Monthly Archives: February 2013

Today’s Scripture – February 28, 2013

Psalm 15 (NIV):  Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?
He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart
and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman,
who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the Lord, who keeps his oath even when it hurts,
who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken.

The standards that God set for those who want to live in His presence now and forever, are very high.  In fact, to most people they seem impossibly high – so high that many, even Christians, write them off as ideals to strive for, not realistic standards.  They are seen as something that people may strive for and approach, but never really achieve or live in.  But that is not what God’s word says.  When a person serves a holy God, they are expected, even required, to be holy – not to make excuses for why those standards are too high, or be satisfied with being “good” (or at least better than some).  Many of God’s champions in the Old Testament days lived legitimately holy lives – witness Enoch, Noah, Moses, Elijah, Elisha, and many others.  Some might point to Moses’ sin at Meribah (Numbers 20:2-13) as proof that even Moses was not perfect, but that was one sin (immediately repented of) in over 40 years of relationship with God, and Moses paid a hard penalty for that one sin.  That hardly provides justification for people to live complacently with sin in their lives as a daily or frequent occurrence!  God’s people, in the Old Testament times, New Testament times, and today, are expected, required to be holy, and any sins that they allow in their lives have consequences that will reach far beyond themselves.  If someone wants to live in God’s presence, they must be blameless, and do what is righteous.  They must obey God’s commands, not just those in the written word, but those He speaks to their hearts.  They must be open and honest, living without subterfuge, and speaking the truth from their pure hearts.  They are expected to do only good to their neighbors, never doing harm in word or action.  They are not to make promises lightly, because they will be required to keep any promise that they make.  They are to be loving to others, helping those in need without expecting to gain by it, and they are to be totally just in all their dealings.  And with such a “great cloud of witnesses” in the Old Testament that actually lived righteous and holy lives, Christians should be inspired.  Not to mention that your average Christian should easily be at least as righteous as Enoch, Noah, Moses or all the other Old Testament saints, because they have the Holy Spirit living in them to change their hearts and to move them to follow God’s commands from the inside.  With all of God’s presence and power living in us and flowing through us, God’s people can be real saints.  And God expects us to be.

Father, of course You are right.  Forgive us, Lord, for making excuses instead of making strides in holiness.  Forgive us for looking for loopholes instead of looking for ways to obey.  Forgive us for being self-satisfied instead of being holy.  Help us, in Your strength and power, to be ALL that You require.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – February 27, 2013

Matthew 20:17-19 (NIV)Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”

Jesus’ clear understanding of His calling made all the difference when it came to wholehearted obedience.  He went to Jerusalem knowing completely all that would happen to Him there, because Jerusalem was where God, His Father, called him to go, and the suffering, and the death waiting for Him (and the glorious resurrection, of course) were why He called Him to go there.  To refuse or push back when the moment came was unthinkable, because this end had been envisioned since His youth – it was why He existed, and everything up to that point had been preparation.  He lived knowing that.
Today God still calls every one of His people (NOT just pastors) to a destiny that He has designed for them – a destiny that is designed to move the kingdom forward, to expand its range and its influence, and to literally have a world-changing impact.  But very, very few of God’s people actually listen to His call for thier lives.  Far too few take up the mantle that He has laid out for them, and follow Him all the way.  They believe that a real calling is not for them, or that, IF they were to follow Him, it would mean quitting their jobs, which would lead to their financial ruin.  So, in fear, they don’t listen, don’t hear, or don’t obey.  But if they would check out history, God didn’t ruin those who faithfully followed Him.  From Noah, to Moses to Elijah, and on and on, He provided for those He called.  Jesus was never ruined – He relied on His Father for every bit of food, clothing, and shelter, from the moment He started His ministry, and God met every need, either directly, or through the ministrations of obedient people.  Sometimes, even often, God DOES call people to leave their jobs, and even their lives as they know them, and to begin a totally new kingdom life.  But whatever God calls someone to do (whether to be His representative at their current job,, or to move on to something else), wherever He calls them to go (whether around the world or to their neighbors next door or across town), whatever destiny He has in store for them (whether giving their lives in the service of the gospel, or living a life that is fruitful into old age), if they will listen to and obey that call, they will find the same joy and satisfaction in serving God that Jesus and His apostles did.

