Tuesday, July 31, 2012


The Word for today:
Job 9:25 -- 10:22

mark this: Job 9:32--
For He is not a man, as I am, that I may answer Him, and that we should go to court together.

Sometimes we picture Judgment Day as the day when we shall stand before God to plead our case. This is a misleading picture. That we will stand before God is true. But we will not speak (1). The truth of Jesus' sacrifice, when he took our place on the cross, will be the only "voice" at Judgment:
The voice of your brother's blood cries out to Me from the ground (2).

By this "voice," God will determine whether or not we placed our trust in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins.

If you are God's child through faith in Jesus Christ, then your brother's blood cries out to God. But if you have not taken your sins to the cross of Christ, there will be heard no voice--neither God's voice nor your voice nor the voice of your Brother's blood--to plead your case:
He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life (3).

The blood of Christ will speak forgiveness, or no forgiveness will be spoken at all.


(1) See Matthew 22:1-12, a picture of Judgment. The symbol of the "wedding garment" is used to depict the righteousness of God, imparted to those who trust in the blood of Christ for forgiveness of sins. Note especially "speechless" in 22:12. (2) Genesis 4:10; (3) 1 John 5:12

Monday, July 30, 2012

the first step on the way to the cross

The Word for today:
Job 8:1 -- 9:24

mark this : Job 8:3

Who brought suffering into the world?

When God looked over all that He'd created, He saw that it was very good (1). Creation is a reflection of God's character, and there is no unrighteousness in Him (2).

So where did the suffering come from?

When I look back, I cannot say about my life what God could say about His creation.

And though I cannot see into your heart like I can see into mine, the Bible teaches that none of us--no, not one (3)--is blameless:
The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time (4).

What's wrong with the world is you, and I--and Job. With our sin came the sorrow and the suffering--for ourselves and others.

Hold that thought, because the first step on any man's way back to God is the realization that he, himself, is the problem. No one but the self-acknowledged sinner will turn to the cross of Jesus Christ.

(1) Genesis 1:31; (2) Psalm 92:15; (3) Psalm 53:3; (4) Genesis 6:5

Sunday, July 29, 2012

when your problem is its own solution

The Word for today:
Job 6:1 -- 7:21

mark this: Job 7:17-18

The Bible is full of irony.

When the results of a set of circumstances don't match up with what we might expect, that's ironic.

That a solitary warrior's death on a cross marks the victory of light and life over darkness and death is the opposite of what we would expect.

One of the ironies of life, and of Scripture, is that often the problem is its own solution. Whatever was going on in Job's life--it worked; all of the suffering and anguish--it worked.

What was going on throughout the book of Job? Looking at the big picture, God is delivering, transforming, saving, winning. Job is a picture of your transformation ("Ouch!"). The book of Job is about a process.

Don't look for answers in Job. Look for process. The process is the answer; Job's problems are the solution.

Bible reading isn't so much a search for answers as it is time spent with God. The answer isn't in a verse or a theological principle. The real answer is the Bible's effect upon you--the Word becomes flesh not only for Jesus, but for all who avail themselves of its transforming power day by day.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

scene through our window

The Word for today:
Job 4:1 -- 5:27

mark this: Job 5:7-9

Satan implies that people don't love God for God Himself, but because of all the good things He gives us. God contends that if all of Job's material blessings were taken away, Job would remain faithful. So the testing begins, as one calamity after another strikes Job's life.

The reader must understand that Job is never made aware of many things the reader knows. Job doesn't know anything about the conversation between God and Satan which prompts Job's testing and all his calamities.

The Bible doesn't claim to reveal everything about God. It doesn't claim to reveal everything about His universe. We are given only what we need to know. We are left in the dark about so many things.

Cosmic purposes--that we are not aware of--are behind many of the things we find inexplicable. Job's suffering has a purpose that he could not understand.

We are not going to be shown every card in God's hand. There are times when all we're going to know is that God is in charge and He's putting his whole heart into it as He works out a perfect plan. Whatever we're dealt, we're to trust that God knows about it and has a purpose for it.

When Jesus told the disciples He must suffer and die on a cross, they just didn't get it. They were not aware of what was at stake, or how any good could ever result from such suffering.


Friday, July 27, 2012

the voice of strangers

The Word for today:
Job 1:1 -- 3:26

mark this: Job 1:6-12

God allows Satan to test your character--not in order to see if your faith will fail, but to prove that your faith will succeed.

Satan will accuse Job, belittle him, and try to undermine his confidence in God. He will strike at Job's family, his possessions, his health.

Job's friends--and even his wife--will throw a lot of half-baked philosophy at him, mixed in with some ill-informed religion.

God allows all of this so that Job's relationship with God will deepen. By the end of the story, Job will know a deeper trust in a bigger God than he had known before.

Remember these principles as the story unfolds:
Evil cannot proceed further than the end of the chain God's got Satan tied up with.
God will use evil (when that's all He's got to work with) to bring about good.

A cosmic wager has been made and we're about to see it played out. Job and his friends will contest each other in speeches which often resemble poetic trash talk.

The Bible student must take care to consider just who is speaking at any given moment. Throughout the Bible, we will hear God's prophets pronounce His truth; above all, we will see His Word lived out (1) in the life of Jesus. But we will also encounter voices that do not represent God's outlook.

