Welcome to Becomning Closer! 



January 1


The Pre-eminence of Christ

1 Corinthians 15:21-28



The view of Christ has changed in our lifetime—from one which exalts him as pre-eminent in all things to one in which he is confined to the corner of the house marked, "religion."  We have abandoned the pre-eminence of Christ. Perhaps we are in the age of specialization, and think Jesus should be too.

It is not so.  Christ is the pre-eminent human being, for only he is both God and Man.  We see this pre-eminence in these ways:

·         He is the one who has brought us resurrection.  The concept is hinted at in the Old Testament—indeed, Ezekiel shows us much—but is made clear only with the words of Christ.  We who follow Jesus are destined to rise from the grave.  On any other tongue but his, the idea is nonsense.

·         Indeed, he himself is the first fruit of the resurrection.  Others had been raised from the grave at the word of a prophet;  Elijah and Enoch did not see death at all.  But here is our pathfinder—the one who comes back by his own power.  He is pre-eminent;  it is proper that he should rise first.

·         He is the one who will reign—until all other forms of authority, dominion or power will be destroyed.  The last of these, we are told, is death.   The order of events between then and now is much debated, but the last result is certain.  The one who conquered the grave will destroy death for us.

Past, present and future—He is the pre-eminent one.  But do we really believe that?  Or do we let it pass by, marking it as "theological interest only?"  Can the resurrection have an impact on our daily lives?  Does the pre-eminence of Christ have any real bearing on us?

The answer depends upon how much you trust him.  If you place him first, trusting him completely, then your view of death changes.  You do not fear it.  If you hold him pre-eminent in your life, what can he command that you would not do?  Dread naught; fear God.


Lord, may the power of the resurrection be shown in our daily lives.  Grant us courage to be obedient to your commands in all circumstances.  Give us a spirit of calm in the face of death, for you are the victor over death.  Give us faith in measure to reflect your Resurrection..


January 2


The Day of the Lord

2 Peter 3:10-14


The tale is told of an elderly, pious rabbi who was asked by his students, "When should a man repent?" 

"A man should repent on the last day of his life,": said the rabbi.

"But how can a man know which day will be his last?"

"That is why you should repent every day."


You can almost picture St. Peter writing this passage, remembering how his Lord expressed it so many times:  "like a thief in the night."  That is how our Lord will return—that suddenly.  The parallel is a good one.  If you want to be prepared for the night on which the thief comes, you must be prepared every night.  The only sure way to make certain the boss never catches you goofing off—don't goof off.  Be ready.

St. Peter expands upon the subject.  Everything we know in our physical world will be destroyed.  How?  No one really knows.  But the one who created all things can certainly destroy them.  He promises, however, not just the destruction of the old but the creation of the new. 

Do you plan to be there?  Then understand what will make the transition from the old creation to the new creation.  He calls it the "home of righteousness."  You can pack your bags—now that you know what will go through customs.

We are to "make every effort."  That implies work, despite what some may think.  What are we to work at?  We are to be

·         Spotless.  Perhaps this refers to what others can see.  Do we present to the world the image of the righteous? 

·         Blameless.  The best way to be spotless is to be blameless—not nurturing any secret sin.

·         At peace with him.  Not in conflict, but in calm communion with your Lord and Savior.  

We don't know when He will return.  But we do know how to be prepared for the Day of the Lord.


Lord, we acknowledge that we cannot know the day and hour of your return.  You have warned us to be ready;  by your power keep us ready always.  Grant us a persevering heart, that we may diligently prepare for your return, in prayer, in study, in fellowship and in charity towards others.



January 3


Living According to the Word

Psalm 119:9-16


It is a sad commentary on our times that our soap is more pure than our leaders.

The 119th Psalm is an acrostic;  each section of eight verses begins (in the original Hebrew) with a letter of the alphabet.  The theme of this octet is living in purity.  It is difficult to do in a world which scorns the pure in heart.  How, then, in such a time, does the Christian live according to the Word?  The Psalmist points the way:

·         First, you must seek Him with all your heart.  This is not just an emotional decision.  See how the Psalmist asks God to keep him from straying.  That is a decision of the will.  Lord, I will seek you;  help me in the search.

·         Next, you must have the inner life in the Word.  It is "hidden" in the heart..  Not seen by the world, but evident to us, this inner life is achieved first by memorization of the Scripture.  We reward our little children for this, so that the habit will stay with them life long.  After memorization comes the art of meditation—the contemplation of the Word.  In your mind’s eye, hold it up like a beautiful diamond.  Turn it around so that you can see all its facets.  Consider its beauty;  take its wisdom to heart.

·         Next comes praise.  If you hold the Scripture so dear, how can you refuse to praise it?  If the Word is precious, it will not stay concealed long. 

·         Beyond praise there is a step that few Christians have experienced:  rejoicing in the Word.  The time will come when you take the word hidden in your heart and place it before God, stepping out on faith, saying, "Lord, your Word says."  When He provides, we rejoice.

·         This, then, leads to the delight of the mature Christian—one who knows that God's Word is sure;  his teachings far above any others.  The world may wonder why;  the saint simply knows.


Father, teach us to delight in your Word.  Open its riches to our struggling hearts, and bless us with its treasures.  Silver goes quickly; gold we leave behind—but your Word endures forever.


January 4


A Change in Relationship

Galatians 4:1-7


.When I was a young child, I went about in mortal dread of my father.  He was everything a boy could want in a man to look up to.  He was a soldier, familiar with the weapons of my childish dreams.  He insisted upon obedience, and obedience to the letter.  I could not call him harsh;  but he certainly was stern.

Time passed; I had children of my own.  In that time I discovered a different man in my father.  We would sit on the back porch and talk of various things.  He'd ask about my job;  we'd talk about the kids.  No longer did I worry about what he might say.  We spoke as adults, one to another.  He had not changed that much, I suppose;  it's just that I grew up.

Paul brings forward just such an example here.  He pictures a child, the heir of a large estate.  Until he comes of age, he is subject to tutors, guardians and trustees.  But on a certain day, set by his father, he comes of age—and everything changes. 

That's what happened at the coming of Christ.  For fifteen hundred years or more God had led and taught the people of Israel.  The time came, and our Lord was born.  Born just like the rest of us;  under the law like any other Jew of the time.

But this child came for a purpose.  Until he came of age, we hear very little about him.  Then for three short years he travels about the nation of Israel, preaching, teaching and healing.  At just the right time, set in the Passover, he is sacrificed for our sins.

That changed everything.  The law, the schoolmaster of the Jews for those fifteen hundred years, had been completed and satisfied.  Our relationship with our heavenly Father changed too.  No longer one of ritual sacrifice and stern warning, we now call him Father in the same way a little child might call you daddy.  The time had been fulfilled.

My dad is gone from us now.  But the time is coming when I shall see him again.  We do not know the day or the hour;  all we know is that we are to be ready.  Even so, Lord Jesus, come—and soon.


