“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23:6
Not too long ago my wife and I decided that we would begin the practice of reciting certain passages as a family, for in our particular Christian tradition, this really is not a very common practice. Wrote prayers are, in fact, prayed by many believers around the world every single day, and many Christian traditions practice reciting them together. We started with the obvious ones, the Lord’s Prayer, Psalm 23, the Aaronic blessing, etc. In reflecting upon the last line of Psalm 23, I am struck by a number of things.
First, I’m taken aback by the great confidence with which David asserts his future days will be blessed and he will be with God in the end. This should not be overlooked. What grounds did David have in making this assertion? I’m inclined to think that he could make this claim because of all that a Great Shepherd entails. Everything leading up to this final sentence makes the final analysis all but sure. Since God is like a Great Shepherd, He meets our needs, He protects us in times of uncertainty and darkness, He protects us from ourselves, He abides with us. These are the qualities which led David to conclude that the good shepherd is Good, and hence, His Goodness will follow after us all the days of our lives. Not just some days, but every single day. The Goodness of God is everything to us: it affords everything to us, undergirds us, and empowers us to be who were created to be. Not only is the Great Shepherd good, but He is merciful. As we know, “His mercies are new every morning” (Lam. 3:23). Mercy can be understood as one particular application of the goodness of God to us; namely, when we are in need of mercy, the goodness of God meets us in a profound way.
Second, I’m struck by the notion that David concludes the psalm with the location of our final destination: we will dwell with the Lord forever. Notice that he says we will dwell “in the house of the Lord” forever. Even though the “house” may be understood in different ways, the Scriptures refer to creation as God’s Temple, or His House. We will dwell with God in the universe He created. Thus, David’s declaration is simply this: no matter where God is, He will always be accessible to us, and we to Him. As the redeemed children of God, surely the goodness and mercy of our Great Shepherd will follow us and we will be with Him forever and ever and ever.
Word for the Way:
Take some time to reflect upon the goodness and mercy of God and express your gratitude to Him that we will dwell with Him forever.
“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” -- Hebrews 11:6
I’m a proud father of four children and I love spending time with each one of them. I love it when they ask me questions and seek out my advice concerning something they care about. I love it when the heed my counsel and take to heart my perspective and recommendations. Perhaps this is something akin to what the author of Hebrews addresses above. It pleases the Lord when we come to him “in faith,” trusting in Him because He is good, loving, and worthy of our utmost devotion and respect. Faith is a gift, but it is also an act of the will. When we walk in faith we demonstrate by our actions where our loyalties truly lie. Our faith is tested the most when it comes to the things that we care most about. Sometimes it boils down to the issue of Lordship — do I trust that God is in control, or do I feel like I should try to take the reins and usurp his authority?
Faith presupposes belief. Before we can put our trust in something, we must first believe it exists. The Bible tells us that everyone has knowledge of God’s existence (Romans 1:23-28), hence the question is whether or not we will place our relational trust in him and allow him to be our everything.
The author of Hebrews tells us that the Lord rewards those who earnestly seek him. When we consider the fact that God is himself the source of life, love, and all things good, it only makes sense that when we truly pursue him, it is reward itself. We may be fooled into thinking that “the good” is an abstract thing, or a concrete, finite entity, but “the good” is God Himself. When we earnestly seek the Lord we will truly find what we are looking for. Enjoy the journey of pursuing God’s presence and you will find yourself to be among the most fortunate of souls.
Word for the Way:
Seeking the Lord is its own reward.
“I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God.” Rev. 20:4b
Pierre was his name. I met him in a country near the Middle East when I was a college student. He was a refugee from Iraq and his story made an enduring impression upon my life. I was privileged to converse with a living, breathing, hero face to face. Pierre, a Christian, once served in Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard. When he refused to carry out an order to murder dozens of Kurds, he knew such refusal could mean forfeiting his life, but as a Christian he knew he could not engage in such a barbarous act. Instead of murdering Pierre, they crushed every bone in his right hand, which has enormous significance in the Middle East, for no one would shake his left hand in public, or in private. On another occasion, he refused to carry out a similar order, and he knew he would have even more dire consequences. His entire family was murdered and he ended up fleeing from Iraq for his life. He had been living in the country where I met him for nearly a decade, unable to get work, and living in the shadows.
