Showing posts from August, 2011

Intentional "Slowpoke"

Reading: Ezekiel 16-19, 2 Peter 3
For many years the hot topic of discussion among believers was the Second Coming of Christ. I still occasionally hear people refer to this or that event as being a “sign” of the end times. We’ve been waiting for a couple of thousand years for Jesus to return, but though that seems like a long time, the passage in 2 Peter 3 reminds us that: “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (3:8, NIV).
God isn’t in a hurry. 2 Peter 3 tells us that there were folks in Peter’s day who gave the young church a lot of grief because their Lord seemed to be taking His time at returning. Imagine what they would have said if they had lived in our time! Peter addresses the issue in this chapter, but he also explains why Jesus has delayed His return. Interestingly, the Old Testament passage in Ezekiel echoes what Peter says in the New Testament.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient …

Rub a Dub-dub, Three Men Without a Tub

Reading: Ezekiel 11-15
Poor Ezekiel was called upon to do some very strange things—a kind of living illustration of the judgment to come on God’s people. His message was not usually a pleasant one—as unpleasant as some of the drama he was instructed to perform to accompany it.
But I was intrigued today by some verses from Ezekiel 14. The word of the Lord comes to Ezekiel and he is told to pronounce four judgments: sword, famine, wild beasts and plague. As each of the judgments is announced, the Almighty makes the statement that caught my attention.
’Son of man, if a country sins against me by being unfaithful and I stretch out my hand against it to cut off its food supply and send famine upon it and kill its men and their animals, even if these three men—Noah, Daniel and Job—were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness, declares the Sovereign Lord” (Ezekiel 14:13, 14, NIV). Four times these three men are mentioned.
There is a good supply of righteous men in the Old …

God Creates Fruit, I Only Enjoy It

Reading: 2 Peter 1
“It’s a process,” I protest, “It takes time.”
So you’ve had fifty years since you gave yourself to me. Practice doesn’t seem to be cutting it, does it?
“But I’m only human,” I whine.“You can’t expect me to be perfect.”
No, I’m the only One Who’s perfect. But I gave you sufficient resources to have gotten better at imitating me by now.
“It’s hard,” I reason.
Of course it is. In fact, when you try to do it yourself, it’s impossible!
“Sometimes it’s annoying to be surrounded by Someone who has all the answers.”
Maybe if you paid attention to them…?
“Did I miss something?”
I’m going to forget you said that. But let’s not get sidetracked here. You’ve read, or heard someone preach on, 2 Peter 1:5-8 lots of times, right? But maybe that’s a problem.
“How so?”
Listen to it. I told Peter to say ‘…make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godlines…

Yes, Virginia, There is a Social Gospel

Reading: Jeremiah 36-39, James 5
This is another one of those times when the Old and New Testament readings assigned for today has curiously parallel thoughts.
James carries the brunt of the message this morning. At the beginning of James 5, the writer warns his audience that taking advantage of poor, or of those over whom the rich have power, will not be tolerated. The consequences will be harsh. James writes:
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you” (James 1:1, NIV). All that has been accumulated will be destroyed. It’s not because God doesn’t approve of people having money. It’s the injustice and inequality that bothers God to the extent that He uses harsh words and even harsher judgment against those who ignore what is right and just when it comes to the distribution of wealth.
Look! The wages you have failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the A…

A Little Comforting Hug from God

Reading: Jeremiah 32-35
Sometimes God asks us to do the most humanly illogical things.
He asked that of Jeremiah on more than one occasion.
Jeremiah is known as the “weeping prophet.” He spent a lot of his time delivering messages of doom and gloom to God’s people. There was nothing left for them except punishment for the offenses they had committed against God. Israel had already been decimated and now it was Judah’s turn. Jerusalem was about to be invaded and destroyed by the Babylonians. The message was: Don’t resist. Resistance is futile. It sounds like the message from the undefeatable Borg set on assimilating the universe on the old Star Trek: The Next Generation series, doesn’t it?
Except this was no fantasy, no make-believe.
Everything would be leveled. Most everyone would go into captivity. They would lose everything.
Then God asked Jeremiah to buy a piece of land (32:6-12). Jeremiah did as he was told because the Lord also gave him this word of encouragement: “For this is what …

Watch That Tongue!

