Wednesday, April 30, 2008

There is a lot of "God talk" these days. Politicians, movie stars, and celebrities freely profess faith in God, but I wonder who the "God" is that they believe in?

The One true God, creator of all, is called by several names. He is most accurately called the I Am and Yahweh, but these are not His only names. He is called by two specific names in Genesis 16 and 17 which are very descriptive of Him.

Hagar, handmaid of Sarai through whom is born Abraham's son, Ishmael, encounters the living God and calls Him by the name, "Elroi", which means, "the God who sees".

Genesis 17:1 records another name that God identified Himself with to Abraham:

"Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless."

"God Almighty" is El Shaddai in the Hebrew language. By this title He indicates that He, Yahweh, is the God above all gods; the mightiest of all so-called gods.

If we are to truly worship our Creator, it's important that we know as much about Him as possible. Knowing His personal name, Yahweh, is important, and it should be spoken with the utmost respect and awe, as did the Jewish people in ancient times. But it is also very helpful to know the many other names that our Father is called by, such as Elroi and El Shaddai. These descriptive names reveal His unique qualities, which expands our appreciation and awe of Him.

Jesus' key purpose was to reveal the One true God to us (Luke 10:22). He essentially puts a "face" on the invisible God (Colossians 1:15) and allows us to come into the Father's presence to bask in His greatness and glory.

The El Shaddai called upon Abraham to "walk before Me, and be blameless". That same call extends to each of us. If we would know Him we must walk in the same direction with Him and be complete; people of integrity, as blameless literally means.

My appreciation grows when I more fully realize that the One true God is "God Almighty" (El Shaddai) and "the God Who sees" (Elroi). There is nothing and no one greater and there is no other god who truly sees all.

Amidst all the "God talk" these days it's only fair to ask, "Who is this God that you speak of?" My God is Abraham's God - Elroi and El Shaddai. He is the God of Jesus my Lord, who reveals Him to me.

May our understanding, appreciation and awe of the Incomparable One grow today.

You can't have descendants without a child. It's as simple as that.

Nothing is as outrageous as a childless elderly couple being promised innumerable descendants. But in the face of such an audacious promise it is said of Abraham:

"Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness." (Genesis 15:6)

I believe that my Creator exists, and I've trusted Him for numerous things in my life so far, but nothing compares to Abraham's leap of faith. In the face of the absolute impossible, Abraham dared to believe in the Lord. And, in so doing, God believed in him: He reckoned it to him as righteousness."

I'm associated with a fellowship of churches that historically has adopted the name, "Church of God of the Abrahamic Faith". A major emphasis is on the promises made to Abraham: the Son of God as his descendant and the earth as an everlasting possession. But the challenge of faith in receiving these promises dare not be overlooked. He literally believed in the face of the impossible.

What impossibility stands in your path today? Conflict at home with children and/or spouse? Financial problems? Health issues?

The God of Abraham is the God of possibility. The impossible is accomplished fact with Him. No obstacle is insurmountable.

It's one thing to state such things with confidence; it's another to truly believe as Abraham did. Abraham's challenge to faith was like a huge mountain in his path; my challenges are comparable to speed bumps which, from my perspective, often seem.at least as large as Abraham's "mountain" challenges.

The Christian life is largely an adventure of faith. In fact, "without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Hebrews 11:6). The challenges that each day brings are designed to be met with faith in the God who accomplishes the impossible.

There is territory that God will gladly give us today when we advance in faith. The obstacles and setbacks before us are cleverly-disguised opportunities to be met in faith.

May the God of Abraham give each of us the faith of Abraham on our journey of faith today.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

It's a modern tragedy. The symbol of our Creator's promise has been adopted as the emblem of the homosexual community. Despite being tainted by modern-day evil, it is a rich reminder of God's enduring love and mercy toward us.

"Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you ... I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth." God said, "This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. " (Genesis 9:9, 11-13)

Few sights are as awe-inspiring as a brilliant rainbow in the sky, but it is truly awe-inspiring to consider that a rainbow is the visible sign of a sacred promise made by God thousands of years ago. It is a reminder to both Him and us that He will never again act in judgment through a world-wide flood.

There is more to a rainbow than meets the eye. A rainbow consists of the full spectrum of color, from the brightest to the darkest visible colors and beyond. The human eye cannot see ultraviolet or infrared but it is a scientific fact that these invisible colors are present in a rainbow.

A rainbow is appropriately representative of that which is both visible and invisible concerning God. He cannot be seen by mortals but that which He has done is clearly visible:

"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." (Romans 1:20)

The invisible God is clearly visible through His creative work. The rainbow is one such work, designed to remind us of a lasting promise.

