All of these devotionals are the result of my own personal reflection on God's word. If you find these devotionals helpful, please subscribe and share them! Thank you for reading!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Romans 12:20

On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."

This isn't a verse saying your enemies will be punished and condemned when you are nice to them.  These aren't the fiery coals of Hell.  You aren't secretly damning your enemies in some sort of sinister plot.  Rather a few commentaries on Proverbs 25:21-22 point out that burning coals is a smelting metaphor, a process of obtaining the valuable metals out of ore.  These burning coals have a refining effect of removing the impurities from the metal and leaving only what is valuable.  This is a beneficial effect.  Our enemies will be ashamed for they have nothing bad to say about us (Titus 2:6-8) and may turn into friends.

But if while we were enemies with God, while we were still sinners Christ died for us so that we may be reconciled to him in death, how much more will we be saved through his life! (Rom 5:1-11)  God himself has continued to provide for us though we despised and hated him.  How foolish have we become to bite the hand that feeds!  But now that God's love has been made plain to us through the death and resurrection of Christ, we now seek to imitate his love.  We who have experienced God's love and provision are being refined in the fire, being purified unto peace with a Holy God.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Ezekiel 14:9

"And if the prophet is deceived and speaks a word, I, the LORD, have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel."

No surprise here that this is about judgment on idolaters. It is well within God's ability to blind people to the truth and to give them over to their own depravity of thinking. Is that the same thing as lying to them? Not at all. 

The context informs the meaning: Some elders came and wanted to ask the LORD some things, but they were idolaters in their own hearts. So God refuses to answer them and tells them they cannot go to his prophets to inquire of God anything until they repent. The Hebrew verb used is a passive "to allow oneself to be deceived" then God deceives him. 

But wait! What's this in the context? The previous chapter is condemning false prophets! (13:2-3) It seems that these prophets who allow themselves to be deceived are not prophets at all. They speak things as if they know, but everything they say is false and so "they will bear the guilt" (Ez 14:10) 

However the manner of deception is not told, is it the same way he deceived in 1 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 18 or 2 Thessalonians 2:11?  Considering both passages deal with false prophets and teachers and God's treatment of them, we see He is remarkably consistent.  God doesn't change.  Amen.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

John 14:6

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Is Jesus using a metaphor here or is he being literal?

Hodos is a Greek word meaning way, path, road, or journey.  Coupled with the latter half of the verse, he is a roadway to the Father himself, a path upon which we can walk.  Traditionally people interpret this as "If we behave in the way Jesus did, we will come to the father".  Hodos can indeed mean a manner of thought or behavior when used metaphorically, but is this a metaphor?  Is it the traveler or the path that determines where the traveler ends up?

Lethe is a Greek word for "forgetfulness" or "Concealment" or "Oblivion".  It's counterpart is Aletheia (a-lethe-ia) literally meaning "un-forgetfulness" or "Un-concealment", just something that is not hidden or is evident.  It is the Greek word for "Truth".  Jesus is the invisible God made flesh, self-evident and fully disclosed.  He is the revelation of God himself.  When coupled with Jesus's statement of "I AM" at the beginning of this sentence, he is making a bold claim.  Or is he simply saying that he is the only thing that is true?

Zoe, which means life, is a bit tricky.  If literal, he is saying that He is the exact thing which animates all living things and the source of all life.  If it's a metaphor, he is that which brings true and everlasting life and is the sustainer of all life.

So which is it?  Metaphor or literal?  I think so.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jeremiah 38:20-22

"But Jeremiah said, “They will not give you over. Please obey the LORD in what I am saying to you, that it may go well with you and you may live. “But if you keep refusing to go out, this is the word which the LORD has shown me:

‘Then behold, all of the women who have been left in the palace of the king of Judah are going to be brought out to the officers of the king of Babylon; and those women will say,

“Your close friends
Have misled and overpowered you;
While your feet were sunk in the mire,
They turned back.'"

What the LORD asked King Zedekiah to do is nothing easy.  He asked him to surrender to the invading army of Babylon so that many would be spared and the city not destroyed.  Instead of protecting the city like He has always done, he has sent the Babylonians against it to capture it because of the wickedness of Israel.  And although God's judgment is absolute, his mercy still shines through.  If Zedekiah but humbles himself and obeys the LORD one final time, many will live and Jerusalem will not burn.  The cost of disobedience is clear.  The penalty of sin is death.

