Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I was really impressed by Proverbs 31 this morning.  As I was reading it to my wife, I noticed that there is only one mention of the physical perspective:
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
      but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.
Besides that half of a verse, the remainder of the "Wife of Noble Character" section is consistent with the second half of verse 30 - it's all focused on her spiritual or social responsibilities.  This only reinforces the truth that this world obsesses about physical attraction.  Of course, I am sincerely grateful that my wife is soooo beautiful. ;)  I mean, it's rare enough to have a godly wife, but for her to be beautiful on top of that - WOW!
Here's a sampling of verses that remind me of my wife:
10 Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?
      She is more precious than rubies.
11 Her husband can trust her,
      and she will greatly enrich his life.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
      all the days of her life. ...
17 She is energetic and strong,
      a hard worker.
18 She makes sure her dealings are profitable;
      her lamp burns late into the night. ...
20 She extends a helping hand to the poor
      and opens her arms to the needy. ...
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity,
      and she laughs without fear of the future.
26 When she speaks, her words are wise,
      and she gives instructions with kindness.
27 She carefully watches everything in her household
      and suffers nothing from laziness. ...
28 ... Her husband praises her:
29 "There are many virtuous and capable women in the world,
      but you surpass them all!"
The Lord has blessed me with a godly and dedicated wife!  She brings me joy, and I want to honor her and love her as Christ loves the Church!
Heavenly Father, thank you for blessing me beyond measure with my godly and beautiful wife.  Lord, I pray that you will grow my love for her and that I will behave towards her like Christ behaves toward the church.  Lord, please bless her and continue to grow her more into this Proverbs 31 woman and more into the image of Christ.  I pray that I will not take her for granted and that you will forgive me where I've failed her.  Lord, please bless our marriage, and may we always be centered on the Cross of Calvary.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Wow!  1 Cor. 15 was really heavy for me this time.  There is a lot of eschatology packed in there.  Here are the two big picture points I see today:
 - Christ is the first in a harvest of resurrection from the dead.
 - All Believers will have a new, perfect, spiritual body that resembles Christ.
And here's the kicker:
54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:    "Death is swallowed up in victory.
55 O death, where is your victory?
      O death, where is your sting?" 
56 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. 
58 So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.
Application:  How am I living in the confidence of verses 54-57, and how am I practically obedient to the charge in 58?  I think this really goes along with Romans 8; we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus!  I need to live like I'm empowered by the God of the universe to discover, experience, and accomplish His specific plan for my life - for my maximum satisfaction and His ultimate glory!
Heavenly Father, I praise you for your fantastic plan of redemption and resurrection!  You not only have purchased me with the blood of Christ, but you also justify me, sanctify me, and glorify me in Christ Jesus as well!  I praise you!  You are wonderful and kind!  Your love is marvelous and amazing!  Lord, help me live a life that demonstrates your glory.  God, I pray that you will help me appreciate the significance of the truth in 1 Corinthians 15 and that I will live accordingly, in practical obedience.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Monday, October 29, 2007

spiritual gifts

The section of 1 Corinthians 13 about "love" is often quoted at weddings, and rightly so, but the question I pondered today is, "Is this characteristic of my behavior all the time?"  Sadly, I must confess, no, though it clearly should be.  As the Scripture states in 1 John 4:
7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.  9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
In this context, whatever spiritual gifts the Lord has given each of us, we must use them in such a way that they benefit the whole body of Christ (and even unbelievers) such that it can be said of us that:
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
In my personal application, I feel like the Lord is growing in me the desire to teach in Sunday School.  I've had the opportunity to substitute teach a couple of times, and I've really enjoyed it.  Of course, enjoying it is not a confirmation that it is what the Lord is leading me to do, but I feel like it has been confirmed through the comments of Believers that I trust.  Furthermore, inasmuch as it is possible, I must remember in the exercise of the spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit has given me that the objective is to love each other and demonstrate that God lives in us, and observe His love brought to full expression in us.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your Word that teaches us about right living, and thank you for the ever-present help of the Holy Spirit who guides us into all Truth.  Thank you for giving me spiritual gifts to be used in the Body of Christ for your glory.  I pray that you will reveal these gifts to me and show me how to contribute to the body.  I pray that you will work through me, purifying me and other Believers so that we may experience your love - your perfect love that casts out all fear.  Lord, may I have a joyful day in Christ today, and may the light of your perfect infinitude shine through my heart and life.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Friday, October 26, 2007

knowing God

Proverbs 26Matthew 261 Corinthians 71 Corinthians 8

Matt. 26:73 A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said, "You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent." 74 Peter swore, "A curse on me if I'm lying—I don't know the man!" And immediately the rooster crowed.

