Welcome to Becomning Closer! 



September 1

Search Me, O God

Psalm 139


As one author put it, "Being the Lord God Almighty is no bed of roses."  Consider, for a moment, God as Creator.  When mankind was sure that this planet was huge, and the lights of the sky faint nothings, the argument was made that surely God (if he exists) would never have made anything so puny like that.

Indeed, we found out he did not.  Now that the universe is so vast, surely whatever God there might be has neither time nor interest in mortals on this speck in the universe. 

Yet—however large the universe—the Lord God Almighty not only cares for the mortals on this speck of dust, he cares for them very deeply.  Indeed, it is a stunning thought:  the Creator of all things, the Lord God Almighty, cares for me.  Not just once in a while;  not whenever he has time to spare;  now and evermore.

This Psalm is David's hymn of praise. 

·         Is it a matter of what I say and what I do?  He is there, knowing all before I speak.

·         Can I run away from this God?  No, no matter where I go, He is there.

·         Can I hide in the darkness?  What is darkness to the Father of Lights? 

·         Even in the womb you knew me, Lord.  You saw me before my mother did.

It is, confesses David, too wonderful for him.  He knows the Lord, and he knows that his thoughts are high above the thoughts of man. 

That, you see, is the problem to modern man.  We're perfectly content with a mediocre God who is pretty bright—one we could address as being almost as smart as I am.  But that is not the God who Is.  The Great I AM is beyond all of our comprehension—and what we cannot understand, we deny.  We exalt ourselves. 

Those who do are the wicked of whom David speaks.  He has come to his conclusion;  his great question is why God tolerates such people.  Is it perhaps because He is Love?

Hear David's plea:  "Search me, O God, and know my heart."  To those who open their hearts to God will come mercy;  to those who do not, judgment.  Do you hide your heart from the one who sees all, or do you invite his loving care?


Lord, you know the very heart of each of us.  Grant that we may see the blessings that flow from "Search me, O God."


September 2

Correlation and Causality

Job 20:4-8


Should you happen to study the mathematics known as statistics, you will quickly come to a phrase that seems to defy common sense.  "Correlation does not imply causality."  In shorter words, it means that just because event A was followed by event B does not mean that event A caused event B.  From the statistical point of view, it could be a random event.  I'm told that when race track betting increases, a few months later toothpick sales will increase.  Make what connection you can from that.

But what is God's point of view on this?  Zophar the Naamathite tries to put words in God's mouth here.  His argument is relatively simple:

·         God is angry with the wicked.

·         God punishes those with whom he is angry

·         Therefore, the triumph of the wicked will soon be swept away.

Left unsaid is the presumption that the reason Job is being treated like this is that he is one of the aforementioned wicked.  Zophar has seen correlation;  he presumes causality.  Since God punishes the wicked, and Job is certainly not being blessed in this, it follows that the problem must be in Job's wickedness.

This has a slight hitch to it.  It isn't always true (as Job will point out in chapter 21).  Sometimes the wicked prosper;  sometimes the innocent suffer.

That leads us to "why?"  As mortals we can only speculate why God would allow one particular person to suffer.  We do know that he allows it for his purposes:

·         He may be preparing you for greater things.  Sometimes from hard training he produces a great warrior for the faith.

·         He may be using you as a lesson.  I know a man whose pains are much greater than mine—and his service to God is greater too.  To walk by him is to realize how blessed we are.

·         Highest of all, he may be allowing you to share in the suffering of Christ—so that you may reign with him as well.

As for God, he never tells us why.  God need explain nothing to us, of course.  But perhaps the reason he declines to do so is this:  even if we knew the reason, we would still need the suffering.


Lord, we ask not that you tell us why;  rather, we ask that our suffering be counted for you, whatever the reason.


September 3

Praise the Lord

Psalm 30:4-12


If you will scan through the Psalms you will notice an interesting fact:  the Psalmists frequently command us to "praise the Lord."  And not just the reader;  in varying Psalms we find that animals, plants and geography are to praise him too.  Which brings us quite naturally to the question, "Why?  Why would God need our praise?"

If you want the right answers, you have to ask the right questions.  The right question is not "need" but "deserve."  And he does indeed deserve our praise. 

·         The righteous God is also the forgiving God.  His righteousness would seem to condemn us, the unrighteous—but his great mercy saves us.  Even as he disciplines us, it is for a short while;  his favor lasts a lifetime.

·         When we begin to feel secure in our own resources, he calls us to account.  In so doing he keeps us from presumptuous pride;  we are dismayed for a little while, then understand again who he really is.

·         Indeed, when we sin, he hears our cry for mercy.  From the troubles of our own making he delivers us—and surely that is a reason for praise.

Behind all this there is some simple logic. 

·         If you really want to know someone, and know them well, you must understand their essence—as we might say, we need to know "what makes them tick." 

·         We may find that they are someone who has done something worthy of praise and respect.  It is a form of praise to ask an athlete to give you his autograph.

·         We may find that they are worthy of respect because of the burden they bear—a doctor on call or a president in office.

·         We may find them worthy of praise for what they have caused others to do.  We have one preacher but many listeners.

So then, would we find God worthy of praise?  Think of his mighty works in creation;  ponder the sacrifice at the Cross.  Think of the burden he bears, that of our sins.  Think of those he has inspired over the last two thousand years.  Think of who He is—the I AM.  If He is not worthy, then praise should not exist.


Father, how often we fail to praise and thank you for all that you do, have done and will do.  Open our eyes to the power of praise.


September 4


The Contemplation of Heaven

Revelation 7:13-17


C. H. Spurgeon put it this way: "The way to liberate our souls from the bonds that tie us to earth is to strengthen the cords that bind us to heaven."  The contemplation of heaven is not much preached these days;  nobody wants to hear "pie in the sky."  Why, then, is there so much Scripture on the subject?  What could possibly justify our contemplation of heaven?  Shouldn't we get to more practical work?

The contemplation of heaven has its merits.  Here are but two:

·         It changes our view of death.  The weak see death as a terrible thing;  the faithful see it as a change of address—moving on up.

·         It should therefore make us more diligent—keeping our eyes on the prize.

This passage tells us of those who came through the Great Tribulation.  It is not necessary to debate when that event is, was or will be;  we need only look at the saints.

How blessed they are.  There is, of course, an end to their afflictions and trials; those were taken from them.  In their place they received eternal blessings.  Christ told the woman at the well that she could have streams of living water;  here we see those who do,

How did they get there?  Somehow those mentioned in the Bible always seem to be "super saints."  But this is not necessarily so.  We know only two things about these saints:

·         First, they "washed their robes" - that is, they accepted the grace of God, were baptized and received the forgiveness of sins.  For our part, it is little enough.  Christ did all the real work at Calvary.

·         Next, they endured—to the end.  It is as simple as that.

What should we do about it?  It seems so far distant to some.  It does not matter;  the first thing we should do about heaven is to desire it.  We must, as Paul tells us, set our minds on things above.  It helps get our perspective right; just how transient our troubles really are. 

