of Bethlehem!

Father - make me bold to share the news of Jesus Christ and the good news of redemption with those who do not know, who have not returned to You. Amen.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Lord's kindness

Ruth 2:20
Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “Blessed be he of the LORD, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!”

In contrast to Israel according to Judges 21:25, Boaz did not forsake the Lord but did what was right in the eyes of his heavenly king. Boaz must have been a man of God's Word - knowing the laws concerning aliens among Israel and God demand for hospitality.

Exodus 22:21-23
"Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.

Leviticus 19:10
Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God. (also 23:22)

Leviticus 19:33
'When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him.

Leviticus 19:34
The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

Again, in contract to the men of Gibeah who would not even welcome their own Levite into their homes (Judges 19:15) Boaz clearly demonstrated the Lord's kindness toward both Ruth and Naomi, as well as their deceased husbands, his kin. Just as God's kindness is everlasting, so was Boaz'. He went above and beyond the law in his kindness toward others.
So where are my limits when it comes to kindness? If my kindness has limits it is not of the Lord.

Father - make me more kind. Help me go above and beyond Your law and let my kindness to others be limitless that I may reveal Your glory in all I do. Amen.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Submission to Authority

Judges 19:1 "And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel,...."
Judges 17:6 "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

I'm certain that when this phrase was written, it was speaking of an earthly visible earthly king. However in reading it again this time, I took note that Israel had no heavenly king also - at least not one whom they submitted to. There was no governing authority over Israel to ensure that they would do what was right by God. The story that follows (the Levite's concubine and the eradication of the Benjamites) clearly casts God representative authority in some shady light and at best illustrates how off center Israel really was. The people no longer submitted under an earthly authority and so lost view of their heavenly authority. Even the most burdensome authorities in our lives are placed by God (Rom. 13) to teach us humility and submission to our heavenly authority. This is why it is so critical for believers to place themselves under authority and submit to one another (Eph. 5:21) "out of reverence for Christ." How can we submit to our heavenly authority which we cannot see if we will not submit to our earthly authorities that we can see?

God - humble me and teach me to submit to my earthly authorities so that I may submit more fully to You in all ways. Amen.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Shadows of Spirituality

Judges 17:5
"The man Micah had a shrine, and made an ephod and household idols; and he consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest."

What was Micah after in this story? Why embrace the shadows of spirituality or religion? What blessing could possibly be found in partial obedience or empty symbols? These symbols, office and practices are nothing without devotion to the God of these. They are intended to point us to God, however far too often they take the place of God.
I've seen worship take the place of the God we connect with in worship. I've seen the church become a higher symbol of God's presence than his very presence within us. The fellowship of the body can be exalted higher than the Head, which is Jesus Christ. Even the Word of God can become more precious than the Word made flesh (Jn. 1:14).
We must be careful not to gather around us the shadows (symbols, offices, practices) of religion and accept a false piety. True religion is falling in love with Jesus Christ above all else and living out that love in full obedience to Him. Anything short of this is empty, ineffective, unfulfilling and false. In the end, like Micah, we will find destruction. However if my hope and love is in the Lord, these shadows point me to Him, the substance of true spirituality.

Father - deepen my love for you. Fill me with hope in You above all things. Guard me from the shadows of spirituality and the temptation of religiosity. Let my love lead to full obedience and devotion to You alone. Amen.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Whose Strength?

Judges 16:28 & 30
Then Samson called to the LORD, saying, “O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!”
And he pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on the lords and all the people who were in it.

Throughout Sampson's many battles the text reads, "and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him," (14:6, 19, 15:14). However here in Sampson's final and most impressive act, it is not God's might that is displayed, but his own. Judges 16:20 reveals that Sampson's strength had left him along with the presence and favor of the Lord.
When we, like Sampson, get drunk on our own accomplishments or God's work through us, when we get prideful and arrogant, we find ourselves alone and operating out of our own strength when we most need His. We may still do mighty works and accomplish God's will, however the cost will be great.
Ironically, this final prayer is the only time in Judges that we find Sampson praying, talking to or even acknowledging God. By this time it is too late.
Unlike Sampson, I must stay humble and humbly connected to God in prayer if I am to expect His might to live in and through me.

Father - humble me to give you Glory and live in and by Your might and strength.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Stupid Faith

Judges 11:30-31
"And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD, and said, “If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, 31 then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.”

This is stupid. Jephthah already won the favor of Israel (11:6,10-11). He knew the story of God's favor with Israel concerning the land of Moab and Ammon (11:14-23). His theology was even correct and reliable - God already judged and would remain true to His judgment (11:24,27). Most notable, God had already given Jephthah His Spirit to dwell with him, guide him and grant him victory (11:29). So why does Jephthah make this ridiculous vow? Is he posturing for his brothers and Israel, for the appearance of righteousness? Is he hedging his bets in case God were to change His mind? Was he using God to rid himself of something or someone in his house, an unwanted house guest? Whatever the reason, this is stupid! God does not need our promises nor our silly sacrifices to accomplish His work. God cannot be manipulated (11:27). There is no "if" in God - He will be true to His character, Word, will and work regardless of my petition or offering.
And yet, I too make stupid promises with God. And I make myself out to be foolish, faithless,prideful, deceitful and impulsive when God works His plan. God does not need my promises, just my obedience.