It's interesting that in Matthew's account, he records Peter swearing by God that he doesn't know Jesus. I find this fascinating because Jesus is God. So here Peter says effectively, "I swear by God that I don't know [God]." What a terrible statement - 100% hypocrisy. I suppose I effectively say that with my actions every time I sin. How stupid!

On the contrary, Paul repeats several times in 1 Corinthians 7 something like, "now, I don't have a specific command from the Lord on this, but I think ...", and he proceeds to instruct the church on principles of marriage behavior. It would be one thing if this was some random pastor's advice, but we recognize it as infallible Scripture! How can this be? It is a perfect example of how God's Holy Spirit molds a Believer's heart, soul, and mind to conform to His Will, at which point, what we think is what God thinks!

Heavenly Father, thank you for your Word that teaches us what is right. Thank you for your Holy Spirit who guides us into all truth. Lord, I pray that I would not be like Peter and deny your influence in my life by what I say or do. Instead, Lord, I pray that you will mold my being to match exactly what you want. I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

millenium goals

Matthew records Jesus's explanation of eschatology in Matthew 24-25.  There are a few subtle but significant details that I've recently come to appreciate.  In 24:15, Jesus mentions the egregious act of the Antichrist - "the abomination of desolation."  Jesus then describes three parables regarding the Millennium Reign in 24:45-51 (two servants), 25:1-13 (ten bridesmaids), and 25:14-30 (five, two, and one talents).  These three parables are distinctly different from the parable of the Final Judgement in 25:31-46 (sheep and goats).  In the Millennium parables, there are two consequences - 1) rewards, celebration, and fellowship for the wise, sensible, and diligent, but 2) "outer darkness" and "weeping and gnashing of teeth" for the slackers; whereas, in the Final Judgement parable, the consequences are 1) eternal life for the righteous, but 2) eternal punishment and fire for the wicked.
Paul basically details the significance of sanctification in light of the Millennium in 1 Corinthians 3-4, and this explains why Paul reprimanded the Corinthian congregation so strongly in chapters 5 and 6 (especially for sexual sin).  The person who has faith in Jesus for salvation has indeed been justified and will spend eternity in Heaven, but our behaviour in this life determines how we spend the Millennium.
point of application - I better get my head screwed on straight and get with the program, because there is a wonderful promise of celebration with Christ in the Millennium for the faithful, but there will be a thousand years of consequences for the remedial Christians who missed their opportunity in this life.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your Word of Truth that gives me Light to obey you.  Lord, I pray that you will help me walk with the Spirit and crucify my sinful nature every day.  Lord, please use me to lead others to a closer walk of discipleship with you, and may my life of obedience honor and glorify your name.  May I experience the joy and peace of your presence in my life.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, my Redeemer and Lord.  Amen.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

card game

Proverbs 24Matthew 241 Corinthians 31 Corinthians 4

There are sort of three situations regarding final judgement described in Matthew 24 and 1 Corinthians 3-4. The first is the jackpot to those who Believe - the grand-prize for the "faithful, sensible servant" or the "overcommer" (Heaven). The crazy thing is that He will reward us for our faithfulness, but it's only by His Grace that we are able to have faith in Him and obey Him in the first place. The second situation is damnation, "weeping and gnashing of teeth" for those who do not Believe (Hell). The third situation is a little more subtle - I can't elucidate very much, but there are some who Believe and are saved who end up tragically investing their lives in non-eternal things, and it all gets burned up in the end.

1 Cor. 4:5 So don't make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.

1 Cor. 3:11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. 12 Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. 13 But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person's work has any value. 14 If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. 15 But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.

