Confidence To Enter the Holy Place

Good morning. It’s Friday, May 4, 2012. Today is International Firefighters Day. We should support and give thanks the many men and women who put their lives on the line daily to protect and save the places and lives that we hold dear. Today was also the day in 1970 that the National Guard fired into a crowd of protesters at Kent State, killing four students. This picture has been etched in my brain since I was 12 years old.

Things continue to be stressful at Christi’s job, and seem to be getting more so. I don’t think she can do this. It’s very sad and very disturbing. That’s all I’m going to say at this point, other than, all prayers to rectify this situation would be greatly appreciated. We thought this was the right decision. Unless something changes drastically very soon, it would appear we were very wrong.

Father, I pray this morning for some inspiration to guide me on the path this morning. Show me more of you, that I might live this day (and my life) looking to you. Before I even start, I lift up Christi and her situation to you. You are sovereign and your mighty hand is in control of this situation. Give us the faith to trust this. Right now, it’s hard to see your hand in the chaos that is her work life right now. Give us the supernatural sight that is necessary to see your hand at work, and if we are unable to see it, then please help our faith to know that it’s there. What did the song say? “If you can’t see his hand, trust his heart.” That’s where we need to be right now. Not only trusting your heart, but trusting your sovereignty.

My Utmost For His Highest

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus… Hebrews 10:19

“Beware of imagining that intercession means bringing our personal sympathies into the presence of God and demanding that He does what we ask.” Is that what I have just done?? I’ll work that out later. We are to approach God based on our “vicarious identification” with Christ with sin. We have “confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus!”
Chambers then proceeds to discuss something that I don’t believe that I have an issue with. He says that some have the idea that there are “right and virtuous things in us which do not need to be based on the Atonement.” I don’t believe that for a minute. Let me rephrase that. I don’t believe that there is anything virtuous in me or anyone else that escapes the scope of the atonement. I do believe that there are people who think there is. But there is nothing right and virtuous in me, outside of my identification with Jesus Christ. There might be in another person’s eyes, but not in the eyes of God. When we get stuck in that mindset, we cannot intercede. If I believe that there is anything virtuous in me, I have stopped identifying with the sacrifice of Jesus, and I can’t effectively intercede for anyone. My sympathies get in the way. “We have to realize that the identification of Jesus with sin means the radical alteration of all our sympathies. Vicarious intercession means that we deliberately substitute God’s interests in others for our natural sympathy with them.” This is almost a re-wording of yesterday’s idea.
So am I determined to have my own way, or am I determined to be identified with Christ? I know what my desire is, but I’m not sure what reality is. Especially in light of my prayer above. This is something that I’m going to have to work out during the day today. How should I be praying for this situation? Am I being totally selfish? I don’t think so, because I desire good for my wife. This isn’t about me. But is it about what God wants?

Tabletalk Magazine

And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:9-11

It’s very interesting that I’ve run across this subject multiple times in the last couple days. Yesterday, I read the end of Luke’s gospel (who also wrote Acts), which concludes with the ascension. Then I started listening to a sermon by Timothy Keller on the ascension (I’m only about halfway through it, but it is very good), and now Tabletalk is addressing it.
We can only be reconciled to God through trusting in Christ. That is part of the gospel message. In order to do that, it helps to understand who Jesus is and what he has done. One event in the life of Christ that is largely ignored by the evangelical church is the ascension of Christ. I suppose part of the reason for that is that Luke is the only one who gives a solid account of it. It is included in Mark’s gospel, but in the part of the last chapter that most scholars believe was not written by Mark in the original document.
One thing that is revealed by the ascension is the nature of the return of Christ. Jesus was taken from earth to heaven in full sight of the apostles. He didn’t just disappear, but his physical body moved upward so they could watch. Verse 9 in the passage above says that a cloud took him up. He ascended visibly. According to the testimony of the angels who appeared there, his return will be just like that. “He will return visibly when He comes in final judgment.” The angels said that he would return just as he ascended. He will return on a cloud, possibly the same cloud that indicated God’s presence in the Old Testament.

The Bible Panorama

John 1; Psalm 11; 2 Samuel 16

One interesting thing about the gospel of John is that there is no genealogy. But John stresses the divinity of Christ; since Christ is God, there is no genealogy, for God has always existed. I just got goosebumps while typing that because I cannot wrap my head around something/someone always existing. I just can’t fathom that. Can you? Eternity doesn’t fit in my brain. Oddly, I don’t have a lot of trouble thinking about eternity forward. It’s eternity backward that boggles me.
John begins by describing Jesus as God right from the beginning. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (v 1) “Word” is “logos,” and, in this case, refers to Christ. This is evidenced by verse 14, And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John packs a lot of information in a short amount of writing. By the end of chapter one, Jesus has already called four disciples. Oddly, though, almost the entire second half of John’s gospel is taken up by the last week of Jesus’s life.

Psalm 11 describes the Lord in his temple.
The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.
(vv 4-7)
David has settled the matter of trust in this Psalm. He takes refuge in the Lord, and will not flee trouble.

2 Samuel 16 includes the interesting event of the cursing of David by Shimei. David’s men want to kill Shimei, but David will not allow it, stating that if God has told this man to curse him and throw stones at him, who is he to object. So David and his men continued down the road, while Shimei followed along, throwing rocks and spewing curses at David. Verse 14 says that David and his men “arrived weary at the Jordan.” I imagine so.
As the scene shifts to Jerusalem, Absalom has entered the city and taken reign. At the advice of Ahithophel, Absalom pitches a tent on the roof and had sex with all of David’s concubines, in full sight of all Israel. Nathan’s prophecy in chapter 12 has been fulfilled!

Father, I praise you today for your sovereign hand in our lives, even though I may not be able to see it. I pray that you give us wisdom to know what is right for us. Help us to know what we should be learning from our current circumstance. I pray that Christi can either be gotten out of this situation (with something better), or that the situation would drastically change. Something needs to happen. In the meantime, give us patience to wait while we depend on you for strength. Whatever the case, I pray that you lay your hand on Christi this morning and give her whatever she needs to get through this day. Give her strength for this day only, and no worries about what tomorrow may bring.

Help me to know how to pray, not only for Christi and us, but for anyone else for whom I might be praying. May my sympathies never get in the way of what I should be praying for. Rather, I pray that I might fully identify with my Savior and his sacrifice for our sin. I also pray that, as I continue to ponder the event of the ascension, you would help me glean from it what I need. Teach me, Lord. Teach me. Open my mind and my spiritual eyes that I may see what it is that I need to learn.

Like David, I declare that you are my refuge, dear God! You are my fortress, my rock, and my refuge. I will hide in you. I will reside in you! My very life depends on you, both now and forever. Suddenly, I am drawn to the act of breathing; I ponder my heartbeat; I realize that all of this happens only by your grace! I ponder the miracle that makes my fingers move to type these letters. There are things that are happening inside my body that I will never fully comprehend, all because you put it together. I am, O glorious God, fearfully and wonderfully made! I praise you, my God.

Your grace is sufficient. Keep teaching me this.

One day, Jesus will return just as he left. Visibly and on a cloud. I believe it.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Vital Connection

Good morning. It’s Thursday, May 3, 2012. Today is “National Lumpy Rug Day.” I swear I’m not making this up. Today is also the birthday of Niccolo Machiavelli. I don’t really know this stuff. I have to look it up.

