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August 1

Wedding Day Plus One

Matthew 23:8-12


There is a natural excitement in the word "honeymoon."  My wife and I certainly felt it.  It was Sunday, the day after the wedding.  We attended our usual church services (where we had been as college students) before boarding the flight to Hawaii. 

At the end of the service the minister, a particular friend to all the college students, announced that we "have a very special couple with us here today."  My wife and I must have beamed—and then heard him announce the presence of some political poobah and his wife.  Our faces must have shown the disappointment;  when he turned in our direction he quickly announced us too, adding as a comment, "If you were married yesterday, we'll introduce you too."

As children we learned to accept praise and honor as a reward for good behavior.  It is ingrained in human beings:  we love to be praised.   This is not necessarily evil;  which of us does not long to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant?" 

We also know that God opposes the proud but exalts the humble.  So evidently we must learn to retain the humility required for God's good works while still anticipating (and on occasion receiving) the "well done."  In this passage, Christ teaches us how that is to be done.

The statements are rather those of hyperbole, but the principle is clear. 

·         Are you a father to your children?  Remember then that you have authority over your household—and all authority from God comes with responsibility.  Beware;  your heavenly father is watching you.  You are not to be puffed up as a father.  Rather, remember your responsibilities.

·         Are you a teacher?  Remember that teachers are more strictly judged.  This is necessary because the best teaching is given by example.  Your words should match your walk.

·         Are you called on to lead God's people?  Remember that your authority is clothed in humility, so that God's correction might be more easily received.

You need only to open the Scriptures to see the supreme example, Christ himself.  He was God;  he humbled himself and became one of us.  You will never reach that level of humility.


Lord, keep your teachers and fathers from sin;  give them a clear vision of their obligations as well as rewards.


August 2

Of Sawdust and Planks

Luke 6:39-42


It has passed into the English language as a common saying:  "The blind leading the blind."  It conjures up an image of one busy, industrious leader bustling toward the pit, with his staff in tow.  You have probably used the phrase many times.

To see it in context brings up a different image.  Christ makes it clear:  he's talking to those who think it necessary to correct others.  Some of us, either by office or by the requirements of church discipline, will be required to do this.  All of us should be prepared to do it.  If we are to condemn the sin, and reconcile the sinner, then our own lives must be kept clean.

Put this in practical terms:  of all Sunday meals, roast preacher is probably the most common.  It seems almost a necessity to some that they criticize the preacher—in his absence, of course.

Suppose, however, that in your particular instance the criticism was not how long or short his sermon, or his annoying misuse of the English language, or something equally trivial.  Suppose it is indeed a moral failing.  Then what?

Hear Christ's precept:  if you are going to be of any use whatever in such a matter, you must correct the failing in yourself first.  You need to be right with God.  This has a very beneficial side effect.  It convinces you that you too are a sinner;  it makes you much more compassionate.  Such matters as this are generally (in the case of preachers) left to the eldership—for this is not a place for beginners and amateurs.

When you humble yourself before God before such correction, your approach changes.  You plead and exhort—privately, without a grandstand.  Judgmental?  Certainly.  Pass judgment on the sin; pray for reconciliation for the sinner.  The sinner is God's child;  God's arms are still open for his children.

If you detect a certain amount of passion in this, you detect well.  It has been many years ago now, but the memory does not fade.  The pastor at our church spoke once too often;  telling me "in confidence" that one of the elders had an incestual relationship with his daughters.  I was not supposed to know;  whatever help I could have offered was barred.  But I could not but see the man without condemning him in my mind.  By this God taught me:  condemn the sin, redeem the sinner.  Clean hands, clean hearts—God's way.


Lord, keep us mindful that we are sinners.  Give us wisdom to see the path of reconciliation, and the humility to walk in it together.


August 3

What Kind of Man?

Psalm 41


It is easy to skip over the Psalms when studying the Bible.  The language seems structured in ways we might not understand.  In this Psalm, there are prophetic references as well, and these were not fully understood until the time of Christ.  But please, look at this Psalm joyfully, for it tells us what God will do for the child he loves:

·         He will deliver him.  When things look tight and your foes see victory just around the corner, trust him for deliverance.

·         He will protect him.  How many of us have seen the "near miss" that tells us his angels watch over us?

·         He will preserve his life.  Not only in the world to come, but in this life;  the child of God cannot die until God has prepared his welcome home.

·         He will sustain him in sickness.  How discouraging it is to be idled in a sick bed!  But our Lord knows this and will sustain those who love him.

·         Indeed, He will heal him.  So many of us know this healing, when the doctors say nothing can be done.

·         He will prevent the child's enemies from triumphing over him.  Despite how close it looks, trust him for this.

And, God will do all this even when things look blackest;  when a good friend betrays you and you see no one to aid you.  Trust him in this, and see his power displayed.

Of course, God does not do this automatically, nor for everyone who says, "I am a Christian."  The child of God shown here can be identified by his doings as well:

·         He has regard for the weak.  The word particularly includes the sick.  It is turn about;  if you console the sick, God will come to your comfort too.

·         He is repentant.  There is no pretense of perfection, just the ordinary walk of the Christian—which requires repentance.

·         He is a man of integrity.  His word is solid;  he is faithful to his friends and his family.

·         Finally, he is a man of praise.  Seeing all the good things he obtains from God, praise is always on his lips.


Lord, be our protection and guide.  May we always come to you as repentant, and, being forgiven, never lacking a song of praise.


August 4

Testing God

Acts 5:1-10


Have you ever wondered why God doesn't strike more people dead?  It might just be that he does it only when his children will learn from it.  Here is the classic case.

It's not obvious with the chapter division, but at the end of chapter 4 it is recorded that Barnabas sold some land and brought the money to the Apostles.  No doubt he was doing what he thought right.  It is possible, however, that his gift and the praise that went with it may have been the unintended temptation for Ananias and Sapphira.

To understand God's work in this, we must remember that Ananias and Sapphira were under no obligation to give anything.  They could have given a portion of the money; they could have held on to it and given it in smaller amounts over time as the needs arose.  But they didn't.  Instead, they made the commitment for the whole purchase price, and delivered only part of it.  To understand why this is so evil, we need to look at two concepts:  holiness, and the testing of God.

The root idea behind the concept of holiness is that of separation.  Something is holy if it has been set aside for the kingdom of God.  This story tells us two things about holiness:

·         It tells us that we can make things holy by our commitment.

·         It also tells us that when we do, God considers it holy.  What we call holy on earth, he will call holy from heaven.

So once this couple dedicated the land to God, keeping back part of the price was, in effect, robbing God.  Worse, it was the sacrilege of misusing that which has been made holy.

So, we think, it's only money.  What's God going to do about it?  That attitude—the presumption that God will wink at our little fraud and ignore the sacrilege—is a way of testing God.  It says, I know how God will react, and I will presume upon that.  The Scripture tells us not to test the Lord.  Now you know why.

This couple came to this end because they had allowed Satan to fill their hearts with the desire to be thought righteous and the desire to keep the money.  They lied to God, thinking he would pay no notice.  He noticed.

Remember this well.  What you commit to God—money, action, thought—deliver.  It is holy;  do not test the Lord your God.


Father, we so often see you as the loving God.  Do not let us forget that you are God the Righteous as well.