Father, what a privilege we have in prayer!  That mere mortals might speak to the creator of all things is amazing enough;  that we might call you Father could only come from your love.  Keep us close to you, Father, keeping us from evil.  May the day of the Lord come soon—and may we be ready for it.


January 5



Psalm 8


It would be humorous if these people weren't so serious.


We have in our midst today a large number of people who believe in "animal rights."  The theory goes something like this:  since we are nothing but animals, no different from dogs, cats and barnacles, we have no right to "oppress" the animal kingdom.  So we must cease eating beef and begin the self-righteous contemplation of our navels.

The Psalmist (David) knows better.  The Christian view is shown here.  Indeed, mankind has little of which to boast.  So he begins with God. 

·         "Oh Lord, our Lord" - he acknowledges who is indeed supreme.

·         "How majestic" - majesty is in scarce supply these days.  But turn to the heavens out in the desert;  God's majesty is still shown there.

·         "Your name" - the bookends of this Psalm declare the majesty of His name.  The great I AM—Jehovah—is seen in his works.

Seeing his works, David makes the obvious comparison:  The Creator is great;  who among us compares?  But having said that, he shows us the grace of God.  For though we are insignificant in the scale of the universe, God has made us just lower than the angels, and given us stewardship of all on this earth.  It is his grace that has done this, not our merit.

It may seem strange, then, to read verse 2.  Christ quotes it to the Pharisees at the Triumphal Entry.  It is God's method:  by using the weak and the powerless he conquers those who call themselves mighty.  The Pharisees complained to Jesus about the songs of the children;  they did not dare to silence them.  Even hypocrisy has its limits.  So it is that God uses the weak—us—to show his strength.


Lord, the heavens indeed declare the majesty of your name.  May we hold it in reverence on the earth.  May our actions acknowledge your grace and your lordship.  Open our eyes to see your creation as the sign of your majesty, knowing that this majesty will some day be openly displayed at your return.


January 6


Judgment Among the Gods

Psalm 82


There are passages which look as if they could have been written in our own time—those this was written three thousand years ago.  The words are still useful. 

The Psalmist pictures God meeting those who give judgment on earth—those with power over others.  The word for assembly here is related to the Hebrew word for testimony, so we see a judicial proceeding. 

The Accusation.  God makes two charges:  first, that we defend the unjust (can ruthless corporations get laws passed for their benefit?); second, that we show partiality to the wicked (do we idolize those whose life is sex, drugs and rock and roll?).   Further, He charges us with neglecting the cause of the weak and the fatherless (how do we care for the homeless?) and failing to rescue them from poverty (that would be welfare!) and oppression (close down the sweat shops?)

The Result.  Our actions seem so profitable that they must be righteous, we think.  But Jesus told us clearly that the blind will lead the blind.  Is not our nation walking in darkness, missing the great Light of the world?  Is it any wonder then that  "all the foundations of the earth are shaken"?  Things that have been known to be immoral for thousands of years are suddenly "an alternate lifestyle."  Greed is admired;  lust is enthroned in our lives so much so that divorce is commonplace (it was not always so).  Our leaders tell us we can do quite well without moral foundations.

The Warning.  Our Lord makes it clear.  We have been given stewardship of our world;  we have been allowed to form our own governments;  we rule our own ways as we wish with none to say us no.  Our nation is the last remaining superpower, and we, as a people, are acting like it.  But do recall that we may be gods in our own eyes, yet those eyes will close in death.  Then comes the Day of Judgment.  Our accusers will be the poor, the hungry, the weak (millions of abortion victims), the oppressed.  As we have failed to do it for the least, we failed to do it for our Lord.


Father, we are a sinful people in a land where wickedness is praised.  The wicked strut;  the righteous are in fear.  When the foundations are shaken, what shall we do?  We turn to you, asking forgiveness for our land, revival for our hearts and a clear purpose in your will.


January 7


The Christian in Troubled Times

Isaiah 8:11-18


The passage seems rather personal to Isaiah.  It is as if God gave him some good advice on what he should be doing.

He needed it.  He lived in a time much like ours, where God is scorned and people run to anything that promises sex, money or an inflated ego.  In their day these were stone idols;  today the images are computer generated.  The principle remains the same.

So what are we to do?  First, we are warned about something that may seem strange:  a conspiracy.  We are not to call conspiracy what other call same.  Would you like a good example of this?  Do you remember Hillary Clinton's phrase, the "vast right wing conspiracy?"  You see Christians in church;  she (and many, many others) see a vast conspiracy.

The key to living in such times is contained in an old motto:  Fear God, Dread Naught.  It was the watchword of the Royal Navy for many years.  "Fear Him, ye saints, and have nothing else to fear."

·         To do this, we must set God apart in our minds.  He is not one of the boys, or a "factor to be considered."  He is God, and He is active.

·         We are to fear him.  Perhaps this sounds strange to you, but consider:  do you fear the power of an oncoming automobile?  How much more, then, the Living God?

·         But for the same reason, those who do fear him will find in him a sanctuary;  he cares for his own.

The people who ignore God find him difficult to deal with.  It seems that the universe is just filled with his creation—including such little details as moral law.  "What goes around, comes around," we say.  And when it comes around, it snares the person who sent it.  The world sees God as something to be kicked out of the way.  But beware;  kicking that stone will break your foot—you will stumble and fall.


Lord, your servant the prophet Isaiah was a man like us—living in times when your name is dishonored.  May we, like Isaiah, bind up the testimony in our hearts and seal the law of love in our minds.  Then we may wait for you, patiently.  We trust in you, Lord;  give us increased faith in these times of trouble. 

Your children come to you, honoring your name and trusting in your strength.  Be our sanctuary in this time when the wicked strut.


January 8

Groaning Inwardly

Romans 8:22030


There is a curious phrase given as Christ makes his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday.  The Pharisees tell him to silence his disciples;  his reply—if they are silent, the rocks cry out.

Over and again we see in the Psalms that creation is pictured as being capable of expressing itself—trees clapping their hands, for example.  The picture is a poetic one, but true nonetheless.  We are the element of creation given the power to praise God.  But if we are silent, will the God of creation go without the praise of the created? 

Here we see the thought amplified:  the creation, like us, is waiting.  Waiting in the agony of sin, for this is a fallen world.  But waiting for what?  The renewal of all things, when our Lord returns.  We too await that day, the day when the dead in Christ shall rise from the grave.  We share hope with the creation:  hope in his return.

Such hope creates a tension in the Christian. The tension exists between hope and faith.  Hope tells us to set our eyes on the future, awaiting his return.  Faith tells us to set our hearts on the tasks given us today.  They are not in conflict, but they are different in view.  As a result, we often don't know what to offer in prayer.  For example, if an elderly friend of mine is very ill, should I pray for recovery?  Faith tells me I should;  as Christ healed the sick, so I should pray for them.  But hope tells me how much more glorious it is to be "absent from the body" and be with Christ.  For what shall I pray?

But—thanks be to God! - we have help in this.  The Holy Spirit, hearing our prayers, listens to the burden in our heart and translates this into the perfect will of God.  The prayer I offer in both faith and hope comes out in accordance with the will of God, by the intercession of the Spirit.

