Friday, January 29, 2010

Hay for Sale

When I was young, one of our favorite ways to pass time on a trip was to read the first phrase of a billboard, followed immediately by a second billboard to see if we could make a sentence. For example an advertisement for chewing tobacco on a barn might read, “Chew Mailpouch tobacco. Treat yourself to the best. The next sign might read “Hay for sell.” A third sign might read “to loose weight, eat Cornflakes. Combining the first phrases would read, “Chew hay to lose weight.”

Some teachers use the same technique to substantiate obscure teachings. Scriptures are taken out of context to prove a point that was never intended by the author. If a doctrinal teaching cannot be found in an entire passage in the Bible, be wary.

Peter tells us that there were teachers in his time that did the same thing. “Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:1-16).

He also warns us, “Beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Invitation to Eden

Wouldn’t you love to have lived in the Garden of Eden? Imagine the lush greenery with no hint of brown crinkled edges on leaves or black frostbitten plants. Take a walk down a path of primroses and pansies or saunter in a redwood forest with deep plush moss and spindled ferns. Find the waterfalls and swim in the refreshing lake or sit in a field of clover and listen to the humming of bees and singing of birds. Can you imagine the laughter and stimulating conversations about the things of God in a setting as troubled free as the air in Eden?

Miraculously, Peter tells us those days are returning. “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:14). Allow those words to sink in. Let them comfort you today. Keep them in focus as you make choices and follow Peter’s advice, “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligenet to be found by him in peace, without spot and blameless..”

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Global Warming

The world keeps spinning like it has for thousands of years. People marry, have children, divorce, buy, sell and generally go about their business. Periodically life rises up and slaps us in the face with robberies, fatal accidents or deadly earthquakes. For a split second we are reminded of the frailty of life, then the ball keeps rolling and we keep spinning. It is easy in this cycle of sun rises and sun sets to think things will go on forever just like they are. But that is not true.

Peter tells us “the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Peter2:10). He asks, “Since all these will be dissolved, what manner of person ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?”

It is good to remember where we are going, how we plan to get there and what condition we will be in when we arrive.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Who are You God?

Attempting to define God without referring to our experience with him is more difficult than we first expect. All faiths could give similar definitions, Christian and not Christian. How then can we differentiate between the true God and the imagined gods?

When Ravi Zacharias, an apologist, was asked this question on his entrance exam into graduate school, his answer was simple yet profound. If you want to be challenged to his sermon on “Who are you God.” It can be accessed through Itones. Type in Ravi Zacharias and look for "Who are you God". It is well worth the time.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Scoffers are a Dime a Dozen

Peter tells us that scoffers are a dime a dozen. They taunt believers saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? “For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” He says they purposely forget the power in just one Word of God. They assume extended time means the promise of his return will never be fulfilled. They do not realize what they are judging as meaningless passage of time is actually a demonstration of God’s mercy to allow them space to repent (2 Peter 3:1-9).

I think it was John Piper who told the story of a farmer who stopped going to church. He wrote in a letter to the editor of the local paper, ‘I’ve stopped going to church and have had the largest harvest ever. It pays not to go to church.” Another person wrote in the following day, “Tell the farmer God doesn’t close his all his books in October.”

Do not be deceived. God will not be mocked. What we sow, we will reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life (Galatians 6:7).

Friday, January 22, 2010

Barnes and Noble

I love the smell of a new book store. All those crisp white pages with black letters dancing across the page stir the imagination. I could spend hours browsing authors, looking at photos and reading the first page of dozens of books. Sitting down at a small table in the coffee shop with a latte and a new book has a way of refreshing me.

Books are neither good nor bad, but authors are. Writers can stimulate questions, increase our faith, create doubt in our minds or bring tears to our eyes or they can simply boar us. But few, very few, can bring us life.

Peter warns us to be careful whose books we choose to read as guides to our lives. He favors the holy prophets of the Old Testament, the books of Moses containing God’s commandments and the writings of the apostles of the Lord and Savior. (2 Peter 3:1-2).

Interesting authors that can help you explore these scriptures and the underlying principles try G.K. Chesterton, Charles Swindoll, John Piper, Ravi Zacharias, Josh McDowel, Brother Lawrence. For book titles try, The Pleasures of God, Waiting on God, Divine Conspiracy, and Practicing the Presence of God. For devotional you may like to try Streams in the Desert or My Utmost for his Highest.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Empty Clouds

The most successful false prophets and teachers promise riches, health and a life free from difficulties. They spouse authority as a child of God to command our heavenly Father to produce results as we see best. They do not bother to say, “If the Lord wills” because they believe they already know the Lord “wants his kids to live like royalty” (James 4:13-16).

