Wednesday, August 31, 2011

the lie detector

The Word for today:
2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

mark this: 2 Thessalonians 2:7-12/NKJV
For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

The last book of the Bible is called Revelation.  Revelation--in Greek, the apokalypsis--is the unveiling of the complete Jesus Christ.  Known heretofore as the suffering servant / the sin-bearer / the Lamb of God, he is revealed in the Bible's finale` as the  the Lion of Judah/ the King of Kings / the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last.

But The Revelation will be preceded by this revelation:
And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. (1 Thessalonians 2:8)


Satan is not a creator.  He is a copyist, a mimic, a poseur.  He, along with the beast and the false prophet, will present a counterfeit trinity:
And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. (Revelation 16:13; see also Revelation chapter 13.)

He appears, even now, as a counterfeit angel:
And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  (2 Corinthians 11:14)

He will ultimately appear as the Christ, fooling the many who have willed their own blindness, who have chosen to believe a lie:
They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie.  (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11)

2 Thessalonians teaches us that the mystery of lawlessness is already at work.   1 John 4:3 teaches us that the spirit of Antichrist--a counterfeit of the Holy Spirit--is now abroad, spreading the doctrines of demons amongst us:
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.  (1 Timothy 4:1)

 We must be diligent to put on the mind of Christ (1)--to think the thoughts of Christ as presented in scripture--and not to be conformed to the outlook of the fallen world (2).

Put the spirits to the test, we are told:
Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)

Do not succumb to a counterfeit.  The Antichrist will be the "Christ" as portrayed by secular culture, not the real Christ of the Bible.  So the way to keep from being fooled is revealed in this verse:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)

His "voice" is his Word!  Graze in the Word of God every day and you will not be misled:
A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.  (John 10:5)
You can start by slowly digesting today's passage:
The secret power of evil is already working in the world, but there is one who is stopping that power. And he will continue to stop it until he is taken out of the way.
Then that Man of Evil will appear, and the Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath that comes from his mouth and will destroy him with the glory of his coming.
The Man of Evil will come by the power of Satan. He will have great power, and he will do many different false miracles, signs, and wonders. He will use every kind of evil to trick those who are lost. They will die, because they refused to love the truth. (If they loved the truth, they would be saved.)
For this reason God sends them something powerful that leads them away from the truth so they will believe a lie.
So all those will be judged guilty who did not believe the truth, but enjoyed doing evil. (2 Thessalonians 2:7-12/NCV)


Prior to the revelation of Jesus Christ, a counterfeit "Christ" will be revealed.  But in your hands you hold a book--which doubles as the only reliable lie detector in all the world.

(1) 1 Corinthians 2:16; (2) Romans 12:2

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Where is hell?

The Word for today:
2 Thessalonians 1

mark this:  2 Thessalonians 1:9
They will be punished with everlasting destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power.

Where is hell?
I don't know, but here's the road I took to get there:
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.   (Proverbs 14:12 & 16:25)

Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  (Matthew 7:13)


The notion of hell seems a little quaint to our sophisticated ears.  Jesus, however, wasn't so sophisticated.  He spoke of hell often, far more often than anyone else in scripture.  And when he spoke of hell, he described it in the most harrowing terms.    Time and time again he describes the "weeping and gnashing of teeth," the "eternal fire," the "outer darkness," the "worm that does not die, and the fire that is not quenched."

Jesus spoke of hell in real, concrete terms, just like we would talk about a visit to, oh, Baltimore.  Hell for Jesus is an address, a destination.  It is not just a concept or a state of mind.


Man built hell.  As if sin were bricks, we walled ourselves--brick by brick--away from God.

Jesus came to rescue us from this dungeon of our own making.  The reason Jesus Christ died was not to give us sparkling personalities and successful lives.  He came to redeem the lost, to save us from hell.

The most literal understanding we can have of hell is that it is a condition of being forever excluded from the LORD’s presence:
They will be punished with everlasting destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power.  (2 Thessalonians 1:9)

God is the source of everything good (see James 1:17)--beauty, truth, life, love, joy, peace, grace, strength, forgiveness.  All those things come only from God, and if someone chooses sin and self-will over these good things, God finally says, “Have it your way.” 

