Monday, October 16, 2006

James 2:26

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
(NIV)


Here it is one more time. The only question that one might try to pose is this, "Does dead faith still save?"

My answer to this question is, I think, the obvious answer: a resounding NO. Dead faith is not a saving faith.

Friday, October 13, 2006

James 2:25

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?
(NIV)


Here is another Old Testament example. Here is Rahab, whose life was not at all about God, yet here is God knocking at her door. When the spies came, she chose to align herself with God's side. This was an act of faith, seeing that from a world's point of view, the Israelites didn't have a chance against the walls of Jericho. But we know the rest of the story, and Rahab's faith is remembered.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

James 2:24

You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
(NIV)


Last night this example came to me:

Let's say that there are two little boys sitting on the ground, quietly playing with their toys. Their mothers, just moments ago, told them to do that exact thing. One might go up and say how obedient these two children are. They are both sitting there and playing with their toys.

Then the moms come over and each of them tells their own child to pick up the toys, it is time for bed. You can see on both of their faces that stopping playing wasn't their idea of the best thing for the moment, but one of them gets up and starts picking up their toys. The other one continues to play, then that mom again has to tell him to stop. Before long it has become a battle of the wills, and eventually the child has to be picked up kicking and screaming. The mother simply considers the toys a loss and fights her way over to the car with the wiggling child.

Where they both obedient children? I don't think so.

Faith is so much the same as obedience in many ways, mostly because faith in God isn't a simple admittance of existence. No, it is much more than that. Faith in God is to truly believe that God's way is better. That God's way is THE WAY. He is the truth and the life. When one is a Christian they will choose God's way over any other way because they believe that His way is better. They believe that it goes on to joy and happiness. They know that the other ways of life lead in misery. So when God's way opposes their own selfish desires, their is no doubt about it, they will choose God's way. It may be a struggle at times, but it is a belief and a conviction, and they know they really don't have any other choice.

The child who ended up going against the mother was never really obedient. Playing with toys is what He wanted to do. The true test of whether or not there was a heart of obedience was when the child was asked to do something against self. Faith is the same way.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

James 2:21-23

Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend.
(NIV)


Here is the evidence. We all know that Abraham was a man of faith, but I have come to believe that one of the key factors in whether or not a person's faith is genuine, is when they come to that point of decision and they choose God's way.

Choosing God's way is always a step of faith. God's way doesn't always seem the best from our viewpoint. Sometimes God's way seems to be the most difficult way. So faith is what bridges that gap and then we act in obedience. This is how our actions are the evidence of faith.

When a person chooses to deny self and follow Christ, they have evidenced true faith. When a person comes to that point of decision and simply states, "I know what God would have me to do, but I just don't want to do it" and then they don't do it... their lack of true faith is evident.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

James 2:20

You foolish man,
do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?

(NIV)


I love it when a Bible author just throws it out there like that. He has laid it out, and if you really think about this passage so far, it makes great sense. Still the author knows that there will be those who doubt this. There will be those lazy gluttons who think that they can have faith without works. That they can be true believers, yet be followers of self.

You fools. Is it so difficult to see?

Paul states in Philippians 1:6 that we are to be confident, "...that He who began a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." This salvation that we claim is truly and accurately a work of God.

Be glad though, that the author does go on to offer more explanation. Though the doubting is foolish, he still presents the evidence.

Monday, October 09, 2006

James 2:19

You believe that there is one God. Good!
Even the demons believe thatĂ‚—and shudder.

(NIV)


John 3:16 also talks about belief. In fact, it is the same greek word for believe that is used here, as it is in John 3:16. Yet the belief that John describes leads to eternal life. What is the difference?

It is simple, really. James is talking about believing that there is a God. You can believe that Christ died on the cross, you can believe that God created the world, you can believe that the Bible stories are all true, but if you do not take that belief and put it in God, then it is useless. The belief that brings eternal life is the belief that changes every aspect of you. You have placed every confidence within God himself. And the only way that we can observe this is through a changed life... deeds... works. They are the evidence.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

James 2:18

But someone will say,
       "You have faith; I have deeds."
Show me your faith without deeds,
       and I will show you my faith by what I do.

(NIV)


Man cannot look into the heart and determine whether or not there is really faith there. The Bible even talks about the possibility of deceiving ourselves about our salvation. Sin is such a blinding agent.

In this passage we are taught how we might "see" faith. It is the same way that one might say that they know that there is seed growing in the ground. If you look at a spot of soil, and there is nothing there, one might doubt whether or not there is really a seed that has taken root there. Especially if it is a seed that has been in the ground for a long time. But when a sprout shoots up and leaves begin to grow and the stalk of the small plant reaches toward the sun, then you know that there is a seed there that has taken root. The invisible has become visible.

Faith is the same way. It produces works, and we may show our faith both to ourselves and to others by the things that we do.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

James 2:17

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
(NIV)


It couldn't get any simpler than that.

The Bible's teaching is clear: Faith produces works. You can't get around it.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

James 2:15-16

Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?
(NIV)


Imagine this scenario in reality.

A friend (note that it is a brother or sister) comes to your door. The friend is desperate. They are in need of food and clothing.

You calmly look at them, and with a smile that is filled with calmness, you say, "My friend, you have come to the right place. Here you will receive help. Please, depart both warmed and filled."

...then you shut the door.

Can you see how worthless the words are? Wouldn't you say that the person must not have even meant the words?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

James 2:14

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?
(NIV)


A question with an obvious answer.

Faith without deeds does no good. If a man says that he has faith, but does not have deeds, what is the point? There is no good there. Can it even save a person?

We have been taught so many places in the scriptures that our works cannot save us. We are evil, vile, immoral people. We most assuredly cannot save ourselves by being good, and doing the works of God.

The only answer to our dilemma was Jesus Christ Himself. He came and did the life for us. He was righteousness personified. Then He died so that we might live. So we cling to Him in faith. Trusting that His word is true, that His gospel is real.

Then some stop there. They do not want to be saved from their worldly lifestyle. They simply want their ticket to heaven, or maybe I should say, they want their pass out of hell. They claim this saving faith is theirs, but there is no evidence of it.

So, James says, "Can such faith save?"

Surely we know the answer already. No, it cannot save. For real, true saving faith... saves a man. He is saved from this life that he was leading, and he turns to God.

Faith without works is good for nothing.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Psalm 62:11-12

Once God has spoken;
    Twice I have heard this:
That power belongs to God;
    And lovingkindness is Yours, O Lord,
For You recompense a man according to his work.