Matt. 24:45 "A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. 46 If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. 47 I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. 48 But what if the servant is evil and thinks, 'My master won't be back for a while,' 49 and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? 50 The master will return unannounced and unexpected, 51 and he will cut the servant to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

It's kind of like everybody is watching a card game. People come into the game-room at different times, and each person is spotted a random amount of chips and a game-ticket with a unique number for entry into the game whenever they want. Some people enter the game-room with a few chips, and other people enter the game-room with a stack of chips. There's a bookie walking around the room that runs a side-betting ring separate from the game, and every round, each person either has to ante up with the bookie or the dealer. You never win with the bookie (he cheats you every time), and the bookie even tries to get people who are playing the game to place side-bets with their chips.

Once you enter the game, you trade your game-ticket for a parking-validation stub with the same unique number. You never loose when playing the game with the dealer. You don't necessarily have to play your cards, but you don't get to keep them for the next round (use them or loose them). Every round you play, the dealer gives you a hand of cards, and if you play your cards wisely, then you accrue game-points (you get better at playing the game the more you play). Some people watching get so excited with the bookie and the side-betting that they never enter the game, and some people playing the game get distracted with the side-betting instead of playing the game. Sadly, some people are at the back of the room and haven't heard that there's a game to play - they don't know what their uniquely numbered game-ticket is for, so they just place side-bets with the cheating bookie.

Every so often, a security officer calls out a number, and if the number matches your unique number, then you have to leave the game-room and pay for parking. The thing is, parking costs infinity chips, so if you don't have a parking-validation stub, then you get thrown in jail - forever. If you do have a parking-validation stub ( i.e., if you played the game) then you get to go to the party on the top floor of the hotel - forever. Even better, the game-points you accrued while playing the game are redeemable for prizes at the party.

So, you have the choice to join the game and get your parking-validated, stop messing around with that dirty bookie, and play for points that count at the party!

Heavenly Father, I pray that you will make me a faithful, sensible servant. Lord, I want to be an overcommer. Please don't let me get distracted with the things of this world. God, I want to honor you by focusing on things that are going to make a difference in eternity. God, I pray that you will prevent me from lusting for worldly things. God, please grow in me a desire to know You, to know your Scripture, and to obey you with a cheerful attitude. Father, I want you to build a structure on the foundation of Jesus Christ in my life that will glorify you. Lord, do this even today - make me victorious in Christ Jesus. I ask you in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


This is the simple dichotomy:  the Gospel message makes sense to those who have placed their faith in Christ because He has given us His Holy Spirit, whereas those who don't believe can not understand the Gospel because God's thinking is so far beyond human understanding.  You just can't get to God on your own - it takes faith that comes from God.
1 Cor 1
8 The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. ... 21 Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. ... 24 But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God's weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength. ... 30 God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.
Wow!  This Scripture passage paints it pretty clear.  Faith is the switch from dark to light, from death to life, from debt to liberty, from destruction to glorification, from confusion to understanding and purpose!
Heavenly Father, thank you for giving me faith to trust you with my life.  Thank you for opening my eyes to your truth and giving me hope and purpose.  Lord, I praise you for your good plan, and I confess that your ways are infinitely greater than human ways.  Thank you for your mercy through Jesus Christ.  Thank you for being my Master and Friend.  Lord, please use me to bring others to know you and help them grow into full disciples.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Monday, October 22, 2007

primary purpose

Paul explains his objective, which resonates inside me:
15:20 My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else. 21 I have been following the plan spoken of in the Scriptures, where it says, 
"Those who have never been told about him will see,
      and those who have never heard of him will understand."
I pray that, if it is His will, God will use me in this way.
Also, I really appreciate concise summary statements - maybe because I'm an engineer.  I just really appreciate efficiency, even in communication:
19 But everyone knows that you are obedient to the Lord. This makes me very happy. I want you to be wise in doing right and to stay innocent of any wrong. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. ...
25 Now all glory to God, who is able to make you strong, just as my Good News says. This message about Jesus Christ has revealed his plan for you Gentiles, a plan kept secret from the beginning of time. 26 But now as the prophets foretold and as the eternal God has commanded, this message is made known to all Gentiles everywhere, so that they too might believe and obey him. 27 All glory to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, forever. Amen.
Heavenly Father, I pray that you will use me in an amazing way to reach people who have never heard the story about a Father's love, and the sacrificial death of His Son Jesus Christ.  Lord, I pray that you will sanctify me and crush Satan under my feet.  Lord, I pray that you will receive much glory from my life, through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Friday, October 19, 2007

