Monday, April 30, 2012

Acts 30 - John 10:11

Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd.
The good shepherd lays down
his life for the sheep."
John 10:11

To help us understand his identity, Jesus explained his role with many word-pictures.

A shepherd means that Jesus is patient and attentive. It means that he leads and guides. Most of all, if he's a good shepherd, it means that rather than run, he'll fight to protect us. Indeed, if necessary -- and it was -- he was willing to lay down his life to save us.

That's what this analogy says about Jesus. But what does this say about us? 

It says that we're sheep ... which is not a compliment. It means that we're stubborn and not too bright. It means that we're wayward and prone to straying. Most of all, it means that we're vulnerable.

I don't know about you, but I don't like those descriptions. And I mostly don't like them because they're all too true!

I am occasionally willful and stubborn. I've been known to do some dumb things. I like to go my own selfish and willful way. And if it wasn't for Christ, I'd be very vulnerable -- indeed, doomed.

I'm a sheep.

But thank heavens. I have a shepherd!

In Christ's Love,

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Apr 29 - Acts 4:7

"By what power
or by what name
did you do this?"
Acts 4:7

I'm reading a Christian novel. It's about a pastor with political aspirations. As the media is investigating him, something wonderful and miraculous happens at the healing service at this pastor's church.

His reaction is intriguing. Because he doesn't get stereotyped as "one of those crazy faith healers," he begins to deny that God's power can actually show up. (So why have a healing service, right?!)

In First Century Jerusalem, Peter and John made a lame man walk. The elders, scribes, and high priest demanded to know how (and why) this happened. (They "believed" in God, but they really didn't expect him to show up.)

Peter and John testified to them -- and all who would dare to listen -- that "by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth ... this man has been healed."

Do you expect God to show up?


In Christ's Love,
a guy who likes the name
which heals the lame

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Apr 28 - 1 Timothy 6:11

Pursue righteousness,
godliness, faith, love,
endurance, gentleness.
1 Timothy 6:11

I have a friend who reads statements like this as a commandment.

What’s the implication of this? This means that instead of 10 commandments in the Old Testament, there are suddenly 1000 commandments in the New Testament. Whoa! That would be a tremendous burden. Even the Pharisees didn’t heap on that heavy a load.

These statements are not commandments. They are more like Proverbs. They are pieces of wisdom. In fact, I’d encourage you to view them as forms of encouragement.

Encouragement?! Especially since we all sin and regularly fall short?! Encouragement?!


Let me tell you how …

I heard a friend of Billy Graham tell how this old preacher has a dozen Bibles around his house. Each is open. Indeed, they are all open to the Book of Proverbs. This wise, old man of God says, “Every time I pass by, I glance down and have a snack.”

What if we snack on verses like the one today?! In this way it’s a reminder … and an encouragement.

Every moment of every day I want to draw nearer to God. At this moment, I need to pursue a little more gentleness. When I’m rushed and harried, I need to slow down for the people around me.

What about you? Reread today’s verse. As you snack on it, which of those six qualities will help you grow an inch closer to God this minute?

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who loves to snack
(and the good thing about
this kind of snacking
is that the inches it adds
are in closeness to God
rather than around my waist!)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Apr 27 - Matthew 7:16

You will know them
by their fruits.
Matthew 7:16

Have you ever known a person who leads a G-rated life on Sunday morning, but a PG-13-rated life the rest of the week?

Of course he have.

And of course, we’ve all done it.

Maybe you’re not the one who sinks to an R-rated level. And hopefully you’re not descending as frequently to the depths you once plumbed in the past. But occasionally all of us sin and fall short. Sadly, our inevitable human failures wind up branding the church with the mark of hypocrisy. We each and occasionally drive would-be believers from the faith. Why? Because as today’s verse says, the world judges us by our fruits.

The very first Psalm offers a solution. As Psalm 1:3 says, “The righteous are like trees planted by streams of water.”

