Monday, November 30, 2009

Every generation is like a page in a book. Matthew chapter one records forty-two generations from Abraham to Jesus, and there are some very "colorful" pages in this book, such as Rahab the harlot, and Solomon, son of David by Bathsheba, who had been the wife of Uriah. Each name represents a generation in the lineage of Jesus the Messiah, an important page in an even more important book.

Matthew traces the genealogy of Jesus from Abraham to Joseph, a godly man who in reality was not the true father of Jesus. Few people have been placed in a more difficult position than Joseph, discovering that his bride-to-be was pregnant by none other than the Creator of the universe. A divine explanation in a dream resolved his dilemma and enlightens each of us with important information about our Savior and Messiah:

"She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which translated means, "GOD WITH US." (Matthew 1:21-23)

The supernatural birth of Jesus is unprecedented and uniquely qualifies Him to be our Savior and mediator. Having both a divine and human origin truly makes Him Emmanuel - God with us. He perfectly manifests His invisible Father so that all who are receptive might know and believe. In His own words,

"Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing ; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner" (John 5:19)

"he who hears My word, and
believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life." (John 5:24)

Each of us are a page in the book of generations, extending from creation to the coming kingdom of God. We are privileged to be among those who have seen God through His Son Jesus, and the exciting opportunity of our time is to add an important and exciting chapter to the book of generations by manifesting God through Christ to unprecedented numbers of people. May we be found faithful.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Japanese proverb states, "Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare." Perhaps the writer of this proverb read a Proverb of Solomon:

"Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained" (Proverbs 29:18)

Vision is monumentally important. When the vision captures our highest hopes and dreams there is no limit to the energy and commitment that will be made to see the vision become reality. Without vision, initiative and resources are squandered through pointless pursuits.

I am captivated by the vision of the first-century church. They embodied the prophecy of Joel, pronounced by Peter on the day of Pentecost:


Their dream and vision was to declare the good news of the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ and to be a living demonstration of the coming kingdom through personal and corporate lifestyle. There is no greater vision than this. Through this magnificent vision they turned their world upside down, or, in reality, right side up.

The world may take little note of what we say, but a living demonstration of the reality of that message will be hard to ignore. The people of God living as though the kingdom has already come is a compelling witness.

I believe in the Church, the body of Christ. When it is characterized by loving unity, unconditional love, generous affirmation, and resolute commitment to truth, it is a living demonstration of the coming kingdom. When the local church, whether a home Bible study group or multi-ministry congregation, embraces a kingdom vision such as did the church in Acts, energy and vitality result.

May this vision be your vision and the vision of your church fellowship.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

You are the wisest person I know. Your response might be, "you've got me confused with someone else!", but no; I do mean you. Here's the basis for my comment:

"Evil men do not understand justice, But those who seek the LORD understand all things." (Proverbs 28:5)

None are wiser than those who seek the LORD Yahweh. Those who passionately seek the Creator are those who have assessed their own limited wisdom and resources and seek Him who is limitless in all ways. As the writer of Proverbs earlier said,

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5-6)

I've seen plenty of people who seemed to lack an "internal compass". They journey through life in anything but a straight line. They seem like a ping pong ball, bouncing from one bad decision and its consequences to another.

I'm far from the wisest person who has ever lived but somehow I learned early in life to trust my God rather than myself for guidance. I made a deliberate decision to place my life in His hands and let Him work out the details, and I'm convinced He has done a great job because I could never have planned the course that my life has taken.

There is much that I find confusing in life. Evil schemes. The motivation of the heart. Deception. But I find myself less perplexed by these things that I do not understand and more trusting of the One to whom I pray and ask to "deliver us from evil" (Matthew 6:13).

The commonality that you and I have is that we are seeking the wisdom that is from above as those who seek the LORD. We have weighed ourselves in the scales and found ourselves wanting and have turned to Him who alone possesses and gives all that we need.

None of us are immune to turning back to our own limited wisdom for life guidance, but each new day offers the opportunity to return again to fresh dependence upon the All-wise One. There is wisdom in knowing that we have unwisely chosen to take back the helm of our lives, and rescinding this unwise choice.