By the end of the story, God has heard enough of whatever Job's friends have been spouting and tells them so--I am angry at you because you have not told the truth about me (2).

So pay attention to just who is speaking whenever you read the Bible. Do they speak for God, or--like Satan and Job's friends--are they speaking for themselves?

Over time, as you get to know God better and better, you will be able to tell the difference between His voice and the voices that are only pretending to speak for Him:
My sheep hear My voice, and they follow Me (3). They will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers (4).

(1) John 1:14; (2) Job 42:7; (3) John 10:27; (4) John 10:5

Thursday, July 26, 2012

spiritual warfare

The Word for today:
Ephesians 6:10-24

mark this:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:10-12)

Christians do not fight an enemy who is flesh and blood. We are not to fight other men. The enemy is spiritual, and the warfare is spiritual. Spiritual forces are abroad in this world, fighting against the believer, against the church, against Jesus Christ.

In Daniel 10:1-13, we hear an astonishing report from an angel. On the first day that Daniel began praying, an angel was sent to him. But Daniel kept on praying for three weeks, thinking his prayer was unanswered. So where was the angel for those three weeks? He'd been detained as he struggled with a demon, and could not break through until the angel Michael brought reinforcement.

In 2 Kings 6:15-17, God's people, Israel, were surrounded by the enemy nation of Syria. There were many soldiers, horses, and chariots of war. When the prophet Elisha's servant saw the great force of the enemy he was afraid. He cried out to Elisha, "What shall we do?"
Fear not, Elisha told him, for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
Then Elisha prayed that God would open the servant's eyes and allow him to see the spirit world. The request was granted, and his servant saw the spiritual forces of God surrounding Israel.

The battle lines are drawn wherever the Word of God is taught, wherever the Good News--salvation from sin and eternal life with God through Jesus Christ--is proclaimed. This blog, for example, is an insurgence into the enemy's realm, a threat to his holdings.

Return often to Ephesians 6:10-20 as you learn more and more about your Bible, about Jesus, about God's armor--the belt, the breastplate, the footwear, the shield, the helmet.

Learn to wield the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, against the enemy--as Jesus used it to defeat Satan in the wilderness (1).

And do not fear this enemy. Greater is He who is within you--the Spirit of God--than he who is in the world (2).

The Captain of our salvation (3)--Jesus Christ--has won this fight; while the enemy, in reluctant retreat, is allowed to play out the full effects of pride for all to see.

(1) Matthew 4:1-11; (2) 1 John 4:4; (3) Hebrews 2:10

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bring it!

The Word for today:
Ephesians 5:3 -- 6:9

mark this:
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light. (Ephesians 5:8)

The image of God -- His likeness that His children bear -- is not a passive thing that sits still, like a new paint job on the outside to make us look good.

Don't think of the image of God as a painting, but as a movie projector, showing the life of Jesus to the world. The image of God is something we broadcast, something that shines out to the darkness. We bring the image of God to the world.

Those who promote the religion of man--faith in self, not in God--broadcast their agenda, too, trying to snuff out the image of God in the world. But they will not win this battle:
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (1).

Before I turned to follow God, I was not just in darkness, I was darkness itself:
For you were once darkness.

I, not God, brought the teardrop into my life and into the lives of others.

Now, bearing God's image restored, I am not just in the light, I am light:
You are the light of the world (2).

So shine (3). Project. Bring it.

(1) John 1:5; (2) Matthew 5:14 (3) Matthew 5:16

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

it's ours to give, not to keep

The Word for today: Ephesians 4:1 -- 5:2

mark this: Ephesians 4:11-13

A gift is the Holy Spirit doing something through the believer in order to build others up.

Some can sing, some can lead; some can cook, or clean, or mow the lawn, or play the drums. Some can rebuild a neighbor's shattered hope--or his broken table leg. Some can fix a neighbor's car that won't start; or jump-start his faith when it's stuck in neutral. Some can convey the cross of Jesus Christ, filling empty hearts with the love of God.

Many people who don't follow Jesus have talents--which can look just like the gifts of the Spirit.

Here's the difference: God gives talents to us, to use as we see fit. But the gifts of the Holy Spirit are from God to others--through us.

Gifts are not even ours. We just deliver them. We deliver them in God's name, making it clear that "This is for you--from Jesus."

A gift is a talent we've given away. If we haven't given it away, then it's not a gift at all.


Monday, July 23, 2012

from the inside out

The Word for Today:
Ephesians 3:1 -- 3:21

mark this:
That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man;
that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
(Ephesians 3:16-17)

We are born with a fallen, human nature. It's our nature to run from God and to put ourselves first. The image of God we once presented is distorted and tarnished, nearly unrecognizable.

But when we trust Jesus we become super-natured, Spirit-natured. We become super-natural!

We are being transformed into the image of God by degrees--from glory to glory (1)--by the Spirit, from the inside out. Eventually the new nature will surface and we will be like Jesus (2). That's our destiny (3).

(1) 2 Corinthians 3:18; (2) 1 John 3:2; (3) see Romans 8:29

Sunday, July 22, 2012

how sweet the sound

The Word for today:
Ephesians 2:1 -- 2:22

mark this:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesans 2:8-9)

I teach Bible classes. I break my brain and drain my heart in preparation for that hour. But I limp home now and then. Once, a student asked, "What's the difference between grace and mercy?"