Living in the desert helped me understand what this means. The desert is predominantly brown. It is deathly and dry. But if you see a trail of green – and even more so, a highway of brilliant yellow leaves in the fall – you can bet there’s a stream of living water!

We are deathly and dry unless and until we plant ourselves near Christ Jesus, who bears the water of true life. And when we plant ourselves more deeply in him, righteousness grows and hypocrisy dies.

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who wants to be
a juicy plum rather than
a whithered and hypocritical prune
because I’m living beside
Jesus’ springs of living water

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Apr 26 - Matthew 25:44

"Lord, when was it that we saw you
hungry or thirsty or a stranger
or naked or sick or in prison,
and did not take care of you?”
Matthew 25:44

Years ago, I bought a used car. The “best deal at the time” happened to be an old Volvo with 125,000 miles. As soon as I bought one, a funny thing happened. I began seeing them all over town. Volvos are really not all that common, but suddenly it seemed like they were everywhere. I was sensitized. My eyes were opened.

Lately my eyes have been opened to the hungry, naked, sick, and persecuted. Like buying a car, it first required that I have a rooting interest in the events of South Sudan to become aware of what’s going on in that war-torn country. Now, I seem to see it everywhere. Yesterday, it was on the front page of my favorite magazine – World (see the attached article).

Since our young brother, Bobby Bender, went with Samaritan’s Purse to South Sudan, I’ve become aware of …

·         the decades long conflict between the north and the south in Sudan
·         the racial conflict prompted mainly by the ethnically Arabs in the north against the Black Africans in the south
·         the religious conflict prompted mainly by the Muslims in the north against the Christians in the south
·         the recent split of the old nation of Sudan into South Sudan and the-still-named-Sudan in the north.
·         the constant bombing raids by the North on the South
·         the terror, religious-persecution, war wounds, and – worst of all – the hunger among Black Christians, especially in and around the border which include the heavily persecuted Nuba Mountain region
·         the further escalating of tensions which may lead to an all-out war

“Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty … or sick … or [under persecution]?”

What can we do?
1.    Pray (for the bombings to stop, for the hungry to eat, and for the relief workers like Bobby to be safe).
2.    Learn (subscribe to World Magazine, my favorite source for a solid, Christian, counter-cultural understanding of the news)
3.    Give (Samaritan’s Purse is also a great place to learn more, and on the link provided, there is a place to give. The two greatest immediate needs are for food in the face of severe famine and medical care as the bombings increase.)

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who’s heart
has been sensitized

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Apr 25 - Proverbs 15:33

The fear of the Lord is
instruction in wisdom.
Proverbs 15:33

Do you know anyone who knows it all?

How about you? Do you know it all?

You’re probably not so arrogant as to suggest that you know it all. Nevertheless, you believe precisely what you believe. (Of course you do! Otherwise you wouldn’t believe it.)

But why do you believe what you believe? What percentage is Biblical? What percentage is cultural? What percentage agrees with your own morals, preferences, or worldview? What percentage is shaped by experience? What percent is shaped by feelings? Have you ever stopped to think why you believe what you believe?

Hopefully all of our beliefs are continually sharpened by God’s Word (and his faithful teachers). But that requires that we be intentional.

It also requires that we stop trusting the world and start trusting God’s wisdom. He not only invented truth, but he IS truth!. Indeed, faith grows only when we submit to his continual “instruction.”

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who, as a kid, feared instruction
a guy who, as an adult, wants to
fear the Lord through instruction

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Apr 24 - Mark 4:32

When the mustard seed is sown
it grows up and becomes
the greatest of all shrubs,
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the air
can make nests in its shade.
Mark 4:32

The point of all of Jesus’ mustard seed analogies is that something small (both faith and a mustard seed) can grow into something meaningful and substantial.

Now, you probably know that. Therefore, let’s focus on the branches rather than seeds.

What happens if – and as – your faith grows?

