Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Feb 29 - Ecclesiastes 3.1-9

 For everything there is a season,

and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones,
and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-9
Happy Leap Day!!!
You can look at today as just another Wednesday. Or you can view it as a bonus day.
That's my challenge to you today: Do something that makes you (or those around you) ... laugh ... or dance ... or embrace ... or gather in ... or heal ... or love ... or seek ... or cherish ... or listen ... or sow peace ... or be born again.
View today as a bonus day ... and do something extraordinary!!!
In Christ's Love,
a guy who's on the beach
with his bride of 25 years today 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Feb 28 - Malachi 1.6

A son honors his father.
If then I am a father,
where is the honor due me?
says the Lord.
Malachi 1:6
Most of God's prophets spoke for the Lord in times of rebellion.
God is saying, "Israel, you are rebelling like a thankless son. I have given you life. I have promised you a future, and lots of blessings. So where is the honor due to me?"

Do you remember failing to honor your mom and dad? We disobeyed. We said yes  -- but didn't pretend to do what we promised. We lied about big things and even little things. We constantly bent rules. We sneaked around like they didn't know what we were up to. We dishonored them.
And yet after a few years, what happened in most of those relationships? Usually two things: 1) they forgave us and 2) we matured.
In most cases, because of a parent's love and patience, the teenage years are behind us and a right relationship has been restored. (That's true in our relationship with God too. Because of his love and patience, nothing delights him more than for us prodigals to come back home and for a right relationship to be forged.)
But I want to look at the second thing that happened in those relationships: "We matured." What a marvelous gift to our parents when we mature!
That's true in our relationship with God too. We're not supposed to remain spiritual children forever. Yes, we hope to always have the trusting faith as a child, but we also want to keep learning, growing, and maturing.
Think about it. We don't want to remain in the place where our faith needs to be continually mothered. We want our relationship with God to turn into more of a friendship.
In Christ's Love,
an ever-maturing child

Monday, February 27, 2012

Feb 27 - Romans 8.30

And having chosen them,
he called them to come to him.
And he gave them
right standing with himself,
and he promised them his glory.
Romans 8:30
Have you chosen God?
That's usually the direction we focus in. Even when we don't mean to, we tend to think of faith as our action, our initiative, and our work.
It's not.
Turn it around: God has chosen you.
In context, it's proper to insert you name into this passage:
"[God has chosen you.] And having chosen you,
God called you to come [closer and closer] to him.
[In fact] he has given you right standing with him.
[In spite of your sins, he's forgiven you and declared you just.]
[Even better,] he has promised you his glory, [meaning,
one day you shall stand with him in heaven in light.]
Quit making faith your work. Stop. Relax. Breathe deep. And say, "Thank you God for loving me, choosing me, and setting me free."
In Christ's Love,
a guy who's practically glowing
(I'm blessed that he's chosen me
and is giving me his glory)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Feb 26 - Revelation 1.17-18

Do not be afraid;
I am the first and the last,
and the living one.Revelation 1:17-18
I think they must have a class in Angel School where they say: "When you meet a human, the first thing you have to say is 'Do not be afraid.'"
An angelic presence and the glory of heaven tended to drive people to their knees.
How much more so if you met Jesus!
That was John. He'd been exiled to the prison island of Patmos. "10 On the Lord's day [he] was in the Spirit" when the Son of Man appeared to him. John "fell at his feat as though dead."
It was probably Jesus himself who taught the cherubim at Angel School, so he knew what to say, "Do not be afraid."
The key, however, is that this message isn't just for John. It's for everyone who reads Revelation ... and more importantly, wades into "9 persecution" on account of Jesus' name. "Do not be afraid." Jesus was here from the beginning (he is the first). He'll be there to welcome us home at them (he is the last). And in the meantime, he is "the living one" who gives us hope.
So kneel down for a minute in awe and thanksgiving. But then stand up because Christ makes us victorious.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who's standing
on his tip-toe because
if God is for us, who
can be against us
-- Rom 8:31