the LORD walking with Abraham

I guess I never noticed how significant it is that the Lord appeared to Abraham.  I mean, I don't fully understand, and I know that God can do whatever He wants (within the limits of His identity), but maybe it was the pre-incarnate Christ.  How cool would that be?!  To walk around with Jesus before He is born into the world - what an experience!
You know what's even more amazing?  God's Holy Spirit lives inside me because I put my faith and hope of eternal salvation in Jesus Christ!  I walk around with the Living God, Creator of the Universe at work inside me.  He is accomplishing His will and plan as I learn to obey Him more and more.
Oh, that He will use me to bring others into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ!
Heavenly Father, thank you for your Scripture that is my guide book.  Lord, I pray that you will walk with me and talk to me.  Lord, please guide me and help me live my life in a way that brings you honor and glory.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

pattern in Romans

I used to think Romans was pretty much a straight forward, one-dimensional, string/train of connected logical arguments (e.g., A=B, B=C, C=D, therefore A=D).    However, now I see it more as a double-helix of interwoven and connected logical arguments that have a predictable, repeating, two-dimensional cross-section that spirals through the progression of a third-dimension.
Alternatively, I previously imagined that Romans could be graphed as a simple cosine wave where the abscissa tracks chapter progression through Romans and the ordinate represents the various theological implications ( e.g., beginning at the Garden of Eden at [0,1], diving into the tension of bad news down to -1, giving the Good News and practical application that gets us back up to +1).  However, now I see it more as a Fourier Series of super-positioned cosines of varying frequency and amplitude that provide many reiterations of the depravity of man and the Gospel of Christ throughout the entire book.
Enough with the analogies.  I really enjoyed Proverbs 18:22, "The man who finds a wife finds a treasure, and he receives favor from the Lord."  That is so true.  The Lord has blessed me with an incredible wife!
Heavenly Father, thank you for your Word of Truth that explains the wonderful Gospel of Christ over and over and over so that I can appreciate it more and more and more.  Thank you that it is infinite, I keep learning no matter how many times I come to it.  Lord, help me live on your Word.  Thank you for the wonderful wife you have blessed me with; may I treat her as Christ treats the Church.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

good stuff

We (several people from our Sunday School class) drove to the funeral yesterday.  We had a good time in the car, and the funeral was good.  We got to see Jon for a few minutes, which was our ultimate objective.  As I was sitting in the funeral service, I was reminded how fragile life is and how important it is to share my faith.  I was also convicted of being too obsessed with unimportant details.
Today's reading is so rich!  Romans 5 and 6 are packed with profound statements.  Adam got us into this mess of sin, but Jesus got us out!  Thanks to Him, we are no longer slaves to sin, but now, through faith, we have the opportunity to obey God.
Romans 6:22-23
22 But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your Word of Truth that explains the awful state we were in and the wonderful sacrifice Jesus made to redeem us.  Lord, I pray that I will live worthy of Christ today, which is only by your grace.  I pray that Jon and his family will experience your grace.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Monday, October 15, 2007