August 5

Working the Night Shift

Job 24:13-17


The truth is somewhat surprising to those who live their entire lives in a city:  darkness, real darkness, exists.  If you've ever been out in the desert at night, or in the middle of the ocean, you will have experienced what Job and his companions took for granted:  the dangers of the night:

·         Those with small children know that the night light is sometimes a necessity.  In the night the child feels alone, and being alone fear rises.  We don't know what's out there, and we naturally fear the unknown.

·         It is the time of sleep for normal human beings.  We feel that we are vulnerable then.  That's why we lock up at night.

·         If you really want to know the extent of our reaction to true darkness, think how much you pay to drive it away—lights and electricity.

Spiritually, the dark of night is the opportune time for evil.  Those who came to arrest Christ in the garden came by night;  Jesus tells them that this is their hour.  For the thief, night is cover.  For the adulterer, night hides the sin.  When the light goes on, we see the sin exposed and danger flee.

The image is a vivid one.  It's one Christ used himself, as he called himself (and us) the "light of the world."  It often surprises Christians, therefore, at how poor a reception is given to that light.  Some people are completely blasé about it.  "I'm glad that works for you."  Those who are Christians see the light clearly;  it is difficult to understand those who ignore it.

But if you love the darkness, and all its covering depth, then the Light is a terrible thing.  The Light of the World exposes all the evil in the world. 

Why, then, do so many run from the light?  In one word, shame.  They do not want righteousness;  they love darkness (literally and spiritually) because it covers the and keeps them from shame. 

Therein lies the test of a man's character.  What happens when a man is exposed to the light?  If he goes to the Light, all is well;  the Lord will welcome him.  But if he runs from the light, he signals his shame and convicts himself.  At least, for a while.  Given long enough, some will sear their consciences so thoroughly that even shame disappears.


Lord,  you are the light of the world.  When we uphold you, may all who see, know that we are the lights that reflect you.


August 6

Christ Exemplary

Hebrews 5:5-10


It is seldom noted, and all the more surprising:  Jesus Christ, in the records we have of him, never once prayed that he might be raised from the dead.  He prophesied it frequently;  his enemies understood the prophecy as such.  But he never prayed for it.

Why?  Because it was solidly in God's will.  There is no need to convince God of his own purposes.

Christ did pray for—and very fervently—release from the pain and humiliation of death on the Cross.  We often use that prayer as a model for "not my will" prayer.  But there are other things we can learn from it, for much of Christ's work on earth was to give us an example.

·         "Ask, seek and knock" are clearly demonstrated.

·          It is by suffering that Christ was "perfected."  The word in the original means something that is fabricated for a specific purpose;  in this case, to be our salvation.

·         Interestingly, he learned obedience.  Which tells us that obedience is not implanted but taught and learned, for even Christ had to learn this. 

Some will argue about that last.  After all, as Son of God, was he not heard in prayer because of his relationship?  But we too are called the children of God;  are all your prayers heard and answered?  The Scripture tells us the answer in Christ:  He was heard not for his Son-ship, but for his "reverent submission."

·         If you will look at other translations, you will see this phrase really means "fear of the Lord."

·         In so doing, he teaches us that those who fear the Lord are heard in their prayers.

·         Which means, of course, that we can do this too.  It is a matter of obedience—which can be learned.

We know, of course, the purpose to which Christ was perfected by suffering.  It was to be the source of salvation.  Note the phrasing:  just as Christ learned obedience, we too must learn obedience to Christ—for salvation is guaranteed to all who obey him, and to no one else.  Try it.  Let your faith give rise to the works of obedience, and see if this does not change how God answers your prayers.


Lord, we know that disobedience puts a barrier between us and you; teach us, then, the obedience which bears much fruit.


August 7

A Prayer of Gratitude and Praise

Isaiah 53:10-12


It is not necessary to understand everything.  It is probably impossible.  But when you see God doing what cannot be understood, remember:  praise and thanks are still pillars in prayer.

We may consider this passage as such.  How the ancient Israelites were to understand this passage was only clear when the Messiah came.  Looking back now, we can see a call to thanksgiving and praise.

Thanksgiving for the suffering that saved us.

It is difficult for us to comprehend the physical suffering of Christ.  But it is more difficult to understand the suffering of his soul.  Here is the one who is Eternal, facing death like one of us.  For us, it may be easy to be lighthearted in the face of death, as this is the common end of all of us.  He did not need to experience death.  But so that he might become the atonement, he did.  Can you imagine how low that must be for him?  Praise and thank him for such condescension.

There is more.  In his death he was "numbered with the transgressors."  He died;  but worse he died in disgrace, the death of a common criminal.  So when we are brought to judgment, his wounds are there to plead for us, the transgressors.  Praise and thank him for this.  Indeed, even now he makes intercession for us—based upon his sacrifice on the Cross.  We have a friend in the highest place;  give thanks for his intercession.

The greatness of Christ

Isaiah portrays here his "portion among the great."  Above his name there is no other name.  My advocate is Christ;  how can I not be forgiven?  Praise his name.

The glory of his resurrection

Do you need more?  If you praise his atoning death, then surely you should praise his resurrection.  It is the evidence of the faith—and the picture of what will happen to us when he returns.  Give him the glory due;  none of us even approach such.

The Return

Isaiah says that he will see his offspring.  That day will come when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead.  Pray that he will come, and soon.

We often sing our praises and thanksgiving, followed by prayer for our wants.  Praise and thank him in prayer too.


Lord, the more we know of you, the greater the praise due to your name from our lips.  Teach us to praise and thank you.


August 8


Knowing You're Saved

1 John 3:7-20


Are there really three kinds of people?

·         The genuinely evil, who are responsible for most of the mess we're in (whatever that mess might be).

·         The genuinely good, who are those favored by God to become real saints, worth of admiration.

·         The rest of us, who are rather in the middle.

The hope in this viewpoint is that God will chase down and destroy the genuinely evil, leaving the small number of saints to act as high cover for the rest of us, in the middle.

John tells us we're wrong.  We're judging things on position—where people are right now.  Much more important than position is direction—which way are you going?  The narrow way, or the broad one?  Direction is all important—when you have all of eternity to make the trip.

Those headed in God's direction look for signs along the way; signs that they're headed in the right direction.  Here are two:

·         Those who are genuinely headed God's way will be hated by the world.  You think not?  The world despises those who are pro-life.  The world praises the Chinese system of mandatory abortions to limit population. 

·         The second test:  how do you treat your brother in need?  Do you feed and clothe, or hide and despise?

You see, feelings are a poor guide in this matter.  Feelings come from the heart;  facts come from God's reality – and God is the stronger.  So if we doubt our salvation, there are practical tests:

·         Is your prayer life successful?  Do you see God granting your requests?  Does he listen to anyone going the wrong way?

·         Does your life overflow with love for your fellow Christians?  Do you feed the hungry? 

·         Do you feel the effects of God's discipline upon you, especially in the body?  He disciplines those he loves.

Seek the facts; they are from God.  God is stronger than your heart.  In his hands, not yours, your salvation rests.


Lord, give us good courage as our feelings ebb and flow.  The work of salvation is done;  the work of love is what we now must do.  Keep us ever mindful of those in need.


