Welcome to Becomning Closer! 



July 1

Body Building

Colossians 2:6-12


A common sight in my childhood was the comic book.  Frowned on by teachers and parents, we read them anyway.  My parents thought us too young and impressionable for such things.  One other person who thought us young and impressionable was Charles Atlas—the body builder.  He must have sold millions of copies of his method.  So why, then, were there any 90 pound weaklings left in the country?

Simple:  they bought, they started—but did not persist.  Much the same is said here.  Paul says, in essence, you bought the book—now live it, be rooted in it so that you might be built up.   The result is not punching out the bully; the result is a Christian life so successful that it is filled with thankfulness.  Why?  Because Christ's method works.

Of course, you must beware of imitators.  The truth can always be imitated by those who promise the same results with much less effort.  How do you tell the real from the fake?

·         First, this world's approach has two characteristics you can see—if you look.  It is hollow;  it's a surface only program.

·         It's also deceptive, because it relies on the principles of the world.  Two things you will quickly see.  First, you will see some tradition or other involved.  Next, you will see this world's principles.  Someone is doing it for money, ego or pleasure.

"But wait a minute," you say.  "How do I know that Christianity isn't just another form of mumbo-jumbo spiritualism?"  Good question.  The answer is simple:  Jesus Christ.  Everyone else has to have a guru to give them wisdom.  Jesus delivers wisdom almost as a side point;  the main point is redemption.  In him you see redemption from sin;  in him you see the fullness of God Almighty.

The starting point is baptism.  This, after all, is a ritual which is necessary but hardly produces a finished Christian (if there ever is such a thing.)  It is the good start;  it portrays to you and all who see that you have faith in the power of God.  It is that power that raised Jesus from the dead—and He will raise you, too, if you continue in his way and teaching.  You've bought the book;  now, work those exercises.  The real thing is waiting to happen to you.


Father, we are sometimes so persistent about the wrong things.  In your mercy help us to persist in growth in Christ.


July 2

The Way, The Truth, The Life

John 14:6-14


The concept of the Trinity is, admittedly, one of the great puzzles of Christianity.  A slight clue is given to us in this passage.  The disciples are not, by and large, great philosophers.  They believe in what they see, however.  So you will notice that Peter, James and John (who saw the Transfiguration) are not asking the questions.  They may not know the answers, but after that mountain top, they know there is more to it than can be put in words.  Jesus' long explanation of his relationship with the Father tells us two things:

·         If you look for it, you can see signs that Christ is inferior to the Father.

·         If you look for it, you can see signs that Christ is equal to the Father.

So which is it?

It depends on why you're asking.  So let's take it down to basics.  Whatever else is going on, Jesus is the one with the answer to the great question:  How do I get from here to God?

·         Jesus is the way.  We think of "way" as a path, or perhaps some exercise routine you practice.  But look at it in nautical terms:  we say a ship is "under way" when moving at speed.  When under way, a ship can only go where the rudder points.  And everything on board goes that direction, also.  Jesus is that way.

·         Jesus is the truth.  We think of truth in a couple of ways.  In one sense, it's a way of thinking that "holds water."  It's consistent.  We can also think of it as the solution to a mystery;  we finally found out the truth.  Jesus is both of these;  utterly consistent and the explanation of all—what you need to know to reach the Father, He is.

·         Jesus is the life.  Sometimes we say that a person should "get a life."  Jesus is the life you should get.  Sometimes we speak of someone who "lived a good life."  Jesus is the life you should live.

The world tells us that all religions are equally true.  Hear, then:  this is false.  If Jesus is the way, truth and life (and other religions false guides), then he is the only way.  What evidence is there for this?  He Is Risen—and from there the facts will argue themselves.


Lord, may we follow your way, in your truth, receiving your life eternal.  We trust in you;  increase our faith.


July 3

Changing of the Guard

Acts 20:27-31


At Arlington, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, there is a regular, clock work changing of the guard.  With great precision the new unit relieves the old.  The ceremony is usually well attended;  it is considered a tourist attraction.

The ceremony dates to the days when a changing of the guard was part of a soldier's normal duties.  The formality of the exchange ensured that there was no doubt as to who was responsible.  In a real sense, this passage describes a changing of the guard, too.

Paul begins by reminding them that for three years he shepherded these people.  His charge to the new shepherds is to behave as he did:

·         He taught them without hesitation

·         He taught them the whole will of God.

That combination still works today.

With that example in mind, he lists their duties.  The first of those surprises some people;  it is to keep watch over yourself.  It seems unrelated, but in things eternal this is not so.  We will see why. 

That being done, they are then to be the shepherds of the flock.  The word "shepherd" brings up an image of a rugged man in the wilderness, tireless and caring.  This is an accurate image of the true church leader.

One thing must always be foremost in mind:  this is not "my church" in the sense I say, "my car."  It is the church of Jesus Christ, who bought her with his blood.  As he redeemed her, the shepherd must be faithful—the whole will of God, without hesitation.

We can now see why it is necessary for leaders to keep watch over themselves.  For not only will the church be attacked from outside, but we will discover that some of our worst enemies will come from our own leadership.  Even Jesus had to deal with Judas Iscariot.  The leader must mind his own heart, soul, mind and strength so that they are always in accord with God's will.

Other passages contain lists of qualifications for deacons and elders;  their duties are prescribed throughout the New Testament.  Here we see the leader passing on to the next generation those thoughts which are of utmost importance.  It is still true;  our worst enemies come from within.


Lord, we ask that your favor rest upon our leaders.  Grant that they will keep watch over themselves as well as us.


July 4

Only One Question

Luke 22:67-71


There is a recurring myth among those who will not believe.  They will tell you that Jesus never claimed to be God.  If you encounter that, point them to this passage.  There are two things clear from it:

·         He clearly, at risk of his life, proclaimed himself to be the Son of God.

·         Those around him, who most clearly understood what that would mean, convicted him of blasphemy.

Not blasphemy in the foul language sense.  Blasphemy in the sense of putting your words in God's mouth. 

It is still true today.  You cannot say that Jesus of Nazareth was merely a good teacher who said some neat things (in King James English, of course).  He left you only three options:

·         You may, of course, presume him a liar.  If so, he was the greatest con artist in history.  But please explain why he went so willingly to his execution.

·         You may also presume him to be a lunatic.  If so, then Hitler and Stalin were modest and meek and completely sane.

·         You may conclude that he is exactly who he said he is:  the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God;  God in the flesh.

Despite the logic of the options, many people feel (and that is the right verb) that something else would be just fine with God.

·         Some sit on the fence.  If I keep myself ignorant, and refuse to decide, surely that would be OK. 

·         Some invent their own religion.  They ignore what He said, and substitute their feelings instead. 

There is one slight problem with all these man-made alternatives.  If you fit here, then you do not love Jesus (or God the Father) with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  If you have no love for him, and stubbornly refuse to change, just how should God treat you?

The true Christian loves God.  In this act the Christian is in sublime imitation of God, for God is love.  As you become more like him, your love for him grows.  This is the maturing faith.

It all starts with a decision.  You must ask the supreme question:  "Who is this Jesus?"  Heaven and hell hang upon the answer.


Lord, so often we long for the ease of a shallow faith.  Forgive us;  show us that in you the depths of our souls are revealed.