May those who are wise choose decisively today to firmly place their lives in His hands and trust Him for direction.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Someone has said that the future stands before us like a man with his hands behind his back, holding either a bouquet or a brickbat. Trouble is, we can't be sure which it is.

Planning for the future is one thing; presuming concerning it is quite another. There is wisdom in planning for retirement, emergencies, college, etc., but presuming that we will retire or go to college is far from certain.

"Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth." (Proverbs 27:1)

Planning for the future is not precluded; merely presuming concerning it is. It is the ultimate arrogance to presume that we will be alive tomorrow because there are no such certainties. James says it well:

"Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that." (James 4:13-15)

We plan and anticipate the future but in reality we have this moment. Humble people of God know that our existence tomorrow is a gift of grace from our Creator and do not presume that tomorrow is our entitlement. Our goal is to maximize the moment we have; to make the most of our time (Ephesians 5:16)

Time well spent is time invested in things of eternal importance. Affirming loved ones. Encouraging the discouraged. Considering how to "stimulate one another to love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24). Sharing the good news of Jesus and the kingdom of God.

If this moment were the only moment, would you do anything differently? Are there things of a presumed tomorrow that become priorities today?

We have this moment. I may squander the next moment but this present moment devoted to sharing and encouraging you is my highest priority.

Carpe diem. Seize the moment; seize the day.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Don't get mad; get even. Do unto others before they do unto you. We might call these rephrasings the "un-golden rule" but no matter how they are worded they are far removed from wisdom.

"Do not say, 'Thus I shall do to him as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work'" (Proverbs 24:29).

Getting even is natural; forgiving is supernatural. It is difficult to buy in to the truth that ""VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord" (Romans 12:19) because we prefer vengeance in our own time and way. Humanly, we hunger for justice rather than mercy. And yet before God we beg for mercy rather than justice.

It's troubling to pray the model prayer and utter the words, "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors". Attaching the condition of human forgiveness to an appeal for divine forgiveness is unsettling at best. The measure we give is the measure we are destined to receive.

I would much rather grapple with deep theological concepts than the simple, understandable truth of forgiveness. It is less threatening to labor to understand an obscure teaching than to practice a plain one. But God's standard is not based solely on what we know; it involves what we do with what we know. As Jesus says, "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35). Genuine love is unwavering in principle yet always ready to practice forgiveness.

My passion is to understand and proclaim the great message of the kingdom of God, but perhaps the most compelling invitation to the kingdom is the practice of its standard of forgiveness today. People who practice the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) give evidence to the truth of the kingdom in a tangible and attractive way.

The reality of truth is the practice of it. Our mastery in understanding and proclaiming it is either supported or discredited through practice. May the world see in us the reality of kingdom truth through how we live and how we live with each other.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Is it really worth it? It is a question too infrequently asked concerning expenditures of time and effort.

"Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, Cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings Like an eagle that flies toward the heavens" (Proverbs 23:4-5)

We often see images of money with wings flying from our wallets and purses. Each of us can easily attest to how fleeting finances really are. It is as though our hard-earned cash takes flight and soars out of sight and our lives.

There is no wisdom in a wearisome pursuit of wealth. We are called to responsible work which provides for our family's needs and for charity to those in need (1 Timothy 5:8: Ephesians 4:28). Beyond that, wearing ourselves out to get rich deprives our families and robs us of spiritual vitality.

"If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (1 Timothy 6:8-10)

" Instruct those who are rich in
this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed." (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

Jesus instructs us in Matthew 6:33 to make the Kingdom of God priority number one, and all else that so easily is our first pursuit is promised to be provided. The "good life" then is "that which is life indeed", with shelter, food, and clothing ultimately provided by the Creator of all.

The present economic climate easily turns our attention to the pressing needs of life in this age and yet the One who truly owns it all has not and will not be diminished in His supply. We serve a God whose resources are as abundant in this economy as at any other time.

May He impress upon each of us the priority of the Kingdom, the proper perspective of our jobs, and the danger of wearisome pursuit of wealth. May we work diligently today for what truly matters.