We may hear stories like this and think they are extremely rare, but brothers and sisters in Christ are being persecuted all around the globe on a daily basis. Many believers who live in peace and opulence usually are not forced (or choose) to dwell on such realities. Each of us would do well to reflect on the deepness of our Christian convictions. What are the limits to our devotion to the Lord and His kingdom? Perhaps this is a question we cannot really answer. Many of us hope that our faith is deep, even to the point of giving our lives for the faith. John the Revelator beheld a group of people in heaven who had paid the ultimate price. They were beheaded for their allegiance to none higher than Christ himself. He indicates they were beheaded not only for their allegiance to Jesus, but also for their testimony concerning the Word of God. It has become fashionable in the West to explain away portions of the Word of God which, to some, may seem to be unsavory or offensive to their modern sensibilities. We must ask: how willing am I to let God’s Word define the nature of reality for me, even when it may offend me? The noble actions of the martyrs were devoted equally to Jesus and the Word of God. To be devoted to the one is to be devoted to the other.
Question for the Day:
Am I willing to serve the Lord Jesus even unto death?
“There really is a God who judges the world.” Psalm 58:11b NCV
Imagine a world where people made decisions to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, however they wanted, and expecting no recourse for their choices and actions. I can gather what you may already be thinking: “It seems like the world we’re living in!” It may not be quite that bad, but it does seem that in some ways in our contemporary American culture that more and more people behave as if we live in a world where there will be no reckoning, no accounting for the way we live our lives.
Many Jews in ancient Israel felt the very same way toward neighboring countries as many of us feel when we see a person living lawlessly before our very eyes. Ancient Jews were surrounded by nations who served other gods, who mocked and berated them for their allegiance to Yahweh, and who were engaged in all manner of ungodly ritual and conduct. As they worshipped Yahweh, they often heralded a simple truth: namely, that one day we will all have to give an account for our lives — all we did and failed to do.
The intellectual tides appear to have shifted when it comes to the notion of a God in heaven exercising judgment upon “seemingly well-meaning people.” Today, this is simply a foreign concept to many. But God is more than Loving; He is Righteous and Just, and will indeed execute judgment upon all humankind. Many a theologian have arrived at the conclusion that God indeed would not be loving were He to suspend judgment — enforcing his accountability — upon the creatures he has made. Apart from the presupposition and impetus that there is a Righteous Judge over and above us, what is there to prevent any person (or society for that matter) to slip into utter lawlessness? In all honesty, do we really believe in our heart of hearts that we will not have to give an account for our lives? Pity the society who should ascribe to such a notion. And Lord have mercy upon anyone who comes in contact with such a society.
Word for the Way:
God is real, and he will execute judgment.
"No weapon formed against you will prosper." - Isaiah 54:1
When I was in elementary school I would wait at the bus stop for the bus. I rarely had problems with bullies, but this particular year was an exception. Things started out with verbal threats, taunting, and constant harassment. It finally reached the point that I had to do something. Little did my bullies know that I had an older brother…a big, strong, fearless brother who was a football player, wrestler, and happened to love his little brother very much. All it took was telling Dave what was going down at the bus stop, and as you might have guessed, Dave accompanied me to my bus stop the next morning. I’m not sure there was ever as quiet a bus stop gathering as there was that morning. No one spoke…for minutes. Silence filled the air that crisp, cool Oregon fall morning. As the bus began its approach, Dave spoke up and shared a simple warning to the whole of the group, announcing that if he heard of any further harassment of his little brother, the next time they saw him they’d better run, and run fast and hard. Everyone there got the message, and for the rest of the year I never experienced another problem.
I share this story with you because we need to know and believe that just as my brother had my back, God has our back. He spoke through His prophet Isaiah, no weapon formed against us will prosper. Does this mean we’ll never face hardship? No. Does this mean that no weapons will ever be formed against us? No. What it does mean is that the weapon formed against us will not prosper; it will not succeed, last, or fulfill its intended end.
Many of us walk in fear, apprehension, and uneasiness. In many ways we fail to walk in the confidence and boldness we ought to in this life. This is not to say that we should walk in arrogance, picking fights with the Enemy, but rather to walk in full assurance and faith that God has our back – that He will fulfill through us, by the power and strength of His Spirit, all that He has called us to for His Kingdom purposes. I love the saying, where God guides, He provides. It reminds me that He is steering the ship, that He’s in control, and what ever we will need on this journey, He will provide it. This includes His protection, for God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble (Ps 46:1 NLT).
Question of the Day:
Am I walking with full assurance that God has my back?
“Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in all of your deeds, oh Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.” Habakkuk 3:2
One of my daughters was visibly distraught. When we begin to unpack the root cause of her distress we discovered she was all worked up and enormously frustrated because her classmates at school were misbehaving. As a result, the entire class received punitive measures. Her frustration was twofold: first, she was disgruntled about receiving punishment for other classmates’ poor choices. She clearly felt she was a recipient of ‘collateral damage,’ so to speak. Second, she felt utterly powerless in getting her classmates to do the right thing. I imagine that some of the righteous remnant of Israel felt a similar righteous indignation toward their neighbors.
