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March 1

Stand Firm

James 5:7-11


During World War II the British had to deal with the problem of German bombers.  There was some debate as to what the average citizen was to do when the air raid sirens howled.  It was eventually decided that, with some exceptions, most should stay where they were and continue with what they were doing.  So the instructions went out with the phrase, "Stay put."

Winston Churchill did not like this.  First, it was American slang.  More to the point, they had not been "put" anywhere in particular.  He chose the phrase, "Stand Firm" instead.  It expresses that quiet, continued stability needed when endurance is required.

Perhaps James saw it like that.  We as Christians are pilgrims;  in the spiritual sense, we are not to "stay put."  James outlines for us the essentials of facing the evils of the day:

·         Be patient.  The context is this:  the vulgar rich have been stealing from their workmen, injustice is everywhere—and the Christian says, "Where's God?"  Be aware that they will get what they deserve when our Lord returns.

·         Stand firm.  In the meanwhile, do not give in to the corruption.  The prophets had the same problem, and they stood up to it.

·         Don't grumble.  This is the tough part for most of us today.  We are sure it's somebody's fault—and we do enjoy complaining about it.

Why does the Lord require such of us?  Remember that those who oppress the poor are people too.  It is the desire of God that every human come to salvation.  By our patient suffering, by our refusal to join with "the system,"  by our joy in Christ we show the world that there is an alternative. 

The Lord is compassionate and merciful.  He understands quite well what it is to live under oppression;  recall that the Romans ruled in Judea throughout his lifetime.  He did not prescribe rebellion, but "rendered unto Caesar." 

It is said that an anvil will wear out many hammers.  The anvil of our patient endurance will wear out the hammer of our foes.  The prophets knew that;  many in Eastern Europe discovered the same thing about the hammer and sickle.  So will it be with our foes.


Lord, grant your people strength to be the anvil which destroys the hammer of our foes.  Give us patience, and in our endurance give us joy;  in our joy, give us peace.


March 2

The Curse

Galatians 3:11-14


We have, by and large, lost the meaning of both blessing and curse in the old sense.  The concept was simple:  by whatever authority or influence I had, I could either bless you or curse you.  This used to be done rather formally.  People would pay others to put a curse on someone.  Remember Shakespeare's Richard III ?

Just because we have lost the idea does not mean it is no longer valid.  Paul's readers would have understood this passage clearly.  Because of the sin of mankind, we are under the curse of sin.  By that curse we deserve death, for we have sinned not only against each other but also against Almighty God.  He, at least, is in a position to make his curses felt.

So how surprising it must have been to those who understood this to discover what Almighty God has indeed done.  The curse is there;  sin must be paid for.  But that same God, coming in the flesh as Jesus, the Christ, took upon himself that curse.  He redirected it from us to himself.  Only the sinless One did not deserve to die;  but only the sinless One could pay the death penalty for all who deserved it.

This puts the Christian in a very humble position.

·         First, we must concede that we cannot, by any method, remove this curse ourselves.  We are helpless.  We need Jesus Christ.

·         Second, we must also concede that we deserved this curse;  that we are sinners.

·         Third, we must also show the world that the lifting of this curse is freely available—it is so expensive it must be given away.  None of us can afford it or earn it.

That last is something of a surprise.  We might expect that God would set conditions on becoming a Christian.  Surely he would want us to be "good enough."  An entrance examination, perhaps.  Many impose that on themselves.  But there is no exam;  there is no person too evil to go to Christ.

We might also expect that there would be a detailed set of rules if you wish to stay in God's favor.  But he tells us that this is not so;  there is really only one commandment:  love Him.  If you do that in truth, all the other good and noble things will flow naturally from that. 


Lord, your grace is amazing.  You took the curse, you paid the price, you gave us life—may we praise your name forever.


March 3

Walked With God

Genesis 5:21-23


Have you ever envied the easy grace with which some saints seem to know God?  They speak so blithely of their "walk of faith" or their "walk with Christ!"  It can be very discouraging;  what do they have that I don't?  And why don't I?

These are good questions;  they show that we need to have such a walk with God.  We now may look at a prime example:  Enoch.

Enoch?  The man is barely mentioned in the Bible.  There are two by that name;  we are talking about the one who was the father of Methuselah.  The Scripture tells us that he never died;  he walked with God, and God took him.  Only one other person had that honor, the prophet Elijah (swing low, sweet chariot).  We know a good deal about Elijah, but very little about Enoch.

What little we do know, however, gives us insight on what it takes to truly walk with God:

·         Righteousness.  Like the other man who was said to walk with God (Noah), Enoch is described as a righteous man.  God will not stay in the presence of sin.   If you wish to walk with him, you must continually seek repentance and forgiveness.

·         Maturity.  Perhaps you didn't notice, but Enoch walked with God after he became the father of Methuselah.  Could it be that Enoch's habit of walking with God started because the baby wouldn't sleep nights?  One aspect of maturity is to be able to do more than one thing at a time.  Rocking the baby is an excellent time to walk with God.

·         Courage.  Jude tells us that Enoch was a prophet, who foresaw the Day of Judgment.  The common characteristic of the Old Testament prophet is his courage.  He often had to be the messenger bearing the news of God's punishment.

All this would be useless except for one fact:  God cherishes our companionship.  He is love, and love listens.  Job is sure of the resurrection of the dead.  He gives us this reason:  God will "long for the work of his hands."  Our Heavenly Father loves us and wants to have fellowship with us. 

Some hold that Enoch and Elijah will be the Two Witnesses of Revelation—because they have yet to die, and all must die.  Perhaps so;  if this is true, it is because they walked so closely with God—and know him so well.


Father, we long for the sweet communion with you.  Cleanse us, help us grow and give us courage—so that we may walk with You.


March 4


Genesis 12:1-4


The Bible would be much poorer if it contained only the high and holy.  We are human beings, and we learn best from other human beings.  God allows the history of mortal, sinful men to illustrate his care for us. 

Of all the characters of the Old Testament, Abram (later Abraham) is one of the best known.  He is the patriarch of Israel, the one to whom the promises were made.  With this man the genealogy narrows to one particular family line.  The end result of that line is Jesus, the Christ.

To induce Abram to move away from his family, God makes him a series of solemn promises.  We can examine these and see how they have been fulfilled—over a period of around 4,500 years.

·         He would father a great nation, and be blessed.  Can you identify any people group on the planet with a continuous 4,500 year history?  But at any time in that period, people would recognize the Jews as a nation.

·         His name would be great.  Christians, Jews and Muslims all honor him.

·         Those who bless him would be blessed;  those who curse him would be cursed.  Consider the history of the Jews;  those who have blessed them, and those who have cursed them.

·         Through him, all peoples would be blessed.  This was fulfilled at the coming of Christ.

God is faithful; he has delivered on his promise to this one man of 4,500 years ago.  Why did he select this man?  Because of his faith. 

Please note one thing:  he calls Abram to come out from among the idol worshiping people into which he was born, to go who knows where at the command of God—and to take all his things with him.  He did as he was told.  His obedience was the result of his trust in God.

