Sunday, December 23, 2012

Changes. Endings. Beginnings!

Change is a constant earthly reality.  Beginnings and endings, hellos and good-byes dot the landscape of every life.  The essence of every promise of God stands in stark contrast.  His promises blossom from the root of eternal, unchanging goodness!
Every act of good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom is no change or shadow of turning.

(James 1:17)

As the printing of the Baptist Voice ceases, our hearts can rejoice that the work done through it over the years continues.  That same truth echoes from every life lived in the will of God…in lives redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.  Earthly transitions are shadows cast from eternal realities.  Just as the Tabernacle in the desert offered deep spiritual revelation of the Lord Himself, lives lived in the design of God portray divine beauty.  Neither earthly error nor sin eradicates the work of the Eternal One.
Paul, in First Corinthians, quoted the prophet Isaiah.  “No eye has seen, no mind conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.”  The promise of good from our perfect, loving Father gives unceasing hope to those enduring change.  Loved ones whose earthly journeys end, treasured relationships marred by distance and works of service concluded are shadows created as the Lord moves throughout world.  Like the Israelites crossing the Red Sea or the Jordan at flood stage, Christians must march boldly on toward the eternal reality of Christ’s completed work.
For this final column, I invite you to join with in prayerful, thankful rejoicing as we march into a new year. 

Heavenly Father, Giver of all good and perfect gifts, we humbly praise you.  Our hearts grieve over the losses change brings but not with the grief of those who have no hope.  Though we are tempted to fear change and hold tight to what is seen, we choose to trust in Your perfect will.  Fill our minds with understanding of the power, perfection and passionate love You continually pour into our lives.  Grow our faith in You that our lives will ever proclaim the victory of Christ.  May every change that casts a shadow in our life be pushed aside by the Holy Spirit to reveal more of Your Glory.  We praise you that change and loss simply allow our hearts to have more room for You.  May thy will and thy kingdom come.  We wait in praise-filled joy for the final change that ushers in Your unending Kingdom. 

In Christ’s Holy name we pray, Amen.

Friday, December 14, 2012


Advent:  the arrival of something important.  Last week we contemplated the challenge of waiting well.  As we continue through Advent, considering what we are waiting for will fill us with joy!  Christmas marks the coming of the Savior, the arrival of God Himself.  He did not look like the King most expected.  He was overlooked by the very ones who should have known Him best.  That which we ‘know’ sometimes deceives us—we need, like Zachariah, a time of silence that will lead us to praise! 
Zachariah was a devout believer and servant of God, yet when given the glorious news of John’s impending arrival, earthly reality dimmed his joy with doubt.  His period of silence ended as he reiterated the angel’s message and began rejoicing in God’s inimitable ways.  Finding quiet to contemplate the joy we are waiting for is vital to truly appreciate the arrival of the King!
In Romans 8, Paul speaks of waiting for the hope we not see.  Biblical hope, confident assurance of God’s good plans, can be waited for with eagerness when patience has developed in our hearts.

Rom 8:25  But if we hope for what we do not see, through patience we wait eagerly.
Patience is even more difficult for us than waiting!  There are some beautiful truths to unpack in contemplating patience though.  It is a fruit of the spirit we cannot produce by trying harder.  Just as a farmer cannot make seeds sprout by pacing along the edge of the field, we cannot produce patience by stressing over its absence.  Patience is best seen in contrast to what it is not.  Cowardice and despondency stand in stark contrast to the beauty of patience.  Courage to press on past fear and discouragement shines forth in patience.  Wrath and revenge lash out while patience presses humbly forward.  Christian character is brought to completion by patience, but patience is delivered only by Christ.  That is the advent we are to eagerly wait for—the advent we are to point others toward:  Jesus Christ!

Patience (quiet, joyful waiting) testifies to the arrival of what we have been waiting for:  the unseen hope.   Receiving the strength of Jesus, allowing Him room in our hearts, will dispel doubt and discouragement. It will allow us to wait with joyful eagerness. Rather than rely on what we already ‘know’ and ‘do’, let us quietly consider the coming King.  Humbleness that recognizes our need for more than what we have makes room for His arrival.  Prepare room for Jesus in your days…not just in the Advent season but all year long.  His desire is for daily communion, moment by moment appreciation for His arrival!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Waiting Well

What are you waiting for:  the healing of a body or a relationship?  a loved one to call—or better yet, to call on the Lord?  Maybe you are waiting for the birth of a child or a new direction to move.  Waiting is a common – and usually unappreciated – experience.  We fuss over the unknowns, allowing our perceived lack to consume our minds.  While we wait, time passes unnoticed.  That is not true for God.  Every moment of time is a thread in His eternal plan.  Today is a vibrant piece of His story.  Like a page in a classic novel, the richness has no empty spaces but builds to the perfect conclusion.  The victory of Christ concludes our stories, so how do we learn to resist letting time slip away while we ‘wait’ in faith?  The season of Advent helps us grasp the concept!
Choosing to use the days before Christmas to focus our hearts and minds on the loving plan of God revealed at Christmas is the key to ‘waiting’ well.  Waiting is not wasted when the coming of the King is our confident hope.  Waiting becomes worship when we have the right perspective.  Remembering that before God spoke the first word of Creation, He knew the joy of Bethlehem, the suffering of Calvary and the glory of the resurrection boggles our minds.   The Masterpiece designed from and for eternity is complete in Him; today is but one vibrant scene in the weaving.  Looking at the Artist, seeing His perfection assures us of the outcome.  A sweet hymn sings what our hearts cry, “What a strange way to save the world.”  Yet we rejoice that His ways are not ours for His ways are perfect.  His timing is not ours, and again, we trust His perfection.  With our eyes focused on His presence, the tyranny of time cannot disrupt us.  Christmas centers our hearts on the love of God, the promise of His presence.  Christmas must not be confined to December 25th.

In Acts chapter 9, Paul’s encounter with the Lord offers us another aspect of waiting that inspires me.  After the blinding encounter on the road to Damascus, Saul was instructed to “Arise and go…” until further instructions were given.  In the city Saul was to go was another man—a disciple of the Lord who also was told “Arise and go.”  Ananias, with normal fear, questioned the Lord.  Ananias knew this man named Saul, knew he hated the followers of Christ.  Yet God knew more than Ananias.  In God’s masterpiece, Saul needed to become Paul.  Ananias needed to reach out and share the Spirit with him; Saul waited till the Lord’s disciple obeyed.  Perhaps there is a Saul in our lives, waiting for the touch of the Spirit through us.  Let’s not waste time questioning the Lord.  Let us stay focused on looking  to the King and pointing others in the same direction.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Blessing of Persecution

Thanksgiving is a joyful time of counting our blessings.  This last verse in the Beatitudes tells us we are blessed through persecution and suffering.  While it is a concept we can grasp in our minds, grief typically blinds our hearts to the blessings.  Scripture admonishes us ‘Give thanks in all things for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’  Trusting that will in the face of heartaches raises our faith to new heights.  Believing in the power and love of God as we confront situations that rip our hearts apart exercises our faith in painful degrees.  Like athletes who must strain their muscles to develop them, the faith of the Christian must be stressed to grow.  Faith cleansed of impurities and strong in its integrity is the blessing of persecution and struggle.    It is such an impressive blessing, three verses discuss it!  Inheriting the very Kingdom of heaven is the glorious summation of this blessing.

“It will be worth it all” proclaims the hymn, and God confirms it.  The world resents the message of the Gospel for it carries with it the truth that sinful humanity needs a savior.  Accepting our lack offends our human nature.  Choosing to live in the light of that Truth requires us to rely increasingly on that Savior. Every trial in life—whether an attack generated by hatred of the gospel or a crisis created by living in a world broken by sin—becomes a tool for increasing righteousness in the child of God.  The reward is greater than our minds can fully grasp, but let’s try.

