Archive for June, 2009


    It’s such a brief reference, yet it holds amazing significance.
    I was shocked when I read it, but I was also impressed with the fact that it had even happened.
    Here is the passage in 2 Kings 18 that describes the action of young King Hezekiah:
    “He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it”  (v. 4)
    For 700 years, the bronze snake had been a powerful tool for worship of God.
    And now, with one action, it was destroyed.
    Not by a bad guy, but instead by a good guy serving the Lord.
    The bronze snake that God had used as a tool for deliverance in the midst of a plague — a tool made by the very hands of Moses — was turned into garbage because God’s people had already turned it into garbage in God’s sight.
    You’ll recall how a devestating plague of poisonous snakes had been sent by God into the wilderness camp of the Israelites as a means of punishment for sinful grumbling against God’s leading from Egypt. 
    God said that whoever trusted the power of God could look to the bronze serpent placed on a pole and, if committed in faith, the person would find healing from a snake bite.
    There is no published count of how many people were saved from a venemous death because of the bronze serpent.  Yet the symbolism remained extremely powerful in centuries following.
    Jesus would later refer to the bronze serpent within the context of His future crucifixion when He said that He needed to be lifted up if mankind would have any hope of deliverance.
    I have to believe that Hezekiah didn’t choose to smash the bronze serpent simply because it was his idea.
    When something so historically significant was involved, I’m sure that Hezekiah waited for one of those “Thus saith the Lord” moments.
    It’s clear that Hezekiah’s heart leaned more toward the Lord than almost any other Old Testament king.  And when took office and started watching how people worshipped, it had to have boiled his blood to see the serpent becoming the focus of worship rather than a reminder to worship.
    That which had been created became a substitute for the Creator.
    Twisted, huh?
    Never happens today, does it?
    Ummmm…. I think you know the answer to that question.
    Is incense or a candle ever burned in front of a carved icon as a sign of worship to that created thing or memorialized person?
    Uh… yeah.
    Do groups of people ever look to a new building or a “gotta have it” sound system or to a new ministry program with almost-messianic expectation to deliver them from their congregational problems? 
    Do congregations ever start talking more in the community about their concrete or electronic deliverer than they do about the Savior who died on the cross?
    Do they excitedly make sacrifices financially to that which they created when they begrudgingly gave less than the tithe to ministry when there was no building program or sound system special fund or popular ministry program?
    A key challenge in worship is to ALWAYS remember who we are to worship, why we are to worship and how we are to worship.
    We are to worship the perfect Father and the perfect Son.
    There is no “what we are to worship.”
    Worship belongs to the Creator, not the created.
    Whether snakes or buildings or adored gizmos or successful programs.
    As you and I remember that everything good in this life comes from God’s hand, lifting our hands and hearts toward Him rather than stuff will be so much easier.
    And that faithfully used new building or sound system or ministry program will endure as building blocks rather than be taken away as stumbling blocks.
As always, I love you
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garden of eden