In Hab. 3:2, four elements surface. First, he announces to Yahweh a simple fact; namely, that he had heard of Yahweh’s great fame. He had no doubt heard from older generations of what a great God and Savior he had been for Israel. Second, we see Habakkuk recall and remember the exploits Yahweh had performed on Israel’s behalf in previous generations. He knew full well that Yahweh had delivered Israel from the hands of pharaoh, and preserved his people during the time of the judges, and had established Israel as a nation. Here we reach a transition point. Habakkuk, acknowledging what God had done in the past, set his sights towards the present and the future. Third, he cries out to Yahweh to once again show his might, power, intervention, and favor to Israel. And forth, he knows that God is fully loving and hence is fully just. He therefore entreats the Lord to have mercy upon them, despite the fact they are not only candidates of receiving judgment, but recipients of it, and deservingly so.
I personally believe we the church are in a similar position as in America today. There is much for which God’s righteous judgment could and should be upon us, but I find myself joining in Habakkuk’s cry, that the Lord will have mercy on us, that he would pour out his miraculous exploits upon this land once again, and that revival would unfurl in our midst. It has happened before, it can happen again. God is Good and He does not forsake His own. May we take some time today to cry out to God on behalf of our nation that God would bring renewal, revival, and revitalization to our land.
Question for the Day:
Do I think that God can do today the same kind of exploits he has done in previous generations?
“I am about to send my messenger, who will clear the way before me. Indeed, the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his temple, and the messenger of the covenant, whom you long for, is certainly coming,” says the Lord who rules over all. Malachi 3:1
Many people have marveled at how Christianity got off the ground and has endured for twenty centuries. We should see that the origin of the Christian faith is quite distinct from the origin of every other faith. It is one which is not only steeped in historical events, but particularly historical events which were the fulfillment of prophetic prophecies. God spoke through Amos the following: “For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). Bear in mind, the Mal. 3:1 prophecy occurred in the late fourth century before Christ. Judah had fallen into Exile and had returned to the Promised Land, but their hearts were not fully returned to the Lord. Therefore, Yahweh prophesied future favor to be bestowed upon the Jewish people once again. In the gospel of John (1:23) we are told that John the Baptist self-identified as the very one who was a Messenger in the desert preparing the way for Yahweh. Centuries before the Mal. 3:1 prophecy, Yahweh announced through the prophet Isaiah he would send a Messenger (40:3). We see, therefore, that the first part of Mal. 3:1 was fulfilled in John the Baptist’s ministry. A second part of the Malachi prophecy is fulfilled, for Jesus came to the Temple on numerous occasions (Luke 2:41-52; Mt. 21). What’s more, being an observant Jew, he would’ve made an annual pilgrimage to the Temple.
Note that it is Yahweh who says that He will send His messenger before Him. John the Baptist understood himself to be the forerunner of Yahweh—indeed, one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight paths for Yahweh.” This demonstrates that Jesus, who was the Messiah and long-awaited by the Jews, was also Yahweh Himself. Simply put, Malachi 3:1 helps us to see that Yahweh-Jesus foretold his own coming through several prophets, that he would send a Messenger before Himself, and He would finally enter the great Jewish Temple. If that’s not a confirming piece of evidence for Christianity, I don’t know what is.
Word for the Way:
Fulfilled prophecies confirm the veracity of Christianity.
“The Lord is not slow and keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He’s patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” -- 2 Peter 3:9
God is totally Sovereign. That is, in terms of His control and authority, He is completely unrivaled. He knows the beginning from the end (Isa. 46:10), and is working all things out for good (Rom. 8:28) and in accordance with his plan (Eph. 1:11). Our problem, of course, is our finite vantage point. We simply cannot see what God sees, and hence we often struggle in our efforts to try to understand God’s plan, namely to understand what God is up to. Be rest assured, however, that God is true to His word (He keeps His plans) and His is the best of all possible plans. Surely the Apostle Peter serves as a prime example of someone who is “just didn’t get it,” and yet even he became someone (after Pentecost) who exemplified a stalwart resolution in trusting God, even to the point of death. (Ecclesiastical tradition holds that the Apostle Peter was also crucified, albeit in an inverted position).
God is the ultimate Promise-keeper. What God says, He does. Yahweh operates on His own timetable, and His timetable is perfect. In fact, time itself is His creation, for He exists from all eternity. Furthermore, what we may perceive to be “slowness” is simply patience to the Lord. And this patience itself has a purpose: Maximal Redemption. That is, God knew from all eternity who would receive Him and be saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). Hence, what appears to us as slowness is simply the outworking of God’s plan for all who would receive him (John 1:12) to, in point of fact, receive him. God desires that every human being would come to repentance and experience salvation, reconciliation, and everlasting newness of life. Even though there are some who would contend that God does not want every person He creates to be redeemed, this position is self-evidently inconsistent with “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” When I read this passage, I’m inclined to think that the Apostle Peter would disagree with a notion that God wants not to redeem all. Because God is all-loving, His all-loving nature desires all to come to His open arms of Love.