We must also do this:  know the importance of faith, and act upon it.  The blessing was given to those who persevered to the end.


Sweet Beulah Land, Lord!  Let our hearts long for the real home you are preparing for us.


September 5

Strange Reactions

1 Peter 4:12-19


My wife's father is, by the standards of this world, a wealthy man.  It is very rare that he would take business advice from his son-in-law, but recently he did.

The discussion came about because of the financial troubles my company is having now.  Our stock had dropped to record low levels, well out of proportion to the real value of the company.  I complained as to how this limited our performance as employees.

He took it a completely different way.  The next time we met, he broke into a big smile and thanked me for the stock tip.  He announced—based on his experience alone—that he intended to make half a million dollars on this stock within six months.

The same news, but see how our reactions differed!  I saw the difficulties, he saw the opportunities.  (And he probably will make that money).

Christians have the same kind of choice when it comes to suffering.  Most American Christians can't imagine the church out of favor;  in fact, that's its usual position in the world.  We cannot choose our sufferings—but we can choose our reactions to them.

Peter, here, tries to prepare us for this.  The first principle is: don't be so surprised.  It's always been this way.  The usual state of the church is to be persecuted.  We get to choose our reaction.

What is the prescribed reaction?  Rejoice!  Why?

·         First, you have been counted worthy to share in your Master's sufferings.  We are assured by our Lord that if we suffer with him, we will reign with him.

·         Second, it means that you are the one that non-Christians look at and say, "There's one of them."  To answer the old question, it means there is enough evidence to convict you of being a Christian.

Judgment begins with the house of the Lord—and God uses our suffering to weed out the faithless.  Only those who remain faithful to the end will be rewarded.  That faith must be seen in action, resulting in good works.

So how do we prepare for this?  We start now, before the matter has become overwhelming.  We strengthen ourselves, by reading the Scripture, by constant prayer and by fellowship with other believers.  Be ready!


Lord, we do not ask to escape the suffering you have planned;  we ask strength to endure it.  May our enemies find us ready.


September 6

The Teacher's Prayer

Ephesians 3:14-21


Have you ever wondered what it is that Bible teachers really want for their students?  Paul gives you a pretty good outline here, not only of what teachers want for you—but also why.  Consider Paul's four prayer requests.

·         He "kneels before the Father" to ask that we might be strengthened.  We can understand that;  everybody needs a little help now and then.  But this prayer request is for strength of a different sort:  strengthening the inner being.  Why does he ask this?  So that we might know the glorious riches of God.  He's not asking for strength in time of trial;  he's asking that we be perfected so that we can truly know the incredible power and riches of God.

·         He asks that you be strengthened "in your inner being."  We might quickly understand strengthening of the will to resist persecution; strengthening of the mind so that we might gather wisdom; strengthening of the heart so that we might have the courage needed.  But Paul asks that we be strengthened in all these, and to the core.  Why?  So that we may have Christ living in us, by faith.  If you've ever wondered why the teacher keeps talking about complete commitment, it's simply this:  if you're completely committed to him, He will completely indwell you.

·         He prays that we may be rooted and established in love.  Do you hear the strains of a "tree that's planted by the water?"  The heart that matches the Father's heart of love is given a special gift.  If you are not rooted in love you will not see this;  but if you are—it comes naturally to see how incredibly great is the Father's love for us.  In love, you know him best.

·         He prays that we may be given the love that surpasses knowledge.  Knowledge is a good thing;  love is the great thing.  If you will abandon yourself to him, seeking this love that surpasses knowledge, then he will respond to your heart's desire.  He will fill you with all the fullness of Christ.

Can we really know the limits of God's love?  No;  even at the end of this prayer God can still do "immeasurably more."  But if we will give him the glory, and give him his way, we will be filled with the love that is Christ.


Lord, we cannot begin to imagine how great you are.  But let us be filled, so that we can know as much of you as we can know.


September 7

The View from the Heights

Romans 8:34-39


It has been said that the book of Romans is the cathedral of Christian doctrine.  If so, these few verses are surely the topmost spire.  One can almost picture St. Paul, striding up and down as he dictated these words, his hand skyward and his voice captured by the Holy Spirit.  It is a work of beauty;  a work of power.

It is the answer to every accusation of Satan.

Does Satan accuse you, weighing in with your past sins?  Do not justify yourself;  tell him your justification is this:  Christ died for my sins.  If he does not see the love in that, he will see the power in what happened next:  Christ rose from the grave.  It was his triumph, and now it is mine too.  Does he threaten you with the power of this world?  Remind him that your Lord and Savior sits at the right hand of God the Father.  Sitting, because he is equal;  right hand, the place of honor for the one whose name is above all names.  Does he ask who would help a foul sinner like you?  Remind him that it is Christ who intercedes for us constantly.

It is the gauntlet thrown down before the forces of this world.

Consider the powers of this world, and know their weakness. The world may threaten us with death.  They may threaten us with a life that makes one long for death.  No matter, we belong to the Lord.  Spiritual powers?  Whatever form they take, they have no power over the love of Christ.  Even time itself, and all the vast expanse of the universe, nor any other thing in all creation can come between the love of God and his children born again.  In this power we can take on the universe—and be more than conquerors.

No separation.

Look, please, at the love portrayed here:

·         It is the love of God the Father.  God, the sum of all perfections, the eternal, omniscient, omnipotent one, loves us.  It is his perfect love we receive.

·         That love is given to us through Jesus Christ, the one who died and rose again.  We are not getting what we deserve;  Christ got what we deserve.

·         But note carefully:  Jesus Christ is not only our Savior—he is our Lord.

For God's obedient children, his love is a stronghold against all comers, now and forever.


Lord, your love for us exceeds the boundaries of human thought.  We will never deserve it;  may we always be in it.


September 8


Psalm 109:6-20


Main Entry: mal·e·dic·tion
Etymology: Middle English
malediccioun, from Late Latin malediction-, maledictio, from maledicere to curse, from Latin, to speak evil of, from male badly + dicere to speak, say.


So we have from the Merriam-Webster dictionary.  The word has more ancient roots, however;  for this Psalm is precisely that: a malediction.  As such, we wonder:  how could David—the man who was ashamed at having cut off a corner of Saul's robe—also be the man who wrote this?  This is so horrible that St. Peter applied it to Judas (verse 8).  How can something like this come from David and be found in the Scriptures?

We must remember that the Scriptures are provided for our instruction—which sometimes means that we must do the learning.  This is a carefully written and well thought out malediction.  How, then, can we profit from this furious anger and cold cursing?


First, let's be honest with ourselves.  David may be more eloquent about it, but every one of us has thought the same thing about someone.  (Those with military experience will remember with no fondness whatever the title, "drill sergeant.").  At the very least, this passage shows us the horrors of the human heart.  David has given us a window on his soul;  he, too, boils furiously when someone steps on him and laughs.  We need to keep this fact ever before us: only our manners keep us from being maniacs.

Next, if this happens to us (and to men like David, who was known as a man after God's heart), then it can happen to anyone.  We may not be able to see it, but it's there.  Think what happens when we step on someone:  we think "they'll get over it" - but do we ever really "get over it?"  Is your lack of care the occasion of another person's malediction?