But God did not do this just to demonstrate Abram's faith to us.  There is another purpose:  separation.  God called Abram out from among a people mired in idolatry.  He still does that today, calling his followers to be "in the world, but not of the world."  He makes wonderful promises to those who follow.  His track record on keeping his promises is 100%.


Lord, increase our faith!  Teach us how to step out on faith, trusting in you.


March 5

Abraham, the Father

Genesis 22:1-12


Have you ever considered what kind of father Abraham must have been?  We know practically nothing of how he raised Isaac—but we can see the result. 

·         By his question the boy shows he knows there is a right way to worship God.

·         Even to the point of carrying the wood, this is a well trained and obedient child.

If Abraham is taken as a picture of God the Father, surely Isaac must be the picture of Christ the Son.  It helps us see the terrible cost of the Cross.  We cannot stretch ourselves to the mind of God, but we can certainly understand how Abraham felt.

·         This was his only son—at least, by the wife he really loved.

·         More than that, this son was obedient and trusting.  How much more difficult to sacrifice one who trusts you!

·         Abraham (and Sarah) are very elderly;  it would appear this would leave them childless.

·         Most telling of all:  it took them three days to get to the site.  Three days for the anticipation to stew in the mind.

Abraham's character, especially as a father, is made clear to us in this episode.

·         When called the first time, he answers, "Here I am."  When called at the sacrifice, the answer is the same.  Abraham is one who does not change with the moment.

·         Isaac learned that obedience by watching his father.

·         He also learned what is right by the same method.

When reading this story, it is easy to see the parallel to God the Father and Christ the Son.  The fact that Abraham loves God above all else is clear.  Let us see also how he became such a man:  through obedience.  The joy of obedience to God is so ingrained in him that he would go even to this length.

The result of this obedience?  It is not that God could not know that Abraham loved him that much.  It is not even that Abraham now knew it too.  It is simply the relationship.  God calls Abraham by name.  When he does, Abraham answers, "Here I am."  This man is on a first name basis with God.


Lord, grant the we may grow in Christ so that we have the same trusting faith—putting our love for you above all else.


March 6


Exodus 22:2-13


Picture, for the moment, a typical automobile accident.  You are in traffic on the freeway, moving just fast enough to keep you there, and slow enough that you will be late.  From behind you hear a crash and feel a jolt.  You get out, he gets out and—if at all typical—you yell at each other.  Eventually cooler heads (usually from the Highway Patrol) prevail, and the matter is turned over to your insurance companies.  We take it as a matter of course that we should have car insurance, among other varieties.

Not so the ancient Israelite.  The concept was completely foreign to him.  He would understand the risks that might come, but insurance—especially "no-fault" insurance—would be a novel idea.  He'd work with the framework given here:  the laws of restitution. 

The rules given here are somewhat detailed, but we can extract from them some general principles:

·         The amount of the restitution depends upon the method of loss.  The thief pays back double;  the negligent, single.

·         In the case where something is left for safekeeping, the restitution depends upon establishing negligence.

·         Most importantly, restitution is to be made with the best of what you have. 

All well and good, one supposes;  but what does this have to do with us today?  Especially if the insurance is paid up!  There are still matters which require restitution today;  the Levitical Law is given to us as example.

·         Consider, for example, that thief of reputation—slander.  Should not the slanderer repair the damage?  Of course.  But this would imply not just recanting, but amendment.

·         Has God given you a gift, and the responsibility to go with it?  If you neglect it, should you not make amends?  Or do you think he will accept an excuse instead of action?

·         And when you make such restitution, do not do it grudgingly, or "only when I have time."  Make it your priority;  restitution comes from the best.

The matter then was ox and grain;  the matter now extends far beyond that.  But the human heart is still the same.  Make your restitution quickly, proportionately—and from the best you have.


Lord, grant that our conduct be such that our restitution is rare.  But when it is needed, let us be swift and just to restore all.


March 7

Scarlet Cord

Joshua 2:1-22


It is a measure of the evil of the times:  the translators cannot tell if the word is "prostitute" or "innkeeper."  It appears that little has changed .   The life of the road warrior includes the appeal of the prostitute.  Some will say it is the tang of forbidden fruit;  others the ease with which they are available.  The distance to home certainly is a factor as well.   Sometimes, there is simple loneliness.

So it is that the prostitute becomes a feature of the road trip.  The life of such a woman would not lend itself to high moral theology.  But she had a sense of what was coming, and she wanted to prepare for it.  Even a sinner like this can see the whirlwind approaching.  From this sinner, however, we can learn a few lessons.

·         First, the lesson of obedience.  Hanging the cord is a simple act—but without it, she and her family die.  Do we have such simple obedience?

·         She seeks no miraculous sign—but she deals with God's ambassadors.  Can others do so with us?

·         The cord would not be visible to the soldiers on the city wall—but there is still a risk.  What do we risk for God?

It is fitting that this would be a scarlet cord;  it foreshadows the sacrifice of the Cross and salvation.  Rahab wanted to be saved;  she needed the help of the men of Israel.  They too had obligations in this matter—obligations which parallel our own today.

·         They had the obligation to look for the scarlet cord.  So do we;  when a sinner hangs out a sign looking for salvation, we should be ready to bring it.

·         Note that the two spies did not go back and get the committee's approval.  They committed the nation of Israel to her.  God will honor that commitment.   He will honor ours on his behalf too;  we need, therefore, to know his heart well.

·         Rahab put herself at risk, but so did these men.  "Our lives for your lives," they said.  Do we take such personal risks in dealing with sinners we meet?  Risk is the measure of commitment.

It takes a bit of searching, but you'll find that Rahab was an ancestress of King David—and therefore of Christ.  Even today, faith and obedience are rewarded.


Lord, may we hold out your salvation with loving arms, turning no one away.  May all see your love in our lives.


March 8


Joshua 6:1-21


God often gives us strange instructions.  The procedure described here was not the one approved in the military manuals of the day.  Prescribed tactics would have been either an immediate assault or a prolonged siege.  A siege would have taken a year, as most cities of that time kept enough grain on hand to support the population for a year.  The invading army would have starved out by then.

God, on the other hand, plans a quick victory.  But see the methods he uses!  It seems absurd.  But there is a clue to God's way in his instructions.  Everything in the city is to be devoted to God;  Israel is to make Jericho a sacrifice of devotion.

·         Such a sacrifice seems extravagant and wasteful to the world.  After all, there were many valuable items in the city.  Its residents could be enslaved.  Financial folly!

·         The sacrifice itself seems to have no earthly purpose.  Which is correct;  the purpose is heavenly.

·         And, the sacrifice is very expensive to those who give it.

All that adds up to devotion.  Such devotion is an outward sign of great faith in God.  Indeed, the Israelites responded rightly, and the city fell on schedule.  We can learn from this too.

·         In the kingdom of God, things must be done in God's way.  Our response to his way is found in our obedience.  The temptation is to give God some good advice on how things should be accomplished (and then follow it ourselves). 

·         In the kingdom of God, things must be done in God's time.  If obedience is difficult for the modern Christian, then patience must be doubly so.  We want it now!  So often in our prayers we tell God why "now" is the right time.  Perhaps we should be listening instead.