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Feb 25 - Isaiah 40.28

Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
Isaiah 40:28
The end of Isaiah 40 is one of my favorite places in the Bible. In a verse of two, we will be reminded that God will lift us up on wings like eagles. We are reminded that God want us to soar.
It's not hard to guess the context of Isaiah 40.
The persecution had come, and the people were weary. But Isaiah assured them that "the Everlasting God" "does not faint or grow weary."
Their situation probably seemed unexplainable, but Isaiah reminded them that "the Creator of the ends of the earth" had a full "understanding" and we need not worry because "his understanding is unsearchable."
My favorite part of this, though, is the first two quick sentences in this passage.
In the time of Isaiah -- for most of the next 2000 years -- most people didn't read. Most Bibles were on scrolls and copied by hand. If you heard the scriptures, they were read to you -- chapter after chapter. For anyone who's attention span was waning, God -- through Isaiah -- screamed: "HAVE YOU NOT KNOWN? HAVE YOU NOT HEARD? PAY ATTENTION!!! THE EVERLASTING GOD KNOWS AND CARES."
Indeed, the everlasting God knows and cares about you.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who's often weary
and is glad he lay his burdens
on a God who isn't

Friday, February 24, 2012

Feb 24 - 2 Timothy 2:15

Do your best
to present yourself to God
as one approved by him,
a worker who has no need
to be ashamed,
rightly explaining
the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15
My first job was in fast food. They called me "Fast Eddie." They were being sarcastic. I was a deliberate thinker more than a speedy doer. After the Christmas rush, it was a good time to down-size "Slow Edward."
Paul calls us to be good workers for the kingdom. And it has nothing to do with speed. Rather, there a two powerful, positive characteristics of honorable work in the kingdom.
  • First, we are to base our lives on "the word of truth." Workers in the kingdom, says Paul, are to rightly explain the word of truth. That means that we are called to understand it ... and then apply it ... and then teach it to others.
  • Second, good workers in the kingdom are to live honorably -- which means living without shame and being ashamed. A moment ago, I said we are to apply the word then teach it. More accurately, "applying the word through the way we live" means that we are naturally "teaching the word through the witness of our daily lives."
"Fast Eddie" wasn't good at fast food. But life is more than chicken sandwiches. I'd rather be "Honorable Ed." I'd rather witness to the word of truth.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who's best job in fast food
would probably be wearing
the chicken suit and
standing on the corner
as a living billboard

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Feb 23 - 1 Corinthians 15:19

If for this life only
we have hoped in Christ,
we are of all people
most to be pitied.
1 Corinthians 15:19
Maybe it was different in Paul's day. But in our day, it's the opposite of 1 Corinthians 15:9.
In Paul's day, it appears that people let Christ encourage their daily life, but didn't hope much for heaven. Maybe that was an old holdover from the days of the Sadduccees. They were sad-you-see (say it out loud) because they taught fervently against life everlasting. So maybe in Corinth, people let Christ encourage their daily life, but didn't hope much for heaven.
In our day it's the other way around. As an African exchange student at an American seminary said to his classmates, "I can't figure you American's out. You all want to spend eternity with God in heaven, but you're all too busy to give him five minutes in a normal day."
Maybe our modern translation of 1 Corinthians 15 ought to say: "If for the next life only we have hoped in Christ, we are most to be pitied."
God wants to transform your life today! Why not spend a few extra minutes with him ... right now.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who's too often
too busy

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Feb 22 - Isaiah 42:1

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights.Isaiah 42:1
Isaiah was God's chosen. The result? God delighted in him.
God chooses you too.
The result? God has no greater purpose than to delight in you.
But it's like a dating relationship. Did you ever go on a date and delight in the other person ... and then have them refuse to return your calls for the next month? You delighted in them. They did not delight in you.
I suspect that this is how God feels very frequently. He made us. He loves us. He has no greater purpose than to delight in us. The problem is that we're too busy washing our hair, watching television, working our jobs, and carpooling our kids.
It's not just repentance that God wants ... it's relationship.
Today is Ash Wednesday. The message is: Turn to him and live.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who wants to be
a better date