I trotted out a lengthy reply, with some stuffy scholarly annotation thrown in to dress it up--and didn't answer the question at all.

When I got home and told Shelley, my wife, about my lame answer, she said, "Here's how I understand it: Grace is when we get good things we don't deserve. Mercy is when we don't get bad things we do deserve."

You could search 443 theology books and never find a better explanation. I know, because I did.

We're saved by grace, amazing grace. Grace comes from the heart of God, Who so loved (your name here) that He found a way to pay the wages of sin for (your name here) when you had no way to pay for yourself.

You are so important to God--so wildly, unquenchably, incomprehensibly loved--that the Creator of the universe took your place on a cross meant for you, because that's the only way He could rescue you.

That's amazing. That's grace.

There's a cross that had your name on it. I googled and googled and found a picture of that very cross. You can see it up above.

Scripture--and Shelley--taught me that mercy means you're not on that cross.

Grace means that God was.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Open the eyes of my heart

The Word for today:
Ephesians 1:15-23

mark this: Ephesians 1:18-20

If you approach the Bible skeptically, with a closed heart, its meaning is closed to you. So Paul, the author of Ephesians, prayed that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened (Epesians 1:18).

Some people say they have "intellectual reservations" about the Bible. What they really have are unwilling hearts--unwilling to change their sinful lives. Should a person be willing to turn from sin, his so-called intellectual reservations would vanish.

On the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:25-32) after His resurrection, Jesus encountered two travelers. He called them "Fools, slow of heart to believe in all the prophets have spoken." They weren't foolish and ignorant of scripture because their minds were slow, but because their hearts were slow.

Then Jesus delivered the greatest Bible lesson ever heard:
Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

After Jesus departed from them, the two travelers asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"

Your Bible reveals itself through the "eyes" of the heart. If you read it respectfully, with a heart willing to heed its message, God will reveal Jesus to you throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament.

And Jesus is the one key that will open Scripture to you.


Friday, July 20, 2012

God's forgiveness is different than man's forgiveness

The Word for today:
Ephesians 1:1-14

mark this: Ephesians 1:7

When you or I forgive someone, no penalty is paid.

Let's say someone were to steal $100 from you. You might choose to forgive the person--meaning that the thief would not have to pay for his crime in either money or jail time. The penalty is forgiven.

But God's forgiveness is never leniency toward sin. God can only forgive after the penalty has been paid.

So can we pay our own penalty? No, we cannot--and here's why:
The wages of sin (what we get for sin) is death (1).

We've heard that the law is life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth (2). We can't pay life for life because we are spiritually dead in our sins and trespasses (3). We have no real life with which to pay.

But the sinless life of Jesus Christ meant that he had life, real life, to give in payment for our sin. He paid life for life so that we could be forgiven.

In the New Testament, the word "forgiveness" is always back-to back-with the words "blood of Jesus Christ." When God forgives, He can't just overlook sin. He had to watch His Son die before He could forgive my sin.

A part of God's character--His absolute, unbending justice-- leaves Him with no ability to take you off death row unless someone pays the price. And He was the only one who could pay. So at the cross, He did.

The penalty having been paid, God is free to exercise another facet of His character--His absolute forgiveness. "Absolute" means that your every sin, past and future, is completely and forever dismissed by the Judge of the universe--all because He Himself could, and did, pay the price.

(1) Romans 6:23; (2) Deuteronomy 19:21; (3) Ephesians 2:1

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The voice of the LORD--or the voice of the people?

Mt. Gilboa

The Word for today:
1 Samuel 31

mark this: 1 Samuel 31:1-5

There is, day by day, a choice to be made. We can choose to act upon the voice of the LORD or we can choose to act upon the voice of the people.

The word of the world is all around us. It blares from earphones and car speakers, from television and computer screens, from politicians seeking power--and even from some pulpits, where many a preacher pursues his own popularity. It's coming from Hollywood, New York, Washington, London. You'll hear it at the lunch table at work. You'll hear it at church picnics, as well.

The word of the LORD is in your hands as you follow the winding course of scripture from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21.

Samuel urged Saul to heed the words of the Lord: If you do not obey the voice of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you (1).

But Saul feared man more than God:
I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord because I feared the people and obeyed their voice (2).

Saul's sad story ends here on the heights of Mt. Gilboa, overlooking the valley of Jezreel, with Jonathan slain beside him. His story is a reminder that the fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe (3).

Joshua had told the people to choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve--whether the LORD or the false gods of the Canaanites (4).

In the same way, may I urge you to choose for yourselves this day whom you will listen to--whether the Word of the LORD, or the word of the world.


(1) see 1 Samuel 15:1; 1 Samuel 12:15; (2) 1 Samuel 15:24; (3) Proverbs 29:25; (4) Joshua 24:15

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

the turn you didn't take

The Word for today:
1 Samuel 29:1 -- 30:31

mark this: 1 Samuel 29:11

David has stepped out of the Promised Land and has aligned himself and his men with Achish, a Philistine leader.

But as the battle against King Saul and Israel approaches, the other Philistine leaders do not trust David's motives. They are worried that David, in the midst of battle, will turn against them and fight once more for Israel.

So Achish must ask David to leave.