(NASB)


These two verses go together.

The first thing that the Psalmist has learned from God is that He is powerful. He is sovereignly in control. There is none like Him in the extent of power, insomuch as power belongs to him. All that happens, happens because of Him.

That alone would be an element of fear. To have one being that was in control to do as He wishes, that alone would be a thing of dread.

This power that God holds does not come alone. It is perfectly coupled with His grace (His lovingkindness). Together, these two qualities are something to run to, not away from. This culminates the idea of God as a stronghold and a fortress. There is safety in Him.

The one with all power is seeking out our good in all things.

This is a combination worthy of our praise, our adoration, and our loyalty.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Psalm 62:10

Do not trust in oppression
And do not vainly hope in robbery;
If riches increase, do not set your heart upon them.
(NASB)

This verse is directed more to those who might go all out to get the things that they think they need. They eventually resort to sinful methods of gain: oppression and robbery.

Even if this works, even if they get away with it for a season, they shouldn't (and won't) trust in it. It is a fleeting gain.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Psalm 62:9

Men of low degree are only vanity
    and men of rank are a lie;
In the balances they go up;
    They are together lighter than breath.

(NASB)


Rank makes no difference in the Kingdom of God. All together our little prestiges add up to nothing. The low born men are an emptiness. The men that have some great position, it is all a lie. It has no lasting value.

The only thing that has substance is God Himself.

This Psalm is a plea to give your life to God. He is worth it! He is the only one who is worthy.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Psalm 62:8

Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us.
Selah.
(NASB)


The author of this Psalm has reminded himself, he has pleaded with himself, and now he is calling out to those around him. He is letting the people know that God is trustworthy. You can pour your heart out to Him, and it will not return void, for He is a God who cares, and is a refuge for us.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Psalm 62:7

On God my salvation and my glory rest;
The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.

(NASB)


He is our salvation, but He is also our glory. We have nothing to glory in. If there is anything good, it is because of God's work in us. Our glory rests in Christ.

Do you have something about yourself which you are proud of? Don't be. If there is anything in you or about you that is worthy of glory, it is because of Christ.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Psalm 62:6

He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be shaken.

(NASB)


In verse 2 He makes a comment about not being greatly shaken, or exceedingly shaken. Here in verse 6 the Psalmist adds, I shall not be moved at all. It is a slight difference in the original, but it definitely shows a progression. His trust builds as he is putting his hope in the true stronhold.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Psalm 62:5

My soul, wait in silence for God only,
For my hope is from Him.

(NASB)

Waiting in silence for God only, (or as it says in the NIV, finding rest in God alone,) is restated here, this time almost as a command to the soul. It is almost as if the author is reminding himself, "Your only hope is in God! The only place that you can go to find peace is in His strongholds! Why are you seeking other things? Why are you idolizing things that can't satisfy? Seek God and God alone!"

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Psalm 62:4

They fully intend to topple him
     from his lofty place;
     they take delight in lies.
With their mouths they bless,
     but in their hearts they curse.
Selah

(NIV)


As the Psalmist wrote these words, he had in mind those who were out to get him, to bring him down. You may not have any people who are wanting to do that, but many times we have the lusts in our own hearts that are aiming at the same end.

The Bible says that the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. Many times our own hearts are lying to us. The inner self is seeking to meet its own needs. It is telling us the wrong things.

Maybe it is telling you that some particular thing isn't actually wrong, when you know it is. Maybe your heart is telling you that you simply can't do something, you are not worthy of service to the Lord, when you know that is a false humility to disguise your fear of man or your laziness.

Whatever is trying to topple you down... seek the strong refuge of Christ. Allow His words of truth to penetrate your deceptive heart.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Psalm 62:3

How long will you assault a man?
Would all of you throw him downĂ‚—
this leaning wall, this tottering fence?
(NIV)

Psalm 62 is one of my favorite Psalms. I have read it many times. When I used to read it, I would skim over this verse and the others like it in this passage. They didn't really seem to apply to me because I didn't really have anyone trying to topple me down.

As I have grown older, these verses have taken on meaning for me. I may not be in some position of leadership where there are people trying to destroy me or my reputation, but I have definitely felt like there were things in my life that were assaulting me. And I have most definitely been a leaning wall and a tottering fence. By myself I have not been a strong tower.

I also used to think of other leaders as those strong towers, but they are not. If there is anyone in Christian leadership who has maintained his strength, it is because he is resting firmly in the strongholds of Jesus Christ. This is a good lesson to learn, it gives you the right kind of confidence, and the right type of strength.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Psalm 62:2

He only is my rock and my salvation,
My (D)stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.

(NASB)


Here again we can see that salvation is found in God alone. I believe that this is one of the points that the psalmist is trying to emphasize in this particular psalm. We cannot seek our salvation in anything else. We also cannot seek our salvation in any combination of God with something else. He is a jealous God, who will not share worship.

But He is such a great salvation. He will not share, because He made us and knows that divided worship won't work. He is a rock and a fortress, when it is He alone. We will not be toppled down as long as we are in Him.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Psalm 62:1

My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him.

(NIV)


There is a huge, massive truth in this verse. It is a truth about the very nature of man. It is a truth about the key to a happy, fulfilled existence.

In this passage, the word soul is the hebrew word nephesh, which is not referring to the immortal soul, it is referring to "...self, life, creature, person, appetite, mind, living being, desire, emotion, or passion..." This part of the man will find peace in God alone.

As humans though we seek to find peace in everything imaginable, in every created thing. Peace and happiness will elude us as long as we seek it in these temporary things. True peace will only be found in the creator. The only one that is worthy of our passions, appetites, thoughts, emotions, etc. is God Himself!

God knows this, so he has told us this time and time again. He commands it in the ten commandments, "...You shall have no other gods before me." Jesus tells us that the summary of the Law and the Prophets (the Old Testament) is to "...love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength." These commands were not meant to control and bind us, but to liberate us to a free and happy existence.

Lay aside all of those other gods that you are seeking after, and look to the only one that can give your soul peace. Your salvation from those other things is in Him.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Hebrews 11:40

God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
(NIV)


The idea is here that the faith from before combined with the faith afterwords, makes a perfect picture. Together with them the circle of faith is completed.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Hebrews 11:39

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.
(NIV)


This great testimony to those who chose to live their lives by faith, is for us to read. We can see here that they were commended for their faith, a faith that was never fulfilled. It never received what it was hoping for, it believed without seeing.

Our faith is much the same. We have God's Word, but we do not have Him here with us. We are asked to believe, without seeing.