Imagine:  the Kingdom of Heaven.  We often long for the Paradise of Eden but heaven has even more allure to me.  Adam and Eve, in innocence, knew nothing of the glory of God’s forgiveness and mercy.  Understanding His love was ‘limited’ to a glimpse of His generosity and creativity.  In the protected confines of Eden, the depths of God’s goodness were obscured.  In this broken world where we encounter suffering—and sometimes persecution for His glory—the ‘filling up in the flesh of His suffering’ starts to enter our understanding.  We begin to see shadows of the excruciating cost God foresaw and accepted before He ever created humanity.  He knew what creating and loving us would require of Him, and He created and loved us anyway.  Our suffering carves into our souls a tiny awareness of the magnificent beauty of divine love.  That is a blessing that heals the deepest wounds; may our hearts overflow with thankfulness.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Peace for broken relationships

We have a challenging opportunity with an awesome blessing today!  Continuing on our journey in the Beatitudes, we come to Matthew 5:9:

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.

There are some loaded words in this short verse!  Peacemakers.  Have you ever had a relationship that was broken?  The sharp edges of broken relationships damage souls.  Broken relationships create broken people.  Broken people break others.  The cycle would be endless except for Peacemakers.  The word used, though, does not convey the idea of someone who glues fragments together. It conveys reconciliation and restoration.  It is the essence of what Jesus did for us.   Scripture tells us that without Jesus Christ, we are enemies of God!  Jesus served as the Peacemaker to restore our relationship with God.  This blessing only comes to those willing to serve as Jesus did. 

 That is a truth which should make us squirm.  Peacemaking is done with people who are not nice:  people who will reject your efforts; people who will not be thankful; people who will not care if they hurt you and may even kill you.  Peacemaking is costly.  Only when we have sat at the foot of the Cross and understood the undeserved reconciliation provided by Jesus Christ will we ever be willing to accept the costs that come with being a Peacemaker.  The sins that fragment relationships are ugly.  Restoring relationships requires a sold-out love for God based on the way He loves us.  Nothing else is sufficient to cover the debts incurred in broken relationships.

 The other incredibly powerful word to think upon is “sons.”  Some translations say Peacemakers will be called children of God, but ‘sons’ presents a more immense privilege.  In fact, the same word is used for Jesus Christ Himself.  Jesus is not called a child of God but the son of God.  Son conveys the idea of one who fully represents the character of God.  The adoption into the family of God gives us the immense privilege of being a child of God.  Growing into maturity brings us to the almost inconceivable privilege of manifesting the character of God in our relationship with others.  My heart soars with thankfulness to God that He allows sinful humanity this blessing.  Those conflicts that come in our lives are opportunities for blessing.  May His love for us so overwhelm our hearts that we simply overflow onto all who are around us.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Promises: Seeing God

For those in Christ, today’s promise is a moment by moment reality that often hides.  Jesus promised that those who are pure in heart, will see God.  None of us are pure in heart without the cleansing blood of Christ.  None of us walking outside the Light of God’s Word will see His glory.  Sadly, many of us are surrounded by His beauty and still miss it.  Like Phillip, we cry out to see God, not realizing in Him we live and move and have our very breath!  My prayer is that looking at this promise will help us see Him better.  But beware, seeing God shakes a person to the core.

 Beginning to glimpse how one sees God is easiest against the backdrop of those who did not.  The nation of Israel missed their King because He did not look and act as they expected.  Educated, indoctrinated even, by religious experts, they looked for God and did not see Him.   The encounters of Pilate and Herod with Christ give us two more heart-breaking instances of men who saw God but did not see Him at all.  Inklings of Christ’s uniqueness clearly flitted across the mind of Pilate.  Yet concerns about his political career and perhaps derision for religious fanaticism clouded his view.  Herod, possibly calloused by self-indulgent sin, simply desired entertainment.  When Christ failed to amuse him, he blindly engaged in mockery and sent the King away.  Seeing God demands that one release pre-conceived expectations and give Him the honor of revealing greater truths than the human mind can conceive. 

 Those in scripture recorded as ‘seeing’ God also saw themselves with a clarity that left them humbled.  One does not see God and remain puffed up in themselves.  Trembling fear is the only response in the face of the glory of God.  Understanding our unworthiness and sinfulness in contrast to the high holiness of God heals our spiritual blindness and allows us to come to the Living Word.  The Word of God lights the path to the One whose blood cleanses from all unrighteousness.  Only hearts willing to receive the cleansing offered by the blood of Christ can ever enjoy the view of God’s immense glory.  Jesus said no man has seen the Father; the accounts recorded in scripture are glimpses of glory but only Jesus reveals the fullness of God here on earth.  The privilege of seeing God is reserved for those willing to see themselves without merit and wholly dependent on divine goodness.  It is summed well by the words of missionary Jim Elliott:  “He is no fool who gives what He cannot keep to get what He cannot lose. “  Our self-made thoughts, our self-made identities are only illusions.  Let us relinquish all that we might receive Him. 

As we go about this week, might our hearts rejoice that God entrust His glory to our ‘clay vessels.’ We are allowed to manifest Him to others.  Any time--every time--we allow our concerns to cloud our view of Christ, we veil His incredible beauty to the world around us.  Seeing God is an immense privilege; allowing others to see Him in us is a concept that silences me in its magnitude and awes me with His goodness.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Promises: Fulfillment

Continuing with our look at Christ’s promises of blessing in the Beatitudes brings us to verse six:
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.

To be blessed means to be fully satisfied, not just happy for the moment but eternally fulfilled.  The promise in this verse is incredibly precious because Jesus Himself is the blessing received here.  When our hunger and thirst is for righteousness, Christ is the only possible fulfillment.  Humanity has no righteousness apart from Him.  The blessing is in hungering and thirsting for the right thing and refusing to be satisfied with less.

Physical hunger and thirst are only vague concepts in the American mind.   We see pictures of starvation and know facts of hunger in our country and around the world.  Reality for most of us, though, is a land of plenty.   Few of us know true hunger.  Real hunger and thirst produce physical and emotional pain.  Delusions accompany dehydration. Starving drives the kindest to horrendous pursuits.  Prisoners of war speak of animal-like hunger that cancels basic human decency.  Scriptures speak of horrendous realities that defy comprehension.  We naturally avoid discomfort, but dulling hunger -- or discomfort of any kind -- is never the right goal.  Right seeking is the basis for blessing.

 The absence of physical hunger in most American lives is an excellent illustration.  It is not hunger’s discomfort that pains the bulk of our population.  Overeating has led to a glut of obesity and ill health.   Avoiding the discomfort of hunger and thirst produces deadly results in our world.  The snack and soda industry is booming.  In this busy world, grabbing food on the go is the answer to hunger.  It is a poor answer.  The same is true in a spiritual sense.  Just as physical hunger can be satiated with unhealthy things, spiritual hunger can as well.  Instead of seeking Righteousness, we seek adventure, excitement, possessions, success or the next emotional high. We snack on activities, relationships, projects, and even ‘church.’.  Those good things dull us from the only real satisfaction:  feasting on Christ. 

Jesus promises Himself to those who refuse to be satisfied by less.  He will fill the heart that longs for Him.  Often it is the fires of life that create the right hunger and thirst.  We can praise Him in the midst of the fire.  We can rejoice when things of this world do not satisfy our hearts because we have Christ’s promise.  Jesus Himself will satisfy the heart seeking rightly.



