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!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Leviticus 20:7-8

“Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy."

The mere fact that there exists a God in heaven necessitates the existence of a holy people, a people called and separated from the world for the Lord's purposes.  Israel exists and on a larger scale the Church exists because God exists.  The mere fact that the Church is alive today in face of sin and adversity pays tribute to the fact that there is one creator God who makes us, saves us, and sustains us.

He is also the God who sanctifies us, "the Lord who makes us holy" because God alone is holy.  God is holy because God is.  Holy is his identity so that all might confess, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God almighty". God's holiness is not an incomprehensible abstract quality but rather is bound and made manifest in his relation to Himself as the holy Trinity and to us who are made in his holy image.

And God's holiness opposes those who do not respond appropriately to Him, i.e. bearing the fruit of life through the reflection of that which is Life (God), worshiping in Spirit and in Truth.  Anything short of this reflection of God in us is a denial of God's glorious reality and thus a denial of our own humanity.  To worship God in obedience is to be fully human.  It is to truly live.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Exodus 20:2

"I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery."

There is a very real consequence to the existence of God:  the existence of the Church.  The great "I am" has as its consequence the calling and sanctification of a holy nation from out of slavery.

This is not only an indicative, but an imperative. It is God who calls us to Himself. It is he who makes us holy because he is holy. We exist because God exists and we are called not unto a state of being but unto a way of living (given by the 10 commandments after this Divine proclamation of the name of God and summed up by the Greatest commandment).

We are called to confess "the Lord is our God". We were saved that we might worship him and acknowledge that He is the one who brought us out from the land of slavery to Sin and Death. This is a command to obedience, without which no other commandment bears any weight. We were sanctified unto obedience all because God is.  He is the one who has made us.  He is the one who has saved us.  And He is the one who comforts and perfects us.

It is in the acknowledgement, nay the confession that God is who he is that we worship a thrice holy God.  So join with the Church and the Angels through every age and let every knee bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, Holy, Holy, Holy is He!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Exodus 20:5

"You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me."

 God is not petty and insecure like most jealous people are.  His love is not so easily wounded by our playing the harlot under every tree on every hilltop.  Even though it is God's jealousy which causes the destruction of sin (through the "visiting of iniquity"), it is this same jealously which keeps us from dying.  God's jealousy leads us to salvation.

God simply refuses to let us depend on anything else other than Himself and in so doing refuses to let us die for putting our trust in anything but Christ is a sure death.  God's jealousy is a refusal to let those whom he has called bow down to or serve other things because God's holiness is in direct opposition to that which harms us and causes us to not thrive.  Just as a gardener destroys weeds or a doctor eradicates disease, so to does this jealous God remove from us our sins that we might live consecrated and holy as He is holy.  Then and only then can we live life in righteous fellowship with God.

Praise be to our jealous God who overcomes our sins that we might live! Praise be to our Creator, Savior, and Perfecter who makes us holy and blameless before him!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ephesians 1:13-14

"And you were also included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.  Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession-- to the praise of His glory."

In this short little introduction to Ephesians, Paul marks out the will of God for the salvation of men.  Here, we see the fullness of the Trinity coming together for our redemption; We are marked (by the Father) in Him (Christ) with the promised Holy Spirit.  It is the Father who draws us in through the Son by the Holy Spirit. The Father is the fisherman, the Son the rod, and the Holy Spirit is the hook that never lets us go.  Because it is God working in all three aspects of salvation, the process is made perfect.  Were salvation from men, salvation would fail.  But thank God that salvation is guaranteed for those who believe and are sealed with the Holy Spirit!

And this then is the mark of salvation for every true believer:  That even when you sin and stray from the path, The Spirit will convict you, Christ will forgive you, and the Father will always bring you back to him for the Father always disciplines his children.  All three Persons work together in perfect harmony for our redemption.  Do you believe it? But truly, truly, by faith it is so!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Habakkuk 2:18

"What good is an idol carved by man,
        or a cast image that deceives you?
How foolish to trust in your own creation--
a god that can't even talk! "

It is pure foolishness to trust in that which cannot last.  Money comes and goes.  The best engineered buildings and bridges will collapse in time.  People are here today and gone tomorrow.  Even the flowers of the field see decay.  All things will come to an end unless they are being sustained by the Infinite Yes.

