Wednesday, October 28, 2009

You've been invited to dinner at the house of the seven pillars. No RSVP is required and any attire is acceptable. However, don't let these easy terms deceive you as to the value of the offer. The finest food and drink anywhere in the world is being served, and it is imperative that you attend.

"Wisdom has built her house, She has hewn out her seven pillars; She has prepared her food, she has mixed her wine; She has also set her table; She has sent out her maidens, she calls From the tops of the heights of the city:"Whoever is naive, let him turn in here!" To him who lacks understanding she says, "Come, eat of my food And drink of the wine I have mixed. Forsake your folly and live, And proceed in the way of understanding." (Proverbs 9:1-6)

Don't be offended by the invitation. After all, who likes being called naive and lacking in understanding? But in comparison to this offer by divine wisdom even the wisest of us are sadly lacking.

The sumptuous feast of wisdom will nourish us with the healthiest food of all: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by me your days will be multiplied, And years of life will be added to you" (Proverbs 9:10-11).

True wisdom begins when we develop a jaw-dropping awe of our Creator. We're not talking about mere intellectual understanding of His great attributes; we're talking about stop-dead-in-your-tracks speechless awe, like a child lost in wonderment at that which he/she cannot begin to mentally grasp. That kind of awe consumes us with a hunger for knowledge and understanding of the Infinite One.

The wisdom of the ages is that we live all our days in sheer amazement at the grace and favor of the One who has offered us the vast riches of the kingdom of God through His Son the Messiah Jesus. This child-like awe and amazement is our enduring source of godly living and passionate service.

Just writing these words has stirred up quite an appetite. It's time to make my way once again to the house of seven pillars and enjoy the smorgasbord. I'm counting on seeing you there as well.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Having an affair sounds much better than committing adultery but the difference is only verbiage. And however it is worded, it can be more than an illicit sexual relationship; it can also be a love affair with this present world and its system.

Proverbs seven portrays the seduction of an undiscerning young man by an adulterous woman. The scene in this chapter has lessons and applications, whether the temptation is to physical or spiritual adultery.

"For at the window of my house I looked out through my lattice, And I saw among the naive, And discerned among the youths A young man lacking sense, Passing through the street near her corner; And he takes the way to her house" (Proverbs 7:6-8)

The unwise young man in this story deliberately traveled near the home of the adulteress, indicating that he was willing to surrender to sin. Trouble comes when we place ourselves in a position to succumb to temptation. We begin by mentally toying with sinful behavior; by mentally traveling a path that takes us to the place of actually consummating the temptation.

"With her many persuasions she entices him; With her flattering lips she seduces him. Suddenly he follows her As an ox goes to the slaughter, Or as one in fetters to the discipline of a fool, Until an arrow pierces through his liver; As a bird hastens to the snare, So he does not know that it will cost him his life." (Proverbs 7:21-23)

Sin in all its forms works the same way: it begins with a choice to place ourselves in proximity to temptation, we then allow ourselves to savor the allure in our minds, and then we take the ill-fated step.

Citizens of the kingdom of God are well aware of how the process works and stand guard against it. We battle sin in the mind long before we stand at the battle front of action. We "Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil." (Ephesians 6:11). His "schemes" are predictable but tragically effective against the unprepared.

By listening to the voice and word of God rather than the tempting allure of the world we can stand as men and women of integrity in a sinful world.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Is your home haunted or hallowed? This may seem like an odd question but the spiritual climate of a home is evident to a discerning Christian. I've been in homes where a disturbing darkness and evil seemed apparent, but I've also visited in the homes of men and women of God where a peaceful and warm presence was especially soothing and inviting.

"The curse of Yahweh is on the house of the wicked, But He blesses the dwelling of the righteous." (Proverbs 3:33)

It's been said that home is where the heart is but it can also be said that home is where the real heart of things is. Home is the place where our true nature is evident. It is in the home that we either harbor evil or nurture righteousness. Our home is either a satanic stronghold or a godly sanctuary.