Monday, November 16, 2009

It's like a fine jewelry store with glass cases displaying brilliant and priceless treasures. Such are the teachings of Proverbs, a collection of brilliant "jewels" of wisdom. For example,

good name is to be more desired than great wealth" (Proverbs 22:1)

Money can buy lots of things but not a good reputation. A good reputation, however, can be the doorway to influence, wealth, and many positive benefits to self and others.

"The reward of humility and the fear of the LORD Are riches, honor and life." (Proverbs 22:4)

That many sound like a "gospel of prosperity" teaching but humility and the fear of the LORD are qualities requiring diligent discipline and pursuit and are safeguards against the misuse of wealth and position.

"Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)

Many parents of wayward children faithfully and patiently hold on to this promise. They are like the father of the proverbial prodigal son - living their lives while keeping an eye on the distant horizon with expectation that the wayward child might be returning.

One of life's great mysteries is the prodigal child of godly parents. Excellent, godly parenting appears to not always be a safeguard against ungodly choices by children, much to the distress and anguish of godly parents. But the Proverbs is true, regardless of outer appearances: "when he (or she) is old he (or she) will not depart from it." Perhaps this phrase hints at the diligent patience required of godly parents - their beloved child may not depart from the right path in their old age (although they clearly have in their younger years).

All the Proverbs truly are like valuable jewels in an fine jewelry store and are given to us to enrich our lives with godly wisdom. Consider and heed the writer's admonition:

"Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, And apply your mind to my knowledge; For it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, That they may be ready on your lips. So that your trust may be in the LORD, I have taught you today, even you." (Proverbs 22:17-19)


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A good handyman can fix plenty of things that are broken, but some are nearly irreparable:

"The spirit of a man can endure his sickness, But as for a broken spirit who can bear it?" (Proverbs 18:14)

I've witnessed remarkable attitudes by those suffering prolonged and difficult physical illnesses and observed that they fared better than those with a less positive outlook. But, as the writer of Proverbs says, those with broken attitudes and spirits are almost too broken to mend. When the battle for the mind is lost there is very little recourse.

Perhaps the saying is true that life is ten percent what happens to us and ninety percent how we respond to it. Attitude is by far the greatest factor in how we get along in life. Those with an optimistic attitude and mindset of faith can overcome incredible obstacles.

Attitudes are formed by what we tell ourselves and what we receive from the words of others. We are what we tell ourselves and what we allow others to tell us about ourselves. And for this reason it's important to consider the truth of another Proverb in chapter eighteen:

Death and life are in the power of the tongue." (Proverbs 18:21)

I well remember a life-changing conversation. Someone casually remarked that I could do almost anything, and I asked for clarification. The response was in reference to qualities observed about my life that formed the basis for that statement. Someone saw potential that I had never seen in myself before, and it opened my eyes to possibilities as to what God could do in and through me that I might not have seen otherwise. These words were literally life to me.

A man named Barnabas is mentioned in the Book of Acts, whose name literally means, "son of encouragement". We read in Acts 11:

"they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord. And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch." (Acts 11:22:26)

This "son of encouragement" commended these believers for their faithfulness as he witnessed the grace of God and encouraged them to "stay the course". His encouragement was instrumental in the conversion of a large number of people, and also in the life of someone he sought out - Saul of Tarsus. Without his encouragement we might not have two-thirds of the New Testament that came through the pen of the Apostle Paul!

Encouraging words have the power to bring life to the broken spirits of others. A simple loving reminder that this life is worth living in preparation for the coming Kingdom and that the coming Kingdom will bring a permanent solution to all problems may literally bring life to someone who is broken today.

You have the power of life and death in your words. Chose to bring life to your family, friends, coworkers, and church family today. Be a Barnabas!


Monday, November 09, 2009

Plan your work and work your plan. That's the conventional wisdom, but a verse in the Proverbs that has served as a life guide for me suggests something a bit different:

"Commit your works to Yahweh And your plans will be established." (Proverbs 16:3)

Work your works and let God establish the plans. Be an active doer of righteous deeds and God will tend to the details of establishing the plan and direction for them.

