A Spiritual Greeting

August 10, 2010
“Grace to you… from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ…….” (Romans 1:7)

As you study the inspired letters of the Apostle Paul you will find a common greeting and salutation in all of them.  At the beginning you will find these three words: “Grace to you.” At the conclusion you will find words like these: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (Romans 16: 20).

In nearly every generation of language and culture there are words people like to use when they first encounter someone.  After visiting with them there are words used as they part.  Some of these greetings and salutations are shallow and not intended to have meaning.  It was not so with the way Paul began and concluded his inspired letters.

One of his favorite concepts was “grace.” In many of his letters he emphasized the truth that we are saved by grace and not by works.  He also wrote that we have access, by faith, into grace that makes it possible for us to live a life that glorifies God (Romans 5:2).

Perhaps his greatest verse describing this empowering dimension of grace is 2 Corinthians 9:8.  He writes there that God is able to make all grace abound toward us so that each one of us may always find the spiritual dynamic we need to abound in every good work God is calling us to do for Him.  All grace – all the power we need – each and every one of us that we might find all the sufficiency we need to abound in every good work ALWAYS!

As you come to appreciate the meaning of “grace,” could it not be an appropriate heartfelt concept to include in your greetings and salutations with your brothers and sisters in Christ?

A Prescription for Restoration

May 11, 2010

“He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness…” (Psalm 23:3)

In the most popular psalm written by David, he shares the key to living well and dying well in the opening statement.  When we can say that the Lord is our shepherd we can say that we have green pastures, still waters and the knowledge that the paths in which we are moving are the right paths for us.  This all happens when He makes us lie down.  But when we get up, the green pastures turn brown and the still waters are disturbed again.

That’s when He gives us a prescription for restoration: He leads me in the paths of righteousness.  The second time in this psalm David writes ‘He leads me,’ he uses a different Hebrew word that means He drives me into the paths of righteousness, perhaps for some time, even years.  He then uses the discipline of those paths of righteousness to restore my soul.

The word “rehabilitation” in its Latin root means “to invest again with dignity.” It, too, is a prescription for restoration.  When we need restoration or rehabilitation we should not look for a cheap one.  God’s prescription for restoration in the Shepherd Psalm of David is not a cheap prescription for rehabilitation.  It takes time and it’s costly, but it works.  It has worked for me and for scores of others I know personally.  It can also work for you.

When you suffer great loss you can focus on what you have lost and be depressed, or you can focus on what you still have and be restored.  Are you willing to join those who invest again with dignity?

The Pursuit of God

May 7, 2010

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”  (Luke 11:9)

 The preaching of Jesus quoted above from Luke’s Gospel is repeated in the seventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew.  Jesus challenges us in these two places to ask, to seek and to knock.  Seeking is intense asking and knocking is intense seeking.  The context will show you that He was not speaking of the forgiveness of sins or of faith.  He was speaking of knowing God in a real and personal way.  Revised translations will show you that this asking, seeking and knocking is to be continuous and with great perseverance.  This is what the theologians call “Importunate prayer.”

This exhortation is followed by the absolute promise that everyone who asks will receive and everyone who seeks will find and everyone who is willing to knock on the door of knowing God will find that door opening to them.  If your personal pursuit of God isn’t working in this way you have two choices. You can question the integrity of the One who made these promises, or you can consider the possibility that your pursuit of God may be flawed.

If this is a new thought to you I challenge you to take Jesus up on His challenge.  The context of this teaching as quoted above was that Jesus was a Man of intense prayer and His disciples were not.  This was His response to their request to teach them what He knew about prayer that they obviously did not know.  I challenge you to prioritize much time to intentionally pursue God. Your pursuit of God could be the greatest pursuit of your life!

A Time to Remember and a Time to Forget

May 3, 2010

“… but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal…”  (Philippians 3:13, 14)

 In many places throughout the Bible we read the exhortation to remember.  Throughout the Old Testament we read that the people of God had experiences with God that God never wanted them to forget.  He therefore commanded them to build some kind of monument that would remind them of that experience.  In the book of Deuteronomy as God repeated the law through Moses we often read the exhortation to remember!