August 9

Joy Must Be Shared

1 John 1:1-4


The tale as it was told to me by my father:  It was a hot day;  my dad and my mother noticed a man coming out with a cardboard tray full of ice cream cones.  As he went past each window of the station wagon, the kids rolled down the window and he handed in the ice cream cones as ordered.  Last of all he came to the seat at the rear of the station wagon, which faced backward.  The window came down, and dad saw that there was a huge dog in the back.  The dog opened his mouth and the man stuffed an ice cream cone right into it.  Pure joy just has to be shared.

John conveys that sense of joy to us in the opening of his first letter.  He had good news:

·         The very essence of God had taken on human form;  he had touched, talked and walked with the man.

·         Indeed, he walked side by side with eternal life—the one who had defeated death itself.

He, and his fellows, were eyewitnesses to these facts.  Such was their joy that they could not help but testify to the truth: the Lord of Life, the Life Eternal had come.

But it is his motive that interests me here.  He is not writing out of some commandment to evangelism.  He is like a spring bubbling up from the ground;  the water must go somewhere, it keeps overflowing him.  So he longs to share it with his friends.

·         He shares it so that they will have fellowship with him.  Think about it;  if you find something good, do you not tell your friends?  Do you not encourage them to participate? 

·         We would do that for a sale at a store.  How much more, then, should John share this, for this is fellowship not only with his fellow Christians but also fellowship with Christ himself.

When you have such good news, you should feel the ache in your heart to share it.  It has lost nothing in the telling, nor will it until he comes again.  Jesus, the essence of God in the person of man, is born and lives and dies among us—then rises from the grave.  He offers the same to you—resurrection and eternal life, forgiveness of your sins and a deep, eternal fellowship with God.  If we had discovered these things this morning, they would be news that any journalist would recognize.  News?  Indeed, the ultimate in good news.  We have forgotten that "gospel" means just that.


Lord, give us ears to hear your good news—and tongues to tell it to all who will listen.


August 10

Disputes in Court

Romans 1:18-25


Our local newspaper once carried a remarkable story.  It seems that a man in the Long Beach area, a retired Navy man, had taken home a souvenir of the navy—the business end of an 8" cruiser shell.  He had the shell for many years.  One day an old service buddy of his dropped by—and was shocked to see the shell being used as a doorstop!  To the shock of the owner, he identified it as a live shell—not a target practice dummy.

Humans have a gift for ignoring the obvious.  We have many today who are sure there is no God.  They point to the marvels of science and say, "See—we don't need a God;  therefore he does not exist."  But may I be permitted a slight argument?  The universe is certainly here, and we know it had a beginning time.  By definition the universe is all matter and energy. 

Now, tell me how the universe created itself.  How did it will itself into existence—before it existed?  It is no use appealing to physical mechanism.  The universe contains all matter and energy; either it created itself (which is absurd) or something which is neither matter nor energy created it.  That "something" is God.

"But wait," says the modern man.  "Surely it's possible that some part of the universe created the rest?"  That which you would have as partial creator is matter and energy too.  Therefore it too was created by something "outside."

"But wait" says the modern man, "how can anything be beyond matter and energy?"  If the universe didn't exist, would the Pythagorean theorem still be true?  Mathematics does not depend upon the universe for its existence.  Neither does God.

So we decide to be "agnostic."  We don't know.  Did you think the living God would accept that as excuse—something your teenage child could not get away with?  Are you really smarter than God?

Why, then, do so many "know" there is no God?  I give you Granoff's Law:  "I want to sleep with my girlfriend—therefore there is no God."  In this the sly, winking cleverness of man is exposed.  Did you think God is fooled?  If it were your child, would you be deceived by this?

The God of the cosmos is alive and well.  We don't want him around because we have decided that we are the supreme authority.  This old fashioned God is inconvenient.  And we can't tell the difference between "inconvenient" and "nonexistent."


Lord, so many are perishing for the famine of your word.  Grant us diligence and courage as we speak to those we know.


August 11


2 Corinthians 13:8-10


He does not, in truth, look like much of an evangelist.  Indeed, if your view of the evangelist is that of a silver tongued and broadly traveled speaker, he appears to be most unlikely. 

First, he is confined to a wheelchair.  Not the ordinary kind;  the electric sort, for he is not strong enough to handle the propulsion by his arms.  His speech is slurred;  if you did not know that he has epilepsy and has had several strokes, you might think him drunk.  There are boils all over his body;  his body is thin and frail.  Lately he is recovering (slowly) from blindness in his right eye.  The doctors had to go in from the top of the skull and from underneath, through the sinus cavities, to get the tumor. 


He is the greatest evangelist I know.


God perfects his strength in weakness.  Indeed, Paul here boasts of his weakness, that it might prove to be the strength of God.  His desire is not for his own authority as an Apostle.  You can see his reluctance to use that authority.  Rather, his prayer is for the perfection of these Corinthians.

Perfection.  In the Scriptures, the word does not mean beautiful or handsome, strong or smart.  It means "perfectly suited to a task."  It is God's habit that he will take the weak and the insignificant and turn them into the champions of his kingdom. 

Need an example?  Remember King David?  When Samuel came to anoint the new king, he told Jesse (David's father) to line up his sons so he could select the one the Lord had chosen.  Jesse had eight kids.  He was so sure that David was not the one that he set him to watch the sheep. 

See how those of great authority deal with this.  Paul knows his purpose, the building up of this church body.  Therefore, whether the exercise of authority or the pleading of a brother, he is prepared to do whatever he needs to do—to accomplish the will of God.  He is not harsh and autocratic, but tender and kind.  It's amazing what we can do together when God gets the glory.

As you pass by Curly's wheelchair, often you will hear him cry out, "Jesus, the Messiah, loves you."  For some, this is the only gospel they will hear.  God has chosen the weak to tear down the strongholds of this world.


Lord, how we mistake your power!  We see everything in terms of our own capability.   Teach us to see your power and glory.


August 12

A Multitude of Sins

James 5:19-20


The word used for "wander" in this passage has found its way into the English language as "planet."  In the time in which this was written, a planet was considered a "wandering star."  Much effort was required to plot the courses of these unusual stars.  It was not until the Renaissance that we came to correctly understand what these are.

It's a fitting picture.  All the other stars go around the earth in a fixed pattern—but there are those wanderers, messing up a perfectly good geometric universe.  The ancients did not know why they wandered.  Similarly, we don't know why some wander from the faith.  Have you ever noticed that those who wander away from the faith do so very quietly? 

The ever-pragmatic James sheds no light on the controversy of "once in grace, always in grace."  His point is the practical one.  The sinner has wandered away from the church.  Something must be done.  Somebody must do it.  The theology can catch up later.

Someone must go to bring the sinner back to the church.  As with Isaiah before the throne of God, there is no indication of divine appointment in this;  rather, we might imagine God asking, "Who will go and bring back my lost sheep?"  He's waiting for an Isaiah to say, "Here am I, Lord—send me."

What shall this worker take with him?

·         He must first carry the burden of diligence.  Accurate records of attendance, knowledge of who's missing this week, the system of those who care—these things identify the stray.

·         This is not a quick taxi ride back.  He must do this with patience as well.  The first time is likely to be rebuffed with an attitude that says, "I don't want to talk about it."  Patience returns to the question diligently.

·         He must go in kindness.  The message of Jesus is not, "Sinner, burn in hell" but "Sinner, come home."  The workers must do likewise.  Above all else, he must go in love.