Question for the Day:
Am I trusting that God has a glorious plan and will carry it out accordingly?
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” -- 1 Peter 5:6–7
Humility > Humiliation. “Humility or humiliation — the choice is yours.” These were the wise words I once heard a Christian leader pose to me and a whole host of other college students. His sentiment was clear: If we live a life without mindfulness of God, or His Ways, or His authority, we will inevitably make decisions in our lives which will, in all likelihood, culminate in calamity. This can undoubtedly bring a dimension of humiliation into our lives as well, since calamities are frequently humiliating. On the other hand, however, if we walk circumspectly, with the mindfulness of God as preeminent, seeking His will to be accomplished in our lives, and regularly put Him and others above ourselves, this humility can keep us from making calamitous decisions and hence reaping a whole lot of heartache.
God Can Bear It. The Apostle Peter admonishes believers to place their fears upon the One who can bear it — God alone. Most of us have anxieties, though some of us have more kinds of anxiety than others. Nevertheless, we all daily live with sundry kinds of fears which try to creep in and squelch the joy out of life. Knowing full well that this is the case, the Apostle Peter instructs us to identify our fears and then to hurl them (lit. “cast” as in casting a net) toward God. I personally think this is to be a perpetual practice of Christ-followers. It requires introspection, identification, and a faith-act of “giving it to God.” There’s a sad fact and it is this — we bear burdens we weren’t meant to bear. Let us give these to God, for only He can bear it.
God Loves You. I take great comfort in the last clause of the passage. God cares for us. God cares for everyone. Period. We can cast our cares upon Him not only because he is sufficient to bear our burdens, but because He loves us and wants us to run to Him in times of need. His great love for us is truly the only thing that can sustain us. The New Testament is filled with passages pointing to the love of God. May we reach a point where we will believe that God is Love (1 John 4:8), but even more, may we reach a point where we can confidently say, God loves me.
Word for the Way:
I shall humble myself today, and avert all humiliation.
“But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, oh God, will last forever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.’” Hebrews 1:8
We need to be clear about something. The historically orthodox teaching about Jesus Christ has really been quite clear over the past twenty centuries. Jesus is more than a carpenter, more than a Rabbi, more than a prophet, more than a moral teacher, and he is not reducible to a mere political insurrectionist of the first century. Jesus of Nazareth happened to be the divine messianic King foretold among the prophets throughout centuries of old. The author of Hebrews, in a very terse fashion, encapsulates in Hebrews 1:8 what has been believed by Christians from the beginning, nearly two millennia ago.
“But of the son he says...” Notice the author’s intention at the beginning of this passage is to ascribe an aspect, a reality, a characteristic, or a propositional truth claim about Jesus, when the author writes, “But of the son he says…” Clarity is always important, and it is no less important here. The “Son” identified in this passage is Jesus. One only has to read the first chapter of Hebrews for this to become apparent. An integral question arises: of whom is “he” the son? Again, the context is clear: He (Jesus) is the Son of God the Father. The author of Hebrews wants us to know the father is denoting something of great importance about His Son, Jesus.
Jesus, the Messiah, is a Divine King. In quoting Psalm 45:6-7, the author simultaneously ascribes to Jesus both divinity and royalty. It was long foretold there would be a King from the line of David whose rule would know no end (Daniel 7:14). But in the first century it was not commonly held that the Forever-King of David would be divine. The passage is quite clear, “Your throne, O God…” divinity is clearly being ascribed to Jesus. Furthermore, “righteousness will be the scepter” of Jesus’ Kingdom, for He truly is the embodiment of righteousness. Because Jesus is divine, His rule can easily be an everlasting rule without end, for He is eternal. And the nature of His Rule—as King—can be none other than a Righteous Rule. This is one of the clearest passages in the New Testament laying out the clear teaching of the Church, namely, that Jesus of Nazareth is the divine, royal Messiah who alone can bring deliverance and establish an everlasting, Righteous Rule. All hail King Jesus!
Word for the Way:
Jesus of Nazareth is the divine, Messianic King.