Friday, November 2, 2012


We will continue exploring Christ’s promises of blessing in the Beatitudes passage.  Our world has a desperate need—I, as an individual, have a desperate need—to embrace this truth:

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.   Matthew 5:5

In this world filled with ‘bullies,’ meekness is a misunderstood, undervalued trait.  We witness bullying everyday—and undoubtedly, we even do it ourselves without noticing. Bullying is simply a devotion to getting one’s own way!  Meekness is the antidote we all need. 

Bullies exist in every walk of life:  families, schools, churches, workplaces.  Some bullies seem relatively harmless; others create legacies of hurt that transcend generations.  The desire for control often instigates bullying behavior.  Pride tells us that our way is best.  We perceive our comfort zone as the best ‘way’ to our goal; all who venture on another path become the enemy of our success.    Bullying intensifies when we feel threatened, and a spirit of self-preservation ignites.  Lashing out against individuals or ideas that seemingly undermine our personal foundation easily spins out of control.  The desire to save one self sometimes costs another their life.   A heart that truly knows the perfect love of God need not accept such a fear.

 News headlines often blaze with reports of bullies who respond to bullying—and the fear it places in their hearts--with deadly aggression. Disgruntled employees defend their personal honor by destroying the lives of others.  Youth often employ the cruelty of technological bullying, effectively destroying spirits.  Political candidates use media to destroy an opponents’ character instead of delineating plans.  Social advocates denigrate one group of people in defense of another.  Bullies often win battles, but Jesus promises the blessing of inheritance to the meek.

 Meekness is the direct opposite of bullying.  Bullies use their strength to demand their way; meek souls contain their strength allowing God to have His way.  The bully appears to win but the reality is far different.  Christ promises that meek hearts inherit the earth…meekness delivers everything the Creator intended in the Garden of Eden!

 Wisdom calls us to give up the foolishness of bullying for the promised blessing of meekness.  For children of God, it is imperative we embrace the beauty of a meek spirit.  God has entrusted His spirit—His power to us.  Scripture tells us that our ‘joy is in the strength of the Lord.’  When we rely on our own opinions or preferences—take joy in our own predilections, we waste His strength!  Joy and strength are companions to the will of God.  The meek spirit rejoices in the truth that the love of the Father filters all that comes our way.  Strength flows from the joy of knowing an all-powerful, loving God is in control.  The key to receiving the blessing of meekness is confessing our pride and embracing the sovereignty of God.   Meek hearts obtain the victories bullies demand. 


Friday, October 26, 2012

For our promise today, we are going to a familiar passage, the Beatitudes.  The blessings promised in the face of difficulties throughout this teaching of Christ seem paradoxical.   While my heart rejoices this week over the second promise, the blessing in mourning, I cannot jump over the first.  In fact, as we explore today, the link between the two is unavoidable. 

Christ began this teaching by saying:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  
Matthew 5:3

Impoverished spirits receive the blessed inheritance of the Kingdom of God!  It is a truth we cannot recognize until all we are is simply not enough to face the problem life has thrown our way.  The gateway to God’s Kingdom is too narrow for us when we are full of ourselves.  Recognizing our poverty allows us to enter into the richness of our Lord!  The blessing is indeed greater than the difficulty. 

The second difficulty often opens the gateway by bringing us to the awareness of our poverty.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  
Matthew 5:4

Mourning flows from the loss of someone or something loved.  All earthly love involves risk.  Refusing to love, though, is absolute loss, for the losses of grief open the door to understanding the beauty of God’s eternal love.  Grief is a common experience for all of us.  Sometimes the grief is for a loss we have suffered; sometimes it is for a loss we cannot alleviate for another.  Those who love us, and those we love, are unable to fill the role intended for God alone. 

A dream fades, an ambition leads to deadly results, a treasured support slips out of our life or a person we treasure dies—the causes for grief are different but the results are the same.  Grief rocks the foundation of our life.  It causes us to examine our loves, to consider that which we value and build our lives on.   The blessing of mourning comes when we allow the shaking of our lives to toss us into the eternal love of God.  Understanding that love in this earthly realm always includes the potential for loss can harden a heart from loving or soften it to receive the unending love of God.  The blessed comfort in mourning is knowing there is healing for a broken heart in the love of God. 

When the very best this world has to offer falls short of lasting joy, the grief makes us thirsty for eternal possibilities.  The blessing again is greater than the difficulty.   The blessing of mourning is God Himself--the only power that can comfort the unavoidable grief of a broken world. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

The promise of Isaiah 46:11 is completion!   In context, it is a promise that inspires fear.  God promised judgment to His idolatrous children; this assurance spoke to the completion of that promise.  Yet is it a truth reiterated throughout scripture:  what God says, God is faithful to do.  It is the truth powering all of the promise studies of the past weeks.

The purposes of God are good and outcomes already established in eternity.  For the soul in rebellion against the Sovereign Holy One, this is a chilling promise.  The truth of God’s faithfulness is a certainty intended to drive the unrepentant to their knees at the cross of Jesus. 

For the soul seeking the face of the Lord, the promise is a breath of life!  The fourth stanza of Amazing Grace strengthens my spirit in difficult times:

The Lord has promised good to me.  His Word my hope secures.
He will my shield and purpose be, as long as life endures.

Mining God’s Word for the ways He accomplishes His purposes strengthens me.  God feeds His flock and guides those with young.  He satisfies the longing soul.  He forgives my sins and sends me out with the same good news for this dying world.  There is no need my heart can encounter which Jesus cannot completely fill. Moreover, the fulfillment is complete.  It simply waits for me to appropriate it.

On the Cross, Christ said, “It is finished.”  Earlier in His ministry, the Lord had said He came to do the will of the Father and complete the work of God.  On the cross, that work reached completion.  God faithfully fulfilled His good purposes.  Only the victory celebration remained.  We can join Paul in saying, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”  Committing every detail of our lives to the work of Christ is the key to the Victory Party!

The struggles of life, the attacks of the enemy, assault our confidence in Christ.  The things we commit to God that are in line with His purposes are a done deal!  We can trust God’s faithfulness.  We must not let fear (False Evidence Appearing Real) keep us from the victory celebration.  Press on in confidence of the purposes and power of God.  He is greater than our mistakes.  He is able to guide us on His path.  He is able to accomplish His good purposes.  He has accomplished them already:  it is finished!

Friday, October 5, 2012

As parents, we embrace the concept of linking privileges with responsibility.  As children of God, the idea is not nearly as appealing—but it is a truth.  The promises of God are an immense privilege given to us by our good and generous God.  While some of the promises are unconditional—all the weight resting on God—others come with personal responsibility.

Today’s promise to focus on is one we all often claim.  Jesus spoke these words we love to remember, “…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  The presence of God is a promise with power, peace and purpose.  Thankfully, it has some aspects of an unconditional promise—for He is the life we breathe, and He is always present.  In another sense, it is conditional—for we cannot enjoy His presence unless our hearts are right.  We have a responsibility to recognize our desperate situation and His holiness.  He still bears all the weight in carrying out the promise, but we cannot be passive in the process.

In response to the question, ‘Who may stand in the holy place?’ the Psalmist replied, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart…” (Psalms 24:4).  Clean hands and a pure heart are significant responsibilities for all of us who bear the sin nature.   The very Christ who promises to be with us is our only hope for those clean hands and pure hearts.  His holy righteousness is ours simply by admitting we fall short and need His cleansing; repentance is the key to allowing God to fulfill His promise and surround us with His presence.