Father, I’m in!  I hear Your call, and commit myself to live for You, to serve You, to follow You all the rest of my life.  Speak clearly to the hearts of ALL Your people, so that they can all do the same.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – February 26, 2013

Matthew 23:12 (NIV):  For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

The humility that God requires of people is not the kind that “eats dirt” all the time, or that requires people to beat up on themselves.  That kind of “humility” can be totally false, and quickly becomes toxic.  True humility is what Jesus called “meekness” – a realistic view of oneself and one’s standing before God.  A proud heart compares itself to those around it, and determines that it is better than some, or even most.  It is the spirit of the Pharisee who stood before God and compared himself favorably to the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14).  This pride thrusts a person forward – they are focused on themselves, and God takes second place.  True humility looks at God first, and sees oneself in His light.  It’s not that a person sees themselves as worthless, but they see themselves truly and accurately.  A truly humble Christian knows that they are in relationship with God, but they know that they are in that relationship through God’s grace.  They know that they are righteous, but they know that their righteousness comes by God’s Spirit working in them and moving them to obey His commands (Ezekiel 36:26).  They know that they are dearly loved and cared for, but they know that God’s love is not given to them because they deserve it or are worthy of it, but because it is God’s nature to love and care for them.  These humble people put God first, and compare themselves to no one; they serve God out of love and gratitude, and are able to love others as themselves, because there is no hierarchy or superiority to be maintained.  It is the humility that characterized Moses, Paul, and even Jesus.  Those who keep a humble heart, those who put God first, who serve God and love Him wholeheartedly, He will exalt.  Those who are proud and self-focused, the opposite of humility, He will bring down.

Father, help me to be humble with this true humility.  Help me to always remember where I was when You saved me, and to always give You thanks for how far You have brought me.  All that I am You have made me.  All that is good in me has come from You.  Even my love originates from Your own heart.  Thank You forever!  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – February 25, 2013

Luke 6:32-36 (NIV):  “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full.  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

Anyone can love nice people.  It’s no trick to return a favor.  And it shows no godliness at all to lend money to someone in need when you expect to get it back with interest.  Anyone, even sinners, do these things.  As some put it, “Even atheists are nice people.”  (Sometimes they add, “Even nicer than a lot of Christians,” which, unfortunately, is often true.)  God’s grace shows in the hearts of His people when we love people who are NOT nice, praying for them, helping them, and showing genuine love in ways that are humble and self-sacrificing.  And we show this love NOT in order to get something from these people, not even a change of heart, but because God’s love for these sinners shines all the way through us.  God’s grace shows in the hearts of His people when we do nice things for people who have NOT done nice things for us- returning blessing for curses, and when we do nice things for people who will never be able to return the favor.  God’s grace shows in the hearts of His people when we choose to not loan money at interest to those in need, but loan at no interest, never planning on having the loan repaid.  Then God will fill our lives with His abundances.  Living a “good life” before the lost does nothing to draw them closer to God – many of the lost live good lives, too.  But living GOD’S life before them, a life of self sacrifice for no gain; a life of love in the face of hatred, mistreatment, and persecution; a life of love, care and generosity when none of these is deserved or even expected; ALL of these will make people sit up and take notice, and will open the door to be able to speak God’s name into their lives.

Father, this is very exciting!  Help us ALL to live this kind of life, starting right now.  Help us to be intentional – to look for the opportunities to live Your life of light in our sin-darkened world.  To live Your life of healing and wholeness in our sin-battered world.  To show the world that we are indeed Your children by being merciful just as You are merciful.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – February 23, 2013

Deuteronomy 26:17-19 (NIV):  You have declared this day that the Lord is your God and that you will walk in his ways, that you will keep his decrees, commands and laws, and that you will obey him.  And the Lord has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands.  He has declared that he will set you in praise, fame and honor high above all the nations he has made and that you will be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised.

God’s people, clear back from the days of Abraham, are expected to be a holy people.  He told Abraham, “Walk before me and be blameless,” (Genesis 17:1b) and that is the same standard that He gave to His people Israel – they were to follow all of His commands.  It is the same with His people today – they are to walk before Him and be blameless.  As He made plain to Peter (1 Peter 2:9-10), the Church is a chosen people, chosen to be His representatives, His ambassadors in the world.  They are a royal priesthood, a whole people who are the priests of the King, standing between God and mankind, to intercede, and to bring them to Him.  They are a holy nation, a people who live in the kingdom of God while they dwell here on earth, and who are genuinely holy, upright, and righteous – a people who, by their striking resemblance to Jesus, are able to dynamically bring people out of the darkness and into the light.  And they are a people belonging to God, fully submitting to all that He has commanded – like Peter and Paul who readily identified themselves as His servants/slaves bought with a price, and serving Him by immediately obeying His every command.  Make no mistake, no one can be saved and enter eternal life by obeying the Law any more than the Israelites could have saved themselves from Egyptian bondage.  But once He delivered them from death and slavery, they became His people, and were required to obey His commands.  Today’s Christians are expected to live lives of purity and holiness, and God has sent the Holy Spirit into our hearts to make that a reality for everyone who commits themselves to follow Him.  Not being under law but under grace (Romans 6:14b), as the context clearly shows, is no excuse or license for sin, but is the very means of living free from sins shackles, and the hope and promise of a genuinely holy life for all of God’s people.

