Showing posts from January, 2011

Looking for an "S" Word

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” —2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV.
I keep waiting for the words every time someone shares their testimony: “I realized I had sinned against God.” Those words, or something similar, are rare finds these days. Perhaps they are no longer “politically correct.” Perhaps we have tried so hard to be sensitive to a world that doesn’t understand even a christianese word like “sin” that we avoid its use. We wouldn't want to damage anyone's psyche by mentioned that they might be "bad." Perhaps we are too proud. Perhaps we’ve forgotten that without repentance there is no forgiveness. Perhaps some people never knew that, when they came to God for help with their troubles, without repentance there was no forgiveness.
Repentance is implicit in this verse from Chronicles, and it is certainly …

Callous or Caring?

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours” —1 Chronicles 29:11, NIV
When man took his first step, he was charged by God with the responsibility to look after all that God had created. Genesis 2:15 tells us: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (NIV).
By the time we get to Paul’s letter to the Romans we realize the effect that sin has had, not only on mankind, but on the creation that God entrusted to him. Paul writes: “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the…

Inside Me But Not From Me

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always” —1 Chronicles 16:11, NIV
The Book of Psalms is perhaps the best-known and best-loved literature read by believers. But not all of David’s psalms—a considerable contribution to the book—are found in it. Here in Chronicles we find a wonderful psalm of praise that David wrote on the occasion of the return of the ark to its rightful home in Jerusalem.
The whole psalm, all twenty-eight verses, is filled with admirable material that needs thinking about. But to today has been assigned this small fragment of David’s magnificent, God-inspired, poem.
The verse directs us to look to the Lord when we so often look elsewhere. Our minds and hearts are so often captured by other things and other people. We look to ourselves. We dig deep within to find our inner strength, considerable at times, to deal with whatever challenges we are living through at the moment. We vaguely claim that this inner strength is God-given, as it is, but privately ex…

This Far, and No Farther

But I know where you stay and when you come and go and how you rage against me” —2 Kings 19:27, NIV.
Nothing more descriptive came to mind as I read this verse in its context that the famous poem by Lord Byron. The King of Assyria assumed that all he was, all he had, everything he was certain he could accomplish, was his to boast about and his to take. In Isaiah’s message from God to a besieged King Hezekiah in Jerusalem, the prophet writes the future of this pagan invader in the sand, draws a line, and says: “This far and no farther.”
For those who belong to the Lord and are besieged by any enemy, the message rings down through history: “Do not fear, the Lord will let him go so far and no farther.” There are those forces that seek to shatter the believer, to reduce him, or her, to broken fragments. God only bends his children; he never breaks them, and he will not permit even those forces that he has permitted to be unleashed, to go beyond what he has commanded.
Sennacherib found that…

Before the Fire Falls

Elijah went before the people and said, How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him” —1 Kings 18:21, NIV.
God’s prophet, Elijah, is addressing Israel from the top of Mount Carmel. It’s a classic western showdown, except that the question isn’t who has the fastest gun, but who follows the real God. King Ahab and his nasty wife, Jezebel, have sent their best and brightest to prove that Baal deserves to be the god of choice in Israel. Four hundred prophets facing one man.
Elijah is not daunted. Before he begins his demonstration he presents this challenge to Israel. The Scripture records that after he said these words—which, it seems, were not rhetorical—the people were silent. Classic fence-sitters.
Say it, people. Commit to something!
After the mountaintop battle was over, and the four hundred prophets of Baal lay bleeding and exhausted beside their stone cold altar, and Elijah stood triumphant before an altar ablaze with …

Taking the Long View

As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him” —2 Samuel 22:31, NIV.
This gem comes in the midst of many more. David is singing praises to God, recounting how God has brought him through so many difficult places during his years of exile being pursued by Saul, and then throughout his years as king.
It took a long time for David to finally see the fulfillment of the promise that Samuel made to him when this servant anointed him as king. He was only a boy then, and he would go through some terrifying times before he finally ascended to the throne of Israel. Being king wasn’t always easy either.
But as a boy, then as a young man, then as a mature man, David would have wondered in all his dark moments whether or not God was going to make good on his promise. As he sings this song of praise, he remembers those awful times as he rejoices in how God delivered him from them.
Without a doubt, we repeat David’s story in our own li…

You Must Have Meant Nine Inches

A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. He was over nine feet tall” —1 Samuel 17:4
Late yesterday afternoon I walked down to a nearby medical clinic to get a prescription renewed. Ahead of me in the line was a big man who was well over six feet tall. I remember thinking he’d make a good basketball player. The thought also passed through my mind that I wouldn’t want to have to fight him off if I happened to meet him a dark alley. He’d crush me like a grape.
That experience gave me a whole lot of sympathy for the armies of Israel as they took a look at this Philistine champion. The deal was that Israel would send out its best warrior to meet Goliath and whoever was still standing at the end of the fight would determine the winner of the battle between the two nations. No one needed a crystal ball to figure out how this was going to end! The result was a standoff—no one did anything because no one in Israel was willing to get crushed like a grape and …

Beauty is Much More Than Skin Deep

The Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” —1 Samuel 16:7, NIV.
You would have thought that Samuel might have learned a better head-hunting technique after the debacle with Saul. Israel’s first king had some sterling qualities but his appearance and strength were what really attracted the people to him. When the silver began to tarnish in the later years of his reign, they all realized their mistake.
But here is Samuel choosing a new king, but judging among Jesse’s sons as though he were conducting the male version of Miss Universe. God had sent him on a mission. Saul’s character defects were beginning to show and among Jesse’s sons was the king God wanted to place over his people. Jesse lined them all up from the oldest to the second youngest. Somehow it didn’t occur to anyone to call in the youngest, David, fro…

Love is More Than a Warm Fuzzy

Samuel replied, ‘Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams’”—1 Samuel 15:22 NIV.
When in doubt, read the instructions. Better yet, read them before you have doubts and certainly before Part A is attached to Part C and Part B is left on the floor along with six homeless screws.
In King Saul’s case there was no doubt about the instructions God had given him through Samuel. He knew what he was supposed to do. When it was time to “fess up” Saul tried to cover his disobedience with spirituality. In Saul’s case, he told Samuel that he had saved the sheep he had been told by God to destroy, claiming that they had been spared so that they could be offered to God as a sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:15). He also intimated that the whole debacle wasn’t his fault, that his soldiers had disobeyed his orders.
Samuel didn’t buy it.
The blame game was nothing new and though ma…