Archive for February, 2010

To hear this Morning Devotion, click  The accounting of love

In the midst of countless “Do not …” admonitions I read this morning in Leviticus 19, there were two profoundly affirmative statements that reveal the core of God’s heart.

To those who think God is an autocratic and mean-spirited control freak, these two statements don’t add up.

But to those who understand that God is the Abba Father of the Good Shepherd, albeit a holy and righteous Father, these phrases come as no surprise.

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:14).

“When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (vv. 33-34).

It’s good to know that the Golden Rule was taught before Jesus started His preaching.

And wherever it was practiced, God was exalted and people were blessed.

God knew that it would be very difficult to do these things unless one had a close relationship with Him.

The fact is that we humans — even the believers among us — are drawn to the idea of “payback time” like kids are drawn to a bowl of candy.

It’s bad for us but we still want to taste it, convinced that it will satisfy our cravings.

The fact is that seeking revenge or bearing grudges does nothing emotionally or physically healthy for us.

You’ve known people who have been eaten alive by stress and anger because of cherished grudges and cravings for revenge

In contrast, loving our neighbor — i.e., anybody in our lives — is to characterize our conduct.

It’s SO much healthier physically and emotionally to cut the anchor ropes.

Even when that neighbor is an outsider culturally or ethnically or spiritually, we are to treat him as we would one our hometown best buddies or, as my daughters used to say, as pinky pals.

We are to love the outsider as we love ourselves.

Just as God did for us.


This kind of love doesn’t happen very much, does it?

It’s because so few people obey God in these teachings.

Are you?

Thoughts of revenge and bearing of grudges are not part of God’s agenda toward you, but showing grace and love are.

Shouldn’t you do the same toward others?

I am certain that some people in my life have, because of God’s Word, chosen to love me despite my imperfections and lack of common heritage with them.

I have been blessed because they loved me as they love themselves, not because of my merit but instead because of their obedience to God.

Because they have done so for me, I am more inclined to do so for others.

It’s interesting to note that our Almighty God is watching to see if we are loving others as we do ourselves.

We need that accountability, it’s true.

For if we think that nobody is taking notes, we just might skip out on our call to love.

Please remember that Jesus died for you and me, despite the fact that we are sinful aliens deserving payback.

Let’s love somebody today as we love ourselves, cutting loose Satan’s suggested grudges and bigotries.

It’s what God desires. And it’s what God deserves.

As always, I love you

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Satan whispers to us that humility is for wimps.

“Why be a weakling pushover?” he says to our minds. “It’s much better to be the one pushing.

Jesus declares that humility is for winners.

Your strength is not your own,” His Holy Spirit tells us. “Submit to Me and I’ll do the pushing for you in the struggle of life.”

I wish that I had always shown humility in life. Perhaps you have the same regret.

It’s not easy sometimes to choose humility when we’re facing insults from others or when circumstances prod our pride to grab the microphone and shout, “Hey! What about me? I’m special, too, you know!”

It might not be easy, but it IS essential.

Especially when the well-being of others is at stake.

If an episode at your job is shoving you toward the choice between pride and humility, you know which choice will far more likely have negative consequences for your family’s financial picture.

If an embarrassing episode at your church leaves you emotionally twisting between getting even or getting on your knees in prayer, you know which choice will build the congregation’s unity rather than erode it.

Humility is contrary to our human nature.

As we become more like Christ, though, humility becomes more of our daily behavior.

I was reminded of these truths about humility while reading about the Syro-Phoenician mother described in Mark 7:24-30. You know the story. The Gentile mother has a demon-possessed daughter and has found no remedy among the religious leaders in her region.

She hears that a miracle worker named Jesus is in town and believes it is her only shot to get the help her daughter needs in order to have a normal life.

The mother finds Jesus at a house in the city of Tyre and throws herself at His feet, begging Jesus to drive the demon from her daughter.

That by itself was an overtly humbling act, particularly in view of the fact that most Jewish males looked upon Gentile women as third-class citizens.

But her humility was shown even more clearly when Jesus tested her commitment to her daughter.

“It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs,” He said regarding to taking His attention from speaking to Jews in order to help a Gentile.

That’s when her humility — flying in the face of all the whispered lies of Satan — showed the depth of her character and the depth of her love for her daughter.

Yes, Lord,” she replied, “But even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

The mother’s humility — her choice of meekness for the sake of the greater good — allowed her to tap into a power that was infinitely greater than she could have had through pride.