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Feb 21 - Lamentations 1:18

The Lord is in the right,
for I have rebelled against his word.Lamentations 1:18
As a parent, I must have said a hundred times, "there's got to be a consequence for your actions."
My children learned to hate that word!
The word I would have loved to hear is what Jeremiah said to God in our lesson for today, "You're right, dad. I have rebelled against your authority."
Actually -- in one way or another -- I did hear that a lot from my boys. It sometimes took a while to get there, but to move past a transgression, they eventually had to get to a point beyond consequences. They had to get to a point of apology.
That's what God asks of us. That's what confession is: "Lord, you are right. I'm tired of rebelling." Those words humble our prideful spirit and are the beginning of forgiveness, freedom, and new life.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who's a better parent
than an obedient child

Monday, February 20, 2012

Feb 20 - Hebrews 11:7

By faith Noah, warned by God
about events as yet unseen,
respected the warning and
built an ark to save his household.
Hebrews 11:7
Many call Hebrews 11 the "Hall of Faith." Noah was clearly one of the heroes elected on the first ballot.
Why? Because he believed God.
In the midst of a desert ... in the midst of a drought ... in a land where rain was rarer than rare ... God said build a boat three football fields long.
If it was me, I'd be arguing against God. Maybe Noah argued. Maybe he didn't. The point is ... HE DID IT. The flood was "unseen." And yet he respected the warning. He believed God.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who's praying,
"Lord, help me believe more"

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Feb 19 - Psalm 40:17

You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God.
Psalm 40:17
How do you label God? Your guide? Your master? Your friend? Your King? In this Psalm, David calls the Lord "a help and a deliverer."
Wait. It's more personal than that. He calls him "my help and my deliverer."
The word "my" tells us something. David's stopped, looked, and listened enough for the movement of God to see his hand personally.
He also talks to God personally. If I needed assistance from the president, I'd wouldn't speak as familiarly as David is talking to God. I'd tell the president that I understood that there were lots of concerns before him; nevertheless, I'd humbly request his attending to my needs as promptly as he could.
On the other hand, if I were talking to my dad, I'd be more bold. I'd say, "Father, I need help and I need it now. 'Do not delay.'"
What if my dad was the president? What if my Father was the King. That was the relationship that David had. "Father God, I need help and I need it now. 'Do not delay.'"
In Christ's Love,
the son of a king

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Feb 18 - Isaiah 11:1

A shoot shall come out
from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow
out of his roots.
Isaiah 11:1
When I get my verse each day, they often come two at a time. Isaiah 11:1 was the first one for today.
This verse is usually a Christmas verse. Writing a few hundred years after the reign of King David, Isaiah wasn't pointing backward, remembering that Jesse was the father of David. Rather, he was pointing forward to the coming of Messiah. Isaiah was predicting that from the stump of Jesse and the line of David would come the Messiah.
The second verse was John 15:5. Before talking about abiding in him and bearing much fruit, "Christ says, 'I am the vine, you are the branches.'"
Watch the pattern. From the stump of Jesse comes David. From the roots of David comes Jesus the Messiah. From the vine of Jesus comes you and me.
God's been planting, sewing, weaving, and growing all of creation so that you can be his treasured branch and bear sweet and glorious fruit for his kingdom.
So notice the pattern. From Jesse's stump comes David. From David's roots come Jesus. From Jesus' vine comes you and me. From you and me come whom?!
In Christ's Love,
a guy who doesn't want
to break the chain

Friday, February 17, 2012

Feb 17 - Acts 4:29

Lord, grant to your servants
to speak your word with all boldness. Acts 4:29
The church was just beginning.
The Holy Spirit had just come down.
Peter and John had helped a lame man walk.
And when they told how -- "in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk" -- they were dragged before the authorities.
Two pages after Pentecost, the persecutions had already begun. What had also begun was the prayers! "Lord, grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness."
The entire book of Acts is a testimony to human boldness ... and even more so, to Holy Spirit power.
If you don't have either boldness or Holy Spirit power, it's time to start praying this prayer. Stick it on your mirror. Tape it on your dashboard. "Lord, grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness."
In Christ's Love,
a guy who prays "more, Lord, more"
-- more Spirit, more power, more boldness

