June 4th, 2019

These Are Easy Things

2 Kings 3:18 “This is but a slight thing in the sight of the Lord.”

Observation: The immediate context of this statement is Elisha’s confidence that it would be an easy thing for the Lord, without using wind or rain, to fill a desert valley with water for the men and animals of Israel to drink. After all, Elisha had only recently watched Elijah be taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire and a whirlwind. Elisha knew absolutely that his creator God could do anything. 

In Psalm 82, the Lord is called on to vindicate the weak and fatherless, to do justice to the afflicted and destitute, to rescue the needy, to deliver them out of the hand of the wicked (see verses 3-4).

Application: That’s me! Weak, needy, afflicted, destitute, fatherless. Sometimes I don’t slow down long enough to realize that these words describe me, but in my most quiet, reflective moments, I know that they do. And in the midst of such reality check, I see Elisha, confidently reassuring me that, “This [whatever the need is] is but a slight thing in the sight of the Lord.” 

How good God is to give these reminders of His great ability in the face of my confessed inability. The word confessed is key. As long as I am willing to keep flailing away, insistent upon continued reliance on my own resources, I will never be able to access God’s full favor. I will continue to be afflicted and needy. But to finally recognize my need of a Savior is, at long last, to no longer be fatherless. I can lay hold of the riches and might, the glory and strength of my heavenly father. No longer left to my own resources, all the abilities of heaven will meet my needs, and I will say, with Elisha, that these are easy things in the sight of the Lord.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, sometimes I feel completely overwhelmed by the challenges of just getting through another day. The needs around me are so great, the cry of my own heart for nurture and fathering is so plaintive, it sometimes seems impossible to keep pushing forward. I want to just lie down and let the circumstances of life flood over me. But to You, O God, these are but slight things. Your father heart speaks to my need, and You fill me with fresh encouragement. Give me today the perspective of Elisha. Give me the perspective of a son of the King of kings.

June 3rd, 2019

Too Close for Comfort

2 Chronicles 18:18-22 “I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing on His right and on His left. The Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab king of Israel to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’…And one said this while another said that. Then a spirit came forward and…said, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘How?’ He said, ‘I will go and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ Then He said, ‘You are to entice him and prevail also. Go and do so.’ Now therefore, behold, the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of these, your prophets, for the Lord has proclaimed disaster against you.”

Observation:  Wow! If this passage doesn’t stand soft theology about God on its head, nothing will! God and His angels—not Satan and his fallen angels, but God Himself—plotted deception against evil King Ahab, and assigned one of His angels to “be” a deceiving spirit. Just when I think I have God all figured out, whitewashed into a namby-pamby general source of “goodness” in the world, along comes a passage like this! The message is, “Ahab, God sees who you really are, and He’s ticked!”

Application: An interesting sidebar to this story is Jehoshaphat, the good king of Judah, who had made an unwise alliance with evil king Ahab. That alliance is nearly Jehoshaphat’s undoing. Jehoshaphat was discerning enough to realize that the 400 prophets on Ahab’s payroll were just telling Ahab what they thought Ahab wanted to hear, so they sent for Micaiah, the sole prophet whom everyone trusted to speak the true word of the Lord. 

Micaiah gave the game away. He perfectly foretold the defeat and death of Ahab. But after hearing Micaiah’s word and knowing that the coming battle was God’s plan for killing Ahab, still Jehoshaphat went into battle alongside Ahab. What he was thinking? 

See where wrong alliances lead? See what happens when I sell out to the world, when my heart pursues things above God? I can get sucked inexorably into destruction God has carefully crafted. And how effective do I think I will be, praying against a spirit of deception, when that spirit was designed and assigned by God Himself? That’s why I am told to flee evil! Run away! Separate myself from the world and its systems, lest the explosion intended to defeat Ahab take me out too!

Prayer: Father, forgive my fleshly pursuits. Forgive me, Lord, for every instance in which I have sought pleasure and satisfaction and fulfillment in other than You. Forgive me for those times when I have walked too close for comfort along the edges of sin, trusting, hoping, that I wouldn’t fall in. Cause my identity to be only in You, Lord, hidden in the loving arms of Your dear Son.

June 2nd, 2019

Setting the Mind

Colossians 3:2 “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”

Observation: Paul’s writing to the church at Colossae was to counter their tendency to blend the teachings of Christ with Jewish legalism, Greek philosophy, and Oriental mysticism. The pure teachings of Christ were being lost in a maelstrom of other beliefs and philosophies. In the verse emphasized today, Paul was straightforwardly reminding the people that they had some serious choices to make. He fairly shouted, “Wait a minute! Stop! Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth!”