For some reason, I don’t have much introductory stuff to talk about this morning. Yesterday was a pretty average day. Christi’s day went okay, even though she got more responsibility thrown at her. My day was pretty good, definitely better than Monday and Tuesday.

We have our lifehouse group tonight, which is always interesting. Never a dull moment, it seems like.

I’m still thinking about yesterday’s reading about patience. I have to ask myself if I’m in danger of becoming spiritually satisfied, or if I have given up on the vision that I have had. Or…has my vision changed? That is something that I have to seriously consider.

Father, I pray for some insight today, some wisdom that will guide me along the path of righteousness today. Help me to live this day looking to the risen Christ.

My Utmost For His Highest

… praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. Ephesians 6:18

Chambers speaks of our obedience costing other people. I have to figure out exactly what he means by that. He speaks of a danger of interceding with people in sympathy. I think I understand that. Sometimes we pray for God to get a person out of a situation, but he has them in that situation for a reason. “Whenever we step back from identification with God’s interest in others into sympathy with them, the vital connection with God has gone, we have put our sympathy, our consideration for them in the way, and this is a deliberate rebuke to God.” That was a lengthy sentence, but I think it ties this all together. We can’t let personal sympathy or prejudice get in the way of vital intercession. We say “I will not allow this thing to happen,” and we are instantly “out of vital connection with God.”
He caps this reading off with a statement that seems, at first glance, to be not quite related. “Discernment is God’s call to intercession, never to fault finding.” All too often, discernment leads to gossip. Gossip becomes a “prayer request.” We must guard against this with all sobriety. In order to seriously intercede, we must be “completely and entirely identified with God’s interests in other lives.”

Tabletalk Magazine

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:20-23

Yesterday, Tabletalk mentioned two benefits of Christ’s resurrection, our justification and sanctification. Today, a third benefit is mentioned, coming again from the Heidelberg Catechism. The resurrection of Christ is “a sure pledge of our blessed resurrection.” We can get a glimpse of that truth from the passage quoted above, in 1 Corinthians 15. Jesus is called “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Paul was addressing an apparent error in the chapter, one that taught that most, if not all, of the “end times” events had already happened. (There is an eschatological system today that believes this…it’s called “Preterism.”) There were many who believed and taught that there would be no physical resurrection of the dead. Some taught that the resurrection had already occurred, and others taught that it was spiritual only. Both views were heretical. “Though our spirits dwell with Christ when we die, they will be reunited with our glorified physical bodies on the last day, and we will dwell in a new heaven and earth (Dan. 12:1-2; Rev. 21:1-4).”
Paul uses an agricultural metaphor in the verse. The “firstfruits” of the harvest are a “foretaste and sure sign of the full harvest to come.” When Paul described the resurrection of Jesus as “firstfruits,” he indicated that “our resurrection will be of the same kind as our Lord’s.” Both “are physical, bodily resurrections.”

The Bible Panorama

Luke 24; Psalm 10; 2 Samuel 15

Luke 24 continues as thought there is no break between the two chapters. “They” went to the tomb on the first day of the week, “they” being the women referenced in verse 55 of chapter 23. The ones who “saw the tomb and how his body was laid.” When they got there the stone was rolled away, and the body of Jesus was not there. Two apparent angels appeared next to them and asked them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” I tell you, those are some of the sweetest words ever spoken. The angels called upon them to remember the things that Jesus had told them. They went back and told the disciples. The disciples who had been the ones who walked most closely with Jesus for the past few years. Their reaction was that “these words seemed to them an idle tale and they did not believe them.” (v 11) I shouldn’t be too hard on them…I probably would have felt much the same. Or would I have been more like Peter, who “rose and ran to the tomb?” The very same day, he appeared to two nameless disciples (well…I’m sure they had names; we just don’t know them) on the road to Emmaus, who, in turn, went back to the eleven remaining main disciples, reporting their encounter. As they were all talking together, Jesus just appeared in their midst, saying, “Peace to you!”
Now, indulge me just a moment, here. I simply cannot help thinking that there must have been a sparkle of mischief in Jesus’s eyes when he did that. Don’t you think he might have been having just a little bit of fun, skipping along beside the two disciples on the Emmaus road (yes, I did say “skipping”), saying, “Whatcha talkin’ about?” and then just, whoosh, appearing right in the middle of the whole lot of them in Jerusalem? The probable expressions on all their faces must have been priceless. Anyway, Jesus encouraged them to touch him and see that he was real, flesh and bone. Then he asked them for some food, and ate with them. He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures about him, and promised that they would be “clothed with power from on high.” (v 49) They wall went out to Bethany together, where he ascended into heaven. Needless to say, they were filled with great joy afterward.
I assure you, I don’t take the resurrection of Christ lightly. I hope no one is offended by the way I portrayed it. I just can’t help but think that Jesus wasn’t all totally somber during those events. I believe that Jesus, being human as well as divine, did, in fact, have a sense of humor.

In Psalm 10, the Psalmist bemoans the godlessness of the wicked, who believe that God either doesn’t exist, or that he simply is so high that he doesn’t see them and their despicable acts. In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.” (v 4) He says in his heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.” (v 11) The Psalmist begs God to rise up and remember the afflicted. It ends with this proclamation. The LORD is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land. O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. (vv 16-18)

In 2 Samuel 15, Absalom conspires to steal the hearts of the people away from David, resulting in David having to flee Jerusalem.

Father, I pray this morning for a little more understanding of intercession. I believe in praying consistently for others. It is difficult, though, to always know how to pray in certain situations. We pray for healing, we pray for deliverance, we pray for material needs to be met. All of these things are good, but do we truly understand your mind and will for those for whom we are praying? That is what true intercession is about. I pray that you would help me to be fully identified with your interests in the lives of others as I pray for them. Let me not be swayed by sympathy. Let me not pray for someone to be delivered from a situation just because I feel sorry for them. It is more important to pray for your will to be done, and that is where discernment comes into play. We must be wise when we pray, not just throwing words out there.

I thank you for the assurance of the resurrection, provided to us by the resurrection of Jesus. I believe in this, Father, no matter what skeptics may say. You have given me faith to believe, and I cherish and embrace that faith. The resurrection of Christ has given me justification, sanctification, and assurance of what is to come.

I continue to pray for the patience to wait for the vision that you have given me. However, I must work while I wait, and I pray for both inspiration and motivation to do so. As I follow you through reading Scriptures and meditating on them, as well as through prayer, I ask for guidance by your Spirit, for direction in my life. Let me know what I am to be doing during this time. If you have shown me, then open my eyes so that I may see it.

I pray for this day, that Christi will have a good and productive day at her new job. I pray for the tension to decrease as she becomes more familiar with the environment and people. I pray that expectations will not be unreasonable, and that she will be able to set limitations on demands that are placed on her. I pray for Stephanie today, that she will get homework done and turned in as her teacher visits this afternoon. I pray that my day at work will also be a smooth day with no issues.

May we maintain our vital connection with God.

Grace and peace, friends.

Reach Beyond What You Already Have!

Good morning to you! It’s Wednesday, May 2, 2012. It’s already 72 degrees. Ugh. With 78% humidity. The high is supposed to be 90. But the humidity should go down some as the day progresses. I’m not looking forward to summer.