Reading: Jeremiah 21-24, James 1
To those of us, perhaps that means all of us, who handle God’s Word in one context or another, Jeremiah has a lot to say. And most of it creates one of those you-better-sit-up-and pay-attention moments.
Paul advised his protégé, Timothy, to handle the Word of God well (2 Timothy 2:15). But it’s not simply what we do when we are presenting the Word that is important, it is making sure that what we are presently in the name of the Word of God actually is HIS Word. We can speak in God’s Name without having been authorized to do so. We can tell people that what we say is from God without that message actually having come from God. The consequences of doing these things is a whole lot on the scary side.
Here’s what Jeremiah says:
This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They keep saying to those who d…

The Being Behind the Doing

Reading: Jeremiah 17-20

"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve" —Jeremiah 17, 9, 19, NIV.

Many people live with the expectation that in the final judgment the good things they have done will outweigh the bad, and they will be allowed into heaven. Just in case they haven't managed to do quite good enough while here on earth and have to go "on hold" in some nether world, they trust that those who remain will say enough prayers and light enough candles to make up their lack.

Though we do not believe that heaven is gained through good deeds, we do believe that God will reward us for the good actions we carry out. However, it is very possible that we may not get as big a reward for those good things done in our lifetime as we think we should.

From what we see here in Jeremiah, it appears that it is …

Three Little Kittens Have Lost Their Mittens—NOT!

Reading: Jeremiah 4-6, Hebrews 10
When I was a little kid and lived in the land of ice and snow, I couldn’t go very far without my mittens. As little kids are wont to do, it was easy to misplace one, or both mittens. The simple solution was to wear mittens that were attached to each other with a long length of wool that went around the collar of the coat or snowsuit. Even if I took my mittens off, they would still be attached to me; hung around my neck by their woolen cord. I’d have to work hard to throw one, or both, of them away.
Hebrews 10:35 (NIV) says: “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”
The context tells us that the writer is encouraging his audience to stand firm even in the face of persecution and hard times that might never seem to let up. Short-lived battles are easier won than the wars that drag on for years. We just get tired of fighting an…

I'm Fearful and Wonderful

Reading: Jeremiah 1-3, Hebrews 9
I was a surprise to my parents, born late in their lives.
God wasn’t a bit surprised.
When I was in my early teens, a “friend” of the family told me that I should never have been born.
God had a different opinion on that subject.
So when I read God’s words to Jeremiah, I nod my head knowingly.
The word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. I appointed you a prophet to the nations’” —Jeremiah 1:5, NIV.
I like that thought. It’s not unique to Jeremiah. David echoes it in Psalm 139: “…you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them …


Reading: Hebrews 7
After explaining the earlier reference he made to Jesus becoming a priest as had been Melchizedek (see previous post), the writer to the Hebrews describes why Jesus is a superior priest.
The old system with an inherited priesthood limited to the tribe of Levi and attached to the Law, was not perfect. And its imperfections and limitations prevented it from meeting the people’s need for restoration and reconciliation with the God against whom they had sinned.
When Jesus came, the perfect answer to the dilemma came with Him.
Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people, He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law appointed the Son, who has bee…

Single is Good

Reading: Isaiah 52-57, Hebrews 6
Oh, killer passage! There is so much to think on here. A whole book could be written on these chapters—and probably has.
But let’s go backward to go forward.
Hebrews 6 ends with the assurance that the promise God has made concerning our salvation is absolutely solid. God doesn’t lie. And because He doesn’t lie we can “…be greatly encouraged. We have this hope [of salvation] as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:18-20, NIV).
The picture here is of the function of the High Priest in the Jewish sacrificial system who entered the Holy of Holies in the Temple to offer a yearly sacrifice for the sins of the people. Jesus is pictured as that priest. The writer will later explain the nature of His priesthood and how Jesus became the ultimate sacrificial Lamb that put an end …

Going All the Way

Reading: Hebrews 5
I tripped over a little phrase this morning. The bulk of the chapters assigned were from Isaiah (49-51) but one chapter from Hebrews was also on my morning agenda. From Isaiah 40 on the Scripture tells us a lot about the “Suffering Servant” so it was appropriate to read something similar from Hebrews. Then I tripped. Here’s the verse that caused the stumble in its immediate context:
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him…” (Hebrews 5:7-9, NIV).
It was the “once made perfect” that gave me pause. Jesus was always perfect. He had to be perfect if His sacrifice was to have any meaning at all. Only a perfect sacrifice could satisfy the righteous demands of a holy God.