Father, for me and all of your people, help us to live genuinely holy loves that bring glory to You and that bear eternal fruit for Your kingdom.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – February 22, 2013

Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV):  “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

The context of this teaching (“Therefore…”) is verses 21-22.  But Jesus wasn’t teaching what many people hear.  A lot hear in this section, “If you have something against your brother…”, which they interpret to mean that they have to forgive their brother before they can legitimately worship.  They do, but that is not what Jesus was talking about here.  “If you…remember that your brother has something against YOU…”  In other words, if God brings to our mind a wrong that we have done to someone else, something that would cause him or her to be angry with us, and therefore cut of his or her relationship with God because it cuts off His forgiveness (see Matthew 6:14-15), then we are to go and make it right – apologize, make restitution, whatever we need to do to enable them to forgive us so that they can once again be in proper relationship with God.  Then, when we are no longer a stumbling block to someone else’s relationship with God, we can return to worship God, and He will receive our worship.

Father, this IS a very different interpretation than most have heard, but it is right.  Help me, help each of us, to search our hearts for anywhere we have become a stumbling block to someone else, and help us to make it right, so BOTH of us can worship You.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – February 21, 2013

Matthew 7:7-11 (NIV):  “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.  “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

The context of Jesus’ promise is important.  The promise that God will “give good gifts to those who ask Him” is living in the kingdom of God (the context of the whole Sermon on the Mount).  It is not carte blanche to ask for material blessings or a “wish list”.  Jesus’ own example is someone asking for food.  Those who ask for the necessities of life, or for what they need to do the work of the kingdom will receive.  The context for these kinds of requests if found in the prayer of the kingdom:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your Name (Oh, how few passionately pray that God’s name would be hallowed, made holy.  If they would really ask for this, God would hallow His name through them by doing glorious things!)
Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (This is not a petition for Jesus’ return, but for the kingdom of God, which exists in the heart and life of every Christian, to be made manifest – for “the kingdom of the world (to become) the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.” (Revelation 11:15)  It is a petition that God’s will would be done on earth as fully, immediately, and willingly as it is done in heaven.  If God’s people would actually pray for this (not just mouth the words), He will make it happen.)
Give us today our daily bread.  (This is a petition that many are unwilling to actually pray as it stands – bread for today; not for tomorrow or next week, but simply what is necessary each day.  Jesus had not pantry or refrigerator.  He trusted God to give Him each day just what He needed, and the Father answered Him.  Every day He received exactly what He needed for that day, just as the Israelites received the manna in the wilderness.  Oh, what blessings God could give to His people if they were willing to ask each day for their daily bread!)
Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.  (This petition comes with a condition – that God will forgive sins in the same way that the asker has forgiven others.  And that is exactly the way He does forgive (see Matthew 6:14-15).  If a person is fully forgiving of all wrongs done to them, then God fully forgives their sins.  If they do not forgive others, if there are any grudges or bitterness against others in their hearts, then God fully answers their prayer by NOT forgiving them.)
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.  (God will definitely do this for anyone who actually asks.  He is the only one who can deliver us from the enemy’s hand, and he promises to never let one who really prays this prayer to be tested beyond what they can endure – He will always provide a way out, so that they can be victorious every time.  (See 1 Corinthians 10:13.))
God will always give these good things to everyone who asks for them from the heart.

Father, this is an amazing promise.  Forgive us for too often mouthing the words of this prayer, instead of really asking from the heart.  Forgive us for asking for “stuff” instead of asking You to hallow Your name through us.  Forgive us for asking to be kept safe and healthy instead of asking for Your kingdom to be made a reality on earth, no matter what it takes.  Forgive us for asking for security for tomorrow instead of asking for just what we need each day, making ourselves totally dependent on You.  Forgive us for asking for forgiveness when we have not fully forgiven others.  And forgive us for too often assuming that You will give us the victory over the enemy without actually asking for it.  Help us, Lord, to turn only to You in all of our asking, seeking, and knocking.  Amen.

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