Christi and I have talked some more about the job situation. She’s going to try to ride it out. I think she has some attitude differences from some of the ones who have quit so easily. Plus she got a compliment from the person in question yesterday. Granted, it was only one sentence in an email. But, from what I heard, that may be the equivalent of a cake and ice cream party! So we will see. We had a good talk about it this morning, and I think we are both feeling the same way about it. We’ll see if she still feels that way after today.

I keep forgetting to update about the water bill we received last Friday. We looked at the meter Saturday afternoon, and it was clearly misread. They sent someone out yesterday to do another reading. They left a note on the door saying that it was, in fact, misread. However, they didn’t right down the correct ready. I’ll display patience and give it a few days before I start calling again. I can check the bill online to see if they have adjusted it yet.

Not much else going on right now, so I’ll get on into the devotional.

Father, I pray for some “face time” with you this morning. As I seek your face this morning, I pray that you will grant me some wisdom that will help me live this day in the shadow of your grace.

My Utmost For His Highest

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end–it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. Habakkuk 2:3

What an interesting verse for us to have on this day! I must forward this to Christi! The reading begins like this: “Patience is not indifference; patience conveys the idea of an immensely strong rock withstanding all onslaughts. The vision of God is the source of patience, because it imparts a moral inspiration.” Moses, it is said, endured because he had a vision. When we have a vision of God, we are not devoted to any “cause.” We are devoted to God alone. When (and I say “when” because it is certain to happen) we get a time of spiritual wilderness, with no apparent word from God, we must endure. “…the power to endure is there because you see God.”
The evidence that I have a vision is that I am reaching for more than I have already grasped. I should NEVER be spiritually satisfied. There is a danger of, once reaching the desired thing, sitting back and saying, “Okay, I’ve got it, now I can rest.” “Our reach must exceed our grasp.” Once I obtain what I reached for, I must keep reaching for the next thing. “If we have only what we have experienced, we have nothing; if we have the inspiration of the vision of God, we have more than we can experience.” I can never relax.

Tabletalk Magazine

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4

The Heidelberg Catechism (yes, they are still talking about that), give three benefits of the resurrection of Christ in the answer to question 45. The first is that we have been enabled to “partake of the righteousness He earned for His people.” The second is that we have been raised to a new life by his power. Jesus was raised, “never to suffer death again.” Since we are united with him in this resurrection, “we are raised with Him to new life. We are ‘hidden with Christ in God’ (Col. 3:3) and enjoy incorruptible and imperishable life.” There are, of course, aspects of this that will not be experienced until our physical resurrection. Nevertheless, it is ours today.

The Bible Panorama

Luke 23; Psalm 9; 2 Samuel 14

In Luke 23, Pilate tries to pawn Jesus off on Herod. Herod was actually glad to see Jesus, because he wanted to see some tricks. When Jesus didn’t do any tricks, Herod sent him back to Pilate. Neither man had found anything worthy of accusation in Jesus, but both treated him with contempt. Verse 12 says that Herod and Pilate became good friends that day. The crowd, however, would not be satisfied, as they had been riled up by the religious leaders. The rest of the chapter chronicles the crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus. Verse 55 explicitly states that “the women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid.” This refutes any claim that they went to the wrong tomb on the morning after the Sabbath.

Psalm 9 has some great verses (once again, I have to question the wisdom of singling out verses…but we all do it; and face it…verses from Psalms are much more inspiring than verses from Leviticus, right?). I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. (1-2) The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you. (9-10) I just sent verses 9 and 10 to Christi in an email. Very appropriate for us today!

In 2 Samuel 14, Joab sends a woman to the king to convince him to let Absalom come back home. David consents, but says he must stay in his own dwelling and not come see the king. Absalom lives there for two years, never seeing his father. It is stated in the chapter that Absalom was very handsome and had beautiful hair, which he only cut once a year. When he cut it, it weighed somewhere in the neighborhood of five pounds, if I’m calculating correctly (200 shekels, if anyone wants to figure it out). That’s a lot of hair! Finally, Absalom sends Joab to get him an audience with the king. Joab is not successful. Absalom sets Joab’s field on fire. For some reason, I find this particularly amusing. That’s one way to get someone’s attention! Absalom finally gets to see his father, bows before him, and they kiss each other.

Father, I thank you for the encouraging words of Scripture that you have placed in front of me today. I pray that I will never be spiritually satisfied and that my reach will always go beyond that which I already have. I pray that you give me a fresh vision, and that, by the power of your Spirit, it will be maintained within me. I will not be satisfied until I see you face to face! May I have patience in the midst of all the storms that come our way. May I have the faith that believes that the vision will not die; it will come to pass! Your grace is sufficient!

I thank you for the benefits of the resurrection of Christ in my life. I praise you that I have life that is incorruptible and imperishable. I may not realize all the benefits of this life, yet, but I believe it is mine in Christ. I pray that the Spirit will help me put sin to death in my life every single day.

I lift up Christi to you in light of the verses in Psalm 9. You are a stronghold for the oppressed, O Lord! I pray that you be her stronghold today; this week; all this month. Show her your power as she attempts to make this job situation work! You are stronger than any man, Lord! Your grace is stronger than any situation we may encounter. We know your name and we put our trust in you!

I pray that Stephanie will have a good day and get her homework done for her teacher today. Keep her on track for graduation.

I lift up my parents to you today. Give them strength for their life, that they may be able to do what needs to be done this day. Give them enough strength for each day. That’s all any of us needs.

Never be satisfied, spiritually. Reach beyond what you already have.

Grace and peace, friends.

What Do I Want?

It’s FRIDAY, April 27, 2012! Woot!! It’s going to be another warm day in DFW, currently 69, with a high of 91. Summer aproacheth. We can only hope that the ice man cometh along with it.

We had our lifehouse meeting last night, during which we discussed last Sunday’s sermon, “Guard Your Mind.” It was an interesting discussion, highlighted by the differences between knowledge and feeling, or mind and heart. Do we allow our knowledge to affect our feelings, or do we work the other way around? We ended up thinking about the knowledge that God loves us. What if I don’t feel like God loves me? How does the truth that God loves me make me feel? All good questions.

One baseball comment. I felt a little sorry for Phillip Humber last night, as the Red Sox pummeled him en route to a 10-3 victory against the Other Sox. Why do I feel sorry for him? He pitched a perfect game last Saturday. And of course, there are about a kabillion references in the media to him NOT being perfect last night. Oh, well. As one baseball managers has been famous for saying, “That’s the way baseball go.”

Father, I pray for some inspiration this morning as I read and think on your words. Help me to use my mind and heart together, balancing knowledge with feeling. Most of all, help me live this day looking to you. I also pray for some motivation this morning, as I seem to be dragging my feet into this devotional time.

My Utmost For His Highest

And do you seek great things for yourself? Jeremiah 45:5

Am I seeking great things for myself? Would I rather receive God’s gifts or be in a more intimate relationship with him? I’m not sure what the answer would have been a few months ago. But at this point in my life, it is God that I want more than his gifts. I believe I am being totally honest when I say that. “There is nothing easier than getting into a right relationship with God except when it is not God Whom you want but only what He gives.”
If we are only asking God for things, we have yet to reach the first step of abandonment…we are not seeking him, but seeking something for ourselves. If we ask and do not receive, it is because we are not abandoned enough to him. “God always ignores the present perfection for the ultimate perfection.” That’s an interesting statement, isn’t it? But we must realize…God is looking at the “big picture.” We tend to look in the wrong end of the telescope. “Tunnel vision,” as it were. God is not concerned about making you happy! (I can hear the gasps from the health and wealth camp!) God is concerned about working out his plan; his ultimate perfection. So…what do you want?