Ultimately, then, hell will be the result of one’s own choosing.   C.S. Lewis famously--and correctly---remarked, “The doors of hell are locked on the inside.”


Hell is eternal death (see below.) 

Death is, in every case, a separation.  (Death is never a cessation of existence, as we mistakenly think of it.) 

There are three kinds of death in Scripture:  
* Physical death, which is the separation of the spirit from the body. That is what we ordinarily call death. Adam didn’t actually die physically until 930 years after he died spiritually.
* Spiritual death, which is separation from God. This is what happened to man in the Garden of Eden when God said that man would die in the day he ate of the fruit.   (See Genesis 2:17; Ephesians 2:1.)
* Eternal death, which is eternal separation from God.   It is described as “the second death" in Revelation 20:14.  It is what we--and the Bible--call hell.


So, where is hell?  

I don't know, but here's the way to put it behind you:
I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one gets to the Father but by me.  (John 14:6)

(1) see Matthew 5:22; 8:12; 10:28; 22:13; 23:33; 25:41; 25:46; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 16:24; John 5:49; etc.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Why wait for the Rapture? Get carried away today...

The Word for today:
1 Thessalonians 5

Sometimes, there are too many flavors to choose from.

Usually I read the scripture passage for the day and immediately seize on the topic I'm going to express. 

But as I read through the final passages of 1 Thessalonians, the plethora of possibilities produced a paralysis.  It was like looking at a menu with way too many choices.

So today I am going to offer some bite-size items for you to chew on.  And I'm going to leave a few up in the air (a 'Rapture" pun!) for you to chase down on your own.  I hope you pick one or two and follow through.  Have some fun and some adventure as you traipse through the scriptures in pursuit of a precept.  Get a good reference Bible (one that refers you from this verse here to that verse over there) and let the references carry you away (another Rapture pun!) to God knows where.


When the Word of God is given out, it should be received as just what it is—the Word of God.
If we receive it that way, then it’s able to work in us:
And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. (2:13) 


Q.  What gives? 'Rapture' isn't even in my Bible!
A.  Rapture--"the experience of being carried away by overwhelming emotion"  (Webster's Collegiate Dictionary).   In 4:17 “caught up” (KJV, NASB, and NIV) is the Greek word harpazo, meaning “to grasp hastily, snatch up, to lift, transport, or rapture.”

The reason the word "Rapture" is associated with this event is because the word "Rapture" is merely perfect!  The word denotes a romance that our theologians never convey when discussing this event.  I treated this subject in a  previous article which you just must read!!!--


Q.  "The day of the LORD comes as a thief in the night," says 5:2.  But in 5:4 it says "the day of the LORD will not overtake the brethren as a thief."  I'm confused.
A.  Take a hard look at the intervening verse--5:3--and note the pronoun change.


Not appointed to wrath.
God has not destined the church for wrath—for the Great Tribulation—because Christ bore our judgment:
For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.  (5:9-10) 
1. Note the difference between  appointed to afflictions in 3:3 and not appointed to wrath in 5:9. 
2. What do these verses denote about God the Father—as a Father?


Prayer life stuck in neutral?
Then don't 'pray' for a while!  Just give thanks for everything!  (5:17-18)
Thanks-giving turbo-charges prayer.


"Quench not the Spirit" (5:19 KJV) / "Do not put out the Spirit's fire."  (5:19 NIV).
We quench the Spirit when we refuse to let the Holy Spirit lead--and take matters into our own hands.


"Do not despise prophecies."  Don't ever stop studying the Word of God.  (5:20)


"Prove all things."  Don't be taken in.  (5:21)


"He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it."   Amen.    (5:24)



Sunday, August 28, 2011

be wary of people who are smarter than Jesus

The Word for today:
1 Thessalonians 4

mark this: 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
Therefore comfort one another with these words.