·         In the kingdom of God, things must be done in God's promise.  It is in his power, his righteousness and his love that his kingdom will advance—not ours.  It is so easy for us to find a shortcut;  we need to have faith in his promises.

I suspect the warriors of Jericho were puzzled by the actions of the Israelites.  The world is often puzzled by the actions of those who love God, too.  Vengeance replaced by forgiveness; greed replaced by honesty; God's way, God's time, God's promises.


Lord, teach us obedience, patience and faithfulness—and lead us from victory to victory.


March 9


Proverbs 3:11-12


One of the reporters "embedded" in a U.S. Marine outfit during the invasion of Iraq came upon something which astounded him.  He had a radio telephone, which allowed him to make a telephone call from the middle of the battlefield to any phone on earth.  He offered two or three marines the chance to have a two minute conversation with anyone they would like.  The responses astounded the man:

·         One marine declined to call his parents;  rather, he wanted to call the parents of a buddy who was killed, to assure them that their son died with honor, a credit to the Corps.

·         Another gave his time over to his company commander, whose wife was momentarily expecting a child.

"Where do they get young men like this?" the reporter asked.

The reporter, like many of us, assumed that because they were young they would be rebellious and selfish.  We often make the same mistake;  indeed, sometimes you will see the opinion that such rebellion is both normal and good.

The writer of Proverbs (and the United States Marines) know better.  If you set out with the idea that teenagers must be rebellious, and that this is good, you are likely to get the rebellion, at least.  But it need not be so.

How, you ask?  By the Lord's method.  The words used in this passage carry at least three meanings:

·         Discipline—as in the phrase, "disciplined athlete."  One who practices what is right until it is second nature.

·         Correction—as in, coaching.  One who listens to those whose task is their improvement.

·         Instruction—if one is to learn to be wise, one must be instructed.

It is not just the teenager that needs these;  we all do.  It sometimes is painful to think so, but it is so.  When the Lord disciplines you:

·         Repent as quickly as possible,

·         But do not resent his rebuke;  rather, accept it with joy, and

·         Rejoice—for this is a sure sign that He loves you. 

No one disciplines another family's children.  When God disciplines you, it means you are his child.


Lord, teach us not to despise your discipline but to embrace it.


March 10

On Strength

1 Peter 5:8-10


It is a maxim of the faith that God will never let you be tempted by something beyond your ability to resist.  We forget the corollary to this:  he certainly will let us be tempted by something we can resist.  The question is, will we resist?

Why would God do such a thing?  He's trying to help us grow in the faith.  Consider the three characteristics Peter gives us here:

·         Self-controlled.  Are you prone to anger?  Or do you envy the material blessings of others?  Perhaps greed assails you.  By giving you a little test, God will immunize you against viler things.

·         Alert.  Have you ever screamed at your kids, "Pay Attention!"  Most of us have.  This applies in spiritual things;  we are to be on watch.  Look out for trouble (it's usually where you last left it).  Keep watch for the return of your Lord—be ready when he comes.

·         Resist the devil.  We need to be firm in the faith.  How?  One way is to look at the example of others.  We have a lady in our Bible study whose prayers always include thanks for simple things—a roof overhead, a meal on the plate.  It reminds me how generous my Lord has been to me, and sets an example in thanksgiving.

God is gracious;  he allows these things because he loves us.  We are called to Christ;  that tells us that we will have trouble in this world.  For a short while God will have you face it directly, learning to be strong, leaning on him at need.  He is looking for Christians who are:

·         Strong—and therefore capable of helping others through the same types of trials.

·         Firm—those upon whom the waves of temptation beat, but never wear away.

·         Steadfast—the mind which has examined itself, knows itself, and will not be deflected from the purposes of God.

When faced with temptation, we sometimes wonder:  "Could I possibly resist such a thing?"  The answer is yes;  otherwise, God would not have allowed it to come to you. 


Lord, we know that Satan prepares great temptations for great saints.  Give us the vision to see that our temptations are smaller than the faith you will give us.


March 11

A Hot Tempered Man

Proverbs 15:18


Take a very careful look again at this passage.  At first it seems rather trivial;  if you're a hot tempered fellow, you're always in an argument.  That seems rather obvious.  Look again.  This is not about the trouble such a man gets into.  It's about the trouble he stirs up.  The patient man intervenes in quarrels to bring peace;  the hot tempered man intervenes to make quarrels worse.  Why?

·         Who rules the heart?  If Christ rules, then you should train your emotions to practice peace.  If the self rules, then you will practice passion—and you will expect it in others.

·         Who rules the soul? If Christ rules, then you will imitate him—the Prince of Peace.  If the self rules, then anger feels good;  even anger observed is better than no anger at all.

·         Who rules the mind?  If Christ rules, then you will work to do his will:  in all things, love.  If the self rules, you will see "divide and conquer" in every argument.

Do you know such a man?  Have you been his victim?  Look around;  you can find this man by looking for the nearest argument.  He started it, usually between two friends.  If this man is a Christian, you have a duty to perform.  You are the first step in church discipline.  Show him this passage;  rebuke him for his habit.  He may not even be aware of what he is doing;  it simply feels good, and he's fallen into a bad habit.  To turn a man from this is a great mercy.

If the man is not a Christian, then (as much as you are able) avoid him.  He does you no good, nor anyone else.  Do not treat him as an erring brother;  only Christians would recognize anger as sin in the world today.  If you think not, turn on the TV.  Watch a wrestling match.  It's passionate anger, with commercials.

But what if you are such a man?  Is there any hope?  Hope there is indeed, but you must take this to your Lord:

·         Begin by recognizing your sin, repenting—and asking forgiveness from those you have wronged.

·         Seek the help of other Christians in holding you accountable.

·         Remember the Lord's prayer:  "Lead us not into temptation."  The phrase is there for a purpose.


Lord, keep us from anger.  Keep us from ruining ourselves with it, or enjoying it in others.  Give us strength and wisdom to deal with those who are gripped by this sin.


March 12

The Way of Holiness

Isaiah 35:8-10


This is clearly a prophetic passage.  But like many such passages, it has an earthly meaning too.  So let's examine the NPV—the Non-Prophetic Version.

Please note that we are talking about a highway.  In Isaiah's time, this would be a roadway which was raised above the surrounding territory—so that the soldiers of the king could not be ambushed.  Trouble would be seen before it arrived.  Those who walk the way of holiness in this life have the same advantage.

Who are those people?  They are the ones who "walk in that Way."  In other words, true Christians.  We know this because Isaiah identifies them further.  They are the redeemed, brought back to God.  They are the ransomed, paid for by the blood of Christ.

The contrast is with those who do not walk on it;  the unclean, for instance—those whose life is always touched with sin they think is small.  Some go on to true wickedness, where no sin is too large.  Indeed, the lion here may refer to one who has become so sinful as to be like a beast, gratifying only the desires of the flesh.

We know that some of these will enter the church and attempt to lead others astray.  Even here Isaiah's highway gives us a clue.  The wicked try to "journey" - the road looks long and hard to them.  The unclean "go about" - never in the straight and narrow.  But the holy are said to walk;  more than that, to return.  That is the picture of the true believer:  one who is returning to God.  It is a simple process;  a matter of keeping on, walking day after day in what the Lord shows you to be right.