May your faith be the substance and the evidence of the promise. May you truly believe today.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Hebrews 11:32-38

And what more shall I say?

I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised;

who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword;

whose weakness was turned to strength;

and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.

Women received back their dead, raised to life again.

Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection.

Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison.

They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword.

They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—

the world was not worthy of them.

They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.


Even though I try to do a verse a day, I could not seperate these verses. It is such a profound statement of true faith. I would like to encourage you to just read through this passage a couple of times. All the while, asking God to impact your life with these testimonies of faith.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Hebrews 11:31

By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
(NIV)

God is so amazing. Here we have a woman who had been a prostitute, and she has made it into this Hall of Faith. She is also mentioned in the lineage of Jesus.

We shouldn't be surprised at this, though. We serve a God who saves, a God who changes lives. We serve a God who, I believe, enjoys taking the muck and the mire of this world and using it to bring glory to his name. No one ever needs to worry about where they have been. God is bigger than any sinful choices that we have made, and the blood of Christ can cover all sins!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Hebrews 11:30

By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.
(NIV)


Marching around that city would have taken a great act of faith. The act of a group of that size, acting as one, in faith, was amazing. This kind of thing doesn't happen very often, and it is well deserving of the Hall of Faith.

Are you part of a group? Is there anything that you are needing to accomplish that would require this kind of faith?

Then, march together. Believe that God will do what He has promised.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Hebrews 11:29

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
(NIV)


Most assuredly one of the highlights for the Children of Israel during their exodus, is this event. There are so many times that they fall into other things like idolatry, murmuring, complaining, fear, more murmuring, disobedience, etc. Their journey to the promised land is marred by so many bad choices.

...like many of us.

I can remember as a child hearing about the Israelites traveling in the wilderness and thinking how they were such slow learners. I mean, how could they watch a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night lead them, and then turn around and start complaining that God wasn't going to take care of them. I used to think that was ridiculous.

At least I used to think that.

I know that our own lives are very marred by wrong choices as well, but as I read this passage, I was struck by the thought of how God has remembered their faith. The faith that got them out of Egypt is added to this "hall of faith" even though... or maybe, in spite of some of the other bad decisions they made later.

We know that it is by grace, through faith that you are saved. Rest assured that when you have gone down the wrong path, when you have followed the way of the Children of Israel and begun to murmur and complain; remember that your faith will be remembered. Our great high priest, Jesus Christ, is working continually; interceding for us. He is reminding God of our faith, and of his death that paid the price for the sins that we have committed.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Hebrews 11:28

By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.
(NIV)


God had made a promise. He had promised that if they put the blood on the door posts, then they would be saved from death. Were they trusting in the blood? No. The blood did not have any magical powers that would repel angels of death. This is not some formula that needs to be followed.

They were putting their faith in the promises of God. They were trusting in who God is. Our God keeps His word. His promises are true.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Hebrews 11:27

By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.
(NIV)


Oh, he knew that the king would be mad, but that didn't stop him. There was another player in this scenario that was blatantly evident to Moses. It was God whom he feared.

History is full of people who did not fear an earthly king. People who stood opposed, not because of a political concern, but for the sake of Christ. People who stood even when death was evident.

In your life today, do not fear the kings, fear the ONE TRUE KING! Honor Him above all else. Don't be afraid of what the people of eart can do.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Hebrews 11:26

He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.
(NIV)


I find this verse interesting because of the mention of Christ. The writer of Hebrews is making this amazing connection between Moses, choosing to be identified with the people of God, and this shared disgrace with Christ.

There are only two sides. You can be on the side of Christ, on the side of His people, on the side of what is right, or you can align yourself with the world. There are no in-betweens, no third sides.

Look ahead for your reward. Don't put your treasure in the things of this world, for where your treasure is, there will your heart also be.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Hebrews 11:24-25

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.
(NIV)


Moses had the chance to align himself with the rich and the famous. He had the opportunity to really make it in this world. To be the son of Pharaoh's daughter, the possibilities could have seemed endless.

The world wants to paint that picture for us. A place that is endless in possibility. But Moses knew that the pleasures of sin only last a season. He knew that to truly have endless possibility, it would require the alignment with the people of God, so that is exactly what he did.

How did he know to do this? How did he know that he couldn't continue on with pharoah? The answer to that is Faith. It was faith that brought sight to this man. It is faith that will allow you to see clearly in your decision making process.

Some other thoughts about this passage at this post.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Hebrews 11:23

By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king's edict.
(NIV)


My first thought when I read this was, "Well, what parent doesn't think that?" Most parents think that their child is no ordinary child those first three months. I know that I still think of my two boys as extraordinary. I know that the creator God has designed them in a unique way. I know that they have talents that have been given to them to serve the King.

I may not get the chance to see my son stand toe to toe with a pharaoh of Egypt or call down plagues, but I do think that I will get the chance to see them serve their purpose.

I also want to point out that Moses' parents hid him for those three months. They didn't flaunt him, the chose a course of action that was very practical. Some would have you think that if it isn't flamboyant and take unnecessary risks, then it isn't faith. According to this verse, that isn't true. Moses' parents acted in faith, but they also used the brains that God had given them.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Hebrews 11:22

By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.
(NIV)


Joseph held to the promises of God. He knew that the Israelites would not stay in Egypt. He knew that eventually they would leave. When he spoke of it, he spoke of something that would happen, not something that could happen. He knew this with such assurety that he even told them to take his bones with them.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Hebrews 11:21

By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
(NIV)


Jacob, the deceiver, had changed over time. No longer is he trying to work everything out himself. Instead he is fully dependent on the God of his father and his grandfather.

Now, in Egypt, he blesses Joseph's sons. He wants to pass the promise down, so that they might live by faith. He worships God, not laying down, because Egypt is not his home. He leans on the top of his staff, ready to go.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Hebrews 11:20

By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.
(NIV)


Isaac had not forgotten the promise. He spoke of the future of his sons by faith. He believed that God would fulfill his promises, even though the promise had not come true yet.

I can remember as a child, thinking to myself about this promise. Here Abraham had been promised that his offspring would be numbered like the stars, then he only had one true son. After him Isaac, also a recipient of this same promise only has two sons, and only one of them is recipient of the promise. I can remember thinking to myself how difficult that would be for them to really believe that. Nearly three generations go by and there is still only one person that is recipient to the promise. If it had been me, I would be seriously questioning the process. How are we going to fulfill this promise if we can't get more than one guy?!

God's timing is perfect though. Now we can see the fulfillment of that promise. We can understand it to its fullest. The forefathers of faith only saw it from a distance, but they still believed.