We're outta here…

The "Rapture" was taught by Paul to fledgling believers in Thessalonica who had been Christians for all of one month. The rapture is not an exotic notion in scripture; it is basic to God's program. 

The Rapture signals the end of the era of grace in which we now live and the beginning of "The Day of the LORD."  The Day of the LORD opens with the Rapture, then continues throughout the 7-year Great Tribulation period (see Matthew 24:21) and the Millennial period.
The Day of the LORD is a technical expression which includes the time when God puts down rebellion and establishes His rule.  It begins with trouble (the Hebrew day began with darkness--"the evening and the morning were the first day"). God begins in night but moves to light.  So the Great Tribulation leads into the glorious millennial reign of Christ.
The Day of the LORD is found in Joel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel.  Also spoken of by the prophets as "that day," as in Zechariah.
The Rapture is found (by type--a prophetic "picture") in the Old Testament-- in the departures of Enoch (Genesis 5:24; cf. Hebrews 11:5) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11).
It is first found in the New Testament in the gospels, in kernel form--
In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also.  (John 14:2-3)
The Rapture is imminent; it's the next thing on God's prophetic calendar.  Note that "next" can mean "soon," but it does not have to mean "soon."  Next means next.

In the meantime, be very wary of people who say they're smarter than Jesus:
No one knows, however, when that day and hour will come—neither the angels in heaven nor the Son; the Father alone knows.  (Matthew 24:36)


Saturday, August 27, 2011

friction is traction

The Word for today:
1 Thessalonians 3

mark this: 1 Thessalonians 3:2-3/NLT
We sent Timothy to visit you. He is our co-worker for God and our brother in proclaiming the Good News of Christ. We sent him to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, and to keep you from becoming disturbed by the troubles you were going through. But, of course, you know that such troubles are going to happen to us Christians.

I'm in trouble all the time.  I'm rarely out of trouble.  But trouble and I have declared a truce.

I used to try to avoid trouble; or, if I couldn't evade him, I'd try to ditch him somewhere.  But I never really succeeded.

I used to think that God would guard me from trouble, that he would deliver me from evil.  Until I found out that evil isn't always friction, that oftentimes evil is traction.

1 Thessalonians 3:2-3 has some unsettling news for those of you who are--like I once was--waiting for trouble to blow away and never return. I regret to inform you that 1 Thessalonians 3:3 doesn’t say afflictions might happen; it says we’ve got an appointment with trouble:
We sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith, that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. (1 Thessalonians 3:2-3/NKJV)

You've got a date with the devil.  But so did Jesus, repetitively:
And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.  (Luke 4:13/KJV)

 Let's not be na├»ve about this forever.  If the cross teaches us just one thing, let it be this:
God will use evil, if he must, to create good. 

He allowed evil in Job's life in order to turn it into something much better.  He turned the evil in Joseph's life into a redemptive good, which saved many people alive. (Genesis 50:20)

The other day I had a discussion with my son Eddy concerning an irony of physics.  I conveyed to him that without friction, he would not be able to run; and that without friction, he would not be able to stop running!  He seemed interested, so I pressed on.  I told him that the ground provides the traction we need to go forward, while the very same ground provides the friction we need when we wish to curtail forward momentum.  What stops us starts us.


We compartmentalize bad and good, but the mind of God does not. For those who have entered into his plan for them, he means it all for good:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)


It's easy to sit here and dissect this biblical principal in the comfort of my air-conditioned office on Easy Street.  When the evil day overtakes me, however, you can be assured that I will not be able to speak with such detachment.

It takes a great deal of Godlike faith to be able to see through evil all the way to its positive outcome.  When I say Godlike faith, I mean faith like God's faith--who so believed in Jesus that he could send him to a far country, temporarily denude him of his supernatural capacities, allow (arrange?) his various temptations, surround him with apathy, rejection, and lethal opposition--and all of this on the way to his appointment with a horrific and ignominious death.

All of that friction was traction in the mind of God.  It was the leverage that allowed him to lift us out of death's valley.