David couldn't have known it at the time, but this is clearly by the hand of God. It delivers David from fighting his own people, something he would have regretted the rest of his life.

We do not realize how many times God intervenes in our lives when we step over the boundary, out of his will.

We ask God to deliver us from evil (1). And He does--often without our knowing, out of the range of sight or understanding.

A lot of our salvation consists of the turns we didn't take.

(1) Matthew 6:13

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Saul and the witch of En-dor, rightly divided...

The Word for today:
1 Samuel 27:1 -- 28:25

mark this: 1 Samuel 28:6


Did Samuel come back from the dead to speak to Saul?

The answer is 'No.'

Carefully reading chapter 28 is not enough to answer the question. Some Bible questions, like this one, demand a careful consideration of the whole Bible--everything scripture has to say on a given topic.

Verse 28:6 tells us that God was not communicating with Saul. So Saul turned to the woman of En-dor.

Suddenly Samuel walks onto the page of your Bible? But is that really Samuel?

Let's consult the rest of the Bible:

Communicating with the dead is expressly forbidden in Deuteronomy 18:9-14.

Beginning at Luke 16:20, Jesus tells of the rich man and Lazarus, the beggar. From this parable, we learn that there is a great gulf fixed--a chasm standing between the dead and the living--so that no one can return from the dead to warn us.

Furthermore, we are told in 1 Chronicles 10:13-14 that Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the Lord, because he did not keep the word of the Lord, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance. But he did not inquire of the Lord.

When we consider the whole of scripture, we can conclude that what happens here is supernatural, but that God doesn't have a thing to do with it. This was Satanic from beginning to end. Saul has laid himself wide open for Satan, and Satan has moved in. So what we see in this episode is a false spirit--demons can impersonate (1)--masquerading as Samuel.

It is of the utmost importance that we study the whole Bible systematically:
Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2)

There are 66 books in the Bible. If they are not carefully studied and considered as a whole, your picture of Jesus will be distorted.

(1) 2 Corinthians 11:14; (2) 2 Timothy 2:15

Monday, July 16, 2012

bound in the bundle of the living with the LORD

The Word for today:
1 Samuel 25:1--26:25

mark this: 1 Samuel 25:29

Abigail appeals to the best that is in David, and turns him from vengeful bloodshed.

As she does, she makes one of the most remarkable statements in all of scripture:
Yet a man has risen to pursue you and seek your life, but the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with the LORD your God; and the lives of your enemies He shall sling out, as from the pocket of a sling (1).

From the moment we trust Christ as Savior, we are said to be in Christ:
If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. (2)

Don't break your brain contemplating how this can be. God has provided many pictures which show us persons so close they are one with each other:

Marriage: Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (3)

Church: For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (4)

Trinity: God Himself is a part never apart.

Like I said, don't break your brain. All you've really got to know is that you don't ever have to face life alone again. You're part of something. You're part of Someone. You breathe His breath (5).


(1) 1 Samuel 25:29; (2) 1 John 4:15; see also Galatians 2:20; John 17:21; (3) Genesis 2:24; (4) 1 Corinthians 12:13; (5) Genesis 2:7

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Jonathan strengthens David's hand in God

The Word for today:
1 Samuel 23:1--24:22

mark this: 1 Samuel 23:14-16

David is hiding in the caves and dens and hills, where God will teach a shepherd boy to be a king. The wilderness is God's classroom, where deliverers, kings, prophets and apostles are trained. Moses went to Midian, David went to Adullam, Elijah went to Horeb, and Paul went to Arabia.

Jesus was trained there, too. To prepare Him for his public ministry, the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness (1).

The wilderness comes in many forms. God trained David by allowing Saul to pursue him continually (2). Or God might withdraw His presence from us temporarily, a season described as “the dark night of the soul.” In the wilderness comes the revelation that we have nothing within ourselves that sustains us, nothing to cling to but God and His Word.

David was hunted down by Saul. Our adversary, Satan, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (3).

But Jonathan went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God (4). How did he strengthen his hand in God? By reminding David of the Word of the LORD--of God's promise that David would be king.

Learn your Bible well enough to be able to remind others of God's promises. Then, when a friend is in the wilderness, during the dark night of her soul, go to her and strengthen her hand in God.

(1) Mark 1:12 (2) 1 Samuel 23:14; see also Psalm 54:2-4; (3) 1 Peter 5:8; (4) 1 Samuel 23:16

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The poor in spirit gather around the Captain of their salvation

The Word for today:
1 Sam. 21:10-22:23

mark this: 22:2

While Saul--Satan's man--wears the crown, the rightful but rejected King David--God's man--is hounded by Saul and reduced to hiding in the caves, where everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him. (1)

We live in the day of Jesus' rejection, when the world is ruled by the prince of this world (2). Our struggle is against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (3).

A picture of the church in the present hour is seen here as well. Those who gather themselves to Jesus, the captain of our salvation (4), consist of the poor in spirit (5), who live their lives against the flow, against the prevailing winds of their culture. Christians do not always get along, nor go along, with the temporary world system (6).