Worse, is lack of care and failure to notice the temptation put in the way of a sinner—a temptation to wrath—which causes him to turn from the truth, and live in bitterness?  Could it be that our actions (or lack) give Satan the chance to lead someone to hell?


Lord, keep us ever mindful that we are sinners—and we are also our brothers' keeper.


September 9

Checking Out

Philippians 1:20-26


My wife is an avid coupon clipper.  She has made it her habit to clip the coupons from the newspaper and use them at the grocery store.  I'm told she saves us quite a bit.

But note, please, how this system works.  The coupons are worthless unless you actually go to the store, purchase the items to which they apply and then check out.  Our lives are like that.  For those who have kept to the hope of the resurrection, their reward does not come entirely in this life—you have to check out first. 

Paul expresses himself here in a way which most Christians today find foreign.  We tend to view death as rare (though it happens to all), confined to the elderly and unfortunate, and accompanied by polite sayings from the minister.  Any effect on our lives could not be imagined.

But look at Paul!  His concern is not whether he lives or dies—he's concerned about his courage to stand up to whatever the world throws at him.  He knows—none better—that it takes courage to speak out for Christ.  The world's reply grows crueler by the day.  He doesn't ask for relief;  indeed, he doesn't seem to know whether it's better to be alive or die!  How can he maintain this attitude?

The secret is simple:  Christ living in me.  By the power of the Holy Spirit the life of Christ is in my life.  I have the hope of the resurrection of the dead, and the care of my Lord Jesus Christ from this time until that—whether I'm walking around on the surface of this planet or not. 

Do you not see that those who cling stubbornly to life at all costs, no matter what the shame, have no hope?  That's why they fight death so severely.  To them, it's the end.  To us, it's a transition.  If there is no hope of the resurrection, we are hardly more than smart chimpanzees.

The life of Christ is so strong in Paul that he cannot make the decision of life and death—so he leaves it to his Lord.  His prayer is that, whatever happens, he will have courage enough to speak boldly and endure everything.  He's concerned about his reward;  death is trivial in comparison.

All but one of the Apostles died a violent death.  None of them were shamed by it, proclaiming Christ to the last.  Perhaps our prayers for escape should be prayers for courage instead.


Lord, grant us courage that we may never be ashamed as we speak out for you.


September 10

After the Day of Wrath

Zephaniah 3:9


This verse has a wide variety of translations, because its use of Hebrew is highly idiomatic.  Its point becomes clear when you see it in more than one translation, an exercise I leave to the reader.

Zephaniah, as is clear from the preceding verses, is talking about what will happen after the Day of Wrath.  Interestingly, the theme is one the Israelites have heard before:  the remnant.  After the wrath, God will deal with the remnant.   By examining what he does with the remnant to come, we might see what he would command of us today.

Despite the varying translations, this is not about speaking in tongues, though the passage talks of such.  You must first remember that the remnant receives these things as the gift of God.  We may aspire to such things now, but in that day he will give gifts to the remnant:

·         The first is the gift of clear speech.  This is not speaking in tongues, rather the opposite.  No more will the speech of man be a tool for the deceptive.  How?

·         Because his gift is also one of pure speech.  To the pure, all things are pure;  these will indeed be those who are pure.  Therefore their speech will be pure as well.

The result of all this is that all the nations will call on the name of the Lord.  What a day!  Do you not see that the pure in heart will see God this day?  And what should they do with their every request, but take it in prayer, praying in the Lord's name.

Those remaining will be united.  They will have "one-ness", or as we might say, integrity.  How is this?

·         They share in a common consent.  No one drags the proud to the altar of God.

·         They share a common work, a common burden—one united shoulder or "shoulder to shoulder" as we might say. 

Now, do you not see that this is a picture of what Christ wants for his church?  The Good News is not to be hidden in obscure language;  no, it is to be proclaimed simply and clearly.  All of us, without exception, should call on the name of the Lord—for in no other name is there salvation.  And finally, we should work together with a common consent, side by side, shoulder to shoulder.  Will our Lord find such a church on the day He returns?


Lord, grant that the source of our integrity might be our one-ness with you, calling on your Name with a single voice.


September 11

When God Speaks

1 Kings 19:1-18


September 11 holds a special meaning for Americans.  On this date two airliners demolished the World Trade Center in New York.  Another hit the Pentagon.  A fourth was destined for the White House.

The churches were filled that next Sunday.  Somehow, people felt that God needed to answer the question, "WHY?"  There is an answer, but few felt called to preach it.  If you will examine the Old Testament, you will see how God disciplined the nation he had chosen.  From our earliest days as a nation, Americans have believed that "God shed his grace on thee" was more than just a line in a song.  How, then, this event?  It is simple.  America has forsaken God;  He, in turn, brings chastisement.  He does so by the hands of those who are not believers. 

This is how God speaks to the nation.  But if you want to learn how he speaks to individuals, you should look at Elijah.  Neither wind, nor earthquake, nor fire—but the "still, small voice."  And when he speaks, there is a pattern to his words.

When God speaks, it's personal.  Note that he calls Elijah by name.  He asks him what he's doing there.  There is no sense of Elijah just happening upon God while he was talking;  nor is there any proclamation to the masses.  It's Elijah God wants to talk to.

When God speaks, the subject is you, personally.  It may be his most frustrating conversational habit, and it also may explain why we so often don't listen.  We complain of this, gossip about that, and then surround our words with a pious sounding, "In Jesus Name."  But when God speaks to you, that means you are the subject of the conversation.  He will not tell you another's tale.  As Christ told Peter at the lake, "What is that to you?  Follow me."

When God speaks, it works.  One reason why this is so:  He's much more practical than we are.  It's his universe, after all.  Look at the commands he gives Elijah—lacking in flamboyance, but covering all the ground required.  Indeed, even though Elijah won't be around to see it, God tells him that retribution is coming.  Then, as comfort, he tells him that he's not alone—there are seven thousand more in God's remnant.

Christian, when the hurricanes, earthquakes and fires of this life assail you, have patience.  The still small voice will come; in God's own fashion.  Then heed what your Lord has said to you.


Lord, our lives are filled with noise, with chatter and with fear.  Speak to us;  give us courage; let us hear you clearly at any cost.


September 12


Psalm 1


One of the things which makes the English language so powerful is its ability to give new meanings to old words.  During the Second World War, both sides discovered a simple method of confusing radar:  chaff.  The method is used to this day.  It consists of strips of aluminum foil on paper—like a gum wrapper—which is precisely cut to length.  The exact length depends upon the frequency of the radar to be fooled;  but in large quantities it can blur what radar sees.

Where did the word come from?  The Bible uses it.  Chaff is part of the wheat harvested.  To separate out the grain from the non-edible parts, the grain was tossed into the air.  The chaff, being lightweight compared to the grain, blew away while the grain remained.  It was this "blowing away" that made the connection, for modern chaff too blows in the wind.