All those who trust in things they have made themselves will become just like them:  lifeless, silent, and temporary.  This is idolatry.  It isn't just making little statuettes and bowing down to them, but it is to trust in anything you create and sustain independent of the Eternal Trinity, whether it be money, or relationships, or your physical appearance, or even your reputation, fame and popularity.

You only become that which you reflect.  If your eyes desire wealth, you may become wealthy, but you will also become lifeless.  If your eyes desire beauty, you may obtain beauty, but you will also be lifeless.  If your eyes desire a husband or wife, you may have one, but the marriage will be troubled for where is Love?  That is only contained within the immortal God.  Therefore I tell you, turn your eyes toward Heaven and gaze upon the Father and He will grant you life, love, and peace for He is all these things.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Genesis 34:31

"But they replied, 'Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?'"

Dinah was raped.

She is the only daughter of Jacob mentioned among his twelve sons, and she was raped by a man named Shechem, the local ruler.  After raping her, Shechem "loved her" and "spoke tenderly" to her and desired to marry her.  This isn't love.  It's abuse.

Dinah's brothers burned with anger and were filled with grief over Dinah, their beloved sister.  When Shechem and Hamor came to ask for Dinah's hand in marriage, the sons of Israel tricked them, agreeing only if every male in their household was circumcised.  And while they were still recovering from the pain of circumcision, Simeon and Levi killed every last male in the city to avenge Dinah.  They looted everything, women and children included.  Jacob tells them they should not have done such a thing. Their response is in the verse above. The price of vengeance was generations of conflict between the Israelites and Canaanites and Perizzites. 

This isn't a story on how to handle conflict or on forgiveness.  They refused wealth, peace, and security for the sake of their sister's honor.  We can argue about if what they did was right, but have you forgotten someone?  This story is about Dinah.  At the end of the day, there is a woman, bruised, broken, and traumatized from sexual abuse.  Our sisters have been defiled.  The question is, "What are we going to do about it?"

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Genesis 29:30-31

"Jacob lay with Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah... When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren."

Just as Israel cannot serve two masters, he cannot serve two wives.  The tension between sisters Rachel and Leah is sibling rivalry to the extreme as they both compete for the love and attention of Jacob.

But even though the situation is complicated, the LORD provides for Leah when Jacob ignores her.  She bears him 4 sons in a row (Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah) and Rachel is jealous.  Rachel gives Jacob another wife, her servant Bilhah, and gains two sons (Dan and Naphtali) in response to Leah's four.  Leah in turn retaliates with her own maidservant Zilpah, given her as a wife and gaining two more sons (Gad and Asher) and then has two more sons herself (Issachar and Zebulun) and a daughter (Dinah) after hiring Jacob's "services" with some mandrakes.  The LORD finally opens Rachel's womb and she bears Joseph in her old age and dies while giving birth to Benjamin.  Final score:  Leah 8, Rachel 4, Jacob 4 (wives).

And yet, out of this brokenness came the 12 tribes of Israel (aka Jacob).  Even in the complications, God moderates the situation to be fair to both Leah and Rachel.  Jacob only wanted Rachel, one wife, but he received two.  And take it from him, one is more than enough for anyone.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Matthew 23:25-26

"Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  Blind Pharisee!  First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean."

Jesus taught that we needed to be washed and cleansed from the inside out.  Greed and self-indulgence are only two things Jesus mentions, but they have a common link.  They both are evidence of selfishness.  The one who is greedy cares only for his own provision and possession and not for others.  Someone who is self-indulgent is focused solely on their own pleasure to the exclusion of those who live in misery.  They turn a blind eye to those who are in poverty and who suffer.  They eat cake and ice cream while starving children want only bread and water.