Tabletalk Magazine

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1

The Tabletalk reading today tells us that one of the ways that we make a thanksgiving offering to the Lord is by offering ourselves as a “living sacrifice.” God has not dealt with us as we deserve, but has shown us mercy and grace. Therefore, we give thanks to him. “A life of thanksgiving is the only proper response to His grace.” As we live, we consider ourselves dead. Dead to sin, but alive to Christ. “We thank God by living as He does in holiness and righteousness.”

The Bible Panorama

Luke 22; Psalm 8; 2 Samuel 13

In Luke 22, the religious leaders begin to plot Jesus’s death. Verse 3 says that “Satan entered into Judas.” Did Satan directly possess or control Judas? Both the MacArthur Study Bible and the Reformation Study Bible say yes. Matthew Henry adds something interesting here. “It is hard to say whether more mischief is done to Christ’s kingdom by the power and policy of its open enemies, or by the treachery and self-seeking of its pretended friends…” Hmmm…a couple of “preachers” come to mind. Anyway…Judas, under the influence of Satan, went and sought out the religious leaders. They did not come to him. He knew what they wanted, so he went to confer with them.
This chapter takes us all the way through the garden arrest, Peter’s denial of Christ, and the illegal trial in front of the religious leaders. During this, excessive cruelty was displayed, as they blindfolded him, struck him about the face, and demanded that he “prophesy” who hit him. All of this, Jesus Christ endured, willingly, for our sin.

Psalm 8
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!


In 2 Samuel 13, we see what can only be continuing results of David’s sin with Bathsheba, as his household falls apart. Amnon, David’s son, rapes Tamar, Absalom’s sister. Tamar was Amnon’s half-sister. He “loves” her and can’t live without her, or so he thinks. So he cooks up a scheme, pretends to be sick, asks for her to come feed him, and then overpowers her and rapes her. Immediately afterward, he loathes her and forces her out. Absalom takes this to heart and devises a plan to kill Amnon (especially seeing that David did absolutely nothing about it), and carries that plan out. The word is mistakenly brought to David that Absalom had killed all of the rest of the king’s sons, but, in truth, as he found out shortly after, only Amnon had been killed. Absalom flees to another land, and David longs to see him again, after getting over the entire event. But he does nothing to get Absalom to come back. King David was a pathetic parent.

Father, what do I want? I want you. I certainly desire blessing from you, yes. I would be crazy to not desire that. But more than the blessings and gifts, I desire a closer relationship with you. I desire to live my life looking to you and following after Christ. I desire to give myself as a living sacrifice, as stated by Paul in Romans 12:1. My heart’s desire is to live my life in holiness and righteousness, just as Christ did. I pray that you make this true in my life. By the power of your Spirit, you can change my heart. I cannot change myself. Only you can change me, and what change you have wrought in my life in the past few months! Spiritual and physical changes, both! I credit you, Father, for my success. I acknowledge that you are not concerned (at least not ultimately) with my happiness. I believe that you will always do what is best. But my happiness is always too dependent on circumstances. I have peace and joy, however, that are dependent on you. You are concerned with your glory and honor. Therefore, I will be concerned with your glory and honor. Give me, as the Psalmist says, the desires of my heart. In other words, I’m asking you to make your desires my desires.

I feel like I’m rambling a bit and a little unfocused this morning, Lord. But that’s okay. I’ll still manage to get my prayers to you. And I know that the Spirit will intercede for me as I stumble through my prayers. I gratefully praise you for this. My prayers don’t have to be perfect. They just need to be sincerely from the heart.

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name!” Indeed, your name is majestic! What are we? We, the tiny specks of dust on the surface of this planet…you care about us? That is truly amazing. What are we that you are even mindful of us? Yet you have exalted us to a place of importance in your kingdom. May we live up to that, Father! I pray for wisdom. I pray for inspiration. I pray for the power of the Spirit to inhabit my life so that I can live this life victoriously looking to your face. I do not ask for great things. I ask, rather, to be last. Make me a servant; your servant. For it is only by being servants that we can truly be victorious. Help me understand this, Father. Help me get it right.

I pray for this day, Lord. I pray that Christi will have a good day today, at her job. May she continue to gain knowledge of her job and favor with those around her, especially those above her in management. I pray that Stephanie will feel better today, and be able to get some homework done. Give us wisdom for her future, Lord. I also pray that I will have a good day at work today. May we have a good, solid workout this evening, and I pray that Stephanie will have a good session tonight with her trainer. May we continue to have good success as we work at being more healthy.

I lift up a special prayer for baby Micah Faith, who was born prematurely last night, at 2 pounds, 3 ounces. I pray for her mother and family, Lord. I pray that this baby will survive by your miraculous hand, and that you will keep her family right by your side during this time. Thank you for her aunt, Kim Worley, who has enough faith to broadcast this prayer request via Facebook.

Your grace is sufficient.

May the Lord make our wants match his wants.

Grace and peace, friends.

Sin Has Lost Its Power

It’s Thursday, April 26, 2012. Good morning. Unless it’s not morning when you read this. But it’s morning when I’m typing it. It’s already 69 degrees, this morning, with a projected high of 91. Ugh. Too early for that. Or maybe not…it IS almost May. I hear it hit 103 in Abilene, yesterday. But that’s west Texas.

So yesterday, I got a test of what God has been trying to teach me, and failed it. It all had to do with how things went down at a local Subway store. I was in line and started ordering (two sandwiches and a salad). There were only two people working there, and the second one started helping the lady behind me. No problem. But she worked faster. So she got the lady’s sandwich in the toaster before my two sandwiches. Still no real problem. The girl got through with my sandwiches, took the lady’s out of the toaster (it was done) and put mine in. In the meantime, the lady had leapfrogged around me (NOW we’re starting to have a problem, since she was with a man, whose sandwich was still being made). The girl making my sandwiches then started to go ask the lady what veggies she wanted on her sandwich. “I’m not done,” I said, and was totally ignored by both people who worked there (the problem is in full force, now, and I’m starting to get carnal). After I said, at least twice, that I still wanted a salad, the lady who had leapfrogged finally told the girl that she thought I still needed to order something. By now, the man’s sandwich was finished, and the lady was encouraging him to leapfrog around me, as well. It was mass chaos by that time. And neither of the two Subway employees seemed to care. So what did I get upset about (I’m seriously thinking about not going back to that Subway, because those two are always there)? Was it because someone else’s sandwich got cooked before mine? No. Was it because the lady got in front of me? Not so much as that she was then trying to encourage her husband to do the same, and she was quite glib about it. Mostly, I think I was upset because I got ignored for a few minutes, and because the ineptness of the two employees resulted in a bit of chaos. I’m not a big fan of chaos. There was a brief minute where no one seemed to know what was going on at all. And I had this feeling that they thought that I was just being a jerk. Finally, I was really upset because I got so upset. THAT caused an endless loop. Anyone who’s done any programming knows how bad that is. Bottom line is…it’s sad how easily we can slip back into the flesh when we don’t think we got treated just right.