Roads are not meant just for the travel, but to take us somewhere.  This road leads to Zion, the holy hill of God.  It also leads to a new life for us.  There are some big changes in store for us:

·         "Sorrow and sighing" will flee from us.  There is a road that all of us should love!  God will wipe away every tear.

·         Everlasting joy and gladness will be ours.  Indeed, joy is said to "overtake" us—running up the road from behind just to be with us.  The joy of the Lord comes this way too.

Where is this road?  The map has been given to you;  it is the Bible.  This road is a spiritual one.  There are many such roads, but only one leads home.  Look for the highway called out by God.

Lord, keep us on the highway to heaven.  Until you return, let us not look back, but keep our eyes on you.


March 13

Prisoner for the Lord

Ephesians 4:1-6


This passage is often quoted starting at verse 5, with the seven unities of the church.  But to start there misses the point entirely.  Read again verse 1.  Paul, the prisoner for the Lord, . 

What an honor this man has!  Do you not see that he has been found worthy to suffer for the Lord?  Even to the point of martyrdom?  Position enough to be an Apostle;  like them, he will die a martyr too.  When our Lord returns, look for those chains to be glorified and made a reward for faithful service.  This is one who is great in the kingdom of heaven.

When someone of high position and authority tells you to do something, what is your response?  The higher the authority, the higher you jump, right?  Consider now the authority and honor of Paul—and see what he asks.  He does not order it;  indeed, he "urges" us.  The King James had "beseech";  the Revised Standard uses "beg."  And what does this man of great authority beg?

He begs us to live a worthy life, keeping the unity of the church.  He does not beg us to volunteer as missionaries;  to die as a martyr; to make great material sacrifices.  He begs us to keep the unity of the church.

How?  By being, as he is, completely humble and gentle, patient, bearing with each other in love.  Somehow he has to beg us to do this, which should come so easily to the Christian.  It is plainly to our benefit to do this;  it is pleasing to God—and he begs us for it.

One body, the church, with one Spirit, in one hope—the resurrection of the dead upon Christ's return.  Meanwhile we are to keep one Lord, Jesus Christ, one baptism, one faith in one God.

These are high and noble words.  We would recognize them as essentials in our daily walk if they had been commanded.  How much more when the Apostle in chains begs us to keep them?

Yet we do not keep them.  It is not just the shattered glass of the fractured church we see;  even in our little shard we see pride splitting that which should be one.  How often have you seen those who are "church shoppers" become offended at some minor thing, leaving to find a better place?  Surely you know they came from another place for the same reason. 

Our Lord was gentle, patient and humble.  He is the servant of all, bearing with us in love.  Let us consider the imitation of Christ to be our first call, and so preserve the oneness of God's church.


Lord, grant that our anger will be slow and our love swift;  our words gentle and our bearing lowly—for the sake of your church.


March 14


Matthew 7:16-18


Mention the word "identification" to most people and they will think of their driver's license.  We use it commonly as evidence that we are who we say we are.  So important has this become that our state, California, issues an identification card (at the Department of Motor Vehicles) for such a purpose to those who do not drive. 

The issue is trust.  If I am who I say I am, the merchant can find out if my credit is good.  If the picture doesn't match the person, the deal is off.  It's important, because there is money involved.

Now, if identification is important when there is money involved, how much more important is it when we speak of eternal life?  In this passage, Christ has just been speaking about how narrow is the road to eternal life.  Along that road we will seek guidance from those who say they know the way.  We need a way to identify those who are true out of those who are false. 

Christ here gives us such a method.  The life which is corrupt on the inside and pious on the outside can be detected—by the results (fruit) it produces.  Let us be clear:  this is not a matter of looking for someone who knows how to pray in public.  It is not a matter of Biblical knowledge.  It is a matter of results.

We often make this decision on the basis of what people do.  Let me give you a surer sign.  Look at their children.  Children are just such a result;  they are the fruit of parenting.  An elder is required to be one who rules over his own household;  just another example of looking for fruit.  Are the children believers in the truth? 

What about those who are around them?  Do those who work with them reflect such character?  For example, do his coworkers refrain from profanity in his presence?  Especially when he has raised no objections?  Does his character rub off?

Look at those who teach you:  do their lives reflect the love, joy and peace of Christ?  Or do they have anger, envy, greed or lust dominating them? 

You might think that the good things of Christ would be easy to imitate.  It is not so;  our Lord has made the way narrow and hard.  Hypocrites are lazy.  They want the way without the work.  Without the work they lack the fruit.  So by their fruit you will know them.


Lord, grant us clear vision:  vision to see the narrow way; vision to see those who are false; vision to see those who are true guides; vision to see You.


March 15


Genesis 25:29-34


The lessons of the Bible are sometimes obscured to us by the great changes in culture since it was written.  This story is thousands of years old.  It needs a little explanation.

The story centers around a "birthright."  In those days, a man did not have the liberty of dividing his property however he liked in his will.  His oldest son, no matter what he thought of him, or which wife he came from, got the birthright.  This meant several good things to the oldest son:

·         First, it meant he got a double share of his father's wealth.

·         It also meant that he inherited the position of head of the clan.

In this instance, it is very precious—because of the promises made to Abraham (Jacob's grandfather) and Isaac (Jacob's father).  Jacob is not the first born;  that's Esau.

Now the story makes a little more sense.  From this, we can pick up some idea of the character of each man:

·         Jacob—the name itself means "deceiver" - is the kind of man who would connive to get what is not rightly his.  You'll notice an astute judgment of character here;  he makes Esau take an oath (just in case he decides not to honor his word).

·         Esau—it means "red" - is a man who takes his father's things much too lightly.  Selling the birthright for a meal is not only a poor bargain but insulting to your father.

In the end the matter turns out much like you would expect.  Jacob deceives his dying father and receives his father's blessing, leadership of the clan, and the promises made to Abraham.  Esau gets a few sheep and a pasture.

Read this story again;  look at it from the point of view that God might take.  When he looks at Esau, he sees someone who thinks the birthright is trivial.  He'll trade it for a meal.  Does he see the same kind of person in you?

It took Esau only a few minutes to get rid of his birthright.  We too have such a birthright—we are born again.  We are not to think that birthright trivial either.  Sadly, some of us do.  We take lightly the grace of God, our birthright.  How?  By our refusal to forgive, or by our continued sin.  Our birthright begins with forgiveness, given by God on the basis of Calvary.  If we despise his forgiveness and think it trivial, what then will He do?


Lord, may we know that your grace is a joy;  may we treat it as a precious jewel and never take it lightly.


March 16

Early Church Example

Acts 2:42-47


One of the more awkward passages of Scripture is to be found here.  It is awkward because of the example it sets.  No one gets too perturbed about prayer, or the Lord's Supper.  Miracles are fine too (as long as they're confined to the Bible).  The good news comes from the heart;  the bad news comes from the wallet.

There is no getting around it.  The early church took a very different view of the word "mine."  We consider possession of material items to be our right.  They considered possession of material things to be their opportunity. 