1.    It reaches “up.”
2.    It sprouts limbs and leaves.
3.    Birds rest in the shade of the branches.

Read that again … If we follow the natural cycle of grow, we reach up, our faith grows greater, we branch out and reach out, and the “birds” that we reach out to (our friends) can make a nest in our faith … until they grow their own faith.

This passage isn’t just about how meaningful and substantial our own faith-growth can be, but how instrumental we can be in helping and encouraging our neighbor.

In Christ’s Love,
a rose bush
(you can decide whether I
smell good or am prickly
or both)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Apr 23 - Exodus 24:7

“All that the Lord has spoken
we will do, and we will be obedient.”
Exodus 24:7

How often have you made promises like this?

·         “I won’t cheat on my diet.”
·         “I won’t touch another cigarette.”
·         “I’ll never tell another lie.”
·         “If God gets me out of this jam, I promise that I’ll never ______.”
·         And “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.”

It’s a noble sentiment, and I’m sure the Israelites genuinely meant this when they said it. But because of human sin, the Israelites couldn’t keep this promise more than a few days. And as long as we’re human, we can never completely keep this kind of promise either.

Rather than filling our promises with too many “always” and “nevers,” maybe we should just quote the Psalms, “Forgive me from hidden errors … forgive me for all my sins … forgive me, that I may be refreshed” (Ps 19:12, 25:18, 39:13).

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who always
has reason to say,
“Forgive me”

Sunday, April 22, 2012

APR 22 - Genesis 2:18

Then the Lord God said,
"It is not good that
the man should be alone;
I will make him a helper as his partner."
Genesis 2:18

“It was good."

"It was good."

"It was very good!"

Have you ever read Genesis 1? It’s a constant celebration of God and the overwhelming goodness of creation. But turning to Genesis 2, I love to ask, "Do you know the first thing that scripture says is 'not good'?"

The typical answer is, "Sin." Most people know that Adam and the apple are coming soon. It’s a good guess. Nevertheless, it’s incorrect. The first thing that scripture says is "not good" is for “the man [to] be alone.” Therefore, God's answer was to make a woman, a “helper,” a “partner.”

Now … not everyone in life will get married; nevertheless, it is clear from the beginning of creation that God intended for life to be lived in relationship. Marriage is the highest of these relationships, and from the very beginning of scripture, God ordained for marriage to be a “partner[ship].”

What is partnership? Scripture says, the woman is to be the man's "helper." (We could get legalistic about this, but from twenty-five years of marital experience, I can tell you that life works best -- and is the most joyful and productive -- when the man is the woman's helper too!)

Partners! Each sacrificing personally for the sake of the whole. And when each is sacrificing, it ceases to be a sacrifice at all. It's a partnership. It's a joy. 

In Christ's Love,
a guy who is not nearly as good on his own
(I need accountability. I love a partner.)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Apr 21 - Psalm 145:5

On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
Psalm 145:5

A good way to meditate on God's wondrous works is to read Psalm 145.
  • The Psalmist reminds us that God's "3 greatness is unsearchable."
  • He talks about his "awesome deeds" and "7 sing[s] aloud [regarding God's] righteousness."
  • "15 The Lord," we are told, "upholds all who are falling."
  • "19 He fulfills the desire of all who fear him [and] 20 watches over all who love him."
  • My favorite is that he "16 satisf[ies] the desire of every living thing."
I could spend a lot of time listing many magnificent things about God. But I'd rather stop and encourage you to spend a little extra time meditating on God's wonder.

In Christ's Love,
a guy who's med ... i ... ta ... shhh!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Apr 20 - 2 Corinthians 4:7

we have this treasure in clay jars,
so that it may be made clear that
this extraordinary power belongs
to God and does not come from us
2 Corinthians 4:7

I have a friend who loves Westerns.

Any time he can turn on a DVD and ... watch Gary Cooper boldly face his fears at High Noon ... watch James Arness's Marshall Dillon through the trails of Gunsmoke ... watch Hoss and Little Joe ride the Ponderosa ... and watch John Wayne's True Grit.