Peter says their words are like empty clouds, promising rain but never producing it (2 Peter 2:17. The fruit on the trees dies instead of flourishing. Promising liberty, their teaching produces slavery. One mother who was steeped in this teaching blamed her daughter for dying from cancer. “She just never believed she was good enough for God to heal her, so she died.”

Many true believers have been caught in this snare. “Having escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome; the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. (2 Peter 2:20-21). Our focus is not to be on this world or the things of this world (1 John 2:15).

God has his witnesses in all walks of life. If God has blessed us with riches, it is to further his kingdom. If he has not blessed us with riches, it is to further his kingdom. All he chooses to do, he does for us and for his glory in us.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Testing, Testing, Testing

The ear tests words as the tongue tastes food (Job 34:3).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Remember Lot

Are you like me and at times feel overwhelmed with the violence and destruction in the world? The bad news sweeps over us like a tsunami and we can hardly catch our breath. It can be devastating and render us emotionally limp. We need to take a deep slow breath and remember God is able to sustain us even in the middle of chaos.

If God was able to keep Lot righteous living in a city where homosexuality was the norm, if God was able to keep Noah safe when he ministered to people who skinned their enemies alive, then God is able to sustain us. As Peter puts it, “Then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations…” (2 Peter 2:9).

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Unique Friend of Job's

Elihu was the only friend of Job’s God did not rebuke. When he finished speaking God immediately spoke to Job and did not give him a chance to refute what the last speaker and said (Job 32:1-38:1). Elihu rebukes Job for accusing God of wrong doing and injustice (Job 33:8-11; 34:5-9). He points out that all are unrighteous. None of us can rightfully say we are without fault.

He also reminds Job and his companions, “If he (God) should set his heart on it, if he should gather to himself his Spirit and his breath, all flesh would perish together and man would return to dust” (Job 34:14-15). None of us are worthy of life because disobedience leads to death and we have all disobeyed.

The point is God is about his righteous business even when we cannot see how the pieces all fit together. His justice is not based on our understanding. We easily quote but too soon forget that his ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9-11). He teaches us to trust him when we cannot see our way (Isaiah 45:3).

We are comforted even in our grief (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Alarm Clock

Do you remember the story of Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron? They were among the men who ate in the presence of God (Exodus 24:9-11). They were anointed priests and were chosen to offer sacrifices on the behalf of people (Exodus 28:1). But their leadership went to their heads and they presumed to offer their own fire before the Lord. God immediately sent out fire to burn them alive (Leviticus 10:1-3).

Then there was Korah and his friends. They came out against Moses declaring that they had just as much right to lead the God’s people as Moses and Aaron. God made a distinction between the two opposing parties by causing the earth to open and swallow Korah and his friends alive. (Numbers 26:10-11).

Though there are several instances of the immediate judgment of God in the New Testament (Acts 5; 12:23), God’s grace extends time to repent (2 Peter 3:9). But the alarm clock is set and will eventually go off for those who pretend to serve God but are in truth leading people down superficial paths (2 Peter 2:1-3).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Strange Life

We tend to be skeptical when we hear an incredible story from someone we barely know. We inwardly ask ourselves what are the chances of this particular thing happening. We tend to sum up the person in our minds saying to ourselves, “even if this were true, what is the probability that this particular person could have experienced it.” Say for instance someone you just met told you they had lunch with the president of the United States last week. Most of us would be more skeptical than we would be favorably impressed.

Peter was aware of this kind of response as he had undoubtedly experienced the same kind of doubt himself (Mark 16:9-11). Knowing this he writes, “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). He had lived with Jesus for three years before his death. He ate meals with him. He stayed the night in the same places Jesus did. He heard his teachings. He saw the miracles.

John writes, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” They knew Jesus as well as any human being can know another. They saw him die a cruel death at the hands of the Romans. They knew close up what it could cost them to follow the same path as Jesus. But they had seen “his glory as of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

They saw him in his resurrected body and knew the truth. Peter tells us, we “were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” He is driven to share the truth about Christ at the cost of his own life.

A life full of grace and truth is the life that persuades others to believe in God. Does that describe you?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Night Visions

Job’s friends had a belief system that would not allow them to accept the fact that bad things happen to good people. They were convinced that only the wicked suffered the kind of losses Job experienced (Job 4:7-11). Their religious culture believed that God only sends blessings and never requires suffering and loss from his people (Job 8:8-10).

Eliphaz tells a very interesting story about a vision he has in the middle of the night. He is filled with dread to the point of his entire body shaking. “A spirit passed before my face; the hair on my body stood up. It stood still, but I could not discern its appearance. A form was before my eyes; there was silence; then I heard a voice saying; ‘Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker? If he puts no trust in his servants, if he charges his angels with error, how much more those who dwell in houses of clay?”