There is no pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, as mythology would lead us to believe, but the Genesis promise is there. A rainbow literally extends from the biblical record of thousands of years ago to us today. A rainbow, like God, is ever-new as well as anciently old.

May His ancient promises shine as bright for you today as a new rainbow.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The more we know someone the greater the potential to be critical. That's the risk of relationships since we are all imperfect. In fact, the "watershed" moment in a relationship is when faults and flaws are the clearest and we must decide whether we can accept and tolerate them or distance our self from that individual. Grace leads to sympathetic understanding and tolerance.

"the LORD said to Himself, "I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done. While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, And cold and heat, And summer and winter, And day and night Shall not cease." (Genesis 8:21-22)

At first glance God's logic seems flawed: "I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth". If you and I were the Almighty we would likely instead have said, "I WILL curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth". Sin and disobedience demands punishment. Period. No exceptions. Cross the line, pay the price.

In the face of God's expected judgment we are instead surprised by His grace. It is literally BECAUSE of our sinful tendency that He extends mercy.

"The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him." (Psalm 103:8-13)

"He Himself knows our frame" (Psalm 103:14). He is intuitively insightful into our sinful nature and, rather than rejecting us, He is sympathetically accepting and forgiving. If that does not leave you in awe, nothing will.

God's mercy is powerful motivation for loving obedience. In the full face of His grace, can we do any less than seek His Kingdom and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven? Does not the vastness of His grace move us to extend grace to those we are in conflict with or who are unlovely?

That which we believe in God's word is fully validated when we operate and live in His incredible grace. As His grace has freely flowed down to us, may it freely flow from us to all we encounter today.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What does it mean to walk with God? Many of us regularly talk with Him, but to literally walk with God seems to imply going in the same direction.

"Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him." (Genesis 5:22-24)

What changed in Enoch's life after the birth of his son, Methuselah? How did he "walk with God"? And perhaps even more mysterious is the mention that "he was not, for God took him".

Despite the many questions about the great-grandfather of Noah, Enoch obviously was a man intimately acquainted with his Creator. His abbreviated life was one of walking in the same direction as God, which is of immensely greater value than a long life lived selfishly.

Where would a "walk with God" take us today? Would the path be familiar or radically different than we are accustomed to? Would the walk take us to people that we often associate with, or to complete strangers who are very unlike us?

The walk with God will likely take us down an obscure path that can only be entered through a very narrow gate. Scattered along the path will be those who are hurting and in need; the outcasts of society. It's unlikely that the walk with God will take us down the major highways into the heart of the glamour, glitz, and success of today's world.

I enjoy my regular talk with God, but walking with Him poses some real challenges. I like the comfort and routine of my walk while His walk seems unsettling and uncomfortable. But it is a walk WITH HIM, which overrides anything else of perceived importance or priority. It is only wholehearted love for our Father that causes us to yearn for a walk with Him at the expense of personal preference and desire.

May we enjoy the blessings of His presence today which can only be found through walking side by side with Him.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

God is in the clothing business. You won't find His creations with designer labels in shopping malls because He specializes in custom-fitted apparel.

"The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them." (Genesis 3:21)

We are God's most personal creation. All else that He created came into existence through a word of command, but we alone were made by God's own hands. We were the most carefully and lovingly made of all His creation.

Because of that fact, our ancestor's disobedience had to have been especially heartbreaking to our Father. His prized, flawed creation was worthy of being discarded and consigned to the celestial scrap heap. But rather than abandoning His creation, God chose instead to protect and provide for them in their sinful, fallen state. And He's been doing that ever since.

"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7)

"having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him." (Romans 5:9)

Our true nakedness is not physical but spiritual. Our ancestor's shameful nakedness was divinely covered by animal skins, but ours is covered by the blood of the perfect sacrifice of His Son. And it is that covering that provides us with the hope of one day "walking in the cool of the day" (Genesis 3:8) with the Lord God.

The Garden of Eden is a distant memory and a long-lost paradise, but we're headed back. The promised One has crushed the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15) and covered us in His blood, and set us on the road to the New Eden. We're going home.

The day is coming when the curse will be fully removed from the earth and it will again be fully productive and beautiful, but we're not there yet.

"For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now." (Romans 8:22)

We're living east of Eden today but we're headed back, covered with garments of righteousness through Jesus our Lord. Stay "dressed up" today in the most beautiful garments ever as you travel the road to the New Eden.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

All creation came into existence through a dynamic command, but we exist through His personal touch.

"Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." (Genesis 2:7)

Majestic mountains, vast oceans, large sea creatures, the sun, moon, and stars were all created through a word of command, but humans alone were created through the personal touch of God. He literally took dirt into hand and formed us. He then touched His lips to His creation and breathed His life-giving breath into lifeless lungs to give and sustain life.

We alone have the fingerprints of God upon us. We are His prized creation and possession. And we alone are uniquely qualified to declare His praise and reflect His glory.

"to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory." (Ephesians 1:12)

Our truest connection with God our Father is found through Jesus His Son. In Christ we realize the fullness of God's plan and our lives literally become a praise and a glory to our Father.

God';s glory and praise are best reflected when we align ourselves with his creative purposes. He who creates new heavens and a new earth has designed His personal creation to inhabit His new earth. It is to His glory that we participate with Him in reclaiming His creation for His Kingdom in as much as He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9)

Rejoice today in your privileged position as God's creation - and re-creation through Christ - and reflect His praise and glory through participation in His Kingdom purposes to make disciples of all peoples and nations.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What's so great about the Commission? The final words of Jesus to His disciples before leaving the earthly scene map out the scope of the great work entrusted to His followers. It's a monumental task with far-reaching implications.

"And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)

There is no work that is more clearly entrusted to us by Jesus than this. His clear Commission is based upon His God-given authority. That authority was directly given, in response to Jesus' sacrifice, by the Father Himself. Based upon that authority, Jesus directs His followers to the task of making disciples from all nations - an all-encompassing work. The responsive are to be baptized in water and the Spirit in the name of our Father, YAHWEH, and Jesus, and in the power of Holy Spirit. This begins the life-long journey of obedience to the entire instruction of Jesus.

Jesus is not "hit-and-run" with His Commission ("here's the huge task I have for you; now, get busy, because I'm leaving town!") No, he promises His continual presence amidst it all: "I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

Often Jesus' Great Commission is a source of guilt for His followers. The task seems so huge that no matter how one is involved, it just isn't enough. After all, how do you make disciples of ALL nations?

Years ago I learned about "the power of compound interest" - the rapid rate of growth of money invested long term. The same principle applies to making disciples: disciple just one person in a year's time, train them to disciple another person for a year while you do the same thing again, etc, and the entire population of the world will become disciples in between 30-40 years (if this process is 100% successful). The Great Commission is literally do-able in our lifetime through "the power of compound interest".

Who is that one person who is most receptive and responsive to you? How could you partner with them for a year of intensive training is discipleship? What would you teach them? What do you need to personally learn in the process? These are fundamentally important questions to consider.

I'm not a disciple-making expert, but I rejoice in the people I have partnered with over the years who are out multiplying the harvest through their disciple-making efforts. And I'm looking for that one responsive, receptive person now that the Lord can make the focus of my disciple-making efforts over the next twelve months.

May the Lord unleash an army of disciple-makers today.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Why isn't the miraculous commonplace? Is it because of a lack of faith, or because God doesn't work that way these days? These are tough questions that I'm sure every believer has grappled with at some time.

The words of Jesus seem to offer a prayer "blank check" based upon our faith:

"Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, `Be taken up and cast into the sea,' it will happen. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive." (Matthew 21:21-22)

Who hasn't felt at least some guilt over lack of faith in prayer? After all, if we just had enough faith in prayer Uncle Joe or a precious brother or sister in the church wouldn't have died from their illness. Or so it would seem.

If faith in prayer resulted in healing for every sick believer then our prayers would work in defiance of what God has established as the boundaries for length of life (Job 14:5). There are other variables in the realm of prayer besides faith.

The burden of guilt over lack of faith in prayer should not overshadow the opportunity of faith in prayer. Exciting possibilities exist in prayer for the person of faith. "Mountains" that stand in our way can be removed; needs can be met supernaturally.

Dare we believe that we can receive "all things you ask in prayer"? Will not God prompt us when our asking bumps up against that which runs counter to His will and plan?

Faith and prayer are awesome forces. Both have been placed in our hands. They are the perfect remedy for worry and stress and all that troubles and limits us.

May we see the possibilities that Jesus saw as commonplace as He lived and operated within the dynamic Spirit and presence of His Father.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

What motivates you? Followers of Christ abhor blatantly self-serving motives, and yet even the most spiritually-minded among us are not immune to less-than-ideal motives from time to time.

"Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him." (Matthew 20:34)

Jesus was supernaturally empowered to perform miracles and healings in demonstration of the reality and presence of the Kingdom of God, but that supernatural ability would have been only marginally effective were it not motivated by compassion. Compassion for the needs of people coupled with the Spirit of God makes for a mighty force.