    You never win in picking a fight with Satan.
    I’m not talking about listening to Hank Williams Jr.’s “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” song and then challenging the Devil to give you His best shot.
    That famous song — though catchy and ego-massaging — is just one more hustling lie from the Father of Lies.    
    Whenever you take it upon yourself to step into the ring with the Devil, you’re going down.
    Your only hope will be that the Champion of the universe will reach into the ring at that point and carry you to safety.
    I was reminded of this sobering reality while reading yesterday’s section of the One-Year Bible.  In 2 Kings 14, King Amaziah of the Southern Kingdom (remember that Israel split into two nations after Solomon’s death) apparently had watched too many “guy flicks” and decided that he wanted to beat up on the Northern Kingdom.
    King Jehoash of the Northern Kingdom said a thistle shouldn’t pick a fight with a cedar tree.  He then told Amaziah to stay in Jerusalem or he and his nation would be crushed by a great beast.
    The “Satan” in this situation was not Jehoash, but instead the lie that Jehoash could be defeated by Amaziah’s prideful dream.
    Amaziah didn’t listen and Jehoash’s army wiped out the Southern Kingdom’s army.  A large section of Jerusalem’s wall was destroyed, the temple and palace treasures were stolen and Amaziah himself was held hostage for a time.
    Amaziah had danced with the devil and he had his toes stepped on in a terrible way. 
    An even greater problem occurred for Amaziah because he turned to his own schemes to avoid further consequences with his own people.
    After Amaziah was taught his lesson and released by Jehoash, the people of Jerusalem turned against their king.  This wasn’t a surprise since it was his foolish pride that resulted in the ransacking of their city and the deaths of many men.
    His response?  Run to a distant city and hope the angry mobs don’t find him.
    His plan failed, however, and the mobs eventually found him and killed him.
    It’s true that this Old Testament stuff occurred some 2,700 years ago.  You might think that it has little relevance to your life.
    Please think again.
    The core pattern displayed by Amaziah is the core pattern for your sins and mine.  It’s the same whether your scarlet sins have involved immorality or “payback time” vindictiveness or coveting of a sibling’s weath or the greed-fueled betrayal of a co-worker seeking the same promotion as you.
    Just as in the Garden of Eden, the hunger for approval apart from God fuels the engine of pride.
    The Enemy sees this and starts whispering that we deserve more status than what we have.
    He points our minds toward amplifying our opponent’s possible weaknesses while neglecting our own definite shortfalls.
    We challenge people to social or intellectual slugfests not because we want to be them, but instead because we want what they have.
    The Holy Spirit, and perhaps even that person, warns us to back off because we’re terribly misinformed.
    Pride has the microphone, though, and we don’t hear common sense.
    The showdown occurs, we lose and we learn that have believed a lie.
    If we are smart, we’ll run to the holy place of God’s presence with a repentant heart, pleading for mercy from God and for forgiveness from those we’ve offended.
    If we are foolish, we’ll try to hide from the consequences but we will be found and the loss will catastrophic, both with our earthly losses and with our eternal suffering.
    I pray that you’ll learn the lesson of Amaziah. 
    Whenever you hear a whispered voice calling your spirit to challenge somebody else, test that whispering against the Word of God.  Seek the advice of a trusted, mature believer who will pray with you so that you might know if God is speaking, or your pride.
    If the Holy Spirit directs you to step into the ring with Satan, make sure that the Ultimate Champion is by your side.
    It’s clear from 2 Kings 14 what will happen to you if you don’t.
    One other thing.  If you ignore this advice and find yourself in a really bad situation, there is still a measure of mercy available to you. 
    You must run to God with a repentant heart. You won’t regain all the stuff and status that you’ve lost, but you can reclaim the gift of God’s grace that comes to all those who humble themselves and call on the name of the Lord.
    This is so much better of an outcome than thinking that you can outrun your enemies who have Satan as their navigator.
As always, I love you
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Choose wisely



    For a moment, perhaps, Jason regretted showing hospitality to the preacher and his buddies.
    But quickly and surely, I believe, God revealed to Jason that he had made a wise, eternally fruitful choice.
    Jason was a Thessalonian who suffered for his faith.
    He was also a man whose brief moment in the sunlight of New Testament identification most certainly had eternal benefits.
    Jason was given his tiny bit of notariety in Acts 17 because he chose to allow Paul and his companions stay at his house for a few weeks while the apostle evangelized around town.
    The enemies of Christ eventually got their evil act together and connived a number of local Jews and pagan worshippers into an anti-Christian alliance.  A concocted riot occurred against those favoring Christ and the mob went to Jason’s house to grab the ministry team.
    Providentially, Paul, Silas and Timothy weren’t there, but Jason and some other believers were.
    The mob dragged them to Roman-appointed city officials and then accused Jason of harboring men who defied Caesar while calling people to serve another king named Jesus.
    Jason and the believers with him were forced to post bond in order to be released from jail.
    I’m thinking very practically today, so here are the three things that I’m led to share as to why this was the best thing that could have happened to Jason.
    First, look for ways to help the gospel to spread in your corner of the world.  Jason didn’t say, “Paul, I’m gonna preach with you.  So what text should I use?”  He did, however, provide essential hospitality to the ministry team that allowed them to spend more time focusing on what they would teach rather on where would they sleep or how would they eat.
    When you give time, money and hospitality to those in ministry, you’re serving God and loving people as you aid ministers who can spend less time on earthly stuff and more time on eternal stuff.
    Second, count yourself blessed when you face trials because you’re helping the gospel to reach people at your job or neighborhood or school or among your extended family.  Your growing friendship with the “Bible thumper” might alienate you from those opposed to Christianity, perhaps even costing you financially or socially. 
    But look at how more people are hearing about salvation through Christ.  Look at what you’re gaining in terms of honoring and pleasing God.   And look at the good example you’re setting for weaker believers, or even just your kids. 
    Third, ask God to help you build upon the moments of trial so that your temporary hardship becomes part of a solid foundation for your congregational life.  Paul was in Thessalonica for a very brief time, yet his influence upon Jason and other believers was profound. 
    A very strong, durable congregation resulted that would later receive two, theologically rich letters from Paul that would become part of the New Testament.  You can be sure that Jason was a crucial, crucible-toughened leader for this congregation.    
     The Kingdom needs more people like Jason.  How about you?
As always, I love you