turbulent mixing

I think God uses turbulence to keep us loose and flexible, continually seeking Him.  It's ironic how one of the only things that never changes in our lives is change itself.  We're in a constant state of flux.  This is certainly true for two individuals this weekend: my brother and my friend Jon.
My friend Jon has siblings that are about 15 years older than him, and both of his parents have had bouts with cancer.  Friday, Jon learned that his dad had unexpectedly passed away.  He and his wife drove up to be with the family that afternoon.  They took his mom to the hospital because she wasn't feeling well, and she unexpectedly passed away on Saturday.  Wow. To this I say, "Wow."  That's a boatload of change in one weekend.  Of course, there is great joy and peace in knowing that they are in Heaven rejoicing with the Lord since his parents were Christians.  But, man, that's a lot to deal with.  The funeral is tomorrow.
My brother is a music and youth minister.  He served at a small (and I mean small) church for a couple of years with a long commute and low salary, but he was obedient to the Lord.  Then the Lord moved him to a different small church, still with low salary.  I think my brother has been faithful to teach the youth the principles of seeking the Lord, and he has shared his perspective of worship through music and praise.  I have seen the Lord grow him tremendously over the last handful of years.  Well, the Lord has led him on to his next location this weekend.  He has accepted a call to another church where He will learn more about God and help other people connect to God in a fresh way.  I look forward to hearing about the youth learning and growing in Christ.  Of course, there are mixed emotions - sadness for leaving what he knows and excitement for moving on to the new opportunities.
I can see the Lord at work in both of these lives.  They are both Brothers in Christ, and they each are seeking His leadership for their lives.  I believe the Lord uses our turbulent experiences to shape us into the characters He wants.  I recognize that it's pretty easy for me to pitch in my two cents when I'm viewing these lives obliquely; I would probably say things a lot differently if I were experiencing them myself.
Heavenly Father, thank you for being in control of our lives.  Thank you that I can trust you for my life and the lives of my Brothers.  Lord, I pray that you will comfort my friend Jon, and please help him grow in his understanding of you.  I pray that you will draw Him closer to you through this tragic experience.  May he seek you as never before in his life.   Lord, I lift up to you my brother as he is following your call to move on.  I pray that you will use him to shape others' lives and that you will grow him to be a mighty man of the Gospel.  Lord, I pray that you will receive glory in these two turbulent situations.  I pray that they will be examples of Christ, and I pray this in His name.  Amen.

Friday, October 12, 2007

another duality of Christ

I don't know if I've noticed this before: Jesus performs a miracle in front of the religious leaders at the beginning of Matthew 12 (heals a man with a lame arm), and they go out and discuss plans for killing Jesus.  Then at the end of Matthew 12, they ask Jesus for a miraculous sign to prove that He is from God.  How absurd!  They just saw Him heal someone! 
I sure hope I don't look past what God is doing in my life and then turn around and ask God for a sign.  I'm sure I do it, though.  We are all so very fickle.  I need God to open my eyes to make me aware of what He is doing and show me how I can get in the game.
I really appreciated this quote in Matthew 12:18-21 of Isaiah 42:1-4:
 18"Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
      the one I love, in whom I delight;
   I will put my Spirit on him,
      and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
 19He will not quarrel or cry out;
      no one will hear his voice in the streets.
 20A bruised reed he will not break,
      and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
   till he leads justice to victory. 
 21In his name the nations will put their hope."
So, here we see another duality of Christ.  To those who hate Jesus, He is their Judge; to those who love Jesus, He is their hope.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the hope of eternal life in Jesus Christ.  Lord, thank you for showing your miraculous power through Jesus' ministry on earth, and thank you for showing your power and control in my life.  Lord, help me be aware of what you are doing in and through me.  Lord, help me be consciously following you and doing your will.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


As Paul and his traveling buddies made their way towards Jerusalem, several people prophesied that he was going to experience suffering.  In fact, this was what the Holy Spirit revealed to Paul.  So, while the well-intentioned Christians tried to dissuade Paul from continuing on to Jerusalem, he responded with a very determined statement:
13Then Paul answered, "Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus."
Paul was so determined to follow God's call for his life that he was even willing to sacrifice that life.  Indeed, shortly after Paul arrived in Jerusalem, there was trouble, and a mob formed to kill Paul, shouting, "Kill him, kill him!"
Once we've made our choice to follow Christ no matter what, then we've chosen sides, and the enemy of this world, the Devil, violently comes against us.
Holy Father in Heaven, thank you for your Word that shows us the Way.  God, I wholly give you my life.  I ask that you take it and use it according to your good will.  Call me where you want me to go, and I trust that you will spend my life as you wish.  I pray this in the precious name of Jesus Christ who traded His perfect life for my broken life.  Amen.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

funeral words

I want these verses from Acts 20 to be quoted (truthfully) at my funeral:
21 I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike—the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus. ... 26 I declare today that I have been faithful. If anyone suffers eternal death, it's not my fault, 27 for I didn't shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know.  34 You know that these hands of mine have worked to supply my own needs and even the needs of those who were with me. 35 And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' ... 24 But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. ... 28 So guard yourselves and God's people. Feed and shepherd God's flock—his church, purchased with his own blood ... 32 And now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself.
Wow!  I need to get to work if that is going to be true of me.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your Word of Truth that gives us examples to follow.  Lord, I pray that you will help me be bold and faithful with the Gospel like Paul was; please use me to bring others into the Kingdom.  Lord, I pray that my life will be saturated with Christ Jesus, in both word and deed.  God, I give you my life; take it and use it.  I pray this in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