That was the age when men were mountains. And yes, you can turn on the TV any time and find them. Ironically, however, this is the age when those men are gone. Dead.

Film is illusion. John Wayne still looks bigger than he did in real life. But as Paul says, we have this treasure in jars of clay. Any power that we have is temporary at best. And temporary power is, at best, temporary hope. If we cling to what we -- or any human being -- can do, it will eventually fade away.

And that's what Paul was telling the Corinthians. He was saying, "You may look at me like I have all this power. But friend, I'm just a clay pot. I'll eventually chip, crack, and crumble. The real power is in God. Turn to him."

If Paul was alive today, he'd probably say, "Turn off the old TV, and turn to God."

In Christ's Love,
a guy who liked
the old Wild, Wild West

Thursday, April 19, 2012

APR 19 - Genesis 1:27-28

So God created humankind in his image …
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, and God said to them,
“Be fruitful and multiply …”
Genesis 1:27-28

“The purpose of sex is pleasure.”

I heard a pastor proclaim this recently. Indeed, I heard him proclaim this recently, boldly, and enthusiastically!

As a married father of three, I didn’t need the words of a pastor to connect the dots between sex and pleasure. Perhaps you’ve heard of a link between sex and pleasure too. (Indeed, you probably didn’t need this pastor to confirm or deny this rumor either.)

Sex is pleasurable! But pleasure is not the first and foremost purpose of sex.

God outlined the first and foremost purpose of sex on page one of the Bible. In creating males and females, God told us to “be fruitful and multiply.”

Procreation is the first and foremost purpose of sex.

That’s one of the primary reasons why sex has always and ideally been reserved for marriage. Since children (likely, probably, naturally, and eventually) come from the union of male and female, a committed marriage has always been the ideal context for sex.

This “rule” is not to keep us from having fun. Indeed, it was God himself who invented kind of fun! Yet God wants us to have fun for the long-term. Even more so, he wants the likely, probable, and eventual kids of our pleasurable unions to have fun for the long-term too. And this is where the ideal of married, committed, and loving families come in.

On another day, we’ll discuss how the invention of birth-control has changed our view of sex. While an obvious blessing and convenience in some ways, birth control has also radically skewed our understanding of this gift of sexuality in other ways. It has over-emphasized “pleasure,” it has deemphasized commitment, and it has led to more brokenness, divorce, loneliness, pornography, addictions, and single-parent homes than ever before.


(Indeed, that’s been a bigger oops than the old-fashioned “oops.”)

Conclusion: The purpose of sex is … pleasure. Yes, I said it! But the pleasures that scripture repeatedly invites us to discover are the long-term pleasures of marriage, family, love, trust, and commitment. Indeed, the greatest, final, and culminating pleasure is drawing closer – over and over again – to the person who’s promised to be close to you forever.  

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who’ll gladly trade
short-term pleasures for
long-term treasures

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

APR 18 - Ruth 1:17

Ruth said to her mother-in-law, Naomi,
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
Ruth 1:19

I just got back from seeing my son and new daughter-in-law in Connecticut. They’re doing great!

Wedding pictures are still an important part of their d├ęcor, so I kept remembering the day! I was honored to preach at their wedding. But there was a problem with the sermon. I’m used to Spirit of Joy’s liveliness. This crowd was stoic. I thought my sermon was an absolute dud!

… until afterwards. All I’d done was give some simple Biblical advice on marriage, and suddenly all of Paul and Meredith’s friends kept coming up to me and saying, “Thank you,” “That was really helpful,“ and “I’m just getting serious with a girl I’ve been dating; I needed to hear that.”

It’s a tough time for marriages in our world today.

·         The pace of life keeps getting busier.
·         Culture continually promotes false values.
·         Economic stress is adding exponentially to family burdens.
·         Furthermore, more and more adults grew up in families without role models for successful marriage.

Because of this, I’m going to focus on marriage and relationships a little more frequently in these devotions. Not every day!!! But more frequently.  