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Feb 16 - Psalm 26:8

O Lord, I love
the house in which you dwell,
and the place where
your glory abides.
Psalm 26:8
I've lived in some pretty nice houses.
I've also lived in some houses that have seen better days.
In seminary, we lived way below the poverty line ... with two tiny boys ... and with two big dogs. I remember pulling up to the house that the seminary was renting to us. It looked smaller than our U-Haul truck!
That was one of our favorite houses ever!
It wasn't because it was big or fancy. It was because love lived there.
David was saying the same thing in Psalm 26. Since the temple was not built in the days of David, God's presence didn't live in a "house" -- at best, he "lived" in the tent and tabernacle. But I don't think David was talking about loving even a grand tent.
I think David was simply saying that he loved any place where God was. I think he treasured any spot where God's glory shined.
Why? Because love lived there!
And whereever love lives, David was willing to call "home."
In Christ's Love,
a guy who has lots of places
that he can call home
(because I've seen lots of
love and glory)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Feb 15 - 1 Corinthians 4:2

It is required of stewards
that they be found trustworthy.1 Corinthians 4:2
When most church folks hear the word "steward," they think "money."
"Steward" started, however, as the manager of a household. Shepherding the staff and managing the money, the steward was "entrusted" with literally everything in the house. Therefore, being "trustworthy" was absolutely "required."
When Joseph -- son of Jacob -- was sold into slavery by his brothers, he gained the trust and admiration of a home owner and rose to become chief steward of Potiphar's house. Unfortunately, Mrs. Potiphar admired Joseph too. She wanted to admire him straight into the bedroom.
But Joseph was trustworthy. He ran from his master wife. Unfortunately, the scorned bride blamed Joseph. Prison was Joseph's destination for being trustworthy to his job.
Paul spent time in prison because of his trustworthiness to his calling too.
Peter and John also spent time in prison. Why? Because they too were trustworthy stewards.
Stewardship is not just about money. It is being trustworthy with all the resources entrusted to us -- including our faith. How might you learn to view stewardship in terms of the faith, courage, and commitment you can share?
In Christ's Love,
a guy who views his calling
as stewardship

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Feb 14 - Zephaniah 3:17

The Lord your God is in your midst ...

He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will renew you in His love
as on a day of festival.
Zephaniah 3:17
Do you ever remember being Charlie Brown? It's Valentines Day. Did your heart ever yearn for some form of acknowledgement from "that someone special." My mailbox was empty on many a Valentines day.
Lonliness is at epidemic levels in our culture. We move away from family and roots. People isolate themselves in individual technologies. Connections are more superficial over phone lines and computer screens. One of humanity's greatest needs is belonging, and we are increasingly alone.
God has an answer for lonliness. "The Lord your God is in your midst."
Imagine the shepherds in the fields. Sheep were hardly company. The nights were long and lonely ... unless you remembered that "the Lord your God is in your midst."
When we're feeling isolated and discouraged, we need to remember that "[God] rejoice[s] over [us] with gladness."
When we're feeling alone and unappreciated, we need to remind ourselves to celebrate a little "as on a day of festival." Why? Because "[God] will renew you in His love" everyday.
In Christ's Love,
(as opposed to Charlie Brown,
if I'm fed, I know I'm loved.)  