Just as the mountains surrounding Jerusalem offer protection and comfort, the presence of God surrounding submitted hearts guarantees power for life and peace for our hearts.  It is a glorious promise to embrace.  The One who spoke the world into being surrounds us: ahead, beside and behind us!  Such a thought is truly inconceivable.  His holiness is beyond our complete comprehension but worthy of all our effort to glimpse.  In Revelation when John—the one who had walked with Jesus on earth and humbly embraced His love—sees Jesus, he collapsed at his feet.  Truly seeing the Lord in His holiness humbles our prideful human hearts—and opens the door to truly embracing the promise of His presence.   Rejoice in His goodness and holiness!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Promises - Grace

The promise of a boundless supply of life-giving grace:  forgiveness, joy and thankfulness for the goodness of God captures our hearts today.

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that ye, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.  2 Corinthians 9:8

God assures us there is no lack in our ability to live a life of faith when we draw on His grace.  What a nourishing promise for our souls!  Before we look at this indescribable gift, stop to ask God where you need to let more of His grace flow.  Who or what in your life needs the joy that comes with God’s transforming touch?

In Psalm 51, David’s eloquent plea for cleansing, he cried out to God seeking the restoration of joy in his heart.  David recognized that the forgiveness of God is our life source of joy and thankfulness.  Joy in the Lord is our strength for living with faith in the goodness of God.  Grace brings salvation to sinful man!  Crying out in true sorrow over our sinful choices opens the windows of our heart to receive the bounty of heaven.  Joy and thankfulness overflows hearts that humbly agree with God’s judgment of sin.

The generous grace of God flooding a human heart spills into the lives of others.  Allowing our hearts to receive undeserved forgiveness enables us to give the same to others.  His grace provides us with strength to live trusting His goodness to work in every circumstance.  When we are tempted to trust in ourselves, to fight for our rights and have our own way, the over-abundance of the grace of God needs to be received—and dispensed.  Receiving grace allows us to ‘abound’ in work that testifies to the glory of God!

The Westminster Catechism beautifully states our life purpose:  ‘The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’  When we enjoy God, we do glorify Him.  Ephesians (Paul) tells us we are created for good work—for work that has eternal value.  In the infinite grace and wisdom of the Creator, He understood that human weakness would best display the beauty of His grace.  Like Paul, we glorify God best when we rejoice in our desperate need for Him.  Covering our weaknesses robs the world of glimpses of Grace.  Embracing our failures in the light of His forgiveness floods our soul with joy and strength.  Claim the promise of grace and let His glory transform your world!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Promises - Presence of God

As parents, we embrace the concept of linking privileges with responsibility.  As children of God, the idea is not nearly as appealing—but it is a truth.  The promises of God are an immense privilege given to us by our good and generous God.  While some of the promises are unconditional—all the weight resting on God—others come with personal responsibility. 

Today’s promise to focus on is one we all often claim.  Jesus spoke these words we love to remember, “…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  The presence of God is a promise with power, peace and purpose.  Thankfully, it has some aspects of an unconditional promise—for He is the life we breathe, and He is always present.  In another sense, it is conditional—for we cannot enjoy His presence unless our hearts are right.  We have a responsibility to recognize our desperate situation and His holiness.  He still bears all the weight in carrying out the promise, but we cannot be passive in the process.

In response to the question, ‘Who may stand in the holy place?’ the Psalmist replied, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart…” (Psalms 24:4).  Clean hands and a pure heart are significant responsibilities for all of us who bear the sin nature.   The very Christ who promises to be with us is our only hope for those clean hands and pure hearts.  His holy righteousness is ours simply by admitting we fall short and need His cleansing; repentance is the key to allowing God to fulfill His promise and surround us with His presence.

Just as the mountains surrounding Jerusalem offer protection and comfort, the presence of God surrounding submitted hearts guarantees power for life and peace for our hearts.  It is a glorious promise to embrace.  The One who spoke the world into being surrounds us: ahead, beside and behind us!  Such a thought is truly inconceivable.  His holiness is beyond our complete comprehension but worthy of all our effort to glimpse.  In Revelation when John—the one who had walked with Jesus on earth and humbly embraced His love—sees Jesus, he collapsed at his feet.  Truly seeing the Lord in His holiness humbles our prideful human hearts—and opens the door to truly embracing the promise of His presence.   Rejoice in His goodness and holiness!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Promises - Power

This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.

Psalms 34:6-7

Today’s promise reminds me that eternal reality exists today – as well as tomorrow.  Too often we act is if the Power that promises life after death is too puny to help us today.  As we walk through this life, the LORD surrounds believers with His holy angels.  Salvation is for eternity, but it is also for today.  Deliverance of our souls is the goal of our faith; but God delivers us in our present reality as well.

When our hearts reverently look to the LORD, we need not fear earthly troubles.  When we seek to face our present troubles on our own, they loom to enormous sizes.  Looking at the challenges we face blinds us to the presence and power of God.  Like Elisha’s prayer for his servant, we must ask God to open our eyes to the angels surrounding us.    Fixing our eyes upon the LORD—and His provisions--reminds us of His power and promises to deliver us.  It does not mean problems miraculously disappear; instead, the problems present opportunities for the glory of the Lord to be seen.  The right perspective of our problems, our resources and the guaranteed victory grants us courage and purpose.

Scripture tells us our inheritance as believers rests secure in heaven.  That which we entrust to the Lord produces eternal results but it also produces earthly results.  Those truths flow from another truth:  the inheritance already received by those who accept Christ.  The Spirit of God condescends to dwell in the humble heart of believers.  Living upon that inheritance is the key to eternal rewards! The very power that raised Jesus from the grave lives with us today producing deliverance for those who believe.

Facing our troubles secure in the Lord’s provision and power releases His Spirit to work in the world around us.  Nothing we do in this world on our own produces eternal fruit.  Facing our struggles independently is foolish.  It produces only fear and failure.  The world needs to see Jesus.  Our struggles are an opportunity for them to do so.  Running to Jesus, allowing His angels to surround us, and His power to fill us, gives others a glimpse of His glory.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Promises - Peace

“…in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  Jesus

Four hundred verses in scripture speak of peace in one aspect or another.  The concept of well-being and peace, Shalom, weaves throughout God’s Word.  The common greeting in the Hebrew world was “Shalom.”  Similar to the modern, ‘How are you? The question was closer to, ‘Do you have peace? ‘Harmony of heart and relationships embodies the biblical understanding of peace.  It is much more than the absence of conflict; it is confidence, security and assurance for body and soul.  It is the province of God alone--as the Psalmist said, “…for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.”

In the Centuries before the birth of the Savior, Isaiah prophesied the Deliverer would be called the Prince of Peace.  Angelic announcements of Christ’s birth proclaimed ‘Peace on earth. ‘Shockingly, during his brief earthly ministry, Jesus told his followers that he did not come to bring peace but a sword.  The passage of scripture that follows teaches us that peace is the result of right priorities.  Peace flows only when souls connect to the Father.  Unity with the Father was the sole focus of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The sword Christ brought is to free us from the bonds of sin and rebellion that separate us from the Father.  Christ won that victory and led captivity captive!  The Prince of Peace left a legacy of peace.  It is ours to receive!

Too often, we strive for peace--trying to create it with our own agendas.  Scripture commands us to pursue peace not produce peace.  In failing to use the sword Christ brought to put our selfish desires to death, we forfeit the legacy of Christ.  Our sword is the Word; loving and obeying it will lead us into the Way, into Peace, into Christ.  Our Peace is present; receive Him; enjoy His victory today.  Trust in His power, love and ability to guide you into the next step.  As the gospel hymn says, ‘The Great I am, still is.’    