Telling wheat from chaff is still difficult when it comes to people.  But this Psalm gives us some solid guidance.  If you want to know who the chaff are, look at their actions:

·         They walk in the counsel of the wicked.  If your directions are wrong, it's no wonder you get lost.

·         They stand with sinners.  You are known by the company you keep.

·         They sit with the scorners.  No matter how lofty the seat or how comfortable, you can tell by listening to the scorn.  If you are "sophisticated" and look down on the simple things of faith, you cannot look up to God.

In contrast, the righteous man is compared not to grain but to a tree.  In particular we have a tree with these characteristics:

·         It's planted by the water—which means its roots run deep.  Even if the stream has dried up for the summer, there is water below. 

·         Note—it's planted, not wild.  God plants you where you will grow.

·         You see this by the leaves of this tree—when all others have blown away, it's green.

Old or new definition, it's good to remember the word "chaff."  The wicked are chaff—confusing and easily blown away.


Lord, give us roots that go into the river of life, flowing from you.  May we always be in close communion with you.


September 13

Birds of a Feather

Proverbs 13:10


We call them "paper" technicians.  They are those who seek out a technical credential not by working and learning on the job, but by taking a course and passing the exam.  Somehow, they think their lack of experience will not show up on their application.  It's not restricted to our field;  you see colleges and universities doing this too.  Athletes who obtain degrees in academic fields no one ever heard of (underwater basket weaving).  Students who diligently seek out professors and courses that will be easy.  All those who seek the reward without the work.

But let us understand:  for such fools as this, there must be fools like them.  Those who run the training courses for the certificate;  the colleges and universities that need anything from athletes to students of the right color and sex to balance out their programs.  If these did not exist, some fool would invent them.

Worse yet, this principle seems to have infected our society:  you don't have to pay your dues; you don't have to do the work—if only you can find the right place to get your degree or certificate.  Amazingly enough, when you find it, you find others just like yourself doing the same thing.

It works that way with sin, too.  If you seek out those who are proud to be sinners—those who can drink the most, those who are proud of how they cheated the system, and so on—you will be like them.  If you think this unimportant, think of a young teenager joining a gang.

Our society is very harsh on such people, once they get caught by our justice system.  "Birds of a feather flock together," we say.  Our society divides people into white hats and black hats.  We make the assumption that if you are a black hat, you will soon be found in a gang.  You're the one that's evil, so naturally you joined a gang.

So when we throw you into prison, there is no sense in trying to turn your life around.  You can't change;  you're a black hat.  But Christ says "whosever will" - and that includes the prisoners too. 

Solomon gives us the clue as to how this can work.  It takes Jesus Christ to change such a life—and it takes the church to keep such a life changed.  Christ knows we are sinners all, and all are in need of help.  Those whom Christ pardons he gives to the care of the church;  if He pardons, who are we to pick and choose?


Lord, those you pardon often carry a frightening aspect.  Give us courage to face such men—and our fears.


September 14

A Holy People

2 Corinthians 6:14-19


In over thirty years of teaching the Bible to adults, I have seen no more than three exceptions—and I'm not sure about those three.

I am talking about the very common practice where a Christian marries someone who is not a Christian.  The rule is simply this:  if the husband is the Christian, the entire family will be at church.  She will almost inevitably become a Christian.  (I say "almost" because there are situations of which I do not  know the outcome.  I cannot name any exceptions.)  But if it is the wife who is the Christian, it is almost certain (again, I don't know all the results) that the wife will be "Single on Sunday" the rest of her life.  Usually, she will bring her children to church.  Usually, they will leave the church when they enter their teen years. 

Could it be that God has ordained the husband to be the spiritual leader in the household?  In this day of women's liberation, we are sure this is false.  Look around.  Take a headcount.

God desires a people who will worship him in spirit and in truth.  If this is to be, there can be no foreign gods among us;  the holiness of a people is most assuredly related to its attitude toward the things of this world.  In Paul's day, the problem was idol worship, the most common form of religion of the day.  In our day, sex, drugs, rock and roll and keeping up with the Joneses occupy that place.  It's a very firm occupation.

Why, then, do we insist that we can overcome this? 

·         Part of the reason is that we now hold women to be interchangeable parts with men.  Spiritually—eternally—this is false.  But it is politically correct.  We are paying the tab for it every day.

·         Part of the reason is that we don't really believe the Scripture could be wiser than we are.  After all, look how skilled, how educated we are  (Look at our divorce rate, too.)

·         The greatest cause, in my view, is this:  we have lost the desire to be holy.  We don't want to come out from among them.  We want to fit in.

Many in the church pander to this;  it is very popular.  But read the word of the Lord.  The consequences are clear.  God's call to holiness—in person, in marriage, in the church—is just as true now as it was two thousand years ago.


Lord, open our eyes.  Do not let us be with the in crowd on Saturday night, and in the crowd on Sunday morning.


September 15



Ephesians 5:11-12


The common cockroach is indeed a pest.  In our climate they are a problem;  in the South of the United States, they are a plague. 

I remember my introduction to the problem.  I was attending a computer class in San Antonio, Texas.  The class started quite early, and obtaining breakfast at that hour was somewhat difficult.  I thought I had a solution to the problem.  I went down to a donut shop in the area after I got back from class.  I bought a suitable pastry for breakfast, and sealed it in my briefcase—being quite certain that nothing could get in through that seal.  Wrong!

When I opened the lid the next morning, all thoughts of breakfast vanished.  So did the zillions of cockroaches suddenly exposed to the light.

That's the principle Paul puts to us here.  The wicked, when exposed and reproved, are called to repentance.  Our legal system understands this;  that's why we so often have statutes that call for public, open meetings. 

You might ask:  isn't this the same thing as passing judgment on them?  No, it is not.  If our opponents are so righteous, surely they would welcome such an exposure.  The fact that they don't is telling evidence against them. 

But we are not called to judge;  just expose.  The principle is very sound;  we are the light of the world.  Have you ever noticed that you can't make a beam of light dirty?  That's why we are to expose only;  so that we may remain pure.

The time has come, however, when we face a worse condition.  As David said, "The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men." (Psalm 12:8)  It is a sad thing to note, but all sorts of sin is not only tolerated but praised and upheld.  Our school children are taught the "virtue" of having two lesbians raising them.  Embezzlement is so common that the only newsworthy part of it is, "How much?"  Worst of all we have now elevated pride into the supreme virtue.

What is a Christian to do?  We must continue to be the light of the world.  God gives sinners over to their sins, until the full consequences of them are made known.  Then the sinners must seek the light.  It is then that our purity will be seen—or exposed.


Lord, give us the steady patience of those who know the truth, who know the fashion of the moment, and know the difference.  When the tide turns, may our lighthouse be ready.


September 16


Proverbs 29:25


As most of my readers would know, I wear a patch over my right eye.  The experience has been enlightening;  even more so, lately.  For lately I found a better kind of eye patch—with one slight problem:  it has a very cute, very childish teddy bear right where my eye would be.  It makes a difference—do you look like an old pirate, or a cuddly grandfather?