Monday, February 13, 2012

Feb 13 - Mark 4:39

Jesus woke up
and rebuked the wind,
and said to the sea,
"Peace! Be still!"
Then the wind ceased,
and there was a dead calm.
Mark 4:39
Have you ever encountered a moment of dead calm?
That's how people describe the eye of a hurricane. For hours, violent winds have been lifting roofs and snapping trees. And then there's suddenly an eerie hush. The skies clear. The winds stop. The barometric pressure drops. And there is a dead calm.
Have you ever been in a conversation when someone says something ... and everything stops.
That can happen when someone says something profound. More often it happens when someone says and does something offensive. Suddenly, the barometric pressure will drop, a chill will descend, and an eerie hush will fall over the room.
When Jesus said, "Peace! Be still!" I don't think it was only the weather that entered a state of eerie silence. I think the disciples in that boat encountered a moment of dead calm too. Here was a man who could -- gulp! -- make the wind and waves obey him. As it says in Mark 16:8 of the resurrection, "terror and amazement had seized them." Dead calm! 
Have you ever encountered a moment of a dead-calm-spiritual-awakening? A moment when the barometer drops and you know God is there? Some do. Some don't.
I pray regularly for spiritual revival. I pray regularly that God will break into our lives -- and into our world -- in ways that silence the doubts, calm the storms, and usher in a new era beyond the troubled seas. I invite you to join me in that prayer.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who is not dead,
a guy who is not always calm,
but a guy who's praying for dead calm!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Feb 12 - Ephesians 2:20

You are built upon the foundation
of the apostles and prophets
Ephesians 2:20
What kind of building would you call your faith?
Would it be a house of bricks, a home of sticks, or a hut made out of straw?
Indeed, when the harsher winds of life blow -- with the same bad breath as the big bad wolf -- how solidly are you standing?
Paul tells us that our foundation ought to be the apostles and prophets.
And how can we literally hear the voice of the prophets a few thousand years since they last drew earthly breath? That's easy. We can hear Micah and Matthew, Jeremiah and Peter, Isaiah and Paul, every time we open the scriptures.
Our spiritual house is made more and more solid with mortar and brick each time we open God's word and when we make -- as the verse continues -- "Christ Jesus himself [our] cornerstone."
In Christ's Love, 
a mighty fortress

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Feb 11 - Isaiah 58:10

If you extend your soul to the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted soul,
then your light shall dawn
in the darkness.
Isaiah 58:10
The first thing I had to do with this passage is figure out who "you" is.
  1. If "you" is God, then Isaiah is saying, "God's light isn't shining anymore, but it can shine again if and when God feeds the hungry -- in body and soul." Do you think that's it?
  2. But what if Isaiah is talking to an individual person? If we care for the hungry, is he saying that it's our own personal light that will shine?" Do you think that's it?
  3. The third possibility is that Isaiah is talking to a nation. If this is the case, Isaiah is saying that Israel is not caring for the needs of the physically hungry nor the spiritually hungry. Indeed, Isaiah would be saying that a nation's light can't truly shine unless both bodily hungers and spiritual needs of its citizens are nurtured. Do you think that's it?
Before I look up the context, which do you think it is?
And the answer is ... Isaiah has been told by God to "Announce [all of this] to [God's] people ... to the house of Jacob" ... in other words, to the nation as a whole.
Meaning: God is saying that a nation's light will cease to shine if fails to nurture both the bodily and spiritual needs of its people.
So where does that leave our nation in 2012? See this US News and World Report evaluation.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who's tired of
living in the dark

Friday, February 10, 2012

Feb 10 - Hebrews 4:16

Let us therefore approach
the throne of grace with boldness,
so that we may receive mercy
and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:16
Do you remember the story of Dorothy and the Tin Man? Do you remember how the Cowardly Lion jumped, screamed, and fled the first time they encountered "The Wizard of Oz"?
What changed the second time they met the Wizard and Toto pulled back the curtain?
They discovered that the great and powerful wizard was just an ordinary human being. Now even the cowardly lion could approaching him with a measure of boldness.
God has pulled back the veil.
On the one hand, he is holy and mighty. Infinitely more powerful than wizards in Oz.
But God is also gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. He sent Jesus as his living picture of his love and approachability. Yes, we ought to fear him (in terms of honor), but he tells us that we need not fear him (in terms of terror).
Indeed, scripture invites us to approach him with boldness.
Why? Because he sits on a throne that is named "grace."
In Christ's Love,
a guy who gets
as rusty as the tin man
when he comprehends
God's grace