following the Lord

Thessalonica > Berea > Athens > Corinth
I'm amazed at how God led Paul and his band of evangelists/disciplers from place to place, both implicitly and explicitly,.  Sometimes they left because they would get killed if they stayed (implicit), while other times they went somewhere because God "told them to" (explicit).
I wonder if God works the same in my life today.  While I don't recall a direct audible voice from God about anything (nor has my life been threatened, for that matter), I do think He guides us (my wife and me) explicitly and implicitly.  There are many imperatives in scripture that guide us explicitly because the Bible is His spoken Word, His very breath.  Also, He orchestrates events in our lives such that other people, situations, and events point us in the direction He wants us to go.
For instance, I believe that God gave me an interest in desalination in high school.  I was guided through my high school counselor and a member of our church to major in civil engineering in undergrad.  During my course of study, I married my wife (my high school sweetheart), and I grew interested in the water resources aspect of civil engineering.  Several professors (one godly mentor in particular) encouraged me to pursue graduate school.  In one of the courses I took in the Master's program, I became aware of the global deficiencies in water quality and quantity.  God arranged it so that just as I was finishing the Master's degree, He provided funding for me to switch gears and study desalination technology - an interest/dream from high school.  In parallel with my development, my wife switched gears from her management education in undergraduate, and is now a teacher and almost finished with her Master's degree in education. 
It's like the GPS bumper bowling analogy I described recently.  He has a plan for us; He has a goal for us.  He is moving and guiding us toward that goal.  My wife and I feel like He is calling us to serve Him with our lives.  Now, that could happen in any number of ways, but we are confident that He is "equipping the called."  We must trust that He will guide us, as He has already proven Himself in so many ways.  His ways are above our ways, and His thoughts are above our thoughts.  We will cling to Proverbs 3:5-6.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your Word that gives us objective truth.  Thank you for intervening in my life and leading me.  I praise you that you are omnipresent, so that I know you are always with me.  Thank you for giving your Holy Spirit to guide me.  Lord, may I follow you as Paul and his compatriots obeyed your leading.  Please help me to be bold and faithful in sharing the Gospel of Christ Jesus with those around me as you tow me through life, in accordance with your good plan.  I praise you and thank you.  I pray that you will glorify yourself, in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Monday, October 8, 2007

simple clarity of the Gospel

The Gospel message is so simple!  Here are a few examples recorded in Acts:
13:38 Brothers, listen! We are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. 39 Everyone who believes in him is declared right with God—something the law of Moses could never do.
15:8 God knows people's hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith. ... 11 We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.
16:31 They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household." 32 And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household.
Of course, there is more to learn once a person becomes a believer, but we must not loose sight of how simple the call is to those who do not believe.
Heavenly Father, please give me boldness to share the simple Good News message of eternal salvation in Christ Jesus.  Lord, please use me to bring others into your kingdom and facilitate growth in learning to operate under the lordship of Christ.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Friday, October 5, 2007

focus on Jesus

Last night we had a dear friend join us for dinner and a great conversation about Jesus - His birth, life, ministry, death, God-Man duality, and prophecies foretelling many of these.  It's so refreshing to just focus on Jesus.  This is consistent with Hebrews 12:1-2 (one of my favorite passages):
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God's throne.
And, not surprisingly, this is consistent with the Apostles' simple message:
Acts 9:19-20
19 ... Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days. 20 And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is indeed the Son of God!"
Acts 10:34-36, 39-40, 42-43
34 Then Peter replied, "I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. 35 In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right. 36 This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. ... 39 "And we apostles are witnesses of all he did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a cross,[ c] 40 but God raised him to life on the third day. Then God allowed him to appear, ... 42 And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all—the living and the dead. 43 He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name."
It's all about You, Jesus!
Heavenly Father, thank you for the revelation of yourself through your Son, Jesus Christ - the Messiah, King-Servant, God-Man.  Lord, thank you for your generous grace and merciful love that, to those who place their faith and hope of eternal salvation in Jesus Christ,  you make us children of God!  Lord, you cleanse us and fill us with the Holy Spirit so that we can enjoy cooperating with you as you accomplish your holy, perfect will.  Lord, I pray that my friends will see in me the joy that you've given through the blessed life of Jesus Christ.  May you be praised and glorified in my life, and may I enjoy you and appreciate you even more today.  I pray this in the Name of Jesus - the only Name that saves.  Amen.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