How often we make our decisions on the basis of what others think.  Let's take a left eye look at some of the things that move us to wear one patch over the other.  In this work we shall look at the things that keep us in fear of men—when we should fear the Lord.

Scorn—any group of three or more teenage boys (taken together, one man's courage) finds the pirate patch something to laugh at.  I still wear it, though scorn hurts.  Do we fear such scorn?

Failure to please—many of us find great enjoyment in pleasing other people.  We find that it assures us of our own worth, because we see someone else pleased with us.  Should we shrink from the mere scowls of others?

Loss of status—pirates, I can tell you, have no status with anyone above the age of eight.  But even with the patch the temptation is there to tell the little child you are a real pirate, so that you might gain esteem in his eyes.  What possible status in this world could be of value in the next?

Anger and argument –A pirate is supposed to love a good fight, but most of us will avoid one if we can.  This is wise policy, as far as it goes, but we should never be silent about our Lord just because someone else might get upset.  Even if it's politically incorrect.

Monetary loss—Pirates, of course, are supposed to have lots of money, including the buried sort.  How much good is buried treasure?  Especially when buried in your coffin?

Physical violence—Pirates come equipped with cutlasses;  the world is much more sinister.  The threat of physical violence is real in many Christian communities today.  But consider:  are we not taught to view suffering for the Lord as a badge of honor?

So often, in our anxiety to fit in, to do things that please others, we see the temptation to compromise the faith.  We need to remember the one whose favor we are seeking;  the Lord God Almighty.  "Fear Him, ye saints, and have nothing else to fear."


Lord, you are gracious and kind.  Do not let us forget your justice;  nor your power.  May we always have a "ready defense" in you.


September 17

Truthful Lips

Proverbs 12:19


The first reaction to this proverb is simple:  Solomon got it backwards.  It's the lie that sticks around forever.  If you've ever had the experience of telling one of those gracious white lies (who, me?) that come back to haunt you, this seems backwards.  It seems the lies remain and the truth goes unremarked.

But that's not what Solomon said..  He said, "a lying tongue."  That's a different point;  he's not talking about the lie, he's talking about the liar.  For most of us this is easy to understand.  If someone lies to you, particularly about something important, you stop talking with them (if you can).  You may not have any real choice, but the element of trust in the relationship is gone.  But if you find someone who is reliable, you like to keep them around.

We see in our personal relationships a small picture of what God sees.  Personal relationships are built upon mutual trust.  Lies attack that trust;  given enough, they will destroy it.  But do you not know that the relationship between man and God—the one we call faith—is also a trust relationship?  See how often in the Scripture God commands us to trust him!  This is not to enlarge his ego;  it is for our benefit, for the trust relationship with God, our faith, is more precious than anything on earth.

Perhaps you might inquire, "Why would God have picked the element of trust in a relationship?  Couldn't he just adjust to the fact that all of us are untruthful at one time or other?"  The answer is no.  God cannot be other than what He is.  He is righteousness itself;  He cannot lie. 

Indeed, it is not just that he cannot lie.  His word is eternal, for he is eternal.  "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away."  So indeed his word never changes.

But there is another aspect to it:  God is righteous.  If we were not forgiven, we could not stand before him.  His righteousness is shown in this world, for we know that the untruthful do not prosper forever.  As we put it, "What goes around, comes around."  The universe is a place of moral law as well as physical law;  both were written by the same Author.  He cannot countenance sin.

Ultimately, this has a terrifying conclusion.  We may ask why God does not deal immediately with such;  but he is patient and kind, wanting all to repent.  But his patience, we know, lasts only until the Day of Judgment—the date for which is "soon."


Lord, so often we are discouraged when we see the wicked strut.  Uphold us in spirit;  teach us their end.


September 18

Many Days Without

Hosea 3:4-5


Hosea is one of the living allegories of the Bible.  Allegory has a bad name among Christians as of late, because many Christians think "allegory" equals "not really true."  It does not;  it means simply that the characters in the story stand in for other things.  In this book, Hosea represents God.  Gomer, his unfaithful wife, represents Israel.  Leading up to this passage we read that Gomer not only committed adultery, but prostitution.  She handed Hosea a couple of children that weren't really his.  But when she has been reduced from prostitution to slavery, God sends Hosea to buy her back.  Curiously, he then tells her that she will live with him many days without sex. 

God explains this command simply:  it is the picture of the nation of Israel.  After her redemption she will have many days without priest or king.  This is a picture of the coming of Christ as redeemer, and the dispersion of the Jews some years later.

It is also a picture of God's love for his people. 

·         In the story of the Prodigal Son, we remember the father's reaction when he saw his son coming home.  He ran to greet him.  Such is God's love for the sinner coming home.

·         But God's love must also come with his righteousness.  In justice, this implies corrective discipline, as Hosea imposes here.

·         Ultimately, however, the object is the restoration of the sinner.  God does not hide his sinners in the closet;  rather, he puts them to work recruiting other sinners.

There is a great usefulness in this picture.  Sometimes we take God for granted.  "He'll forgive me;  it's his hobby."  We forget that such forgiveness came at a price, the price of the Cross.  But how would we comprehend such pain?

God draws us a picture here:  It's just like Hosea.  How would you feel if your wife committed adultery, gave you children fathered by someone else, worked as a prostitute and so on?  We can imagine that agony. 

Then consider this:  out of that agony comes forgiveness.  Most men would head immediately to the divorce lawyer.  God commands Hosea to take her back.  Just as he took us back at the Cross.  Just as we are to forgive others.


Lord God, we can see your justice and your mercy to Israel.  Help us to see that your justice and mercy are for us, too.


September 19

Even the Son Must Ask

Psalm 2:6-12


Psalm 2 is a powerful song, and an exquisite piece of prophetic writing.  The Sovereignty of Christ is proclaimed in this:

·         Even though all the powers of earth conspire together and rage against him, Christ will be established as Lord. 

·         Notice the use of the past tense.  It is so certain to come to pass that our Psalmist, David, describes it as already having happened.  This indeed is the power of God.

·         A certainty?  Down to the place where it will happen.  Here, in plain language, he tells you that it will occur in Zion.

The prophecy of Son-ship given here is a clear testimony to the nature of Christ, the Holy One of Israel. 

It even gives advice to the kings and rulers of this world.  Did you ever want to tell the President what he should do?  You could do much worse than this:

·         Serve the Lord—with fear.  Recognize that you are not above the law, but a servant permitted by God Almighty.

·         Rejoice in His blessings—but do so with trembling.  Great is your rank in life;  great are your responsibilities.

·         Finally, do not trust in your military or your economy, take refuge in Christ.

As if to set us the example that leaders are to follow, there is in the middle of this section a most remarkable instruction.  Most do not see it; but leaders at all level would do well to copy the example.  You don't see it?  It's in verse 8. 

You still don't see it?  See the words, "Ask of me."  Ask.  It is a command to the King of Kings, the ruler to come, Christ in his glory.  He is commanded to ask.  In short, even the Mighty One of God must pray.