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Feb 9 - Mark 13:26-27

At that time

men will see the Son of Man
coming in clouds with great power and glory.
And he will send forth his angels
to gather together his chosen ones
from all over the world -- from the
farthest ends of the earth and heaven.
Mark 13:26-27
This is a passage of comfort.
Why? Because of the harrowing predictions that come before it.
Jesus predicts that the end of the age will be filled with trials and tribulation, abominations and sacrilege, earthquakes and wars, tragedy and fear.
When we see this kind of turmoil in our lifes and in our world, we're supposed to look up.
One day, Jesus promises that he will return victorious in the clouds, and he promises that his angels will not rest until they find you. So when you face trials, look up! 
But what if your trials are not THE trials that signal the end of the age? Then like every Christian who's gone before us, you were still looking up! You were still gaining comfort from the king who reigns on high. You were still holding confident that his angels will guard you, protect you, and in the end, guide you home.
In Christ's Love,
a guy with a kink in his neck
(it's sore from looking up)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Feb 8 - Romans 11:17-18

If you, a wild olive shoot,
were grafted in to share
the rich root of the olive tree,
do not boast over the branches.
If you do boast, remember that
it is not you that support the root,
but the root that supports you.
Romans 11:17-18
In John 15:15, Jesus famously says, "I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit."
That's the part that we know. But we forget the last few words of this verse -- "because apart from me you can do nothing."
We forget these words because most of us really argue with these words. "I can too do things on my own!!!"
Intellectual Christians will say, "That statement's false because lots on non-Christians do lots of good things."
Pious Christians say, "We can surely do more with God's help. But it's up to us to choose good or bad. And I strive to do good."
Paul, however, agrees with this statement. He echoes Jesus. In fact, he says that on our own, we are untamed, barbarous, primative, uncivilized, and wild. Indeed, the Apostle calls us wild shoots that Jesus has grafted onto the rich taproot of life. And like Jesus in John 15, he tells us "not [to] boast" of our own accomplishments.
Why? According to Paul, it's because the root supports us ... We don't support the root. According to Jesus, fruit is not fruit unless it comes from him.
For example, say that we feed the poor. That's a good human work, right? And good people can do that without even knowing God, right? But who created the food. God! Feeding the poor is simply sharing God's abundance. (And unfortunately that's very necessary in a world that robs the poor and hoards earthly resources.) But we only call this good because too many people don't share. It's good in comparison to other sinners, but we are the ones who create the scarcity anyway.
So if even feeding the poor is not "good," what is the fruit that we're called to bear ... and share? It's connecting others to the branch, to the root, to the tree, to the cross, to the Savior. (And that's what we absolutely cannot do without God!)
Think about this ... Even if we save someone from starvation, they'll still eventually die, and then where will they be? Jesus wants to send out laborers into the eternal harvest.
BUT lest we quit feeding the hungry, food (and other forms of physical help like medical care) are a great way to gain access to a person's heart. We love them (and feed them) until they ask us why!!!
In Christ's Love,
a guy who doesn't
want to be "good"
(just godly)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Feb 7 - Isaiah 59:1-2

See, the Lord's hand
is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear.
Rather, your iniquities have been
barriers between you and your God.
Isaiah 59:1-2
I'm a cartoonist at heart. Can't you almost see the silly drawing in pen and ink ... God's hand reaching down from heaven -- straining, stretching, and still ending up six inches too short. "Sorry," cries the voice from the clouds, "I just can't reach."
The prophet says, "No! The Lord's hand is not too short to save."
But that, of course, is not your worry.
You didn't believe that cartoon, anyway. 
Neverthless, I bet you have wondered about the next line. We pray and pray, and situations aren't resolved in the exact time and precise way that we'd like. And so we wonder, "Does God really hear?"  
Isaiah 59 gives the shortest clearest answer to this that I've ever heard. He says, "Friend, it's not God's hearing aid that needs fixed. It's your sinfulness that needs to be fixed. It's your sins that are the barrier between you and God."
God's not the barrier. We are.
Now ... please understand ... it's not just us and our own personal sins that keep us from God and grace. We live in a world shattered by sin. Hurts abound. We don't want to wait for heaven for peace. We want it now. So we pray and pray, and when the answers don't come, we blame God's deafness rather than the world's rebellion.
We can't fix the world.
But ... we can seek to remove the "barriers" that we personally erect between ourselves and God. Pride, anger, doubt, selfishness, and sin. These are just a few of the barriers that keep us from hope, joy, and peace.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who believes that
God has a very long wing span
(and a guy who's ready to quit
using his own wingspan
to keep pushing God away)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Feb 6 - John 10:6-7