Two important things:

·         If you’re not married, don’t worry. I’m not leaving you out. First, most of these devotions will still apply because the relationship principals absolutely apply to our relationships in general. Second, when they are more specific to marriage, you surely have friends who could occasionally use a little encouragement and coaching for their marriage. So consider yourself better equipped to be a coach and friend.

·         Second, if we’re talking about marriage and relationships is there anyone you’d like to add to this list? Maybe it’s a young person who is approaching marital age? Maybe it’s a newlywed? Maybe a friend who’s trying to hold their marriage together. I’d be glad to add them, but tell them why you’re adding them! Tell them that in addition to some general devotions, a couple of times a week this devotion deals with marriage and relationships.

I’m not the only one noticing the stress in marriage. Kristen, our Director of Faith Development, responded before I did! She’s planning a congregational marriage retreat – local, easy, and not costly – for the second weekend in August. Everyone ought to be there. Why? Because eventually all our marriages will encounter stress. We want them all to be built more firmly on the rock.

Please pray with me for marriages!

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who’s praying
for your marriage

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Apr 17 - Ezekial 11:19

I will give them one heart,
and put a new spirit within them.
Ezekiel 11:19

God through Ezekiel is reassuring Israel.

After the Exile, God was reassuring Israel that they would eventually be reunited – one heart.

That was going to be good, but God was also promising something even better: A new spirit.

Think about your life. Has there ever been a time when you’ve been pulled apart? Have you ever been stabbed through the heart? How about this … Have you ever been stabbed in the back? Cut by other people’s words so badly, that you’re praying to have your heart “reunited.” Have you ever lost a friend – through grief or dissention – and feel like a piece of your life has been cut off? Have you sinned so badly that you’re no longer whole and can’t ever imagine being fully forgiven.

When life takes a sword to us, this verse reassures us that God’s great us desire is to piece you back together – one heart, one hope, one joy. Indeed, to bring you that joy, he wants to pour a new spirit in you.

And here’s the funny thing about brokenness … Even though it’s painful, it’s often what empties us enough to have room enough for the Spirit.  

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who wants to be
new and improved


Monday, April 16, 2012

Apr 16 - 2 Chronicles 18:4

Inquire first for the word of the Lord.
2 Chronicles 18:4

After the reign of Solomon, God’s people split into two kingdoms. The kings of Israel were only evil continuously. The kings of Judah fluctuated between good and bad.

At one point, Israel and Judah sought an alliance against a common enemy. But before they went out in battle, King Jehoshaphat of Judah (a good king) insisted that King Ahab of Israel (who was only evil continuously) to “inquire first for the word of the Lord.” (By the way, that’s good advice. Before we set out for any venture, we ought to inquire first of the Lord!!!)

Well, Ahab did. He inquired of 400 prophets – perhaps the same 400 false prophets of Baal that Elijah once did battle against. They told him what he wanted to hear – that God would be with them when they went into battle against Ramothgilead.

But good king Jehoshaphat wasn’t satisfied. He said, “Is there no other prophet of the Lord here of whom we can inquire?” (2 Chr 18:6).

Ahab responded, “There is still one other by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah … but I hate him for he never prophesies anything favorable about me, but only disaster” (18:7).

·         Integrity always wants to hear truth. Evil never wants to hear truth.
·         Integrity stands taller when bolstered by truth. Evil feels judged and defeated.
·         Integrity will be blessed – if not in the moment, then always in the end. Evil may steal a few short term victories, but it is never, never blessed.

Don’t you see that in our world all of the time?

·         Evil is afraid of the light, but integrity even shines brighter in it.

In Christ’s Love,
Hungry Jack
(a guy who’s hungry for truth
… and pancakes)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Apr 15 - Proverbs 23:26

My child, give me your heart,
and let your eyes observe my ways.
Proverbs 23:26
Perhaps the most important word that should describe you and me is “disciple.”

We know about the twelve disciples, but what does discipleship really mean?