July 5

Boiling Water

Mark 5:38-43


It is a cliché in the movies.  The country doctor, now called upon to perform anything from incredibly delicate surgery to (most commonly) delivering a baby, turns to the nearest male and tells him to boil water.  Lots of water.  (The oldest instance of this technique with which I'm acquainted is John Ford's classic western, Stagecoach.)

During my college years I worked on a small ranch as cowboy, gofer, muscle power (and anything else) to a retired doctor.  I asked him about this;  why do doctors always tell that guy to boil lots of water.  His answer:  "It keeps them occupied and out of your hair until you're done."  So now you know why.

As the doctor in the movies can generally deal with any medical problems, boiling water or no, so we see Jesus here doing something rather similar.  He takes along his three closest disciples and the parents of the girl and performs a most remarkable miracle.  The young girl is dead, as far as the world is concerned.  But from the point of view of Jesus, the Son of God, she is not dead;  merely asleep.  He "awakens" her.  The same verb is used of Lazarus, for example.

There is what appears to be one trivial point at the end of this passage.  He tells the girl's parents to get her something to eat.  This may be to show that she is not only raised from the dead but also cured of whatever killed her in the first place.

There is, however, a subtle point to this.  Jesus of Nazareth is the one who fed the five thousand;  he could certainly have arranged a banquet for the girl.  But he does not.  He hands the problem over to the parents—so that they will do what they can do.

Perhaps, as you read through the Bible, you begin to daydream and say, "Wouldn't it be great if I could heal this sick?  Raise the dead?"  I think it would be great if I could!  But God has not obliged me in that.  Instead, he shows me examples like this.  The parents feel helpless in the presence of their daughter's corpse.  Jesus raises her—and then gives them some part to play, so that they might know that they have such a part. 

It is still true today.  Jesus does his mighty works and we stand amazed.  But if we stand there long enough, Jesus will find something for us to do.  Even if it's only the task of boiling water—lots of water.


Lord, our eyes are so fixed on your power and glory that we forget that we have duties as well.  Teach us to "boil water", too.


July 6


1 Thessalonians 4:13-15


"Never lose your ignorance.  It's irreplaceable."

Erich Maria Remarque


That, at least, is the world's view.  "Ignorance is bliss" we say.  But is it really?  I submit that ignorance is more often the cause of worry and anxiety than of bliss.

·         You feel this horrible pain in your chest.  Is it indigestion?  Stomach acid backing up on you?  You hope so.  But how to you like the worry?  How soon will you take an antacid?

·         The company is making "financial adjustments."  Will you be fired?  Asked to take a cut in salary?

·         Your daughter is out on a date—and overdue home.  How much worry runs through your mind?

If this, then, is the worry that is common to mortal man in this life, how much more will come as you contemplate death?  It is for this reason that the funeral of a non-Christian has such a completely different atmosphere than our funerals.

We are given here the cure for the problem.  Paul lays it out quite simply.  Evidently there had been some "loose doctrine" floating around due to such ignorance, and Paul fixes that problem. 

As our Lord has not returned, his teaching is still of value to us.

·         He begins by using a verb translated here as "falling asleep."  It's a reminder that God takes a different view.  It also reminds us of his coming—for sleep comes to an end.

·         We know that we are "alive in Christ." We have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit..  One function of the Spirit is to provide us with the guarantee of the Resurrection.

·         So then, if we "fall asleep" while we are alive in Christ, we are still living in Christ, for he is eternal.

·         And, should you desire the evidence, I only need point you to the Resurrection of Christ. 

That last is important.  If you call yourself a Christian, but do not trust in the fact that Jesus died, was buried and by the power of God raised from the dead, then you deceive yourself; you are not really a Christian.  But if you do believe, then the Resurrection is the proof that God can raise the dead—and will.


Lord, we know that you rose from the dead.  Grant then that we may see that so clearly we see your return—and our resurrection.


July 7

Took Him At His Word

John 4:46-53


Dietrich Bonhoeffer once made a very astute observation.  All of us know that only those who believe in God obey him.  But did you know that the reverse is true?  Only those who obey him can believe in him.

You think not?  Take another look at this little story.  Put yourself in the official's position for a moment.  You've come some distance to talk with this teacher;  the matter is the most urgent one possible as far as you are concerned.  And what is the man's reaction to your pleading?  "Unless you people see signs and wonders you will never believe." 

Now, that may seem as nothing more than simple observation on the part of Jesus.  He was not at all impressed with the city of Capernaum.  But from the official viewpoint, well—this guy has done exactly one miracle.  Maybe he thought Jesus was much too cocky.  Maybe he was just desperate.  Maybe it doesn't matter how many miracles he's done.  The man asks.

If he didn't think Jesus was cocky before, he's bound to think so now.  "You can go.  Your son will live."  On the one hand you'd think it would take at least a personal visit.  On the other hand, you have just been dismissed.  It's time to make a choice.

You could argue with him;  you could go away thinking the guy is nuts.  But he didn't.  He "took Jesus at his word." 

Taking Jesus at his word!  In short, the ruler looked at the man, sized him up and thought, "Well, at least he means what he says."  You might call that faith.  But look what the Scripture teaches us!  The man went on his way home.  He is met by servants bringing the good news that his son is well—and was cured at the moment Jesus spoke.  Then the man believes.

It's still like that today.  So many of us have what we think is a deep faith—until the point of trusting God for something.  That is faith indeed. 

There is a curious rhythm to this experience.  Action precedes belief.  But as soon as the man trusts Jesus—and acts upon that trust, Jesus acts.  Is there something in your life today which needs that same action?  If your Lord tells you to do something, step out and do it.  Your faith may be like that mustard seed, but who knows better how to increase that faith.  Don't hesitate;  don't argue, just do it. 


Lord, how often we proclaim to each other that we have faith—with no action.  Teach us, Lord, to take you at your word.


July 8

First Born

1 Corinthians 15:20-25


The early Christians lived in a society which had large cities—but definite agricultural roots.  Particularly for those who were Jewish Christians, the concept of first fruits was one they were familiar with.  First fruits were often part of a harvest sacrifice, and were offered at a joyous time.  Consider:

·         First fruits were the most anticipated of harvests.  All through the long winter they yearned for that first crop in the spring.  Imagine what it must have been like;  six months without an apple, for instance—then the first crop. 

·         For precisely that reason, first fruits were considered the best—and used for sacrifices.  Because they valued them so highly, God claimed them as harvest sacrifices.

·         Those sacrifices fed the priests of God.  Is it not interesting that they get the first fruits—not the leftovers?

Now, let us extend that example to the return of Jesus Christ—the first fruits of the resurrection to come:

·         Anticipated?  No future event in human history has had as much written about it as the return of Jesus Christ.  There are entire libraries on the subject.  The ancient church had amongst its prayers, "Even so, Lord Jesus, come."

·         Considered the best?  In every way!  The prophetic books of the Bible, Old Testament and New, tell us that his return will usher in a time when he will "make all things new."  Nothing else comes close.

·         And what about the recipients?  Those who receive his coming with joy will not be given anything less that the best.  Those in the book of Life will be rewarded by their Lord, who knows all things and has authority over them.