Father, I pray for more insight today; something that will help me to live this day, looking at the risen Christ. Keep teaching me about being last. I failed my test yesterday evening. Forgive me for that and help me get it right.

My Utmost For His Highest

“Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” Genesis 22:2

Chambers says, “Abraham interpreted God’s command to mean that he had to kill his son…” That pretty much seems to be what God told him. Chambers then goes down a path of allowing God to break us from wrong traditions. I certainly believe that this is a good thing, but I’m not sure it can be taken from this passage. This statement, however, I believe is true: “If the devil can hinder us from taking the supreme climb and getting rid of wrong traditions about God, he will do so; but if we keep true to God, God will take us through an ordeal which will bring us out into a better knowledge of Himself.” Then he states that the biggest point of Abraham’s faith was that he was willing to do anything for God. That can most definitely be taken from this passage. But we must be careful…Abraham was not a fanatic. “But,” you object, “he was about to kill his only son!” True. But, when the angel spoke to stop him, he listened. Had he been a fanatic (and consider the kinds of fanatics that we deal with today), he would have claimed that the angel’s voice was the devil and killed Isaac anyway! Abraham was more devoted to God than to his conviction.
At this point, Chambers makes a statement that I think is worth remembering. “Don’t ask God to test you.” A simple statement, but don’t we do it all the time? “I’ll give you EVERYTHING, God!” “I’ll do anything for you!” I seem to remember one Simon Peter making such a statement at the last supper. I don’t think we need to be reminded how THAT turned out, do we? “Abraham did not make any such declaration; he remained true to God, and God purified his faith.”

Tabletalk Magazine

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. Colossians 2:11-12

The benefits of being identified with Christ in his death are many. “Our bondage to sin is ended, and we are set free” so that the desires of the flesh no longer rule over us. The baptism that is mentioned in the above passage is referring to “the true spiritual baptism that is accomplished when through faith alone we renounce sin and trust Christ alone. (This spiritual baptism is signed and sealed in water baptism for those who believe.)” Further, “when God imputed our sin to Jesus, He also imputed its guilt and other consequences, including our enslavement to wickedness.” But, wait! Don’t we still have to suffer consequences from our sin? Yes. Note that it did not say “all consequences.” Sin and our fallen nature no longer have any rights or claim over us. “The power of wickedness to enslave and compel us was rendered null for all who trust in Christ alone and walk in the Spirit.”
Okay, so why did I allow my flesh to run rampant at the Subway store last night? Because, even though this fallen nature has been mortally wounded, it doesn’t like to stay buried. It continues to attempt to assert itself. Calvin said that there must be a “continued process of mortification.” Sin may have lost its power, but it is still dangerous. It is the grace of God that gives us the ability to choose to not sin.

The Bible Panorama

Luke 21; Psalm 7; 2 Samuel 12

Luke 21 begins with the short and sweet telling of the widow who put only two coins in the offering box. The rich people were putting on their visual displays of their great offerings, but Jesus said that the widow put in more than all of them, because she gave all that she had to live on.
Jesus says something very interesting in verse 14. He has just predicted that the disciples will be brought before “kings and governors” for the sake of his name. Then he says, “Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.” But aren’t we told elsewhere to be ready to give a defense for our faith? Yes. But I believe that these two thoughts are not mutually exclusive. In Luke 12:11, Jesus said a similar thing: And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say. So, if you take all these teachings together (are they commands, or are they more encouragement?), the basically say don’t worry about it! Don’t spend your energy trying to figure out what you are going to say if you get arrested for being a Christian. The Holy Spirit, as we say these days, has got your back.

I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High. Psalm 7:17

In 2 Samuel 12, Nathan the prophet confronts David for his multiple sins. Then, as punishment, the child that was produced by their initial coupling dies. The interesting thing is that Solomon, the second child of David and Bathsheba (the legitimate one), is in the lineage of Christ. That could not have happened had David not been on the roof when Bathsheba was bathing. There are no accidents in God’s plan. It is things like this that can rip holes in our “comfortable” ideas about God. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Father, I’m not quite sure where to start, today. I’m still humbled by my failure last night; my failure to allow myself to be last rather than first. Sure, I can justify my feelings and say that it wasn’t all because someone got ahead of me. But, at the core, it was because I did not get treated the way I thought I should get treated. It was about me. I confess my sin, Lord. Do I cause you frustration when it takes so long to teach me something? I think not, for I don’t believe you are frustrated at anything. I did not surprise you. I thank you for the opportunity to learn from my mistake. I pray that, the next time a similar circumstance occurs (and it will, especially in our day of severely lacking customer service), that I will remember last night, and wait patiently for things to right themselves. Your grace is sufficient, Father. That is my banner, for it truly is. It is not just a pithy statement. It is truth. Your grace is sufficient for all things.

I praise you that it is through such challenges and ordeals that you teach us that our traditions and convictions are less important than our devotion to you. Thank you for the lesson of Abraham. Thank you for the faith of Abraham, who was willing to do anything that you asked of him. Thank you also for his discernment when the angel called out to him to stay his hand from slaying his son. May we be so attentive! Let us not be fanatics to our preconceived ideas of how you are, which, in many cases, have no beginning whatsoever in Scripture. Let us learn who you are from you, not from other men. Teach me who you are as I read your words and as I live my life. Give me the ability, rather, enhance my ability (as I believe you have already given it to me) to live my life with my eyes fastened firmly on your face! Right now, I want more than anything to just crawl up into your lap and rest there. I’ve closed my eyes and am envisioning it. I’m locked in your embrace. Oh, what a feeling! Oh, what rapture! Would that I never had to leave…but life must go on. But as it does, I can remember, and I can look to your face. I can look to the risen Christ.

I praise you that sin has lost its power over me! And maybe, for the first time in many months, I truly believe it. I pray that I will continue to be identified with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ until sin is completely dead in me; until there is no longer any of the flesh remaining.

Thank you, Father! I praise your name this morning. I pray for this day. I pray that Christi will continue to learn more about her new role and that she will find favor with the people she works with, most especially those who will be over her when her current boss leaves. I pray that, by your Spirit, you would ease any tension or fear that she might have due to the uncertainty of future circumstances. I also pray that Stephanie will get her homework done today, or at least get a good start on it. And, lastly, may I have a good day at work today. May I be a witness to your power and glory today. Purify my faith.

May we not allow our traditions and wrong convictions to hinder our growth with the Lord.

Grace and peace, friends

New Every Morning

Good morning. It’s Tuesday, April 24, 2012.

I need to look back and see what I prayed for yesterday morning. Did I pray for a beating? Because that’s what it feels like I got. Hmm…here’s what I found: “Father, make the title of yesterday’s blog be true in my life. Teach me, today, how to be last. Give me something this morning that will help me, by your Spirit, live my life looking to you and regarding others to be more important than me.” Yup. Looks like I prayed for a beating, huh? Haha…it wasn’t that bad, I guess, but it was certainly one of those days. It took me almost an hour to get to work, highlighted by a guy who wouldn’t GO when he had an opportunity at a traffic light, thereby causing me and the car in front of me to have to wait through another cycle at the longest traffic light on Grapevine Hwy. Yeah…I got pretty “carnal” at that moment. And that shows just how much growing I still have to do, because everything I’ve “learned” in the last couple of days went right out the window. Then there were multiple challenges at work, crises that had to be dealt with, one of which lasted until after 3pm yesterday afternoon. I was whipped at the end of the day.