Is it just possible that we have it wrong, and they have it right?  On the general principle of "by their fruits you will know them," let's look at their results.  They increased in four things:

1.       Knowledge of the Apostle's doctrine.

2.       Fellowship with each other.

3.       Praise to God

4.       Numbers—they grew daily.

Can we honestly say that we are increasing in these items?  I think not.  Doctrine is seldom mentioned any more.  Praise is confined to the sanctuary.  Perhaps we should ask why they had such good results.

It wasn't the giving.  It's pretty clear that the giving (to the Apostles and to each other) was the result of the Spirit moving in them.  The secret to this is found in verse 42:  devotion.  They devoted themselves to four things:

·         The Apostle's doctrine.  A church that cannot get enough of the word is a power filled church.

·         Fellowship.  A church that cares for those who are sick or elderly, that makes it a point to share lives with lives, will never lack for the love of God.

·         Breaking of Bread.  A church whose members examine themselves and repent at the sight of the body and blood of Christ will be heard by God.

·         Prayer.  The church on her knees is mightier than the world on its pride.

Is it any wonder that this was a giving church?  Every thought, emotion, plea and prayer pointed to giving.  When God blesses, you bless others.


Lord, forgive us our partial commitment.  Replace our interest with devotion, our daydreams with action.


March 17


Genesis 18:1-8


That's not a typographical error.  The first eight verses teach us about hospitality.

It is sad that the church no longer teaches hospitality as a virtue.  In ancient times it was a necessity, for inns were few and most of them were also houses of prostitution.  As people traveled they would depend upon a network of friends of friends.  To have someone stay in your house for the night was an honor of sorts;  it also brought you news from other areas, and was therefore welcomed.  Hospitality is a neglected virtue and a neglected honor.

Of course, it may be that Abraham knew how important his guests were.  But from the passage it does not appear to be the case;  it seems this was typical of Abraham's hospitality.  Hospitality here cost Abraham one animal, some milk and cottage cheese and a little water.  But there are other sacrifices in hospitality:

·         Hospitality calls for the sacrifice of the pleasant.  It now consumes the fatted calf. 

·         Hospitality calls for a sacrifice of the present.  When guests come, our time goes.

·         Hospitality calls for a sacrifice of the private.  Sometimes a guest takes an impression with him.

·         Hospitality calls for a sacrifice of our priorities.  The needs of our guests now take center stage.

But there is one guest remaining in this age of diminished hospitality—the Holy Spirit.  Examine your hospitality towards him;  is it what you would have for so important a guest? 

·         Do you sacrifice the pleasant for him?  Do you give up pleasures so that his work might be done? 

·         Do you sacrifice the present for him?  Your time in prayer instead of watching television?

·         How about the private things?  Is there something in your life you'd rather not have examined?

·         Priorities—are they yours, or God's?  Check your checkbook on this one.

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit should be a welcome change in the heart of the believer.  The change will be welcome if the Spirit is too.


Lord, keep us mindful of our hospitality, particularly for you.


March 18


1 Corinthians 1:7-16


Paul has a definite set of problems at the Corinthian church.  This letter is a corrective one;  the first problem he deals with is the unity of the church.  That unity is constantly threatened by Satan.  Since this is a matter of high importance, the way in which Paul handles it seems out of place.

The first thing he does is to remind them of their spiritual gifts.  He points out to them that they lack none of the gifts.  In this way he gently reminds them that they have the Spirit—which holds together the body of Christ.  Next, he invokes the name of Christ as the one who will sustain them, strong unto the end when he returns.  Then he reminds them that God has called them into fellowship with Jesus Christ.

See how meekly and quietly he begins?  He does not respond with the authority of the Apostle;  rather, he approaches them in the spirit of telling the truth in love.

Then comes the point:  personality.  Each of us, naturally, has a favored preacher or teacher.  This is not a problem while we see such people as simply doing their part in the body.  But when the personalities clash, it can cause division in the church.  There are dangers to being a successful preacher or teacher!  In this instance, Paul himself is the object of one of these factions.  Therefore, he must show them the error.

He does so by recurring to first principles:  Christ is one.  His sacrifice, and that alone, is our salvation.  No teacher or preacher, no matter how gifted, can replace that. There is no other foundation;  any building built on something else will fall.

Paul beseeches them (and indirectly us) to be of one mind and thought.  The original phrasing means to be the same in our intellectual view;  also, to be united in our intentions, our will.  Think it through carefully, then act on it—together.

It is fashionable today in evangelical churches to sneer at anything intellectual.  Faith alone will save you, check your brain at the church door!  Paul shows the error in this.  We are to be clear minded about this.  We must reason these things out in the mind.  But we cannot stop there;  intellectual assent is not faith.  Only when the mind moves the will can there be faith.  Let us be doers of the word—doing it together in one mind and judgment.


Father, we know that the unity of your church is precious to you.  Our Lord asked that we might be one, even as You and He are one.  Lord, unite your church.


March 19

Lies and Wealth

Proverbs 30:7-9


The word "quality" has a number of meanings.  One of them, used in the business world, is this:  a quality product is one that meets your requirements—exactly.

This is a little tough to grasp at times.  We're used to the idea that a quality car, for example, is expensive, well engineered and carries a certain snob appeal.  But what if the car you're looking for must be inexpensive and get good gas mileage?  The big Cadillac just won't do;  for your purposes, it's not a quality car.

We have something of the same sort here.  Many of us dream of being fabulously rich;  God knows there is a right amount of money for us.  For most of us, it fits the description here:  enough so that I'm not tempted to steal and little enough so that I don't feed my ego to the bursting point.

A man who has "just enough" also tends to be an honest one.  If you are too poor, the temptation to lie your way into better circumstances is very great.  But if you are richer than you should be, there is the temptation of "more."  Making money becomes a test of your true worth, and lying to do it becomes very easy.

Look at it this way:  Suppose you're looking for a good auto repair shop.  What would you want to find?

·         You'd want one where the owner has dirt and grease under his fingernails—enough business to keep his hands under the hood, no temptation to create false problems to be repaired.

·         You'd want one who didn't have too much business, though—someone who looked after things himself.

·         And you'd certainly want one you could trust.  That's your car and your money we're talking about.

Now, turn that around.  Suppose someone was looking for a person in your line of work.  They'd want the same kinds of things.  We know what we're looking for:  an honest worker, wealthy enough to show that he's competent;  not so rich that he won't care. 

That's what God is looking for in you:  for you are the reputation of God, walking the planet.  When non-Christians look at you, what do they see?  Do they see someone who steals?  Do they see someone who has too much money to be honest?  Is your word your bond? 


Lord, keep us mindful of whose we are;  that we are the Christ others see.  May their view of us bring you praise.


March 20


Fair's Fair

Luke 12:42-48


It doesn't take long to run into this argument.  People who are sure there isn't a God—at least, not the one we know—argue this way about it:

·         "You tell me that God is omnipotent—do anything."

·         "You tell me that God is good; there is no evil in Him."

·         "But there is evil in this world.  If He were good, He'd do something about it.  Since He's omnipotent, He would be done with it by now.  Therefore, your God doesn't exist."