How does all this come about?  By the power, authority and action of Jesus Christ.  He himself is described here as first fruits.  We see him as the Atonement;  the great sacrifice.  So he is;  but he is also the first fruit of the resurrection to come.  When he returns, we shall be like him, our mortal bodies transformed into bodies like his own.  This is the style of God.  He draws us a picture of sin coming through one man, Adam.  His new picture will come through the new Adam, Christ.


Lord, our minds cannot see the glory of the new creation.  Teach us, then, to see your glory now.


July 9

Travel Snobs

Hebrews 4:14-16


It appears that one of the major functions of travel is to inform those about you just how marvelous it is to have been to wherever.  It is not sufficient to have gone some place;  you must come back with the "right" souvenirs.  The trend is so obvious that there are now T-shirts that proclaim, "Been there.  Done that.  Bought the T-shirt."  Why spend all that money to go there if you don't come back with something the neighbors will notice?

Travel, today, seems easy.  Money seems sufficient, so the tourist business booms.  But have you traveled to the one destination God recommends?  It is the throne of grace.  There are no T-shirts;  for this is not a place to take your money and give you an "experience."  On the contrary, this place takes your experience and removes the guilt and pain from it. 

The trip is not without risk—definitely not for the timid.  Indeed, we must "come boldly unto the throne of grace," as the old King James put it.  Courage is required;  courage to go the throne of the ruler of the universe—and ask him for forgiveness, grace.  Who would have the courage to do such a bold thing?

God knows the need;  he has provided a way.  We have a guide with us, Jesus Christ.  He has walked the same planet we have, understands our hopes and fears, our desires and dreads.  He's been through temptation and trial, as we have, and has overcome them all.  With him, your path is sure.  Without him, you will never find your way.

Souvenirs?  The word itself comes from the French;  it means "to remember" - hence our use as things of memory.  But in this case, we bring our souvenirs—our pains, our sins, our defects—and leave them there.  Our travels here include luggage, which we "lug" about.  A trip to the throne of grace rids us of excess baggage.

What do we take back with us?  Grace.  Forgiveness.  Help.  A lighter load in the burdens of life.  We come back with peace.  We come back with joy.  We come back with hope.

The trip has already been arranged.  The fare has been paid, in full, at Calvary.  The only thing lacking now is the willing, humble heart.


Lord, of all things difficult, giving up pride is the most.  But we know the road to the throne of grace can only be traveled by the humble.  Grant us two hands:  one hand in your hand, so we will know the way;  the other reaching to all who are willing to come.


July 10


Time After Time

Psalm 78:19-39


There is a recurring theme throughout the Old Testament.  It's almost like watching the cycle of the seasons, it is that predictable. 

·         First, the people of Israel become obstinate with God.  Their attitude resembles "What have you done for me lately?"  Nothing in the past will do.

·         So God delivers them—and does so in an unmistakable way.  He puts them to shame with the power of his deliverance.

·         The Israelites "repent" - that is, they lie to him about being loyal to him. 

·         God ultimately answers this with punishment.

·         And at the end, he shows his great mercy to them.  He remembers that we are only flesh and blood.

In so doingGod refined the people of Israel.  Each time through the cycle he saved a remnant for himself.  Those who survive begin the process anew.

In the midst of this Psalm is a punishment that God uses.  It is almost obscured by the rest of the Psalm, but it shows the true terror of defying the living God.  It is found in verse 33:

"So he ended their days in futility,

                their years in terror."

This is, for an old man, a horrifying punishment.  It creeps up on you slowly.  As you age, you realize that God will not permit you to see your dreams come true;  rather, he will hem you in with increasing terror.  As you grow older, you find yourself working in futility.  It does not matter what you do;  what you do makes no difference in the world.  You may be rich; but your wealth will go to another.  Perhaps you are wise;  your wisdom will die with you.  God has decided;  you will end your days in futility. 

And as the days go by, all those things you counted on to be your comfort in old age—they fail you as well.  You may not go broke;  you may indeed be rich.  But when were riches a barrier to the slow march of disease and death?

Christian, do you really think God reigns?  If you do, commit your hopes and dreams to him—and keep faith with him.  Do not doubt his word but say, "I believe—help thou my unbelief."


Lord, we have but one life on this planet until you come again.  May our deeds be those which end in glory, not futility.


July 11


Romans 4:17-25


A story is told about Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy LaSorda.  He was not satisfied with the performance of one of his pitchers, a young Orel Hersheiser.  Tommy thought him lacking in the necessary aggressiveness needed to make him into a dominant pitcher. 

His solution was unorthodox—but it worked.  He nicknamed the kid, "Bulldog."  It seemed completely inappropriate, but he insisted that all the staff call him that;  soon the players did too.  Hersheiser soon became the bulldog they named him, and went on to have an outstanding career.

God is sometimes like that.  Here Paul describes God as the one who "calls things that are not as if they were."  In fact, it seems he delights in doing so.  Remember Gideon?  The angel hailed him as "mighty warrior."  Gideon at the time didn't quite see it that way.

Here, Paul talks about another instance, this concerning the patriarch, Abraham.  It seems that God promised that he and his wife Sarah would have a baby.  That doesn't seem so miraculous, until you remember that he was over a hundred years old—and Sarah just about that. 

We can learn a lot about faith from Abraham's reaction to this:

·         First, he did not react to the news with the normal joy.  In fact, the Scripture tells us he recognized the facts.  As far as normal childbirth was concerned, Abraham and Sarah had no chance whatever.  It's just plain common sense.  Sarah knew this so well that she just laughed.

·         He also knew God.  So he was probably acquainted with the style.  God simply announced that this was going to happen.   Abraham's reaction is what we need to imitate here:  he did not deny common sense.  He understood this would be a miracle.  But he also knew who was making the promise. 

There is the secret of his faith.  What God proclaims to be, Abraham counts on.  So many today confuse common sense with God's will.  If it seems reasonable, and the budget will support it, we'll go along. 

But if  it seems unreasonable, and the budget won't support it, but God says it will be—then faith is tested.  Can you look at the impossible and still say, "God will do it?"


Lord, we so often substitute our idea of common sense for your divine plan.  Teach us to expect today what will be tomorrow.


July 12

Discovery and Vision

Matthew 11:22-28


Have you ever wished you could work miracles?

Most of us have, I suppose.  We're convinced that if we could do miracles, spreading the Gospel would be so easy.  But look at the examples Christ cites here.  They have one thing in common:  they have seen the miracles of God in the flesh—and they refused to change.  They would analyze the miracles, but they would not believe.

Christ tells us the dangers of such an attitude.  The more you have seen, the more you know, the greater your guilt if you will not repent.  He compares them to the cities of great wickedness in the Old Testament—and not favorably.

Then comes one of the most startling of Christ's statements:  the truth is hidden from the learned and wise, but open to children.  How can this be? 

·         Part of being "learned and wise" is that you consider yourself as being "above" the subjects you study.  We see this in modern universities today;  everything can be studied, but right and wrong don't exist.

·         If you are "above" the subject, how can the subject cause you to repent?  But if you are one who sees the Lord and loves him, even without such knowledge, you can.

It's as if the cleaning woman and the heart surgeon both discover they have a severe heart condition.  The heart surgeon, being above this, continues to analyze his charts until he dies—while the cleaning woman immediately seeks help, and lives.

Why is this important?  Because of the one working the miracles—Jesus of Nazareth.  In language difficult for us to understand, he outlines his relationship to the Father—and then tells us to come to him for rest.