O Lord, help me to believe today. I have so much more than they did. I know so much more of your promises than they ever knew. Help me to have the faith of Abraham and Isaac.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Hebrews 11:17-19

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.
(NIV)


Here we see again Abraham's great faith. He believed God's promise, no matter what else came along, no matter what else God would tell him to do; Abraham was going to stand firm in the promise. He knew that what God said -- He did.

The story of Abraham taking his son to the mountain to offer as a sacrifice, has been told for ages. It has almost become the key example of faith and obedience, which go hand in hand. You cannot have faith without obedience. James puts it this way, "...faith without works is dead, being alone."

Abraham was dedicated to obedience to God. Abraham was also a father that was so full of faith, that he staked the very life of his son, whom he loved, on that faith. His belief in who God was, was paramount in his life.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Hebrews 11:16

Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
(NIV)


My favorite part of this verse is when it says, "Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God..."

I know that there are times that I have felt ashamed to be hanging around with certain people. When I was out in public with them, I felt a little embarrassed. Maybe it was how they acted, or the way they looked. Whatever it was, my pride hindered me from wanting to be seen with them, because I did not want to be associated with them.

Sometimes that is a good thing. There are certain people who you would most definitely not want to be associated with, but it is not like that with God.

He is not ashamed to "be seen" with us, even though He is so much higher than we are. When we go out in public, He has no problem branding His own name on us. We have sought His city, a heavenly city, therefore He has prepared one for us.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Hebrews 11:15

If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.
(NIV)


This verse reminds me of Lot's wife. You remember that story from Sunday School, don't you? Lot's family is fleeing Sodom at the warning of the two angels. One of the last commands that they are given before they leave is, "Do not look back!" As they are running across the hills the towns are being destroyed by fire and brimstone. Lot's wife takes a glance back and is suddenly turned into a pillar of salt.

Lot's wife wanted to partake in Sodom, she wanted to live there and partake in that kind of life. Even though leaving meant salvation, she still longed for what she was leaving. So she became a partaker in their fate.

People of faith do not look back. They look for and long for the country to which they are heading. If they would have looked back, they would have gone back, but faith does not look back.

When we choose to leave this world and follow after Christ, there should be no looking back. Once a man came to Christ and said, "Lord, I want to follow you... but... um...first I want to bury my father."

Jesus responded with, "Let the dead bury their dead."

What a statement, but you can't be looking back when you chase after Christ. There can be no looking over the shoulder and no hesitation. We are leaving that country, and have already become citizens of heaven.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Hebrews 11:14

People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.
(NIV)


This is referring to the previous verse where Abraham considered himself a stranger and an alien in this world. This is an important understanding of this world, that it is not our permanent home. Many don't believe that. They believe that this is it, that this is "...as good as it gets."

Abraham and the others that live by faith, demonstrate that they have a better understanding of reality when they are seeking something permanent, something real.

Do not put your hopes and dreams into things that will not last. Choose to, by faith, seek a country that will last, that you can call your home.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Hebrews 11:13

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.
(NIV)


When Abraham died, he only had one child. The promise was for descendants like the sands of the sea, yet he had only one. To many, this could have been a difficult thing at the end of life. To trust and trust and trust, and never see the promise fulfilled.

Abraham did not despair. Even though he tried to handle things himself from time to time, he ultimately lived a life of faith. In fact, he had such faith that he treated the promise as if it had already been fulfilled. He welcomed those things.

He fully recognized that this world is just a place that we are passing through. We are pilgrims, on our way to a better country, a better city. We are aliens and strangers here.



Oh Lord, open my eyes today. Peel back those scales and allow me to see this world for what it is. Help me to walk this pilgrimage by faith, seeing what is not yet seen. I want to welcome the heavenly kingdom, of which I am already a citizen, as if I was already there.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Hebrews 11:11-12

By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
(NIV)


In Galatians 6:7, Paul tells us, "Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham." When God promised that through Abraham there would be children without number, we were included in that as well. We follow in our father's footsteps if we walk in faith.

Jesus even tells us that there will be many who sit at the feast with Abraham. What an amazing moment that will be. When we can see a man who truly lived by faith, who we have read about and studied. We will one day sit at a feast with him.

Choose today to walk by faith. Don't simply make your decisions by sight alone. Of course we need to be good stewards and make wise choices, but don't allow the things you see display more influence than the things you do not see.

Choose today to walk by faith, then you will be a partaker in the fellowship with Christ, as a descendant of Abraham.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Hebrews 11:9-10

By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
(NIV)


I love that quote, "...he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God."

We are living in tents. The possessions we have, the homes we live in, and yes, even our own bodies are perishable. They are tents. They are mobile, and they do not last. They are most assuredly not a permanent dwelling.

Like Abraham, we need to look forward to that city with foundations. Something permanent. Something built by the master builder Himself.

What are you looking forward to?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Hebrews 11:8

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.
(NIV)


It seems so easy when we read it in the Bible. "Oh sure, Abraham..." we say. "He was a man of faith. Went to the promised land, he did, when God asked him to. No questions asked."

We sit back and relax, then God asks us to do something. Maybe it is to be obedient to your boss, even though your boss shows no love for you. Maybe it is to love your spouse without any surety that your spouse will love you in return. It could be that God is asking you to tell the truth, when the truth will bring trouble and pain to the hearers.

According to this verse, Abraham did not know where he was going. He had no surety that it would work out the way he would want it to.

Trust in Him today.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Hebrews 11:7

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
(NIV)


Some speculate that before the flood, the earth had never seen rain. There are alot of theories that go along with this, and many of them make sense, but imagine Noah being told that the earth is going to be destroyed by water. Very hard to believe, yet he believed it, and staked his entire reputation on it.

He preached for years, condemning the world, without a single convert. He followed God's instructions. He lived in a way that convinced his family, and his family, in full submission to him, followed him and his faith.

He became the recipient, not only of a salvation from the waters, but of a salvation from the evil world that surrounded him. He was an heir to righteousness because of this faith.

Thousands of years before Paul wrote about salvation, men were being saved by grace through faith.

Are we willing to follow God's commands today? Are we willing to stake our reputations on this Jesus? Are we willing to stand out, like a boat in a desert, for Christ?

Choose to follow after God today in holy fear.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Hebrews 11:6

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
(NIV)


This verse almost stands out as an "...oh and by the way..." We have already read of two examples of faith and the author wanted to remind us that without this faith that he has been speaking of, it is impossible to please God. Faith isn't just some extra bonus of being a follower; it is essential, it is the foundation of a God follower.