And what does the Father do with this?  As He works all things together for the good of those who love Him, he calls us closer to him, justifying us with the sacrifice at the Cross.  If justified, then glorified, as will be revealed in the last day.


Lord, the burden of knowing what to pray is too great for us.  Thank you for the intercession of the Spirit.  We know that our hearts are heard,, even when our minds are puzzled.  May we grow closer to you in grace each day.


January 9


The Gift of God

John 6:38-40


The Trinity is indeed a great mystery.  It may be that it is beyond the mind of man to completely understand—but that does not spare us from the attempt.  One can gain some understanding from this passage.  Jesus tells us that he came for a purpose:  to do the Father's will.  In this we see the perfection of Christ, the perfect man, the perfect God.

·         He is the perfect man because he does what we do not:  he does the will of his Father in all ways at all times.  He is therefore the only one completely obedient to the law of God.

·         We also see the perfection of his Deity:  he and the Father have the same will.

But see to what purpose!  This passage touches on the Trinity—but is greatly concerned with us.  In particular, we see here the divine assurance to us:

·         Will he turn us away?  After all, shouldn't God be selective about who enters the kingdom?  Only the righteous sinners? No;  not one will be driven away.

·         Can we be lost or stolen out of the kingdom of God?  Not a one of us.

Indeed, the matter is very much wrapped up in the Trinity—for we are the gift of God the Father to His Son, Jesus, the Christ.  No power on earth or heaven above can deny that gift, for both giver and receiver are God.

There is yet more:  eternal life and the resurrection to come.

·         It is eternal life—not long life, eternal.  Will we even recognize time?  Who can say? 

·         It is eternal life—the word in the Greek is the one from which we get our word, zoo.  Not some vaporous floating around in the clouds, but life as humans were meant to experience.

·         How?  He will raise us up—bodily—as Jesus was raised from the dead. 

·         When?  On the "last day."  There will come a day when God declares an end.  On that day his justice will be served;  on that day his mercy will be shown in us.


Father, we cannot understand the glory of the creation to come—but we know its Author.  Even so, come quickly!


January 10


The Stone

1 Peter 2:4-10


It is one of the enduring pictures of the Old Testament:  Daniel sees a stone carved without hands striking the nations of the earth.  It is a word picture of the Christ,.

Peter extends that word picture here. 

·         The stone is a cornerstone—the one you need to lay down exactly right.  This one is laid down by God the Father, and it is the perfect cornerstone.

·         It is no ordinary stone;  it is precious.  It is the sinless one himself.  In John's Revelation we see how the foundations of the New Jerusalem are made of precious stones.

·         The one who trusts in this stone will never be ashamed.  We are reminded of Moses on the mountain, as the glory of God passed by.  God hid him in a cleft in the rock, and covered him with his hand—so that he might live.

·         The stone was rejected by the builders (the Jews) but is now a capstone—the stone which holds the arch in place.  The heavens arch over us;  we are secure forever because of him.

Peter then applies the same word picture to us.  He pictures us as living stones—the building material of the church.  The church is not a building;  the church is us.  If we are rightly related to the Cornerstone, we are in the right place.  We form a spiritual, not a physical, house of God.  And to what purpose?  So that we might offer praise to our Lord.

Those stones build a temple;  in that temple we are a royal priesthood.  Royal, for we are the children of the King of Kings.  A priesthood, for we are to make intercession before God, pleading for those we love.  We have received mercy;  therefore, we ask for mercy for both friend and enemy. 

Christianity is not a solo flight.  We are to be, together, the church.  He is our cornerstone;  we must be the temple.


Father, we know that without your Son we would not know your mercy.  You have been gracious to us and forgiven our sins.  Therefore we ask that you keep us ever mindful of the needs, the hurts, the fears and the trials of others, so that as royal priests we might intercede for them.  We do not come to you because of our own righteousness, but by the righteousness of Christ and the grace shown at Calvary.  Lord, hear the prayers of your children, and be merciful.


January 11


Eye on the Prize

1 Peter 1:3-9


Peter is an economical writer.  In five short verses he gives us the blessings of God:  "great mercy," "new birth," "living hope."  We receive the benefits of "resurrection," "inheritance," "never perish," "heaven," God's power," "faith," "shielded," "salvation."  It is a catalog of the things God has done for us.  Indeed, it is good for us to count our blessings and remind ourselves of all the great things He has done for us. 

Peter bombards us with blessings, and then—"for a little while" - we may have had to suffer.  But even in our suffering, little and short though it may be, we should see the benefit.    "Greatly rejoice" sounds like a grand thing.  The suffering seems trivial in comparison—even though at the time of suffering we thought it very large indeed.  It helps to keep a sense of perspective.

But even in the suffering, we are blessed.  Have you ever wondered if you really have faith?  Is your faith genuine, or are you just going along with the right crowd?  Suffering for the faith tests its authenticity.  Even then, see  how Peter can't resist telling you of your blessings.  Stuck in the middle of this test is the description of faith being of greater worth than gold.    So it is that suffering reassures us of the authenticity of our faith.

There is more.  The day will come when our Lord returns.   When that day comes, our suffering for the faith will be recognized—in praise, honor and glory.  Our Lord is just.  If we suffer with him, we reign with him.

If you're uncertain about your faith, isn't it because you don't have eyewitness experience of Christ, in person?  As Christ told Doubting Thomas, blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.  If you're stuck in a spiritual mud hole, see Peter's method here:  you start by loving him as well as believing in him.  The result will be that "inexpressible and glorious joy." 

Those who are goal-oriented sometimes have difficulty with this.  We want results!  Remember that this faith is taking you to the goal—the salvation of your soul.


Lord, in the tedium of our lives we often forget the great things you have done for us.  Keep us mindful of our blessings so that we might rejoice in you.  May we have this joy not just today, but every day.  Keep this joy in us until the day of your return, when our faith will turn to sight, and we bring praise, honor and glory to you.


January 12



2 Thessalonians 2:5-12



Like most modern Americans, I have a calendar.  Not the one on the wall as décor, the one in my computer to be used.  In this I record my appointments;  in this I keep my "to do" list.  My wife keeps one in the checkbook;  it is the authority for all things of a social nature in our house.  We do this for a simple reason:  we need to be reminded of the commitments we've made.  I learn nothing from my calendar—but I'm reminded of a lot.

How we need to be reminded!  If I don't put the meeting in my calendar I soon forget it.  So I consult my calendar frequently.  We should do the same with the Scripture.  Having heard it once, we know its value—and we should let it remind us of that most frequently.

This passage is a reminder, too.  Paul is telling the Thessalonians that he already has taught them about the Lawless One.  Also called the Antichrist, there is much speculation about who this will be.  One thing we do know:  his unveiling, coming out of the abyss, is delayed by the restraint God has placed on him.  But some day—perhaps even now—he will come out.  When he comes we will know him—by his fruits.  He will do his works according to the pattern of Satan.  What is that pattern?  Satan is the Father of Lies.  When the Antichrist comes, he will be accompanied by various signs and wonders which will make him appear very great.  Those who want to be deceived, will be.