(1) 1 Samuel 22:2 (2) John 12:31/KJV; John 14:30/KJV; John 16:11/KJV; see also Acts 26:18; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2; (3) Eph. 6:12/RSV (4) Hebrews 2:10; (5) Matthew 5:3; see also 1 Cor. 1:26; (6) see Romans 12:2a; 1 John 2:15

Friday, July 13, 2012

David--and the Son of David

The Word for today:
1 Samuel 20:1 --21:9

David—shepherd, poet, warrior, prophet, king—is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of David.

David was born in Bethlehem and misunderstood by his family; he was an obedient son and a conquering hero. The name ‘David’ means ‘beloved,’ and Jesus is the Father’s “beloved Son” (1).

David was anointed king long before he took the throne and ruled—and Jesus Christ is King of kings even though He is not yet reigning on this earth.

Like David, Jesus has had to experience rejection and exile before returning to reign.

(1) Matthew 3:17

Thursday, July 12, 2012

relinquishing the crown

The Word for today:
1 Samuel 17:55 to 19:24

Jonathan, as Saul's son, would someday be the king of Israel. So he wore the royal robe which marked him as the prince of Israel.

But God rejected King Saul because of his disobedience and chose David as king.

Jonathan recognized David as the rightful king by willingly relinquishing the outer garments and instruments that had signified his position as prince of Israel and heir to the throne:
Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and belt (1). "You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you." (2)

In the same way, in the New Testament, John the Baptist recognizes that Jesus must become greater and greater; I must become less and less (3).

Like Jonathan and John the Baptist, you will take yourself off the throne and install Jesus as king. Every day, more and more, He will become the central issue in your life.

(1) 1 Samuel 18:4; (2) 1 Samuel 23:17; (3) John 3:3

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The battle is the LORD's

The Word for today:
1 Samuel 17:1-54

David is a shepherd, a king, a prophet, a poet, a warrior. His life is a prophecy, a picture of Jesus to come.

When Jesus won the battle against the forces of sin and spiritual darkness, he fought alone. You and I were not with Him when He won the battle which saved our lives.

David went against the giant with a slingshot. What foolishness, to think that a lone soldier with a sling could topple the giant.

Against the champion of the Philistines, a young lad brought a slingshot. It's ridiculous. Later on in the New Testament, Paul talks about the foolishness of the cross (1)--when an itinerant teacher, without a dime in his pocket, dies alone on a cross at the hands of Rome and at the hands of religion. And that is the moment that turned the universe upside down.

It makes no sense, except for the fact that God is showing us that the battle is the LORD's, alone (2); and that it is not by might nor by power, but by His Spirit (3).

It is not by marching around Jericho blowing horns, nor by slingshots, nor by defeating Rome at their own game in the streets of Jerusalem. But it is by His Spirit, and by His cross, and by His hand, alone.


(1) 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; (2) 1 Samuel 17:47; (3) Zechariah 4:6

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

David takes the stage

The Word for today:
1 Samuel 16

Saul was the people's choice, but David is God's man, a man after God's own heart (1 Sam. 13.14).

God chooses the least likely, the youngest of the seven brothers, because God doesn't see things as man sees things (16:8).

It takes a lot of practice to see things the way God does. But you're practicing right now! The Bible is God's transformative agent, enlightening the eyes (Psalm 19:8).

God sees from the inside out. Although David would fail, God knew that beneath the faith that failed was a faith that never failed.

Take a minute to see something--a person, a situation, a problem--through God's eyes. You'll be amazed at what you see.


Monday, July 9, 2012

stand in the rain

On the Road to Emmaus  (Luke 24)

The Word for today:
1 Samuel 16

We hope you'll join us as we stand in the rain!

"Stand in the Rain" is a daily three-year Bible reading program with a promise, a purpose, and a simple plan.

The objective is individual spiritual growth through personal Bible reading. If you want to see why this Bible reading initiative is called "Stand in the Rain," just look up Isaiah 55:10-11. There you will see that Bible reading has a purpose. The purpose is to grow us!  That's God's promise:

As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
  (Isaiah 55:11)

The plan couldn't be simpler:  You read "The Word for today" (posted at the beginning of each article) and we'll teach you the big picture of Scripture.

So enough with the intro.  We'll get with the program for real tomorrow,  when David takes the stage...


Sunday, July 8, 2012

making much of Jesus

The Word for today:
1 Samuel 15

Stand in the Rain has come full circle. The journey we began on July 9. 2009 has reached its destination.

As you will read below, we have not settled on our next project, but a week of sittin’ on the dock of a bay with fishing pole in hand might bring a bit of clarity to mind.

In the meantime, we intend to post the 3-year series over again, day by day. So while we’re fishing we hope you’re still reading whatever you might have missed the first time ‘round.

There are untraceable rumors and muffled whispers that the blog might get dressed up, one of these days, with a little audio and video. To which I say, “No flaming way!” But I have lost these kinds of arguments before…


We tried to tell you how wonderful He is.

And to some degree, we did. But to a greater degree, as all men do, we fell short of the glory of God.

We don’t know exactly what project we’re going to pursue next. But until such time as we make up our minds, this old house, neglected for a decade’s worth of scripture searching, needs a lot of fixin; and our brains, which have been poppin’ like a popcorn popper at peak for the last 3 years, need a little rest.

Today, at this very moment, we are literally going fishing -- which we’ve figuratively been doing for the last 1096 days in a row.