Application: What could the command to “set” my mind imply, other than that it is a choice of my will to do so? Setting the mind is an act I must make consciously; I must fight against the tendency to “go along” with the priorities of the world around me or to be overwhelmed by the latest bad news. 

Paul is saying, “Take control of your mind! Be assertive about deciding in advance what your focus will be on today! The entertainments of the world, the vain philosophies of men, even alarming headline news of the day can so easily overwhelm me. I effortlessly slip into a passive posture of simply reading what comes in today’s mail or watching whatever programming is offered tonight or spending one more evening with the same old group of familiar friends who do nothing to draw me into a closer relationship with our Creator God. 

“No!” Paul shouts. “Set your mind on things above. Decide ahead of time how you’ll spend your time and money.” In other words, think about how the coming hour or day or week, could impact eternity! If my mind isn’t being renewed each day, then I’m living on old information about whose I really am; I am trying to function according to false knowledge.

Prayer: Lord God, stir me to shake off the patterns and complacency of the world. Cause me, Lord, to aggressively, assertively, take control of my mind. I ask You, dear Lord, to show me Your priorities for my life today.

June 1st, 2019

Confronted by the Mirror

1 Kings 17:18 “You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance.”

1 Kings 18:17 “Is this you, you troubler of Israel?”

Observation: The contrast of heart attitude in these two passages could hardly be more profound. The widow of 1 Kings 17 was a pagan widow to whom Elijah had been sent to receive sustenance from during the famine. She had been willing to use the last of her resources to feed Elijah before she and her son would die of hunger. In response to her obedience, God had kept her supply of oil and flour miraculously replenished through more than three years of famine.  But after three years of living by the supernatural provision of the Lord, her son became ill and died, at which time she said, “You have come to bring my iniquity to remembrance.” 

In 1 Kings 18, evil King Ahab had been seeking to kill Elijah for three years, since the day famine had begun in response to Elijah’s declaration in 1 Kings 17:1, “There shall be neither dew nor rain these years except by my word.”  When Ahab finally saw Elijah three years later, he cast blame with these words, “Is this you, you troubler of Israel?”

Application: Ponder for a moment the different heart responses of these two individuals. In losing her son, the widow was losing her future security, yet she didn’t look for someone else to blame. She understood there was iniquity in her life, and Elijah was serving as a mirror to bring it to her remembrance. 

Ahab, on the other hand, this most evil of kings, gave no thought to the reality that the calamity befalling the nation was due to his leadership. He was a blamer. 

I am humbled by the Lord’s invitation for me to look honestly in the mirror held by the Holy Spirit…a mirror He uses to test my heart response to what I see reflected there. Will I respond as the widow, agreeing that there is iniquity only He can cleanse, or will I respond as one who will once again blame my circumstances on others?

Prayer: Father God, You are faithful to hold a mirror before me continually.  Search my heart, O Lord; reveal the iniquity that’s there, that I might yield it to You and be cleansed and renewed in Your presence. Forgive me for any thought of blaming anyone else for my circumstances, Lord, and let me be renewed today by the power of Your love.

May 31st, 2019

Not Perfect but Blameless

2 Chronicles 15:17 “But the high places were not removed from Israel; nevertheless Asa’s heart was blameless all his days.”

Observation: Asa was a good king of Judah, a good man. His heart was to pursue the Lord wholeheartedly. Verses12-15 detail the national covenant Asa led the southern kingdom to establish, agreeing they would seek the Lord with all their heart and soul. Verse 15 says all Judah rejoiced over their oath to seek the Lord. But Asa wasn’t perfect. Verse 17 is key: the high places were not all removed; nevertheless Asa’s heart was blameless all his days.

Application: I am impressed by the abundance of grace the Lord poured out on Asa. He recognized that not all the places of idol worship had been torn down, yet God still saw the condition of Asa’s heart, that it was good. 

Later, in 1 Chronicles 16:7-10, the Lord sent a messenger to bring a word of correction to Asa, wounding Asa’s kingly pride. In anger, Asa had the messenger imprisoned. So, he wasn’t perfect. 

God’s grace as extended to Asa is echoed later in Colossians 1:28 where Paul writes, “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.” Oh to be complete in Christ! And even if I am complete in Him, which I am, does that mean I am perfect? Far from it. But like Asa, whose heart was good even as he failed in some aspects of his walk, I have been covered by God’s grace and have been made complete. I will never be perfect this side of eternity, but God sees the heart and is pleased.

Prayer: Lord, I do want to identify and remove every high place in my life, every place of stumbling. But even so, I pray most of all that You would find me, though not perfect, to have a heart that is blameless all my days, like Asa.

May 30th, 2019

Covenant of Salt

2 Chronicles 14:11 “Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, ‘Lord, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. O Lord, You are our God; let not men prevail against You.’”