If you are a beginning believer, stop reading right here.  You've learned enough for today…


But if you can hear and bear the things of God, I've got some grim good news for you:  God believes in you, too.  And he's shaping you into the image and likeness of his son, by whatever means that are left to him in a world that has been saturated--baptized--in evil.

Time was, when the only way to defeat death was death itself, he used it.  When all that's left to fight fire is fire itself, he'll use it.  When all that's left to fight evil is evil itself, he'll use it. 

He will deliver us from evil, even if he has to lead us into temptation to do it.

But we are not to be disturbed. Though we are subjected to the storm,even the winds and the sea obey him.”   (1)

(1) (Matthew 8:27; see John 16:33, 2 Timothy 3:12, 1 Peter 4:12-13)

Friday, August 26, 2011

we own the joint

The Word for today:
1 Thessalonians 2

mark this: 1 Thessalonians 2:12
Walk worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

When I wasn't a Christian, I wasn't 'cause I didn't want to be.

I didn't like all the tepid words associated with them--moderate words, middling words, mediocre words: temperate, meek, mild-mannered.

I'm skeptical of the temperate, meek, and mild-mannered.  I often suspect that underneath they aren't that way at all; methought--and me still thinks--that the "lady" doth protest too much.

I'm more at home with the deranged and the untethered.  They've given me far more than the discreet and judicious ever have.  So I didn't even think about being a "Christian."  I didn't want to rust to death.

Then I read the Bible, and boy was I wrong.  In the Bible, godly people were not at all like they'd been mis-represented to me.  They were wild and free and flippant and I got the distinct impression that they wouldn't have cared, one way or another, what I thought of them.

When I first read the Bible, I was lucky enough to read it like we read any other book--from the front to the back cover.  I came to faith (though I wasn't consciously aware of it) in Jesus by the time I was midway through Matthew.  But before I reached Jesus, I'd already run into Jacob, the scammer of scammers;  into David, the poet of poets and soldier of soldiers; into Elijah, the prophet of prophets; into Nehemiah, man amongst men; and into Amos, the lonest of wolves.

Suddenly, I had friends!  I'd found people who understood.  Having met them, I was primed and ready for the Jesus they believed in.

1 Thessalonians 2:12 tells us to walk worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.  That kind of "walk" has nothing whatever to do with the faux piety that so many Christians effect. 

Walking worthily has everything to do with being cognizant of just exactly who we are:  We've been called into his own kingdom and glory.  We've been summoned by the King, and seated at his table as sons.  We own the place.

So live like it.  Walk like Amos and David, like Elijah and Nehemiah, like Esther and Ruth.  Walk into the kingdom like a king.  Better yet, walk like the King of Kings himself.  (1)

Do it for God and, please, do it for that guy like me who won't go near Jesus because he won't go near the Christians he's encountered.  Enough with the tepid and timid; bring on the power and the glory we've been called to:
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.  (2 Timothy 1:7)

We own this joint.  Let's act like it.

(1) see Revelation 17:14; 19:16

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thessalonians--First, we go up / Second, Jesus comes down

The Word for today:
1 Thessalonians 1

As we embark uon the letters to the Thessalonians, it is important to remember that the two letters are known as "First" and "Second" because they describe two very different events--one happening first, the other happening second!

1 Thessalonians describes the church going up--popularly known as "the Rapture."

2 Thessalonians describes Jesus coming down--popularly known as "The Second Coming" (biblically known as "The Day of the LORD.")


1 Thessalonians is about the event known as the Rapture of the Church.  The very word "church" (Greek ekklesia) means "called out."  We are called out of sin, called out of darkness, called out of death.