Jesus used
this figure of speech with them,
but they did not understand
what he was saying to them.
So again Jesus said ...
John 10:6-7
John 10 is full of great verses. Great analogies. But as a person who likes to speak in analogies, though, it's comforting that even Jesus was occasionally misunderstood!
Misunderstandings aside, in this chapter Jesus made several critical points that we dare not miss ...
First, he was predicting his own crucifixion: "11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."
Second, by calling himself a "good shepherd" and by showing his willingness to give his life, he was reflecting his committed care and compassion for each of us, his sheep. 
Third, he wanted us to know that we are vulnerable -- "12 wolf coming."
Fourth, he wanted us to know that there are forces in and around us that can do us harm.
  • Some are inattentive "12 hired hands." (What worldly "shepherds" do you know that are inattentive?).
  • Some are "1 bandits" who intentionally -- or even unintentionally -- preach a false gospel and as a result rob us measures of hope and joy.
  • One -- Satan -- is an outright "10 thief [who] comes only to steal and kill and destroy."
Fifth, Jesus is teaching us that he is "the [one] way" to heaven, saying, "9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved."
Sixth, Jesus invites us to give our lives to him by becoming his sheep. In fact, how do we know if we're living as sheep? Jesus says, "4 [His] sheep follow him because they know his voice." Nowadays, we know his voice best when he know his word.
Seventh, once we're Christ's sheep, we can quit worrying so much, because Jesus says, "27 My sheep ... 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand."
Which of those did you need to hear most today?
In Christ's Love,

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Feb 5 - Psalm 111:10

The fear of the Lord
is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it
have a good understanding.
Psalm 111:10
In the Wisdom Literature of the Bible, this is a common principle. Job, Psalm, and Proverbs like "fear" and "wisdom."
It's not just any "fear," however. "The fear of the Lord" is also translated, "Reverence for the Lord" NLT, "honor[ing] the Lord" GNT, and -- my favorite -- "respect for the Lord" NCV.
After telling us again that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," Proverbs 1:7, shows us the opposite, saying, "fools despise wisdom and instruction."
My favorite example of this is: "How come if only five guys on the planet can throw a 97-mph fastball over the bottom outside corner of the plate ... and all of them have old guy coaching them who can't even see the plate anymore?! How come?
There are a good many more who can throw that hard, but these five are the ones who accepted "wisdom," coaching, and "instruction"! Our verse today says, "[in life]all those who practice it have a good understanding." In baseball, "all those who practice it" make $14-million a year!
God is our coach ... and more than our coach. He is the author of life. He leads, protects, and guides. He shows us the way we should go -- if we'll let him. And those who fear, reverence, honor, and respect him, are infinitely richer than a $14-million pitcher!
In Christ's Love,
a guy who's more of
a knuckleball pitcher,
but I'm in the show
and rich indeed

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Feb 4 ----

Read yesterdays! I sent two for Feburary 3, and
come to our healing service on Saturday, February 4, 8:30am