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Promises - Well of Living Water

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  John 7:38

Did you know that 97.5% of the water on the earth is not life giving?  The salt water of the oceans comprise the bulk of this planet‘s water.  Those lost at sea who drink of the salt water die excruciating deaths.  There is a spiritual parallel.  We live in a dry and thirsty land; there is a lot of poison water in the world. Our lives are to be a source of living water for others.  Life-giving water only flows from hearts that confidently trust in the Savior. 

The word ’believe’ is far more than mental assent to the truths of Christ’s existence.  It is choosing to live with total confidence in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  It is loving Him--and His ways--about what we ‘know’ and love in our day-to-day.   It is accepting even the hard things of life as gifts from the hand of a loving Father.  It is struggling to see the heart of God in painful realities.  It is believing in His goodness even when the external evidence screams otherwise.  It is choosing to act on the promises of God with solid confidence in His faithfulness to do what He says.  That is the sort of belief that gives life to those around us.

Our natural lives are like the ocean-water…beautiful, powerful and with the illusion of life.  On occasion, we glimpse the death within.  A cancer diagnosis, a heart attack or other deadly disease rears up and reminds us of our physical mortality.  Spiritually, death slithers around our relationships striking out in harsh condemnation, gossip and self-centered loveless-ness.  These appearances serve to remind us seek life.  God is the giver of life--He loves life.  Like the nerves in our body that warn us of danger, the stings of death drive us to the Source of life.  The ocean is part of the water cycle that sustains this planet.  It has purpose in God’s design; its purpose is not drinking of it as it sits.  The purpose of our natural lives is to allow the Living water to enter in and overflow in this world.

If we lived in a village with two wells--one with fresh, delicious water and another with dank, disease-ridden water, we would direct all we spoke with to the good well.  As we walk through this world, we have opportunity not only to tell people about the Living Water--we carry it with us.  That is a promise, a responsibility, and a joy that fills my heart with praise for the Giver of Life.  Who do you know needing a drink today?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Promises - Received

“…I will come again and receive you unto Myself that where I am, there you may be also.”  John 14:3

Have you ever thought about the privilege of being received by God?  Thinking on this privilege prepares us to receive from God.  Christ’s promise to receive us is the promise upon which all other promises hinge.  Being received in heaven allows us to receive heaven while we live on earth--it is a beautiful cyclical relationship.  God gives Himself completely to those willing to receive Him…to those who rejoice in being received by Him.

God is still the same generous God who created the entire world for the benefit of mankind.  This world is a gift from Him for us to learn from and to enjoy.  All that is of God is intended to usher us into His presence. Often, we prefer the presents more than His presence, and find our lives are painfully lacking.  Our hearts cannot hold to fleshly desires and have room for the Lord as well.  Receiving the promises that will fulfill hinges on longing for His presence above all.

 Jesus is the only way into the presence of God.  We see the ‘way’ by looking at Christ’s response to our treatment of Him.  While we ignore and reject Christ, His perfect love waits and works on our behalf.  We rebellious, faithless, complaining people are a treasure to Him!  When we begin to see Jesus in that light, we begin to become like Him--and we begin to receive all that God longs to give.   Rejoicing at our welcome from Christ opens the door to the blessings of heaven--the door to God Himself! 

Jesus told us that everything we ask in His name---with His character, His motives--will be received.  Our requests to God are fulfilled when our character receives the ‘stuff of the world’ with the active, patient love of Jesus Christ.  His way is the way to receive all that God desires to give.   Requests presented in the nature of  Christ receive the unbounded nature of God in reply.  Blessings or curses, life or death, flow from heaven for a singular purpose:  that all may know He alone is God. 

Deadly Deception

The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, penned in 1797, eloquently speaks a tragic modern truth. 

“Water, water everywhere and nary a drop to drink.”  

While the Mariner spoke of an ocean-bound person, current estimates indicate that 1.2 billion land-dwelling people face a similar crisis.  In one of death’s most cruel masquerades, what appears as life-giving water in many regions of the world is actually disease ridden poison.  Dirty water negatively affects human lives to a greater degree than HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis combined.  Over 4000 children die each year from water-borne illnesses.  Nearly 200 years before the Mariner’s rhyme, Leonardo DaVinci envisioned a technology that offers an effective solution to today’s tragic situation.

PVC Access 1.2 (for the 1.2 billion who need water), a project of the Water4Foundation, incorporates the DaVinci design in a low-tech, hand-drilling technology that provides clean drinking water in remote areas.  The Rhyme of the Mariner recognized the death that is in 97.5% of earth’s water.  The salt-water oceans comprise most of the planet’s water; ocean voyagers lost at sea who give into the temptation of drinking salt water die an excruciating death.  The polar ice caps hold most of the remaining 2.5% of earth’s water captive.  The water that is left is drinkable.  Astoundingly, less than 1% of our planet’s water is accessible without drilling.  PVC Access 1.2 aims to bring pure, clean water to the lips of a million people in 2014.  Would you consider being a part of this life-saving mission?

Literally, the Water4Foundation is organizing a rescue mission.  In regions with dirty water, average life expectancies end in the mid-30s.  The goal of PVC Access 1.2 is reducing the death toll from water-borne disease by 2.2 million. A mission of such magnitude needs many partners.  The prohibitive costs of traditional drilling hold remote areas hostage to dirty water. Rescue is possible by applying the plunger technology designed by DaVinci with the miracle of PVC pipe.  With this pairing, Water4 creates life-giving wells at a fraction of the cost of a traditional rig-dug well.  Averaging 600 to 1000 dollars, low-tech, hand-drilling technology bring life--and hope for the future into dying communities.

In the construction of each Water4 well, community residents are involved in the process.  Members of the community are taught the technology so they can help other communities in the region...  Essentially, each well is a vocational employment program that creates local entrepreneurs!  Trainees obtain marketable skills for a sustainable business that offers health and hope to others.  Water4 wells bring refreshment and life to the present and the future!   Learn more about how you can be a part of creating this lasting legacy of life around the world. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

A piece on the Joe Paterno legacy

Hey, friends, rather than put an extra post in your inbox, I thought I would provide a link to an article on my other blog.

The piece uses the heart-breaks of the Paterno scandal to guide us toward truth that establishes legacies of blessing!  May it bless you.

Promises - Purpose

And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.  John 12:32

Both promise and mandate flow from our scripture today.  This powerful verse roots itself in the Old Testament and branches forth toward eternity.  ‘Lifted up from the earth,’ was a phrase used by the Hebrew people to speak of dying.  While Christ chose this particular phrase to foretell his own manner of death on the cross, it also served to remind the people of the serpent Moses lifted in the desert to deliver the people from death.  Scripture always beautifully weaves truths with both complexity and clarity.  The purposes of God are unchanging:  eternal life for all who will see and believe. 

As a promise, this verse gives eternal purpose to our lives.  The will of the Father powered all of Christ’s actions; it is to be our driving force as well.  Christ came to earth with the purpose of providing abundant life to dying souls.  Accomplishing his purpose required Him to die upon the cross.  Our role is different—we are to live fully in the abundance provided by Christ’s obedience unto death.  God wills that those see and believe in the One lifted from the earth will die to the world so that other dying souls will see and believe.  It is a promise with a perpetuating purpose!

This is not a milquetoast promise either.  The word ‘draw’ actually means drag!  When we allow the life of Christ to rise up in our daily lives, Jesus promises to drag those around us toward Himself.  Our hearts thrill to that promise when we consider those we love--our children, our friends who do not know Christ as Lord.  Yet the Father feels that way about every soul.  ALL those who are lost and hurting need to see who Jesus is—and we are God’s chosen vessel for revealing His glory.  Therein is our mandate:  lift Jesus up above the earthly concerns you face.  Keep Him lifted above everything else in your life that His life will flow in you and through you!