How detrimental is that old line "I deserve this,  I've earned it, I need to treat myself every once and a while" to receiving grace?  Is $9 spent on a 2 hour movie better spent that 2 hours chatting with a homeless man over a $9 meal?  How can we preach what we do not practice?  What good is it if everyone else believes it but you don't believe it?

Jesus called us to wash the inside of the cup and be justified and sanctified by his blood.  However, he still wants us to wash the outside of the cup too.

Monday, May 23, 2011

2 Samuel 12:13-14

"David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die."”

David, after being confronted by the prophet Nathan, confessed his sin and was forgiven by God.  He was no longer going to die.  However, it was already too late to reverse some of the consequences of what he had done.  Achieving forgiveness never meant that we can escape the pain of our sins.  When we are impatient with each other, we cause hurt.  When we lie to each other, we cause mistrust.  When we are violent towards each other, we cause pain.  Forgiveness heals wounds; it doesn't prevent them.

David's child was blameless and a nameless victim of sin.  Sin hurts.  It hurts your friends.  It hurts your family.  It hurts your dog.  However, it doesn't hurt God (Job 35:6,8).  That bears repeating:  your sin does NOT hurt God.  He doesn't break down and cry.  He is not frustrated or impatient.  He fixes it.  He cares, however, when people scorn his love and when people despise him because of what his followers do.  David showed contempt for God through disobedience and God took corrective action.  The world was created to function a certain way with God at the center.  Any deviation causes dysfunction and discord.  What the Lord does is simply maintenance and repairs.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hebrews 10:1

"The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming--not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship."

Christ died once and for all sin for truly if you believe in Christ your sins are forgiven and if they are forgiven, there is no longer any need for sacrifice.  Neither was sacrifice ever meant to take away sins.  It only served as a reminder of sin.  Neither was sacrifice something God desired, rather he desires us to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.  To confuse the Law with Salvation is the same as confusing a map of the world with the world itself.  It is simply a pointer towards God and the grace that he offers.  The law is only a shadow of the good things to come.

But notice, Christ died for the forgiveness of sins, not to prevent anyone from sinning.  Forgiveness (and I mean true forgiveness) and reconciliation are only possible when the offending party admits their wrongdoing and asks for forgiveness.  That is the purpose of the law, so that we might know our sins and confess them.  But in Christ, no sooner does the confession leave our lips and the Spirit of repentance floods into our hearts does Christ forgive us of our sins.  This is grace which redeems and overflows.  We need only to turn back to him.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

1 Thessalonians 5:1-3

"Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape."

Paul himself knows the dangers of setting dates and times for the coming of the Lord. This passage occurs after the famous 1 Th 4:13-18 passage used as evidence by many proponents of the rapture. This is not our concern. The point isn't what Christ's coming will look like, but that He is coming back. Just as no one knows when a thief will come[1], no one knows the dates and times the Father has set.

The day of the Lord is directly from the Hebrew yom Yahweh, which describes both a time of God's judgment but also a time of deliverance.[2] We are not called to worry about when Jesus will come back, but to eagerly await his return. Only the unprepared are worried.

Again to belabor the point, just as a pregnant woman knows not the hour she will go into labor, it will fall suddenly on those who do not expect it. We persevere in our preparations because we know the Bridegroom can come at any minute. We do not simply wait and watch and worry, we live. Come, Lord Jesus, come! Let’s celebrate!

[1] Matthew 24:43 "But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into." (Jesus's words)
[2] Am 5:18-20; Ob 15; Joel 1:15; 2:1f; Zp 1:14-16; Joel 2:31-32; Zc 14:1-21

Friday, May 20, 2011

Romans 12:2

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

How does one go about transforming their minds?  How are they renewed?  The key lies in the phrase "be transformed".

Be transformed is not an active, but a passive command.  Fully written out, it means "Allow yourself to be transformed"  rather than "transform yourself".  You are not the one who does any transforming, but then who or what does?

The mind is a mirror to that which it sees.  If all it sees is pornography, then the mind will be occupied with lust and sexual images.  If all it takes in is violence, the imagination will turn violent.  If a mind is occupied with video games, it will think of video games for the majority of its thoughts.  The thought life is a reflection upon that which it reflects.  It is transformed only by that which it sees, hears, tastes, touches, and smells.