Observation: Abijah was king of Judah who faced war with the unrighteous Jeroboam, king of Israel. Jeroboam had 800,000 soldiers compared to Abijah’s 400,000, nevertheless Abijah properly cast the battle in spiritual terms. He reminded Jeroboam that God, by a covenant of salt, had given the rule of his people to David and his descendants. Although Jeroboams’ army was great, they worshiped false gods and appointed unrighteous priests, while Abijah and Judah kept the commandments of God (see 2 Chron. 13:1–9). He warned Jeroboam that in fighting Abijah, he was actually fighting against the Lord. 

Jeroboam proceeded anyway and was routed, losing 500,000 men. Years later, Abijah’s son Asa was king of Judah and found himself with an army of 580,000 facing an Ethiopian enemy of 1,000,000. But Asa, like his father Abijah, called to the Lord to remind Him of their utter dependence on Him. As a result, God gave Asa a mighty victory against his enemies.

Application: Two generations of leaders, Abijah and Asa, worked to rid the nation of sinful symbols and practices, to restore worship of the one true God. Their cleansing began close to home. First Kings15 tells us that Asa deposed his own grandmother from being the queen mother because she had made a horrid image of a false god. 

Such cleansing must always begin at home. Before I can repent effectively for the sins of the nation or my workplace or my church or even my own household, I have to make sure my own heart is pure. Second Chronicles 13:5 reminds the enemies of God that the Davidic covenant was a covenant of salt, echoing identical phrases in Numbers and Leviticus, to emphasize the permanent, everlasting nature of that covenant. Oh, the joy of knowing that I can trust Him to never change! I can rely on His Word, for it is the one permanent thing in this world.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I love having seen this phrase today, “covenant of salt,” for that describes Your covenant with me, doesn’t it? Your unchanging, permanent, eternal nature has entered into my life and changed me forever. Thank You, Lord, for the imagery of this covenant of salt, for it’s something I can rely on when my faith becomes shaky at times.

May 29th, 2019

Hearing and Obeying

1 Kings 13:21 “’You have disobeyed the command of the Lord, and have not observed the commandment which the Lord your God commanded you.’”

Observation: The prophet from Judah had spoken the word of the Lord to King Jeroboam concerning the king’s sinful behavior. The prophet also declared that the Lord had told him to neither eat nor drink while he remained in that part of the land. 

An old local prophet heard of the Judah prophet, and went after him to invite him to his home. The Judah prophet again said that the Lord had told him to neither eat nor drink in this place, but the old prophet, wanting to curry favor with Jeroboam, lied to the Judah prophet, saying that an angel of the Lord had appeared to the old prophet and told him to bring the Judah prophet to his house so they might eat and drink together. Then, as they were sitting down to the meal, the word of the Lord came to the old prophet saying, “You have disobeyed the command of the Lord and have not observed the commandment which the Lord your God commanded you.” Later, the Lord sent a lion to kill the Judah prophet.

Application:  I draw two lessons from this, one of which is that I need to hear from God myself and be very wary of someone who presumes to speak specific direction into my life. Godly counsel and wisdom will come from others; in fact, I am encouraged to seek it, but a “thus sayeth the Lord” from another person will not usually be the way God reveals His specific plans for my life. 

The second lesson is that just because someone may claim to be a prophet and operate with prophetic gifting, doesn’t necessarily mean their character is righteous and their words true. I am to test the spirits and should always be more concerned with character than with gifting.

Prayer: Father, You are jealous for me to hear Your voice. I am Your child, and a brother to Christ Jesus. Cause me to be quiet enough, focused enough, to hear Your voice of guidance and instruction for my life, Lord. Let me not be swayed by others’ opinions when they contradict what You have said. Teach me to have a gracious, listening heart.

May 28th, 2019

Paid in Full

Philemon 14, 18 “But without your consent I did not want to do anything, so that your goodness would not be, in effect, by compulsion, but of your own free will…But if Onesimus has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account.”

Observation: Onesimus was a slave who had run away from his master, Philemon. In his running he met Paul who led him to faith in Christ. Following his conversion, Onesimus wanted to set things right with Philemon. The normal punishment for a runaway slave would have been death, so Paul wrote this wonderful letter of intercession.

Application: This short letter is a beautiful illustration of the power of humility and forgiveness to transform lives and relationships. Paul was unwilling to order Philemon to do anything, even though he had the right and authority to do so. Rather, he wanted Philemon to have the joy of having been obedient out of his own free will rather than steal that joy by requiring certain things of Philemon. 

Then in verse 18, Paul pulls out the big guns of logic. He told Philemon that if Onesimus had truly wronged Philemon in any way, Philemon was to charge that to Paul’s account, which, by the way, had an unlimited credit since Paul had apparently been instrumental in leading Philemon to Christ. Philemon was to impute to Paul the debt of Onesimus. This is a beautiful illustration of my own sin being imputed to Christ, wherein God receives me in the merit of His own Son rather than in my own poor merits. 