There is an interesting note in my Bible that indicates the word "roll" is an accurate substitute for the word "commit" in Proverbs 16:3 - "Roll your works to the LORD And your plans will be established." I doubt that the writer had this in mind, but I can't help but think of bowling - roll the ball down the alley toward the pins and its path will be established. At the least this serves as a good illustration; roll your good deeds in the direction of the Lord and He will establish the path to make certain they reach the target.

Looking back over thirty plus years of pastoral service I can see the truth of this promise in Proverbs 16:3. As a young man I had a lot of zeal but very little wisdom concerning direction. I have been and probably always will be extremely naive concerning the ways of the world and how to achieve "success". But I have an infinitely wise Father Who has guided me and allowed me security and privileges that allow freedom in serving Him. He has opened doors for service that I could never have planned or imagined. I've sought to serve Him and He very definitely has established my plans.

I've recently given more thought to the future and its uncertainties and potential pitfalls. Such thoughts can easily be stressful and disconcerting, but I return to the thought that we each are called to serve diligently today and let the ultimate Planner establish the plans. And He will!

This present moment is a sacred trust. We can squander it through idleness or we can make the most of the moment and redeem the time (Colossians 4:5). The great privilege of the moment for me is to share these words with you. If they have blessed, encouraged and directed you then the Lord has established His plans through this work that I gladly commit to Him.

May the sense of His direction encourage you in your diligent service to Him today.


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The word "gullible" is not in the dictionary. Before you look, think about that statement and consider this verse:

"The naive believes everything, But the sensible man considers his steps." (Proverbs 14:15)

Often in the Proverbs wise and foolish people are compared and contrasted. For example:

"The naive inherit foolishness, But the sensible are crowned with knowledge." (Proverbs 14:18)

The wisdom of the sensible is to understand his way, But the foolishness of fools is deceit." (Proverbs 14:8)

The greatest comparison of all between the wise person and the foolish person is Jesus' famous Sermon On the Mount:

"everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock." (Matthew 7:24)

"Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand." (Matthew 7:26)

Many of us consider ourselves to be "a people of The Book", an admirable quality. That implies that we are "heed-ers" as well as readers, which is perhaps the bigger challenge. Doing is more challenging than reading.

You've probably heard the statement made by Mark Twain, the famous writer, when asked if it troubled him that he didn't understand everything he read in the Bible. His reply was that he was more troubled by what he DID understand. Indeed, the clearest teachings of all concerning love, forgiveness, and decisiveness with sin are the most troubling because practicing these clear teachings is truly challenging.

The gospel of the kingdom that we declare is validated by the practice of the clear teachings concerning love, acceptance and holy living. The believability of our message is directly related to the personal practice of it in our lives.

May the dynamic Spirit of God within us continually enable and equip us as we both read the words and work on the walk.


Monday, November 02, 2009

Bite your tongue. That's how we advise caution in speech or express regrets over something said. And if the advise is taken literally most of us will have badly scarred and damaged tongues because problems with speech are universal.

Proverbs 12 compares and contrasts wise and foolish speech:

"An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, But the righteous will escape from trouble. A man will be satisfied with good by the fruit of his words, And the deeds of a man's hands will return to him. There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, But the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips will be established forever, But a lying tongue is only for a moment. Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, But those who deal faithfully are His delight. " (Proverbs 12:13,14,19)

James describes in less-than-flattering terms the dilemma of the tongue and speech:

"For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison." (James 3:7-8)

Much as we wish it could be otherwise, there is no permanent taming of the tongue. Because of its inherent evil nature it requires constant vigilance and supernatural control by the Spirit of God, but inevitably there will be lapses when it will escape control and do irreparable damage.

The best solution for the problem of the tongue is proactive training for its positive use. These verses provide some excellent guidance:

"Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person." (Colossians 4:6)

"in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us." (Titus 2:7-8)

"let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near." (Hebrews 10:14-15)

May our speech be a blessing to all we are in contact with today.