And what if what the mind reflected was the one, true, and holy God who lives and breathes life into the dying, maker and sustainer of His creation, the way, the truth, and the life?  The mind will be transformed by him.  Its thoughts will be made alive and its imagination brimming with the will of God.  The mind which dwells on God and his Word is holy because God is holy.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Matthew 23:19

"You blind men!  Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?"

Nothing on earth is holy on its own.  The only way for something to be Holy is for it to be in communion and contact with the Holy One.  How often do we forget that distinction.

Saints are holy not because of their good deeds, but because they live in service to Jesus Christ.  Worship music without the presence of God is just normal music.  Prayers without the presence of God are just words to a one sided conversation.  The Bible without the presence of the Holy Spirit is just a story book.  The Eucharist without the presence of Christ is just bread and wine.  These things are nothing in and of themselves.  It is the Holy One who makes these things holy through his real, powerful, and true presence who is anything.

And you are holy who have received Christ by faith.  Do you believe that?  You should.  You are holy, not because you are holy, but because Christ sanctified you with his presence.  To be holy is to be set apart for His purposes.  If you have laid down your life to serving Christ and advancing His kingdom in every sphere, you are one of Christ's holy ones, a blessed saint.  To be holy is to in every way point back to the Holy Trinity who makes, calls, justifies, and sanctifies his creation.

You who are in Christ:  you are holy indeed!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Galatians 5:13

"You, my brothers, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another in love."

Those who have been set free by grace should not return to the old ways of doing things (that is, the Law).  Giving to the poor does not make you good.  Reading your bible does not sanctify.  Fasting does not make you holy.  Only God in heaven is capable of doing that.  How foolish it is to try and earn by human effort what can only come through the Spirit!  After receiving grace, will you now try to earn it?  We were not saved due to our good works, but from believing the gospel which we had heard.

Those who are under grace are free to sin without eternal consequence. However, Paul states that in our freedom we choose no longer to sin but rather serve in love.  When we sin, it is not because we wanted to sin, but Sin living in us (our fallen nature).  It is no longer we who sin, but Sin living in us, but now it no longer causes our condemnation!  Hallelujah!

Christianity is not based on Law, but on Grace.  There is now forgiveness for sin in Christ Jesus.  So don't you dare feel guilty you hadn't prayed more or fasted longer.  Those things only serve to worship the One who makes us holy, not to make us holy.  You were called to be free from such nonsensical thinking.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Zephaniah 3:17

"The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing."

The LORD is a god of intimacy.  He is not far off from us, but he is in our midst.  He walks along side us, before us, and after us.  As we dwell in him he also dwells in us.  This is our God who permeates every fiber of existence and we are saturated by his love.

And He is mighty to save us.  Such a powerful and awe-inspiring God whose foes tremble at his feet and cower in fear is a God who with the same hand embraces us, caresses us and protects us.  In His strong arms, he rejoices over us, happy just to hold us in his arms.  He is the bridegroom taking delight in his bride.

And it is his love which calms and quiets us.  It's his love which melts us in his arms in peace and serenity.  This intimate God comforts us and soothes us.  His touch is restoring and his presence is relaxing.  He gives rest to our tired bodies.

And our God is a hopeless romantic.  He serenades us with love songs.  His pleasure cannot be contained as he bursts into song for his beloved.  And He has a beautiful voice. The same voice which can crush armies and topple mountains is music to our ears.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Psalms 73:3-5,12

"For I envied the arrogant
     when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have no struggles;
     their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from common human burdens;
     they are not plagued by human ills...
This is what the wicked are like—
     always free of care, they go on amassing wealth."

Those who prosper are not necessarily well off.  One may look at a rich man and say "Oh, you have been blessed by God!  He has surely shown you favor!" but it is not so.  Prosperity is no gift to those who are perishing.  Wealth is no blessing to those who need salvation.