The Romans used the horror of crucifixion to fix eyes on the results of resisting the laws of the land.  It was a tool of intimidation to keep people in line.  The love of the Father floods out the evil tactics of the Romans.  God desires for eyes to fix upon the power of sacrificial love and obedience to the Father revealed in Christ upon the cross.  Lifting up Christ in the details of our days means we allow the life of Christ to flow through us—the life that loved and obeyed the Father at all costs.  That life draws—drags—souls to the Giver of life!  There is promise with power to grab hold of!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Promises - Hope

The promise I most long to plant in hearts comes from Jeremiah.  You probably know it:

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord God: plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you a hope and a future.

It is a truth God desires for us to convey.  In I Peter 3:15, the instruction is “…be ready to give an answer for the hope in your heart.”  Hope for the future is a challenging promise to cling to in this sin-ravaged world.  Heartache and despair blinds many.  To speak of hope to the grieving, to those with debilitating illness…to any of the despairing hearts we encounter every day requires the involvement of the Spirit. Before we speak to others, we must always remember to mourn with those who mourn; we cannot pretend that life is pain-free.  We acknowledge the present reality but refuse to allow it to have victory.  Our loving compassion allows the Spirit to minister hope!  Before we speak to others, though, we must have confident hope for the future in our own heart. 

So how can we make this truth our own?  God gave these words to a people in captivity.  We live in a world captive to many things:  poverty, comfort and ease, alcohol, pornography, greed.  Hopelessness abounds.  Suicide statistics indicate that in the U.S. despair takes a life every 14.2 minutes.  Human trafficking (the modern term for slavery) affects 27 million people in the world today.  Addiction devastates millions of lives on a daily basis.  Evil afflicts our world and obscures God’s promised future…evil does not decimate God’s promises.  In fact, the dark backdrop prepares hearts for a solid message of hope.

That first dark thread of sin separated humanity from God; it left us floundering to meet very real needs without divine wisdom.  The Hope we have is that our loving, powerful Creator continually reaches out to guide us through the darkness.  Evil cannot demolish God’s goodness; as Paul said, where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.  God does not despair for He has made a way and His love continually keeps the door open.  His love never fails—it is never driven off-course.  Even though sin derails lives, the derailment cannot cut off the love of God.  Therein is the hope we must proclaim. The love of God is unbroken.   We will often be unable to answer the cries from broken hearts; we cannot always know “Why?”, but we know WHOM!  Lovingly walking alongside the hurting, with confidence in the One who loves, brings hope!


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Promises - Foundations

Our family enjoys playing Jenga:  robbing the foundation to build to great heights is a source of great fun for us.  Testing the steadiness of the hand and willingness to risk toppling the structure, the inevitable crash always generates much laughter.  There is a heart-breaking reality that parallels the game:  lives built like Jenga towers.  Foundations decimated to build lives to inspiring heights produce deadly destruction.

Our promise today takes a look at the foundation God longs to build in every life.  It takes us back to the days of Isaiah and focuses on words given to the rebellious nation of Israel.  While prophesies to Israel have literal meaning to that people group, our attention will be directed to spiritual meaning for Christians.  With Jesus as the Cornerstone of our foundation, consider Isaiah’s words from God:

“...I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires.  I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels and all your walls of precious stones.”  Isaiah 54:11,12”

Oh, how I want a life like that!  There is nothing drab about a life built upon the LORD and by the LORD.  His purposes are perfect; His work is exquisite.

The verses just before and just following these are hope-filled as well.  The beginning of 11 tells us this is spoken to a people enduring a storm--and grieving.  Knowing Israel’s history, we understand they created the storm with rebellion.  Honest review of our own lives will show us we are just like them.  We go our own way and grieve the results.  It is at this point, the building plans of God are laid out.  It is then that creations of beauty are possible.

The verses following the building plans turn our eyes to the future.  Lives built from grief to glory, open toward a heritage of lasting beauty.  The building work of God in our lives instructs those who come after us.  The glorious buildings God creates are the key to a lasting legacy.  Foundations in God and of God do not crumble.  Enjoy a game of Jenga--and the glory of God!

Friday, July 20, 2012


We are going to jump into our study of Promises in the word of God with one of my favorites:

Call unto me and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not!  Jeremiah 33:3

The context of promises deepens our understanding of when to appropriate them!  This particular promise is especially heartwarming to any who have asked God, “Why?” for it is God‘s reply to just such a question.  Jeremiah, like many Bible greats, often asked God for understanding.  The ways of God are beyond human intellect and reasoning.  Humble whys do not offend the Lord.

At the time of this promise, the city of Jerusalem was under siege, and Jeremiah was in captivity.  God laid it on Jeremiah’s heart to buy property in a city just north of Jerusalem.  It was not a decision a financial investor would advise.  Nonetheless, Jeremiah obeyed, but he asked God to help him understand.  As servants of the Lord, we can expect to find ourselves in just such situations.

The message Jeremiah had been giving was one of future hope.  He shared the message God gave to him--the covenant God had made with Abraham was secure.  The descendants of Abraham remained the chosen people.  Despite the Nation's present experience of consequences for sin, the covenant was not broken.   The reality the chosen people were enduring was not the end of the story.  Jeremiah faithfully reminded weary and faltering hearts:  NOTHING is too hard for the Lord.  So, God presented Jeremiah with an opportunity to show confidence in the words he preached: redeem family property in the disputed territory.   God created a real world occasion for Jeremiah to put his faith in action--to let the Israelites see faith and not just hear of it.

Those opportunities do not come with a banner announcing their great potential.  They usually show up with a sign that says ‘for fools only.’  Our lives must bear out the truths we say we believe.  Words alone are useless…sometimes destructive.  God orchestrates our lives to give substance to those things we believe.  His Word is solid; the lies we believe will always collapse.  The hand of God reaches down to lift us every time we fall, but stepping forward with confidence in His promises keeps us on safe ground!

Jeremiah stepped forward in faith--but he asked God why it had to be that way.  God answered with our promise verse, saying ask me and I’ll show you some great and mighty things.  Humbly asking why is an invitation for God to reveal Himself.  Arrogant whys are another devotion topic!   Jeremiah came to God recognizing who He is and how He operates and God responded!  He will do the same for us.  As Christians, we have received an inheritance--an eternal, glorious inheritance. Humble obedience--faith-filled actions based on His Word--allows us to enter in to the Promised Land.  Sometimes we must choose what seems to be contrary to earthly sense so God can reveal more of Himself to us.  Claim that promise today!

Saturday, July 14, 2012


We complete our alphabet journey of ‘names’ for our amazing God with Zealous!  Our Lord is zealous and desires for us to be as well.  Zeal without knowledge is dangerous--but zeal rightly directed changes everything.  The ‘Zeal of the LORD of Hosts’ delivered Judah from Assyria (2 Kings 19:31) but even greater, that zeal provided total victory in Jesus Christ (Isaiah 9:7; 59:17).  During Christ’s earthly life, He demonstrated the same zeal.  Early in His ministry, the disciples recognized Christ fulfilled the prophet Isaiah’s words:  ‘Zeal for thy house consumes me.’  The LORD described zeal as a cloak wrapped about His armor of salvation and justice; Christ is the earthly reality of that depiction.