Those who want to be deceived?  Yes, those who delight in the evil of this world.  Does it sound familiar?  In my lifetime divorce has gone from rare to routine; homosexuality from sin and crime to alternative lifestyle; fidelity and chastity have gone from honored to scorned; honesty that once took only a handshake and a word now requires an army of lawyers.  God sends no one to hell;  not with so many willing volunteers.

But take heart, Christian:  your Lord is returning.  By his own words and the power of his return he will defeat our enemy.  In the meanwhile, keep ready—and pray.


Lord, we cannot read the future in detail, but we know what you have promised.  We live in perilous times, Lord.  Give us increased faith and courage, so that we may be faithful until the day of your return.  May that day come soon, Lord.


January 13


Crosses in the Desert

1 Corinthians 10:1-13


The curve in the road is deceptive.  It's a gentle, sweeping curve, with no structures nearby.  As is often the case in the Mojave Desert, speed limit signs are far apart and well ignored.  The locals call it Dead Man's Curve.  The railroad crossing comes as a big surprise, even at legal speeds. 

On each side of the road, on both sides of the crossing, you will find a collection of plain, wooden crosses.  Dozens of them, each with the name of someone who once was a beloved son or daughter.  Sometimes, even years after the death, you will see fresh flowers at the base of a cross.


Paul, in this passage, points us to another desert.  The ancient Israelites went through a form of baptism, a form of communion—but God was not pleased with them.  This serves as a warning to us.  God is not deceived by the outer forms of faith;  He looks upon the heart.  They are to serve as a warning to us.

A warning against what?  Paul lists four things which seem to have been problems:

·         Sexual immorality is first.  We have lived so long in a society that praises it we have forgotten that it is sin.  But God hasn't.

·         Idolatry.  In our age, we might call this materialism.

·         Testing God.  How? Have you ever said, "God will forgive me—it's his hobby?"

·         Grumbling.  Some of us are "church tasters" - looking for the right blend of worship—and we grumble when the church doesn't measure up to our recipe.

A warning, that's what this is.  Like the red lights, bells and the crossing gates, this is a warning to us.  We are to be careful.  God even gives us some help;  there's always a way out of the temptation.  But we have to take that way.

Crosses bleached white in the Mojave;  bones bleached white in the Sinai—both warnings to us.  Silent, yet eloquent, the warning is there. 


Lord, open our eyes to our own sins.  Teach us to heed your warnings at the time you give them.  Give us the wisdom to see the way of escape that you provide.  Give us the courage to take that escape, no matter what others may think.  Then remind us to praise and thank you for our salvation.


January 14


It's Not My Fault

James 1:13-15


Some day, some genius in the world of greeting cards is going to come up with the all purpose card for sinners.  On the inside it will read simply:

You were right,

I was wrong, and

I am sorry

Until such a card is available, we shall have to us older methods.  The older method most in use is simply, "It's not my fault."  Of course, that implies that it must be the fault of someone else.  And of all the "someone else" candidates, God is the most convenient. 

God, of course, is not responsible for our sins.  Indeed, he is the ultimate example of a principle which should be better known:  temptation comes from evil.  Have you ever noticed that the people who want you to join in their slightly unethical schemes are more than slightly unethical themselves?  The honest man poses no great temptation to you;  indeed, he sets a pattern that is easy to follow.  If temptation never gets a start, you never have to deal with it.

So where does temptation start?  With us.  We have been told that we should not restrain and discipline our desires—after all, we don't want to be repressed.  So when the temptation comes along, it eats at us, because we will not seek God's aid in casting it out.  Sooner or later, the forbidden fruit draws not just thought but action.  It may be just a little action at first.  But that action is the birth announcement of sin.

What shall we do about this?  Start with the positive.  God cannot be tempted because he is pure, and to the pure all things are pure.  Imitate your Lord in this;  set your eyes on purity.  Seek after this true, humble righteousness.  As you do, keep watch for the temptations most likely to affect you.  Order your life so that these things are not in your daily life.  Then seek the aid of your fellow Christians, asking them to hold you accountable in your weaknesses. 


Lord, how often we tell ourselves that a little bit of sin won't hurt.  We try to forget where that little bit leads.  Keep us mindful of your word, Lord, so that temptation is exposed quickly and destroyed.  Give us the desire for a pure heart and life, so that others may see you in our character—and that we, in purity, may see You.


January 15


News From Home

1 Thessalonians 3:6-10


My mother never lets me forget it.  I never wrote home from college.  The fact that the college was barely thirty miles away does not bear upon the discussion at all.  She expected me to write.

Things were no different in Paul's time.  His heart went out to the Thessalonians;  he wanted news from his friends.  It's worth a look at what Paul considered good news:

·         Faith—Paul looks first for the inward man.  Appearances can be deceiving;  that's why Paul sent Timothy.  He was concerned that someone would have distracted them from the truth.  He cared what they believed.

·         Love—seen on the outside, flowing out.  Were the works of faith seen in the love that the disciples are to have for one another?  He cared what they did.

There is the mark of a good pastor;  he cares what his flock believes and how they act upon that belief. 

Of course, Paul (like the rest of us) has some personal concern as well.  Were the Thessalonians glad to be rid of Paul, or did they miss him?  After all, he was not the most mild spoken of men.  What a joy then to find that their affection for him was real.  We all like to be liked.

Good news from the home front:  they are standing firm—and standing firm in the Lord.  Things are going well there. 

Paul is not content just to know this;  he must share his joy.  You can imagine all those around seeing his eyes light up when he hears the news.  Indeed, the news is so good that he wants to return:

·         But first, he takes the matter to God in prayer.  These decisions are not his own, not even for an Apostle. 

·         Then he states his motive:  to provide whatever might be lacking in their faith. 

Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land (Proverbs 25:25)


Lord, keep us mindful of those for whom we care.  Even at a distance may we see them grow in faith and love.  When our eyes are dim in the weariness of the struggle, may the word come to us that those we love are standing firm in the faith, showing the love of Christ—so that we too may rejoice.


January 16

Leadership By Example

2 Kings 22:8-13


Josiah is one of those obscure kings tucked away in the Old Testament.  His life story stands out from a line of kings whose epitaph is the same:  "He did evil in the sight of the Lord."  Not so Josiah.  He became king when he was eight years old—when his father was murdered.  At this time, Josiah is about twenty-six.  He has been diligent in seeing to the restoration of the Temple.  He was a good king.

One of the reasons he was a good king stands out here.  When he gets his first hearing of God's law, his reaction is this:

·         God is just.  He gave us the law;  we disregarded it.  For that, Judah will be sentenced.

·         His people have done this;  he is their king.  The nation will pay for its sins;  he, the king, must do something.

It is instructive to see what Josiah does when he finds out that he and the nation are in deep trouble:

·         First, he inquires of the priests—what will God do about this?

·         Next, he leads by example.  Repentance is required;  Josiah will be the first to tear his robes.  The matter is urgent;  he does not wait for the answer from the priests.