Over the course of those days, Shelley and I watched our boys turn into men. I watched myself turn from a runner into the dreaded j-word, which I can’t bear to write. (It rhymes with logger. That’s all I’m sayin’.) Then, just weeks ago, we watched my mother die.

But through it all, we made much of Jesus.

I am glad to have finished this course, but I will miss the new discoveries and the friends we found and lost along the way.

So I’m glad and sad all at once, but I welcome these mixed emotions. They remind me of when I was just a boy at summer camp, when – out of all the songs we sang – my favorite was called “Now the Day is Over.”

The problem with my favorite song was that I only heard it once per year—at the closing campfire, where it was the last song sung on the last day of our stay.

I loved that song like no other, but it meant that the summer was gone, somewhere behind us now. It was like reaching the last page of a story that has no equal – the very same thing that, after three years, we’ve just done…
Now the day is over,
Night is drawing nigh,
Shadows of the evening
Steal across the sky.

Jesus, give the weary
Calm and sweet repose;
With Thy tend’rest blessing
May mine eyelids close.

Grant to little children
Visions bright of Thee;
Guard the sailors tossing
On the deep, blue sea.

Comfort those who suffer,
Watching late in pain;
Those who plan some evil
From their sin restrain.

Through the long night watches
May Thine angels spread
Their white wings above me,
Watching round my bed.

When the morning wakens,
Then may I arise
Pure, and fresh, and sinless
In Thy holy eyes…
Go then, in the fervent power of His Spirit, in mad and desperate pursuit of His heart. Go in any direction that will take you, making much of Jesus along the way.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

strike a match and start anew

The Word for today:
1 Samuel 14

The Bible opens with stark contrast, with darkness preceding the entrance of light.

In the book of 1 Samuel, that contrast is personified. We are first introduced to the dark heart of Saul. Then David, the man after God’s own heart, bursts upon the scene.

Yesterday, we peered into the heart of darkness. But things were about to change...


In all of Scripture, only King David is designated by God as "a man after My own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22).

Why David? Isn't he the one who had an affair with Bathsheba, then conspired to have her husband killed? Does God condone such things?

No, God does not condone any form or shape of sin whatsoever. After this episode, David's life was ceaselessly beset with the consequences of sin. Death, treason, incest, rape, and revenge visited his family--just as the prophet Nathan, who had exposed David's sin, had foretold:
Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight?
Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house
(2 Sam. 12:9-10).

David's beloved infant son fell ill. Though he fasted and begged God for the life of the child, God said No. David had prayed facedown upon the earthen floor for seven days. When he found that the child had died,
he arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the LORD (2 Samuel 12:20).

It may have been there in the house of the LORD that David, broken in spirit, cried out,
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation.
(Psalm 51)

Later on, he fought a civil war against the forces led by his favorite son, Absalom, who was killed in the war's decisive battle. Soon thereafter, prematurely aged and enfeebled, he relinquished his crown just before his relatively early death.

The Bible records that God did forgive David's sin; he did not lose his salvation (see 2 Samuel 12:13). But the evidence seems clear that God did not restore the joy of His salvation. God chose to let sin's consequences play themselves out in David's life. If He must, God will tether a wayward child to His heart with sorrow -- if there is no other way to keep the child from wandering into further danger.

Given the evidence of his life, how can he be singled out as a man after God's own heart?
It seems that the answer lies in the meaning of the word 'after.' 'After' indicates direction, and not necessarily proximity. 'After' shows the direction of a heart, and not necessarily that heart's current proximity to God's standards.

The Bible's account of King David's life shows us how things might not be as they appear to our sight. When God had chosen young David to be king, the prophet Samuel mentioned that David's older brother looked the way we think a king should look. But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance, for the LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart." (1 Sam. 16:7)

In the Gospel of Luke, a young man took his inheritance to a far country and wasted it all on a reckless and sinful life. When he had sunk as low as a Jewish man could--feeding pigs as a hired hand--he got back up and sought after his father's forgiveness:
I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before you.
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
(15:18, 20)

The prodigal son was "yet at a distance," but the father saw the direction of his heart.

Jesus Christ left his Father's house and came to a 'far country,' where he emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7).

There he fell -- under the weight of a cross on his way to seek his Father's forgiveness for my sins, and for yours, for David's, and for the prodigal son's. To all who saw him, he appeared to be a broken, defeated man. He didn't look like a King. But the LORD sees not as man sees.

Then Jesus fell again.
And then He fell again. A man after God's own heart, carrying the sin and sorrows of the world, Jesus got back up.
Forsaken, dead, and buried, He arose from the earth, and went to His Father's house.


Friday, July 6, 2012

the heart of darkness

The Word for today:
1 Samuel 13

The Bible opens with stark contrast, with darkness preceding the entrance of light.

In the book of 1 Samuel, that contrast is personified. We are first introduced to the dark heart of Saul. Then David, the man after God’s own heart, bursts upon the scene.

Saul is a complex figure for whom we develop a real sympathy. But make no mistake about it that Saul is Satan’s man.

The Bible student will also develop some sympathy for Judas Iscariot, who is an echo of Saul, who is an echo of Satan. This should not strike us as strange when we consider David’s continuing regard and respect for Saul (even as Saul psychically disintegrated and spiritually degenerated) and Jesus’ compassion towards Judas to the bitter end.