And then the Rangers lost to the Evil Ones. But that’s a subject for a different blog, and, honestly, matters not a hill of beans in the grand scheme of things.

But today is a different day. It’s a new day. And God’s mercies are new every morning. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. (Lamentations 3:21-25) You know what? The Lord just brought that to my mind as I was typing the paragraph above (not the one about baseball)!

Thank you, Lord, for bringing this Scripture to my mind and heart this morning. I pray that you will show me something in your words that will inspire me today; something that will help me live this day looking to your face.

My Utmost For His Highest

Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. Luke 10:20

Oswald Chambers states that, as Christian workers, our biggest snares are not sin or worldliness, but, rather, what he calls “spiritual wantoning.” What does that mean? “taking the pattern and print of the religious age we live in, making eyes at spiritual success.” In other words, looking at what appears to be successful in this world and wanting to pattern ourselves after that. I want nothing other than the approval of God! “Jesus told the disciples not to rejoice in successful service, and yet this seems to be the one thing in which most of us do rejoice.” The modern church (and the not-so-modern church when I was growing up, even) looks at the number of baptisms or the number of new members/salvations and praises God…everything is alright. But that is not where our work begins. Our work is not to save souls, that is God’s work. Our work is to disciple them, and that job is never done. “Our work as His disciples is to disciple lives until they are wholly yielded to God. One life wholly devoted to God is of more value to God than one hundred lives simply awakened by His Spirit.” This is very similar to the famous quote attributed to Dwight L. Moody (it was probably not actually spoken by him, but, rather, a close friend of his, Henry Varley), “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to Him.” God is working to bring me to a standard of life, by his grace. My spiritual work is to reproduce that standard in others.
But the problem lies here: “Unless the worker lives a life hidden with Christ in God, he is apt to become an irritating dictator instead of an indwelling disciple.” We fall into a trap of telling people what they must do. But even Jesus does not speak that way to us. His statements about discipleship always begin with “if.”
The key in this reading, to me, is the statement about a life wholly devoted to God. In my lifetime, I might have had the joy of knowing maybe one person who I could come close to saying was wholly devoted to God. I’m certainly not anywhere close! My reactions to yesterday’s God-sent challenges proves that. But I know one thing…I’m not looking at the successes of others for my standard. I’m doing my best to look through those new eyes that the gospel gave me many years ago. I’m aiming at getting my standards of success from God.

Tabletalk Magazine

Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there. John 19:41-12

It is important that the burial of Jesus is included in the gospels. Why? For one thing, being buried is a pretty good indicator that he truly died. There are actually religions that teach that he did not die. There is even one seminar that teaches that his body was eaten by scavenging dogs. Really?? But all four gospels agree that he truly died and that he was buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea.
In addition, Matthew Henry tells us that there may be more significance to the fact that he was buried in a garden. “In the garden of Eden death and the grave first received their power, and now in a garden they are conquered, disarmed, and triumphed over. In a garden, Christ began his passion, and from a garden he would rise, and begin his exaltation.” Man, those old, dead theologians sure had a way with words!!

The Bible Panorama

Luke 19; Psalm 5; 2 Samuel 10

Luke 19 begins with the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus, from which I remember a charming little song from my childhood.

We never sang that last part. I think somebody must have added that later. Anyway…the chapter also includes the triumphal entry and Jesus weeping over what would eventually happen to Jerusalem, circa AD70.

A couple of key verses from Psalm 5 (at least key to me…).
Verse 3: O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.
Verse 11: But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.

Father, I praise you that your mercies are new every morning! And even though the results were somewhat challenging yesterday, I’m praying for the same thing today. Keep teaching me to be last. No matter how much it hurts. And this time, make me remember it when that guy does something that costs me time at a traffic light. Even better…get me out of the house earlier, so that kind of thing won’t matter! Teach me, also, to seek only your standards for my life. Let me not look at any one else’s success, most especially success that exemplifies the worlds’s standards. But I don’t even want to pattern anything I do after someone who could possibly fit the description of one who is wholly devoted to you! I only want to pattern myself after Christ. This does not mean that I won’t learn from others. Certainly, I can and will. But you are my ultimate standard; you are my ultimate pattern. I also pray, Lord, that I may one day be considered one who is wholly consecrated to you. Increase my faith and my devotion, Lord Jesus! May I live a life that his hidden in you.

I praise you for the garden, Lord; the tomb in which you defeated death so that it is no longer our enemy. Thank you for the inspiring words of Matthew Henry. In that garden, death and the grave were certainly “conquered, disarmed, and triumphed over!” Hallelujah.

I pray for this day, Lord. I pray that Christi will continue to learn and to gain favor with those around her at her new job. May it become increasingly familiar to her each day. I pray for my work day today, Lord, that it will be better than yesterday. But I pray that, if and when challenges arise, I will look to you for consistency in my walk, not being moved by challenges that would threaten to undermine my faith. Moreover, I pray that I might be a witness to you in my workplace. I pray for Stephanie today, as well. She was still not feeling great last night. I pray that she will feel better today.

I thank you, Father, for bringing us into the fellowship of The Exchange, and for the people we have met at this church. They are people who have challenged us and inspired us. We are growing more than we ever have, Father, and I praise you for that. Your grace and mercy in my life in the past few months has been truly amazing. I am more grateful than I can put into words.

Your trace is truly sufficient for all things.

Let God and God alone be your standard for life.

Grace and peace, friends.

I Am Not Second. I Am Last.

Good morning. It’s Sunday, April 22, 2012. It’s 63 degrees and sunny, this morning, with a projected high of 81 in Fort Worth. A fairly nice spring day here.

Yesterday turned out pretty nice (excepting, of course, that disaster at Fenway Park, but I won’t talk about that here). We had a good time at setup, did our grocery shopping, spent a couple hours at home, then went to have lunch with some family members for our niece’s birthday. This is Jennifer, whose name you have seen in this blog a few times as I’ve prayed for her for various things. She turned 30 this past week. Her mother was there, along with her mother’s “boyfriend” (I put that in quotations, because it sounds silly to call someone who’s over 50 a “boyfriend”), his daughter, a friend of his daughter’s, and my mother-in-law and her husband. We met at Cotton Patch on the west side of town. Stephanie and I both had their “Grilled Cajun Duo,” while Christi had the grilled pork chops. Stephanie had a piece of Jennifer’s cookie cake (I had only one bite of it…Christi abstained completely). It was a good time. The staff of Cotton Patch came out and sang “Happy Birthday” to Jennifer. Our waiter, Pierre, was outstanding.

This morning, our lifehouse leader is preaching. I always enjoy it when he preaches. He’s pretty brainy, so you can count on his messages being “meaty.” Also, we are picking up Stephanie’s current best friend, Scottie, and taking him to church with us.

Father, I pray that you will give me some inspiration today, some truth that will help me life today and the rest of this week looking to your face. May I submerge myself in your grace and in the Spirit today. Push aside any distractions or attitudes that might hinder me.