Notice, please, that there is no calculation of, "God should let me off lightly, I've been good, "  or "How was I supposed to know?"  As they say in the navy, it happened on his watch.

This is a grand example for us.  We live in a democracy;  we each bear some of the responsibility. 

·         We cannot be content to ignore evil;  we should know what's going on.  It's rather apparent that evil is openly displayed.

·         We, then, must lead by example.  Can the world see in us an option to the "anything goes" society?

The Scriptures opened the mind of Josiah to the repentance needed by his nation.  The Scriptures can still do that today—if we, the children of God, will study them, plant them deeply in our lives, and live out the example we know to be right.


O Lord, few of us are called to be preachers;  a few more are called to be teachers;  but all of us are called to be examples.  Lord, fill us with your Spirit so that we might be the living light of this world—reflecting your glory to all people.  Send us the spirit of revival in our time.  Give us the courage to do what is right, so that others will see you in us.


January 17

Day of Judgment

Romans 2:12-16


A recurring theme of the Bible is the Day of Judgment.  When our Lord returns, he will judge the living and the dead.  Those who think God weak will be in awe of his power;  those who think him unfair can then examine his justice.

By what principle will we be judged?

·         For those of us who know the law (that would include practically everyone reading this book) we will be judged by our knowledge.

·         For those who are not, they will be judged by the law they know.

That law is a common possession of mankind.  Shortly after a child learns to talk, he learns to scream, "No Fair!"  We quickly learn that there is a standard of just behavior.  We also learn that we want that standard to be strictly applied—to everyone else.  For ourselves, we need a little leniency.

God is not quite that foolish.  You might ask by what standard you will be judged.  Over and again the answer is given:  by the same standard you use to judge others.  How will God know that standard?

·         First, by your actions—they show that you know right from wrong, and give evidence of the standards you hold.

·         But for some of us, action is not always a match for our standards.  If we pass judgment on the school yard bully, it will be purely a mental one.  Beware:  God knows your thoughts.

Judgment of our secrets;  who could be fair in doing that?  Only one who is fully human;  only one who is fully God.  That one is Jesus, who walked among us.  His purpose in his first coming is clear:  he came to seek and save the lost.  His purpose in his second coming is also clear:  to judge the living and the dead.


Lord, we do not know the hour of your return.  Many have put forward a time;  we only know that you will return soon.  There is but one way to be ready for "soon."  Give us the heart, strength and mind to be ready at all times for your blessed return.  We look forward to that day, Lord, when all tears will be wiped away.  We look forward to seeing friends and family long gone, now returning with you.  We look forward to the new heaven and the new earth.  We look forward—because we can look backward to Calvary's Cross, bringing salvation for all who believe.


January 18

Ancient Wisdom

John 12:44-50


The character is a staple of Hollywood fiction:  an oriental guru who has spent the last 900 years staring at the wall of a cave, possessed of the wisdom of the universe.  Somehow, oriental gurus seem fatally attracted to the thought of accompanying American heroes (or heroines) for the sole purpose of dispensing that wisdom at various moments during the film.  Amazingly, the wisdom in question sounds exactly like tongue in cheek sarcasm. 

That's Hollywood—wisdom comes from staring at a cave wall.  But back in reality, it's a little different.  The enemies of Christ saw his wisdom, too—and wondered where he got it.

It wasn't from the wall of a cave.  It came from his one-ness with God the Father. 

·         There is a one-ness of belief.  If you believe in Jesus, you believe in God the Father.  It would be foolish not to;  the claim of Christ is that he is God in the flesh.

·         There is a one-ness of sight.  Jesus came to be the Light of the World.  Hearing his teaching, seeing his works, you can see clearly the way of God the Father.

·         There is a one-ness of speech.  Note how closely the two are one!  Not only does Jesus say only that which the Father gives him to say, but he also says it in the way the Father prescribes. 

In Jesus we perceive the essence of God the Father, the God whom know one can see—and live.  In the most astonishing metamorphosis of all time, God became man, and walked among us.  It is even more astonishing:  he came to give us eternal life.

How, then, can we obtain this eternal life?  By obedience to his commands.  In the Word we find Life, and find it abundantly.  If we love him, we will keep his commandments.  If we keep his commandments, we will have eternal life.

But the same Word that offers life through obedience proclaims everlasting death for those who hear—and disobey. 


Lord, we acknowledge you as the way, the truth and the life.  We know that only by our love and obedience to you can we be granted the wonderful gift you would give us—eternal life.  Keep us mindful of your words;  when we hear them, help us to obey them.  There is salvation in no other name, for no other man is one with God the Father as you are.  Grant us wisdom in proclaiming you and humility in following you.


January 19

Reading Between the Lines

Leviticus 21:10-15


It is a principle of understanding the Scriptures:  what is given in the Old Testament is the picture of what will happen in the New Testament.  The picture in this passage is a great one indeed, for it portrays the marriage of the High Priest (Christ) with his virgin bride, the Church.  Applied to an ordinary human being, these laws seem fussy and restrictive;  but seen in the Gospel light they reflect the glory of Christ in his second advent.

The High Priest

The High Priest—there is only one, as there is only one Savior—is given these requirements:

·         He must remain ceremonially clean—a picture of the sinless sacrifice of our Lord.

·         He must not be defiled, even by death—a picture of the resurrection.

·         He must not leave the Sanctuary—the picture of Christ who reigns forever.

Why?  Moses gives two reasons.  First, because of the anointing oil—a picture of the Holy Spirit.  Second:  because I AM the Lord.  God is holy;  his High Priest must also be holy.

The Bride

If the High Priest is the picture of Christ, then his bride must be a picture of the church.  This bride must be a virgin—the church must be dedicated to no other God.

·         She may not be a prostitute.  Perhaps this symbolizes the sins of the flesh.

·         She may not be divorced—as the church must not be of the world, though in it.

·         She may not even be a widow.  Perhaps this is a reflection that even our righteousness must be given over to Christ.

The High Priest is pure;  his bride must also be pure, lest the children be defiled.  The children?  We are the children of the church, if we have faith as a little child.


Lord, how often we think that our conduct does not matter, for you will forgive.  Deliver us from such a fault, Lord, and place in our hearts the desire to by holy, as you are holy.  Set us apart for your service, Lord, and give us the joy that comes from being completely devoted to you.



January 20


Philippians 2:5-11


"Your attitude," says one motivational poster, "determines your altitude."  It's the world's way, of course.  By taking on an arrogant, I can whip any man in the house attitude we supposedly will be prepared to advance upward in our society.  The Christian is counseled to the contrary, and nowhere is this more evident than in this passage.

Should our attitude be high and mighty?  No; it should be high and holy.  Our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus himself. 

·         We should know ourselves honestly.  Christ knew that he was God.  It did not make him boast, nor did he seek false humility in denying it.  Likewise, we should know our virtues and our faults, acknowledging the former as gifts of God and the latter as work in progress.

·         We should humble ourselves.  If our Lord and Savior did not refrain from becoming one of us—and poor at that—then what service is so menial that we could say we are above it?