Father, strengthen my faith that I may walk in obedience.
1 Samuel 15:22
But Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD ? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Humble leadership

Judges 9:7-15
Now when they told Jotham, he went and stood on top of Mount Gerizim, and lifted his voice and cried out. And he said to them:
“Listen to me, you men of Shechem,
That God may listen to you!
8 “The trees once went forth to anoint a king over them.
And they said to the olive tree,
‘Reign over us!’
9 But the olive tree said to them,
‘ Should I cease giving my oil,
With which they honor God and men,
And go to sway over trees?’
10 “Then the trees said to the fig tree,
‘You come and reign over us!’
11 But the fig tree said to them,
‘ Should I cease my sweetness and my good fruit,
And go to sway over trees?’
12 “Then the trees said to the vine,
‘You come and reign over us!’
13 But the vine said to them,
‘ Should I cease my new wine,
Which cheers both God and men,
And go to sway over trees?’
14 “Then all the trees said to the bramble,
‘You come and reign over us!’
15 And the bramble said to the trees,
‘If in truth you anoint me as king over you,
Then come and take shelter in my shade;
But if not, let fire come out of the bramble
And devour the cedars of Lebanon!’

I don't remember ever reading this parable... but I like it.
The temptation to have visible, tangible strength and security was often the downfall to Israel. They desired a human king rather than a Divine King. They preferred the "shade" of relief rather than the "fruit" of provision and blessing. The people were short-sited and faithless. If only they knew how God views authority and power. Jesus said in Matthew 20:26-27, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,"
We must beware of those who Lord and hoard authority, who desire power and greatness. We must hold our own motives in check also. God delights in trees that produce fruit (John 15). He will provide the relief and protection we desire if we are faithful to produce the fruit He desires.

Father - humble me and bless me to desire to produce fruit. Amen.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Religious Idol

Judges 8:27
"Then Gideon made it into an ephod and set it up in his city, Ophrah. And all Israel played the harlot with it there. It became a snare to Gideon and to his house."

After God's great victory though Gideon, the people beg to make Gideon their ruler (7:22). "But Gideon said to them, 'I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you"(8:23). Gideon's heart was right. His theology was right. So what happened between verse 23 and 27?

The ephod was a highly ornate garment worn only by the priest. Over the ephod, the priest would wear an equally ornate breastplate by which the Lord would speak to His people. These two garments were signs and symbols of God's authority and rule over Israel. I'm sure that Gideon chose carefully the garment which he erected. His intentions were to remind Israel that God would rule over them. However, even this simple religious symbol became an idol and a snare to the people. Why? Was it ignorance? Forgetfulness? Laziness? Pride?

How often have I made my religion my pride rather than the God who called me to it? how often have I made even good and godly things my joy rather than the Lord?... church, Scripture, prayer, worship, service, etc.... How often has my theology been true and yet my path off course?

I must keep Jesus Christ ever before me as my only joy and guide. As Paul wrote in Philippians 3:8, "What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ." Even these great things of God are loss if I do not keep Jesus Christ as the center of my life and focus.

Father, help me fix my eyes on Jesus only and always. Save me from even the good things of my faith that tempt to take the place of Christ. Make me true to You in motive, theology, and practice. Amen.

Too Much

Judges 7:2
And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’

When leaders lead...

Judges 5:2
“When leaders lead in Israel,
When the people willingly offer themselves,
Bless the LORD!"

Friday, January 2, 2009

Discipline & Deliverance

Judges 4:1
When Ehud was dead, the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD.

Seven times in the book of Judges we find the phrase, "Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord." Seven is the Biblical number for completeness or perfection. It's as if God is trying to communicate to us the complete depravity of man and the complete and perfect righteousness and love He has for us.
Each time Israel does evil, God uses the enemies within (those nations the people refused or failed to drive out) to discipline His people and draw them into repentance. Each time God responds to their repentance and cries with a judge and deliverer to rescue them from their suffering.
Both the discipline and deliverance of Israel demonstrate God's great mercy. Through discipline Israel rediscovers their faith, character and obedience. Through deliverance the people experience again the love, grace, mercy and protection of God.
We can't expect His grace, mercy and love without His discipline. These blessings go together and strengthen our relationship with God. The next time I experience His discipline I can know two things for sure; (1) He is not done with me, He's still pursuing me even in my sin, (2) His deliverance is coming, He will not leave me to suffer.

I praise You Father for your discipline and deliverance that work hand-in-hand to make me more like You. Teach me to accept these blessings and grow through them. Make me more like Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Battle for a generation

Judges 2:10
When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel.

How is it that the younger generation did not know God nor experience His works? Is it possible to follow God faithfully as a nation and yet not as a family? Is it possible to invite God's power into our battle and ambitions and not our marriages and parenting? How did this happen to the nation of Israel? Had they grown calloused? Were they worn out? Had they taken God for granted? Were they lazy? Did they assume too much?
The battle for each generation is far more important than the battle for anything else in this world. We can't grow weary, lazy or calloused. We can't assume, take it for granted or leave it to others. Failure to pass on an intimate relationship with Christ is as detrimental to the family as is failure to drive out the Canaanites from the promised land. When we do not complete the task God has given us, we leave room fro the enemy to creep in and lead our families and nation away. We must take this battle for the next generation more seriously than any other battle - it is life and death.

Father - keep me alert to and strengthened for the battle for my children and the next generation. Fill me with Your Spirit and Your power to win this battle and bring young people into a saving and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Amen.