In our choices in life we have two: please God or please self. There are no other alternatives. So, we must choose between these two. We must choose ultimately and we must choose daily. This choice must also be done through the power of God. It can't be done in our own power, it must be done in faith.

Faith isn't only believing in the existence of God, it is believing in His activity in this World. It is believing that our dailiy choices are noticed by Him. True faith changes us. It is living and not dead.

Where is your faith? What is it in? Are you seeking to please God today?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Hebrews 11:5

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.
(NIV)


Here is Enoch. We don't know much about Enoch in this verse except that he was commended by God as one who was pleasing to Him. We also know that he was taken from this world, that he did not taste of death because God took him.

That is pretty amazing. To be taken out of this world by God. There is at least one other case of this happening in the Bible, it is with Elijah. Elijah was taken in a "fiery chariot." Elisha was there to witness this event, and then from that took Elijah's place as the prominent prophet of that time.

We don't know if Enoch was taken in a fiery chariot or not, but we do know that he was taken "by faith." This makes it all that more interesting to me. It adds an element to faith. It is faith that acts as the emulsifying agent between God and man. Therefore Enoch's faith is what made it possible for him to be taken by God.

If you look back to Genesis for a moment to learn more about Enoch, you might be disappointed. There isn't much to learn there, as far as length of narrative. All we see is this short little narrative about Enoch right in the middle of this long genealogy between Adam and Noah. Genesis 5:21-24 states,

When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.
(NIV)

It really is a cool passage though. Right in the middle of he was born... he had children... he died... he was born... he had children... he died... etc., we see some glimmer of life!

When Enoch was 65, he had Methuselah, then it states that, Enoch walked with God for 300 years! Enoch, unlike the death that was surrounding him, which just keeps echoing the curse, chooses to walk with God.

This walk with God brings him faith and life. This walk was so close to God that God chose to take him. Maybe even a glimmer of what was to come. That all who have faith in God will not ultimately see death, but will see life.

If your life were summarized, would it speak of your walking with God? Would it speak of your faith?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Hebrews 11:4

By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.
(NIV)


Here we have the first person listed in this "Hall of Faith." Here we have Abel, who we know so little about, but we do know that it was faith that was at work in his life.

This is hugely important for several reasons. One is that Abel was a real man and not some myth. Next, notice that even though there was no written word at this time, it is his faith, not his deeds that declared him to be a righteous man.

It is also interesting that his faith allows him to speak, even though he is dead.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Hebrews 11:3

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
(NIV)


At God's command, the universe was formed. I don't know whether or not there was a bang when this happened, but by faith I know that the matter that composes this universe wasn't originally all in one place. There was a time when this did not exist. What we see came from that which is not seen.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Hebrews 11:2

This is what the ancients were commended for.
(NIV)


I almost added this verse in with the previous one. Mostly because it was so short, and it didn't seem that important of a verse to merit its own post.

Then I read it by itself and the importance of this verse sank in. You see, faith is what the ancients were commended for. Each of these people have been participants with God in some pretty amazing deeds, but these deeds are simply a result of true faith.

As James puts it, in James 2:22-24,

You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.


Truly, faith without works is a dead, unsaving faith.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
(NIV)


Surety and certainty are invaluable in this unsure and uncertain world in which we live. Faith is a solid rock in a world made of sand. The things we cannot see are evidenced by faith, and by faith we can know God and see Him.

Do you have that faith?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Proverbs 27:25-27

When the hay is removed and new growth appears
    and the grass from the hills is gathered in,
the lambs will provide you with clothing,
    and the goats with the price of a field.
You will have plenty of goats' milk
    to feed you and your family
    and to nourish your servant girls.

(NIV)


These verses go so well with the previous two verses.

If you keep close watch on your flocks and fields, then you will not be in lack of provision. The farm will go the way it is supposed to go.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Proverbs 27:23-24

Be sure you know the condition of your flocks,
    give careful attention to your herds;
for riches do not endure forever,
    and a crown is not secure for all generations.

(NIV)


There are many applications for this verse. One of them that popped into my mind right away was for a Christian School. So many times a Christian School starts off so good. Excellent spiritual emphasis, adherence to the Bible, high moral standards with the student body, etc. But after some years have passed, the good thing that they had is gone.

A big example of this is Harvard. Originally a school that was to train men for the ministry, now the name of God is far from being glorified there.

As a leader, know the condition of your flocks. Pay attention to your herds. The good thing that you have now will not last on its own.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Proverbs 27:22

Though you grind a fool in a mortar,
   grinding him like grain with a pestle,
you will not remove his folly from him.

(NIV)


It is a sad situation to be in if you are a fool.

Those who are in Christ, when they are "ground" by the situations of life, will be sanctified by the process. They will go to God and His word, and the truth will sanctify them.

But not the fool.

Pray today that you are not this fool. Ask God to peel the scales from your eyes and let you see.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Proverbs 27:21

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,
  but man is tested by the praise he receives.

(NIV)


This is an interesting verse. I wasn't for sure what it meant at first. I read it in a few other versions, and when I came to The Message version, the idea which is being presented coalesced in my mind. The Message version states it like this:

The purity of silver and gold is tested
  by putting them in the fire;
The purity of human hearts is tested
  by giving them a little fame.


To test what kind of man a person is, give him a little praise, a little honor. How he reacts to this will reveal his heart.

Turn this verse toward yourself. How do you react to a little praise? Do you respond in humility or pride? Do you crave more or do you turn that praise toward Christ? These are important questions to ask, especially if you are trying to determine the nature of your own heart.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Proverbs 27:20

Death and Destruction are never satisfied,
and neither are the eyes of man.

(NIV)


So true.

We are beings of wants and desires. We are beings of lusts and coveteousness. We always want more, and what we see fuels the fire of this insatiable lust.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Proverbs 27:19

As water reflects a face,
so a man's heart reflects the man.

(NIV)


So many times it is easy to do and think things that are wrong, and then say to yourself, "...that isn't the real me." or "...I don't know where that came from!" But it is important to realize that your heart (your conscious self) is reflecting the real you. Where do those thoughts come from? YOU. Why did you make those choices? Because that is who you are.

The only hope that we have is that Christ will come in and wash us.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Proverbs 27:18

He who tends a fig tree
    will eat its fruit,
and he who looks after his master
    will be honored.

(NIV)


Whatever it is that you do, you should do it well. Look after your job. Don't slack in your parenting. Master each homework assignment that you have to do. Get started on your projects in advance. Keep up to date with what is going on around you. Don't let things slip by without attention.