 In the New Testament as Paul writes to the Church in Ephesus, since he had taught them longer and more thoroughly than any other church he planted, he tells them again and again to remember what they had learned when he was with them.

 However, when Paul writes to the Church at Philippi we hear him sift his priorities down to one thing.  That one thing is to forget the things that are behind and press forward toward his goal. We must, therefore, conclude that there is a time to remember and a time to forget.  For example, when we confess our sins God forgives and forgets them, but even though we know that, we remember our sins and carry our guilt baggage with us for decades.  We therefore need to remember what God remembers (that we are sinners), and forget what God forgets (our sins).

 Are you willing to honor the beautiful reality that there is a time to remember and a time to forget?  Especially when you sin are you willing to remember what God remembers and forget what God forgets?

Three Ways God Speaks

April 26, 2010

“The heavens declare the glory of God…The Law of the Lord is perfect…the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart…” (Psalm 19: 1, 7, 14)

In the Nineteenth Psalm David writes that every day and every night God is preaching a sermon through the heavenly bodies.  The text of that sermon is the glory of God.  The “firmament” or space in which those bodies exist is also preaching a sermon.  Space preaches to us about the infinite size of God.

His thoughts then turn to the “Special Revelation” of God.  That’s what the theologians call the “Word of God” and David calls the “Law of God.”  David is impressed and impresses us with what the Word of God can do:  The Word can convert the soul, enlighten the eyes and make wise the simple.  The Word can rejoice the heart, and since the Word is true and righteous altogether it will endure forever.  So will the one whose soul has been converted by the Word.  As David meditates on what the Word can do, he claims that the Word is more to be desired than much pure gold.

Having reflected on what we might call “Natural Revelation” and “Biblical Revelation” he next guides us to consider “Personal Revelation.” His thought is that God’s revelation through nature is magnificent and beautiful.  His revelation through Scripture is miraculous and perfect.  But what about His revelation through His people like you and me?

One more thing Scripture can do is warn us about secret and willful, premeditated sins that mar the revelation of God through us His people. Are we willing to track with David through these three ways God speaks and then pray that God’s revelation through us will be acceptable in His sight?

How to Get Down Loose When You’re Uptight

April 23, 2010

“Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 4:5)

In this Psalm David has insomnia because he is doing the expedient thing rather than what is right.  He’s doing this because if he does the right thing he cannot see how he can possibly survive.  Since he is a man of deep spiritual integrity this keeps him awake all night. In the middle of the night he resolves in his heart that he is going to make whatever sacrifices he must make to do what is right and then trust the Lord for his survival.  This decision changes his emotional climate from anxiety and insomnia to one of peace and peaceful sleep.

His motivation is that there are many people who are asking “Who will show us something good?” In other words, these people are looking for someone who will do what is right even if it costs them everything they have to do right.

The Psalm begins with a prayer that is addressed to the God Who relieves us when we are in distress.  If you want to know what distress is just drop the first two letters of the word and you know that this Psalm is all about being relieved from our (di) stress.

If you are a spiritually oriented person and you’re not doing what is right because you cannot see how you can survive if you do, are you willing to resolve to make whatever sacrifices you must make to do what is right and then trust God for the outcome?  This would totally convert your emotional climate and be a tremendous witness to those who are looking for someone who is willing to offer to God the sacrifices of righteousness.

Righteousness and Love

April 13, 2010

“….Blessed are the merciful …  Blessed are the pure in heart …” (Matthew5:7&8)

Jesus begins His greatest discourse with a “check up from the neck up.” He teaches eight attitudes that can make His disciple salt and light, and one of His solutions and answers to what is wrong with this crazy world.  These eight attitudes come in pairs.  The third pair as quoted above is to be merciful with a pure heart.

One scholar writes that these blessed attitudes are like climbing a mountain.  The first pair takes us halfway up the mountain and the second pair takes us to the top of the mountain.  The third pair takes us half way down the other side of the mountain.

