Friday, February 26, 2010

An Example of Mercy

Absalom attempted to have his father killed and to take over his kingdom. His father, King David, had to flee the city and hide out in the caves of the area like he did when the previous King, Saul sought to murder him. But this was his own son who wanted him dead.

A man named Shimei, from David’s tribe, came out and threw rocks at David, cursing and spiting at him. The men with the king wanted to kill the man on the spot. But David was not sure that God might actually be giving the kingdom over to Absalom. So David responded, “"Behold, my son who came out from me seeks my life; how much more now this Benjamite? Let him alone and let him curse, "Perhaps the LORD will look on my affliction and return good to me instead of his cursing this day." So David and his men went on the way; and Shimei went along on the hillside parallel with him and as he went he cursed, and cast stones and threw dust at him. 14 And the king and all the people who were with him arrived weary…” (2 Samuel 16:11-14).

Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy” (Mathew 5:7). We receive mercy when God does not punish us as we deserve to be punished. Should not we also show mercy to those who do not deserve it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Are You Hungry Yet?

One of the great promises in the Bible is found in the forth principle of the Beatitudes. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Mathew 5:6). It tells us that God will meet with us and fill our lives. How wonderful to know we can call on God at any moment, in every circumstance, and he will be there to direct our choices, to comfort us, and to rescue us.

Who is completely righteous? God himself.

Therefore to hunger for righteousness is to hunger for God. To be filled with righteousness is to be filled with God. Indeed, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Does Meek Mean Weak?

When we meet a shy person who is very sweet we say, “She is so meek.” The English dictionary says it means to be too submissive. But that is not what the word meek meant in 16th century English when the Bible was translated into King James vernacular.

Paul wrote in 2Corinthians 10:1, “Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ--I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent!”

Jesus was anything but weak. A weak person cannot face the crowds that threaten to take their lives and remain calm and persist in his teaching. A weak person cannot face the prospect of crucifixion and follow through with God's will regardless of the cost of torture. But the meek can do all of this because they rely on God.

The meek are gentle in their spirit. They are aware of the emotional needs of others. They don't use the Bible as a shot gun, but as a salve for the hurting. However they know how to use it as a sword against the enemy of God.

Jesus said,“Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth” (Mathew 5:5). So how do the meek inherit the earth? They are willing to consider ideas from others and thus benefit from community insights. They are gentle people but always speak truth. They gain respect because they treat others with respect.

They inherit the earth.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


The death of our lifelong partner can be like ripping our heart out without the advantage of Novocain. The empty house echoes with memories. It feels like any moment he or she will walk through the door. It is not unusual to be convinced we have just heard them call our name from the next room. The realization that that person will never hold us again, never kiss us again, never laugh with us, never share our secrets breaks our hearts.

Yet I have heard of individuals telling the grieving spouse they should not be sad. Are they kidding! Was Jesus less spiritual because he wept? Was he not connected with our heavenly Father because he pleaded with him with loud groans and tears in fear of going through the crucifixion? If Jesus, the Son of God, grieved, cannot we grieve also?

Scripture tells us that we are to comfort others with the same comfort we have received (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). That means we will all grieve. Jesus said it this way, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted” (Mathew 5:4).

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Cry for Help

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” What does it mean to be poor in spirit? It means we recognize our need for God. We are honest with ourselves and others about our shortcomings. We are realistic in our assessment that we cannot accomplish anything of spiritual or eternal value apart from God.

The promise is that when we are desperate for life, God will give himself to us. He invites those who recognize their deep need for him to be a part of his kingdom.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mountain Streams

My dad and brother used to go hiking into the woods to fish for trout in the mountain streams of California. The water that came from melting snow was freezing, but the fishing was usually good. Dad would clean the fish by the river then pack them home in an ice chest. That night you could hear the fish sizzling in the frying pan.

My dad’s cousin owned a fishing boat in Alaska. Every year he paid for a commercial fishing license and went out to sea. They specialized in gigantic king crab, the tender white meat soaked in melted butter graced the table of expensive restaurants. They were gone from home for weeks at a time. It was a way to support a family on a homestead.

Jesus called such men to follow him. Mathew tells us they immediately left their fishing boats, (ice chests, mountain streams, Alaskan waters). Look closely at Jesus’ words. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt 3:19).

What did he mean by fishers of men? He meant that they would work hard at catching the attention of people so that they could tell them the good news of the arrival of the Messiah. In other words, they would catch men for the kingdom of God.