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The ultimate GPS

path to peace picture

    Today’s readings in the One-Year Bible are very rich in vibrant, applicable content.  I’ve not suggested this before but I hope you will take the time to read the June 25 segment above, even if only online rather than in your own Bible.
    Compassion.  Provision.  Restoration.  Reclamation.  Betrayal.  Apostasy.  Prophetic retribution.  Deliverance.  Persecution.  A building-specific earthquake.  A pagan’s and his family’s midnight conversion.  Corrupt officials held accountable.   A ray of scriptural hope in a cavern of dark despair.
    These things and more are in today’s reading.
    Please don’t miss it.
    Click on the link above and allow the Word of God to click with your heart, mind and soul.
    The passage with the longest Velcro hooks latching onto my spirit this morning is Psalm 143:8.
   “Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you”  (New Living Translation).
    This text serves as the biblical basis for this Morning Devotion ministry.  As I open the One-Year Bible each weekday, I am reminded of God’s unfailing love shown to an oft-failing world.  I am reminded of how God provides each of us a fresh opportunity each morning to set our feet onto His path rather than the world’s path.
    He shows us where to walk as we read, as we humbly pray, as we receive the faithful counsel of fellow believers and even as we note the paths that Satan advertises as more fun, more pride-fueling or more financially profitable.
    He speaks through the Word.
    Our steps show the measure of our trust.
    And our trust shows how much we’ve given our hearts to Him.
    I pray that you’ll ponder the potentcy of God’s unfailing love.
    You know your life.
    You know those times when His will, His Word and His way were the last things on your mind.
    Yet, there God was the next morning, still offering His unfailing love to you via the sunshine, the breath in your lungs, the unopened Bible on the table and already prepared blessings awaiting you along the way of faith.
    Walk with Him, will you?
    He gave Jesus’ blood for you.
    Will you give 10 minutes daily in the Word to Him?
As always, I love you

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little girls in fence header II

    I take great comfort in the fact that Jesus came to set the captives free.
    Captives like me.
    Not just once in the sense of my finding salvation, but also in the sense of random seige efforts by the Enemy or by my personal failures.
    Like you, I don’t like the loss of autonomy associated with seized or surrendered control of my circumstances and decisions.
    You know how it is sometimes.  You long for the wrong things.  You listen to the wrong people.  You give too much weight to the wrong information. 
    You make the wrong choice.
    You experience the wrong results.
    And, eventually, you acknowledge the wrong that you did.
    You’re a captive of self-made chains.
    Perhaps you didn’t long for the wrong things, didn’t listen to the wrong people sharing the wrong information about the wrong choice.
    Yet, you still became a victim of the wrong results because of another’s jealousy or greed or lust or whatever.
    Through no fault of your own, you’re a captive of costly scheming.   
    You’re smart enough to reflect upon your life and find examples for each of the above captivities.
    Not fun, was it?
    Perhaps you’re in a season of captivity just now.
    I want you to know that Jesus came to set you free.
    His love and power won’t always negate the earthly costs of these captivities.  Lost money or time because of attacks or failure can’t be reeled back in.
    That love and power can assure you of spiritual peace for this life and the next, however.  And that is far more important in the eternal scheme of things, isn’t it?
    The Father and Son don’t stop with blessings for the next life, though.  Far from it.
    When we captives find freedom from the Enemy’s grip or from our self-made chains, we see God leading good people to come alongside of us.
    You see, God wants to bless them with sharing in our joy of freedom and God wants to bless us with the affirmation of our place in His family.
    It’s a beautiful picture of blessing, actually.
    Biblical, too.
    That’s right.
    Of course, you knew that I was heading toward a key passage from today’s reading in the One-Year Bible.
   “Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name.  Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me”  (Psalm 142:7)
    I’ve given more than 1,000 evangelistic invitations at the end of sermons during my ministry career, yet none of them have included this verse.
    You can be sure that this fact will change.
    This is a fantastic verse that captures the purpose of salvation and describes a key element in the bond that Christians are to possess.
    I’ve seen hundreds of people look me in the eye and tell me that they wanted Jesus to set them free. 
    I’ve seen those same people praise His name as they worshiped and testified in the days following their baptism.
    And I’ve rejoiced as I watched other Christians shower their love upon the captive that has been set free.
    This is a powerful verse, my friend.
    Try to memorize it.
    I certainly will.
    As we do so, we’ll be better prepared to cry out to Jesus with these words the next time we find ourselves under seige by the Enemy or in the midst of surrender to sin.
As always, I love you
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The flesh is a liar