Just as the heart of God leans out to the lost, emotional “sympathy for the devil,” will be found in the hearts of God’s people -- who were, after all, once children of darkness themselves:

For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. (Ephesians 5:8)

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.(Colossians 1:13)

But while emotional empathy springs from the heart of God, any spiritual compromise with the devil and his delegates lands the child of God in a gray irrelevance, a spiritual no man’s land from which the light of the world will neither extinguish nor shine.

According, then, to the biblical pattern -- and the evening and the morning were the first day (Genesis 1:5) – we are introduced to darkness before the light, Saul before David…

The unholy spirit.
To understand the Holy Spirit it is instructive to be able to recognize his opposite:

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 2:1-2)

Saul, the temporary king, was Satan's man. He is a type (a prophetic picture) of Satan, who (at God's discretion) is the temporary prince of this present darkness (Ephesians 6:12/RSV). Satan could offer a crown to Jesus in the wilderness, because it was his to give. (Matthew 4:8-10)

Why does God utilize evil?
He has to. It seems that there is no other way. Evil was the only raw material left to him in re-creation. Evil is utilized at the cross for salvation; Jesus Christ became sin for us in order to defeat sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). This was predicted and amplified throughout scripture, from Genesis 50:20 to Romans 8:28.

Some cosmic justice that we are not entirely privy to (see Job chapter 1) forced God to utilize evil to effect his ends. Our sin so tied God’s hands (figuratively, and literally on the cross) that in order to defeat evil, God had to get Satan to swallow his own tail; evil defeated itself at the cross.
Enough of the darkness. Tomorrow, the man after God’s own heart will strike a match and start anew.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

the government upon His shoulder -- part 3

Jonathan gives David his robe, armor, and weapons.  (1 Samuel 18:3-4)

The Word for today:
1 Samuel 11-12

Yesterday we learned that Biblical government isn’t about the process, but about the Person. Thus, the only form of government which the Bible endorses is the government upon His shoulder:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders. (Isaiah 9:6)

Furthermore, we learned that there will be no peace until the Prince of Peace returns to enforce the peace:

And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David's throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

But what shall we do in the meantime, until the Prince of Peace returns to place the government upon his shoulders? The story of Jonathan (King Saul’s son and next-in-line to be king) and David answers that question…

1. Depose yourself. If you are the king of your domain, it is time to abdicate the throne.

I recommend a literal ceremony. Make a construction paper crown and pretend your chair is the throne. Now (quoting Samuel) depose yourself with these words:

"The LORD has torn the kingdom from you today and has given it to one better than you.” (1 Samuel 15:28)

2. Then, as Jonathan did for King David, step aside for the rightful King:
"You will be king, and I will be second to you." (I Sam. 23:17)

3. Relinquish dominion:

Jonathan stripped himself of the title and the accoutrements and proclaimed David the rightful King to come:
Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt. (1 Samuel 18:3-4)


Other than vote and hope, there is not much any one of us can do about “the government” at large. But we can hand our own little “crowns,” -- our own little domains, our own lives –over to the King.

There is no need to wait for Him to return. We can place the government of our hearts, hands, heads, and homes upon his shoulders right now.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

the government upon His shoulder -- part 2

The Word for today:
1 Samuel 9, 10

Yesterday, we read that Israel wanted a king:

So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, "You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have." (8:4-5)

But Israel’s real desire was less about having a king than it was about replacing God with a human ruler:

But when they said, "Give us a king to lead us," this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. (8:6-7)

We don’t clamor for a king, but for a government that will return our country to the prosperity, peace, and prominence that we see slipping away.

Does the Bible have anything to say about government in general? About the United States in particular?

The answer to the second question should give us pause, because the United States is a non-entity in scripture. Suffice it to say that the vortex of history is Israel; and while many nations will have tangential eschatological (end times) roles, it is unclear whether the United States is among them.


About government in general, Scripture has much more to say. I know that parades and picnics and fireworks are calling you, so let’s cut to the chase:

1. The only form of government that the Bible endorses is the government upon His shoulder:

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder. (Isaiah 9:6)

What form that government will take is not spelled out—which is precisely the point! Whether a government takes form x, y, or z doesn’t matter. None of them will work when they are placed on the shoulders of men. But on his shoulder, any one of them could work splendidly. Biblical government isn’t about the process, but about the Person.

2. Whatever form that might take, it will be infinite and infinitely better and better!—

Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end. (Isaiah 9:7)

3. God favors none of the current governments/countries over any other. A very telling passage in this regard is found in the book of Joshua, when Joshua (representative of a governing man) encounters the preincarnate Christ. (We know it’s Him because only God accepts worship in scripture.)

Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies?"
"Neither," he replied, "but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come."
Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, "What message does my Lord have for his servant?"
The commander of the LORD's army replied, "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so. (Joshua 5:13-15)

“Neither,” he replied -- which means that there is no most-favored-nation status in God’s eyes. God is on His own side, because there will be no peace until the Prince of Peace –the commander of the LORD’s army—returns to enforce the peace:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David's throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)


But what can we do in the meantime, until the Prince of Peace returns to place the government upon his shoulders? We’ll answer that question tomorrow.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

the government upon His shoulder -- part 1

The Word for today:
1 Samuel 7-8

Israel wanted a king.
So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, "You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have." (8:4-5)

But when they said, "Give us a king to lead us," this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king." (8:6-7)

They wanted a king because “Everybody else is doing it.”
1. They wanted to be like the other nations. 2. They wanted a national judge. 3. They wanted a leader in battle. (8:20)

But these desires contradicted God’s specific purposes:
1. Israel was to a holy nation, not like any other. 2. God was their ultimate Judge. 3. God fought their battles for them.