Although the pressure on him to listen to his friends and please his officials is great, the cost of pleasing them is his own life for in the end they will betray him and leave him to die.  Only the LORD is able to offer him a way out, but it isn't going to be easy.  And just like Zedekiah, we all have a choice to make.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Psalms 73:20

"As a dream when one wakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies."

The wicked have no real place in the world, just a blip in the existence of a structure vast and great.*  Simply put: In the grand scheme of things they do not exist.  The pain, suffering, and oppression they cause is real (or at least appears real) but only terribly temporary just like the riches and the power and the pleasures they seek.  They will become just like their idols, lifeless and insatiable.

But when the Lord comes again in his full power and majesty, the wicked will fall away like they had never existed.  All suffering, all pain, and all strife will pass like a bad dream when the Lord lifts his hand against them.  In the blink of an eye they will be destroyed and swept away, forgotten like a dream in the mind of God.

But those who are in Christ will last forever.  Theirs is the inheritance of eternal life.  When God arises, they will remain with Him for all eternity.  What do we have besides God?  The Earth has nothing for us that we can keep, but the Lord God is ours forever.  Hallelujah!

*phrasing borrowed from a band called Say Anything.  Their lead singer, Max Bemis, recently became a Christian because of his wife (he used to be Jewish) and I've been enjoying his new album.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Isaiah 9:2

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned."

Do not doubt in the dark what you have seen in the light.  When a great storm comes upon you and knocks out the power, you blindly stumble throughout the house.  Suddenly a flash of lightning shakes the house and illuminates the room. For the briefest of moments, you know where you are and how to get to where you are going.  When the room fades again to black, the reality of the room does not disappear but rather is hidden.

Such is faith to us, like lightning in the deep dark of night.  Amidst the sea of doubt and the fog of suffering, our God is a lighthouse, a salvation for those lost at sea.  And you only need to see it once through the cracks of obscurity to forever know it is there, seen or unseen.  We walk in the light whether the light shines or not because it's there whether we see it or not.

But what we cannot do is convince another of what we have seen. All they see is dark and fog without the light.  Only by trust would a man believe solely upon our word, but it would not be real in his mind until he sees what we saw in the light.  All we can do is simply tell him where to look when the lightning strikes.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Luke 24:38

"He said to them, 'Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?  Look at my hands and my feet.  It is I myself!  Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."

No one believed the resurrection.  Even when it was plainly told to them that Christ would be raised on the Third Day, no one believed him at first and even Peter rebuked him.  But not even Christ expected us to believe blindly, but he says, "Touch me and see!"  This is not the testimony of irrational men or blind followers, but men who tested what they saw and believed in the truth.

The very idea of Jesus and His Resurrection sounds like pure and utter nonsense (v11) and Peter must have thought he was investigating a crime scene rather than the truth of our Risen Lord.  Every disciple doubted the resurrection and Peter's first conclusion, being a rational man, was not "He must've walked out".  He saw him beaten.  He saw him die and he is still grieving the loss.  What cruel new insult now is this to the memory of his beloved Lord?

They did not even recognize him as he talked to them (v16), but their hearts burned like fire within them as he spoke.  It was not until they ate with him as he broke the bread that they knew Him(v30-31).  It is not until they touched him (v39) that they believed for they all had doubt in their minds (v38).  No one comes to believe that Christ is risen until they reach out to touch him.  And when we've touched him, He touches us.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Matthew 27:64

"So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day.  Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell people that he has been raised from the dead.  This last deception will be worse than the first."

On the Sabbath day, Jesus rested in the tomb.  The guards were posted and the tomb sealed shut but they didn't know what was happening within.  They weren't necessarily trying to keep men out but to keep one in.  But for all the Pharisee's clever planning, they are no match for what would happen next.  How could they have known?

But for now, everything is quiet, normal, and unsuspecting as all creation groans in anticipation for what is to come like a child on Christmas Day.  But Jesus's fight has not stopped at his death.  While all is quiet on Earth, in the spiritual realm a war is being waged.  Jesus has infiltrated the enemy base under the guise of sin and death.  He has begun to set the captives free as war rages on beneath.  Satan can not hold out much longer (much like the Philistines when they took the Ark of the Covenant) and will soon release his prisoner.