 pew prayer - wide

    Faith over flesh.
    That’s what God expects.
    That’s what God promises.
    That’s what sustains.
    And that’s what saves.
    This principle, of course, is demonstrated throughout the Bible.
    It has also been demonstrated in our own lives if we’re counted among the redeemed.
    Have you and I displayed this principle as often as we should have?
    Certainly not.
    Do we have opportunity to address this deficit?
    We certainly do.
    Sometime this week, you’ll be presented with a choice that will pit your faith against your flesh.
    You might be tempted toward moral compromise in one way or another.  I just read a report from a Christian website that 70 percent of American men have visited at least one porn site in the past month (source: comScore Media Metrix) .  I pray that this statistic doesn’t include you.
    Remember the Bible characters who were tempted yet didn’t cave in to desires of the flesh, people such as Joseph in Egypt and Timothy among the early churches.
    God used them in profound ways for His Kingdom because they chose faith over flesh.
    I want to be used in profound ways for God’s Kingdom.  That’s why it is so important that I choose faith over flesh.
    All believers face the temptation to serve flesh ahead of faith, though not always with immorality.  Some are tempted to trust their own abilities ahead of God’s.  Others are tempted to discard God’s timing for the sake of their own with respect to relationships or career moves or the need to apologize to another.
    The fact is, though, that whenever we tune out the voice of God’s Spirit and turn up the voice of our opinions, we end up the loser.
    It might take awhile but it WILL certainly happen…. as you already know.
    Proverbs 3:5-6 directs us to trust God with all of our hearts and to not lean on our own understanding.  For if we acknowledge His authority over our steps, He will direct them in the way that is best for us, for our loved ones and for the Kingdom.
    I write this today because of what I read in 2 Kings 5 this morning.  It’s the famous story of the Assyrian general named Naaman who was a godly man, a valiant warrior and a leper.  I encourage you to read the story in order to glean several fascinating elements.
    The main point of the story, though, involves choosing faith over flesh.
    Before he did so, Naaman was without hope.
    After he did so, Naaman became the poster child for those seeking hope.
    The deliverance of Naaman’s flesh came after he stopped thinking that faith was limited by the physical.
    He believed the preacher’s teaching from God about baptism and he was cleansed.
    His life would never be the same.
    You never go wrong choosing faith over flesh.
    Naaman trusted the Word of God and look how he was changed.
    Choose wisely this week, my friend.
    Your renewal, in one way or another, awaits.
As always, I love you
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When dark isn’t dark


    We’ve all heard that the fear of the darkness is one of man’s most primal instincts.
    If you’ve ever been in the forest at nighttime — particularly in an area known for predatory animals — you know quite well of this fear.
    I certainly do.
    More fearful, though, is walking down an urban sidewalk where there are no streetlights and an abundance of dark alleys.   
    I know this fear, too.
    Fortunately for most of us, a more common fear of darkness arises when we’re in an unfamiliar guest room and we fear a broken toe because of the unseen bedpost.
    During my devotional reading this morning, I was reminded of yet another reason that I adore my Abba Father so much.
    Psalm 139 tells me that God isn’t afraid of the dark.
    In fact, the psalmist wrote that the dark isn’t dark to God.
    God sees in the dark as if it were the brightness of day.
    Because God doesn’t need photons to know what’s going on.
    You see, God existed before the creation of physical light from burning stars.
    That means that He sees in ways that we do not.
    That means that He sees the same in physical darkness as He does in physical light.
    That means that He sees the darkness-veiled threats desiring to harm you and restricts Satan’s hand so that you won’t face more than you can handle.
    That means that He sees the darkness-minded sin you desire to hide and His Spirit convicts your heart in hopes that you’ll repent of choices that ultimately could condemn you.
    The older I grow, the more I realize that finger-wagging rarely promotes loyalty to God.
    Sinners in need of a Savior will typically be drawn more to Christ when reminded of the help/hope that is found with Him than if they are harrassed with repeated threats of eternal fire for what they did in the dark.
    That’s why I focused more on the carrot in Psalm 139:11-12 rather than the stick even though both can be found in this passage.
    If you want to plant gospel seeds into the lives of people around you, start sharing of how God has seen your need for help even when it seemed that those near you were in the dark.
    Start sharing examples of how God’s radiant mercy pierced the darkness of physical or economic or relational despair that had gripped the lives of those in your circle of influence.
    Start talking of how God’s Spirit saw you heading down a dark alley toward a bad choice and His still small voice pricked your heart to consider the ultimate outcome you’d face if you didn’t turn around.
    Listen, dear friend.  God sees all. 
    He sees when others won’t. 
    He sees when others can’t.
    He even sees what you don’t.
    That’s why His Spirit’s voice speaks to you in the darkness.
    He knows there is danger ahead even though you don’t see it.
    He wants you to know that there is help available even when you don’t see it.
    This is why He sent the Light into the darkness 2,000 years ago.
    And this is why God wants us to eternally trade darkness for Light by choosing Christ, the One in whom there is no darkness.
    Even if we slip into temporary darkness because of fear, we’ll be safe eternally as long as we cling to the hand of Him who conquered the deeds of darkness and isn’t afraid of the dark because He sees no dark.
As always, I love you
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