“Beloved, I wish above all things that you shall prosper and be in good health even as your soul prospers.” 3 John 2 (NKjv)
I attended a Christian University in the late 1990s wherein my relationship with the Lord flourished and I forged lifelong relationships. Like most universities, there were a few classes required for all students to take, in which several Bible passages were assigned to students to be memorized. In one of my classes 3 John 2 was one such passage. The emphasis in the course curriculum was that God wants good things for His children and desires that we should prosper. Undoubtedly, many took this as a proof-text that all Christians should do nothing but prosper in all things and in all ways. I came to the following conclusion: First, we’re to have a balanced view on biblical prosperity. Second, God indeed is a good God and is the source of all life and prosperity.
Many Bible commentators have persuasively made the case that the phrase “prosper and be in good health” should be understood as one collective thought. That is, John desires for the “beloved” to prosper in physical terms, abounding in vibrant, good health. Think about it. In a day and age when life expectancy rarely saw individuals into their 60s, having good health was is everyone’s dream. We should indeed notice how John puts a high premium on the value of physical health, but we should also note his emphasis on the importance of the immaterial dimension of our being. In his well-wishing, John makes it clear he desires for the “beloved” to abound in physical health (ie. external well-being) as well as in spiritual health (ie. internal well-being). As we know, there’s more to us than meets the eye. John’s heart is abundantly clear: he wants God’s best for the “beloved,” and it includes their entire being, inside and out.
Finally, notice that the recipients of this prayerful greeting are the “beloved.” “Beloved” is a rarely used word these days, but it’s an apt word, a biblical word. John is writing to his fellow believers. He demonstrates his love for his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in this very verse. He models for us what disposition we are to have toward our fellow believers. May we be people who would take time today to reach out to a brother or sister in Christ and to let them know we desire God’s best to be unleashed in their life, physically and spiritually.
Word for the Way:
I am a “beloved.”
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.” -- Exodus 20:2-3
I’m nothing if not loyal. It’s one of my stronger attributes. Loyalty is a trait that appears to be in limited supply, these days. I certainly want to be somebody who is known for being loyal to his friends, family, and most of all his Lord. Loyalty does not occur automatically. Just like other behavior traits and characteristics, one must consistently evaluate the status of a given trait. Am I being faithful? Am I being honest? Am I consistently serving others whom I love? Where do my loyalties ultimately lie?
There are seasons of life where I must be reminded that Yahweh is GOD. In the hustle and bustle of daily living our hearts are often torn in numerous directions. Then the sweet grace of God breaks through and I am reminded that Yahweh is God. Indeed, I am effervescently reminded that Yahweh is my God. My every breath, dream, and desire is to be oriented around the one true God, to whom I owe my very existence and allegiance.
There are seasons of life where I must be reminded who delivered me out of “Egypt.” The land of Promise was far greater than the land of slavery for the Israelites, but it was not a land of ease and tranquility. Life is filled with many ups and downs, but every day — every breath — is a gift of God. Having departed a land of slavery, we often times become accustomed to greater pastures and forget that from which we have been delivered. I would do well to take a brief respite every now and again to recall everything from which I have been delivered, rescued, and saved.
There are seasons of life where I must remember to have no other God but Yahweh. Idols surround us everywhere we go. They vie for our hearts on a daily basis. If we are not attentive and vigilant we will find ourselves being seduced by false gods which are incapable of providing what we ultimately need. Martin Luther astutely pointed out that if we keep the first of the 10 Commandments (“You shall have no other gods before me”), then we will ultimately keep all ten. When we allow God to have His rightful place, He becomes the prevailing influence upon our hearts, we will love Him and serve Him consistently and effectively.
Word for the way:
Yahweh is the true God who has delivered me from darkness and I shall have no other God but him.
“But select capable men from all the people--men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain--and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.” -- Exodus 18:21
There are times in our lives and we need someone with great wisdom to step in and give us advice which will lead us down a path of greater fruitfulness and efficiency. Moses reached a point where he was taking upon his own shoulders a load he could not long sustain, so his father-in-law Jethro wisely advised him towards the discipline of delegation. We don’t know much as to how easy or difficult the decision to release his judicial responsibilities ended up being, but for many of us we simply do not want to give up control. Some of us struggle with trusting others to “get the job done,” and entrusting others with power to influence that which we care deeply about.
It’s important for us to take note of the kind of people Jethro has in mind, who are good candidates for delegated authority: people who are capable, who revere God, and are trustworthy. The genius of Jethro was simply to point out the obvious. Folks worthy of delegated authority are those individuals who are capable; that is, those who can get stuff done, who are efficient, and who have a track record of productivity. Furthermore, folks who are worthy of delegated authority ought to be individuals who demonstrate a walk with God. Those who “fear God” understand their place in the created order and will walk circumspectly. Their work will become a product of seeking to honor their Maker. Finally, individuals who are worthy of delegated authority will be trustworthy. Integrity of heart and character is irreplaceable, especially in terms of jurisprudence.