But as for the rest of us, it's just another uneventful Sabbath while our Champion lies in wait, ready to come back at any moment.  Are we prepared to welcome home our hero when he comes against all odds in all his Glory?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Mark 15:33-34

"At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.  And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"  which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'"

We all die with Christ today.

Jesus's last words were words already written by him centuries ago through King David.  It is the very beginning of Psalm 22, David's song of lament written as if through the eyes of Christ.  If you read Psalms 22, you will understand the prophecy being fulfilled as Jesus breathes his last as it is an exact description of what happened to him.  He wanted those around him to have Psalms 22 in mind as he died upon that cross.

But the good news is that Psalms 22, though it starts out somber ends with a hopeful note:

"They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn-- for he has done it." (Psalms 22:31)

We are those who have heard the message and we are those who believe and proclaim that He has done it.  It is his righteousness, not ours, which sets us free.

These are the last words of our Christ, a final prayer for God to deliver him from his enemies.  Though darkness might last a few hours or days, even in death our Christ awaits God's deliverance from sin and death.  And it is our hope and expectation that He who is mighty to save will deliver us all.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Luke 22:50-51

"And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.  But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him."

Jesus never used violent uprisings to get his way.  Unlike the rebellious zealots who went before him, Jesus's power and authority come from faith and truth.  He need not even lift a finger against his enemies to establish his dominance although he easily could.

This is why the ear was cut off.  His disciples trusted in his power to defeat his mortal enemies.  If Jesus was to become King and overthrow the Roman government and give the Jews back their land, now was the time.  This is the time for battle.  This would be the ear-cutting heard round the world.  This is the start of the revolution!  The time is now and the kingdom of God is at hand!  Strike and believe the good news!

But that's not how it goes.

Jesus undoes what happened to that servant's ear and in front of everyone performs a miracle, demonstrating again his power and authority and command of the situation.  And they still took him, but we know the truth.  Jesus allowed himself to be taken.  No more mysteriously passing through crowds as we see in the Gospel of John.  Now is the time, the hour when darkness reigns.  The Kingdom of God is coming, and soon all Hell will break loose.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mark 14:26

"When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives."

Did you know that Our Lord sings?

This is our Lord who is able to make the blind see, the dead live, walk on water, cast out demons, rebuke storms, feed thousands with just a few fish and loaves of bread, and mighty and able to overturn kings and kingdoms at the sound or command of his voice and yet with this same voice Our Lord sings.

Do you remember what happens at the last supper?  Judas goes out to betray Jesus into the hands of the Pharisees.  Jesus knows what is coming, that he will not live to see the end of the week and that in two days he will be beaten and crucified, and still he does not neglect to worship God.  He does not forsake his duty to give God praise and glory and honor for He knows His scripture:

"Sing, O daughter of Zion;
Shout aloud, O Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
O Daughter of Jerusalem!
The LORD has taken away your punishment,
he has turned back your enemy.
The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you;
never again will you fear any harm.
The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing."
(Zephaniah 3:14-15,17)

The Fourth Day of Holy Week.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mark 12:10

"Haven't you read this Scripture:
'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone;  The LORD has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes.'?

In our moment of defeat as we lay helpless and hopeless on the battlefield with the enemy bearing down on us about to plunge his fiery spear into our hearts, the true Heir of the Kingdom came to us and fought in our stead and repelled the enemy.  But what was to be a moment of gratitude turned into betrayal as we plunged our sword into His back in hopes that Satan and his army might be merciful to us and spare our lives.  Satan took His Body and hung it up as a trophy of his victory and there Jesus lay abandoned, rejected, and alone for three days while some wept, some cheered, and others stood indifferent, but everyone who wasn't slain was captured and forced into slavery.  With the death of our King, Satan's army's had won the war.

But the stone the builders rejected had become the capstone.  Jesus rose from the dead and empowered by his Father proceeded to destroy Satan's kingdom from the inside out and with him were all those who believed in his power and might to deliver us from captivity and joined him in his fight.  The man who became our sacrifice became our savior and it is marvelous in our eyes.