And one day we will be literally called out of this world.  We will hear the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ and we will be caught up (Greek "harpazo") to meet him in the air:
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

Think of the Rapture as the ascension of the bride of Christ.  Jesus has been preparing a home for her, and he will receive her to himself:
In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also.  (John 14:2-3)

It is imperative to understand that it was Jesus himself who first taught the Rapture!  It is also important to understand that Jesus himself was caught up--raptured--to heaven:
So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. (Mark 16:19; cf. Luke 24:51, Acts 1:9)

The Bible student must also be aware that Enoch was caught up--raptured--to heaven (1);
and that Elijah was caught up--raptured --to heaven (2)
and that the apostle John was caught up to heaven (3);
and that the author of Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul, had himself been caught up to heaven:
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows-- and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.  (2 Corinthians 12:2-4)

Many scoff at the idea of being caught up to heaven.  But what would they know?  What could they know?  They've never been there!

But the clearest proponents of Rapture--Jesus Christ and Paul--have been there, done that.  So I'd call them the experts, wouldn't you?

(1) Genesis 5:24; (2) 2 Kings 2:11;  (3) Revelation 4:1

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

forever young

The Word for today:
Psalm 28, 29

mark this:  Psalms 28:7-9
The LORD is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. 

The LORD is the strength of his people;
he is the saving refuge of his anointed. 

Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! 
Be their shepherd and carry them forever. 

When is a child no longer a child?

There are lots of way stations that might mark a childhood's end:
the first time they cross the street without holding your hand;
the first time they ride the sled down the big hill, alone;
the first time they ask you if you're OK.

But as I look back, there was a day my four kids hold in common which marked the end of their Act 1. It wasn't something they did, it was something I stopped doing.

I stopped carrying them. There comes the day when they no longer hold their arms up, waiting to be carried like kids do. Or the day when a tired Daddy doesn't bend down to pick them up. Or the day when they, suddenly somehow, look too big for Mommy to carry anymore.

But there are no end-of-the-way stations like that in the kingdom of heaven. God never gets too tired to carry us.  And we never get so big.

Some of us may, for a long while, stop lifting waiting arms to him.  But there comes the day when we, adult as we think we are, just can't make it across that street or back up that hill, alone.

It's right then and there that we're lifted up high, taken up by a power outside of ourselves. In the kingdom of heaven, youth is not confined to the young.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"Ally ally in free!"

The Word for today:
Psalm 27

There sure is a lot of hiding and seeking going on in Psalm 27:

One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD,
And to inquire in his temple.  (Psalms 27:4)

For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion;
In the secret place of his tabernacle he shall hide me. (Psalms 27:5)

When you said, "Seek My face,"
My heart said to you, "Your face, Lord, I will seek." (Psalms 27:8)

Do not hide your face from me;
Do not turn your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not leave me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation. (Psalms 27:9)

Who is hiding?  Who is seeking?

The answer is found on the very first pages of your Bible.  Before sin, God sought out Adam and Eve so often, so regularly, that they were familiar with the sound of his voice:
And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…  (Genesis 3:8a)

But, alas, their sin caused them to hide:
…and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  (Genesis 3:8b)

Carefully note that they were not actually hiding from God.  What they were doing was hiding their sin from God: 
The LORD God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?" And he said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself." (Genesis 3:9-10)

In the same way, God is not hiding from man.  David, in Psalm 51, knew that God hides not from him, but from man's sin:
Hide your face from my sins… (Psalms 51:9)

God went to great lengths to hide his face from Adam and Eve's sins, skinning an animal to fashion a sin-covering for them.  This freed him to seek them again.

That sacrificed animal pointed straight to the cross, where God had to forsake Jesus:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  (Psalms 22:1)

Jesus was, at first, startled and overtaken by the estrangement.  But he was given the answer he'd cried out for:
Yet you are holy… (Psalms 22:3)

God's holiness could not coexist with sin.  He is a consuming fire (1) who would have reflexively flashed forth and consumed the sin-bearer on the cross.  So he was not actually hiding from Jesus.  He was hiding from my sin.

What all of this means is that God never hides--from anybody, ever.  He wasn't hiding from Adam, or Eve; or from Jesus; or from you.

He is ever ardently seeking--and hoping to be sought:
When you said, "Seek My face,"
My heart said to You, "Your face, Lord, I will seek." (Psalms 27:8)

I hope your heart talks to God today.  I hope you seek his face.  If you take your sins to the cross of Jesus Christ, you've got nothing left to hide--and God's got nothing left to hide from. 