When Moses followed Jethro’s advice, he was freed up to be who he was designed to be, released into his true calling. Had Moses been prideful and power-hungry, refusing to give up control as judge, he would have become burned out and died, falling way short of God’s intended purpose for him in his generation. We would do well to emulate Jethro, in that we should be open to giving wise counsel to those we love. We would do well to model the humility of Moses in accepting the wise counsel of Jethro and letting go of undo leadership burdens. We would, of course, also do well to be the kind of person of whom Jethro speaks: a person that is capable, revering God, and trustworthy.
Question for the Day:
In what ways can I delegate authority to other capable persons?
“The Lord knows the thoughts of a man, that they are a mere breath.” -- Psalm 94:11
We live in a world in which the average man or woman cares a great deal to express his or her thoughts on just about anything. Social media phenomena such as Facebook, Instagram and the like only serve to reinforce this contention. On a deep and fundamental level, we want to be known and we want others to know our thoughts — our thoughts about what is meaningful, our thoughts about what we take to be true, our thoughts about life, food, friends, pets, ad infinitum. At one level, there’s nothing really wrong with this thirst to make our thoughts known, for we were created in the image of God and, as such, we are created to express our hearts, our lives, our aspirations, and our thoughts. Unfortunately, due to the sad truth regarding the nature of the “fall” of humankind (Genesis chapter 3), many of our thoughts are tainted and are subject to err. Ironically, and somewhat humorously, as much as we enjoy thinking, we seldom enjoy thinking about thinking. When we do, we find ourselves grappling with the mysteries of rationality itself. We either find ourselves concluding that reasoning itself only makes sense only if a divine thinking Being is behind it all, or conversely, that all human thought is ultimately reducible to absurdity.
I can only imagine how patient God must be as he looks down upon us and witnesses the futility and hubris of much of our thinking. Indeed, as the psalmist quips, our thoughts “are a mere breath.” Not all of our thoughts are inaccurate, however. Let me not fail to be clear about what I’m getting at here. The Psalmist is not contending that our thoughts are useless, but that they merely pale in comparison to the thoughts grounded in the infinite, majestic God of the universe. Indeed, we should hold on to our thoughts with an unwavering humility — a humility rooted in a knowledge that we cannot ever be the ultimate arbiter of what is true. This is God’s prerogative and His alone. With grateful hearts our objective should ever be, to quote St. Augustine, “to think God’s thoughts after Him.” God is glorified when we think, but He is more glorified when we think rightly about Him, ourselves, and the world in which He has situated us. Let us continue to think, but let us begin to think to the glory of God.
Question for the Day:
What comes to mind when I think about thinking?
. . . continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:12b-13
In the journey of faith, it is sometimes easy to get sucked into the notion that everything is up to me; that is, that the proverbial “ball is in my court.” Historically, many theologians and philosophers have suffered the opposite fate, concluding that we play no part whatsoever and God simply brings about his “meticulous will,” as if we’re bystanders watching things play out, yet having no part in the play. This is where passages like Phil. 2:12-13 help us to see there really is a healthy, godly balance between the two errant perspectives. It is vital that we come to see that, on the one hand, everything really is not up to us and, on the other hand, we play a key role in the cosmic scheme of things. It is a marvel to consider that although God does not need us, yet He lovingly invites us into a collaborative, eternally significant, work. We get to work with God.
Both God and His redeemed children have a work to work. The work we are to work is an outward work. It is the work of working out what God has put in us. It is the work of working out the implications of our personal redemption in Christ. It is the work of abiding and embodying the future life of the Kingdom in the here and now. In a true and fundamental sense, God enables us and empowers us to be who we are; that is, He enables us and empowers us to be who we are in Christ. Since we have not yet “arrived” and consistently fall short, the “working out” of our salvation certainly comes with “fear and trembling.”
The work that God works is a work by His Spirit within us. It is a work that must precede an outward expression. Lest God work in us He will not work through us. Permission is paramount here. Permission must be granted to the Almighty to work in us, and as He is given permission (i.e.. Lordship), He begins to work on our hearts to desire what He desires for us. This God-given (internal) desire leads to God-enabled (external) behavior, and hence, this God-enabled (external) behavior makes manifest the (internal) “good purpose” of God. Make no mistake, God is certainly the Initiator and Orchestrator of this divine dynamic. And what a glorious dynamic it is! It is no wonder that observers of history have called this dynamic the “divine dance.”
Question for the Day:
Am I working out what God is working within?