The third day of Holy week.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mark 11:12

This is what happened on Monday, the second day of Holy week.

"Is it not written: "My house will be called a 'house of prayer for all nations?'"  But you have made it 'a den of robbers'"

Jeremiah 7:9-11

“‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching!' declares the LORD."

Isaiah 56:6-7

"And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to minister to him,
to love the name of the LORD,
and to be his servants,
all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it
and who hold fast to my covenant—
these I will bring to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called
a house of prayer for all nations.”

Jesus makes it clear the stark contrast between a true believer and a pretender, those who truly love God and go to church and those who go to church so that they will be loved by God, between true and false religion. We, who bear the name of Christ, are his house.  Have you been washed or are you impure?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Psalms 148:5

"Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created."

There is no other justification needed other than this to praise God:  that you even live and breath, you who were once dirt and water (carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen) and now is able to feel, and think, and dance.  If you saw a statue come to life you would be amazed, and yet how can you find the birth of a child anything less than a miracle?  Where there was no life, now there is.

Try as they might, no biologist can ever figure out what makes a man alive, what animates his cells and causes them to divide and grow.  At any given moment there are billions of different processes occurring inside your body simultaneously, all of which work together and the resulting harmony is called "life".

Miraculously, it is this life which keeps every function running in oder to sustain and produce more life which sustains every function... and so on ad infinitum.  It is this breath of life which overflows from God onto his creation and so all things great and small praise God for without Him we would have no voices at all.  As easily as God has breathed life into a man so too can he take it away.

So let everything that has Breath praise the Lord for this is the reason it was given!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Romans 8:23

"And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies."

It is an amazing reminder that no matter how good things get in the Christian life and no matter how much joy and celebration we have in Christ there are only the firstfruits of what is to be a much larger crop.  What we experience now with the Holy Spirit is only but a tiny fraction of that which is to come.

It is these firstfruits that symbolize the promise of more to come.  We have but a taste of the Kingdom of God and of adoption by God.  If you believe that Jesus is powerful to act through His Spirit in this present day and age, just wait until you see the Son of Man in all his glory ascended to the right hand of the Father!

Indeed the Holy Spirit is our deposit and guarantee of the salvation and redemption of our bodies that is to come.  Though in Christ we have already been made children of the promise and heirs to the kingdom of God, we also eagerly await the fullness of God's glory and harvest.  Those who possess it groan with eager expectation and a deep longing for intimacy with our Father in heaven.  Do you feel it?  That ineffable pull in your gut that longs for more something?  My friends, more is out there and it's coming.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Romans 13:7

"Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed."

Today is the deadline* to file your federal income tax to whom your taxes are owed.  This piece of Biblical wisdom seems obvious to most people.  Not paying someone what they are owed is the same as stealing from them or taking them for granted.  But what do we owe to God?  In fact it's our very lives.

We are not our own any longer for we were bought with a price.  We have given up any and all rights to self determine for ourselves what is good.  We have given up all rights to expect fairness for God has been more than fair with us.  Our very lives are owed to God and not offering them up as living sacrifices to the Lord is stealing from him that which he has lent to us, the very breath of life.  

Those who try to keep their lives will lose them for God will collect outstanding debts, but those who lose their lives for Christ's sake and for the sake of His gospel will be given eternal life!  If God can trust you to be faithful in your payments, will He not lend you even more?  But if you squander this life which is temporary, how can you be trusted with life that lasts eternally?  Give to God what God is due.

*Actually for 2011, the deadline is April 18th because the IRS is observing a holiday and in so doing pushed back the deadline to the next business day, Monday April 18th.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ephesians 6:10-11

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil."

What is the armor of God other than armor given to us by God himself?  Truth, righteousness, preparation by the Gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the word of God are all given to us by God himself to protect us from the powers of darkness, against authorities and principalities and against Satan himself.  All of these things have been bestowed upon all those who believe from God.  It is His truth, His righteousness, His training, His faith, His salvation, and His word.  