The result is joyous indeed.  The one who is successful in bringing back the lost sheep covers over a multitude of sin.  How?  By bringing the sinner back through repentance God forgives—and the church with Him.  The wanderer sees the forgiveness of the church—and sweet fellowship is renewed.


Lord, we sit and wonder about those who are gone.  Move us in your service to seek and save the wanderers, too.


August 13

Purity and Love

1 Peter 1:22


At my kitchen sink you will find two faucets.  One produces the mixture of hot and cold used for most normal purposes.  It is capable of producing a fairly large flow.  The other produces a flow much less than that.  This faucet is for filtered water.  Underneath the sink is the filter, which we installed because we wanted to have water free from the taste of the ordinary water.  The filter removes something from the water;  the result is purified water.

Purity is like that.  Just as my little faucet removes impurities from the water, there is also a filter in the Christian's life that removes impurities from the soul.  It is called obedience;  specifically, obedience to the truth.  It is very much like my water filter:

·         Like my filter, the pure life of the Christian has many things removed from it—things that are impure.  Have you ever looked at a fellow Christian and said, "If only he could get rid of that one thing.."?  Have your fellow Christians looked at you like that?

·         Like my filter, action is required.  If I know how to construct such a filter, the knowledge does me no good until I actually use it.  Similarly, our knowledge of the faith is not effective until we obey.

The result of this purification is sincere love.  Have you ever noticed that, as the Scripture says, "to the pure, all things are pure?"  As you purify yourself in obedience, you see more clearly how often you are at fault—and therefore remove judgment from others.  With your obedience comes purity, which produces this love.  You purify your mind;  the suspicious nature is filtered out.  No longer do you think, "Well, I know what I'd do ." and therefore expect evil from your brothers.  No, you now think, "This is what Christ would have me do." and therefore you expect your Christian brothers to do the same.  It is easy to love the spiritual pure; do you see how it all fits together?

So then, Peter tells us, since this is so, we need to love each other deeply, from the heart.  Having found such a good thing, why would not want more of it?  Why would we not want others to have more of it?  But that is the nature of love;  when it is sincere, it spreads rapidly—among those who are obedient to the truth, and therefore purified.


Lord, teach us to purify ourselves in obedience to you, so that we may be like you, the Lover of our souls.


August 14

Sneaky Fitch

2 Corinthians 4:10-11


The play has been around for a while;  it's a staple of high school drama departments.  It's an old wheeze, but a fun one. 

The play is titled The Death and Life of Sneaky Fitch.  The plot is relatively simple.  The town drunk, one Sneaky Fitch, manages in a comedy of errors to convince all the town that he is dead.  Laid out in a coffin, he comes to—and discovers that all the people are afraid of him.  After all, he's already died.  You can't kill a dead man.  Even the local gunslinger is terrified.

The rest I leave to your imagination.  Paul makes a similar argument here.  If you have already died—in Christ—then death has no real hold on you.  Your wounds, which for most people are a source of worry and fear, become the marks of honor.  You have suffered for Christ's sake;  the physical marks you bear are for the Christian what medals are for the soldier.

In death, too, we carry the death of Christ within us.  We are buried with him in baptism.  We share his death;  we shall share his life eternal.  It's the great paradox of the New Testament.  If you want to save your life, lose it.  If you save it, you lose it. 

We are given a gift as Christians:  the gift of death.  We are dead with Christ;  the things of this world no longer have a hold on us.  Part and parcel of that gift is our resurrection.  We shall be like him;  we shall behold him face to face.

That's the time this life will be revealed.  Indeed, that's the point.  In this world, our wounds for Christ testify to what we know to be true in Christ Jesus.  If we suffer with him, we reign with him.  We are joint heirs (with Jesus) of the kingdom of God.  As he rose, so shall we rise.

In the meanwhile, we must keep on keeping on.  Christianity does not allow room for the one whose talent is daydreaming when there is work to be done.  Our wounds for Christ—physical or otherwise—are the evidence of his life within us.

A story is told of a missionary, sentenced to a prison term for preaching the Gospel.  In prison he was cruelly beaten;  his back became a mass of scars.  As he was released, the local ruler asked if he had learned his lesson.  In reply, he asked permission to go back and start preaching again.  The ruler denied him this, saying, "My people are not foolish enough to listen to your words, but they will believe  your scars."


Lord, as hard as it may sound, grant that those around us will believe our scars.  May we be witnesses to you.


August 15

The Usefulness of Money

1 Timothy 6:17-19


"Be nice to the little people on the way up—and they'll be nice to you on the way down."  It's a proverb of the motion picture industry which points out the danger of wealth:  arrogance.  It comes of putting your hope in your wealth.  It simply doesn't work.  Wealth looks at "now."  Hope looks to eternity.

·         First, there is the uncertainty of wealth.  It looks so stable, yet can change in an instant.

·         Wealth carries with it the power of corruption—both of your self, and of others with whom you deal.

Indeed, the arrogance of wealth comes from ignoring just who is the Author of wealth.  He is the one who gives all good things—including the removal of wealth from those being harmed by it.  It surprises people:  there is a "right amount" of wealth for you.  Too little, and your pride will cause you to steal.  Too much, and you forget how you came to this state.

So, argues Paul, here's what you should do with your wealth—if you want to remain secure in your hope:

·         First, do good.  Do it personally, not with a checkbook.  Put your heart into it;  the checkbook will follow quite meekly.

·         Next, be rich in virtuous deeds—the things that you plan to do.  Let God lead you to a need, and then deal with it.

·         Do this with style—or as some translations put it, "liberality."  Don't skimp; do the job right.

·         All of these, do in the context of Christian fellowship.  Be the one who builds up the church, both as a whole and individually.

Paul then tells us the reward for doing this.

·         First, you lay up treasures in heaven.  If you're the rich guy, this is good to hear.

·         Next, since you are imitating your Lord, you will be building on the firm foundation of the church—Jesus Christ.

·         And you will grasp life that is really life—both now and forever.

Do you count yourself rich?  Is money a worry to you not for its lack but for its care?  Learn well how to grow eternal riches.


O Lord God, how poor we plead when how rich we are!  Teach us to examine our checkbooks for evidence of eternal life.


August 16

Testing the Spirits

1 John 4:1-6


Some years ago a motion picture was made from the stage play, Jesus Christ, Superstar.  The little town in which we lived carried a taped debate by a panel of "experts" on the subject of Jesus Christ.  One was a film critic;  another a Unitarian minister; the third a Quaker minister; the last, a Baptist preacher.  The "debate" was supposed to fill half an hour, and it did.  Half an hour of almost nothing but nonsense, such as the Unitarian's learned speculation that Mary Magdalene was Christ's lover.  There was worse, but I'll spare you.

The Baptist preacher got in one remark.  There was a lull in the debate, and the host—no doubt just to fill time—asked the Baptist preacher what he thought of the film.  "What's the point?" he replied, "There is no resurrection."  His microphone went off the air with an audible click and he was not heard from again.

The preacher had it right.  The core test of any portrayal of or teaching about Jesus is simply this:  who do you say He is?  Here John identifies one of the wrong answers prevalent in his time.  The choice in his day was between a spectral phantom—one who walked the shores of the Sea of Galilee but left no footprints—and the Christ who invited his disciples to breakfast.  Since the philosophers saw the body as evil, they felt Christ really could not have had one.  It's a typical viewpoint from the world:  the Bible must be wrong, so we need another explanation.  The more clever the explanation, the more brilliant the scholar, right?