 "Ally ally in free!" (2)

(1) Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29
(2) "Ally ally in free" is a catchphrase used in such children's games as hide and seek to indicate that players who are hiding can come out into the open without losing the game. It is thought to derive from the phrase "All ye, all ye 'outs' in free;" in other words, all who are "out" may come in without penalty.

Monday, August 22, 2011

do unto God as you would have God do unto you

The Word for today:
Psalm 26

mark this: Psalm 26:12
I will bless the LORD. 

Everyone says, "God bless you."   It's like the Christian version of "Have a nice day."

Well, here's how to have a nice day:  You bless God.

The Bible teaches us to do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Luke 6:31).  We could start with God.

Do you want God to say something encouraging to you? You say something encouraging to God.  Go ahead.

Do you want God to notice your effort?  You notice his.  That's right.

Do you want God to give you a reason to smile?  You give him a reason to smile.  You could tell him a good clean joke.  Or, better yet, tell him how good it feels to be clean:
Because the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  (1 John 1:7)

You get the picture, so I don't need to belabor this.  Whatever you need, you give God.  Don't wait for a blessing when you can create one.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

teach me your paths

(by Professor Dave)

The Word for today:
Psalm 25

After I accepted Jesus as my Savior, I developed a real hunger for the Word of God. I remember that one of my favorite psalms was Psalm 25. When I would read this Psalm, it became the prayer of my heart. I had a longing to understand God’s ways, and to be able to walk according to His direction. As David directed this prayer to God, he reminded himself of the essential elements of being teachable.

Psalm 25 is a psalm of David. The first thing that David requests is that he not be ashamed. Shame comes as the result of defeat. If we can recall, after Adam and Eve fell in the temptation, shame immediately followed. They knew that they were naked and they were ashamed. Sin brought shame. David opens by stating that his trust is in God. If we are to be free from the shame of sin, it begins with trust in God. In our own in strength we are powerless over sin and shame. Therefore, David goes on to ask that none who wait on God should be ashamed.

Having made this plea to God, David requests that God teach him His ways, His truth, and His paths. In seeking deliverance from the enemies of our soul, we need to follow God’s direction. In doing so, we must rely on God’s mercy and lovingkindness. Without these we would be lost, without hope. If God were to immediately respond to our sin, we would never see His face. But, because of His mercy and lovingkindness He has provided a way to restore fellowship with Him. Again David calls upon God’s mercy as he looks back to the sins of his youth and to his transgressions. He does not want to be remembered for his youthful sins or transgression, but he looks to God’s goodness in delivering him from them.

As David continues he reminds himself that God teaches those who are honest with regard to their soul’s condition and to those who are meek of heart. If one will not acknowledge one’s own sinfulness; they are not in a position to be taught by God. God teaches sinners. The beginning of God’s wisdom is in the fear of the LORD. God chooses the way to teach each individual, and that way is especially fitted to each individual.

David acknowledges his troubles and affliction, but continues to focus on God as his deliverer. David closes by stating that which he stated at the beginning. He seeks God’s deliverance from shame, based on the fact that he trusts in God. David ends by requesting the redemption of Israel.

I began this thought by stating the Psalm 25 was a prayer that I resorted to often in my early walk with Jesus. That hasn’t changed; I still return to this psalm when I am seeking guidance from the LORD. It all begins with placing our trust in God. We need to be honest with ourselves and with God that we are in need of His instruction. We need to approach God with meekness and reverence. Regardless of our present circumstances, we need to look to God as our deliverer, as David did.


Saturday, August 20, 2011


"Cross, Shepherd, & Crown" -- Stained Glass Panels, Faith Community Lutheran Academy
The Word for today:
Psalm 23, 24

Psalms 22, 23, and 24 are best seen as a triptych--a continuous painting displayed across three panels (1). Together, they depict the past, present, and future of our eternal relationship with Jesus Christ.