If any of it were ours it would be as good as worthless to us.  Can armor made by man protect his soul?  Can a shield protect against temptation or can a helmet protect against the fires of Hell? No, but God has bestowed upon us all these things through Christ Jesus.  No longer when he looks upon us does he see our sins, but rather he sees Jesus Christ crucified as our armor.  God himself is the armor which protects us and surrounds us.  In a certain sense Jesus Christ lives within us, but we also live in Him.  It's the divine mystery that unites us to Christ but it's the only way we are going to make it out of this mess alive.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Titus 2:9-10

"Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive."

One of the big questions today is "How do I make scripture relevant to my listeners?" and the answer doesn't lie in fancy presentations, funny skits, or flashy videos.  It lies in living holy and blameless lives, in being hospitable, a lover of what is good, self-controlled, upright,and disciplined.  Even when people hate us (and they will hate us), their testimony will be discredited because they have nothing bad to say about us.

Sadly, our enemies have plenty of bad things to say about us and most of them have good reason to say them.  It takes only one action to completely destroy any and all credibility you once held.  Trust can be re-earned, but it will never be where it was before.

Our only hope, then, is to pick up the slack of those who have dropped the rope.  We know God is anchoring the back and He isn't going anywhere, but with God's empowerment we must redouble our efforts to love and prove ourselves trustworthy.  "If we only do what we have always done we will only get what we already have."

If you want the Gospel to be relevant to others, live like the Gospel is relevant to you.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ephesians 5:15-17

"Be very careful, then, how you live -- not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is."

It's really easy to waste time.  You do it.  I do it.  We've got so much time that we have time to kill.  But do we?

You've heard it said that we should "live like there is no tomorrow" and not waste any opportunity, but in reality you will always have tomorrow and eternity.  Anyone who is in Christ has died already to sin, how can they die again?  And if we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?

Perhaps the saying should be "live like you'll live forever".  Every opportunity that God gives you to do a good deed he has given you so that you might be blessed in doing them as Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:10

"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do."

If you refuse the gifts, then you don't get them, simple as that.  We live a fallen world and we make the best of every situation because it is the Lord's will for the redemption of this world.  Every opportunity passed over is a grace forfeited so be careful how you live, not as foolish but with wisdom.  Do the best you can with what you have.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Exodus 5:22-23

"Moses returned to the LORD and said, "O LORD, why have you brought trouble upon this people?  Is this why you sent me?  Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued them at all."

Each one of us has been called into God's ministry to serve, some for great tasks and some for lesser ones, but each according to their ability.  But when God gives us a clear vision, do we let discouragement shake us?  When we go to accomplish God's will and are met with opposition, will it cast doubt upon our mission and dreams?  Even Moses had to ask if he was doing the right thing by going back to Egypt.  Surely he must've thought to himself "What am I doing here?  They were better off than if I had never come at all!"

But God had a plan of redemption even in the midst of the problem growing worse and not better.  Moses had to trust God every step of the way even when he had his doubts about if he was actually doing any good in ministry.  He stuck through it because he was sure in his call by God to be where he was even when he couldn't see why or how.  Moses had no clue what he was doing, but he went and did because of the LORD.  This has made all the difference in his ministry.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Psalm 77:9-11

"Has God forgotten to be merciful?  Has he in anger withheld his compassion?  Then I thought, 'To this will I appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High."  I will remember the deeds of the LORD; Yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago."

Despite a whole list of doubts David has in verses 7-9, David ultimately has one source of comfort:  that God never changes.  David reflects on God's track record, on how he has proven himself time and time again to be the God who performs miracles.  And of course, we see that it is the Exodus account that gives David cause for faith.

Even though things look bad now, David trusts God never changes and in so doing knows what God will do.  The only surprise with God is in how he does something, not if he does something, but when he acts you can be sure it will be mighty.

God is the only thing in this world which never changes, a solid rock and firm foundation we can hold onto.  It is this trust in God's unchangeable character that forms the backbone of our faith.

Without great doubt, there cannot be great faith.  The more doubts you have, the more we must rely on the truth of God, in his unchanging character.  But don't just take my word for it, God's actions speak for himself.  Everything rests on the belief that God is who he has revealed himself to be.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Psalms 46:4-5

"There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.  God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at the break of day."