Has the Gospel of Christ anywhere been summarized more succinctly? O, that I would of my own free will release and forgive any debts owed to me and let the blood of Christ cover those things, marking every debt, “Paid In Full.” The power of this passage to transform lives is without parallel if I would but dwell in these verses until their truth has sunk deep within my heart.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You have marked all my debts as paid in full. And because of that, You now require that I extend that same privilege to those who “owe” me.  Thank You for changing my heart to not just enable me to do that but to want to do it. I love You, Lord.

May 27th, 2019

His Song over Me

Song of Solomon 1:4, 15; 4:7, 9  “Draw me after You and let us run together!  The King has brought me into His chambers.” . . . “We will extol Your love better than wine.” “How beautiful you are, my darling, how beautiful you are! Your eyes are like doves.” “You are altogether beautiful my darling, and there is no blemish in you. . . . You have made my heart beat faster, my sister, my bride; you have made my heart beat faster with a single glance of Your eyes.”

Observation: Theologians differ over how to interpret the Song of Solomon, also called the Song of all Songs. But for my own heart it is a settled matter. This writing is the supreme effort that could be made with words to describe the passion between the Lord Jesus Christ and His bride, those believers who have had a vision to become voluntary lovers of Christ. 

Application: When Solomon wrote, “Draw me after You and let us run together,” he was reaching the limits of human language to describe this divine love affair.  When he wrote, “How beautiful are you, my darling, your eyes are like doves,” I understand how beautiful I am in the eyes of my lovesick bridegroom. Then, further in his statement, “You are altogether beautiful my darling; there is no blemish in you,” I find an echo of perhaps the most profound truth of Scripture. My beauty in His eyes—my attractiveness to Him—is purely His doing. If He sees no blemish in me it is because of the work He has done to perfect me. 

How could a blemished one ever hope to sit at the wedding table with Jesus as bridegroom? How could His hopeful bride ever undertake her own cleansing? Obviously, it can’t be done! But He has accomplished that wonderful work Himself, purchasing with His blood a bride worthy of Him. So, when He later says to you and me, “You have made my heart beat faster,” I know that the work is finished. I am His forever.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your unimaginable sacrifice has bought for You a bride without spot or blemish. Let the truth of that statement thunder about and within me all through this day, and every day for the rest of my life. Let me hear You singing this Song of all Songs over me, Lord Jesus. Cause me to enter into the Song, to fully surrender to the passionate love You have for me.

May 26th, 2019

First Smoke

Psalm 14:1 “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”

Observation: In this simple phrase we discover again Scripture’s commitment to utter honesty. As severe as a “fool’s judgment” must surely be, the passage goes on to declare the universality of fools: “All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Verse 3)

Application: It is worth noticing that a fool disclaims God “in his heart”, as opposed to shouting his convictions from the city square. Although some have indeed been that demonstrative, most of us are not willing to take so public a stand. It is as though there is an inner, secret yearning for an ultimate judge, for one who could govern the affairs of man and bring order out of decay, and enlightened understanding out of encroaching darkness.

Most of us well know that there is indeed such a powerful, awful presence brooding in the background of our lives, watching and waiting to pounce. Why else would young boys sneak their first smoke in hiding? Hearts racing, hunkered into a tight clutch against the match-defeating breeze (whom do they think sent that breeze anyway?) They hide precisely because they well know rebellion is not safe. There remains a measure of fear that the persistent breeze may carry mother’s voice as she inspects the puffs of smoke coming from the garage.

Proverbs 23:7 states my problem clearly: “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Thoughts lead to behavior, and repeated behavior leads to depravity of the kind described in the balance of Psalm 14:1, “They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.”

Let’s say I have been convicted of some sinful behavior such as inner lusting for wealth or sex. I have sought counsel because something within yearns for intimacy with Him, and I understand lust to interfere with intimacy, yet I nonetheless take a questionable tax deduction. Or, perhaps I’ve had a problem with pornography. After years of my best efforts I am “mostly” victorious, yet I grow nervous as I approach the magazine aisle, knowing my eyes can so easily lead to sinful behavior. This is a plague of the deadliest kind, manifesting a form of Godliness, but without power to prevail in intimacy with Him.

The reality is my actions disclose my heart condition. Paul writes of this in Titus 1:16 where he says, “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for anything good.” Do I think he is only describing the other guy?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You alone have the power to deliver me fully and permanently from my heart sicknesses. Work there, Lord, for it is there that behaviors change. Let me never again be like the furtive, foolish boy hiding his first smoke.