There are two key facts about this.  First, the people who argue this way usually have come up with this on their own (and they're proud of it).  Second, the Christian they're talking to has no idea how to reply.

My answer is simple.  You have left out an option.  Either God is not omnipotent, or He's not good—or He's not finished yet.  God the merciful is waiting, so that more might be saved by the blood of Christ.

But the day is coming when his patience with us will run out.  None of us knows when that will be;  it's one day closer than it was yesterday.  When Christ returns, he will judge the living and the dead.  And he will do it with justice.  That's the point of this story:  you and I will be judged on the basis of what we know.  The ignorant will get off lightly;  the educated will have it worse.

But do note one thing about this story.  It is phrased in terms of a particular individual;  namely, the head servant who is in charge of feeding the others.  We must take this with a spiritual turn.  It means that those who are shepherds of God's flock are to be judged more strictly. 

That, as any kindergarten student would know, is fair.  God's judgment on us is a reflection of his righteousness.  The salvation he offers to us is a reflection of his love.  These two touch each other at the Cross, for the Cross reflects two things:

·         The horrible price that must be paid for our sins—the life of Jesus, the sinless man, the Christ.

·         The unfailing grace of God, who sent his Son to that Cross.

Fair's fair.


Father, we know that we cannot earn our salvation;  it must be a gift from you.  May we always remember how much that gift cost.


March 21

Smooth Talk and Flattery

Romans 16:17-19


The topic of obedience is much neglected in our day.  It is quite rare to hear a sermon that even mentions the word.  A sermon devoted to the subject is unheard of.  But the New Testament rings with the word.

Of course, obedience is subject to abuse.  This is especially true when those abusing it are in positions of power in the church.  Paul, in this short passage, tells us how to deal with such people.

First, we must identify them.  How do we know when someone is abusing the obedience of the church?  Paul gives us two simple tests:

·         Do they cause division in the church?  Do they oblige Christians to "choose up sides?"

·         Do they put obstacles in the way, things contrary to or additional to the Scripture?  There are always things that must have slipped the mind of God Almighty.

Interestingly, we have an alternate form of church discipline for them.  Rebuke is not mentioned—for rebuke leads to more division with such people.  No, we simply avoid them.

It's hard for them to deal with that.  Paul makes it clear here that the reason for such divisive behavior is their appetite.  Appetite?  Yes indeed; not necessarily for potluck dinners but for their egos.  How do we know that?

Such people have to have a technique that works—or this wouldn't be a problem.  The simplest technique is to use what works with yourself.  In their instance, the technique comes down to smooth talk and flattery.  Flattery makes them feel good; they will use it on you.  The well oiled tongue works both ways. 

The worst part of this comes when you look at who such people are most likely to disturb:  the obedient.  The Christian who in honest humility tries to follow his Lord can be misled.  What shall we do about that?

First, be aware of these people;  watch out!  Next, use your brains.  Be as wise as you can be concerning things which are innocent– but don't fall for Satan's lie that evil is enlightening.  Be innocent concerning evil.  You need not explore the dregs to know that they are in the bottle.


Lord, let us learn to be obedient—so obedient that we can honestly worry about such a problem.  Then, in our obedience, let us learn to follow you in all humility, such as you have shown us.


March 22


Matthew 10:40-42


It is a curious fact.  When Jesus sent forth the seventy, he told them to travel light.  He sent them out depending upon the hospitality of others;  if the others were not hospitable, they would starve.  Why would he do such a thing?

·         It may be that such utter poverty induces a dependence upon God.  We know that God wants us to turn to him;  if this is the way, then he will use it.  But he tells us that the laborer is worthy of his hire.

·         In this passage he reveals another reason.  It is so that the ordinary Christian sitting in the pews may have the privilege of participating in the growth of the kingdom of God.

Not many of us are capable (or called) to travel to foreign lands as a missionary.  For most of us, a short term missions trip of one to two weeks supplies all the adventure and hardship we want.  So, in a sense, we cannot share the adventure.

Bur we can share the reward.  The principle is fairly simple:  if you show love to my children, you show love to me.  If you are kind to those I care for, you are kind to me.  If I would reward one who loves me and is kind to me, then I would reward the one who cares for and loves my children.

So when one of God's missionaries stops by, do not look upon the worthiness of the person.  Look upon the worth of the call God has placed on them.  Look beyond them;  see their Master. 

Will he reward those who care for his own?  He tells us plainly that we will be rewarded like those we care for.  If we care for the righteous man (for the sake of righteousness, not carnal ambition) then Christ will reward us as he would that righteous man. 

It is easy to see how caring for someone who is great in the kingdom would merit this.  But Christ extends the principle down to the lowest in his society—little children.  If you provide for one of them at the urging of Christ, then the reward will still be there.

Indeed, whoever receives the disciple of Christ plays host to Christ, for the disciples are his body.  It is the worthiness of the calling, not the man called, that counts.  But note, please, that the disciple is to bring peace to such a house—the peace that comes from Christ himself.  For such rewards, surely we should practice hospitality more than we do.


Lord, we have left the art of hospitality in our haste.  Give us calm minds and warm hearts, that we may welcome your children.


March 23


Proverbs 26:30


"You won't catch me repeating gossip," the song goes, "so you'd better listen close and get it right the first time."

Most Christians defend such conversation by saying, "It isn't gossip if it's true."  That's not correct.  If what you're saying isn't true, it's slander.  If it's in print, it's libel.  If it's true—and being spoken maliciously—it's gossip.  This will come as a surprise to many Christians.  We seem to feel that as long as something is factually correct (well, with a little of our wisdom supplying the missing facts) it's perfectly acceptable for us to clack on, no matter how grievously we wound someone else.  One reason for this is that we seldom see the wounds inflicted;  gossip is usually delivered to its target by a friend.  It is a bitter wound for that.

As Solomon points out, hatred dies out when the gossip is silenced.  So then, how do we respond to someone gossiping?

·         If that person is not a Christian, we are somewhat limited in our response.  Depending upon circumstance, we should do whatever we can to stop the talk right there.  Sometimes there is very little we can do.

·         If that person is a Christian, then a sound familiarity with the Scriptures will allow the Spirit to give you words both true and gentle.  Gently correct the talebearer; remind him that such conversation is hurtful, and tears down the body of Christ.

There is, of course, a worse case.  You could be the gossip.  There is a simple test.  When you hear something that sounds delicious and harmful, what's your reaction?  Do you want to hear more?  Get all the details so you can be an expert on the subject?  And if details are lacking, your imagination supplies them?  You know exactly who should hear about this next?

Christian, if this is you, go to your knees and ask God's forgiveness.  Ask him for strength in keeping your eyes open and your mouth shut.   Gossip makes us feel important, in the know.  We grieve our brothers and sisters with words like arrows, all for the momentary pleasure of puffing ourselves up.

As Christians, we know how we are to handle information.  Whether it is good or bad, we are to tell the truth—in love.  If your words wound, shut up.


Lord, keep us from this sin, which does so much damage.  Help us to remember that we are responsible for our words.