In verse 4 we see a happy river flowing through the city of God in contrast to the raging waters of verses 2 and 3.  We see that despite what chaos may be going on outside, those in God's kingdom experience peace.  David, who wrote the psalm, would have also understood rivers to be places of abundance and provision.  Imagine the stark contrast between the desert he and his men were fleeing through with the lush green foliage around the riverbanks and the fresh water for his men to drink.  Not only is God's kingdom peaceful, but it is also abundant and full of life.  In short, it is a paradise, an oasis in the midst of chaos.

It is this way because the Most High lives there and because He lives there, it will not fall.  The phrase "God will help her at the break of day" can also be translated "will help her see the dawn", that is He will see her through the night safely.  Traditionally, the place where God dwells is the Temple.

But the best part is this:  You are the temple or "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?" (1 Cor 6:19)  With God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, we have inner strength and peace when the world around us crumbles.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Luke 1:73-75

"...the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days."

The Gospel is better than you think.  Don't take my word for it, listen to the words of The Holy Spirit through Zechariah.  No longer do we live in fear of eternal condemnation for our sins.  No longer must we strive with the burden of guilt.  No longer are the days when sin and death reigned in our bodies, but now we have the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins.

It is no longer fear of punishment through the law that we are made holy and righteous.  God has revealed himself through his tender mercy in the person of Christ Jesus.  He has paid for every single sin past, present, and future in order that some may come to believe and glorify him.

The Gospel is better than we could have ever imagined.  We have been enabled through the power of the Holy Spirit to serve God apart from the law.  None is good but God and the Good News is that you cannot be good by working hard at it.  God is good for you.  You need only to give your life to Him and he will take care of the rest.  When God looks on you, he sees not a sinner but Christ in you.  Don't you believe that?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Titus 3:14

"Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives."

Why should we do good rather than evil if in the end nothing we do is righteous to God and no sin can ever separate us from Christ crucified?  As Paul writes in Titus, there are two very practical reasons among many others.  First that we might provide for daily necessities and secondly not live unproductive lives.

We do good in order to bless others by providing for their basic needs and in return they bless us with gifts of humility and joy.  In addition we receive blessings from God and store up for ourselves treasures in heaven.  In so doing, we live productive lives because we are literally working for that which is eternal and does not rust or decay.  Nothing we do in this life is productive because ultimately everything in this world passes away.  How many ancients civilizations have there been with astounding technology lost forever to time?  No doubt they thought they were being productive at the time, but in the end they are forgotten as if they had never been.

And it all starts with hearts and minds transformed by the Holy Spirit.  So then we give ourselves over to Him so that we may be self-controlled, hospitable, upright, holy, and disciplined so that in every way we will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Romans 6:14

"For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace."

How hard it is for us to teach grace rather than law in our churches.  You've probably heard at least one sermon in your life that made you feel awful about yourself for an entire Sunday afternoon.  Many of us say, "If only I prayed more or read my Bible more then I would be a good Christian." Guilt over our own failure only leads to death and condemnation.  When we strive to do what is good in order to be good we fall into the Law and sins reign in us.

However when we do good in order to receive the blessings it affords we are truly under grace.  For a Christian, no sin can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ for there is no condemnation in Christ.  Sin has lost it's power and death it's sting.  Only in grace can we choose to do or not do without fear of eternal consequence.  Only then can we grow and mature because we are free to make mistakes.  It is expected. There's a big difference between guilt and godly sorrow.  Guilt is an inward feeling of condemnation and is not an option but Godly sorrow is an outward expression of having hurt someone or God and brings transformation.  It is now our love for God that keeps us in line and God's kindness which leads us to repentance instead of fear.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Revelation 19:1-2

"Hallelujah!  Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments."

God's righteousness is at the very core of God's being.  You simply cannot divorce God's righteous character from God else you leave yourself with a God who is more than worthless to serve.  If God was not just and true in his judgments, then there is no salvation for God is powerless to act.  If God were not just and true in his judgments, then he has no glory but is instead a liar and untrustworthy.  There is nothing which can stop an unjust God from taking back the salvation he has promised, but Hallelujah!  Our Lord Jesus Christ, the son of the living God, has shown himself to be more than gracious, just, merciful, and fair in dealing with sin.  Because we have faith in Him and his righteousness, we know as well of His salvation.