John gives his students the quick test:  did Jesus Christ come in the flesh?  Was he born like you and I;  did he die like we do?  Did he rise from the grave?  These questions have not lost their usefulness in determining who's who.

The second test is like it:  do these people agree with the children of God?  If they do, the world will not approve.  How often I have heard nonsense from the pulpit as someone tries to show how Jesus Christ fits in with the fad of the moment.  Christ is the original;  copy him, for he won't copy you.

The third test is this:  do they listen to the children of God?  Do those who are proclaiming their view of the truth listen to what God has said?  One very good example of this is the use of the Bible.  Is it God's word, or isn't it?  For many out there, that question alone determines heaven or hell for all eternity.


Lord, teach us to discern your Holy Spirit in all that we see and hear, knowing true from false, good from evil.


August 17

The Glory of God

Exodus 33:19-23


There is a consistent theme in the Old Testament which concerns the appearance of God:  no one can look at God face to face and live to tell about it.  The glory of God—meaning, in this instance, a physical manifestation of it—is fatal to sinful man.  The Israelites never lost their fear of it;  the first reaction of the prophet upon seeing God is to proclaim himself a dead man.  This passage is the root of that belief.  If the prophet Moses himself could not stand to see God's glory, then who could? 

Yet we also know of several instances of "the angel of the Lord" speaking to men.  Most scholars hold this to be the pre-incarnate Christ.  So it is possible to see Him and live, a fact fairly obvious from the reaction of the Apostles.  Only at the Transfiguration did they see anything like what God did for Moses.

Why?  Is it that God is somehow radioactive or poisonous to us?  No;  we know that God is spirit.  When God shows himself in human affairs like this, it is not the light levels about which we need be concerned.  We need to be concerned with sin.

God, whom the philosophers define as the sum of all perfections, cannot be in the presence of sin.  He is utterly holy and righteous.  Such a character, when shown to the physical world, cannot allow the presence of a sinner.  So God hides Moses from His face.

But in so doing, he makes the declaration that will one day provide salvation to the world.  "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion"  Not one of us earn the grace of God;  all must accept it as his free gift.  He has chosen to have mercy and compassion upon those who will come to him and ask.

We see it portrayed in pictures here.  As Moses went to the rock, so we go to the Rock of Salvation.  We come for shelter;  God hides us in a cleft.  But how many of us, sheltered in the Rock of Ages, know that the glory of God is passing by?  For as Moses was hidden by God's hand, so we too are hidden by the blood of Christ—and thus our Father sees Christ.  We, in turn, see Christ, who is both God and Man.

The cleft in the Rock of Ages is not a wormhole.  It is set before us so that we might come near to the glory of God.  Someday—Lord, please, soon—we shall be transformed, and see his glory face to face.


Father, your glory is beyond mortal comprehension—now.  But the day is coming;  even so, Lord, come.


August 18

At A Loss

Philippians 3:7-11


There is a difference between value and price. 


By way of example:  I make balloon animals.  If you've ever been to a street fair you've seen such things.  Mine are the simplest type (a legion of wiener dogs), but I have observed something about them.  Their price is trivial;  we buy the balloons by the bag.  The price of one of these is very little. 

But to the child who obtains one, it is a very valued item.  Many times I have given one away to a child waiting for the same airline flight.  I often have the pleasure of seeing the child holding tightly to it coming off the plane.  The value he places on it is much greater than the price of the balloon. 

There are two ways to measure value.  One is by what you hang on to;  the other, what you let go of.  We see that here with Paul and the Law of Moses.  He in no way demeans it; indeed, he spent a great deal of time and effort attempting to hold on to that Law.  Therefore we can see that he placed extremely great value on the Law.  It is not unreasonable to think that he considered it his most valuable possession. 

Which shows us the value he placed on Jesus Christ.  He gave up the one thing which he valued above all else so that he might become one named by Christ.  To him, the Law of Moses was a string of pearls—which he gave up for the pearl of great price.

Paul tells us three important things about this righteousness in Christ:

·         It comes from God—not from our own efforts.  It is grace.

·         It comes by faith, the actions of trusting in God.

·         It comes with suffering, for if we will share His suffering, we shall share His Resurrection.

How great was the price?  The life blood of Jesus Christ.  How much did Paul give up to get it?  The most important thing is his life, the Law of Moses.  How much did Paul pay for it?  Nothing; it is the free gift of God.

Which brings the point home to us.  The price is still so great that we can never pay it.  But do we claim it as the pearl of great price?  Its value is beyond our measure;  its price beyond our thought.  What have we given up to obtain this pearl?


Lord, we so much want to play it safe, having only one foot in the kingdom.  Teach us to open wide the door and let you in.


August 19


Romans 16:25-27


Benediction.  A compound word, beginning with "bene" - as in our word "benefit."  It ends with "diction" - as in "dictionary."  To speak a word of blessing;  by custom at the end of a worship service or other Christian ceremony.

The benediction is often ignored in the study of the Scriptures.  One reason is that it comes at the end of the letter—after a fairly long list of personal greetings.  Those who read it through often feel like the substance is complete once these greetings arrive.  But not so;  Paul will have his last word. 

His last word is characteristic of a teacher of the Gospel.  He has two concerns:  his students, and his God.  In a very real sense, he is simply introducing his students to God.  Thus it is fitting that his benediction should bless both man and God.

We shall begin with the students.  God is able to establish you, Paul says.  How?

·         First, by "my" Gospel.  It is not his in the sense of invention;  it is his because he lived it.  A faith which you inherit and do not make your own is no faith at all.

·         By the proclamation of Christ.

Indeed, the process is one of revelation.  Paul makes that clear enough;  it was a mystery, it is now revealed.  This is rather encouraging to those of us who don't understand John's Revelation;  it seems we have good company until the time that all is revealed.  But enough is made known through the prophecies—written hundreds of years before Christ—so that those who believed God's word would know when the Christ had arrived.

The result, some day, is that all nations will hear the word—and obey.  Some say this will be before his return, others say after.  I do not know;  but I know enough to understand that God has pronounced that it will happen.  Happen it will, in his good time.

Having blessed his students, Paul also blesses God.  The blessing of his students is wrapped inside the blessing of God.  His blessing proclaims one thing:  glory to God.  Of this glory, we see this:

·         It is eternal.

·         It is through Jesus Christ.

So we wait.  God is unchanging, eternal;  his word will be fulfilled.  The real question is, who will be with him to the end?


Lord, we are so richly blessed by you;  we stand unashamed by your atonement.  Grant that we will be faithful until you come.


August 20

Baby Food

John 6:53-58


Parents (and perhaps grandparents) of infant children are familiar with the necessity of having a wide variety of baby food in the familiar small jar.  The typical jar holds approximately three times the amount of food that a baby will eat at one sitting.   This is the correct amount for adequate nutrition, as two thirds of the jar will eventually find its way to the floor, mother's blouse, the high chair, the bib and a number of less logical places—the baby's nose, ears and especially hair.  This process is evidently instinctive behavior on the part of the child, though one does wonder how strained peas get inside their shoes. 

At this early stage of life we provide the infant with what is required for life.  Christ does the same with us.  He provides himself as the only meal fit for all Christians.