For them, God has extended grace and they have refused it, choosing instead to chase after material wealth.  They amass riches by their own strength, not through God's blessing. They acquire health through their wealth, not by divine favor or fortune.  God has shown them salvation and they have slapped away his hand.

As Christians, the more money we desire from God, the less we desire God himself.  God does indeed bless his children, and sometimes with wealth, but those he has blessed with wealth have already proven they can use it appropriately for God's kingdom.  Those trustworthy with a little money can be trusted with larger and larger amounts.  God always blesses so that we in turn can bless in kindness and generosity.  God gives so that we can give back, not to amass wealth and be carefree.  Such is wickedness.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Leviticus 22:31-33

"Keep my commandments and follow them.  I am the LORD.  Do not profane my holy name.  I must be acknowledged as holy by the Israelites.  I am the LORD, who makes you holy and who brought you out of Egypt to be your God.  I am the LORD."

Everything hangs on the first 6 words, "Keep my commandments and follow them", a double exhortation of the same thing.  The Hebrew language loves repetition for emphasis because the Scripture was meant to be read aloud by teachers and scribes.

For God to be holy, he needs to be recognized as wholly other, that is, something so completely different that it could not have possibly come from the world.  God is unlike anything else that has ever existed because he caused all things to exist.  This God needs to be seen as radically distinct from every other God to the Israelites as to say there is no comparison.

And it is this holy God who makes us holy through the law and commandment.  The law sets us apart from the world.  Through obedience we are sanctified and through faith we are justified.  Disobedience, behaving just like the nations around us, profanes the Holy Name of God.  It tells the world that our God is no different than any other God, that He isn't holy.  What use is a God like that?  Why not worship idols?  But who is like the Lord?  There is no one like our Lord, Jesus Christ!  Amen!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Acts 3:6-8

"Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.  He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God."

True worship is a response to what God has done.  True worship can only come from a recognition of God's presence and character through an intimate encounter with a wholly other God.  No matter how many songs we sing, how many people we convert, and no matter how long our prayers, if it isn't in reaction to a Divine God, it isn't worship.

True worship is impossible for us alone.  Who among us has come to God where he dwells in Heaven?  Rather, if not for the revelation of God himself to unto us, who could worship?  But praise God that he has revealed the fullness of his glory to us through his Son, the word become flesh, Immanuel, God with us, crucified on the cross and displayed for all to see.

It is through radical encounters with His Holy Spirit that anyone can say they worship God.  It is a direct response to the power of God. Let this crippled beggar be our model for true spiritual worship.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Revelation 22:17

"The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!"  And let him who hears say, "Come!"  Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life."

John in his revelation rings the sentiments of Isaiah 55:1
Come, all you who are thirsty,
     come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
     come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
     without money and without cost.
 Who gets the invitation to the table?  Who gets to partake in the graciousness of God?  It is only those who hunger and thirst.  It is only the one who desires to be filled and satiated.  Those who are content are turned away.  Actually, they were never invited at all.

Not everyone goes to heaven because not everyone wants to be there.  Not everyone loves God or desires his gifts.  They discard their invitations, and although they get a new one in the mail everyday, they cast them aside.  However, one day the wedding will happen and there will no longer be any need to send invites.

So do you desire God?  Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness?  Blessed are those who have nothing because they will partake in everything!  Theirs is the invitation to the wedding banquet.  They are clothed by Christ with the finest clothing, the whitest and most elegant wedding gowns.  Everything is free of cost for the one who merely desires to attend the reception.  It's all paid for, so come!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

John 21:25

"Jesus did many other things as well.  If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written."

What a shame that the Gospel of John ends like this.  How wonderful would it have been to have a detailed biography of Jesus's life?  How marvelous would it have been if Jesus himself had written a book?  Actually, He did.

The Bible is the written word of God as transcribed through his prophets and apostles.  Both Old and New Testament have been written under the influence of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus did leave us instructions for future generations.