·         Our motive for this must be love;  it would not do to become very proud of how humble we (think we) are.

·         Christ was willing to bear death on the Cross, a criminal's execution.  What suffering, therefore, should we refuse?

Paul then uses the word, "therefore."  Because Christ was willing to all this, God has exalted him.  Will God not do the same for us, in the measure with which we display the attitude of Christ?

·         If we strive to know ourselves honestly, acknowledging our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive.

·         If we humble ourselves, it is written that God himself will lift us up.

·         If we love one another, and show this in service, God will reward us—and the world will know we belong to Christ.

·         If we bear our sufferings with the thought that we are not called on to bear what Christ did, then his example and God's comfort will sustain us in time of need.


Father, we know that we cannot of our own efforts equal Christ—but we can take up his attitude.  Help us to do as He did, knowing our faults, humbling ourselves, loving each other, seeking your comfort in suffering.  Lift us up, Father, so that we may see you.


January 21

Prayer of Intercession

Genesis 18:20-32


This passage appears to be the first solemn prayer recorded in the Bible.  Abraham, the patriarch, pleads with God.  It would seem to be a difficult argument;  they're discussing the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.  The names even today bring up an image of total corruption and wickedness.

But there are lessons for us in this prayer.  Abraham sets an example for us. 

·         First, do you see the compassion Abraham has?  It would be easy to have simply said, "Well, that's God's will."  But his compassion rises and he must speak out.

·         Next, consider what an example of earnestness Abraham gives us.  Again and again he pleads with the living God, asking for deliverance.

·         Consider too the basis of his pleading.  It is not on the basis of any favors he thinks God owes him.  It is certainly not on the basis of any sympathy for the wicked.  Abraham knows that God is not going to listen to a plea for an "alternative lifestyle."  If not based upon Abraham's character, nor the character of the wicked, then what?  His plea is based entirely upon the nature of God.

God is righteous.  Abraham pleads God's own character, asking him to spare the city for the sake of those who do not deserve to be extinguished.  We should examine our prayers in this light. 

·         Do we intercede from compassion, or from a sense of duty, or just because they're on the prayer list?  Does love drive our prayers?

·         Do we pray earnestly, putting our hearts into it, or are we content with the sweet minute-and-a-half of prayer?

·         Do we come to God on the basis of our works, or our position in the church, or out of a sense that God owes me something—or do we plead with him on the basis of his character?

One more thing:  this earnestness comes from a very important fact:  Abraham expected God to act.  This was no theoretical discussion to set up a minimum number of righteous people in a city.  Abraham expected God to act.  


Lord, help us to intercede based upon your righteousness, shown at the Cross.


January 22

The Price of Obedience

Isaiah 50:5-6


It is a curious fact.  The Sovereign Lord, the ruler of the universe, sent his Holy One to us—and we rejected him.  The officials of the day, the religious and government leaders, treated him with scorn, beat him bloody and then crucified him.  One wonders:  why is it that this Jesus did not meet with immediate, universal acceptance?

Perhaps it is this:  no prophet comes without suffering.  Isaiah knew that.  In his prophetic eye he shows us here the suffering that the Messiah would endure.  But he does so from a prophet's perspective.

·         He makes it clear:  his words are those that come from God.  The Sovereign Lord is the one who opened his ears and poured into them his thought and vision.

·         Therefore, we should not add or subtract from the word of God.  His prophets brought his word;  we should not tamper with it.

Isaiah identifies for us the two reactions that many have to the call of God.

·         Some are rebellious.  Remember Jonah?  He was on that boat because he was running away from God.  When God calls your name, do you reject him this way?

·         Some simply draw back.  God asks for volunteers;  we take two steps backward—just to make it clear what we aren't.  Not that we're arguing with God; we're just not quite ready to jump on board yet.  Not while we can backpedal.

The true man of God does neither of these things.  Like Isaiah, he says, "Here am I; send me."  No doubt Isaiah felt the tug of rebellion and the laziness of sloth. 

Either of those would be fatal to a prophet's ministry—for the prophet is going to see adversity and suffering.  Sometimes this is physical suffering;  sometimes suffering in the mind.  But we need to be prepared:  we need to count the cost.  We need to know the price of obedience.


Lord, open our eyes.  Let us see that our journey through this world is not a sheltered one, but one which will require strength.  Give us that strength, Lord, and work in our hearts so that we will be willing to use that strength for you.  Keep us from rebellion; keep us from drawing back;  keep us serving you.


January 23


John 6:5-6


Have you ever known a student who enjoyed tests?  Neither have I.

Our reaction to testing in school pretty much sums up our attitude towards testing in life:  we'd just as soon do without it.  Each of us can remember our school days.  How much was at stake with each test we took!  If I flunk this, I'll be grounded for life plus twenty years!  Do you remember the feeling in your stomach when the teacher announced a "pop quiz?" 

Our attitude towards testing misses the point.  Life is full of tests, most of them mandatory.  If we continue in anxiety and worry about life's tests, we do not have the peace of our Lord.

It is useful to look at tests from the other side:  the teacher's point of view.

·         Tests can actually give a student confidence!  When a student discovers that he really does know the subject, so much worry is erased.

·         Tests keep the student prepared.  In football they call it practice—and without practice you don't play in the game. 

·         Tests also tell the student what is, and is not, important.  If it's on the test, it must be important.

The Christian view is very similar.

·         Testing builds you up, giving you confidence—both in yourself and in your Lord.

·         Testing is also used to ready you for a purpose.

·         Testing keeps you ready—for our Lord's return!

Jesus knew what he was going to do;  he wanted Philip to stretch and grow.  Philip, like many of us, raises the difficulties.  Our Lord then shows him the right answer:  with God, all things are possible.


Lord, we don't like being tested.  We ask for deliverance from temptation;  we also ask deliverance from suffering, pain and strife.  We know that you use our trials to strengthen us.  It isn't clear to us why you give us particular trials;  give us the faith to know that you do.  Give us the faith to trust you in this;  give us the faith to accept our trials as preparation and that which makes us better suited for your purposes. 

In all things, Lord, let us acknowledge your way as perfect—and reach to pass the test, and become the instruments of your hand.


January 24

Evangelistic Advice

1 Peter 3:15-16


Nothing so irritates non-Christians like a button-holing evangelist.  To be minding your own business and then be interrupted by what appears to be some madman trying to litter the landscape with holy tracts is extremely irritating.  If you don't think so, remember the last time you met a Jehovah's Witness.

Peter here gives us the opposite advice.  He begins by telling us to stay on the main point:  the reason for our hope.  It is a fact that Christian ethics share many things with other systems.  The Resurrection is unique, and in that we have our hope.  It is just that which we need to be able to defend.  How do you know that Christ is risen from the dead?  Just how do you know that this Christianity works?

The evidence

It surprises some Christians to know that the evidence for the faith is quite robust.  Each must prepare his own defense, but here are some points to consider:

·         First, there is the historical evidence.

·         Second, consider the man Jesus presented in the Gospels.  He claims to be God;  is this reasonable?