The profound simplicity of Jesus is asking the questions “When one is filled with righteousness that takes them to the top of the mountain what kind of person are they?  Are they Bible experts who throw the book at people?”  No!  They are filled with mercy (which is unconditional love), and while they love in this way they are pure in heart.

To be pure in heart is only understood when we research the Greek word that is used here for pure.  It is the word from which we get our word to be catheterized.  It means that as this disciple is merciful they have a catharsis through which everything that is not the unconditional love of Christ is removed from their heart.

If you want to be one of the solutions and answers of Jesus in this world today hunger and thirst for what is right and you will find that love is right and right is love. Being a conduit of that love will make you the salt and light of Jesus.

Wishing You a Personal Easter

April 4, 2010

“Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19)

There are many ways we can prove the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In that culture, the testimony of 2 eyewitnesses was enough to prove something in court.  The Apostle Paul writes that he could produce more than 500 eyewitnesses of His resurrection.  All 12 of the apostles were Jews and their day of worship was the seventh day of the week.  They changed that day to the first day of the week.  Why would they do this?  They call it “The Lord’s Day” in memory of His resurrection.  Every time the followers of Christ all over the world meet to worship on Sunday they are proving His resurrection.

It is also an important Easter observation to consider what was proven by the resurrection of Jesus.  In the Gospel of John we read that the leaders of the Jewish religious establishment asked Jesus for a sign, or miraculous evidence that would prove His claims about Himself. Pointing to His own body He gave the answer recorded above.

Throughout the Gospel of John the apostle records many evidences Jesus gave that proved who He was, what He was, and why He was here.  The most important of these evidences was this prediction of His resurrection.  When He was raised from the dead He proved the many claims He made about Himself as recorded by John.

 The two Gospel facts are that Jesus died and rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15: 1-4).  As you consider the proofs of His resurrection and what His resurrection proved, would you like to make this a personal Easter by believing He died and rose again for your personal salvation?

What’s Good about Good Friday?

April 2, 2010

“All we like sheep have gone astray;We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”(Isaiah 53:6)

 If you want to know what is good about Good Friday the verse quoted above will tell you.  This verse describes with great clarity the meaning of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross when it begins and ends with the same word.  That word is “all.” The verse begins with what we might call “the bad news.”  Isaiah tells us that all of us are like little sheep and have gone astray.  We have turned every single one of us, to our own way.  If you want to know the meaning of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, agree that you yourself are included in that first all.

 The all with which this verse concludes is what we might call “the good news.” Isaiah ends this verse by telling us that the penalty for all the things we have done after turning to our own way has been laid on Him (meaning Jesus).  I don’t know about you, but for me that is very, very good news!  If you and I will confess that we are included in the first and the last all in this great Gospel verse then we know what we need to know and we have done all we need to do to turn our bad news into good news.  And we know what is good about Good Friday.

  If you want to make the Friday of Holy Week a Good Friday, believe what Isaiah has written.  That will make all of your days good days.

What Really Happened on Palm Sunday?

March 27, 2010

“Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” (Matthew 21: 43, 44)

Most of us know that on Palm Sunday we commemorate the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.  Have you ever considered what Jesus did when He got off that donkey?  He cleansed the Temple and then gave a series of scathing messages to the leaders of the Jewish religious establishment.

The essence of those messages was that Jesus formally and officially fired Israel!  He took the Kingdom of God from them and said He was giving it to a people who would bring forth the fruits of that kingdom.  In these messages He declared a principle about the way God works.  Jesus claimed that He Himself is a Stone and when those who profess to be His followers fall on Him and are broken to His will as the King of the kingdom of God, they bring forth the fruits of His Kingdom.  When they no longer do that, this Stone falls on them and crushes them to powder.

In other words, God moves His headquarters.  There was a time when God worked from what we call the “Holy Land,” He then moved to Asia Minor, then Europe and America.  Many believe it’s an interesting observation that the largest churches in the world are now in Korea.  Could God work primarily from Asia, perhaps China in the 21st century?

Since there is a sense in which the Kingdom is now within us, how do you personally apply what really happened on Palm Sunday?