But why only these few things and not others?  Christ has given us everything that is necessary and sufficient for our salvation, nothing more and nothing less.  Everything we ever needed to know about God is contained within Scripture.  Yet there is so much we do not know, but I suppose if God had revealed to us the fullness of the truth, the whole world would not have room for all the books that would be written.  How vast and deep is the knowledge and wisdom of God!

So all that we have is all that we need.  Everything else is extraneous to the gospel.  However, whatever is not necessary for salvation can be done in the name of ministry.  Anything and everything should be done with salvation in mind and the kingdom at hand.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

1 John 4:18

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love."

Just as there is no fear in love, there is no condemnation in Jesus Christ.  It is through faith in Christ's blood that we hope for life.  It is through this faith that love is made complete in us.  Perfect love drives out fear because fear is the opposite of faith.  The one who stills fears God's judgment is not perfect in faith and thus not perfect in love.

A child of God never needs to fear his parents. A child respects his parents, of course, and is disciplined when he goes astray, but there is no fear of losing his parents love.  There is nothing now that could ever separate us from the love we have in Christ.  The fear of God is not fear of punishment, but wonder and awe over how powerful God is.  God's power to crush Satan is so awe inspiring as to be both tremendous and fascinating at the same time.

It is out of love and respect that true obedience is established, not out of fear of punishment.  It is God's love and kindness which leads us to repentance, not fear of damnation.  People who preach the "turn or burn" gospel preach a different gospel to their own demise.  Love can only come by grace, not by law which has to do with punishment.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Romans 14:9-12

"For this reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and of the living.  You, then, why do you judge your brother?  Or why do you judge your brother?  For we all stand before God's judgment seat.  It is written:

'As surely as I live,' says the Lord
'every knee will bow before me;
every tongue confess to God.'

So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God."

So what have you done with the life given to you by God?  Will you be able to tell God of all the wonderful things your life and love has accomplished, or are there things in your life that you are ashamed of?  All things will be brought into the light.

God is judge over all because of his resurrection.  He died in order to be rendered as just and in so being the one who justifies sinners (which we all are).  The rain falls on both righteous and wicked alike.  As surely as Christ lives (and we know He lives for He is risen!), every tongue will give a testimony before God.  The only good testimony, the only good righteous defense, and the only hope we have, comes through faith in Jesus Christ.  Jesus pleads our case when we stand in judgment before the throne.  He pleads with his blood and is victorious because He is also the judge.  Only he can raise the dead to life.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Romans 3:23

πάντες γὰρ ἥμαρτον καὶ ὑστεροῦνται τῆς δόξης τοῦ θεοῦ
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Again, we see the word πάντες show up, further increasing the sense of equality among Jew and Gentile alike.  To Paul, all are equally guilty of sin, and yet because of this, all need access to salvation.  It is clear from 1:18 to 3:20 that not a single person is righteous and Romans 3:23 is a summary statement for that entire section borrowed in large part from Isaiah 59.  Paul stresses that it is not our righteousness that saves us as we do not possess any, rather like David says in Psalms 143:11[1], it is by God’s righteousness that we gain salvation.  Brendan Byrne points out that there is a faint allusion to Genesis 1:26-28 in ὑστεροῦνται τῆς δόξης τοῦ θεοῦ which talks about humanity being made in the image of God.[2]  Where once we were creatures which could fully reflect the glory of God because of our being made in His image and likeness, so now because of sin do we lack that same glory.[3]

We are only simple mirrors.  When we turn away from God, we can not reflect his glory.  When we face the darkness, we are darkened ourselves.  Mirrors which cannot reflect are utterly worthless as mirrors, and yet God uses us anyway.

[1] “For your name’s sake, O LORD, preserve my life! In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!”
[2] Byrne.  Pg 125.
[3] Mounce, Robert H. New American Commentary Vol 27: Romans. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Romans 3:21

"But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it"

According to Paul, we are living in a completely new age.  No longer is the law the only way to righteousness, nor was it ever intended to be a way back into God.  However, this is a righteousness which has existed since before all time.  It is like electricity.  It has always existed, but only recently have we been aware of it's power and existence.  Indeed, if it had not existed since the beginning, how could the law and the prophets bear witness to it?  Rather, this has been the plan of God all along, to send us His son Jesus, the lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world.