If you can tend the fig trees in your life, then rest assured that, if God is willing to allow you to tarry here, you will eat of the fruit of your labors.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Proverbs 27:17

As iron sharpens iron,
so one man sharpens another.

(NIV)


A beautiful and profound passage that has etched itself into the hearts of so many people.

Praise God for those people in your life who have served this purpose.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Proverbs 27:16

...restraining her is like restraining the wind
or grasping oil with the hand.

(NIV)


The mental picture here is descriptive enough. Grasping oil with the hand, or restraining the wind are both impossible things.

So, if you have a quarrelsome spouse, the goal is not to restrain. You can't do that anyway. The goal that you must have is to please God in your own life, regardless of what your spouse is doing. Love God first with your own life and efforts. Love those around you next, as a way to love God. You will not change the heart of your spouse, that is God's job anyway. But you can minister to the heart of your spouse, and that is what you should do.

I think that this mentality when dealing with difficult or quarrelsome people doesn't just apply to a marriage. It can also apply to many other relationships. Don't seek to restrain those people in your life.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Proverbs 27:15

A quarrelsome wife is like
a constant dripping on a rainy day;

(NIV)


Another verse that is very true. When you live with someone who is prone to quarrel about every little thing, it is most definitely like a constant dripping.

But for the record, a quarrelsome husband is just as bad.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Proverbs 27:14

If a man loudly blesses his neighbor
early in the morning,
it will be taken as a curse.

(NIV)


This is so true.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Proverbs 27:13

Take the garment of one
who puts up security for a stranger;
hold it in pledge
if he does it for a wayward woman.

(NIV)

This verse is speaking about accountability and keeping your promises.

If someone puts up security for a stranger, they do not know how reliable that person is, but they still need to be held accountable. If someone puts up security for a wayward woman, they know that there is a lack of reliability there, but they still need to be held accountable for the security that they put up.

Even if the promise that has been made is one that shouldn't have been made, it should be kept.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Proverbs 27:12

The prudent see danger and take refuge,
but the simple keep going and suffer for it.

(NIV)


What warning signs are you seeing in your life today? Is there any impending danger that you could take refuge from? What about your actions? Are they leading to any consequences that could be avoided if you would take heed?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Proverbs 27:11

Be wise, my son, and bring joy to my heart;
then I can answer anyone who treats me with contempt.

(NIV)


I was just talking with some of my students about this the other day. As a son you are a reflection of your parents. If you are wise, you will bring joy to the heart of the parent.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Proverbs 27:10

Do not forsake your friend
and the friend of your father,
and do not go to your brother's house
when disaster strikes you—
better a neighbor nearby
than a brother far away.

(NIV)


Once again, we read of the importance of friends. Especially in times of disaster, sometimes it isn't best to go flying back home. Sometimes it is best to call on that friend in your time of need.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Proverbs 27:9

Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart,
and the pleasantness of one's friend
springs from his earnest counsel.

(NIV)


A friend who can not only tell you the truth, but can tell you the truth in love, that is sweet to the soul.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Proverbs 27:8

Like a bird that strays from its nest
is a man who strays from his home.

(NIV)


A bird knows to tend and care for its nest. A bird knows to leave the nest only to bring food back. Straying from the nest can be detrimental both to the bird and to the ones still in the nest.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Proverbs 27:7

He who is full loathes honey,
but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.

(NIV)


This is so true.

When you are full, when you are not in a state of want, then even the sweet things are loathsome to you. Yet when you are hungry, truly hungry, then even the things that you would normally pass by become very satisfying.

I think that this can be true in our spiritual lives. When we are around the Word all of the time, it loses its excitement. It becomes mundane. And sometimes to those who are always around it, or have grown up in it, the Bible almost becomes foul tasting.

But when you are in a spiritual state of need, or maybe if you just recognize the need that is always there, suddenly even the hard or difficult things of God are so sweet and satisfying.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Proverbs 27:6

Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
but an enemy multiplies kisses.

(NIV)


True friendship doesn't stop all hardships. With true friendship there is still the possibility the occasional wound. But it is a wound that can be trusted. It shows a reality and a fellowship that can be had.

But "kisses" can't always be trusted. Many times they are not true in their intents.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Proverbs 27:5

Better is open rebuke than hidden love.
(NIV)


Confrontation of wrong is an absolute necessity in a true Biblical friendship. That is hard to do many times. Most people don't enjoy confronting their friends, but rebuking your friend does so much more than a hidden love could ever do. In fact, you might say that an open rebuke, if done in the right spirit, is the fulfillment of love, whereas if love remains hidden, it goes unfulfilled.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Proverbs 27:4

Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming,
but who can stand before jealousy?

(NIV)

The wisdom of the Proverbs is sometimes amazingly simple. Sometimes, so much so that I find it hard to add any commentary to a verse, lest I mess it up in some way. This is one of those verses.

A word about jealousy though: Jealousy is many times looked at in such a negative light, but it isn't always a negative emotion. The Bible even says that God is a jealous God. He is jealous for our time and energy. He doesn't want us to be with another, kind of like a husband is jealous for his wife.

And true jealousy, who can stand before it? Unlike cruelty or fury, it stands justified and pure in its teeming energy. Don't get in its way, it will surely get what belongs to it.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Proverbs 27:3

Stone is heavy and sand a burden,
but provocation by a fool is heavier than both.

(NIV)


As tiresome and ongoing as the most basic of physical labors, so is the provocation of a fool. In every situation, it seems like there is at least one fool present. And that ongoing provocation most definitely can be burdensome.

As you go through your day today, pray that God gives you the strength to endure these provocations the way he has done.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Proverbs 27:2

Let another praise you,
  and not your own mouth;
someone else,
  and not your own lips.

(NIV)


Most definitely, words of wisdom.

Don't be a self-promoter. Allow God to handle that for you. If He wants you to be lifted up, He will handle it.

Instead, let your words mirror those of John the Baptist, "He must increase, but I must decrease."

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Proverbs 27:1

Do not boast about tomorrow,
for you do not know what a day may bring forth.

(NIV)


This is an unchanging truth. No matter how hard you try, "...you do not know what a day may bring forth." It might be easy, it might be difficult, it might be the hardest, saddest day of your life... or it might be the most exciting day you have ever had. There is just no way of knowing.

So don't even try. Don't brag about or boast about your control over tomorrow, because you don't have control over it.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I John 1:10

If we claim we have not sinned,
we make him out to be a liar
and his word has no place in our lives.