Don’t miss one of the most important phrases in Jesus’ invitation to these fishermen. “I will make you…” Learning how to reach people with the gospel is a process. We don’t automatically know how, we must be taught. That is accomplished in three ways, trial and error, learning from others who have been fishing for a long time and by learning to lean on the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Temple Religion

A recurring theme in Jesus preaching was “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mathew 3:17). He was the Kingdom of God. It is through his birth, death and resurrection that we have been rescued from our deserved punishment of eternal separation from God.

The people’s religion had become centered on the temple. To swear by the temple had become a guarantee that the person would be true to his or her word. To swear by the altar carried even greater weight. But Jesus said to them, “One greater than the temple is here” (Mathew 12:6).

Jesus prophesied that terrible things were going to happen to Jerusalem because the people did not recognize their hour of visitation by God (Luke 19:44, John 1:10). They had plenty of opportunity to turn toward God and away from self-centered ambitions.

The same word applies to us. If we are allowed to live a full life we may reach age 80 or 90. Many more are reaching the age of 100 than in the past. But there is also an increase in the dying of the young by accidents, murders, heart disease etc.

The point is this. None of us know the number of days we have to live. We assume there will be many and that we have plenty of time, but so did the almost everyone who was killed in an automobile accident last night. The kingdom of heaven is at hand for us now, we may not reach tomorrow.

Therefore, “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.”

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What did you say?

There is as common thread in Jesus’ response to all three satanic temptations. Jesus always responded, “It is written.”

Can you also respond with scripture when you are tempted? You may not be able to give the chapter and verse. If you read Jesus’ response carefully you will notice he didn’t either. That is not to say he did not know where it was found in Scripture, it is just that the words of truth are all that is necessary.

Scripture tells us, “Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11).

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

3 Principles

Often life feels complicated, even the spiritual life seems full of conflict. Which decision should be made? What happens if our whole life is turned upside down in a single moment? How will we know what is a right choice?

Three principles come to life in Jesus’ response to being tempted; Number one,we live by every word which comes out of the mouth of God. Two, we are not to put God to the test. Three, we are to worship and serve only God.”

It is God’s specific word that keeps us alive both physically and spiritually (Psalm 139:16, John 3:8). Jesus compared God’s words to our daily food so that we recognize our need to daily meditate on his words.

Secondly we are never to ask God to prove he is who he says he is. We must answer to God. God does not have to answer to us (The book of Job).

Thirdly, God knows our words fall short of true worship so he has designed that we should worship him by serving him. That is our reasonable act of worship (Romans 12:1).

Living by these three principles makes life less complicated.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Common Gate to Ministry

The first words of Jesus in the Book of Mathew are, "Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness" (Mathew 3:15). He is speaking to John the Baptist about being baptized in water.

The act of baptism was the gate into Jesus' ministry which immediately opened into the desert of temptation. We will not be affective ministers until we are first obedient to God and secondly overcome severe temptation.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Guiding God

Have you ever tried telling God what to do? There are many people who believe because they are a child of God they can demand of God anything they believe to be good. It may be healing. It may be finances. It may be a job. Have they somehow come to the conclusion that being changed from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light makes them infallible, all knowing and infinite? Have they forgotten that they remain finite beings?

Scripture tells us one day we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is. But for now we remain looking through a dark and dingy glass. It may be wise to remember God’s words to Job.

When Job accused God of attacking him unjustly by allowing all the sorrow in his life he received this response from his creator, “Would you indeed annul my judgment? Would you condemn me that you may be justified? Have you an arm like God? Or can you thunder with a voice like His? Then adorn yourself with majesty and splendor, and array yourself with glory and beauty. Disperse the rage of your wrath; Look on everyone who is proud and humble him.” (Job 40:8-11)

We do not always know what God is about to accomplish through our sorrow. He gives us permission to ask for deliverance and to present our case to him (Philippians 4:6; Isaiah 41:21) but the outcome we must always leave with him (James 4:13-15).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Looking Back, Looking Forward

“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).

There are two ways goodness and mercy follow us. The first refers to God’s work in our lives. All those things that are difficult for us to understand, all those times we wanted to give up but somehow the Spirit of God revived us, are demonstrations of his goodness and mercy to us. Through them we have learned to depend on his strength. We have understood what it means so trust. Goodness and mercy have followed our deep pain.

God’s gifts of sustaining mercy and goodness result in our showing mercy to others. Our acts of goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives.

And the glorious end of all our days of mercy and grace is to dwell in his house forever.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

HIs Rod and Staff

There is a phrase in Psalm 23 that we dare not miss. “Thy rod and staff they comfort me.” The shepherd uses the rod to fight off the wolf or coyote. The hook at the top (called a staff) was used to pull sheep back from cliffs or rescue them if they were caught in brush.