Our Lord set this example in his earthly ministry.  He frequently left the disciples and the crowds and went off into the wilderness to pray.  By prayer he pleaded for his life in Gethsemane; even He could hear "No" from God the Father.  Here we learn that at his return, even then, he will pray.

Is there a stronger example than this?  That Christ, in his return in glory, coming to judge the living and the dead, still sets us the example of prayer.  We would do well to heed it.


Lord, even in the triumph of your return we see you at prayer.  May we always see, and heed, your example.


September 20


A Problem of Interpretation

Daniel 2:44-45


Being an absolute monarch has its little benefits.  Take Nebuchadnezzar, for example.  He has a dream.  Now in those days people would look to various "spiritual guides" to interpret the dream.  But Nebuchadnezzar is no fool;  he knows that this dream would be easy to interpret, in dozens of different ways.  Being no fool, he decides that he will check up on these spiritual people.  It's a simple test:  anyone can interpret a dream like this.  But if you can reach inside the king's head and tell him the dream, then you are very likely to have the right interpretation too.

Now, these various wise men and diviners think this unfair.  After all, nobody could do that, right?  So Nebuchadnezzar decides to motivate them.  If they can't get it right, they lose their heads. 

Daniel gets word of this and begs a little extra time.  He then goes in prayer to the one who sent this dream.  He then asks an audience with the king.

The interpretation given by Daniel is the basis for interpreting all the prophecies in the Bible.  The reasons are simple:

·         Most of the prophecy has already happened.  The four kingdoms have come and gone;  the church is here.

·         Most especially, we have a detailed explanation of what the dream meant.  We can see the principles of interpretation.

Indeed, the prophecy is so specific as to say, "in the time of those kings."  This refers to the fourth kingdom, the Roman Empire.  But not just any time in the Roman Empire—only after about 63 BC, when the Roman Republic got its first Caesar.  Indeed, Jesus was born in the reign of the second Caesar, Augustus. 

Such passages have given us a grand metaphor for Christ:  the Rock.  It provides shade in the desert;  it is the strong point we run to. Our predecessors in Christ would have been quite familiar with the picture through one of the great hymns of the faith:

Rock of Ages, cleft for me

  Let me hide myself in thee.

Let the water and the blood

  from thy riven side which flowed,

Be of sin the double cure

  Save from wrath, and make me pure.


Lord, when we are threatened on all sides, not knowing what to do, whisper in the ear that the Rock of Ages still stands.


September 21

Messiah Revealed

Daniel 7:13-14


It is but a small passage in the midst of a mighty vision.  Daniel has been relating horns and beasts, but here, in the middle of his great vision, he sees something else.  Up until this point he asks no questions;  when the Son of Man has entered, his curiosity overcomes his fear.  This prophecy tells us much about our Lord:

·         He sees him as the son of man—human, like us. 

·         He sees him coming on the clouds of heaven—just as he said he would return.

·         This "son of man" approaches the throne of the Ancient of Days (God) and is led in.  Daniel, one of the great ones of the Old Testament, can but look.

See then the prophecy:

·         The son of man is given authority.  Jesus tells us in the great commission that all authority, in heaven and on earth, is given to him.  No one could make such a statement—unless God is the one giving that authority.

·         Glory is his, the glory he gave up to walk among us, from his birth until the Cross.

·         His authority is matched by his sovereign power.  Sovereign, for he is the righteous ruler;  power, to match his authority.

We then come to what might have piqued Daniel's curiosity. All people, all races, all tongues worship this one.  Daniel, raised as a devout Jew, would see this as a tremendous change.  How is this?  Especially when told that the kingdom will be an everlasting one?

Does this make a difference for us?  This prophecy is about 2500 years old.  What implications does it have for us today?  After all, we're on the other side of the Cross, and we can see so much more than Daniel could.  I submit the following:

·         Do you act as though your Lord has sovereignty—in your life?  Do you acknowledge his right to command you?

·         Do you know his power in your life, power to uphold you in time of trouble and bless you as well?

·         Do you proclaim his glory in your life?  Do others hear from you the praise of Jesus?

What Daniel saw, you know.  Will others see it in you?


Lord, your love permits us to come boldly to the throne of grace—may we always recognize the throne and declare the grace.


September 22

Blood Drive

Isaiah 49:7


There are two kinds of blood donors:  lookers and squinters.  This has nothing to do with blood type, but rather whether you look when they stick the needle in, or squint and turn away.  I'm a squinter;  I don't want to think how bad it could be.

Christ is a looker.  He knew before his incarnation the steps that would lead him to Calvary.  The reason I squint is so I won't know what's coming;  He knew exactly.  His humiliation is foretold in this verse, along with his glory.

Titles of Glory

He is indeed Lord, and therefore in command.  He is also the redeemer—which is very much connected with the title, Holy One of Israel.  For to be the redeemer, he must offer himself as sacrifice.  The sacrifice must be perfect, unblemished—holy.  So it is that the Holy One of Israel redeems us by his blood.


The crucifixion was not a clean and sanitary procedure as we would have today.  It was deliberately designed to publicly humiliate the offender as he died. 

·         He was despised and abhorred by the nation he came to save.  Not just rejected—despised.  The pain was very real, for he is human like us.

·         The one who ruled in glory lowered himself to the level of one who serves an earthly king.  Think of the difference.

Future Glory

Even as he says this, Isaiah shows us the end of the matter:

·         Note that the kings and princes will see him—he will return in the body to claim his own and pronounce judgment.

·         Those who sit on the throne will rise; those who serve before it will bow—all will acknowledge him as Lord.


The cynic knows this can't happen.  After all, it's scientifically impossible, right?  But happen it will, because the Lord has commanded it.

·         The Lord, who is completely faithful

·         The Lord, who is completely holy

·         The Lord, who has chosen—and it will be so.


Lord we stand in awe of what we know is coming.  The unimaginable will come;  every knee will bow.


September 23


Prophets and Prophecy

Deuteronomy 18:20-22


As you read over this section, it may seem God is being a little harsh here.  After all, everybody has bad days, right?  Let me bring to your mind three prophets:

·         First, there is Moses.  Ten times he went to Pharaoh; ten times he prophesied;  ten times he was right.  Even to the point of the death of every firstborn man and animal not protected by the blood of the Passover.  One of the reasons Moses (who wrote the first five books of the Bible) never makes any argument to prove the existence of God is simply that, for one who had seen his power, any argument would be silly. 

·         Next, there is Elijah.  You will recall the showdown on Mt. Carmel?  How the prophets of Baal danced, chanted and cut themselves all day, calling for fire from heaven.  How Elijah had them drench his sacrifice three times with water.  And then, at a simple call in prayer, how the Lord God answered him with fire from heaven.  Keep in your mind that Elijah then had the false prophets slain.

·         Finally, there is Jesus of Nazareth, the prophet foretold just a few verses before this passage.  He said, over and over, that He is the Son of God.  He said, over and over, that he would rise from the dead on the third day.  Having died and risen, he ascended to heaven (much like Elijah).

These three "called the shot."  In the most striking ways, they showed that they were prophets of God.  Indeed, Jesus is not only prophet, but priest and king. 