Feb 3 - take 2 - Isaiah 38:16

You can count this as your February 4 devotion,
but I hope you'll read it on Friday and
come to our healing service on Saturday, February 4, 8:30am
O Lord, restore me to health
and make me live.
Isaiah 38:16
There are many types of hurts in life.
The three major categories are physical, emotional, and spiritual.
Our body hurts. Our heart hurts. Our mind is overloaded. And our soul is weighed down.
All of these hurts keep us from "liv[ing]" fully. That's why the psalmist asks to be "restore[d]." Why? So he can "live" -- fully, wholly, wonderfully, and completely live.
God also invites us to unite our prayers with his power. He wants to heal. He wants us to live.
I hope you'll join us for our Healing Service at 8:30 on Saturday morning, February 4. We'll address many of the false hopes, needless worries, and guarded expectations when praying for healing. We'll also pray with expectation, hope, confidence, and power. Why? Because God wants to heal. He wants us to live.
Note: The healing service started three days early!!! Some of us have been at the hospital praying for Lesley -- a teenager from the youth group who was recently diagnosed with a rare form epilepsy. Even with surgery, she was looking at a life of seizures, medications, and partial blindness. PRAISE GOD, she's been healed. If she has any lingering effects, they appear to be minor.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who can't wait
to see how God shows up
on Saturday!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Feb 3 - Ephesians 4:15

Speaking the truth in love,
we must grow up in every way
into him who is the head, into Christ.
Ephesians 4:15
Nowadays, people don't stand for truth.
We're taught, "What's right for me is right for me, and what's right for you is right for you." It's demanded that we never judge. All things, it is said, are relative.
And after a generation of permissiveness, what's left of our standards.
Paul tells us ...
  1. There is truth.
  2. God knows what is right and wrong.
  3. And you and me are called to stand for true and right.
  4. But ... we are not called to do it in an angry, bullying way.
  5. We are called to speak the truth in love.
Do you know the truth? Do you fight for it? And do you do it with love?!
In Christ's Love,
a loving fighter 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Feb 2 - Mark 9:24

"I believe;
help my unbelief!"
Mark 9:24
Jesus offered to heal a man's son.
Oddly, though, Jesus gave the man a condition. The Savior demanded faith, "All things can be done for the one who believes."
The father cried, "I believe; help my unbelief!"
That's a powerful statement. "Jesus, I'm not 100% of the way there ... but I want to be. Take whatever measures I have and keep drawing me further along. I believe, help my unbelief."
Read correctly, that should inspire deeper faith. God rejoices in the direction we're pointing, not the distance we have traveled.
Sadly, I've heard too many people use this as an excuse for smaller amounts of faith. "I believe enough," is one winking reply. Others say, "See, God blesses doubts and imperfections"; and thereby they excuse their lack of discipline.
Both of those are at best half-truths. More truthfully, God honors honesty, and he honors those who actively pursue him. That's what this father did. On behalf of his son, this man pursued Jesus. In faith, he cried out for healing for his boy. In honesty, he confessed his imperfection. Then he begged for more.
This isn't a story about enough. It is a story of pursuit. It is the hunger for more.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who daily cries,
"I believe ... Help ..."

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Feb 1 - Colossians 3:17

Whatever you do, in word or deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:17
What does it mean to do something in Jesus' name? Let me illustrate with a story ...
In one of my favorite Andy Griffith episodes, Deputy Sheriff Barney Fife tries to run off a peddler. The man is tough and angry ... and twice Barney's size. He furls his brow, sticks his finger in Barney's chest, and says something like, "Oh yeah. Make me."
Barney scampers away, and spends most of the episode viewing himself as a failure and considering whether he should quit. Andy finds out the reason for Barney's hesitation, and when the peddler returns, the sturdier sheriff volunteers to run the peddler off.
Barney finally discovers his resolve. Though scared to death, Barney confronts the peddler. The bully grabs him by the collar, promising to pummel him. But Barney says, "Go ahead. You're bigger than me. You can easily pound me into the dirt. But do you see this?"
Barney points to his badge, saying, "This badge is a symbol. When you fight me, you're fighting all the people who stand behind this badge. You can't beat all of them. If you beat me, they'll send another and another. This badge stands for something bigger than you and me both."
That's what doing something in the name of Jesus means. It doesn't mean praying with a formula or saying, "In the name of Jesus" forty times in every prayer. It means standing where Jesus would stand if he were here.
You may be a 120-lbs weakling, but when you make a God-honoring stand in the name of Jesus, all the power behind the badge -- all the power in his name -- will be there to back you up.
That's what "power in the name" means. Stand for him and he'll stand beside you.
In Christ's Love,
a guy named Barney,
weak on my own,
strong in the name.