Solid as a Rock

Reading: Isaiah 44-48
My last remaining aunt celebrates her 100th birthday today. I don’t know that I want to live that long but since the timing is not up to me I will rest, as my aunt does, in some neat promises from today’s reading.
God, through Isaiah, is addressing His children. He says:
Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you” (46:3, 4, NIV).
From birth until death, God promises to carry us in safety. The verses surrounded these two remind me of why God can make such a sweeping promise.
He’s the Creator.
I am the Lord, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself” (44:24, NIV).
He’s the Redeemer, the One who has brought us into the Kingdom of light from the Kingd…

I Will Never Do Justice....

Reading: Isaiah 32-35
This was Saturday’s reading, but since I don’t normally post on the weekends I hung on to the verses until today. The problem is that these chapters in Isaiah are so rich that now I am dreadfully behind in taking note of a small portion of the wonderful things that the prophet said under the influence of the Spirit of God.And there is no way I am going to do justice to this!
The good news is that the Scriptures speak for themselves. Rather than do a poor job at digging for the treasure that is here, I am going to take out a few of the verses and let you hold its gold and silver in your hand and heart and bask in its brilliance. But don't settle for part of the treasure–enjoy all the promises.
See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice. Each man will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land. Then the eyes of those who see will …

Avoiding the Consequences

Reading: Isaiah 28-31
Be stunned and amazed, blind yourselves and be sightless; be drunk, but not with wine, stagger, but not from beer. The Lord has brought over you a deep sleep: He has sealed your eyes (the prophets); he has covered your heads (the seers). For you the whole vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll. And if you give the scroll to someone who can read, and say to him, ‘Read this, please,’ he will answer, ‘I can’t; it is sealed.’ Or if you give the scroll to someone who cannot read, and say, ‘Read this, please,’ he will answer, ‘I don’t know how to read.’” (Isaiah 29:9-12, NIV).
Paul paraphrases these words in Romans 11:7-10, NIV, when he writes: “What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written: ‘God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear to this very day.’ As David says: ‘May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling blo…

Small Light, Big Hope

Reading: Isaiah 25-27, Titus 3
I hesitated on this one because I don’t “feel” it. Intellectually I know it’s true. Even experientially, I’ve been in this place. But present reality seems more like a dark hole where, if there is a pinprick of light somewhere miles above me, it seems too impossible for its brilliance to penetrate the blackness.
However, like prayer, you do it whether you “feel” like it or not. Because whether I “feel” it or not, the truth of the Word of God is still that—truth, absolute and unchanging. So here it is.
For the most part these chapters from Isaiah are songs of praise—an odd hiatus in the middle of long passages of pronouncements of judgment. Mind you, there are still bits and pieces of sword slashes built in, but much of what Isaiah records in these chapters is encouraging stuff. Some of it has a tinge of “yet-to-be” (25:6-8) coupled with a touch of more immediate implications—God did restore the fortunes of His people after their sentence in exile was served…

Spitballs and Chewing Gum

Reading: Isaiah 22-24, Titus 2
These Old and New Testament passages aren’t intended to combine in any particular way, but once in a while one seems to mesh quite nicely with the other. Today is one of those times. Let me give you the background.
Chapter 22 of Isaiah recounts the story of God’s dealings with Jerusalem. The inhabitants of the city knew they were in trouble. They had offended God and had subsequently been warned that He was not going to let them away with their rebellion any longer. The truth was that they were defeated long before the enemy arrived at their front gate. From verses 8 to 11 we see them frantically looking for a solution to their problem. They saw the weaknesses in their physical defenses and began to make what they thought were adequate repairs. Their mistake was not asking the One whose walls these were what HE saw.
You did not look to the One who made it, or have regard for the One who planned it long ago,” writes Isaiah in verse 11.
If they had sought th…