Psalm 22 is the holiest ground in scripture, a too-vivid picture of the day Jesus died.  What is most striking is that it is the only picture of the cross from Jesus' point of view.   It is shrouded in darkness until verse 22, where  the resurrection is indicated by a shift in tense--a reference to the future and a ray of hope:
I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.

Now note the Psalm's last words:  He has done it.  It is finished!  (cf. John 19:30)

Psalm 23 is a picture of the believer's new life, which Christ purchased in Psalm 22:
identified (baptized) in the still waters of death with Christ;
born again (he restores my soul);
led (v. 2, 3);
sealed, indwelt, and anointed by the Holy Spirit (v.5);
the fruit of the Spirit (paths of righteousness);
filled to overflowing with the Spirit (v. 5);
the faithful discipline and guidance (rod and staff) of the Father;
eternal life in the house of the Lord.

Psalm 24 begins where Psalm 23 left off--in the house of the LORD. 
The suffering servant of Psalm 22, who is the shepherd of Psalm 23, is revealed as the eternal King of glory, who has restored his image and likeness (see Gen 1:26) in us:

Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? 
He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. 
He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation. 
Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah.  (v. 3-6)

Now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (1 John 3:2)

(1) see yesterday's introductory article 

Friday, August 19, 2011

My God, my God, why?

The Word for today:
Psalm 22:22-31

Psalm 23 is the single most famous, most memorized, most beloved poem in all of literature.  But it is even more meaningful when it is placed in its true context--as the middle "panel" of a triptych which spans Psalms 22, 23, and 24.

A triptych is a  display which stretches across three panels.  Here's an example, called "Cross, Shepherd, & Crown" which presents the inter-relationship of Psalms 22, 23, & 24:

We will, over the next couple days, consider these three Psalms as a triptych which displays the past, present, and future of an eternal relationship with Jesus Christ.


Psalm 22--the cross
Psalm 22 is the holiest ground in scripture.  It is a vivid picture of the day Jesus died.  What is most striking is that it is the only picture of the cross taken from Jesus' point of view:

My God, my God, why?

 I will type no more today.  I leave you with the Lamb of God, in the Holy of Holies.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

the Psalm of the Cross

The Word for today: Psalm 22:1-21

The whole Bible is the Word of God and therefore the whole Bible, Old and New Testaments, is really the story of Jesus Christ. But sadly many times we miss that fact. We think somehow that the Old Testament has not much to do with us or our relationship with Christ. We somehow think that all we need is the New Testament books. We are mistaken. And that’s why reading about Jesus Christ in the book of Psalms is not at all an aberration- the whole book screams His name!

This particular Psalm was written by King David, concerning some of his own difficult experiences. It was written way back around 1000 BC. But right away as we read, we see that there is much more than King David going on here. David has his fair share of troubles and sufferings, but what’s included here is beyond anything he ever went through. This Psalm is directly quoted 4 times in the New Testament (1) , and in verses 12-17, were given direct details of a crucifixion, some 400 years before crucifixion was even invented.

Because of all of this, today’s passage has also been attacked. Some people insist that this has nothing to do with Jesus. They say any connection between this Psalm and Jesus is coincidence or Christians doctoring the Bible to make it say what we want. Why? They’ve already determined that Jesus cannot be the Son of God, so anything that implies otherwise is dismissed.

But as I read Psalm 22, I don’t see a fluke or dumb luck nor do I see word twisting. Instead, I see very clearly and unmistakably the fingerprints of God’s Son. Remember: The Cross Was God’s Idea. It was not plan B. Along with that point comes its twin idea: Jesus was not a victim. So often people can buy into the false idea that Jesus was caught up in something bigger than him. That he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. That if he had carried his pepper spray and stayed out of the bad neighborhoods, he could have avoided the cross.

Jesus was not a helpless victim! Look at His own words: "The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again (2)."