March 24


John 17:20-23


The writers of the New Testament attach a great importance to all that Christ said and did during the last week of his ministry.  About half of the Gospels are taken up with that last week.  This section is from Christ's prayer, just before going into Gethsemane.  This particular section is unique:  in it, Christ prays for us.  We are those who believe because of what the Apostles reported.

So, in this penultimate prayer by the Son of God, what is asked of Almighty God?  That we—the church of today—might be one.  This does not mean a union in which we change the name on the sign out front.  No, it is far more than that.

We are to be one, as Jesus and the Father are one.  Different persons, but one spirit.  All of the mystery of the Trinity is brought forward here.  No matter;  we are to be one.

How can this be accomplished?  Christ tells us here:  we are to be in Him, and in the Father, as the Father is in Him and He is in the Father.  Confused yet?  It is a difficult concept, but there is an easy way to understand it.

That way is the Holy Spirit.  We are familiar with the concept that the Holy Spirit is in us.  At the same time, however, it is quite accurate to say that a true Christian is in the Holy Spirit—for it is the Spirit who moves the church.  The true Christian is in the church.

Indeed, this is so much true that Christ tells us here that he has given us (the church, that is) glory—the glory that the Father gave him.  This glory has a purpose:  that we show the world that Jesus loves us, with the love given him by the Father.

This leads us to the fruit of unity:  successful evangelism.  If the world sees a church that is fractured and divided; a church whose time is spent in debating theological fine points incomprehensible to the average person; a church worried over the sound of a guitar in the sanctuary, then the world will see the church as trivial.

But if the world sees the church united, then the picture changes.  But how can we be united?  He tells us here.  We are united in this:  we know (and believe) that Jesus was sent by God, in the love of God, to bring that love to us.  The measure of that love is found at the Cross, for at the Cross the love of Christ purchased our pardon.  We are one in the Spirit, one in the Lord.  The man who names Christ as Lord and Savior is brother to me.


Lord, forgive us our squabbles and squeaks.  May we be called to be one in you, just as you are one with the Father.


March 25

Career Move

Mark 10:35-40


"You don't get if you don't ask."  It's the negative form of asking so it will be given to you.  But we should be at least a little cautious about our requests.  In the kingdom of God suffering and service go with high authority.

The World's Way

James and John are trying to get ahead.  Seeing that the Teacher is unoccupied for the moment, they decide to put in their request.  After all, what's to lose?  From the world's perspective, this should be an astute move.  How does the world see it?

·         Connections are the great key to advancement.  People don't get promoted if no one at the top knows their name.  So it really helps to know the people at headquarters.

·         Qualifications are a second route.  If you were unfortunate enough to have been born without connections—it does seem to work like that, doesn't it? - then you had best have qualifications.  An MBA is useful in this.

·         Campaigning is an absolute necessity.  If the folks upstairs don't know your name, put it in front of them—preferably in lights.

The Way of the Cross

The way of the Cross is quite different.  There are still "moves to make," but they have differing, surprising results.  So surprising that Jesus tells them plainly, you don't know what you're asking.

·         Called by the Spirit—this is a grand thing.  He usually asks someone that the world would overlook.  If all goes well, the world will continue to overlook him—and see Christ.

·         Given spiritual gifts by that same Holy Spirit.  Do you not see that your place is one of service?  If service, will not the Holy Spirit bring "God's provision for God's command?"

·         Guided by that same Spirit, our paths may look strange to the world.  Anyone who is consistently following our Lord will appear to be inconsistent to the world. 

Even the Apostles were not permitted to choose their own place of service, but were given wisdom to know where they should be.  It is rather presumptuous when we think otherwise.


Lord, grant that we may know that we are servants in your kingdom—something which is given, not grasped.  Teach us to serve as you came to serve and save.


March 26

A Jigsaw Puzzle

Colossians 1:15-20


There are, I am told, people who are insane enough to purchase a jigsaw puzzle which is totally red on both sides.  When (or rather, if) assembled, it is a circle.  This passage at first seems to be something of the same sort.  But we shall sort it out.

Christ's relationship to the creation

We see four things about his relationship to the creation:

·         He is before all—He is the pre-existent Lord.

·         He created all things, no exceptions.  The universe is his by right of creation.

·         Indeed, the purpose of this universe is Christ;  he created it for himself.

·         He is the active sustainer of this universe.  Gravity works because he says so.

His relationship to us

We see two things here which describe his relationship with us:

·         He is the head of the church.  All who claim salvation must acknowledge him as Lord.

·         He is the firstborn from the dead—the first to rise to the new body, our example and guaranty of resurrection.

His relationship to God the Father

Paul here tells us two things; two precious things:

·         He is the exact image of God.  If you see Him, you have seen the Father.

·         The Father has placed his fullness—all that He is—in Christ.

Putting the pieces together

After all these great attributes, so neatly summarized in so few verses, there is yet one thing we see.  Ours is a fallen world, a world of sin.  Somehow this sin has corrupted even the creation around us.  We are part of that creation, and we are sinners.  There is always one piece in the jigsaw puzzle around which the others must fit.  In this puzzle, that one piece is this:  Jesus Christ has also reconciled all things to himself.  He has taken away the curse of sin, reconciling us to the Father by his blood.  That reconciliation redeems us, and ultimately all creation as well.


Lord, we cannot claim to understand all that is said about you and this creation.  We know that you will make all things new, and we await that day.  May we wait for it in diligent service to You.


March 27


Genesis 3:15



It is unfortunate that the concept of allegory has been relegated to the dustbin in Christian minds.  The ancient writers considered it a high form of instruction, and perhaps we can learn a little from it even today.

The story in Genesis, chapter three, is an allegory.  That does not mean it is fiction;  it means that the characters in it stand for other things.  The serpent represents Satan.  We do not therefore shoot all snakes on sight.  Adam represents men, Eve women.  Indeed, we know that Christ himself is called "the last Adam."  So we can examine this passage using these symbols, and do so fearlessly.

Prophecy is often cryptic.  "Cryptic" originally meant something in a code.  God gives us such things so that we might be instructed without revealing too much.  Such prophecy is often much clearer in hindsight.  Looking back with the New Testament in hand much of the Old Testament prophecy becomes quite clear.  It is also true that we tend to overestimate how much of this was clear at the time of writing—and thus underestimate the vision of the writers.

This passage is just such a one.  It is clearly prophetic, given the use of the future tense.  It clearly involves Satan, the serpent.  And for some mysterious reason, it involves the offspring of women.  Today, of course, we recognize that as the virgin birth.  Isaiah told it more clearly, but that comes much later.

Looking back, we can see some clear implications from this prophetic passage:

·         First, the Incarnation and the Crucifixion were planned from the beginning.  Christ is the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world.  Indeed, other sources present us the fact that this was the plan before time began.

·         Surprisingly, it holds that even the Christ, the Holy One of Israel, would suffer from Satan's assault.  It is a radical thought in the Old Testament.  We see Him as fully man and fully God.

·         Finally, there is the blessed assurance that Satan, and all that is evil with him, will one day be destroyed.

The Crucifixion was part of Plan A.  So is the destruction of evil.  Both these things are certain.


Lord, how marvelous it is to know that Satan is defeated;  give us the hope of victory in our lives, too.