bumper bowling

I love Proverbs!  I especially enjoy the first few chapters because they explain a lot of the dynamic relationship between God and a growing Christian. 
 4 My father taught me,
   "Take my words to heart.
      Follow my commands, and you will live.
 5 Get wisdom; develop good judgment.
      Don't forget my words or turn away from them.
 6 Don't turn your back on wisdom, for she will protect you.
      Love her, and she will guard you.
  7 Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do!
      And whatever else you do, develop good judgment. ...
 11 I will teach you wisdom's ways
      and lead you in straight paths.
 12 When you walk, you won't be held back;
      when you run, you won't stumble.
 18 The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,
      which shines ever brighter until the full light of day. ...
 25 Look straight ahead,
      and fix your eyes on what lies before you.
 26 Mark out a straight path for your feet;
      stay on the safe path.
 27 Don't get sidetracked;
      keep your feet from following evil.
It's like bumper bowling.  You chunk the ball down the lane, and sure enough, it successfully knocks over some pins.  We can have confidence that when we throw ourselves into the Lord's control, he guides us into alignment with His will.  But it's even better than bumper bowling - it's like Global Positioning System (GPS) guided bumper bowling!  Not only does God give us firm boundaries (like the side bumpers), but He's also changing our motivations to pursue Him and allow His Spirit to take control of our velocity vector (speed and direction control from GPS)!
Heavenly Father, thank you so much for your promises of an abundant life in You!  Lord, I praise you for your magnificent plan!  Thank you for choosing me to be a part of your good work, I am humbled by your mercy and grace.  Father, I pray that you will pour into me your Spirit of Wisdom, and that you will guide my thoughts, actions, and even my motives.  Lord, I thank you that when I wait for your plan, You give me strength to continue the pursuit.  Lord, take control of me!  Cleanse me from my wickedness and fill my spirit, soul, and body with your Spirit.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


Acts 5:15-16
15As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.
Acts 6:8
8Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.
First of all, that's just flat crazy about Peter's shadow!  But here's my question, were these types of healings reserved only for the twelve apostles and Paul?  No, because Stephen (not an apostle) is observed to have the outpouring of God's power in the form of miracles.  So, then, why don't we see miraculous healings like these in our current day?  I think it's because of lack of faith.
Hence, my question of personal application today is, does God desire to use me to perform miracles (of healing) if I had enough faith?  Let's suppose that I know someone who is sick.  Should I just walk up to them and pronounce them healed in the name of Jesus?  What if nothing happens?  How do I know if God wants someone healed in the first place?
Anyway, here's something substantial (Acts 5:29-32, 41-42):
29Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than men! 30The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. 32We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him." ... 41The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.
Heavenly Father, I praise you for the solid Truth that you are.  I praise you for being eternal and never changing.  Thank you for showing me mercy and grace.  Lord, I pray that you will lead me to a fuller understanding of the spiritual gifts you've given me and use me beyond my full potential so that you receive all the glory.  Lord, I pray that you will do miracles in our midst; I pray that you will increase our faith so that your Spirit is free to move in power.  Lord, I pray that I will never stop sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that I will rejoice when you allow me to experience suffering for the Name of Christ.  It is in His powerful Name that I pray.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

clear focus and bold obedience

These verses from Proverbs chapter 2 are some of my favorite verses regarding pursuing God once you've become a believer! (they are laid out in a conditional, if-then structure; "if" v. 1-4, "then" v. 5-10):
 1 My child, listen to what I say,
      and treasure my commands.
 2 Tune your ears to wisdom,
      and concentrate on understanding.
 3 Cry out for insight,
      and ask for understanding.
 4 Search for them as you would for silver;
       seek them like hidden treasures.