A disciple is like an apprentice. An apprentice signs on with a master, a tutor. In the case of a blacksmith, for example …

·         An apprentice’s first year was probably spent cleaning the shop and stoking the fire. (But a good apprentice was always watching.)
·         An apprentice’s second year was probably spent pre-heating the metal in the fire, so that the master craftsman could do the more skilled chores. (And a good apprentice was always watching.)
·         An apprentice’s third year was probably spent bending the metals into the rough shapes, leaving the fine details to the experienced craftsman. (And as the expect blacksmith continued to work, the good apprentice was always watching).
·         An apprentices’ final year was spent shaping the final product. (And the experience craftsman was always watching and correcting and encouraging and always helping his pupil blossom.)

Jesus – the master craftsman and carpenter – could have easily echoes Proverbs 23. Indeed, I believe he says to each of us, “My Child, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.”

In the beginning of our faith walk, it may seem like all we’re doing is the mundane tasks, but if we keep our eyes continually on Jesus, the master craftsman, we’ll grow in skill, responsibility, freedom, and fun.

In Christ’s Love,
a spy
(I’ve been watching Christ close!)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Apr 14 - 2 Corinthians 1:10

On God we have set our hope
that he will rescue us again.
2 Corinthians 1:10

In this passage, what does “again” mean?

“Again” implies, of course, that God has rescued us before. But what was his previous rescue(s)? And what is the rescue you are waiting for again?

Stop … think about that!

How has God showed up in your past to rescue you? And what is the rescue you’re waiting for again?

I like to tell people that life is sometimes like driving in a car for the very first time. Remember that? Remember the uncertainty and anxiety?

Whatever is out our front window is racing at us at one hundred miles per hour. It is worry, indeed!

But look at the top center of that windshield. There is a little tool there – a rearview mirror. While what’s in front of us looms large, there is something front and center that reminds us where we have been.

Our strength when facing an uncertain future often starts by looking back. When we can remember that God rescued us before (and again and again and again), then it’s easier to trust that he WILL rescue again again!

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who read 2 Cor 1, and found Paul telling of
the crushing affliction they endured in Asia,
but while stepped on, he wasn’t destroyed
and that gives him hope again and again

Friday, April 13, 2012

Apr 13 - Matthew 13:45-46

The kingdom of heaven is like
a merchant in search of fine pearls;
on finding one pearl of great value,
he went and sold all that he had
and bought it.
Matthew 13:45-46

This is one of the shortest of all the parables.

It’s almost an analogy.

Listen to what Jesus is saying about the Kingdom of Heaven …

·         It is the greatest and most valuable thing … in life … in your life … in all creation.
·         It is the fulfillment of all that we’re searching for. Do you have a heart’s desire? It’s not in the Kingdom. It is the Kingdom.
·         To obtain the fullness of its blessings, though, you must give up everything else.

The pearl merchant must sell everything else – even otherwise good pearls – to get the best. The disciples must drop their nets, their careers, and everything else to follow Jesus and get the best (Mt 4:18-22). The rich young ruler was told by Jesus to go and sell everything, but he was satisfied with the many and merely good possessions and turned away from the best (Mt 19:16-22).

What are the even good things that you need to turn away from to find what you really searching for?

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who’s tired
of just good enough

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Apr 12 - Psalm 105:3

Let the hearts of those
who seek the Lord rejoice.
Psalm 105:3

I love watching kids play hide and seek.

The younger they are, the more invisible they think they are!

The older kids are, the more fun there is in the chase.

How many of us feel like we’re playing hide and seek with God?

First, he’s not invisible, though sin – our own plus the sin of the world – constantly obscure him.

But I want to turn this in another way. I want to turn you onto the thrill of the hunt. I want you to study scriptures, like you’re involved in a chase, looking day by day for a wonderful clue or a revealing hint or a powerful truth.

The chase can be as much fun as the full revealing. It’s a pursuit that can and should last for a lifetime. Indeed, the more you seek, the more God will quell the fog and reveal himself too you.  