My Utmost For His Highest

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Even though we are in the company of other saints, ultimately, we stand alone with God. What does this mean? Let me try to explain. We cannot depend on the “light” that shines from other people. That light will eventually fade. When we first begin the Christian life, we get disheartened as we see people who “used to be lights flicker out,” and those who once stood with us pass away. “We must build our faith, not on the fading light, but on the light that never fails.” This light belongs to God and God alone. When people fade out of our lives, we are saddened, but we must realize that this was meant to be; “the one thing that remains is looking in the face of God for ourselves.”

“Allow nothing to keep you from looking God sternly in the face about yourself and about your doctrine…” If we are Christian workers, we must perpetually look in the face of God before we go out to talk to people. “The secret of the worker’s life is that he keeps in tune with God all the time.”

All of this does not mean that other people aren’t important and that we shouldn’t look to them for support and encouragement. But God is the ultimate support; God is the ultimate encourager; he will never fade away; his light will shine eternally.

The Bible Panorama

Luke 18; Psalm 4; 2 Samuel 9

There are several parables in Luke 18. The one that stands out most to me is the one about the Pharisee and the tax collector, found in verses 9-14. He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Jesus has illustrated this principle before. When we boast about our “spiritual” accomplishments, we already have our reward. But when we humble ourselves and admit our condition before God, he will exalt us. A broken and contrite heart, he will not despise (Psalm 51:17). Chrispin says, “[Jesus] rejects any attempt to parade one’s religious activities or status as a means of salvation or acceptance.” (p. 442)

Psalm 4
To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah
But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him.
Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD.
There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!”
You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

It is interesting that this Psalm includes another verse about sleep. In both this and Psalm 3, we get the indication that it is the protecting hand of God that allows us to have peaceful sleep.

In 2 Samuel 9, the good heart of David is evident. He wanted to show kindness to any remaining descendant of Saul. The only one found was Mephibosheth, who was lame in both feet, due to an accident when he was an infant. He was the son of Jonathan. David brought Mephibosheth into his household and treated him as one of his own.

Father, I pray that, as I live this day, this week, and the remainder of my days on this earth, that I might continually and perpetually look in your face. I pray that, when the eyes of my spirit are distracted, and I momentarily look at something else, you would always draw my gaze back to you. You are infinitely beautiful, my God, and, as John Piper once said, it is infinite sin to prefer anything to an infinitely beautiful God. May my gaze never be taken away from you. May I never worship anything other than you. My worship and adoration belong only to you; it is only you who deserve my praise. Other people will fail me; friends will fade away and lose their spark for you; those who may not fade, spiritually, will fade from my circle of influence. You, however, will always be there. Your light will never fade and you will never leave me or forsake me. Hallelujah! By the power of your Spirit, always cause me to look to your face.

May I never be guilty of touting my own self-righteousness, especially since I possess no righteousness in and of myself. The only righteousness that I own is that of Jesus Christ that was imputed to me on the cross. That is my righteousness. Jesus Christ is all that I have to boast in. I will not boast of tithing or good works. I will not proclaim the things that I have done for you, because all of my works are as filthy rags! I have done no “good,” except that I have given my life to you to use as you see fit. All the “good” that has come from my life is from you. I am nothing. I am less than second. I am last. You are everything.

I pray for this day, Lord. May our worship be acceptable this morning. May it be unhindered by any physical distractions. May my mind not be wandering while I am praising you. Speak through your servant, Jacob, this morning. Speak words that we all need to hear. Open the eyes and ears of my spirit to hear what you would have me to hear this morning. Then give me the courage and wisdom to act on it. This is your time, Lord.

Give us good rest during the remainder of this day.

May we heed the teaching of Jesus in regard to self-righteousness.

Grace and peace, friends.

He Is Here, Now

Good morning. It’s Saturday, April 21, 2012. I’ve piddled about a little too much this morning. Doing things like watching a video clip of the celebration at Fenway Park from yesterday. My emotions overwhelmed me when Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield brought out Bobby Doerr and Johnny Pesky in their wheelchairs. What a day. The Boston Globe said that the celebration was “ruined” by their 6-2 loss to the Evil Empire. No. It was not “ruined!” How could they say such a thing? Perhaps it was slightly marred, but yesterday’s celebration could not be ruined!

Anyway…must get on with my devotion this morning, before time to leave for setup.

Father, I pray that you show me something this morning that will guide me into living this day looking to the risen Christ.

My Utmost For His Highest

Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? John 14:9

Jesus said these words in response to Phillip’s request for Jesus to show them the Father. Chambers says that the Lord must be “repeatedly astounded at us–astounded at how un-simple we are.” Of course, I disagree…the Lord is never “astounded.” How could he be? However, I agree with the sentiment that we have an issue with being “un-simple.” I love his next statement: “It is opinions of our own which make us stupid; when we are simple we are never stupid, we discern all the time.” Haha! I have known the truth of that, friends. Yes, I have been “stupid” many times, especially from my opinions! Phillip was looking for some great revelation of a “tremendous mystery,” but he did not realize that that revelation was standing right in front of him! “The mystery of God is not in what is going to be, it is now; we look for it presently, in some cataclysmic event.” We are looking for God to reveal or manifest himself to us, but he reveals himself IN us! Listen…if we are constantly asking God for experiences, we are hurting him. The questions we ask, those questions that are not the questions of a child, those questions hurt our Lord. If we believe in Jesus, are we living up to that belief? The Lord is here now.

The Bible Panorama

Luke 17; Psalm 3; 2 Samuel 8

Jesus’s instructions about dealing with sin in a brother are interesting. (Luke 17:1-4) It seems that we seldom follow them. He say that if a brother sins, we are to rebuke him. He does NOT say, just ignore it, because we don’t want to make him feel bad about himself! We are supposed to rebuke our brothers and sisters when they sin. But then, if they repent, we are to forgive them. Even if they sin against us seven times in one day, we are to forgive them!

I’ve always loved Psalm 3:5. I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me. Even something as simple as going to sleep and waking up is a gift from the sustaining hand of God.

Father, I praise you that I am able to lay down to sleep and then wake up again, each morning. The fact that I awake, drawing breath in the morning is a gift from you! Your hand sustains us and protects us while we sleep. We give you honor and praise for your sustaining hand.

I pray that we would be wise servants and children, Lord, following your commands to rebuke one another when we see each other sinning. Let us not turn blind eyes to the sins of our brothers, for that hurts your church. Anytime we sin, we are worshiping something other than you, and this damages the integrity of your bride, Lord Jesus! Give us wisdom and discernment in this, though, and let us be faithful to only rebuke for sin, not for personal preference.

Father, keep me from being stupid! May I have the faith of a child and realize that you are here, now! Manifest yourself in me, Lord. May others see you in me. Not so that I can obtain glory, for I certainly deserve none! Rather, it is you that deserve glory and honor, and I pray that you use me to receive that in this world.

Forgive me for taking so much time that I had to hurry through this. I pray for this day. May we have a successful and quick setup time this morning, and may our lunch with family members be peaceful and a good time.

Your grace is sufficient.

May we not allow our opinions to make us stupid! I’ve certainly had enough of that in my life. I need to be more like a child, and learn that God is here, now.

Grace and peace, friends.

Nobody’s Fault But Mine

Good morning. It’s Friday! Yes! Friday, April 20, 2012. Today is the 100th anniversary of the opening of Fenway Park. Happy birthday, Fenway! They will be celebrating by trying to amass the world’s largest toast in a public place. Not toast, like a piece of bread. Toast as in raising a glass. Just to clarify. Of course the world’s largest piece of toast would also be impressive.