Zeal for the ‘house’ of God--the building project of the Father--was and is Christ’s power source.  Paul tells us that we are God’s building and fitted together in Christ we become a holy temple for God’s presence!  Zeal for the Father’s purposes propelled Jesus from heaven’s glory to the gloom of Israel’s defeat.  Zeal brought Jesus into Israel‘s reality: a lost kingdom, submission to Rome and centuries of silence from their King.  Zeal for the Father’s purposes powered every miracle Jesus chose to perform, every word He chose to speak and every undeserved punishment He stoically received.  That Zeal did not fall short; that Zeal raised Jesus from the curse of death to reign eternally just as Isaiah prophesied hundreds of years before.

Our lives, hidden in Christ, are to be cloaked in the very same Zeal.  Built up in our Savior, His life surrounding us, zeal is the natural state of the believer.  We are even commanded to be zealous to do what is right.  Mis-directed zeal destroys but God-centered zeal delights the Father.  In the Revelation to John, the Laodecian church was rebuked for its lack of zeal.  Christ pleaded with them---pleads with us--be zealous in seeking God, turn from self-seeking and have a passion for the things of the Lord!

Thank you for joining me on this exploration of names of our Lord.  My prayer is that you have been as blessed as I by focusing on Him.  It is my delight to tell you that the Baptist Voice has agreed to a new series that will direct our eyes to the living on the Promises of God!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Young Child

Angels announced his birth; faithful saints prophesied of his greatness; his parents pondered all.  The wise men sought and found Jesus as a Young Child…and they bowed down and worshipped Him!  When we consider the Young Child who became our Savior, we, too, will rejoice in His greatness and bow before Him. We will long to be like Him.   Certainly, Jesus grew strong in body, spirit and wisdom during His earthly life—but God chose to have the Savior come as a Young Child.  We will grow as we ponder ‘why’!

Imagine—the Lord of the Universe accepted the limitations of infancy, allowing Himself to be wholly dependent on a teen-age mother because the Father willed it to be so!  The example of humility in the Savior coming as a child transforms hearts.  Our human tendency is to strive for independence—and expect others to do the same.  We do not want to depend on anyone, God included.  Our pride resists every limitation and closes us off from the deepest joys of a humble heart.

Christ’s humble heart did not resist absolute dependence because He knew the heart of the Father.  A Young Child need not strive to possess anything because a child’s heart trusts in the Father’s generosity.  The gentle purity of such a heart is foreign to most of us for we see it very seldom.  Even our children rarely experience such security.  We live in a culture that claims to love children, but many of our choices show a different value.  We rush children through childhood, anxious to share the ‘burden’ of their care with others.  We choose careers and independence above sacrificial giving to our young ones.  Our example reveals a mind-set that says each must be the ‘captain of your own ship’—meeting your own needs first.  Jesus did not give that example. Love puts the needs of another above one’s own—and trusts the Father to care for all. 

In His short, busy years of ministry, Jesus insisted on allowing children to come to Him.  He valued the example children give—and the generous desires the Father has for every soul.  Jesus knew that receiving God’s best necessitates a trusting, child-like heart.  Indeed, such a heart is a precious commodity in this world.  The heart of a Young Child has no concern about ‘honor’ from others for it needs nothing!  A Young Child is open to receive the riches of the Father and no needs exist.  Such a fulfilled heart emanates the gentleness and joy that builds relationships.

Christ clearly saw each of His disciples as a ‘Young Child’ for He often addressed them as such.  The disciple of Christ today must seek to grow into childhood as well.  Adult hearts strive in pride and convince themselves of their humble purity (Colossians 2:20-23).  A Young Child’s heart accepts that Jesus is our only hope.  We must rejoice in His example of trust in the Father’s design—complete dependence is our deliverance.  Self-driven efforts may improve our outward appearance but striving never transforms the inner darkness of our hearts.  Simple youthful joy in the generosity of God is what we must grow into!  Christ began where we are to arrive:  Young Child!  Grow down today.

Friday, June 22, 2012

X-press Image

Arriving at “X” in our journey through the alphabet demands some creativity in our spelling!  Oh, but what a glorious view of Christ we will receive.  Our primary text verse comes from Hebrews 1, verse 3:

Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

Jesus is the “X-press image” of our glorious God.  The NIV translation uses the phrase “X-act representation.”  Jesus pours forth the very glory of God like the rays of the sun bringing light to the earth!  The supreme joy of our lives is to know Jesus more—to know God more.  When we focus our eyes on the life of Christ, we see what our own lives are to look like.  It is a humbling, challenging look, which gives immeasurable meaning to each life.

Turning our eyes back Jesus’ arrival on this earth, we see Him trust the Father’s purposes so much He left the riches of heaven for the womb of a young mother.  Christ’s confidence in the manifest power and wisdom of God propelled Him to forsake all for the Father’s purposes of redeeming a lost world.  That confidence was not misplaced for all of Christ’s life proved the faithfulness of the Father.  Divine provision for earthly needs came from hearts moved by the Spirit of God:  wise men of the orient supplied finances, faithful servants in the temple gave nourishment to the souls of his parents; Mary and Joseph nurtured the precious treasure of Christ. 

Throughout Christ’s earthly life, the will of the Father drove all that He did.  The glory of God was His in obedience.  The miracles, the teaching, the betrayals—Jesus knew each and every detail of His life had divine purpose.  He received the circumstances of life with confidence in the Father’s plan.  Christ never chose the work He would do…the needs of humanity did not drive Him.  Neither personal fame nor even self-protection compelled the actions of Christ.  Nothing but the will of His Father directed Christ.

Christ accepted all as Father-filtered, and the radiance of God revealed itself!  As He lived this earthly life, He felt the hardship and difficulty of obedience through His sufferings.  Jesus prepared for His role as High Priest for you and me through enduring great suffering.  In fact, Christ’s suffering brought such anxiety He sweat drops of blood as He contemplated the personal cost.  Christ understands—understood—that the glory of God transforms trials.  He longs for us to understand that as well.  The purpose of God is to give us hope and a future.  Like Christ, we can trust in the Father’s plan.  In fact, God desires that destiny for each of us:  transformation by gazing at His glory.   The X-press image of God—the essence of Christ—is love that is willing to sacrifice self in obedience to fulfill the will of God.  Living with our eyes fixed on the glory of Christ brings His glory to this world!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Well of Living Waters

Today’s view of the Lord reminds us that He is the source of endless supply:  He is a Well of Living Water.  The nation of Israel experienced many reminders of water’s value.  Palestine receives little rain from May to October; the preciousness of water never fades from view.  Divine provision of water preserved lives in several scriptural accounts.  Wells of water were treasured possessions and family inheritances.  Christ’s revelation of Himself as the Well of Living Water is a divine provision and priceless treasure!

Receiving Jesus as the Well transforms us.  Jesus promises that living water will flow from the life of all who drink of Him.  The prophets often spoke of the living water to come.  Ezekiel reported that because of the Living Water, “…the fruit will serve for food and the leaves for healing.”  A life nourished by Christ blesses others.  Isaiah spoke of the joy that accompanies drawing water from the well of salvation.  The pure Well of Living Water cleanses our hearts and allows us to enter into the joy of eternal life.  In John’s revelation, the Lamb leads heaven’s residents to the Living Fountain of Waters where God wipes away all tears.  Our Well never runs dry for the eternal one is our source.  The Well of Living Waters flows with wisdom and understanding.  Christ is the Well that makes the garden of our earthly life bloom with beauty and hope.

Proverbs contains much wisdom about wells.  Scripture identifies our heart as the wellspring of life.  Exercising caution in choosing a source for that wellspring is imperative.  The Well of Living Waters is available to all—but it is a personal supply.  We must carefully protect our Well from the contamination of impure additions.  We are to share generously but carefully of our supply by inviting others to walk with us to our Source.  Lives that draw upon the Well of Living Waters create a thirst for Jesus—and a path to the Source for others.