The world is full of Monday morning quarterbacks.  Every minister knows that there are plenty of "church shoppers" out there, looking for the brilliant sermon that never disturbs them.  But the true church is not made of people who came for the fine sermon, or the wonderful music.  The true church is composed of those who have brought not criticism but their burdens—to lay them on Jesus, so that he might carry them too.  Sometimes, the simple solution is the right one.


Lord, deliver us from the snare of being church shoppers;  rather, teach us to bring our burdens to you.


July 13

You Alone Know

Ezekiel 37:1-4


It must be every mother's nightmare.  Here you are with three kids, in an airport waiting for the plane to be readied.  All three of the kids seem to have lost the ability to speak;  they can only whine.  When your back is turned the big one touches the little one, and the whining goes up a few decibels.  You begin to look around the waiting area, hoping that no one is noticing what ill behaved barbarians you brought with you into this public place.  And it seems that the only thing that will bring the little monsters into line is for you to lose your temper and shout.  Been there?

It's not my purpose to tell you how to raise your children.  But take a good look at that behavior, and see if it doesn't resemble your prayer life.  We are told to boldly approach the throne of grace—which does not mean we should forget our manners.  Like the children, we must be taught how to pray.  As we mature, we see more that we need to learn about prayer.  If your prayer life has sunk to nothing more than a whining session with God, complaining of the injustices received, suggesting who could really profit by a direct hit with a lightning bolt, spiced with a few prayers for other people, then you need to stop, look and listen. 

The prophet teaches us a lesson:  here is a man who is frequently taken by the Holy Spirit, a closeness with God which most of us can only dream of.  God grants him prophetic visions still studied yet.  But see how he talks to God:

·         The word translated "Sovereign" here is a rather unusual one.  It means "Lord" - but with an added emphasis.  It's as if Ezekiel is acknowledging God's lordship—particularly in such circumstances.

·         The word translated "God" here means the self-existent one;  the I AM.  Ezekiel acknowledges that God alone is eternal.

·         And then, with no complaints, he says, "You alone know."  Now you know why God liked this man.  He knew when he didn't know.

Do you see how this is the righteous response to a situation which is completely overwhelming?  Think about your prayers.  Do you acknowledge him as Lord?  Do you know him as the eternal one?  Can you admit that you don't know—and he does?  Perhaps your list should start with adoration, not irritation.


Lord, it's easy to slip into thinking of you as if you were a machine.  Help us to know you, and know what we don't know.


July 14

Useless Fires

Malachi 1:10-13


In my house we have a back bathroom.  In that bathroom we have a shower. In that shower is a fixture with the words "hot" and "cold" on it.  The fixture is a liar.

Oh, it resembles any other shower fixture.  And I'm sure the pipes are hooked up as labeled.  But if anyone else in the house turns on a faucet, starts the dishwasher or the laundry, anything (hot or cold) - that infernal valve switches instantly from hot to cold.  And if you're fool enough to "adjust" the valve, the cold water goes away—and your backside will get blistered.

It's not the cold showers.  The human body can get used to almost anything;  we had cold showers in Army basic training and nobody complained (at least, not twice).  What gets you is that the shower is so unpredictable—so fickle.

Now, knowing the behavior of our shower, when we have a house guest, do we run water as we normally would?  Or do we have the courtesy to see to it that the valve behaves?  Of course, we make sure that we know the problem, and the house guest doesn't.  Anything else would imply a certain lack of respect.

You think not?  Suppose you invited someone over for supper, someone you wanted to build relationship with.  Would you offer them leftovers?  Of course not.  But then, do you offer second best things to God?

Can you imagine the irritation that moves God to ask if someone wouldn't just go down and close the temple doors so he doesn't have to put up with these people?  What was their problem?  They were giving to God the things that were defective.  It was their way of telling God that he is a semi-welcome guest.  From that perspective, we can see God's point.

Perhaps this explains your prayer life, as well.  You are providing hospitality to the Holy Spirit.  Does he feel like he's a welcome guest in your heart, or would you rather he would be a little more on the quiet side?  The Spirit is a disturbing guest;  He is tasked with pointing out our sins.  This is never a popular subject.  On the other hand, it is a necessary one.  Did you really think God would straighten out everyone else and leave you alone? 

Remember that when you go to prayer.  Your Lord loves you;  he has sent the Spirit so that you might be cleansed—and then grow in the life in God.  What's the temperature in your shower?


Lord, we neglect your Holy Spirit as we go through the humdrum of life.  Warm our hearts again with your fire.


July 15

You Had To Ask

Luke 18:18-27


It is easy to miss the point of this little story.  In our time envy has replaced esteem as the common reaction to the rich.  So we must begin by explaining the ruler's question:  he was trying to be perfect.  He wanted to completely fulfill all the law.

·         He knew he had not been successful.  He was much better at it than, say, the disciples.    The man with money has time to read the Scriptures, and suffers no temptation from want.  But all that study only convinced him—he wasn't quite there.

·         But here was a teacher from God.  What good fortune to find such a guru.  Then Jesus asks, "Why do you call me good?"

The question penetrated to his soul.  Jesus knew his attempt;  he knew his failure and he nailed them. 

Can it be said that any of us are perfect?  But to be "good" - completely, honestly, always good—is perfection of the spirit.  Of ourselves, we do not have it.  We obtain it from Christ.

The young man's approach to Christ—treating him as a great teacher—might be fitting to some.  There are those who have devoted their lives to Christ.  Indeed, in other areas, we are quick to take the advice of those we deem experts.  But in all this, we know that no one is perfect.  Here, however, was a man who tried.

The disciples give their confirmation of this.  They look at this rich young ruler—a man who has sincerely tried to be perfect—a man free of many of their temptations, and ask themselves, "If he can't make it, who can?"

Christ relieves their fears and explains all:  it is not something man can do—but with God, it is possible.  They do not understand it yet, but their teacher will be the sacrifice that makes this possible.  To them, perfect goodness is something you "do."  They shall see that perfect goodness is something you are—in Christ.

One thing, though, is clear.  If you claim the name of Christ for your salvation, he will expect your service.  His calls to service exceeds all other calls.  If your money is in the way, get rid of it.  Do not attempt to live a "balanced life."  How do you balance, for example, money and the love of your children?  With what scale would you balance those?  No, center your life on Jesus, and let the other pieces of your life fit where they may.  You will find they fit quite well—once the Center is in place.


Lord, we so often seek to have all of you loving part of us.  Teach us the joy of complete commitment to you.


July 16

Tightfisted Or Openhanded?

Deuteronomy 15:7-11


The words "pledge drive" have struck terror in the hearts of classical music lovers for years, now.  Public radio, home of Bach, Brahms, Beethoven and boring pledge drives, is well known to me.  The pledge drivers use bribery (contribute this hour and get this wonderful premium) and two other basic techniques:

·         They make you feel guilty that you are listening but not pledging anything.

·         They hold up as shining examples the genuinely nice guys who are contributing.  You can be a nice guy too!

Curiously, I've never heard them use the primary argument that Christians face:  it's a measure of you as a human being. 

You think not?  With whatever measure you measure, you will be measured.  So it is that God commanded the ancient Israelites to be openhanded and generous, whether giving to the poor or a loan to one of your relatives.  That last can be quite a test.  I have a kid brother who is a genius in radio engineering.  He's pretty good at convincing his brother to lend him a few bucks.  He's not so good as a businessman. 