What should we do about a prophet who says things in God's name—and they don't happen?  The Scripture is clear:  the death penalty (like Elijah, remember?)  Why?  Because of his blasphemy, putting words in God's mouth.  Do not be afraid of such a fraud.

But what if it does come true?  These things are the identification card of the prophet;  if you don't listen, God will pass judgment upon you.  But if you do, he pronounces blessing upon you. 

God has gone to a great deal of trouble to put this in black and white.  One hundred percent success—or fraud.  That's the rule.  That's why I believe;  Jesus called the shot.


Lord, help us to put fear behind us.  Move within us so that we might proclaim you—so that others might have this blessing too.


September 24

A Blessing of Israel

Genesis 49:10-12


This passage is part of a larger prophetic passage by Jacob, known also as Israel.  In it there are some remarkable predictions—followed by equally remarkable facts.

·         First, long before the time of David and Solomon, it tells us that the ruler of the nation of Israel will come from the tribe of Judah.  Our Lord was born of that tribe.

·         It also tells us that the rule will not depart from Judah until he comes.  The nation of the ten tribes known as Israel had many dynasties.  The tribe of Judah and those who were with them around Jerusalem had precisely one dynasty—the house of David.

·         Perhaps even more telling is this:  after Christ came, there were no kings of Israel. 

The implications of the donkey and colt were seen during the Triumphal Entry.  The garments stained with wine is explained in Isaiah 63;  it refers to the second coming of Christ.

The passage is difficult to translate.  In the King James we have the now mysterious phrasing in verse 10 that Judah will reign "until Shiloh come."  The word has a double meaning.  It is a word which can mean Messiah;  it can also mean peace.  This is no accident.

Have you ever thought of Jesus as being our peace?  It is so.  If you will look around at some of the older saints you might see this more clearly.  There is a calm presence within them that seems to defy all sense.  They act as those who know what is to happen, and are content with it.  When you talk with such a saint, you may get the impression that their walk with the Lord is greatly different from yours.  To them, prayer is a continuing conversation.

How does one obtain such peace?  By asking the Prince of Peace to give it to you.  He can do this, for he is our peace.  He is the one who broke down the barrier between God and man by his sacrifice on the Cross.  In so doing, he made peace between us and our heavenly Father.  He offers his peace to all who will.

Many who have been in church for years will have no idea what this means.  Sadly, they continue to take charge of themselves and run their lives their own way.  If you want peace, real peace, you must acknowledge him as Prince—and be obedient to Him.


Lord, we want peace, but we also want to dictate the terms.  Open our eyes, Lord, that we may see the path to true peace in You.


September 25

Things Unnoticed Until Now

Matthew 27:27-54


It is good for us to linger over the old and familiar passages of the Word of God.  It is ever new; it is never without its power. 

In preparing this short devotional, there was a great variety in what might be written.  But I found, as I read through it, there were items I had never noticed before.  See if you remember these things:

·         They gathered the whole company of soldiers to watch him be mocked.  So often I had pictured only a few;  his humiliation and crown of thorns played to a large audience.  We see that the human mind went its limit in rejecting the Savior.

·         They put a staff in his right hand.  Could they possibly have known the prophecy?  No, I think not.  Perhaps after the flogging they thought he needed it.  Keep him upright so the fun could continue.

·         The soldiers sat down to watch him die.  Those who have served in the army know this:  a soldier never sits down.  But these did.  How casually we crucify the Living Lord.

·         The charge against him was, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews."  That is what was written on his cross.  Evidently, that was reason enough for Pilate.  It is a crime to be who you are, if the leaders find it so.

·         After his cry of "Eli, Eli, ." someone immediately went to get the sponge with vinegar.  Why immediately?  What was the hurry?  Is it just possible that the nobility of Christ's death softened the hearts of those soldiers?

·         At his death come the natural disasters and resurrections.  That I had seen;  but it now occurs to me that this is God's way of showing the power He has;  therefore, Jesus died voluntarily.

This huge amount of detail is in the Scriptures for a reason:  so that you may know the extent of his love for his church.  Not just the physical suffering, but also the mockery of those who would soon repent and join the early church.  Go back and read this passage again.  Stop with each humiliation;  meditate upon each of his pains.  Know that you could have been one of the soldiers, and know that he went through this for his beloved, the church.


Lord, we do not meditate upon your wounds as we should.  Help us know your suffering, so that we may know your love.


September 26

At a Distance

Luke 23:32-49


Luke, the careful researcher into all things regarding the history of Christ and the Church, gives us but one verse on the subject.  It passes without notice.  It's verse 49.  All those who knew Jesus were standing at a distance.  It seems an ordinary thing in an extraordinary account.

But a second look is needed.  First, there is the mention of the women.  There are slight references to them through the Gospels.  These are the women who walked with Jesus, often supporting him and the disciples from their own purses.  From this we may know that they were well to do;  some were of high social status.  We may take it as remarkable that they risked being there.

The curious thing is not what they did;  it is what they did not do.  For example, surely Luke's careful account would have recorded their weeping and wailing;  such things were considered suitable in time of death.  And, for that matter, why are there no last words passing between Jesus and those he knew?  Only his mother and John the Apostle seemed to have approached him at all, and that very briefly.  Indeed, we may ask:  why the distance?

First, there is the element of fear.  Given the Roman reputation for justice, it is unlikely that there was fear of the Romans.  No, more likely it is fear of arrest by the Jews.  For those of higher social status, there is the fear of ostracism (will anyone ever speak to me again?) and indeed the fear of ridicule (to be known for the rest of your life as the woman who followed that guy who was crucified).  Perhaps.

There is something we miss here, hinted at in the passage before.  Jesus death on the Cross is voluntary.  With such an attitude, he would send those subtle signals that say, "please don't interfere."  Perhaps they understood his intention somewhat, and stayed back to honor it.

One thing this did accomplish.  If you claim to be the resurrected Lord, you obviously must be stone cold dead first.  What better eyewitnesses could you ask for than the people who hated him?  It is proof of death.  This way the tomb could be sealed contentedly.  But the followers must witness this death too—so that they can be the witnesses of his power over death.  They had to be there; seeing only, so that they could say, "I saw him die—and I saw him after he had risen from the grave."


Lord, we are not among those who faced the inner conflict that day.  They saw;  they knew; they testified—and we believe.


September 27

Bit Parts

Mark 15:16-39


They sometimes appear to be blessed with unintended humor—bit parts.  Most actors have accepted one at one time or another.  It's the part you take so that you can eat—and hope no one ever sees this turkey again.

In Mark's account of the Crucifixion, there are three bit parts for your attention:

Simon of Cyrene

Cyrene, or its modern form Cyrenaica, is the area we would know today as Libya.  Simon has come, as is required of the devout Jew, to Jerusalem for the Passover.  Given the distance, this might be a rare, once in a lifetime trip.  He is walking into Jerusalem as the Romans are marching Jesus out.  In accordance with Roman law, he is compelled to carry the cross for this man too weak to go on.  Does he stay to watch?  Does he know who Jesus is?  We don't know.  But we can imagine his feelings in later years, should he become a Christian.  Think of the unintended honor:  the man who carried the Cross for Christ. 