·         You also have the change in the lives of those you know.  This is one reason for purity in our lives;  it is living evidence of the faith.

·         Most important of all is you.  You are the expert witness on what Christ has done for you.  If the Resurrection lives in you, your life should show it.

All too briefly, there is the message.  But we must also consider the method of delivery:

·         Note that this is for "everyone who asks" - not everyone you can corner.

·         It is to be delivered with gentleness and respect.  Gentleness, for God is love;  respect, for the hearer is God's child.

The witness of your mouth should be confirmed in the witness of your life.  If they laugh at you, let the facts show them wrong.


Lord, we are often timid in proclaiming your name.  You do not require each of us to stand in the pulpit;  you ask each of us to be a witness.  May our lives testify that you live in us by the power of the Holy Spirit.  May we conquer your enemies by bringing them to become your friends.


January 25


Matthew 11:25-26


There is a certain style to detective fiction, particularly English (as opposed to American) detective fiction.  Bodies are always tidily disposed of;  the detective waits until the last chapter to unmask the villain;  and of course the brilliant deductions by which he discovers the villain are displayed—with the usual effect that the reader had no clue.  The detective then declares it "elementary."

There is some air of that here.  The word "mystery" in the Bible means something which has been hidden, but we may take the concept in the modern sense.  Just as the detective writer hides the key evidence in a basket of red herrings, so God has hidden the mystery of his will.  You think not?  There are thousands of books concerning the Revelation, most of which disagree with the others.  Here again we see God hiding something from the wise—but revealing it to those who are simple.  It is God's way of letting you know that this is truly from him.

Indeed, it is revealed to "little children" (other translations have "babes" or "infants").  This tells us that the message is simple, but cannot be understood until it is revealed.

For this, Christ praises the Father.  It is fitting to do that, for the Incarnate Word is the message of the Father.  In so doing, he tells us that it was God's "good pleasure" to do so.  The phrase is used in the New Testament only with reference to revealing his will.    It is a phrase of condescension, of the great revealing to the poor.

This too is fitting.  For as our Lord points out, the Father is "Lord of Heaven and Earth."  We sometimes forget that.  We become accustomed to the gentle Jesus and omit the power of the Father, the Creator.  But is it not an awesome thought that God's plan, by which he shows his love to us, was his will from the beginning?

The Creator of all things loves us so much that He sent his Son to die for us.  More than that:  this was His plan from the beginning.  This is the measure of God's love—for all time.


Lord, we know that we do not deserve the love you have shown us.  It is by your power you made the universe, and by your love you have saved us from our sins.  May we imitate your love and always know your power.  Keep us mindful that we did not discover you;  you revealed yourself to us.  We must share this revelation with others, Lord;  give us courage to do that.  We thank you and praise you for this surpassing mystery, revealed to your children in your Son.


January 26


Colossians 3:16


Paul uses an unusual phrase here:  "the word of Christ."  The "word of God" occurs frequently;  this phrase but twice.  It its other use it refers to the word delivered by an evangelist;  so we may take this as referring to the essentials of the faith.

We are told that we should have this word of Christ "dwell richly" in our hearts.

·         "Dwell" means to take up residence.  But we also use the word to mean "to linger on a subject."  It is to be something that lives in us, and that we pay lengthy attention.

·         "Richly" - not just putting in the time to read, but letting the joy be savored, the wisdom to steep in our minds. 

The word of Christ is to be savored in our hearts, not hurried through.  It is fine dining, not fast food.

How are we to do this?  Paul gives us two methods.  The first is in teaching and admonishment.  Any teacher of the Scripture knows that preparation for teaching instructs the instructor.  Before you walk into the classroom you have already profited greatly.  Often enough, your students will see new insights, and you profit more.

But what about those who have no gift for teaching?  We are also told to admonish one another.  Bring to your fellow Christian's mind that particular verse of Scripture which is a word "fitly spoken" in time of need.  Few of us are teachers; most of us are friends.

His second method: sing.  We are to sing all sorts of spiritual works.  From Bach to contemporary, music lifts the soul in praise;  praise rolls naturally into gratitude.  "Give thanks with a grateful heart."

How does this work?  Athanasius explained it to us long ago.  Singing requires not only the full effort of your body (try singing through pushups), but also your heart;  not just your heart, but your mind;  not just your mind, but your spirit.  So it is that in singing praise to God you use every bit of you.  The whole human being is committed to praising God;  it is as close to heaven as you can get on this earth.


Lord, there is joy in singing praise to you.  A grateful heart is best kept in song.  You have given us words of wisdom in the Scripture;  help us to know when it is fitting to share them with our friends.  May we know the joy of praise for all our days, until you come again with all the chorus.


January 27

In All Things

1 Peter 4:11


Peter, in this section, gives out a number of one sentence words of warning.  Here is a particularly serious one:  if you're going to open your mouth, do it as if you were carrying the words of God to your hearer. 

This is not just about teaching, though it applies to that.  We, the members of Christ's body, are to deliver the words of God to the world.  We sometimes forget that people see us as being close to God—and our words should reflect that fact.  It is not that our words are inspired (in the sense the Scripture is); it is that we are responsible for being God's people in what we do—and what we say.

Words are accompanied by service, or should be.  We are told to serve in the strength God gives us.  It is a common sight in the church:  someone who continues to minister when the endurance of all others has given out.  This is the strength given by God.  It enables us to do what others can not.  This is not miraculous;  it is simply a case of "God's supply for God's needs."  If you are tasked with listening to someone clack on, you will be given the endurance needed. 

The result is for the glory of God:

·         First, that in "all things" God might be praised.  It is easy to praise him in the miraculous.  It takes more practice to praise him in the daily grind.

·         Next, it is the praise of God—not the thinly veiled solicitation of the praise of men.

·         Finally, it is done through Jesus Christ, indeed, through his body on earth, the Church.

Peter cannot leave this thought without a doxology.  "To him be the glory and power forever, Amen."  We sometimes lose sight of the Awesome God in the daily cycle of chores and woes.  We should reflect upon his glory and power, knowing that we serve the Awesome God who created all things.  He enables our service, blesses it and rewards it. 


Lord, we know that you are the Awesome God;  help us to remember that fact in the tedium of the day.  Keep us mindful that we are handling holy, sacred things when we speak on your behalf.  Encourage our works with your power;  may we always praise you for the strength you give us.  Indeed, to you belong the glory and the power forever, Amen.


January 28

Weak Faith?

Romans 14:1-4


One mark of a good leader is this:  he defends his people.  No outsider can criticize them—which doesn't mean that they're beyond criticism.  It just means that the leader is responsible for them;  others have no such right.

Paul puts the matter in much the same light here.  When we see our fellow Christian doing something of which we do not approve, we have two choices:

·         We can pass judgment upon them.  Often done in a pious attitude, this provokes anger.  Rarely does the other person change;  often does the anger harden into principle.

·         We can accept them.  Note that we are not called on for approval;  acceptance is asked.

