Friday, October 27, 2006

First love

2Cor 5:6-11 ...we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.

The fear of the Lord. I can't escape the idea lately. Its not about being afraid of God. Its about really seeing Who it is that we have encountered. I love that I can call Him "Abba". I love that I am encouraged to "come boldly before the throne of grace". It's unspeakably awesome that He calls me "friend". But He is still God. Infinite, uncreated Creator of the universe. And we are told that we will stand before that throne as a judgment seat. We are told that our works will be judged. How we live our lives each day matters... it really matters. There is a perversion of the gospel that is rampant in our land. It says that our works are of no consequence. "Its all under grace." No accountability. It relies on a few passages of scripture taken out of context, and ignores many clear passages that tell us that God is after reality in our lives. Grace provides forgiveness of sin, and the opportunity for restoration of relationship. But we must have a repentant heart. We must have a sincere desire to have that relationship restored. "Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." He calls us to be set apart, holy, unto Him. Our life is no longer our own. Before we meet Him, we are independent beings, doing our own thing. After we are born again, we are sons and daughters of God, servants of the King. We submit ourselves to His loving leadership. Modern American christianity often presents salvation as receiving a "Do not go to hell" pass. We still get to live our selfish, pleasure-seeking, materialistic lives. But now we get to go to heaven when its over. Heck of a deal. I am not standing back in judgment on people who have believed that message. My heart is grieved that people are being sold a bill of goods. I bought it myself for a number of years. I heard the true gospel when I was young, and embraced it for about ten years. Then the cares of this world took root in my heart, and slowly I gave in to compromise and willful sin. It didn't happen overnight. It was a little bit at a time. Drifting away. I allowed my beliefs to subtly shift to justify the deception that was taking over. Outwardly I still did all the right things. Church, small groups, avoiding all the really big sins. But my heart was growing cold and hard. I wanted more stuff, more and bigger and better. I wanted security. I wanted to make enough money to prevent me from ever having to trust God. Saving is good, but that savings can become an idol. It can become that thing in which I put my trust. The list of idols in American culture is almost endless.

So now I find myself crying out to God to renew my heart. I want my first love. I want to serve Him in the way in which He deserves. Its His grace and mercy once again that I find that cry rising in my heart. I wouldn't even know I was becoming blind if He didn't open my eyes to see it. But how will I respond? When I hear Him calling to me, will I follow after Him? Or will I just think about, and maybe talk about it over coffee with friends? Will I rise up and seek Him with all my heart? Its the most important question in my life.

Help Lord...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The kindness of God

Rom 2:3-8 So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on those who practice these things and then do them yourself, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you think so little of the riches of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, not realizing that it is God's kindness that is leading you to repentance? But because of your stubborn and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will repay everyone according to what that person has done: eternal life to those who strive for glory, honor, and immortality by patiently doing good; but wrath and fury for those who in their selfish pride refuse to believe the truth and practice wickedness instead.

Its late, so I will leave this for your own meditation.

" you think so little of the riches of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, not realizing that it is God's kindness that is leading you to repentance?" Ouch. The implications of that question are enormous, especially to contemporary American christianity. Especially to my life. More and more, I realize that my spirit has been dulled by cares of this world, and the natural temptation to turn the grace of God into an excuse for sin.


Monday, October 23, 2006

a psalm we all should know

We all have those times when the darkness is overwhelming. I love the Psalms, because we see the honest and real interactions of a man with his God. David had dark and difficult times like the rest of us, and we can learn from him how to pray when we find ourselves there.

Psa 143

Hear my prayer, O LORD; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!
Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.
For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.
Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled.

I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.
I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.

Answer me quickly, O LORD! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.
Deliver me from my enemies, O LORD! I have fled to you for refuge!

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!
For your name's sake, O LORD, preserve my life! In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!
And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies, and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul, for I am your servant.

Thank you, Lord...

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Deu 13:1-4 "If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, 'Let us go after other gods,' which you have not known, 'and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.

So... the Lord allows false teachers in order to test us. And what is He looking for when watching our response to the test? He wants to see whether we love Him with all our heart and soul. And how does he know that about us? He looks to see whether we "fear Him and keep His commandments and obey His voice." "But that's Old Testament!" you say. "Legalism!" We have to remember what Paul wrote to Timothy when he was leading the church in Ephesus.