A life that does not draw upon the Well of Living Waters withers away.  The shallowness of any other ‘life’ source limits potential.  Without the Well, the roots of faith never penetrate to the depths that provide nourishment.  Without the Well, the ears of faith tune to sentimental messages and resist deep truths.  Without the Well, the foundations of life settle on dry, sand soil that shifts—and lives crumble.  Without the Well, shallow hearts blow from place to place always thirsting.  We must drink deeply of the Well allowing it to flow forth into the dry, thirsty land around each of us!

Friday, June 8, 2012


Our alphabet journey stops today at “V” and focuses our eyes (and our ears) on the Voice calling to each of us.  In Revelation 1, John records that he heard a great voice and turned to it.  His risen Lord, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, spoke to him, revealing mysteries we still wait to understand fully.  This same Great Voice spoke the world into being, and it is the Voice calling continually to each of us.  It is a Voice of wisdom and power and life.  Turning to that Voice as John did gives us visions of hope and glory unequalled by any other thing!

Simply considering how scripture describes the Voice blesses the soul.  The Voice of God roars like a rushing waterfall and trumpets loudly, yet it also whispers gently.  The Voice commands with authority, confronts in righteousness, and calls with persistent love!  The Voice always testifies to Truth and announces the presence of God.  The impact of the Voice depends on the heart condition of the ‘hearer.’  God’s voice brings terror to those pursuing sin; yet it generates joy in those seeking the Lord.   Heartbreakingly, for some the Voice is either unheard or ignored as empty noise.  This Voice has a message of critical, eternal importance; we need to hear it, heed it and proclaim it!

The message of the Voice is personal, yet always consistent from one person to the next.  The Voice speaks to each heart applying the Word of God in unique ways.  The Voice gives a message of love and mercy, yet also a message of God’s glory and righteous judgment.  The Voice is never silent for God created humanity to fellowship with Himself.  He speaks eternally of His longing for us to know Him fully.  The Voice speaks to a need every heart feels giving a message of hope and peace. Preparing our hearts to understand the message of the Voice requires us to be still and listen.

This is a noisy world.  There is much calling for our attention.  Proverbs instructs us that there are two primary voices in this world:  the Voice of Wisdom and the Voice of the Adulteress.  There is the faithful voice of the Lord—wisdom personified, and there is the deceptive voice of the Unfaithful—foolishness embodied.  The voice we heed affects the outcome of our lives.  The Voice of God instructs and guides all who seek to know His way.  We must choose to reject the voice of foolishness and obey the Voice of God.  The words of Jesus Himself assure us that He knows those who hear Him.  Being known by Christ brings us security in this world and assurance of eternal life.  What joy we have from hearing and heeding Him!  Let us lift our voices in praise, attracting others to His Voice. 


Friday, June 1, 2012

Upholder of All

Today’s focus on the Lord will lighten our burdens:  He is the Upholder of all things!  Back at the beginning of our journey, we considered the truth that Jesus is the Bearer of sin.  The freedom in that is the hope of our souls.  Contemplating Christ as the Upholder of All frees us to go through life unhindered by weights that hold us captive.  Holding onto burdens God never intended for us to carry keeps us from His glorious plans and purposes.

The old saying that ‘God never gives us more than we can bear’ is true only if we allow Him to be the One who carries us through the hardships of life.  Sometimes the consequences of living in a sin-wrecked world deliver greater heartache than even the strongest soul can take.  Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Christ upholds all things by the power of His Word.  Jesus is the Word in flesh.  The great truths of scripture walked the earth in the life of Christ; the great truths of scripture conquered death and restored the hope of life to mankind.  Only the Word of God has power to bear all that this world delivers.

Our human limits are a blessing!  Until we reach the end of ourselves, we do not even recognize the need for Christ’s unlimited ability to bear our burdens.  The New Living Translation renders Proverbs 24:10 as “If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small.”  Praise God that the pressures of life make it very clear to us that our strength is too small!  God’s Word consistently records the limits and failings of Bible greats.  It is in our humble acceptance of limits that we are of the most use to God.  Self-sufficient saints discourage seekers.  Do-it-yourself Christianity--pull yourself up by the bootstraps theology--lacks the resilience needed to accomplish eternal good.  Many things are too hard for us.  The key to praising God in all things is realizing that nothing is too hard for Him!

Indeed, we can do all things--but only in Christ Jesus!  The Psalmist describes Israel’s deliverance in Egypt as the Lord removing their shoulder from its burden.  Is there a burden God wants to remove your shoulder from?  Faith allows us to step aside and let Christ be our Upholder.  The weakness that moves us into partnership with Christ becomes divine strength that brings the glory of God to the world. 

Finally, we are to remember that Christ bears not only our sins and burdens; our eternal souls are in His care.  The Upholder of All secures our souls.  Our very life is in Christ—who sits at the righteous right hand of the Father!  Our journey through this life rests in the One created, redeemed and sustains all.  The security of that removes all weights!  We can cast all of our cares on Him—throwing off the weights that entangle—to bring His light into the world that God loves!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Tabernacle of God

The Tabernacle of God—the Tent, the Meeting Place—is our precious Lord Jesus Christ!  The disciple, John, told us in his gospel (verse 14) that God pitched His Tent—Jesus—with us.  In the Revelation given to John, he shared the vision of the Tabernacle descending permanently as mankind’s dwelling.  The richness of considering Christ as the Tabernacle is more than we can grasp—but let’s look to our fullest!

The ’tent’ picture first appeared when the delivered nation of Israel chose to worship the work of their hands:  the calf idol formed from golden treasures.  Moses, after giving God’s rebuke, pitched the ‘Tent of Meeting’ outside the camp.  Moses sought the Lord inside that Tent; those who chose to seek God’s direction went to the Tent.  Indeed, the picture still speaks truth:  we must go beyond our earthly securities and beyond our chosen idols to meet with God!

After the Tent of Meeting, God gave Moses instructions for the Tabernacle that would become the center of Israel’s lives.  Every aspect of the Tabernacle pattern speaks of Christ.  From the outer boundary to the Holy of Holies, pictures of Christ emanate from the Tabernacle design.  Separation, cleansing, sacrifice, worship, holiness—Jesus Christ is all and in all!  Just as the Tabernacle was at the center of the nation of Israel’s life, Christ is to be at the center of our life.  He is to be our all and in all—and, believe it or not, that means more than just being the center of our life!

God has even greater plans and purposes for the Tabernacle than it being the center of life!  The birth of Christ—the incarnation—gives even more breath-taking revelations of Tabernacle truths.  Christ as the Center of our lives is a beginning, not an end!  All the fullness of God came to dwell in a human tent at the birth of Jesus.  As the Tabernacle, Jesus is the very life of God.  Our Creator not only wants us to place Him at the center of our lives—He wants to be our Life as well.  Indeed, without Him there is no life!

From the Tent of Meeting to the Tabernacle of Christ, we see the glorious realities of Godly love, righteousness and justice poured upon the earth.  Sin separated us in the Garden of Eden from His glory—from Life itself.  The sinless love of God fuels His Righteousness and Justice to accomplish the redemption of fallen man.  The cost of redeeming us took all the power and glory of God dwelling in a human Tabernacle:  Jesus Christ.  That precious Tabernacle took upon Himself the combined pain and suffering of sin to conquer death.   The resurrection and ascension of the Tabernacle is the Hope every human heart needs.  Jesus is the Tabernacle, which descends in Revelation!  Jesus is the Tabernacle, which we are to live in today.  As Paul said, ‘in Him we live and breathe and have our being…’  Rejoice in the Tabernacle today and invite others in!