 5 Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord,
      and you will gain knowledge of God.
 6 For the Lord grants wisdom!
      From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
 7 He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest.
      He is a shield to those who walk with integrity.
  8 He guards the paths of the just
      and protects those who are faithful to him. 
 9 Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair,
      and you will find the right way to go.
  10 For wisdom will enter your heart,
      and knowledge will fill you with joy.
This morning, I enjoyed how God gave clear direction to Joseph to take care of Jesus and Mary by moving to Egypt and then back to Nazareth to fulfill the prophecies - God's perfect plan for their lives.  I know that God will give me clear direction if I seek Him like Proverbs 2 instructs.
I really appreciate Peter and John's boldness and decisive obedience every time I read Acts 3 and 4.  It's so refreshing to hear boldness; it just smacks of intimacy with God - knowing and doing His will.  Also, I really appreciate their simple and clear focus on the Gospel message, as illustrated in the following selected verses:
Acts 2:36, 38-39
36 "So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!" ... 38 Peter replied, "Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is to you, and to your children, and even to the Gentiles—all who have been called by the Lord our God."
Acts 3:19-20
19 Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. 20 Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah.
Acts 4:10-13
10 Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. 11 For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says,    
'The stone that you builders rejected
      has now become the cornerstone.'  
12 There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved." 
13 The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.
So, the question is, "How do I do that; how do I exercise Proverbs 2:1-4 and live like the apostles?"  Well, I think it is by loving Him with a joyful heart and obeying Him out of a heart of gratitude for His grace and mercy ( e.g., reading the scriptures each morning, praying, and living faithfully by delighting in the Lord).
Heavenly Father, I praise you for your goodness and mercy.  Lord, I exalt you above everything else in my life.  Lord, I want you to receive all the glory in my life.  Lord, I want to seek you like Proverbs 2 tells me to; I want to know you and experience your power and work in my life like the apostles.  Oh Lord, may people see me as an ordinary man who has been with Jesus.  Lord, please wrap me in your Spirit, and may I walk according to your Word, not legalistically, but joyfully because you've written your laws on my heart.  Lord, give me joy and peace today as I follow you and enjoy your sweetness.  I pray this in the Name of Jesus Christ, the only name by which anyone is saved.  Amen.

Monday, October 1, 2007

to be a prophet

A couple of months ago, a Brother and I were praying for the Holy Spirit to show us what gifts He's given us and how we fit into the Body of Christ.  A few weeks ago, I took a brief spiritual gifts survey and the results indicated a bias towards teaching and evangelism.  However, there was a disclaimer that you might not know that you are gifted in something that you've never exercised.  For instance, some people might not know they are gifted in teaching until they've actually attempted to teach.  In my case, I scored very low in "prophecy," which is generally not foretelling the future, but simply providing a bold, scriptural word of wisdom to a specific situation under compulsion from the Holy Spirit.  Well, how do I know if this is something the Lord intends to grow in me (because we recognize that you don't start off using your spiritual gifts at full-throttle as soon as you become a Believer), or if the Lord intends to use other gifts more strongly in me.
I was interested in the Peter's boldness in Acts 2.  Granted, Peter is recorded as being a loudmouth all through the Gospel accounts, so it's not surprising.  However, the prophetic behavior is not limited to Peter, as it is developed in the majority of the Believers present at Pentecost in Acts 1.  I wonder if the Holy Spirit empowers us to exercise, to a certain extent, each of the spiritual gifts listed in the Scriptures, and some more so than others.  It's obvious that each and every Believer is expected to share their faith with others, which makes each and every one of us an evangelist, though we recognize some to be especially gifted in evangelism ( e.g., Billy Graham, Louis Palau, etc.).  It's difficult for me to believe that there are some Believers who are designed never to teach, encourage, give, etc.  Rather, I think we Believers are all growing to realize the use of the gifts He's distributed for His Kingdom work, for His glory.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your Word that teaches us how we are to live.  Holy Spirit, thank you for working in my life and empowering me to obey the Father's perfect will.  I pray that you will guide me today to be more aware of how you want to use me and lead me to exercise the gifts you have given me.  I pray that God will receive all the glory for His perfect plan in my life.  I pray this in the name of Christ Jesus.  Amen.