“[God] saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy . . . by the Holy Spirit . . . through Jesus Christ our Savior.” Titus 3:5,6 NASB (emph. added)
Christianity has been called a “Trinitarian” faith, and rightly so. The doctrine of the Trinity affirms that God exists from all eternity as a community of being comprised of the person of the father, the person of the Holy Spirit, and the person of Jesus Christ. Somewhat surprisingly in the New Testament, there are few “Trinitarian passages,” but quantity is not needed for the reality to be present. Here is one such passage in which we see the dynamic of salvation described in explicitly Trinitarian terms. The Apostle Paul wants to be sure that Titus is clear that salvation is a free gift of God because God is good, not because we are good.
Salvation is possible because of the manifest mercy of God. There is certainly nothing wrong with good deeds and righteousness, but human effort can never merit the salvation we need. One cannot achieve personal redemption and transformation by picking oneself up by his or her own spiritual bootstraps. We need a Savior and we cannot save ourselves.
The work of the Holy Spirit is vital for the salvation of a human soul. It is the work of the Spirit that both regenerates and renews the soul. Regeneration has to do with making something alive again or bringing new life to that which was dead. Renewing is not the same thing as renovating. Actual newness is brought about by the Spirit to work in us in redemption.
Without the person and work of Jesus Christ this renewal and regeneration of the Spirit would not be appropriated to us. Jesus Christ is described as a mediator between God and man (1Tim. 2:5). He is the perfect bridge needed for the blessings of God to come to us through him and by the Spirit. Every spiritual blessing that has been applied to us has come to us by the Spirit through the Son. What a marvel! The author of Hebrews describes Jesus as our great apostle and high priest (Heb. 3:1). Each of these roles is essential in our redemption. Jesus’ high priestly work communicates all of our needs before the Father through the Spirit, and conversely, Jesus’ apostolic mediation communicates all of the blessings from the Father to us through Himself by the Holy Spirit.
Word for the Way:
Salvation is possible according to the mercy of God, by the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ our Savior.
Be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. - Deuteronomy 4:9
Have you ever heard of the expression “tunnel-vision”? You know, that state you reach when everything around you becomes oblivious and all you can see is that one thing in front of you. A similar expression is being “one-track-minded.” I must confess, these expressions fit me to a tee. Maybe you can relate. The very thought of multi-tasking makes me nervous. I find that just about every task I do I become so engrossed with it that nothing else in the world seems to exist. Now, with some things this isn’t so bad, but with this tendency comes many downsides.
When it comes to life in Christ, we are admonished to be “about our Father’s business.” We’re commended to expand the Kingdom, serve our neighbor, raise godly families, and use what God gives us to accomplish whatever tasks happen to be right in front of us. I have little problem with these because by nature I can become “consumed” with each task. But then I run across Scriptures like Deuteronomy 4:9. “Ahh! Doing two things at once? Impossible!” I think to myself. Somehow it seems that God consistently throws curve-balls my way just to keep me on my toes – never reaching a state of comfort.
Do not forget the things your eyes have seen. I have a feeling that Moses practiced what he preached. There were times in his own personal journey of faith that he would get discouraged and tempted by doubt. I imagine, though, that it was the place of remembrance that served for him a reminder of the God he served. Such is the One that poured out plagues, parted the sea, burned from a bush, and etched the Ten Commandments in stone by power of His own hand. Remembering what God has done is key. I suspect that if we followed Moses’ example to chronicle in our own lives where we saw God’s move, we might walk in better perspective and purpose.
Do not let them slip from your heart. The unmerited exploits He does in our lives aren’t just to affect our minds, they are to affect our hearts. He’s not as interested in blowing our minds away as He is in gaining the affection of our hearts. If the Enemy can get you to forget God’s faithfulness, he will attempt to wedge doubt in our hearts.
Question of the Day:
How well do I remember what God has done in my life?
Even in darkness light dawns for the upright… Ps. 112:4
It’s great to know that no matter how difficult life can become, if you are in Christ, this is the closest thing to hell we will ever know. We can take comfort in that fact. Though the darkness seems to close in, it will always pass. Christians were not made for dark days. Though we are admonished to shine in the darkness, we will one day remain in the light forever. The enemy can do only so much, and for only so long. This is something the early church had a much better comprehension of – only darkness can be dispelled. It was the mentality that whatever is done will only bring more glory to the King. If you try to put this fire out, it will only spread.
One of my favorite verses came out of the personal experience of the once irresolute disciple of Jesus – Peter. “[He] called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1Pet.2:9). This comes from one who experienced the painstaking denial of his best friend and Savior. So many of us can relate to Peter – he was brash, impulsive, sometimes careless. And yet the thrice-denying Peter of Matthew 26 is worlds apart from the post-pentecost Peter of Acts 2. So what happened? Well, first of all he received the promised baptism of the Holy Spirit, but I think there’s something else. He came to know that even in darkness, light dawns for the upright--that stopping in the middle of the race is unacceptable. He could have given up. He could have quit. He could have wallowed in self-pity the rest of his earthly life. But hoping became believing, believing became knowing, knowing became repentance, and repentance became restoration.