God, before even making the world, counted every single cost and plotted every single detail.  He knew what would be involved in making such a world as ours and he made it anyway.  He knew of our sin and our shame, about Eden and the inevitable fall, and the death of His Son crushed on the cross, and he accounted for all of it by giving us His righteousness and salvation so that we might not perish.  God always has a plan.  With a God who gives so much attention to detail, who could worry?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

John 9:33

"If this man were not from God, he could do nothing."

People come and people go.  Nations and empires rise and fall.  However, there comes a day when the entire world will fade away like a dream to be forgotten.  The only person who actually does anything productive on earth is the one who also can bind in heaven what he binds on earth.  It is the one who, while living in the Mortal realm, can effect the Eternal and can usher in the Heavenly Realm into the Earthly one.  A truly productive person is an intersection of two worlds; a place where Heaven and Earth meet.  They are the temple of the Holy God.

And apart from Him, they can do nothing, nothing that lasts anyway.

It is only those who believe and trust in Christ and have received the Holy Spirit into their hearts who are the only ones able to accomplish anything good.  There are those who seek to do good apart from God but nothing they do has any lasting impact.  None of it has real value.  They labor in vain.  If you rescue a drunkard from the bottle but fail to save him from the sinking ship, have you really done anything at all?  Such are those who work for social concerns but ignore the spiritual.  If we are not about winning souls to the Great Banquet, we are not about anything at all.  If not for God, we could do nothing at all.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Matthew 19:26

But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Some call me an idealist, a dreamer.  I believe that true love conquers all.  I believe every person can be restored from the worst of places and that no one is beyond saving.  I believe that in the end there will be justice for every injustice on this Earth unaccounted for.  I believe all peoples can be reconciled and that true peace is possible.  When I look at people, I do not see what is, but what could be.  I dream for the future and cast vision for the lost and broken.

But I'm not an idealist.  

I'm a realist.  It's just that my reality includes a just, beautiful, glorious, powerful, merciful, everlasting, good, and humble God who can and will do all things for the good of those who love Him.  Everyday I am faced with the reality of the cross and the power now present in me to renew and transform a world which has largely lost its way.  There used to be a time when I wondered where God was, but these days I can't find where He is not.  

I am a realist, only reality looks a bit different with a God for whom nothing is impossible.  It just takes a little faith and your entire world starts working for you rather than against you.  There is a God in heaven, a God like no other, and His name is Yahweh.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Philippians 4:6-7

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

What is prayer?  It is an act of communion with a deity. It is the act of drawing nearer into the presence of God and it is God's presence which comforts and gives peace of mind.  Prayer is how you connect with God, whatever the form (writing, art, music, dancing, nature walks, etc.).

Prayer has four main uses:

  1. Petition:  Asking God to fulfill both spiritual and physical needs.  This is what most people think of when they think of prayer.
  2. Contrition:  Confessing your sins to God and asking for his forgiveness.
  3. Adoration:  Worshiping God for who He is.  This is an act of fully appreciating the fullness of God's character.
  4. Thanksgiving:  Thanking God for provision.
Prayer doesn't even need words.  If you walk mindfully through the woods in silence, appreciating creation and communing with God, you are praying.  If you are reading God's Holy Word and meditating on it, you are praying.  Prayer is a conversation; Not just you talking, but also listening.  If ever you would just keep silent you might just hear God whispering to you.

What a joy it is to be in the presence of God and to know his peace!  Be mindful of him always and you will pray without ceasing.  It's like being with a lover all day and night;  Prayer is true bliss.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

1 Corinthians 2:9

"No eye has seen
     No ear has heard
no mind has conceived
     what God has prepared for
          those who love him"

What vast and untold treasures lie in wait for those who love God!  He guides their movements and he plans their steps and he causes wonder upon wonder to pass upon them.  How marvelous are his plans!  How wondrous are his workings!