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who wants the faith of a child

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Apr 11 - Luke 24:5

Why do you look for the living
among the dead?
Luke 24:5

What’s living in this world?

People are living. Things are obviously dead.

James tells us (2:17) that faith without words is also dead. And the Psalms tell us that “evil brings death” (Ps 34:21).

In the Proverbs, Solomon warns that, “Those who despise the word bring destruction on themselves” (in case you’re superstitious, that’s appropriately Prov 13:13).

The Apostles want us to know that “the body without the spirit is dead” (Jas 2:26). Why? Because of the stranglehold of sin. Indeed, Paul says, the body is dead because of sin” (Rom 8:10).

Timothy is told that “those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1 Tim 6:9).

Furthermore, Paul wants us all to know that “the [one] who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives” (1 Tim 5:6).

One of my favorite book titles in recent years is Neil Postman’s classic, “Amusing Ourselves to Death.” How fully does that describe our modern culture? How fully does that describe you?

In this season of life and resurrection, what are do you turn to that brings death (or turn away from that brings life)?

In Christ’s Love,
a prisoner
who wants to get off
death row

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Apr 10 - Isaiah 40:2

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and
proclaim to her that her hard service
has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for.
Isaiah 40:2

The first parts of Isaiah are God’s repeated warnings to Jerusalem. This kingdom had forgotten the Lord and was following the ways of the world. “Turn back” was the constant message.

God’s people did not turn back. God’s hand of protection was removed. The Babylonians were allowed to conquer Judah and scatter God’s people.

In the first parts of Isaiah and in midst of rebellion, the prophet’s constant message was “turn back.” In the midst of exile and persecution – and in the final parts of Isaiah – we find God “speak[ing] tenderly.”

In the days of Jesus, our Lord was warning Jerusalem. Some followed Jesus the Messiah. Others called for his crucifixion.

In Romans 9-11 (a focus of my current Wednesday night Bible Study), Paul – a Jew who became a Christian – lamented like a prophet over the sin of his people. Paul says that with God’s people turning violently away, the Lord has chosen a new people – the Gentiles, the church – to be his people. Indeed, Paul says, “their rejection is [has led to, has opened the door for] the reconciliation of the world” (Rom 11:15).

Nevertheless, Paul concludes by reminding us

·         that God is faithful (Rom 11:1),
·         that his promise to Israel will endure forever (Rom 11:29),
·         that – as in the days of Isaiah – a door is open and a remnant will return (Rom 11:4-5).

Today, Israel is again a political punching bag. The world is aligned (again) against them. I’m personally inclined to stand with Israel, remembering Paul’s words, “I want you to understand this mystery: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so [and then] all Israel will be saved … for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:25-29).

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who personally likes the grace of the next verse too …
“Just as you were once disobedient to God
but have now received mercy …

… so they too may receive mercy” (Rom 11:30-31)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Apr 9 - Philippians 4:7

And the peace of God,
which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds
in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7

Do you have peace?

We can be comfortable. Calm. Even satisfied. And all those are wonderful and appreciated. But they are not peace. True peace.

They are not the peace of God which surpasses all understanding. They are not the peace of God which transcends all circumstances.

When things are going well, it’s fairly easy to have peace. But what happens when the world is at war? What happens when your child is trouble? What happens when you or a loved one is in ICU?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want circumstantial peace. I want a circumstance-defying peace. And that comes from only three places …

1.     From God the Father, His circumstance-surpassing peace will guard your hearts and minds.
2.     From God the Son, after all, he is The Prince of Peace, and he says, “Come to me all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens.”
3.     From God the Holy Spirit, because true peace (along with true love, true patience, and true joy) are only and ever fruits of the Spirit.

I was talking with a friend this morning. His mother is dying. Circumstantially, there is not peace. Supernaturally, there is peace. There is hope. There is joy. There is the promise of eternal life.  

In this season of Easter, give thanks to Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and the peace and power of the resurrection!

In Christ’s Love,
a new hippie
(Peace, Man!)