2Ti 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

When he wrote that, the New Testament didn't exist. He was talking about the Torah. He was thinking of the Law and the prophets. Now we understand that Paul wasn't talking about keeping the Law as a means of attaining salvation. He makes that abundantly clear in all of His writings. But he also understood the "Old Testament" as the Word of God. It was the place where we would learn the ways of God, and as disciples of Jesus that is one of our goals in life. We want to understand His ways, and walk in them. The purpose of grace is to restore us to fellowship with God, and if we are truly in loving relationship with Him, our heart's desire will be to bring joy to His heart by walking with Him in His ways.

2Co 5:9 ...we make it our aim to please him.

Lord, give me a heart to please you and bless you in all my ways.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Deu 12:28 Be careful to obey all these words that I command you, that it may go well with you and with your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God.

Obedience. That is what Jesus calls us to. Not as an arrogant dictator, but as a loving father. When my children were young, I required complete obedience. When I said, "Don't play in the street," I wasn't out to deny them their rightful enjoyment of the superior pleasure of playing on asphalt rather than the grass in our yard. I was protecting them from danger they couldn't fully comprehend. Our life before God is like that. In his infinite wisdom and understanding, He knows what is best for us. His laws are not the unfair, restrictive rules of an almighty control freak. They are an expression of His love for us. Do we trust Him in that? Do we believe that everything He asks of us is His divine wisdom of what is best for us? Do we have faith in that? This kind of faith in His goodness and love will produce heartfelt and grateful obedience. Not the kind of obedience that is trying to get Him to like you. No, its the kind of obedience that flows out of confidence in His care over our lives. Its trusting that He is smarter than we are, and that if we obey Him, even when we don't really feel like it, things will "go well with you and your children after you forever." True faith will produce a life of restful obedience. It wont always be easy in the beginning, though. There will be those times when we really do think we know better than God what will make us happy and secure. There will be those times when everything in us cries out for some kind of pleasure that He has called us to say no to. There will be those times when we have to deny our own thoughts and desires, and simply trust Him by obeying His commands. When we do, He will always show Himself to be faithful and true. It may not be apparent in the first five minutes. It may take days or weeks or months, or sometimes even years for the truth to play itself out. But that's the life of faith. We have decided that He can be trusted, and therefore that obedience to His ways is always the right thing to do. Always.

Joh 14:15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

Lord, help me to walk in that kind of faith.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Deu 12:1-9 "These are the statutes and rules that you shall be careful to do in the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. You shall surely destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. You shall tear down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and burn their Asherim with fire. You shall chop down the carved images of their gods and destroy their name out of that place. You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way. But you shall seek the place that the LORD your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go, and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. And there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the LORD your God has blessed you. "You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes, for you have not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance that the LORD your God is giving you.

I know... thats a long passage. Its just hard to pull out one or two sentences. God, through Moses, called His people to be ruthless with idolatry. He called them to pursue Him and His ways with all their heart. He called them to the place of obedience, and to turn away from "everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes."

"For you have not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance that the Lord your God is giving you." Have we truly entered into that rest? Have we come into the inheritance He has prepared for us? We are called to rest from our own works, and to trust completely in "the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith". Jesus completed that work, and made a way for us to be reconciled back to God. But have we truly entered that rest? Have we torn down the altars, repented of our idolatry, and turned our hearts completely back to Him? "Repent and believe." Thats the message of Jesus, and Peter, and Paul. "He died so that we who live should no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died and rose again on our behalf." No amount of good works will atone for our sins. He took care of that. He made a way to justly forgive our sins, and provide a way of restoring the broken relationship between God and the people He created. But its up to us to respond to the Holy Spirit's call to our heart. Grace doesn't give us the freedom to sin. It teaches us not to.

Tit 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Has the passion of our God created a passion in our hearts to tear down the altars of sin and idolatry, and enter into all that He has in His heart for us?

" thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

Lord... have your way.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Following Him

Mat 16:24-27 Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.

Where is the fear of the Lord today? We ask people if they would like to go to heaven instead of hell, then pray a short, shallow prayer "accepting Jesus as their saviour", and then assure them that they now have a free pass into an eternity of bliss. Where exactly in the scriptures did we come up with this message?

Lord, have mercy. Open our eyes....