The priority of compassion is eloquently described in 1 Corinthians 13:

"if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:2-3)

As we are moved with compassion in sharing biblical truth and helping with the needs of others, we demonstrate the reality of the coming Kingdom and its King today.

"What can I possibly do? I'm not very talented", many would say. As limited and imperfect as our abilities might seem, they become powerful and effective when motivated by compassion.

If we pray the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray and ask for the Father's kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as in heaven, we can be confident that we will be directed to compassionate deeds today that will both declare and demonstrate the kingdom as well as provide wholeness to these who are broken.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Some people say it's something private. It is, but it's also a family matter.

"if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst." (Matthew 18:19-20)

Prayer is both a private discipline as well as a corporate practice. It is intimate communication and communion with our Father, but as a corporate practice it is the doorway to power and effectiveness.

Jesus' promise sounds like a spiritual "blank check". When two believers are in agreement they will receive that which they ask for. While the promise seems open-ended, the condition is potentially limiting. The word, "agree", in the original language, means, "the same". The two believers who come together in prayer must be 'the same" - unified not only in what they ask, but unified as believers.

An important principle can be set forth here: perfect unity equals unlimited prayer potential. Two to three believers who are "the same" have incredible power and effectiveness at their disposal. As they gather in the name of God's Son His presence is manifested and our Father stands ready to grant that which is requested.

If there are hindrances and obstacles in corporate prayer they are to be found in disunity. Perhaps it is rare for two to three believers to truly be "the same".

Imagine what could happen if just two believers, perfectly unified, came together in agreement concerning the Lord's prayer - "Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven". Two unified believers meeting together in agreement concerning the Lord's great kingdom purposes could unleash a major movement of God's Spirit in the world today.

Personal prayer is vitally important, but small-group prayer with "the same" unified believers is the means to a display of Kingdom power.

Will you seek out just one believer that you can develop "the same" unity with? Will you commit yourselves to praying for supernatural unity as a prerequisite to powerful prayer? Would you then prayer for God's Kingdom to come through you in preparation for its ultimate coming at the return of Christ?

A mighty Kingdom revolution would begin today if a great number of believers make this their goal and priority.


Thursday, April 03, 2008

It's been said that you can choose your friends but not your family. That's not exactly true; we're family by choice, not birth.

"While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You." But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, "Who is My mother and who are My brothers?" And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, "Behold My mother and My brothers! "For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother." (Matthew 12:46-50)

No insult was intended toward Jesus' biological family. Rather, this situation offered Him the opportunity to make a powerful statement concerning the real basis for family in the family of God. God's family isn't based upon genealogy; it's based upon obedience.

Jewish leaders in Jesus' day smugly claimed ancestry as their special spiritual privilege. Again, Jesus clarified the true spiritual priority:

"If you are Abraham's children, do the deeds of Abraham." (John 8:39)

No one will "ride anyone's ancestral coattails" into the kingdom of God. Entrance requires personal faith and obedience - daily. This is our great family privilege and responsibility.

If God's family was based upon biology rather than faith, there would not the slightest chance for us to be included. The greatest act of grace of all time is that we can be family members, as Jesus indicates, through doing the will of our Father. His will includes believing in His Son and gratefully practicing that which pleases our Father.

Celebrate today as a family member, and celebrate with your family members. Enjoy your privileged position and gratefully live a life of faith and obedience.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Hide and seek is a favorite childhood game, but it should carry over into adulthood.

"He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it." (Matthew 10:39)

The irony of life is that those who seem to "have it all together" are those who will potentially lose it all, but those who have given their lives away for the cause of Christ and the Kingdom will ultimately find their lives. What we give away in the spiritual realm is never truly lost.

We've probably all heard of "random acts of kindness". Kingdom citizens are called to "random acts of Kingdom service and sacrifice". Through such selfless acts we hide our lives from the world but truly find ourselves spiritually.

One of the best illustrations of losing one's life is the example of a seed sown. The act of losing, or hiding, a seed in the ground is the only way of growth and abundant harvest. And so it is in life - to keep and hoard our life for selfish purposes is to eventually lose that which we have, but to "sow" our lives in Kingdom service is to eventually reap an abundant crop.

I won't suggest specifics, but I will encourage each of us to consider one "random act of Kingdom service" that we can commit today. As we offer ourselves in Kingdom service through the prayer, "You Kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven", we offer ourselves to be used according to this supremely important purpose. And we can be assured of specific promptings toward that one "random act of Kingdom service" that He has for us today.