This is a Psalm full of pain and hurt and torture and despair, and rightly so, because it points us unmistakably to the cross. The more you examine crucifixion, the more horrible it becomes. I want you to know today, that whatever you may think about yourself, God thinks that you are worth enough to plan out, and prepare for and then, when the time was right, to send His perfect Son into a fallen world full of imperfect people- to be killed upon a cross, so that you and I can be forgiven and know Him. That is why this Psalm, like the cross is both beautiful and terrible.

(1) Psalm 22: 1, 8, 18 (see also Matthew 24:35-46, among others)
(2) John 10:17-18

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

a good word

The Word for today: Psalm 20 & 21

There is no denying the power of words. Jesus Christ is the Word of God (1).
By words, God both created and continues to sustain this world (2). But this is not our topic today.

There is also no denying the emphasis that the Bible places on controlling the words we do say.
David gave to us this advice: "Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies (3)." There are scores of similar such commands. But this is not today's topic either.

Instead, we are going to focus on "a good word" instead. We want to talk about benedictions, something that has been neglected by us of the Protestant tradition. (Most likely as an over-reaction to their constant use in the Catholic/Orthodox traditions.) A benediction is simply a brief prayer of blessing. It comes from the Latin word "to speak well." It often has repeated uses of the word "may." If you attend a more liturgical church, you will find the liturgy full of them.

Psalm 20 starts with a lengthy benediction. May the LORD:
- answer
- protect
- send help
- grant support
- remember
- accept
- give

Now that's a prayer! Benedictions are all over the Bible.
In Genesis, the blessings given by Isaac, and later Jacob, are benedictions (3).
We see them often, like this one, in the Psalms (4).
They are peppered throughout the writings of the Apostle Paul as well, with prayers such as "May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love or God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (5)."

Benedictions can be an excellent help for your prayer life.

But I also know that for me, and for many others, the last thing we want our prayers to become is formulaic. I know that I am in trouble whenever I can pray by autopilot- without really engaging my heart or mind. When I was 16 years old, I was amazed to know for the first time, that God wanted to hear my honest and heart-felt prayers, not just repeating the Our Father over and over. I was grateful to find out that there were no formulas or certain words that had to be said in a certain way. I learned that prayer was available for even me.

And so at first I rejoiced in this new found spontaneity- I could talk to God any time all the time about anything! For a few years this is how I prayed, and I still look back on those days fondly. But there came a point when I realized that even my best attempts to be spontaneous sounded a lot like the same thing I prayed yesterday. After all, we remain creatures of habit. It became frustrating to me when it seemed like my prayers were not much different than how a 5 year old prays: "bless Timmy and bless Tommy and bless Cindy and bless Sally..."

This tension continued until I came to realize that the tyranny of the "new" was just as crippling as the tyranny of the "same old same old." Neither way was helpful. Take this thought to the world of food. I would soon hate pizza if I had it every single meal, but if I only had pizza once and then had to cross it off my list, never to eat it again would be even worse. We want a mix of variety and regularity. The same applies to prayer, and that's where benedictions come in.

So often, I don't know how to pray for others, I don't know what to pray for my own family or even myself. I've grown weary of giving Almighty God my advice. Somehow sharing with Him two or three ways I think He can best work in a given situation seems ridiculous to me. So how then do I pray?

I can simply go back to the Word of God, and pray what has already been revealed to us. I head towards these classic benedictions, and lift up myself and others through them. This way, you can't go wrong! This way, you can pray for everyone-yourself and others, people you know well & people you don't know well, your best friends and even your enemies. Rather than stifle my prayer life, I have found these benedictions to reinvigorate it.

As I close a blog about benedictions, it is very appropriate to leave you with one, perhaps the best know one:

The LORD Bless you and Keep you
The LORD make His face Shine upon you
and be Gracious to you
The LORD Turn His face toward you
and Give you peace. (6)

(1) John 1:1
(2) 2 Peter 3:5; Hebrews 1:3
(3) see Genesis 27:28 and 48:15
(4) see Psalm 19:14, Psalm 67 & Psalm 90:14-16
(5) 2 Corinthians 13:14
(6) Numbers 6:24-26