Satan wants Job to do one thing:  when suffering comes, he wants Job to curse God and therefore forfeit his salvation.  Far be it from us to ever blaspheme God in this way! Who can accuse God and not their own salvation at the same time?  If they are right and God is unrighteous, wouldn't they wish they were wrong?

If your theology doesn't start with a God who is righteous and just in all cases, then stop for it is just as worthless as the god you made up.  This is the beginning of faith.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Daniel 7:13-14

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a Son of Man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed."

"Who do people say the Son of Man is?"  was Jesus's first question, no doubt with this verse in mind.  Was it John the Baptist?  Elijah? Jeremiah or some other prophet?  No doubt this question was more than likely a hot topic among Rabbi's and Jews of the age.

"Who do you think the Son of Man is?" Jesus's second question should've logically followed from the first, but his actual question "Who do you say I am?" seems to both teach and inquire from Peter.  A rhetorical question, however Peter's response seems to catch Jesus off his guard.

"You are the Christ, Son of the Living God." You might have expected Peter to say "You are the Son of Man." in typical Sunday School fashion where "Jesus" is the answer. Peter doesn't say Jesus is the Son of Man, but Jesus calls him blessed because God has revealed to Him this truth.  Jesus is not only the Son of Man, but the Son of the Living God, a mysterious marriage of earthly and divine.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Luke 6:24

"But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort."

Has anyone ever told you this?  Has anyone ever told you that seeking to be wealth is a wrong thing?  That being comfortable is not to be desired?  Indeed Jesus goes against the very ethos of American society and the American Dream of a house in the suburbs and a white picket fence to surround your impeccable green lawn.

Why should we seek comfort in this life?  Such things are a trap to spiritual stagnation and laziness.  It is no wonder that the more comfortable we are, the less we pray.  The more we rely on our own wealth, the less we rely on God.  When a branch refuses to grow, it is in danger of being cut off and thrown into the fire.  It needs to be brought to maturity so that it might bear fruit.

Let God lead you into difficult situations, things you never thought you could handle.  He will stretch you and grow you.  You will feel like breaking but you are clay in God's capable hands.  If you believe there is an afterlife, than live like there is one.  What good is it to store up comfort now and forsake eternal comfort?

After all, we only have a short time to spend on Earth, so don't get to comfortable.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Proverbs 21:2

"All a man's ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the heart."

Does any man truly believe that what he does is evil?  Surely if a man thought his actions were wicked he would not do them.  Or perhaps he knows what he ought not to do, but finds some reason to justify his doing it and therein he does what he believes to be right?  Truly no one does what is evil in their own eyes but only what they can justify.

It is no wonder then that we are not fit to judge each other, for each person only does "what is right for them" and what is "right for them" isn't always "right for you".  Hitler told the German people that he wanted to create a supreme race.  Not a bad idea on paper, but we didn't see death camps.

Maybe we would tell him today that he has a right to his beliefs and although we might disagree, we each must only do what we think is right, but that's how wars start: two groups working towards opposite ends each doing what they think is right.

A world of relative morality is chaos.

Only one sovereign over humanity can set order for us.  God is the only one capable of judging us because he can see our hearts. We know God to be righteous fair in his dealings because of the Cross. We trust that he is just in order to be the one who justifies us.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Job 35:6-8

"If you sin, how does that effect Him?  If your sins are many, what does that do to Him?  If you are righteous, what do you give to Him, or what does he receive from your hand?  Your wickedness affects only a man like yourself, and your righteousness only the sons of men."

Elihu is answering a question posed by Job, "What profit is it to me, and what do I gain by not sinning?"

The answer is nothing at all from God.  Even when we do what is righteous and correct, we are only doing what was asked of us all along.  We do nothing above and beyond what has been our duty since the beginning of creation.  Why do you expect praise for things that are listed in your job description?  Can we give God anything he does not already own?  Who can cause God to be indebted to them?

Do we offend the Lord when we sin?  No, but rather God comes and shows us our sin that we might repent and be corrected.  His stance towards us has never changed.  God has never been against us but only for us and no sin will change that about God.  In the same way, none of our righteousness affects God either.  There is nothing we can do to earn the love of God.  We have it already.

Do you believe that?