What do you do in a situation like that?  Do you look at your kid brother and say, "Hmmm, he never paid me back from the last time he went  broke"?  Or do you lend to him, and leave the matter in God's care?

It is in God's care either way.  God makes it clear that if you are generous to others, he will be generous to you.  He's simply looking at what you do and saying, "Evidently that's his definition of adequate."  And then he applies that definition to you. 

Look  more closely at this passage.  Suppose you are asked to lend some money to your brother.  If you refuse, will he be upset?  Will he complain?  To God?  Did you know this was sin?  It's not the money—it's your care for your own family, or the poor always with us.

We read such passages and skip by them lightly, usually saying, "They're all fakes anyway."  What we really mean is that we don't believe God will reward us—because we don't believe he can.  The issue is not measured in dollars;  it's measured in what you believe God can and will do.  Try taking him at his word;  he might just surprise you with blessings undreamed.


Lord, our excuses are many.  Teach us to be openhanded—and to be glad of it.


July 17

Buying High, Selling Low

2 Kings 15:20-27


Most people are content to get a bargain.  Some like to haggle over price;  others like the feeling of being able to say that price doesn't matter.  So it often seems to the new Christian that something is not quite right; shouldn't there to be an entry fee? 

God does not work that way.  If you receive something from him, it is always a gift.  The Scripture tells us that he longs to pour out a blessing on us.  Those who have served him many years know quite well that he always does more than we could ask—or even think of asking.  The great example of this is salvation:  a gift whose price is the life of his son, grace freely given.

So why is it that so many cannot accept grace as a gift?  They are perfectly willing to work for salvation.  But to receive it as a gift?  You can see the problem, I hope.  If I work for something, then I earned it.  In effect, I purchased that item with the results of my labor.  This seems reasonable enough;  why doesn't God do it that way?

Pride. If we work hard, making great sacrifices, we feel we have a right to be proud.  God knows that his gift can be received only by the humble, for only the humble can have sweet fellowship with him.  To love God and enjoy him forever is not granted to the arrogant.  So if our "work ethic" stops us from receiving his grace, then that which we are so proud of  is actually a barrier.  But the matter can be worse.  Our humility prepares us to handle high and holy things. 

What if we handle those high and holy things—for a profit?  Such people are always with us;  you can turn on your television and find them without much difficulty.  These are the descendants of Gehazi, in the spiritual sense.  They sell the things of God for a profit.  You can see here how God views this. 

It amounts to theft—stealing the things of God and selling them for a profit.  Some do it over television; sadly, some do it in person.  These  are the hirelings who will abandon the sheep. 

At what price would you sell grace?  It cost God the life of his son at Calvary.  That is a price beyond all riches.  So it cannot be truly sold;  it must be given away.  If you see it for sale, count on it:  you're looking at a cheap imitation.  The real thing is given away for nothing, yet costs everything you are.  Accept no imitations;  obtain grace that lasts forever.


Lord, the wolves are in among the sheep, as you prophesied.  Expose the frauds; exalt those who are faithful shepherds.


July 18

Measuring Extravagance

Luke 21:1-4


My mother often wears a necklace made from a coral colored gemstone.  It is quite distinctive, and she is often complimented on it.  She often tells the story of how it was given to her.

Just after World War II, she and my father were crossing the desert that is the American Southwest.  They had very little in the way of money;  dad was a sergeant.  They stopped somewhere in New Mexico at a roadside store.  Mom saw the necklace and admired it.  My dad asked the salesman for the  price.  "Fifteen dollars," he replied.  Mom immediately told dad that this was far too much money to spend on jewelry (fifteen bucks was a lot in those days).  They separated and wandered through the store. 

Mom didn't know it at the time, but dad went to the salesman a few minutes later and said, "The lady will take it."  It was an extravagance—but then, the man was in love with her.  Their marriage lasted over 56 years, until his death. 

This widow here knew such extravagance.  She gave the same way.  Giving in this instance was public.  When that is fitting, we will see some give out of their wealth, as they should.  Others will give out of their poverty;  the widow gave two coins, she could have retained one. 

For a variety of reasons we now find giving done privately—the donor's envelope being the prime method.  It has a number of advantages;  it avoids embarrassment should you be giving to one particular person.  It follows the "right hand, left hand" principle established by Christ.  If you can't do it humbly at least do it privately—so that you seek your reward not from men but from God.  He is much more generous with his rewards.

When is an offering an act of worship?  When it is a sacrifice.  Why would anyone want to sacrifice to God?  Sacrifice comes easily to those who love.  Costly?  Yes, of course.  Senseless?  So it seems to other people.  After all, what could those two small coins do?  Compared to the wealth in the Temple treasury, not much.  Compared to the widow's wealth, very much indeed.  God makes the comparison based on you and your wealth, not someone else's.

Dad is gone now; Mom has only her memories.  Is it any wonder that she cherishes this one, given in the extravagance of love?


Lord, we see so little with our eyes open to the world.  Open our eyes in the Spirit, that we may see your love abounding.


July 19

Prophecy Fulfilled

Matthew 21:1-11


If you have a Bible with reference notes, you will see that the section set off as poetry (it does happen) is noted as referring to the book of Zechariah, chapter 9, verse 9.  Should you go back to that passage you will see something which might just puzzle you.  The entire chapter is prophetic—and most of it refers to the second coming of Christ, not the first.  It hardly seems fair to the prophetic interpreters to do a thing like that.

It actually is worse than that.  This Jesus of Nazareth has actually picked out a small piece of the prophecy—and has deliberately gone about fulfilling it.  That hardly seems to make this a great prophecy—after all, the fellow who claimed that it applies to him went out of his way to make sure he fulfilled it.  How can that be fair?

God did not intend to provide a livelihood for those who speculate about prophecy.  He intended that the ordinary man would understand that this is prophecy fulfilled.  Permit a simple illustration.  I once had to find my new manager at a hotel.  He gave me a description of himself—which wasn't very helpful.  For my part, however, I had only to say that I have a patch over my right eye—that easily described me.  He found me with no difficulty.

Now, had I been  "fair" about it, I would have taken off the patch.  Or not told him about it.  I wasn't interested in being fair;  I wanted for the two of us to meet.  And that's just how God used this prophecy.

Zechariah sees both advents;  but this one little passage is clear.  God revealed beforehand that which could not have been guessed.  It is sufficient for faith and instruction—but does not contain the detail necessary to support the professional prophecy interpreters.  It's his prophecy;  it is used for his purposes, not ours.

But see what this prophecy has done for us.  We have seen the first advent fulfilled in meticulous detail.  Even the most trivial things are mentioned in the dozens of prophetic writings of the Old Testament.  Those which apply to Christ's first coming then add strength to our belief in his second.  We have seen him "call the shot."  Therefore we believe.

Many interpret prophecy.  We need no such;  Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead.  We know the answer that counts.


Lord, keep us always seeking your return.  May our hearts be ready when you come again;  our reaction, one of joy.



July 20

A Shocking Casualness

Mark 11:1-11


Dorothy Sayers once remarked that Jesus showed "a shocking casualness" in the matter of a herd of pigs.  It seems he did not care that someone lost three thousand pigs because he cast out demons.  He seems to have no regard for the livestock's owner.  Here we have the same thing again.  He's borrowing some livestock for a parade—in a very unorthodox manner.  For those who believe in the right to hold private property, this seems a rather socialistic view, does it not?