The activities that take place in a home are the true indicators of what is at the heart of a home. The tragic legacy of our times is the alarming frequency of domestic violence, the culmination of hatred and evil. This is the fruit of fixation on evil entertainment, resulting in destruction communication and behavior.

Proverbs 3:32 says, "For the devious are an abomination to the LORD; But He is intimate with the upright." Those who saturate themselves with ungodly television programming, internet habits, and violent video gaming ultimately become an abomination to the Lord. But those who nurture godliness through healthy communication, reading and study, and uplifting music and entertainment foster intimacy with the Lord God. The home becomes a sanctuary of the Living God.

It's been said that who we are when we are alone is who we really are. This certainly applies to the home because this is the one place where a couple or a family are alone and are free to be their true selves. Home is the place where we enjoy discretionary time (however little of it we may have amidst the frenetic pace of most people's lives) and so it is in the home that we nurture that which we value. Sooner or later that which we value and nurture becomes evident because, as Jesus said, "you will know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:20). We are that which we are absorbed in and the home is the key place where we indulge our true appetites.

May we seek the Lord's wisdom in purging evil practices from our homes and nurture His presence through godly habits. Through His intimacy with us as godly people may others who visit in our homes also be drawn to the Holy One we resides there in us.


Monday, October 19, 2009

We pursue that which we value. That's the essence of Jesus' statement in Matthew 6:21 - "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Because of this inseparable connection it is vital that we value the right things, such as wisdom, as the writer of Proverbs admonishes us:

"My son, if you will receive my words And treasure my commandments within you, Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, Guarding the paths of justice, And He preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice And equity and every good course." (Proverbs 2:1-9)

The descriptive action words and phrases in these verses clearly indicate that the pursuit of wisdom can be no half-hearted effort. Words such as "attentive ... incline ... cry ... lift your voice ... seek her as silver and search for her as hidden treasure" suggest passionate pursuit. The reward for such seekers is genuine awe and knowledge of the Lord God and the wisdom that only He can give. This wisdom becomes the guardian of our steps and the guide for our lifestyle.

I fear that we live in the age of the lukewarm. Surrounded by modern conveniences, life's necessities are easily attainable even by the poorest of us. With the threat of survival removed from our daily existence it is far too easy to live passionless lives. Affluence anesthetizes us such that we dabble in things like justice, outreach, and spirituality rather than passionately pursuing them.

Several years ago I found myself contemplating that which I believed in so strongly that I would be willing to die for. Out of that soul searching came a passionate belief in the great truths of Scripture that today guide my life and ministry. Believing that this day is a day of training to rule the world with Christ at His return is my motivation to get out of bed in the morning. And while this wisdom and knowledge from the Lord is my guard and guide, I sometimes wonder if the lure of the lukewarm has diminished my fervor.

Where is your passion? What do you believe in so strongly that you would be willing to die for? May your answer to these questions drive you in passionate pursuit of that which our Father alone can and will provide.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Like sand through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives". So goes the opening of a popular daytime television program. Those words well reflect thoughts found in Psalm 90:

"As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years, So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90:10,12)

Few people consider their bank account to be a source of limitless funds, but often we view our lives as a source of limitless days. Of course aging changes that perspective and middle age is the painful reminder that we potentially have only as many days ahead of us as behind us.

Wise financial planners budget their money and people of wisdom budget their days. Wisdom calls for us to appeal to our Creator to "teach us to number our days" (train us to make them count). Each day is a rare and precious gem, never to be seen or experienced again. It is a gift of opportunity and potential that can be invested or squandered.

The apostle Paul admonishes us to "be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:15-16). A foolish person devalues the day through laziness and pointless pursuits; a wise person invests in people and the things of eternity.

This moment is the only moment we may have. We will have invested it wisely if we use it to know our Creator better through His word, and cultivate greater intimacy with His Son and our Savior. This moment will be wisely spent if we use it to convey our feelings for someone we value who has made a difference in our lives, or if we reach out in compassion to someone who is hurting.