We had a good lifehouse group last night. First, we rejoiced and gave thanks over the report that was received on Zach Schroeder, our youth pastor. In case you missed my afternoon extra post, the spinal tap results came back negative for MS. Second, we talked about last Sunday’s sermon, which was called “Guard Your Heart,” and dealt with the danger of drifting away from God. Two things that I took away from this meeting. One is that grace is the thing that gives us the power to choose good over evil; right over wrong. Were it not for God’s grace, we would not be able to make that choice. Second is a perspective on sin that says that sin is worshiping anything other than Christ. In other words, during that moment that we sin, we are worshiping something else; we are not worshiping Jesus. Good stuff.

Hopefully we will get in a workout tonight. It’s been a few days, due to circumstances that I won’t go into here. But we plan to get back on schedule tonight. I’m still losing, though, being well past the 50 pound mark since January 15. Even more exciting, I’m just over a pound away from losing 80 pounds since I joined Spark People in February 2010!

Father, I pray that you would teach me something that would help me live this day looking to your face. I also pray that you would, by your Spirit, drive home the truths that I received last night.

My Utmost For His Highest

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 2 Corinthians 1:20

According to Oswald Chambers, the parable of the talents in Matthew 25 has to do with the “Pentecostal gift of the Holy Ghost,” not with our natural talents. We tent to measure our spiritual capacity by intellect or education, but it needs to be measured by God’s promises. “If we get less than God wants us to have, before long we will slander Him as the servant slandered his master: ‘You expect more than You give me power to do; You demand too much of me, I cannot stand true to You where I am placed.'” These are very dangers statements for the Christian to make. We should never say “I can’t,” when the Spirit of God is involved. “Never let the limitation of natural ability come in. If we have received the Holy Spirit, God expects the work of the Holy Spirit to be manifested in us.”

The servant in the parable justified himself and condemned his lord. Have we done the same? Do we worry when God has said “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you?” (Matthew 6:33) The big question is, “Is God able to fulfill His promises?” The answer, or rather OUR answer, depends on if we have received his Spirit. God is most certainly able to fulfill his promises!

Tabletalk Magazine

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:11

What is the intent and the extent of the atonement? Today’s reading in Tabletalk addresses a somewhat controversial and unpopular belief known as “limited atonement,” or “particular atonement.” Did Jesus die for the sins of every person who will ever live, or did he die only for the sins of the elect? Anyone who knows me very well knows how I believe on this subject.

Anyone who has studied the Bible at all must agree that the atonement is limited in some way. Both experience and Scriptural testimony tell us that not everyone will be saved, in spite of Rob Bell’s belief system. There are, according to Revelation some people who will not believe and do not have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life.

What are the possible limitations of the atonement? The Arminian position states that the atonement is only potential and, in and of itself, has no redeeming power, but must be coupled with human response. The Reformed position states that the atonement does actually save people, but not everyone. If the atonement was only potential, then it had the potential to save no one. “There was the possibility that no one would ever make a ‘free will’ decision for Christ.” But Scripture knows nothing of a “potential atonement. Jesus did not go to the cross to make salvation possible; He was crucified to save a people for Himself.” (Emphasis mine) Scripture states that Jesus “came to save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

“God did not send His Son to make it possible or even probable that some would be saved. Instead, His plan guaranteed the salvation of His elect. Christ died for the sins of His people alone. He gave His life only for His sheep (John 10:11).”

The Bible Panorama

Luke 16; Psalm 2; 2 Samuel 7

Luke 16 is a difficult chapter. I will confess that I’ve always been a little puzzled by the parable of the dishonest manager or steward. I don’t quite understand what Jesus meant in verse 9. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. I do know this, though. The teaching of Jesus in verse 15 is one that we would do well to take notice of. You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. That last sentence is very sobering to ponder. Take a close look at what the world exalts. We need to be very careful that we are not falling into that trap.

As I read Chrispin’s commentary on the chapter, I guess the point is that it is the shrewdness of the manager that is commended, but not his lack of integrity. “Christians should deal as shrewdly in God-honoring ways, as ungodly people deal selfishly for their own ends.” Maybe that helps a little.

Psalm 2 can be divided into four parts or themes. Part one describes human rebellion. Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” (1-3) Part two describes the Divine response. He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” (4-6) Part three describes Divine rule. I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (7-9) And part four describes human responsibility. Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (10-12)

Every time I read this Psalm, I’m reminded of this song by Rich Mullins.

“Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”

In 2 Samuel 7, David desires to build a house for the ark of the covenant; a house for God. God informs David that he doesn’t need a house. He has never dwelt in a house made by the hands of men. Moreover, God is about to build David’s “house,” meaning his dynasty, which will culminate in the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind. He also informs David that his offspring will, in fact, build a temple for the Lord. David’s response is a humble prayer of praise.

Father, I pray that, by your Spirit, I will be able to stand on the confidence of your promises. May I never be guilty of saying “I can’t,” or “I don’t know how” to you. You will never demand anything of me that you have not already provided within me. Your demands are not unreasonable, and I will not attempt to justify my failures by daring to criticize you. When I fail it is nobody’s fault but mine. You have given me your Spirit, and you expect the work of the Spirit to be manifested in me. Make this so, Lord! I pray that the Spirit will be manifested in me today. I pray for victory by the power of the Holy Spirit. Let me not be guilty of the laziness of worry. May I obey the command of Matthew 6:33 and seek your kingdom and righteousness first.

I praise you, Lord Jesus, that I am one of your sheep. I know that there are people who do not believe that your atonement is in any way “limited,” but I believe in the Reformed position, and am so very grateful that you chose me to be one of your sheep. This makes me more appreciative than ever of the salvation that was made sure for me on the cross. I praise you for making sure that there was no way that I would miss out on this great salvation. You did not make it possible! You made it certain! I worship you, Lord Jesus, with all of my heart.

I pray, Lord, that I will not exalt the same things that the world exalts, for those things are an abomination to you. I pray that I will exalt only you, and only Jesus Christ. May my life be a song of praise to your worthiness; may it be a proclamation of your salvation; your mercy and grace! I thank you that, through this grace, you have given me the ability to to make the choice between right and wrong. Your grace has made it possible for me to choose life!

I pray for this day, Father. Christi is struggling in her new role, Lord, but mostly because things are very frantic, and it will take her a little time to get used to things. She feels lost and doesn’t like that feeling. I pray that, by your Spirit, you give her a supernatural ability to understand what is going on today. Give her the ability to catch on and begin to work right into whatever it is they are doing. Guide her by your mighty hand, Lord, and let her know that you are right there with her today. I pray that my day at work will be a good day, Lord. May there be no issues today, but if there are, let me rely on your Spirit to keep me calm and deal with them effectively.

We praise you for the good report from Zach’s spinal tap.

I intended to quote something I read in another blog in yesterday’s entry, but completely forgot. So I’ll do it today. Over at Living In Graceland, I read this on Wednesday. “When the voice says ‘Pencils down’ I want to know I’ve written things of truth. Words of One who is Truth. And love and grace.” That is my desire, as well.

When I prayed, “nobody’s fault but mine,” of course, it made me think of this song. I’ll leave you with this today. Forgive me in advance… 🙂

Grace and peace, friends.