Jesus, impressed by her faith in Him and her love for her daughter, told her to go home and find that her daughter had been healed.

The power of humility is undeniable, my friend.

For through that humility we access the power of God.

Through pride, however, we have only our own blindly inflated power.

I’ve learned through life which power supply serves my best interests and those of my loved ones.

Please learn from the humble mom of Mark 7:24-30.

Your life will be filled with more of God’s power as you do.

As always, I love you

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There is a lot of darkness described in Mark 7:22-23.

It’s actually quite scary to think that humans are highly capable and practiced in the 12 dark arts that Jesus describes in the text.

  • Sexual immorality
  • Theft
  • Murder
  • Adultery
  • Greed
  • Malice
  • Deceit
  • Lewdness
  • Envy
  • Slander
  • Arrogance
  • Folly

I don’t perceive that Jesus gave this list as the all-inclusive description of man’s sinfulness, though most of our spiritual failures likely could be tied in one sense or another to this list.

What matters is the larger point that Jesus was making in Mark 7 regarding the religious leaders’ complant that Jesus’ disciples didn’t ceremonially wash their hands before eating.

Jesus had told the leaders that nothing entering the mouth can make a man unclean but instead that which exits the mouth.

Why? Because the words of the mouth are the reflection of one’s heart.

And an unclean heart is far more prone to engage in the above behaviors.

You and I need to be aware of this threat upon our souls and testimonies so that we will focus intently on having clean hearts.

That’s why I am SO glad that the Holy Spirit inspired me this morning to apply my One-Year Bible reading in a creative way.

He directed me to create a 12-item list that shows the contrasting bright side of each dark art listed above.

In doing so, I not only was reminded of what God desires to see in each of our lives, but I was also reminded of behaviors through which I can shine as a lighthouse of faith pointing to heaven rather than as a black hole of failure pointing to hell.

  • Sexually moral
  • Generous
  • Life-giving encourager
  • Marital faithfulness
  • Selflessness
  • Forgiving
  • Truthful
  • Sexually pure thoughts
  • Content with blessings
  • Defender of others
  • Humble
  • Wise user of time

It’s true that we need to know of the dark side that Jesus described in Mark 7. The warning is very important to alert us of the danger that faces those who don’t surrender their hearts to Christ.

But our ability to lead people toward the cross will be enhanced, I believe, if we move beyond describing the bad behaviors that point people toward hell.

Better, I believe, is the desire to point people toward heaven by describing the good behaviors of those whose hearts are surrendered to the Lord.

As you role-model the good behaviors above, your influence upon tainted hearts around you will grow.

People will see that it actually IS possible to live as the Bible requires.

They will have hope that they can escape the grip of darkness and walk in the grace of God’s wonderful Light.

Please, dear friend, look more diligently for the bright side of the darkness in this world. That contrast just might help you to more effectively help a lost soul into salvation as he or she increasingly senses God’s call on his or her heart to run from the darkness and into the Light.

As always, I love you

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Most every adult over 45 recalls the line from the opening to the original Star Trek programs on TV — “Space… the final frontier.”

Even though Captain James Kirk’s voiceover was quite intriguing as the U.S.S. Enterprise zoomed by on the TV screen, I actually think something else much smaller than space should be described as the final frontier for Christians.

I’m talking about the domain of our mouths.

More specifically, the overflow of our lips.

Bringing our tongues and lips under subjection to the principles and practices of Christianity is perhaps the most challenging part of sanctification for most believers.

When we converted to Christ, we likely started closing down all sorts of sin operations in our lives. You have your list of “used to do that” behaviors just as I have mine.

But I’ve observed over the years that many Christians don’t get a real handle on surrendering their tongue and lips until they’ve been in the family of faith for a good chunk of time.

Yes, they can speak with clean words and calm words when things are going well. But when times get tough or tempers get hot, the tongue dripping with patience can all too easily revert to the tongue dripping with poison.

Sometime the lips that want to laugh with the joy of faith become ensnared in laughing at tasteless humor that pains God’s heart.

God has called us to a higher standard. And as we surrender more of our minds and hearts to Him, striving to imitate His Son Jesus Christ, our words more frequently and more fully reflect the nature of God.

Simply put, we become better examples of the teaching found in Psalm 40:3.

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”

You and I know that Jesus not only died to save our souls but also so that we might become His tools for making disciples.

We are to be walking, talking testimonies to how God can transform corrupted lives into surrendered lives that celebrate faith and motivate others to seek the same.