We can let the sand sift through our hands or we can grasp the granules and value their purpose and meaning. That's the opportunity of the moment. And that's why writing these thoughts at this moment is the wisest investment I can make. If these words have caused you to pause and consider the moment and invest wisely in others and for eternity then my time has been well invested.

Maximize this day.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Presidents and government leaders don't write songs of praise to the One true God, but there was one leader who did. The tune was lost long ago but the lyrics remain. Perhaps a catchy tune will stick in your head as you read the lyrics:

"O LORD, in Your strength the king will be glad, And in Your salvation how greatly he will rejoice! You have given him his heart's desire, And You have not withheld the request of his lips. For You meet him with the blessings of good things; You set a crown of fine gold on his head. He asked life of You, You gave it to him, Length of days forever and ever. His glory is great through Your salvation, Splendor and majesty You place upon him. For You make him most blessed forever; You make him joyful with gladness in Your presence. For the king trusts in the LORD, And through the lovingkindness of the Most High he will not be shaken. " (Psalm 21:1-7)

Far from being a ploy to get the "religious vote", this song of King David was an honest and humble tribute to his Father who had given him everything. Such a song today would likely be more of a political liability than an asset.

An old hymn appeals to us to count our many blessings and "name them one by one". Such is the content of King David's song of praise: he enumerates on God's blessings of strength, salvation, his heart's desire, his crown, length of life, and joy. He sums it up well by stating his resolute trust: "For the king trusts in Yahweh". God's past blessings are not forgotten but instead are the basis for present and future trust.

If a mighty king's song of praise is to his Father, then ours should be as well. Carefully recalling and listing specific blessings is an excellent place to begin. These serve as the basis for our song, poem, story, or testimony. And they serve as the foundation for abiding trust and faith.

We all have lots of problems and challenges, but we also have abundant blessings that easily escape our notice unless we "name them one by one". How about taking a few moments today to specifically list a few of the vast blessings you've received. Who knows; maybe there is a beautiful song in there somewhere!


Monday, October 12, 2009

The Christian life is no walk in the park. The modern popular message, however, would have us believe that prosperity and a trouble-free life awaits all sincere disciples. Little wonder that preachers of this health-and-wealth gospel attract large crowds. After all, who wouldn't want the best that this world has to offer as well as the life to come! Problem is, there is little evidence that Jesus ever preached anything remotely close to today's popular message.

These statements by Jesus are an inconvenient truth compared to today's popular message: "If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you." (John 15:18) ... "You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved." (Matthew 10:22) ... "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me." (Matthew 16:24).

Better that we should have a true view of the reality of the Christian life than to be misled by the hollow promise of glitter and gold. As one modern writer has said, "This is no cruise ship; it’s a battleship."

King David, a man well acquainted with the challenges and battles in being a man of God wrote, "Be strong and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in Yahweh" (Psalm 31:24). If our hope is in the health-and-wealth gospel we are destined for disappointment, but if our hope is in our Father, the One true God who is a constant source of strength in both prosperity and adversity, then we find strength and hope in all the seasons of life.

The body of Christ is designed to be a safe haven in the storms of life that inevitably besiege every believer. There is general encouragement found in the present of a group of believers but there is very specific help found in partnering closely with one or two like-minded believers. "No man is an island", and the Christian life is not strictly an individual matter. Our lives were meant to be lived out in the context of a family of believers, in genuine authentic relationship.

"Be strong and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in Yahweh". The God of all strength will provide courage and strength, and very often He provides it through His people. Stay connected and stay strong.


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Few things are as distressing as family problems. Tension with people we are inseparably bound to in relationship is agonizing but fortunately, even amidst the worst family conflicts, most of us don't have sons who are bent on killing us.

Many of our English Bibles preface Psalm 3 with the words, "A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son." The tragic story is recorded in 2 Samuel 15 and was one of the most agonizing chapters in King David's life. His own son had successfully led an uprising against him and forced him to flee from his home and his throne as king. Although David pleaded for his soldier's to spare Absalom's life he was killed amidst the conflict.