It is not by accident that the phrase is connected with the valley of the shadow of death. It is characteristic of trials to bring temptation to unbelief or rebellion. We need God to fight off the spiritual wolves and coyotes who would destroy our faith. We also need his staff to call us back to trusting in him.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Missing Thumbs

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies: You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over” (Psalm 23:5).

In ancient times those who were victor in a war often cut off the big toes and thumbs of their enemy kings and had them beg for food from under the table (Judges 1:7).

Jesus taught us to have compassion on our enemies demonstrating this by inviting us to eat at his table, not under it. We extend mercy to our enemies because he extends mercy to us. However, if our enemies refuse our kindness, God still anoints our heads with oil, filing our emotional cups with joy.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Walking in the Dark

“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for You are with me” (Psalm 23:4). When I was young in the Lord, I thought that verse meant evil would never touch us. Life taught me how very wrong I was. Evil touches all of our lives because we live in an evil world (Daniel 12:10; Revelation 22:11).

The comfort in the promise is that God will be with us, will strengthen us, will give us wisdom and will maneuver things until his will for our lives is accomplished. We do not have to be afraid of evil that comes to us but remain confident that nothing can thwart God’s plan for our lives (Job 42:2).

It is called the valley of the "shadow" of death because what was meant to destroy us will in the end give us life (Genesis 45:5-8).

Thursday, February 4, 2010

He Restores My Soul

“He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:3). The fact that our soul needs restoring indicates that there will be difficult times in our lives. It is inaccurate to think becoming a believer rids our life of trouble. The Bible is filled with stories of godly men facing daunting circumstances. Abraham had to rescue Lot from kidnappers. Jacob’s father-in-law deceived him many times and stole what was rightfully his. King David had to run for his life from his son. Peter was in prison for preaching the gospel. Paul was stoned and left for dead for the same reason.

But in every situation, God is with us (Mathew 28:20). He will never abandon us or leave us forever in the hands of the unjust. As we wait for his deliverance (Psalm 92:14-16) he will restore our soul.

How does he do it? The answer is found in the same text, Psalm 23. He leads us in his word and teaches us to walk in the path of righteousness. He does this, not because we deserve it, but because he consistently responds to those who carry his name (Psalm 23:3).

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Green Pastures

The Psalmist wrote, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. What does he mean?

Green pastures are food for sheep. The Psalmist is telling us there is an over abundance of spiritual food prepared for us. We are surrounded by all we need. We are in a place of abundance; a place where we do not have to worry about the next spiritual meal, but can soak in the wonder of God’s provisions. That place is the Word of God. Our waking hours in his Word, feed us. Day or night he will minister to our souls.

Water represents both the Word and the Holy Spirit in Scripture (Ephesians 5:26; John 17:17; John 4:10, 7:38-39). It is the Spirit that makes the Word of God alive to us. God always answers our request to hear from him.

He invites us to lie down in green pastures and drink fresh water. Living apart from his word is living out of green pastures and away from fresh water. I wonder, why would we want to lie down in gravel and drink from muddy streams when we have an open invitation to feast on what is good.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Claiming What is Not Yours

There is a shiny red wagon standing outside the grocery store. The white wheels glisten like snow around the black rims of the tires. The handle is resting against the wooden slats waiting for the owner to start the trip back home with bags full of food.

A ten year old boys stands by admiring the red paint and imagining what it must be like to afford such a wonderful contraption. He begins to wonder how long it will take the owner to return. It isn’t long until the idea comes floating across his mind that he could be gone with the new prize in a matter of seconds. Just as he feels the warmth of the metal handle under his fingers the bell on the door of the store rings as the rightful owner steps into the sunshine.

“Hey there,” a woman smiles down at him. ‘You like that wagon don’t you?”

“Yes madam,’ the boy clutches the handle. “My papa bought this for me for my birthday.” The lie was out of his mouth before he could think about what he was saying and he was down the street in a flash with the woman calling after him.

The boy was claiming what did not belong to him.

If God is not your Lord, do the promises in Psalm 23 belong to you?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Peter's Last Comments

Peter ends his second letter to believers with these final words, “To Him be the glory both now and forever Amen” (2 Peter 3:18b). What would happen if all of our decisions and actions had that motivation? Would our lives change? Would the lives of everyone around us be affected? Would our relationship with God grow?

Let’s not make the mistake of shrugging off the questions by telling ourselves the task is impossible. To do so is to shrug off God’s calling in our lives “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15).

Holiness is a door to a peaceable life.