Every one of us can dwell on past failures, misfortunes, and unfulfilled promises. But to do so would be focusing on the darkness instead of the dawn’s light. No matter what circumstance you’re in, no matter what you’ve done, no matter what darkness comes, know that Christ alone is the answer. Run to him – give it all to him. Look for his light to shine forth in the darkness of your soul. Lean on his righteousness. Do what he’s wanted you to do from the very beginning – let go. Hey, the more we try to control things, the worse they get. But when we put things in the Father’s hands, the Bible tells us that he makes beauty from ashes (Isa. 61:3).
Question of the Day:
Am I looking for light’s dawn in the darkness?
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:1
We’ve been told that we live in an “information age” and we certainly have no reason to doubt this. After all, we need only to go to Google or Wikipedia to find the answers to our questions, right? When one stops to think about all the things worthy of knowing, however, many people simply do not seek the one being most worthy of knowing.
Be still and know that Yahweh is God. We would do well to keep the context of this verse in mind, for it occurs within a worship song of the Israelites unto the One True God—Yahweh. Yahweh affirms to His people that He is in fact the One, True God. Many so-called false gods vie for the attention we should give to the One, True God. We must know at the core of our being that the God of the Bible is the real God, the only God, the eternal, necessarily existent being. Yahweh is not merely one of many comparable gods, nor is He the creation of humanity’s making, He is the everlasting and superlative being who alone exists of His own power and necessity.
Be still and know. Since we live in an information age we tend to think of knowledge primarily as theoretical and factual. Knowledge certainly is factual and mental, but it should be pointed out that the Hebrew word here in this passage for knowledge has an additional layer—it points toward an experiential knowledge of God. There is a substantial difference between knowing God intellectually and knowing God experientially. We need, of course, the former to achieve the latter. We all know that faith is a very personal thing, so it stands to reason that no one can experience God for you. It’s something you must reach out and do. There’s no such thing as “outsourcing your faith.” So how does someone do such a thing?
Be still. What is the starting point for experiencing Yahweh, the One, True God and Creator of all things? Finding time to simply be still is a great place to start. It is not difficult, but it certainly won’t come naturally. Set some time aside in quietness and solitude to be still. It’s okay to talk and share your heart and invite Yahweh to reveal Himself to you, but be sure to make time to be still. He longs to have a relationship with you. You simply need to carve out the time to have a relationship with him. James 4:8 tells us, “Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you.” Spending time in stillness and openness is a time-tested way of “drawing near to Him.”
Question of the Day:
What might happen if I set time aside to be still and know God?
“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him." - 2 Chronicles 16:9 NIV
Do you ever have the feeling that you’re being watched? If Scripture is correct, then we are being watched at all times by our Maker in heaven. It seems we often think of God as looking down upon us strictly as our moral Judge, or that He’s simply looking for us to make mistakes and to keep a record of them on some large heavenly ledger. But Scripture tells us that, for those who are in a covenantal relationship with Him, that He is for us and not against us.
Seeking to Strengthen. God watches over us and gazes down upon us out of His infinite love for us. He is not looking down upon us for the purpose of condemning us but rather He is looking down upon us so that he can strengthen us and give us what we need because He actually wants to help us. For so many people this very notion seems incredulous. Many of us do not experience the strength that He can provide us simply because we either do not ask Him for it or, even worse, we don’t want God’s help at all because we want to try to prove to ourselves we don’t need Him or His help. Utter folly. Sometimes the very strength we need is the very strength only He can provide.
The Heart of the Matter. Notice the precondition set forth in 2 Chron. 16:9 for receiving the empowering strength of the Lord: “hearts fully committed to Yahweh.” At the end of the day this is what God really wants more than anything else. He wants our hearts to be fully devoted to Him. Just like in a marriage relationship, it works best when the hearts of each spouse are fully devoted to the other. In the same way, Yahweh wants our hearts to be fully devoted to Him, for His heart is fully devoted to us. We must bear in mind that in the Old Testament the use of the word “heart” denoted the deepest part of a person’s identity. It was his or her core. In modern parlance, we might refer to this as a person’s “soul.” clearly the Lord knows that if He has our hearts the rest of us will follow in suit. Whenever our allegiance is aligned with Yahweh and His purposes we open ourselves up to strength and blessings we otherwise would not experience. Let us set the eyes of our hearts upon Him and experience the strength only He can provide.
Question for the day:
What’s my current heart condition?
"After Rehoboam’s position as king was established and he had become strong, he and all Israel with him abandoned the law of the LORD."