Who could speak of such untold beauty?  Who can imagine the Earth and paint the sky and with a single breath cause it to be?  And just when you thought God could not get any better, he always manages to completely and pleasantly surprise us in new ways.  How amazing is God in all that he does!

Look to the heavens, all you peoples, and gaze upon it's infinite majesty.  Imagine, if you will, the deep pleasures of intimacy.  Greater things than these will the Father bestow on the ones who love him.  You have no idea the things God is planning at this very moment;  marvelous things to be bestowed upon you.  If you think you have known the fullness of the joy of God, you have only tasted the first fruits, a small sample of the abundance to come.  He hand makes every gift with you in mind; it is tailored specifically for you.

I used to think I knew what happiness was.  I realize now with each new thing that the Lord has given that I knew nothing at all.  

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Proverbs 24:17-18

"Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,
or the LORD will see and disapprove
and turn his wrath away from them."

How much do we long to see our enemies laid low beneath our feet?  How much hatred do we hold in our hearts?

People talk about being love-sick.  I think we are hate-sick.

What else could cause someone to so joyously celebrate the humiliation and defeat of another person?  What else could cause us to feel so much pride when another falls?  What else is capable of allowing us to take pleasure in another's pain other than some bizarre psychological issues?  Only hatred.

The implication of v 18 is that God would turn his wrath away from them, and presumably onto the one who rejoices.  The joy that you feel when another stumbles is born of hatred and that joy will soon turn to sorrow if left unattended.

So who do you hate?  Democrats?  Republicans?  Blacks?  Whites?  Arabs? Muslims?  Jews?  Christians? The Obese? Gays? Slow Drivers?  Fast Drivers? The arrogant? Those who aren't good enough? Celebrities?  Nobodies? The government? Your mom?  Your dad?  Family? Your dog?  My dog?

We are haters by nature.  How can we say we love God whom we have not seen and yet hate another whom we have seen?  The only cure is forgiveness and forgiveness is only born of God.  Therefore turn to God and be healed of your hate-sickness.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Ezekiel 18:23

"Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?"

Osama Bin Laden is dead.

The man most notoriously remembered as the one who orchestrated the brutal attacks of 9/11, killing so many people out of hatred.  Millions of Americans today broke out in impromptu celebrations and rejoiced over the death of a murderer.

But do you know what Jesus was doing today?

Jesus Wept.

For every sinner who remains in their wicked ways, Jesus weeps.  As they stand before him before the Throne of Grace, Jesus weeps as he embraces each of them one last time before they are never to be seen again.  He watches as his beloved chooses not to come with him out of the depths of Hell.

"Why will you die?  Come with me and Live!", He says.  But they make their choice.

How can we rejoice while our Savior weeps over every unrepentant sinner? Rather, there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous. Let us sing for the saved and work with renewed vigor for the lost.  God does not enjoy death but loves life.

The LORD takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked but rejoices over every saint who has repented.  Shall we not follow our LORD's example? Enough of this wickedness!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Romans 1:16

"I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for salvation to all who believe, first for the Jew and then for the Greek*)

Paul talks about a gospel which is the power for the salvation of all who believe. It is this gospel which sets us free from the consequences of sin which is death.  In it there is no longer any condemnation in Christ Jesus because he took it all with him to the cross.

Yet, we find an incessant need to do things because that’s what good Christians do. We go to church because Christians go to church. We read our Bibles because Christians should read their Bibles. We often feel guilty for not praying as often as we should. But should guilt really be the motivating factor in how we live out our faith? Is this gospel just a divine guilt trip (Jesus died for you so you owe him big time)? In the words of Paul, “Me genoito!" (May it never be!)

We were not set free from the law only to become slaves to another law.  Nobody who does a "spiritual" act of worship or kindness because of guilt will gain anything by it.  A person who gives out of guilt or ambition plants rocks instead of seed.  If love is not our weapon and God our prize, we will not harvest anything that lasts.

Do not give or act out of guilt.  It is a waste of time even if you are praying or going to church out of guilt.  Give because you want to give and act because you want to love.  Leave guilt nailed to the cross where it belongs.

*Many translations use gentile