If many are to see and fear and put their trust in the Lord, they need to have vibrant, surrendered examples of people who DO have a new song in their mouths and hymns of praise to their God.

That new song of joy and inspiration and confidence for the future cannot come by human effort.

If that were the case, the multitude of cults or permutations of established world religions would have satisfied centuries ago all the spiritual seekers of the world.

Simply put, nothing the world offers genuinely scratches the itch that only faith in Jehovah can take away.

When a person gains the peace from the Lord that surpasses all understanding, a joy begins to flow that can’t be concocted by human origin.

It is actually an overflow of the heart that brings praise to God as it is shared with others.

While God loves to hear us sing to Him individually and collectively in worship, the “new song” in Psalm 40:3 is referring to more than church singing.

I believe the psalmist is referring to that song in our hearts that sometimes overflows from our mouths as we appreciate the blessings we have rather than bemoan the “wants” we don’t have.

Dear friend, we’re surrounded by people who are discouraged. Not just by the poor economy and the resulting joblessness or reduced income among those working, but also by the emptiness found in so many taste tests of various religions.

Those people need to see someone whose life portrays joy and love and purpose. They need to see ones willing to verbally and joyfully credit God with the blessings in the believers’ lives.

Invite God’s Holy Spirit to stir and steer your tongue and lips into being more like Jesus.

Pray that your words reflect more of a calm pasture overseen by the Good Shepherd rather than the wild, wild west where anything goes.

As always, I love you

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If you would like to hear this devotion, please click HERE and then click on the “Hear the Morning Devotion” button in the right column.

If you were given a new sports car, I seriously doubt that you’d neglect the formation of a tiny rust spot on the hood.

If you were given a new sports car, I seriously doubt that you’d neglect the formation of a tiny rust spot on the hood.

You’d get some polishing compound and remove that spot right away and not just because it marred the car’s appearance a bit.

Your greater concern would be that the ignored rust spot became larger if you continued with your indifference, eventually leading to a junkyard grave for the car.

The latter consequence is way more costly than that tiny bit of effort and expense needed to remove the rust spot at the outset.

You’ve taken care of many rust spots on vehicles over the years, I’m sure.

Good for you.

And so it is that you understand the importance of removing “grudge spots” from the vehicle called faith.

When somebody upsets us and we choose to not to forgive them right away, we’re allowing the rust spot of hard feelings to grow toward becoming a grudge.

Continued indifference to the grudge’s threat against our soul will only lead to bigger problems.

For those we blame.

For us.

For those who love us and count on us for spiritual strength.

And for the Kingdom of God.

Ultimately, an unconstrained grudge can cost somebody his or her life, spiritually or physically, or both. It could cost multiple people their lives.

Why this topic today?

The One-Year Bible for today includes the story of John the Baptist and King Herod. You know the story in Mark 6.

Herod had chosen to marry his brother’s wife. Her name was Herodias.

John the Baptist told him the choice was immoral and should not have happened.

Neither Herod nor Herodias like John’s preaching about their immorality, but Herod didn’t want to kill John. Herod respected John as a righteous man and he liked hearing him preach and teach.

Herodias was cut from a different cloth, however. She hated John the Baptist and allowed the rust spot of hard feelings to grow into full-scale spiritual decay.

And when the nurtured grudge was given opportunity by the perfect storm of sin arranged by Satan at Herod’s birthday party, Herodias pounced like a lioness.

You can read the details in Mark 6:17-29.

Herodias’ hard feelings toward John sprouted into a grudge that grew into bitterness and a desire for revenge. That hunger for revenge then grew into a ticking time bomb needing only a trigger before blowing up and causing all sorts of carnage.

Dear friend, if you’re harboring ANY hard feelings toward somebody, please let them go.

Sacrifice your pride, not your spiritual integrity.

Remember that grudges always carry a high price not just for your enemy but also for your compromised faith.

It is a ticking time bomb.

That’s how Satan works. Give him an inch and he’ll take a mile.

In all directions.

Even if your grudge doesn’t cost you your soul, it certainly costs you the blessings of fellowship that you might have had with the relative, friend, co-worker, classmate or neighbor offended you, perhaps even unintentionally.

It also weakens the fellowship that you have with the Lord since such an attitude is in direct rebellion to His Word.

It is SO much better to forgive and get on with your life of loving people despite their imperfections.

Aren’t you glad that Jesus didn’t hold a grudge against you, despite the fact of terrible sins against Him?

He loves us and forgives us despite our imperfections.

Grudges have no place in His heart.

Let the same be said of us.

As always, I love you

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