It would be so—if Jesus of Nazareth were nothing but mortal man.  But he is more than that;  he is God in the flesh.  The same God who proclaims that he owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  It appears that some of those cattle (and probably some of those hills) have those who consider themselves owners.  It probably applies to pigs, too.

We fool ourselves into saying that this land is ours; those cattle are ours.  They are not.  We are but the temporary stewards of these things.  You think not?  Wait a hundred years or so.  See what still belongs to you then.  His claim on that real estate will still be there;  you will likely have taken up residence elsewhere.

How should we view our possessions?

·         For some people, possessions own them, rather than the reverse.  Have you ever known someone whose car, house or hobby consumed them?

·         For most of us, we unthinkingly go along with the idea that "more is better."  Have you ever bought something because "it was a great deal" or "I had a really good coupon?"   Especially something you knew was not really very useful?

The problem is the assumption we make:  "mine."  It's not ours;  we're just the temporary stewards of it.  We're just passing through this world, and we need to carry its possessions lightly.

·         Which means, therefore, that we are stewards on behalf of God;  we must use these possessions for his purposes.

·         Such purposes include such obvious things as raising your kids and keeping the rain off the furniture. 

But his purposes also include the care of others, the spread of the Gospel and often enough the personal charity he commends to us.  The kingdom of God is the pearl of great price, even today.


Lord, keeps us from greed and envy;  help us wear our possessions lightly.  May they be a help, not a burden. 


July 21

Jerusalem, Jerusalem

Luke 28:19-44


It is recorded that Jesus wept, twice.  Once over the grave of Lazarus;  once over the fate of Jerusalem. 

When he wept over Lazarus, those about him remarked, "See how he loved him!"  The same could be said for Jerusalem, for there is the place that God place the Temple of His Name.  It is the city of David;  it is the only site of the only Temple God ever permitted to be built for his Name.  Over this city, Jesus wept.

Was this because there was no hope?  No;  it was because there was no faith.  All knew that Lazarus was dead and gone;  there was no hope;  there was no faith.  Jerusalem was led by those who had nothing but scorn for this rabbi from nowhere, this Jesus of Nazareth.  "If only you knew."  It is the lack of faith that causes Jesus to weep—for he knows the consequences of that.

This passage is prophetic.  The prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70.  The Romans encircled the city;  built up the siege ramps;  took the city and sacked it, burning, looting and slaughtering. 

The question arises naturally:  how could God the merciful do such a thing to the city of David?  Did the site of this temple—sacred from the time of Abraham until this very day—not move him? 

·         We forget that his protection comes in his covenant.  God is not obligated to protect us;  we must go to him and ask for that protection.  It is for his children—not the brats.

·         He has placed a primary condition upon his care:  faith.  We cannot ignore him until the crisis comes and then expect him to save us.

·         Such faith must be made real in experience;  it is not a mental exercise.  The whole human being must believe.

Our recent experience greatly parallels that of ancient Israel.  If you will look for them, you will see the signs.  We are a nation which has turned its back upon the Living God.  The humble have grown proud;  we once were confident of the justice of God; now we are confident of our military might.  We have forgotten just who humbled Jerusalem;  we have also forgotten the means.  With all our military power, our enemies have found ways to strike.  As the ancient Romans administered God's justice, so we too will  be stricken—if we do not turn and repent.


Lord, we have become a nation which prizes the wicked and disdains the righteous.  Send us revival, lest we perish utterly.


July 22

Traffic at the Gate

Ezekiel 44:1-3


In 1917 most English speaking people were much better acquainted with the Bible than we are today.  It was not at all uncommon for a man to have a detailed knowledge of the prophecies given in the Old Testament.  Even if he did not, he certainly would have known others who did.

Consider the case of General Allenby—who in 1917 was the conqueror of Jerusalem, ending hundreds of years of Islamic reign over the city.  He was quite aware of the various prophecies which dealt with the gates—to the city and the temple.  In a deliberate attempt to avoid fulfilling anyone's prophetic vision, he and his army entered Jerusalem by way of a gate on the western side.  It did him little good;  his entry occurred in 1917, a year which plays a major role in certain theories of Revelation.  He promptly became the fulfillment of prophecy.

This passage bears a similar history.  Despite its seeming simplicity, it has been fought over for centuries.  Who is this prince?  If this is a temple to be built during the Millennium, why are there sacrifices there?  Just mention "Millennial Temple" to any student of prophecy—and take good notes.

The passage has another use;  Roman Catholic doctrine holds that this passage is actually a prophecy of the perpetual virginity of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  As you can see, it is a very flexible bit of prophetic writing. 

Let us learn what we can.  This is the third time that the prophet Ezekiel has been brought to this gate.  The first trip was to measure it;  the second, to witness the glory of God going through this gate.  Now, upon the third visit, the gate is shut—because the glory of the Lord has passed through it.

Consider this:  the gate, when measured, is unremarkable for its dimensions.  But when the glory of the Lord is upon it, the gate becomes holy ground.  The mere presence of the glory of God is sufficient;  it makes the gate holy.  The gate through which the glory of God passes will allow no further common traffic.

In another prophecy Christ tells us that he stands at the gate and knocks.  Once he comes in, the gate needs be shut, for no other traffic may pass where the Christ  has come.  Is it so with you?  Does his presence prevent all others from entering into the sanctuary of your soul?


Lord, enter by the gate of our hearts, that we might enter by the narrow gate into the kingdom of heaven.


July 23

A Name to Remember

1 Kings 8:41


There is a recurrent theme in Solomon's prayer—it concerns the Name of God.  He recites to God the fact that men will come from great distances because of the Name.  How will they know to do that?  Because they will hear of his greatness in three ways:

·         There is the greatness of the Name itself.  We have long since forgotten that the use of the word "God" in a sentence called for reverence.  From that reverence the idle use of the name was considered obscenity and blasphemy;  now it is simply "telling it like it is."

·         Men will hear of his mighty works.  These are undeniable;  the greater question is whether or not they will connect the works with the Worker.

·         Finally, there is his outstretched arm.  There is no where in the universe that he cannot reach, offering his mercy to you.

Please note that all these people are foreigners to Israel.  They will know the name of God and fear him because of his mighty works and tender mercies.

There is a certain justice in Solomon's plea.   It is an established point of the ancient law that there would be only one law, valid for both the foreigner and the Israelite.  So Solomon is teaching us that we too should have but one standard.  Our conduct should not be ethical when dealing with Christians and unethical when dealing with non-Christians.  Such a double standard disgraces the Name of God.

Which brings us to the point.  Just how do you treat the name of God?  We often forget that we are to hold that name sacred;  it's a point not often taught these days.

·         Most of us have heard it used as an idle obscenity many times.  Is our speech free from it?  We can at least set an example in this.

·         Worse, we seem to use the name of God as an attachment to presumptuous advice.  Just because I believe everything that God says does not mean that everything I believe is what God said.

·         Worst of all, some use it for deception.  A Christian symbol on your business card should not symbolize fraud.


Lord, we so often take your Name—and you—so lightly.  Teach us to use it with the respect it deserves.