With all the warnings of the Gospels, why is this so hard?  Perhaps it is this:  we are warned in this concerning "disputable matters."  So often we transpose "I believe it" with "God said it."  I believe all things which God has said.  That does not mean that all the things I believe are divinely spoken.

Indeed, the matter can become quite serious.  Despite the plain language of the passage, we frequently think of a person who has added dozens of "thou shalt nots" to the Scripture as being a pious, wonderful soul who has clearly thought out matters, standing firmly on principle.  In fact, Paul makes it clear:  that's weak faith.  The one with all the rules is the weaker brother.

Does it matter?  Only if that weaker brother passes judgment—or, as we have it here, looks down upon the other.  To do so is to dispute the judgment of God—because God has accepted that person.  In so doing, He has deprived us of the privilege of judgment.  It belongs to God, and we are not to take it from him.

Indeed, is it not rather comical—we invent rules and regulations (with the best intentions) and then advise the Almighty that anyone who does not follow them is clearly to be judged.  Let judgment belong to God;  he needs none of our regulations for it.


Lord, it is so easy to assume that our rules are your will.  Teach us to rightly handle your Scriptures so that we know the difference.  Let us be trained in handling your word so that we keep it apart in our hearts as something holy.  Forgive us where we have applied our regulations to another Christian;  help us to forgive those who do it to us.  Let this forgiveness bring joy and harmony, destroying the division in your disciples.   


January 29

Press On

Philippians 3:12-16


There us a very deadly heresy in the church today.  It goes by many names, but let's call it "moderation."  Moderation, properly understood, is a virtue.  If your life is completely devoted to Jesus Christ, then all other things must (logically) be done in moderation.  So it is we teach moderation in such things as alcohol and sex;  but the same principle applies to motorcycles, model trains and knitting.  None of these are necessarily evil;  all can be a barrier to Christ unless exercised in moderation.

Our world (and many in the church) would have the same thing done with our devotion to Christ.  But do you not see that this is the one thing to which it cannot apply?  Your devotion to Christ sets all the rest of your life in the right proportions.  It is the ruling devotion of the Christian.  It therefore cannot be limited.

If it is limited, then we find serious difficulty.  You would not be pleased if your bullet went only half way to the target.  No, you would want it to strike in the bull's-eye.  Paul says much the same here.  He is headed toward the goal which God has placed before him.  How must we proceed?

·         We need to "take hold" of what God shows us.  This must be the ruling devotion.

·         We must forget the past.  We cannot live a perfect life;  we can only perfect that which is left to us.

·         We must strain towards the future.  There is no retirement in this race.

·         We must not go backwards;  rather, our successes of yesterday become the foundation of higher goals tomorrow.

God has called us to win a prize, laid up in heaven.  But we must complete the course first.  Paul calls this a mature view.  Indeed, it is the measure of our Christian maturity:  how well do we realize we cannot quit yet, and we cannot go back?

This is hard.  Because it is a mature view, some of us don't have it yet.  You need not worry about it;  as you mature, God will make it clear to you.


Gracious Father, keep us mindful of the race we run.  Encourage us as we become mature so that we will finish the course you have laid out for us.  May we look back upon our attainments and see them not as laurels to rest on but steps which we have climbed.  Do not let the memories of yesterday's failures burden our race;  help us to run unburdened by guilt.


January 30

False Teachers

2 Peter 2:17-22


There are a pair of drinking fountains in the hall outside our classroom.  One is placed rather low, for small children.  The other is at normal height.  The low one works;  the high one does not.  But they both look like drinking fountains.  So adults come up to them and almost always start with the higher fountain.  There is a sigh of irritation, and the crackle of knees and backs getting down to first grade level.

The false teachers Peter refers to here are like that.  They appear to be a convenient place to find the water of life.  But when we bend to partake, the fountain is dry.  We must go on, to a fountain which appears to be less convenient—but at least it's wet.  The false teacher always has the initial advantage; after all, he's not limited by either the facts or the truth.

Do you think that this is not a problem at our church?  Think again.  One of the symptoms of false teaching is that it makes its appeal to the lustful nature of sinners.  Well do I remember when our pastor said, from the pulpit:  "Sex outside of marriage is wrong."  You could hear a pin drop.  The audience was quite embarrassed that the preacher would take so old-fashioned a view.  Where did they get the opposite idea?

Such teachers promise you "freedom."  But let's understand what freedom means.  If you tie me up and deposit me at the top of Mount Everest, and then untie the ropes, I am still not free.  Just frozen.  To be free means to be able to do what God designed you to do, be what He designed you to be.

There is the telltale sign.  These teachers go back to the sinful life which they first left at the church door.  The church has too long tolerated the intolerable:  teaching which pronounces sin as an "alternate lifestyle."  Look at the results of such;  sex outside of marriage, for example.  It is not "liberating", it is devastating to the marriage and the home the marriage is building.  When will God's church say, "Enough!"

For those who think I'm crazy, please read this passage again.  It would be better for you not to have known Jesus, than to have turned your back on his "obsolete" teaching.


Lord, grant us generous hearts to go with clear minds.  Deliver us from the temptations which are brought within the church.  Give us a spirit of faithfulness to your Word.  Give us wisdom to know the false from the true, the wolves from your sheep.


January 31


Mark 4:12-20


Roses, if they are to look their loveliest, must be pruned.  But all who prune them know that roses have thorns.  Over the years we have purchased a number of "thorn proof" gloves, none of which are in fact proof against thorns.  It seems impossible to keep them from sticking you.

The thorns of Palestine do not even have the benefit of beautiful flowers.  Since ancient times they have been considered, both practically and metaphorically, a nuisance of little use.  They are often a metaphor for evil;  or for painful nuisance—we recall St. Paul's "thorn in the flesh," by which God taught him that God's grace is sufficient.  It is the only reference to thorns in the Bible which seems remotely useful.  The Arabs gather them as a replacement for firewood;  this is seen as having the double value of eliminating a pest and heating the coffee at the same time.

Thorns have an interesting characteristic:  usually, you only notice them when you are reaching for something else.  Your own strength drives the thorn into your flesh.  Our Lord identifies three such "reaches" here:

·         First are the worries of this life.  We often think of them happening to us—but a worry must be reached for, if only to push it away.

·         Next is the deceitfulness of riches.  We reach for the roses of wealth and take the thorns of greed and envy.

·         Finally, there are the desires for other things—the lusts and gluttonies of our minds.  Again, we do the reaching.  If we left them alone, we would not be pierced.

What shall we do with these thorns?  There is only one place in all of Scripture where we see any good from thorns—on the brow of Christ.  By the wounds of his crown of thorns came the blood which cleanses us from all sin.  There is the place you may safely leave your thorns!  Cast the cares of this world on him;  his yoke is easy, for his blood has already been shed for us.  Lighten your load;  put your thorns on Him.


Lord, great is your love for us!  May we never allow your word to be crowded out by the cares of this world.   Help us to cast our cares on you, weaving our worries into a crown for your brow.  When you return, we know you will bring that crown of thorns with you—made new, as all things will be.  Then we shall see that crown of thorns become the crown of life.

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