March 28

Testing The Spirits

1 John 4:2-3


The Apostle John gives us, in this simple passage, the method for testing every great new theory that comes along.  The method is fairly obvious.  Jesus of Nazareth claimed to be both fully human and fully God.  He did this amidst the one people on earth who had a clear idea of the one true God—the I AM of Moses.  Since those days, the church has been assailed by those who deny the person and mission of Christ.  See if you recognize any of these (by no means a complete list):

·         Some say that Jesus is not equal to God;  he is a created being who is higher than the angels.  Not so, says Jesus of Nazareth;  before the world was, I am.

·         Some say that his suffering on the Cross meant nothing;  after all, how can God suffer, being omnipotent?  Not so, says Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Man.

·         Some say that Christ only took over someone else's body at adulthood, and therefore never was really completely human.  His mother's birth pains should answer for that.

·         Some say the Crucifixion was easy;  since He is God, He would know how it would turn out; it would be no problem.  Not for the Christ in the Garden asking his Father to let this cup pass from him.

·         Some say he had no trouble with temptation—as He is God, who could tempt Him?  With what?  The Son of Man was led into the wilderness for just such purpose.

There are many, many more.  Some deny that Jesus was anything more than a ghost, a disembodied spirit.  These ideas keep coming up to defy the truth:  Jesus of Nazareth, born of the virgin named Mary, raised in the occupied province of Israel in the Roman Empire, an itinerant preacher and teacher for three years, executed under Pontius Pilate—that Jesus was, is and evermore will be the God who created all things, sustains all things and will renew all things when He returns. 

The test is a simple one.  Jesus of Nazareth, in the flesh fully human, but also fully Divine—anything less is false.  Test the spirits.


Lord, we know that those who bring forward such things are smooth of speech.  Give us both wisdom and courage to resist.


March 29

Testing the Spirits

1 John 4:2-3


Perhaps you haven't noticed this, but the Psalms are poetry of a high degree.  Some poems rhyme in sound ("the rain in Spain"); others rhyme in their rhythm (Haiku) - but the Psalms rhyme in thought. 

Such a thought rhyme is Psalm 22.  It is clearly prophetic of the Crucifixion—but it also stands by itself as the plea of a man who is in desperate trouble.  Watch the rhymes;  catch the ideas at play:


The greatness of the Lord

                The insignificance of man.

How the world is treating me

                How God treats me.


My enemies are strong and numerous

                I am weak and fearful

Rescue me, Lord

                And I will praise you


The poor will eat and be satisfied

                All the earth will praise you

The rich will feast and worship

                A people not yet born will praise you.


Have you ever gone to God, asking to have him rescue you from some situation—only to get no answer?  Perhaps your poetry does not rhyme.  Look at the thought rhymes above;  see how often the Psalmist praises the Lord.  See how he exalts the Lord in every thought.  There is no sense that the Lord is "at fault" for his circumstances;  rather, the thought is that he is not worthy to do anything other than praise the Lord. 

Perhaps the rhyme in your personal poetry is gone.  Do you balance your please with his praises?  Is the mercy of the Lord your counterweight to the harshness of this world?  Do you look to the time he rescues you—and commit yourself to praising him then?  Learn from King David, the writer of this Psalm.  For each request, balance it with praise befitting the Lord.


Lord, we so often fail to praise you when we cry out for help—and when you deliver us, we forget to praise you.  Pardon us this failing, and teach us your praises as David learned them, so that we might be, like him, men after your own heart.


March 30

God's Credit Card

Romans 4:23-25


My wife's father is a wealthy man, by the standards of this world.  He enjoys the part of being patriarch of the clan (he is 88 years old, so I suppose we might accord him that privilege).  As such, he often takes us out to dinner.  He pays, as most of us do, with a credit card.

A marvelous invention is the credit card.  That small rectangle of plastic moves the retail world.  Many of us see it as simply a convenient way to pay our bills;  others, a loan at the ready.  But note this:  your credit depends upon one thing:  what the bank thinks is the likelihood that you will pay your bills. 

Please note, then, that my wife's father has on occasion trusted me with the credit card in order that I might purchase some computer equipment for his business.  While I have the card, his is the credit. 

God does something like that with us.  Paul here reminds us that Abraham believed, and it was credited to him as righteousness.  It is as if God was paying the bill.

Indeed, God has paid it.  Look how:

·         The wages of sin, we are told, is death.

·         Therefore Christ did not deserve to die.

·         But die he did, laid in the tomb.  He went willingly to it.

·         Why?  He did it for us.

The Cross allows us to use the "credit" earned at Calvary for the sins we have done.  In effect, Jesus Christ died, and rose again, so that we might be able to have that credit.

And here the example of Abraham is most useful.  The innocent atonement alone could not be complete;  we must apply for that credit.  How do we apply?  Just like Abraham did:  we believe.

When I use my father-in-law's credit card, I can buy far more than I would think prudent on my own credit card.  It doesn't matter;  I'm not paying the bill.  With regard to our sins, the same is true for all who believe in Christ.  His credit—the atonement for sin—is now available to all who will take it;  He has paid the bill in full.


Lord, it is so wonderful to have your grace.  So often we think we must do something to earn it.  Keep our minds attentive to grace:  you alone made the atonement.  We cannot work our way into salvation, but we can let the grace you give us be transformed into service for your church.  You have been merciful to us;  help us follow your example and be merciful to all.


March 31

Rough Passage

Philippians 3:10-11


It is no secret to anyone who has served in the Army—the Army loves a parade.  But not all parades.  My own service in the Army included a number of parades, most of which were thoroughly resented.  But perhaps we can use a parade as an example of what Paul is talking about here.

At first it seems that he is stating a doctrine of works.  But it is not so.  Look at this in terms of a parade.

Know Christ

Long before the parade starts, the sergeant comes into the barracks and inspects each man.  All buttons must be polished; ribbons displayed in the right order.  This will not be the only inspection;  the soldier comes to expect this.  Christians too have inspection.  Each week at Communion;  each night in prayer we are counseled to examine ourselves and seek forgiveness quickly.  In this way we present the bright appearance of one made holy by Christ. 

This does not come by waiting for inspection to point out the flaws;  the soldier knows what to look for.  So should the Christian.  Examine yourself!

Fellowship of His suffering

Every soldier understands this;  those you suffer with are friends for life.  Every soldier also understands that you do not let your buddies suffer alone;  esprit de corps requires that you help your buddy at need.  Isn't that the same with us?

Of course, on parade your relationship with the next soldier in line is very important—the formation looks good (or terrible) depending on how you are aligned with each other.  So it is with Christians too.  We need to be aligned with our brothers.  It's called brotherly love.

The power of his resurrection

Parades originated as a method of moving large formations into battle where desired.  In other words, the parade delivered you to the battlefield in the order needed for victory.  It doesn't matter how well you march if you're going the wrong directions.

In the Christian's life, that is seeking and walking the narrow way.  Victory lies at the end of that narrow road; a victory guaranteed by the Resurrection of Christ. 


Lord, grant us wisdom in this.  Give us the sense to inspect ourselves, so that we may get your help early.  Teach us to love one another so that your church is in harmony.  Lead us home to the place you have prepared for us.

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