Israel’s real desire was less about having a king than it was about replacing God with a human ruler. 1 Samuel 8:4-20 reveals that their motive actually involved a rejection of God. They exchanged an awesome and powerful ruler they could not see for one they could see—who was utterly capable of failure.


Today is the 3rd of July, the date on which the climactic battle of Gettysburg was fought. As we anticipate picnics and parades and fireworks, many of us contemplate the questions raised in the Gettysburg Address. We still wonder ”whether this nation, conceived in liberty, can long endure;” and whether “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Most of all we wonder whether our nation is, indeed, “a nation under God.”

Israel wanted a king. We don’t clamor for a king, but for a government that will return our country to the prosperity, peace, and prominence that we see slipping away.

Does the Bible have anything to say about government in general? About the United States in particular? We’ll delve into these questions tomorrow, on the 4th.


Monday, July 2, 2012

tell it like it is

The Word for today:
1 Samuel 5-6

We think of prophets as persons who are visionary; they can see deep into the future and/or they can see right through the now.

But God does not have such a highfalutin or mystical view of his prophets. In God’s eyes, the essential qualification for a prophet is an ability to tell it exactly like it is.

We prize the ability to slickly manipulate words and their meanings. We were treated to a “Supreme” example of this ability just days ago, when the Chief Justice of the United States decreed that a certain statute is a tax except for when it isn’t a tax; and it isn’t a tax except for when it is!

Which drew this already-classic rebuke from his dissenting colleagues:

"That carries verbal wizardry too far, deep into the forbidden land of the sophists."

The prophet of God does not speak with such sophistry. Unlike one of our recent presidents -- who insisted that the correct interpretation of one of his statements depended upon the proper understanding of "what ‘is’ is" -- the prophet of God uses words to express the truth, not to evade it. The greatest of God’s prophets put it this way:

Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matthew 5:37)


While still a boy, Samuel heard God speak:

And the LORD said to Samuel: "See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family--from beginning to end. For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them. (1 Samuel 3:11-13)

Then, even though Samuel feared to do it, he delivered God’s rebuke to Eli, who had raised him from childhood:

He was afraid to tell Eli the vision, but Eli called him and said, "Samuel, my son."
Samuel answered, "Here I am."
"What was it he said to you?" Eli asked. "Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you."
So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him. (1 Samuel 3:15-18)

This was one indication that Samuel was a genuine prophet, for false prophets usually delivered only good news.

So, Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be prophets. Train them instead to use words to mean whatever will advance their careers. Then they might grow up to be the next John Roberts or Bill Clinton!

But no one will ever confuse them for Samuel or Jesus. And no one will ever confuse you for Hannah or Mary.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

“Where have I heard that voice before?” –part 2

"Hannah Presenting Samuel to Eli"

The Word for today:
1 Samuel 3-4

Yesterday, we read Hannah’s Prayer from 1 Samuel 2. Then we read Mary’s Song from Luke 1.

If you read them slowly and carefully, the second reading will sound like an echo of the first! More importantly, and wondrously, you will wonder --as you read both passages --“Where have I heard that voice before?”


Who taught the Word of God the Word of God? Read Mary’s brief moments in Scripture and you'll be able to discern not only who taught the Savior to walk and talk, but also who taught him to fear the Lord, and to trust in God's amazing, unfathomable, tenacious grace.

It is apparent from the song she composed that Mary memorized and skillfully weaved together many Old Testament phrases in her praises to God. Knowing Scripture by heart, leaving Bethlehem with her child in her arms as they escaped from Herod to Egypt, this new Mom was thinking of Hannah -- whose son Samuel, like Mary’s son Jesus, was wholly dedicated to God from the moment of his miraculous birth.

Their situations were alike, their songs were alike, and so were their sons:

And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the LORD and with men. (1 Samuel 2:26)

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (Luke 2:52)


After a long while of Bible reading, the characters take on distinctive voices. After listening for a long time, it is clear to my ear that the person whom Jesus “sounds” most like (not in tone or timbre but in attitude and essence) is Mary. And the person Mary “sounds” most like is Hannah.

Though I’m not at all sure how heaven works, I have no doubt that Hannah, by now, has been told by many that the Son of God sounds a lot like her!

But how was Hannah to know, way back when, that the Son of God would gather his voice, by and large, from three influencers:

1. His Father in heaven (who has no antecedent influence), and…
2. His Mom in Nazareth – who had inherited her voice from…
3. Hannah, whose situation was so similar to Mary’s situation that Mary must have read the opening chapters of 1 Samuel over and over and over again until the voice she heard there became a part of her own.

To some degree, it will prove to be the same for us. We will pass away, but the Word we speak will not (1). When we speak God's Word to our own generation, its influence just reverberates through time.

There will come a day when those who speak God’s Word will encounter the persons we have influenced. Someday, somebody whom you’ve never met is going to tap you on the shoulder and say, “They tell me I sound just like you.”

(1) see Mathew 24:35