(NIV)


This verse was aimed at those in the church who were denying the sinfulness of man. We have those types today, and they were around back when this book was written.

Every age seems to have a group who spend their time trying to tear down God's word, and in essence, make God a liar.

People who fall into that have no place with God, and His word has no place in their hearts.

Monday, February 06, 2006

I John 1:9

If we confess our sins,
he is faithful and just
and will forgive us our sins
and purify us from all unrighteousness.

(NIV)


To confess our sins means to agree with God about our sins. To agree that we have once again missed the mark. But agreeing with God is walking in the light, therefore God, who is faithful and just no matter how we are, forgives and purifies us.

Are you in agreement with God about your sins? Or do you try to justify your actions?

Friday, February 03, 2006

I John 1:8

If we claim to be without sin,
we deceive ourselves
and the truth is not in us.

(NIV)


Now, most people, when asked, would say that they are sinners. Most people wouldn't claim to be without sin. They know that they mess up all of the time.

But what does their lifestyle say?

It is so easy to know the "theological" answer, but ignore that truth in our lives. So we can say that we are sinners, but we lack all of the signs of a person who truly believes that they are currently with sin. There is no Godly sorrow, no repentance, and no desire to clear oneself of these things (2 Cor. 7:11).

So they claim sinlessness by their actions.

If you claim sinlessness, you are truly deceived. Everyday should be a day of seeking to be right with God by repenting of our sins.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

I John 1:7

But if we walk in the light,
as he is in the light,
we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus, his Son,
purifies us from all sin.

(NIV)


John has been telling us about the message. The message that he heard from Christ and is declaring to us. We now know that God is light. Darkness is not allowed to dwell in Him. But he continues on, revealing to us the good news.

Here is an explanation of the belief that John talked about in his now famous statement of God's love: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John is now telling us what "belief" looks like.

True belief is a change in our walk.

There are so many passages in the Bible that tell us how this is possible; how mortal man can have a change of walk. But this passage is telling us how we can know if our belief is real.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I John 1:6

If we claim to have fellowship with Him
yet walk in the darkness,
we lie
and do not live by the truth.

(NIV)


First, I want to point out that it is possible to claim fellowship with God, yet have no idea what that is all about. It is possible to say with your mouth one thing, but in your life, completely deny those words.

The truth that is wrapped up in this verse, and so many others like it, is a truth that has been overlooked in so many of the churches today. We are so caught up in God's love and grace, that are real and true... that we forget that we also must be real and true.

Our walk absolutely must be a representation of the work of God in us. If it is not, then the reality is that God is not working in us. But Philippians 1:6 says, "Be confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perform it until the day of Christ." The work of salvation is Christ's work. He began it, He is going to perform it, and He will complete it.

Or what about Ephesians 2:8-10, which says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith; and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; not by works, so that no one can boast." (We love that first part don't we? See, we say, no works required for salvation! ... But keep reading. The passage doesn't stop there.) "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

Can you see it? Works is the natural result of true salvation. Because that is what salvation is! It is a saving from one walk (or way) of life, into a different walk - a walk in the light!

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I John 1:5

This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.
(NIV)


That is the message, pure and simple.

Because of who he is, God cannot allow even a little bit of darkness in. He is light. So our need is stated here, in this message. Fellowship between light and darkness cannot occur. We need a saviour!

And God has provided.

Monday, January 30, 2006

I John 1:4

We write this to make our joy complete.
(NIV)


Here is the second reason for the writing of this book: complete joy.

In the NIV Bible, there is a text not that states that the word our is the word your in some manuscripts. I think that this is interesting because both seem to work.

Understanding the message of the gospel will bring complete joy for the one who hears the call and responds to it. But it can also bring joy to the bearer of the message. There is probably no greater joy than to be a carrier of God's good news.

The real question to ask though is, "Do you have complete joy?"

And if you do not, "why?"

...both important questions to ask.

Friday, January 27, 2006

I John 1:3

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard,
so that you also may have fellowship with us.

And our fellowship is with the Father and with His son, Jesus Christ.

(NIV)


Now we start to get to the motivation of this proclamation. We get to hear one of the reasons as to why John is writing this book.

He states it clearly, "so that you also may have fellowship with us." The word for fellowship, in the Greek, is the same word that was used to describe the language that they spoke. The New Testament is written in the common Greek language. And that word common is a form of the word that we see as the word fellowship.

It has the idea of a close partnership, or an intimate relationship. There is that closeness like two people walking down the same path, arm in arm.

John's desire is for fellowship. He wants us to have that same kind of closeness that he has had with Christ.

Now remember, John is the same guy that when he penned the words of his gospel, would only refer to himself as, "the disciple whom Jesus loved..." His name was forgotten, his identity was wrapped up in Christ. Their fellowship was close.

Now, he wants us to have that. He wants us to be on the mount and see Christ. He wants us to experience laying our head on Christ during the last supper. He wants us to be invited to the garden prayer. He wants us to be at the foot of the cross when others have gone astray. He wants us to be right there, with Christ, all of the time.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

I John 1:2

The life appeared;

we have seen it and testify to it,
and we proclaim to you the eternal life,
which was with the Father and has appeared to us.

(NIV)


The life appeared.

In a dead world, life appeared. That life was the embodiment of God, the incarnation that we know as Jesus Christ.

So, John wants to proclaim that life. He has seen it and testifies to it, and now he wants to declare, "LIFE!" The life that was with the Father and has come to us is something worth knowing about.

I wonder sometimes how much I have strayed from that thought. The world treats Jesus like just another religious icon, and a dead one at that. But if I have seen the work of Christ in my own heart and life, how can I not want to proclaim it in this dead world?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I John 1:1

That which was from the beginning,
which we have heard,
which we have seen with our eyes,
which we have looked at and our hands have touched
-- this we proclaim concerning the Word of Life.

(NIV)


John starts his book with a little validation. The things that he will proclaim in this book, he has experienced first hand. And when I say experienced, that is exactly what I mean.

I thought that it was odd that he said, seen and then looked, just a few words later. But I think that he is trying to really get across the idea that these are things that he has intimate knowledge of.

But what is the thing that he has intimate knowledge of? It is the Word of Life.

This sounds very familiar. Sounds like another book that he has written. It starts almost the same way:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
(John 1:1 -- NASV)


So, when we talk about the Word, it isn't a what? it is a who? Jesus Christ came as the Living Word. He is the fulfillment of all that God has said. He is the embodiment of God's promises.