A lesser man of faith would have given in to despair, but David remained resolute amidst this horrific storm. "But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head. I was crying to the LORD with my voice, And He answered me from His holy mountain. I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustains me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people Who have set themselves against me round about." (Psalm 3:3-6)

Sleep is often elusive amidst our worst problems but David was able to declare, "I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustains me." Sounds sleep amidst crisis and trial is a tribute to resolute faith.

Of the various crises you have faced thus far in life, have any of them overwhelmed you? If they had you would not be reading these words today. The fact is, our Father has sustained, provided and protected thus far in each of our lives. The outcome may not always have been as we had wished but the fact remains that He has intervened. And that is the precedent for what He will for us in the future.

David's incredible faith and optimism was based on God's "track record" in his life thus far, and so he could say, "I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people Who have set themselves against me round about." This was not idealistic wishful thinking; this is rock-solid faith for today based upon God's work in the past.

Life is full of challenges and you may be facing a special challenge just now in your life. The basis for optimism and faith amidst this challenge is God's work and provision in the past. As He has provided in the past, so He will today.

May you find His strength and sense His shield today and always.


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The talk these days is about passion. The assumption is that the secret to a fulfilling life is to discover your passion and pursue it. Perhaps, but cultivating the right passion is foundational.

"his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers." (Psalm 1:2-3)

I discovered a few years ago that there is a huge difference between knowing God's word and loving it. I've met far better Bible students than myself who had an impressive intellectual grasp of the Bible but who didn't seem driven to live and proclaim it. They knew truth but seemed to have little passion for it. In contrast, I've met people with a fairly simple understanding of the Bible who were passionate to live and share it.

It is a passionate love for God's word that allows us to be like "a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season". Mere familiarity with God's word will not accomplish what a passionate love for it will.

Sometimes there is an assumption that "deep" Bible study is reserved for the intellectuals and scholars. In reality, the "deep" things of the Bible are not expert understandings of prophecies but putting in to practice what God's word says. The tree that bears fruit is that of the doer, not merely the hearer and reader.

The simplest way to study the Bible is to read and look for answers to these basic questions: (1) What does it say?, and (2) what does it say to me? When we consider both the meaning of the passage and the personal application of it we've gone a long way in developing a passion for God's word. From there we meditate on it "day and night" - constantly pondering the significance of what we're read and its implications for action in our lives.

Discovering passion is important, but cultivating a passion for God's word is considerably more important. May a true delight in His word be both your joy and your foundation.


Monday, October 05, 2009

We're getting ready to shout even while we're crying.

"Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning." (Psalm 30:5)

This present age, in contrast to those who would call it an age of enlightenment, is in reality an era of darkness. The daily news is a catalog of injustice and atrocities that so well characterizes this age of weeping and grief.

"But you, brethren, are not in darkness ... for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness" (1 Thessalonians 5:4-5). We live in this age of darkness but we don't belong to it. Our destiny is The Day.

A "shout of joy comes in the morning" (Psalm 30:5). How many times have loads seemed lighter, or illnesses eased when morning comes? Imagine the relief when the ultimate Morning dawns! The shouting will overwhelm the previous night's grieving.

By nature I'm not a morning person. The bane of my existence is the inconvenient shriek of the morning alarm. But these days my morning walk coincides with the darkness of night giving way to the bluish-yellow glow of dawn, and there is something awe-inspiring in seeing the birth of a new day, ripe with possibilities and potential. Who knows? This day could be That Day.

The believer's true reality is not the sirens of this day's calamities and tragedies but rather the joy of the Age To Come, and I would prefer to live this day in the hope and expectation of that Day. That perspective allows us to see the shackles and burdens of this age as light and temporary.

As we live this day as though it were That Day we can declare with the Psalmist, "You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever." (Psalm 30:11-12).

Let's do some shouting today.