We know this is a demonic spirit because God states that Eliphaz has spoken in error (Job 42:7). As usual Satan distorts the truth to discourage God’s people. It is true that none of us are righteous. It is true that none of us could stand before God on our own merit. But it is not true that God does not have mercy toward those who serve him. If God struck us down for every fault, we would not live past childhood.

Our suffering is not necessarily a result of our poor behavior. It can be a real-time demonstration to spirit beings of the sustaining power of God.

In the end Job is brought out of the trial of a lifetime and given double all he had lost (Job 42:10). Though God may call us to go through deep waters for some eternal purpose, he will not allow our spirit to be destroyed. He will restore us.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Honesty is a virtue. Honest men keep their word. They are not deceptive in actions or words. When they say yes, they mean yes, and when they say no they mean no. There is no need for swearing an oath to confirm truth because they only speak truth (James 5:12).

But honesty does not mean we say everything that comes into our heads or tell all that we know indiscriminately (Proverbs 10:19; 17:27). Wisdom and prudence should be guards on our lips (Proverbs 1:1-6; 8:12; 4:4-6; Psalm 39:1; 141:3). All we say needs to edify and lift up those around us, whether that means confronting them with love or encouraging them with complements (Ephesians 4:29).

These principles should be guiding our conversations inside the home as well as to friends and acquaintances. All of our relationships belong to God.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A List for Success

Peter gives us an extensive list that we need in order to live a successful Christian life (2 Peter 1:5-9). He said if we do not have these, we are “shortsighted or blind and have forgotten that God has cleaned us.

He begins the list with faith. Every step in life, every decision, every plan of a Christian needs faith. We must trust God to work through us or we will be left in a heap of confusion and tension (James 1:2-7).

To faith he adds virtue or moral character. We cannot truthfully say we have faith (a connection with God) without moral character. To do so makes us a liar (1 John 2:4) because a relationship with God changes our moral character.

Knowledge is the backbone of moral character. We need to understand the consequences of poor behaviors so that we have the strength and wisdom to make righteous decisions. However, knowing is not enough; we also need self control.

Spasmodic self control does nothing. If I resist eating rich foods once a week, I will still get clogged arteries. I need perseverance. I need to resist rich foods on a daily basis to remain healthy. So I need to live a life of resisting temptation to be a healthy believer.

But even perseverance is not sufficient without godliness. We are to follow God, not traditions of men, or things that appear to be godly (Colossians 2:22). And to godliness we need brotherly kindness so that we don’t destroy our brother in Christ with our knowledge of God.

Even brotherly kindness is not enough because all these things without God’s love are empty sounding words and hollow acts (1 Corinthians 13). They become destructive by nature.

With these things (faith virtue, knowledge, self control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness an d love) we will produce an abundance of divine fruit.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Strange University

Even though Job knew God had to be at the core of his suffering, he grieved over his loss. He wanted God to take him home (Job 3:20-22). His mind was in turmoil and rest escaped him (Job 3:26). His only hope of enduring the darkness of his life was to pour out his anguish to God, until God answered him (Job 38-42).

Trouble can overwhelm us so that we despair of life. It is crucial that we remember we do not own our own bodies. They belong to God. Turning away from God will only multiply evil in our lives. Peter tells us it is the “exceedingly great and precious promises” that cause us to partake of his divine nature and help us to escape the “corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4).

I have often encouraged myself by remembering the promises God made to me. He has made me his child (1 John 2:28). He will take me home to live with him (1 Thessalonians 4:17). He will guide my life (Isaiah 30:21; Proverbs 16:9). He has prepared me to do good works and has prepared good works for me (Ephesians 2:10).

Perhaps it would be helpful for us to stop focusing on what has gone wrong. It is good for us to remember the pain free life does not happen until heaven (Romans 8:24-25; Revelation 21:4). Right now we are in the university of godly character building.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Did he get it wrong?

In one day Job lost everything, including his children (Job 1). The story of Job has been the subject of debate for thousands of years and will continue to fascinate people as they explore the meaning behind the words hidden within the text.

This morning I want to look at a peculiar aspect of Job’s plight. Scripture teaches that God told Satan, “Everything he has is in your hands” (Job 1:12). Satan immediately sets out to destroy Job’s faith. The catalysts include robbers, fire and an apparent tornado (Job1:13-19). Does this mean Satan can control the elements?

Job says, “"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." (Job 1:21).

Was Job wrong to equate his losses to God? Didn’t we just read that Satan was the author of the destruction? But scripture does not correct Job. Instead it says, “In all this Job did not sin in charging God with wrong doing.” In other words, Job got it right. God authored the destruction by giving permission to Satan.

The trial was not yet finished. God gave permission to Satan to touch Job’s body. Satan covered Job in boils. Job’s response? “Shall we not accept good from God and not trouble?” (Job 2:10) and scriptures response? “In all this Job did not sin in what he said.

How does this apply to us?