Therefore, if you read this book, you can know and trust that you are getting close personal knowledge of God.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Psalm 84:12

O Lord Almighty,
Blessed is the man who trusts in You.

(NIV)


Happy is the man who trusts in the Lord.

There are always situations in life that attempt to suck the joy and happiness away. But if you truly trust in God, then all of these things are there to further your joy, not take it away from you.

It isn't the situations of life that bring blessing and happiness, it is our reaction to those situations. And specifically, the reaction of trust.

Are you depressed and downcast today? If you are, you might find a lack of trust at the bottom of it. A lack of trust that God is good. A lack of trust that God is seeking your best. A lack of trust that God is not allowing you to be pushed and tried above what you can bear.

Trust Him today.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Psalm 84:11

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.

(NIV)


Here is the reason why one day in His courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. He is good. His courts are good. There is no better place that one can exist. He is a provider and a protector.

But do you really believe that? Do you really believe that God is good? Do you believe the statement, "no good thing does he withhold."

Friday, January 20, 2006

Psalm 84:10

Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

(NIV)

This verse needs no explanation.

It shows the author's view of God. And how he feels about God. Maybe he has been in the tents of the wicked, maybe he has spent a thousand days elsewhere... But now he knows where he wants to be.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Psalm 84:9

Look upon our shield, O God;
look with favor on your anointed one.

(NIV)


The word shield, can also mean sovreign.

The author is saying, "Look to those who watch over us. Take care of them. Help them in their duties. Help them to make wise decisions, in their care of us."

Pray for our leaders today. Whether they be teachers, bosses, parents, pastors, or even... politicians.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Psalm 84:8

Hear my prayer, O Lord God Almighty;
listen to me, O God of Jacob. Selah.

(NIV)


Now the author shifts to himself. He cries out to God! His hope and his trust are that God will hear him. That God will listen to him.

And what a hope that is. That the almighty God will listen to us. That when we pray, we can rest assured that He hears us. We do not speak to the air in vain. We do not pray to a God who flippantly chooses whether or not He will hear us.

We pray to a God who listens. Even when He seems silent, He is listening.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Psalm 84:7

They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.

(NIV)


One day we will appear before God in Zion. One day this will happen.

What has your pilgrimage been like? Have you gone from strength to strength, continually growing, continually reaching on?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Psalm 84:6

As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.

(NIV)


This verse is full of meaning.

First of all, the Valley of Baca, is probably figurative, referring to a desert like place. The word Baca could mean weeping, giving the idea that the Valley of Baca was a place of hardship and trial.

But remember in verse 5, how these are pilgrims that are on their way to the dwelling of God? How do the pilgrims respond to this valley of hardship? They respond by making it a place of springs.

Now a pilgrim cannot make a spring, only God can do that. But it makes you wonder... were the springs already there? Do they make it a place of springs because they are seeing this valley clearly?

The word Baca can also mean palms. The Valley of Palms sounds much better than the Valley of Weeping. Maybe when some traverse this arid plain all they see is the heat and despair... the weeping. But a pilgrim sees it more clearly. No, there may not be a bubbling brook flowing through this plain, and there may not be a lake or a pond nearby, but it is full of springs.

It could be that you need to know where to look to find these springs. Maybe it is only full of springs to those who know the way.

As we are pilgrims in this world, I am wondering how much it is like this valley. So many see it as a place of weeping, because it is full of hardship and trial, and so many times it truly is full of weeping. Even Jesus, while he walked this earth was known as the man of many sorrows.

But there are also springs here, if you know where to look for them. We will never be without the waters of life. We could see this place as a place of palms.

Notice also the end of the verse. The autumn rains are also coming. Suddenly it is no longer arid at all. Just when the heat of summer seems to have conquered... the autumn rains come in, making it a place of pools.

Now, if you look at most Bibles, you might find a note next to the word pools. This word has an unclear definition. It could mean pools, as in pools of water, but it could also mean blessing. Both definitions seem to fit, and maybe that is what the author was shooting for.

How do you see your valley? Is it a place of weeping, or a place of springs?

I would like to urge you to see it clearly. The autumn rains are coming, and before you know it, we will be out of this valley anyway.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Psalm 84:5

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.

(NIV)


Once again, remembering that the word blessed can mean happy, those who recognize that they have no strength of their own, are the ones who are the recipients of God's happiness.

There have been many times in my own life that I have thought to myself, "Lord, you have given this trial to the wrong person. This is too much for me to handle. Surely there was a stonger man out there that could have handled this better. Lord, what are you doing?"

But there is no man who has strength in and of himself. Whether or not you recognize it, strength... all strength, comes from God. And those who recognize this fact, that they have no strength of their own, those are the ones who are happiest.

Trials can come, but they are ready, because the giver of the trial is also the giver of the strength.

And when we have this mentality, we have "...set our hearts on pilgrimage."

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Psalm 84:4

Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
they are ever praising you. Selah.

(NIV)


Blessed, in the Bible, can best be understood as happy. In fact, many times the hebrew word that is used here is translated as happy. Those who are dwelling with God are happy.

The question to ask is, where are you dwelling? There are many places that we can allow our minds and our hearts to dwell. Things like, in the past, or on ourselves and our needs and disappointments. We can make our dwelling place our own hurts many times, and dwell there for days on end. And when we choose these other dwelling places, we wonder to ourselves, "Where's the happiness?!?"

Choose your dwelling place today. Make it in God. Then you will be singing His praises because of how blessed you are.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Psalm 84:3

Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young --
a place near your altar,
O Lord Almighty, my King and my God.

(NIV)


Every time I read this verse, I get this picture in my mind of the author, looking with longing at the temple, praying for the day that he can be there, and while he is praying, he sees these birds, building their nests near the temple grounds.

He looks with jealousy, wishing that he could have that same freedom. The ability to be close to the temple, to the dwelling of God.

But for now, he will be content to dwell with God from a distance.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Psalm 84:2

My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.

(NIV)


As your eyes are opened, and you begin to understand who God is and what He has done for you, you will begin to love Him more.

As you start to follow in the ways of God and learn what He wants to do for you today, you will yearn and faint for his presence.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Psalm 84:1

How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD Almighty!

(NIV)


The NIV Study Bible says that the author of this psalm was probably a levite (whose normal function was temple service) who had been barred from access to the temple. The notes say that it may have been when Judah was being attacked.

The dwelling place of God is a place that is longed for. It is lovely, in the sense of something that is loved. This author, though wanting to be back in the temple, is expressing his love for the nearness of God.

There is no better place to be, than where God dwells.