The nature of Communion.  This passage is taken by even the most literal of Christians to be symbolic.  This does not lessen its truth;  it expands it.  In the simple emblems of Sunday morning we find the truth:  Unless you eat the body and blood of the Lord, you cannot have eternal life.  For his body and blood are the grace we are given.

The necessity of Communion.  There is no sense in the Scripture that Communion is optional.  On the contrary, along with baptism, it is commanded.  The ritual of Communion is necessary—it established our communion with Christ and our communion with each other.  We are one—in Christ Jesus.

The reality of Communion.  The author of the universe, the one through whom all things were made, the one who intrinsically defines existence, tells you:  "this is my body."  If he who defines reality by his thought says this, how can we say, "well, not really."

The resurrection life of Communion.  It is not just for this world that we do this.  Taking Communion means that you proclaim yourself to be one of those who are with Christ—whatever the world might think of it.  Is this wise?  Consider well—he tells you that suffering is the normal lot of the Christian.  But if you are God's child, you should not be afraid to proclaim it.  As you proclaim it, you make yourself one with Christ—to be raised by him at the last day.

From glass jars to solid food takes time.  Here is the solid food of the faith:  take, and eat.


Lord, how awesome is your sacrifice on the Cross!  May we never forget the cost of that simple, Communion meal.


August 21

Results Count

Hebrews 6:7-8


One of the difficulties the modern reader of the Scripture encounters is a lack of agricultural experience.  The writers of the New Testament, like Jesus himself, used examples drawn from agriculture, in a time and place where everyone understood it. 

So when we read a passage like this, it may seem puzzling.  We think of rain as a nuisance, the cause of traffic accidents.  To the ancients, a drought was a terrible thing.  So they would read this passage and be reminded of the fear of the Lord.  He, and he alone, permitted the rain they wanted.

More than that:  they understood the saying here.  No rain, no result—at least, none that you could eat.  Rain, to them, was a blessing—and a common metaphor for the teaching of Christ.  So the question would be:  do you "drink it in?"  Or do you produce just so much more runoff?  Hard clay soil would not allow the rain to soak in;  a hardened heart will not allow the word of the Lord to sink in, either.

The modern Christian would look at this example with some dismay.  It seems to imply that God provided some people with a receptive disposition, and others were doomed to be water repellants.  Worse, how would you know who is which?

The answer to that has not changed, and we still know it:  by their fruits.  If the land you planted for wheat gets too little rain, then the thorns will grow there.  (Remember, Palestine is in a desert;  rain is very important.  The native vegetation includes some nasty looking thorn bushes.)  Good crops take more water;  they will die without it, and be replaced by the thorns.

In short, by their fruits you will know them.  But this passage is not the pronouncement of doom;  it is a warning passage. 

·         Note the phrase "in danger of being cursed."  There is yet time to turn around.

·         But if you don't, "in the end it will be burned."

It is no longer considered polite to speak of hell.  But it's hard to miss the implication here.  It is no favor to you if I say, "don't worry, everything will be all right" when the truth is that you are headed directly for hell.  How can you know?  Look at your life.  Do you see the kinds of things God would praise?  A "well done" for your life's effort?  Or is he still looking for results?


Lord, do not let us be complacent.  Rouse us from the torpor of the times so that we might be fruitful for you and your kingdom.


August 22

Standing Firm

1 John 2:24-29


There is a curious myth which bites into the church and into the Christian.  The myth is this:  as time goes by, everything should change.  Yesterday's ideas are of historical interest only;  what we need is the new and modern.

Need an example?  Take the doctrine of Christian marriage.  In our time, everyone knows that the wife owes her husband neither submission nor obedience;  merely "respect."  It is no wonder at all that our divorce rate exceeds that of the secular world;  nor is it any wonder that our rate of juvenile crime continues to increase.  We have thrown away the core of society.  Even those who preach "family values" do not dare to teach submission.

Why did this change?  Because the world changed, and those who would lead the church astray are ever with us.  But how did we fall for this?  We did not remain in the Spirit;  we were lead astray.

The translators here use two words, "remain" and "continue" to express what literally might be translated, "stay put."  The concept they are trying to convey is that the unchanging God, having planted his Spirit within us, expects us to remain in Him.

There is a wonderful effect in this.  If we remain in the Spirit, we listen to what God says.  We may wander off after this great speaker or that brilliant lecturer, but as long as we continue in the Spirit, the Holy Spirit will gently turn us back to the right path.  It is the function of the Spirit to convict the world of sin and of judgment to come.  That includes us.

If you think not, consider this:  there are many church denominations which were very powerful and influential in our land, say, about a hundred years ago.  They are now dying husks, seeking vainly to find some doctrine which will tickle the ears of people at large, hoping to restore their fortunes.  It will not work.  The Spirit has left them—at their request.  They are dead;  they have merely the formality of dying left.

But—if you continue in the Spirit—you are indeed a member of the family of God.  You are "born of him."  How do we know?  By the acts of righteousness, both interior and exterior, that come naturally to all those who live in Him.

Christian, examine yourself.  Do you continue in righteousness, or are you looking for this week's new truth?  The truth hasn't moved;  God is eternal—and his children know it.


Lord, keep us from being those who wander off, not thinking of you.  Help us set our hearts and minds on you.


August 23


Hebrews 10:5-10


There is, I am told, a serious academic study of motion pictures.  As my sole contribution to this undoubtedly needed discipline, I desire to point out something so obvious that it may have escaped the attention of the filmographers (or whoever).

The 1940's brought us a fine set of swashbuckling movies, full of swordplay.  The careful student will note that the villain in many of these—and in all the best—was played by Basil Rathbone.  There is a reason for this.  Rathbone was an excellent swordsman—and most of his leading men barely knew which end of the sword to grab.  The penultimate example of this is found in the Errol Flynn version of Robin Hood.  A fair amount of film footage is devoted to the climactic battle between Flynn and Rathbone.  For the most part, Rathbone is shown in combat;  when Flynn is portrayed as dueling, you see the elongated shadows of both.  It was Rathbone who made Flynn look so good.

Shadows.  From those carefully constructed shadows we conclude so much about that battle.  It is the human mind's ability to fill in the unseen action told by the shadows that makes us believe.

God uses the shadows too.  In his portrayal of the coming of the Christ, found in the Old Testament, he uses three simple techniques that resonate in the mind of man.

·         He uses direct prophecy.  Sometimes that prophecy is rather obvious (for example, concerning the Holy One of Israel).  Sometimes it is obscure, only illuminated by its fulfillment.  As in this passage, it can be quite startling.

·         He uses the shadow of things to come.  The animal sacrifices of the Old Testament—sometimes with thousands of animals being sacrificed—were but the shadows on the castle wall of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

·         He uses the practice of holiness.  The holiness then is but the shadow of the holiness now—for then we had nothing but animals sacrifices;  now we have the Atonement of the Living Christ.  Holiness has power available to any and all.

Sometimes we forget that God intended the Atonement from the beginning of time.  It is the ultimate expression of God's love.  Its shadows go before it, in the mercy of the God of the Old Testament.  Now, we walk in its light.


Lord, forgive us if we do not see the height and width, depth and breadth of your love.  We are finite;  you alone are God.


August 24

New and Old Commandment

1 John 2:7-10


Explaining how the new can be old at the same time poses a bit of a problem.  John the Apostle faces that problem in this passage.  He tells his hearers then in a way that they would understand;  we shall attempt to make the same expression here.