July 24


Isaiah 60:1-9


The Second Coming of our Lord is a topic which has two certain characteristics:

·         All Christians who accept the inspiration of the Scripture (one might as well say, all Christians) hold to the bodily return of our Lord Jesus Christ, in glory.

·         And from that point on there is very little agreement.

We might do well to search this passage, though.  In it we can see something of which there is seldom mention:  the powerful emotions of that day. 


"Lift up your eyes," says the prophet.  Why would we need to lift them up?  Because until his return we will be downcast.  The world tells us that we are fools (and dangerous fools at that;  best to be rid of them permanently).  Persecution is the normal lot of the Christian.  Hear we see the wonder of the church of that day;  the signs of glory are all around.  We shall marvel at all the wealth of those days;  and even more at the great reunion of mankind.

It sounds too good to be true.  What is there too hard for the Lord?


The prophet describes (for his Jewish audience) what that day will be like.  Having a herd of camels spread over your real estate does not sound to most of us like a good thing.  But to the ancient Israelite, it would have been wealth indeed.  They would have seen this passage as portraying wealth beyond imagination. 

Beyond that, there is the return of son and daughter.  This is a joyous thing in our own time (think of your adult children coming home for Christmas);  how much greater will that be at the return of our Lord?

Honor and praise to the Lord

We see in this passage the phrase, "the Holy One of Israel."  This is the promised Messiah, Jesus the Christ.  All this is done for his honor.  But note what he has done for his church:  endowed her with splendor.  All this is part of his glory at his return.

Have you ever felt, even for a brief moment, the sheer exaltation of praising God in song;  heart, soul, mind and strength all praising him?  That little flicker of heaven will grow to a glorious light when our Lord returns.  Even so, Lord, come soon!


Lord, we watch for your return.  It will be a glorious day;  teach us to be ready for it, so that we may share the joy with you.


July 25

Of Chimps and Men

Matthew 12:22-29


The chimpanzee, we are told, is the primate most closely resembling man.  A recent observation of these animals has revealed something disturbing to some.  It seems that adolescent chimps, who cannot compete for sexual favor against adult males, commit what would be rape if they were humans.  Why this is so disturbing we shall soon see.

Christ here reminds us of the basic rules of Satan's kingdom;

·         Everybody is looking out for number one.

·         We're completely ethical—as long as it's profitable.

·         \We suspect everyone else of being just like us.

·         And those we know are not, we envy.

Here, the Pharisees show such envy.  It is often accompanied by silence, followed by backbiting.

Jesus simply turns the result around on them.  Within the rules of Satan's kingdom, it's clear that the strongest rule.  Order is kept by force.  But when the kingdom of God comes, then the rule of force destroys Satan's kingdom.

Since the time of Charles Darwin, we have been treated to "advanced thinking" which proclaims that Darwin's principles should govern the morality of human beings.  Anything that causes my genes to be reproduced is "good."  That's why these thinkers are so perturbed by the report of rape among the chimps.  From their point of view, it's something that transmits "favored" genes in the  population.  And, if it's something that does that, then it's "good," by the very definition of social darwinism.  So if it works in chimps, then, say the darwinistas, it works with human beings.  In other words, if some teenage punk rapes a woman, it's a good thing—he's capable of putting his genetic material into the next generation. 

The authors of the article cautioned that the work was "preliminary."  I think that means they have not had time to find an explanation that is socially palatable.  No doubt they soon will;  after all, social darwinsim must be politically correct.  It would not do to justify rape on the grounds that spreading your genes is good.  In the meanwhile,  the Christian may take heart;  the kingdom of God has not changed—modern thinkers or not.  The law of the jungle is run by force and deceit.  Christ's kingdom runs in love, and lasts forever.


Lord, in every generation there are those who hammer on the Rock of Salvation.  The hammers die when they do;  but the Rock that is Christ is forever.


July 26

Nature Abhors A Vacuum

Matthew 12:43-45


Any high school physics teacher can tell you:  it's hard to get rid of the preconceived notions students bring in with them.  The number of people who believe that rockets have to push on the launch pad all through the flight is enormous. 

A similar bit of physics phoolery considers the simple act of sucking up liquid through a straw.  If you had a giant straw, say, fifty feet tall, could you drink your soft drink through it from such an altitude?  The common answer says yes, of course.  Actually, you can move the liquid no more than about fourteen feet—because that's the limit given by the air pressure on the liquid.  But students will tell you that, no, you just have to suck harder.  Wrong!

There's a similar bit of deception going on here.  Christ has just finished comparing the men of his generation with the wicked of old.  It's not a flattering comparison.  But these men think they have the ready answer. 

By their own merits—in the matter of Scriptural Law—they will reform themselves.  They will clean the house, getting rid of all bad habits—and replacing them with nothing.  That creates what we might call a spiritual vacuum.  If there is no pressure from the outside, this should work.

But there is pressure from the outside.  Satan and his demons are ever searching for those they might devour.  So, finding a choice spot, the original problem child returns—with his gang of seven right behind him.

The sad part of this:  the victim thinks he is in control.  He created the void;  he thinks he can maintain the void.  It simply does not work.  If the void is to remain clean, you must fill it, spiritually, with that which is clean.  That means Jesus Christ.

Even in such a world, God prevails.  He has given us his Son that we might have no spiritual void;  rather, that we should be overflowing with the Spirit.  Instead of Satan pressing in, we find the Holy Spirit bubbling out,  It is simply a matter of a flow from the high pressure to the low.  It works that way in physics;  it works that way in Christ as well.  If you invite him into your heart, all that is evil is kept out—because you are overflowing with the irresistible power of God.  Let it overflow cheerfully from you, so that you will be blessed both inside and out.


Lord, we are the channels where your grace is poured.  Guide us so that the Spirit flows out from us.


July 27


Luke 10:17-20


Have you ever imagined yourself as one of the apostles of old?  What would it be like to be able to, for example, heal the sick?

·         First, there would be the sensation of power.  You would feel the ability that others could only wish for.

·         How many would flock to you!  Jesus found this such a problem that he often had to send the crowds away, withdrawing into a remote place to pray.

·         And, how they would listen to your words!  Everything you said would  be considered as if it were from God.

You can see that the power alone would not be sufficient.  You would need the authority from God to properly use this.  What would this authority mean?

·         You would very quickly become a "spiritual policeman."  Your word would be taken to settle all manner of theological disputes—some of which you would not understand.

·         There would also be the sense of being invulnerable—God's man, on God's mission, protected by the Almighty God.

What a combination;  the authority and power to heal, to cast out demons!  But look too at what Christ says about it;  we should not rejoice for such powers—but rather at a source of greater joy:  that our names are written in heaven. 

It seems strange to us.  Why should this be so?

·         Such power and authority are gifts from God.  They are what he has done through us, not anything of which we can proclaim our own merit.

·         He makes it clear that his choice for such gifts has nothing to do with being a great theologian, or an elder, or anything else.  The Spirit supplies such power as is needed for the kingdom.

·         Most important of all is this:  God chooses those with these gifts.  We are the ones who chose to have our names written in heaven—when we chose Jesus Christ.

Should you rejoice over such spiritual gifts?  Certainly; should he provide them, But these things are only for this world.  Rather, do the things that lay up treasure in heaven.  Is your name written in the Father's book of life?  If not, whose fault is that?


Lord, we long so much to have miraculous gifts.  Teach us to be content with the grace given and the name written.