The man with the sour wine

This man is evidently an ambitious and active sort, for we are told he ran to get the vinegar.  The reed identified here is elsewhere known as hyssop, and it plays its part in prophecy being fulfilled.  Imagine this man, becoming a Christian, and finding that (without knowing it) he had fulfilled the prophecy of God.

The Centurion

This man was probably a bystander, interested in the execution by curiosity.  As a commander of a hundred men, he would probably not be directly involved in the crucifixion.  But as he watches the events unfold, he is moved to proclaim the truth:  "Surely this man was the Son of God."  After the Resurrection, did he become a Christian?  If so, this would have been the starting place, whose destination he could not have imagined.

Most of us consider ourselves (rightly) to have a bit part in the kingdom of God.  We are destined to live and die, doing our best for our Lord, and known only to family, friends and God.  But even as such, the part may be important.  Look back and see how often God uses a bit player to further his kingdom.  The child you teach today may be the evangelist of tomorrow.  It is all the more reason that whatever we do, we should do it as for the Lord.


Lord, teach us that the size of the part may bear no relationship to its importance—when we play that part for you.


September 28

Walking the Log

Hebrews 12:2-3


It is an unalterable rule of the United States Army:  the recruit will never, under any circumstances, put his hands in his pockets.  To do so is to express an attitude which begs enlightenment from the drill sergeant. 

In the course of my completely undistinguished military career, I did this once.  And got away with it.

The platoon was facing one of the obstacle course items—walking across a log.  This doesn't seem like much of an obstacle—unless you're under it looking at the twenty-five foot fall you'd make if you weren't careful.  I was the "old man" of the company (just turned 24) and the sergeant was surprised when I volunteered to do it first.  I got to the top of the apparatus, took one step onto the log, stuck my hands in my pockets and sauntered to the other side.

The obstacle promptly lost all terror.  If the old man could do it, anybody could do it.  Indeed, anybody could—if they knew how.  The secret is to focus your gaze unswervingly on the platform at the other end of the log.  The sergeant was so amazed (or grateful, who knows?) that he omitted the usual pushups.

It is a principle that tightrope walkers know well.  It has value for us, too.  We must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ on this tightrope of life.

Why?  In a very real sense he is the destination at the other end of the log.  Looking to him is all you need, for, as Paul tells us:

·         He is the author of our faith—the guy who wrote the book.

·         He is the perfecter of our faith—so that there is nothing else needed.

Nothing else, then, is necessary for the faith. 

What should gain from this?  At the very least, his example during the trials and Crucifixion should be a standard to guide us.  Jesus is completely man;  the pain was real.  The shame was real.  He endured the pain and rejected the shame.

Paul tells us to "consider" him—the word can be translated "contemplate."  In the quiet of the evening, review your day in peaceful contemplation of Christ.  What would he have you do differently?  Draw strength from his example;  draw strength from the conversation of prayer.  Every day, another step on the log—with your eyes fixed on Him.


Lord, we know that you endured, and set an example for us.  Help us build the habit of considering you.


September 29

Sleeping Beauty

Hebrews 2:14-16


At first glance this passage presents an insolvable problem:  how can Paul tell us that by his death Christ destroyed Satan and his power.  You need very little evidence to know that Satan is still with us, in power.  So how, then, can we say that Satan is destroyed?

To answer that, I must turn your mind to a fairy tale—Sleeping Beauty.  You know the story;  how the evil fairy cursed the princess with death;  how one good fairy muted death into sleep for a hundred years.  But see the nature of evil:  instead of accepting this, the evil fairy rings the victim in with thorns and even fights the Prince Charming who comes.  The connection I would have you see is this:  once death was transmuted to sleep, the evil fairy was doomed.  For she could not give up her prey, but had to defend it—and the one who opposed her was the stronger.  So do you not see that the action of the good fairy spelled the doom of the evil one? 

It is the same with us.  Death is our great curse, and the great weapon of the enemy of our souls, Satan.  As Sleeping Beauty's father banished all the spinning wheels, and yet she found one not noticed, so we all come to sin.  The wages of sin—death.  But our Lord has transmuted that curse into sleep—the sleep we still call death. 

But Jesus showed us this:  he was flesh and blood like we are.  He was completely human, and he died like it.  But by the power of God through the Holy Spirit, he was raised from the tomb, the first born of the new creation.  As the good fairy set in motion events that doomed the evil fairy, so this has set in motion events that will doom Satan.

Do you not think that Satan will use everything within his power to preserve his hold on us?  He will seek to make us fear death now, rather than recognizing it for what it is.  He will hedge it about with all the thorns he can find.  But Armageddon will come.  So will the "Prince Charming" - the Prince of Peace, coming this time in power and glory.  He will raise the dead from their graves, and those whom Satan thought secure will be his no more.  Death, where is your victory?  Grave, where is your sting? 

Great leaders never ask you do to what they would not themselves.  Christ took on flesh and died;  he leads us to glory.


Lead on O King Eternal, we follow, not with fear!  For you have conquered;  at your coming we will rejoice in your victory.


September 30


Deuteronomy 21:22-23


There is a curious notion, to our minds, in this passage.  The idea that the land can be cursed is strange to us.  Some other translations will use the word "polluted" in place of cursed, and that perhaps expresses it more clearly to our generation.

What does it take to curse the land?  To understand that, we must first know that the land is holy.  It is the land that God has set aside for the nation of Israel.  It is an interesting fact that in the Old Testament, the people of Israel could not be forced from the land except by reason of their sins and the will of God Almighty.  It is worth exploring that even today this seems to be true.  So then this land is sacred, holy, set apart.  Anything which changes that is indeed a curse. 

Hanging on a tree, however "wild west" that might look to us, would not seem to be a problem.  But here it is proclaimed to be such;  if you hang someone, bury him the same day—or the land is defiled.  Since the usual method of capital punishment for the Jews was stoning, it's a little difficult to see why this passage is here—until you consider its prophetic sense.

How God tends to the minor details!  Lest the land be cursed, the Pharisees insist on making sure that Jesus is dead on the Cross.  Their reason was simple:  they didn't want to have to deal with the problem on the day of Passover.  The Law prohibits work that day—and they wanted to be undefiled.  So they were in a hurry to be sure he was dead.

Is there a reason for this haste?  In God's time, there is.  Jesus is to be laid in a tomb—but the Son of God cannot be laid in land defiled.  He is taken off the cross and buried the same day, in land which remains undefiled.  Having borne the curse for our sins, his body rests in uncursed ground.  Even in the formalities of his death, he cares for us.

Hanging between heaven and earth, and therefore (symbolically) part of neither, Jesus bore our sins on the Cross.  He took upon himself the curse of death—but allowed no curse to come of it.  We often see the power of God in the Atonement;  we should also see his tender care.  At the resurrection he broke the curse of death. 

The curse is broken; Satan's doom is sure.  Those who know it best long most for his return.


Lord, we see how even the smallest of details are displayed in your care for your children—and we thank you.

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