Consider, as examples, these two developments in time:

·         Lately (this is written in 2003 AD) we have seen the return to fashion of Capri pants.  The distinguishing characteristic of these is that they extend down only to mid-calf length.  The autocrats of fashion have now decreed this to be the ultimate in style.  Those of us of sufficient antiquity to remember them from our youth need to learn to keep quiet, lest the finances of fashion take a nose dive.  There is only so much you can do with fashion.

·         In the early days of the American republic, a style of architecture named "Greek Revival" was in vogue.  The result was a series of buildings which look as they should:  a serious, monumental scale building  for serious, monumental scale nation building.  To this day they hold their grandeur– no matter what the length of pants might be decreed.

I hope you see the difference.  One is a passing fad;  the other a style which wears its age quite well.  That timeless style conveys a sense of majesty which good government should have.  As C. S. Lewis put it, "All that is not eternal is eternally out of date."  So we see that something old can also be something new.  Why does our Lord put it this way?

·         The command is old, because it comes from God, the unchanging one.  His mercy endures forever. It is old because we learn it from our ancestors;  the old they pass down is strong, very strong.

·         The command is new, because God must repeat it to all generations.  It comes from God, whose mercies are new every morning.  It is new because we must grasp it for ourselves, lest it become simply tradition, and therefore fading away.

Do you see it?  Love for one another is the closest thing we have to eternity in our daily lives.  It is close to eternal, because God is love, and God is eternal.  It is made new as we love one another.


Lord, may we never forget your command to love, which bridges the now to the forever.


August 25


Romans 5:6-8


To a select few Christians, it seems, God has revealed an aspect of his character little discussed in the Scripture:  timing.  Some of us see his exquisite timing in our daily lives, but all of us should recognize it in history.  The phrase in the original language used here implies a fixed, set time—and such it was:

·         It was fixed and set long before by the prophets, such as in Daniel.

·         It happened during an era in which the Roman Empire was flourishing—with its good roads and common language.

The time selected was known beforehand so that the Gospel would spread rapidly.

What is it that God did with such marvelous timing?  He sent Christ to die for the ungodly.  There is a sense of divine timing in this as well.  Has someone ever told you that they're just not good enough to become a Christian?  Remind them of God's timing.  When they are a sinner, Christ has already provided the atonement for their sins.  Indeed, it is not unreasonable to think that many of those who jeered at Christ on the Cross became believers a few months later.  Today is always the day, Now is always the hour for a sinner to come home.  God's timing is flawless.  When Christ came, the Jew could try to keep the Law perfectly;  the Gentiles were without hope.  By his atonement he changed the "times" - to times in which all have hope in his Resurrection.

It is not as if God changed his mind.  Indeed, we know that God is love;  always has been, always will be.  So the Scripture here does not say that God decided to love us.  That is part of God's character.  No, it says he demonstrates his love for us.  His love endures forever;  he put it on display at Calvary—at just the right time for us, the sinners.

What is this demonstration of God's love?  The Crucifixion.  It is the death on the Cross, despised by the ones He loves, that is the supreme example of love.  It is perfectly timed in history;  it is perfectly timed in our lives as well.

One reason for God's timing was so that the Gospel would spread quickly.  We should watch for his timing in the lives of those we love, so that his love might be shown at the perfect time in their lives as well.  Perfect timing belongs to Christians as well.


Lord, help us to see your timing.  Give us patience to wait upon you, and courage to act when your time is right.


August 26


Affliction and Comfort

1 Peter 2:9-12


Scholars tell us that St. Peter had some difficulty with the Greek language.  That language was spoken by much of the Roman Empire of the time, and seems to have been the commercial language, much like English is in our world today.  Peter would likely have had a good familiarity to it, but not the smoothness of one who lived in a Greek speaking community, as St. John did after the fall of Jerusalem.

Peter has the difficulty here of describing the formation of the church.  We might appreciate his difficulties more if we cast our minds back to the founding of our country, and its early history.  People from many lands came to our geography.  If you ask the world what language the Americans speak, they would say, "English."  But for many that is the new language;  the old language is still with them.  It is no matter;  Americans do not come from a particular race or place.  As I learned when I was a young boy, "America is not a geography.  America is an ideal."

See how Peter struggles with the same problem:

·         He says we are a "nation."  The word is the one from which we get "ethnic".  Once we weren't an ethnic group, now we are?  He means something else.

·         He says we are a "people."  Our word "genetic" is based upon this Greek word.  We are biologically related—even if we're not.  He means something else.

·         He says we are a people belonging to God—the word is the root word of "laity," meaning those who are not ordained to the ministry.  But he also calls us a royal priesthood.  So which is it?

We are the church.  Our union is stronger than any ethnic group, for we have one Spirit, the Holy Spirit.  Our love is stronger than that of an extended family, for we are the family of God.  While few of us are ordained, all of us are royal priests, our royalty coming from our brother the King of Kings, a priesthood after his own. 

Once we weren't—anything.  Now we are the church.  Let the world see that God's children glorify him in their daily lives.  Let them see the good works, wonder—and praise the God we love.


Lord, how often we think of ourselves as being so small, so weak.  We are the church; move us to act like it.


August 27

Examine the Evidence

John 10:37-40


Most Americans no longer recognize the name, Lew Wallace.  He was a general in the Union Army during the civil war.  A lawyer by trade, he was given to every vice.  He thought Christians to be fools and was not at all hesitant to say so.

Christ died for men like that.  His mission, to seek and save the lost, he carried out to the point of death on the Cross.  He offers salvation—but we must accept it.  Some find this too much a burden upon their faculty of belief.

·         In one sense, they're right.  If you want salvation, you must come to Jesus.  He is the way, and there is no other.

·         In another sense, they're wrong.  Jesus of Nazareth here tells them, in essence, if you don't believe what I say, look at what I do.

Christianity is the only major religion which invites you to look into its foundations,.  It is build upon Christ himself.  It is his claim that he is God in the flesh—the same God who created the universe.  Is this so hard?

·         Even his enemies admitted that he had power over the demons of his time.  With no more than a command, the demons were driven out.  Have you ever seen that?  Psychiatry will give you drugs;  he gave relief.  Who could do that but the one who created the mind?

·         He healed the sick—again, with just a word.  One of the most amazing things is this:  he healed those with birth defects—like being born blind.  It seems that all the laws of medicine are suspended for this man.

·         He raised the dead.  Not the paramedic paddle method;  Lazarus was four days dead.  The man has power over life and death.

Add it up.  The rules are different for this man.  If you will not believe what he says, then examine what he does.  He is quite unscrupulous about this;  if you won't believe his words, he bids you look at his work.

Lew Wallace set out to prove that Christianity was a hoax.  He examined the evidence—not just his own opinions.  He expected this to be easy, and it was: Lew Wallace wrote Ben-Hur.


Lord, we pray for those who will not listen to your words.  Let them see your mighty works in us.


August 28

Vision and Burden

Acts 26:1-23


Three times in the book of Acts we are told the story of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, known to us as the Apostle Paul.  You cannot read this without being struck with the fact that the transition must have been a tremendous strain on Paul.  How does a man with orders in hand and zeal in heart change from a persecutor of the church to a martyr?  And, once he does, how could he possibly justify such a move?