July 28

Could, Would—and Did

Hebrews 1:1-4


The ancient church held universally to the view that Paul wrote the book of Hebrews.  He would be a fitting choice;  no one else knew better the difficulty of the Jewish Christian.  How can the church reconcile the commandments of the Old Testament with the freedom of the New Testament?

In this letter, Paul provides what is required.  He reaffirms the fact that God did in fact speak to the prophets.  He provides for the Jewish Christian a bridge to the New Testament world.  He does so by showing the explicit superiority of Christ.

Things visible  He begins with three characteristics of Christ visible to us:

·         He is the heir of all things.  All that is matter and energy belongs to Jesus Christ.

·         He is the agent of creation—God made all things in our universe through Christ.

·         He is the sustainer of creation—the one who decrees its laws shall not vary until his return.

His relationship to God.  If his authority were not enough, Paul asks that you examine his position and presence:

·         He is the radiance of God's glory.  We know there is a difference between the sun and the light of the sun—but all we know about the sun comes from studying its light.  If you want to know what God is like—study Christ.

·         He is the exact representation of his being.  God cannot be completely comprehended by man;  Christ is the best picture of God that we can have.

·         He is seated at the right hand of God.  Seated—not bowing before him.  At the right hand, the position of authority.

His relationship to us.

Amidst all this majesty is the simple statement:  he provided purification for us. 

·         He's the only one who could have;  none other could be sinless.

·         He's the only one who would have;  where else such love?

·         He's the only one who did—on the Cross.


Lord, you are so awesome in power, so great in your love.  Give us eyes to see and tongues to praise.


July 29

The Pure in Heart

Matthew 5:8


The mail note had just the right amount of poor English to be credible.  The author carefully explained that he was trying to get out of Nigeria, with his wealth intact.  He was looking for someone of integrity to whom he could entrust his riches.  He found me because of the web site I maintain;  convinced of my rectitude, he offered a large sum of money "that could be used in your ministry" as reward for allowing him to transfer his money through me.  All I needed to do to reap this blessing was to provide him with my bank account number and a few other details.

It is, of course, the Nigerian Internet Fraud.  Millions of other people got similar mail notes.  Regrettably, many fell for it.  It is not mine to judge them.  But to the pure in heart, one question arises:  why would you think it necessary to reward me with so much money? 

To the pure, all things are pure.  It is a reaction completely unexpected by those perpetrating the fraud.  That purity of heart goes by the name of "integrity."  It is the one-ness of heart that God is seeking;  from him the pure in heart accept their reward. 

But who can be completely pure in heart?  Certainly not me;  nor have I ever known anyone who could have such integrity by their own efforts.  Integrity—real integrity, oneness of self and oneness with God—was purchased with a price:  Calvary.  It is the cleansing of Christ's blood which allows him to "create in me a clean heart, O God."

Integrity.  You cannot cheat an honest man.  We value purity in others, but find it difficult ourselves.  We want purity in our foods but find it difficult to maintain in ourselves.  I can see why the other guy should be pure;  but why me?

Because God is not finished with us yet.  He tells us that in this life we will see only dimly what is to come.  Paul compares it to the mirrors of his time, which only faintly gave you your image.  But he tells us that we shall be like Christ, when he returns.  Then we shall be revealed to one and all.  Everyone will see us as we are.

What image will we present?  We are told that we shall be like Christ.  No wonder we cannot see him now;  we do not have the means.  Only the pure in heart shall see God.


Lord, create in me a clean heart.  Strengthen me as I struggle for purity in heart;  make me a man of integrity, pleasing to you.


July 30


Luke 19:1-10


It is an undeniable fact:  Jesus of Nazareth went to places where decent people just do not go.  It is hardly surprising to hear the crowd murmur about it. 

But consider:  a policeman regularly goes where decent people should not go—so that he might perform his duties.  Often at risk of his life he must batter down the door and face the evil inside.

The crowd didn't see it that way.  They knew exactly who this man was.  They were a little surprised when this prophet seemed to be unaware of who the man Zaccheus was.

Our Lord knew his man, however.  Notice the reaction that Zaccheus gave to the King of Kings:

·         He gave him a glad (and grateful) welcome.  That such a man as Jesus would want to be with him;  what a balm to the lonely soul, the outcast of society.

·         He also gave him an immediate welcome!  Good news will keep, we say.  Not very long, says Zaccheus. 

·         He gave him an obedient welcome as well, as we can see from his actions.

The crowd probably did not notice this.  It is very interesting how attitudes on this change.  The New International Version puts the word "sinner" in quotation marks, as if this was something now known to be unreal.  The truth is, the label belongs to each and every one of us.

But let us take heart;  we see here the story of salvation.  The Lord himself proclaims it.  Is it so obvious?  I think so.  Look at the signs of salvation:

·         Zaccheus begins by declaring his intention to make good—with restitution, as required by the Law.  He seeks forgiveness;  forgiven, he does not forget his obligation. 

·         He then tells Jesus that half his wealth will go to the poor.  The cold heart of a tax collector for the Roman occupation army turns to the Light, and melts. 

The crowd?  They did not understand Jesus for they did not know his mission.  As the policeman goes into harm’s way as part of his duty, our Lord goes into the depths of the human soul, on his mission:  to seek and save the lost.


Lord, teach your children how to reach the lowest of the lost for you, carrying on the mission to seek and save the lost.


July 31

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Romans 7:14-25


Snoopy had it right:  "Good chocolate chip cookies call you by name."  That's the explanation that chowhounds everywhere have accepted concerning chocolate.  The fault isn't with me;  the cookies made me do it.

You go into the restaurant, knowing that the steaks are broiled in pure butter;  the desserts are large enough to keep a small third world village in calories for a week - with the full intention of ordering a salad (dressing on the side); ice tea (no sugar, just the artificial stuff) and a cup of decaffeinated coffee for dessert.  Result?   One steak, a baked potato and a piece of chocolate cake that has the word "mountain" in its name—but you did at least push the steamed broccoli aside.  And proud of it, too.

But at the moment the waitress asked for your order, your head has a voice in it saying, "Salad, salad, salad," while your mouth says, "Steak—all the trimmings."  Ever had that argument within yourself?

Congratulations, you're human.  You know what you're supposed to do—and you don't do it.  You know you shouldn't, but you keep doing it.  It is this nature that Paul displays for us here.  Please note:  he comes not only with the problem, but the solution.

When you tell yourself that what you're doing is wrong, you at least confirm one thing:  you know what's right and wrong in this situation.  You just keep doing the wrong things.

Why?  Because you alone are not strong enough to control—You.  It can be very discouraging.  But there is help available in Jesus Christ.  For this same dilemma of my nature against what I know to be right applies to the sin in our lives.

To this problem Christ brings the answer:

·         First, there is forgiveness.  Sometimes the body takes such hold that we simply give up.  We are numb to sin;  but now we can be forgiven instead.

·         Next, he brings us hope.  Things can be different;  Christ can turn you around.  You and Christ are stronger than you alone.

·         Ultimately, with Christ, we shall take on a new nature—at the resurrection.  In that day the conflict between flesh and spirit will be over;  all will be reconciled together.


Lord, we make light of our carnal nature—for it seems so hopeless.  Open our eyes, Lord, and let us see the hope we have in you.

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