Paul's defense is simple:  Jesus of Nazareth is not the end of the Law, nor is he a defiler of the Law—he is the fruition of the Law.  He is the one who fulfills the Law:

·         He fulfills it in the prophetic sense.  Hundreds of verses in the Old Testament point to Jesus of Nazareth.  Some by time, many by actions and signs, the prophecies are there to testify to Jesus being the Christ, the Messiah, the Holy One of Israel.

·         He fulfills it also in the legal sense.  The Law sets forth an elaborate set of regulations on sacrifices for sin.  These are but shadows on the wall, picturing the light to come.  Jesus died at the moment the Jews were slaughtering their Passover lambs.  He became our Passover lamb, so that the angel of death will see us marked with the blood of Christ, and pass over us at the judgment on the Last Day. 

To such, says Paul, he was not disobedient.  He understands from the Law the necessity of obedience;  now he finds the master of that obedience.

Paul received a personal vision of the Lord Jesus.  His zeal in persecution became his zeal in service.  Have you ever wanted such a vision?  Think of what you are asking;  the greater the vision, the greater the burden.  Look at Paul:

·         He goes from proud leader to the bondslave of Christ.

·         He is a witness to Christ—a witness in chains.  At a time when most of us would want out, he seeks only an audience with whom to share the Gospel.

·         As he persecuted, so he would be persecuted—by his own people.

·         Physical hardship was his companion, always.

The greater the vision, the greater the burden.


Lord, we often want a mountain top vision of you.  Grant this vision—and the strength to climb the mountainous burden with it.


August 29


2 Corinthians 4:1-6


One of the surest indicators of the value of Christianity comes from the number of those who use it to fill their own wallet.  I am not speaking of those who bear the burden of the ministry of the local church;  the laborer is worthy of his hire.  There are those whose entire approach is to extract from their hearers both praise and money.  Paul gives us the antidote here.

First, anyone who preaches or teaches Christ must know this:  it is the gift of God, by the Spirit through grace.  Therefore, we cannot boast about ourselves.  But there is more than that;  the honest teacher or preacher must go further:

·         He must renounce any thought of "the ends justify the means."  There should be no thought of letting them find the real truth later.

·         He must conduct himself in such manner that it is clear that he is telling the truth—both to believer and non--believer.

We must also understand the intent and method of our enemy, Satan.  Satan cannot create anything;  he can only twist and distort what God has created.  How does he do this?

With a veil.  The elementary tactic of Satan is simple:  don't let them hear and understand the truth.  Twist something else to fit in its place, but keep them from the truth.  Keep them from seeing the glory of God.  How does he do that?

By putting their attention on their own glory.  If you cannot see the light of the world, then you must seek light where it may be found.  For most of us, it is easy enough for him to use our own pride to veil us from the Light of the World.

This has eternal consequences.  If you will not see the light, God will give you over to your own sins.  This is done in his mercy, so that you might suffer from your own pride to the point where you will seek his help.  Then, and only then, can you see.

What, then, is the Christian (teacher, preacher or not) supposed to do?  Simply this:  teach, preach, magnify and praise the glory of God, which is shown in the face of Christ.  We don't preach or teach ourselves; rather, by our actions we show ourselves to be the servants of the Living God. 

The Light of the World has come; the darkness can't overcome it; that Light is the Glory of God, shown to be in the face of Christ.


Lord, grant that we may show your glory to the world on every occasion—and grant us occasions too.


August 30

War in Heaven

Revelation 12:7-12


We must begin with a disclaimer.  The various theories concerning the interpretation of Revelation put various meanings to this passage.  It is not our intent to bring controversy, but harmony.  To that end we shall look at this passage without holding to any one theory, knowing that this is the Word of God.

If it means nothing else, it means this:  The forces of righteousness must and will fight the evil one, Satan—and all of his helpers, whether angels or flesh.  There is no choice;  there is no fence to sit upon.  Either you are with Christ or against him.  Michael will fight—with the weapons of God.  Jude tells us that Michael's calm courtesy and reverence extend even to Satan.  The weapons of God have no counter in Satan's arsenal.  For how does hatred overcome love?  God's ways are stronger.

Let there be no mistake:  Satan will fight.  Indeed, if we apply this passage as being fit for our own times, he will fight all the more vigorously because he knows his time is short.  How do we recognize the forces of the prince of evil?  By the weapons they use:

·         There are the weapons of the flesh—lust and gluttony.

·         There are the weapons of the world—envy and greed.

·         Above all, there is the weapon of arrogant pride.

Such weapons give rise to the fruits of Satan.  Is it surprising that we have so many broken homes, since we live in a culture that glorifies lust, calling it love?  Is it surprising that our world splits into factions, the haves and the have-nots, when envy and greed are considered virtues?  How can we be astonished at the road rage of our age, when we glorify pride as the chief of virtues?

Our duty in this is clear.  Being a Christian is not a picnic;  it is deadly, eternally serious.  We should expect opposition, well prepared and plenty of it.  For that, we must prepare ourselves with prayer, meditation, study of the Scriptures and an ample supply of repentance, forgiveness and love.  If we pick up the weapons of God, we find that Satan has no way to oppose them. 

Take heart, Christian.  The battle is the Lord's.  Our Lord told us that he saw Satan falling like lightning;  he also said he would be with us to the end.  Stay in the fight, that you may hear your Lord and Master say, "Well done."


Lord, with those of old let us say, "Lead on, O King Eternal—we follow not with fear." 


August 31

The Use of Solid Food

Hebrews 5:11-14


Many years ago an author named Richard Bach wrote a book entitled Jonathan Livingston Seagull.  It is a dreamy, heroic exposition of the author's humanist beliefs:  any system with moral rules is obviously the product of legalistic narrow minds.  Truth is found only in yourself, by being a free spirit.

Normally, I would not have read such tripe.  (And I haven't read it since).  But the small group we were in (at a very conservative church) was lead by a chaplain's assistant who was quite fond of the book, and thought it just the thing for a Bible study.  As the study moved on it became more and more apparent that any connection between what this book espoused and what is taught in the Scriptures was purely coincidental.  In retrospect, however, two things remain in my mind:

·         First, how this man whose daily function was to assist a Protestant chaplain in the Army could have thought this book anything but opposed to the faith.

·         Second, how the rest of the believers in the room—many of whom were quite older than this young soldier—utterly failed to see the problem. 

I confronted him with it;  he thought my attitude was amusing.  He could not see anything of importance in it.

Milk-fed Christians!  Not knowing what they believe, they will be deceived.  Paul expresses that here.  He's in the midst of explaining the priesthood of Christ—which signally involves the royal priesthood of all believers.  This is heavy stuff.

But adult believers are meant to carry "heavy stuff."  It is intended that we know the faith and know it well enough to teach it—for most of us will be teaching it to our children.  Would you raise your children to be ignorant, say, of mathematics?  Why then would you leave them in ignorance of the one truth that matters?

It is not a popular position.  "Get along and go along" is the rule for most Christians today;  it's someone else's problem to know the correct doctrine.  Doctrine doesn't count in life.

It doesn't?  Let's take that "royal priesthood."  Do you have the right to convey God's forgiveness to those in need?  Do you have the obligation?  Is forgiveness something that "doesn't count?"  It's not popular, doctrine.  Just required.


Lord, grant that we may have the desire to be adults in the faith, not perpetual children.

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