February 28 - 1 John 3

Monday, February 28, 2011

February 28 - 1 John 3
This is one of my favorite passages. John was an old man by the time he wrote this. He had seen so much. His friends had died and many of them had traveled so far away that by the time they had died horrible deaths, he hadn’t seen them in years. He was the Bishop of Ephesus and loved those in his care deeply.

Many believe that he cared for Mary, Jesus’ mother, in Ephesus until she died. He had already been on Patmos and had seen the glories of heaven. Now … all he wanted to do was to ensure that the love of Jesus would spread and would be lived out in those he shepherded.

Rather than spending time reading my words … on this final day of February, read John’s words:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

Love One Another
For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

February 27 - 1 Peter 3:8-9

Sunday, February 27, 2011

February 27 – 1 Peter 3:8-9

“Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”

In Galatians 5:22, Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit – those things our lives should show to the world in order for the world to see the Spirit of God working within us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul lists those things that show love to the world: Love is patient, kind, never envious, boastful or proud. Love is not rude, self-seeking, easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. Love always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres.  Love never fails.

Peter calls Christians together in unity.  A unity that will bring blessing.  This spirit of unity separates Christians from the world, where there is discord and separation.  The world constantly batters at us, attempting to find ways to break us apart.

In this spirit of unity, there is found sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart and a humble mind.  Each of these attributes is set in place so that we never believe we are greater than another and we never attempt to separate ourselves from needing each other.

We are called to bring unity to the body of Christ.  Each of us is important and necessary.  Repaying evil with evil or insult with insult will leave holes that separate.  When evil and insult come … repay them with blessing.

We are called to bring unity wherever we can.  God wants us to be blessed.  He wants to pour out blessings upon us.  It is love which binds us together … love which brings unity.

February 26 - 1 Peter 1:22

Saturday, February 26, 2011

February 26 - 1 Peter 1:22

“Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.”

Loving each other from the heart seems like such a simple thing, doesn’t it?

Yet at the same time … it is so difficult.

We protect our hearts from each other because we know how easily they can be broken and wounded.

‘Genuine mutual love’ is actually brotherly love … ‘philadelphia’ … the love that comes from each other. The love that is absolutely necessary in the face of all we confront daily. We are confident in the love that comes from God until we are faced with the fact that those whom we need to love us and care for us with no strings attached, aren’t there to do that. Then it becomes easy for us to question the truth of God’s love.

One of the greatest purposes we have on earth is to love each other. Jesus said it … The greatest commandment is to love God with all of our heart, soul mind and strength … and the second is just as important … to love our neighbor (our brother … our friend) as ourselves.

The great commandments have nothing to do with rules and regulations, church buildings or programs, events and activities. They have to do with love. Genuine love that comes deeply from the heart.

The heart is where we find the connection to God. In Psalm 42, we read that ‘deep calls out to deep.’ The depth of God’s heart calls to ours. His love reaches to us in the very depths of our hearts. This is the love we share with others, this is the love He sends forth through us … like springs of living water … they will never go dry.

Genuine love … from the depths of our hearts. Nothing else is as important. Nothing else is needed so desperately. Nothing else can be so freely given.

February 25 - 2 Timothy 2:22

Friday, February 25, 2011

February 25 - 2 Timothy 2:22

“Shun youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”

You know, as I approach that age of wisdom, (I don’t know what it is … I just know that I’m closer than I was twenty-five years ago!) I am more and more offended by our culture’s obsession with youth. 

Paul speaks of maturity quite often in his letters, knowing that as youth we spend our time seeking after things that sometimes make no sense. 

When I was teaching high school Sunday School classes, I remember listening to the kids talk about their passions – they changed every week and I’m certain that during the week when I didn’t see them, those passions changed pretty regularly.  Every week there was some new crisis or uproar that flitted in and out of their minds and hearts.  All I could think was that I needed to pray for them regularly so that they would not be damaged too severely.

The pursuit of righteousness, faith, love and peace doesn’t sound like it should be that difficult … but it is.  Even as mature adults, we miss out on those things because we are busy chasing the deal of the day.  Our priorities are based on those things that make us happy rather than the things that make the Lord happy.

Call on Him with a pure heart … He will give you the desires of your heart … not the desires of today or tomorrow, not the desires of the world … the true desires of our heart.

February 24 - 1 Timothy 1:5

Thursday, February 24, 2011

February 24 - 1 Timothy 1:5

“But the aim of such instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith.”

Just prior to this Paul encouraged Timothy to teach against false doctrines, myths and those that would use these types of things to create controversies within the community.  All of these things should be taught … within the heart of love.

The Lord has given us so much … all given to us in grace.  However, it is so difficult for humanity to return the favor to itself.  We treat each other was disdain and judgment when we disagree. 

Timothy was being taught by Paul to be greater than all of that.  He had the power of leadership and his teaching would affect the movement of the churches that Paul had entrusted to him.

We have that same power entrusted to us. 

We teach in love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith.  It seems to me that this is the same behavior Jesus encouraged when he refused to cast a stone against the woman in John 8.  Her accusers were more than ready to condemn her for her actions, yet the one man who was pure of heart … sinless, refused to take action.  He preferred forgiveness.

This is not an easy thing to do … ignoring our tendency to judge.  But, it is when we place love in its place.

February 23 - Ephesians 3:17-19

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

February 23 - Ephesians 3:17-19

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

What is the first word that you are drawn to in these verses?

After I moved past the initial two phrases and saw a large tree with its roots digging deep down into a well saturated with love, I skimmed through them because I have read them so many times in my life.

Then, I stopped. 

Power? What does this have to do with love.  Power … hmmm, over what?

Power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.

Oh my goodness … how glorious is that?

Not wisdom or knowledge or understanding … but power to grasp the wisdom and knowledge and understanding.


Not strength or leadership, ownership or management.

Power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.

This isn’t about how we love or what we have to do to receive the love of Christ.

Power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.

Today, along with Paul, I pray that you and I all may have the power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.

I suspect that it will be difficult to do.

Don’t limit this love.  Don’t miss this love.  Don’t run from this love.  Don’t hide from this love.

This love is wider, longer, higher and deeper than anything you will ever know.

Grab the power that allows you to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.

February 22 - Galatians 5:22-23

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

February 22 - Galatians 5:22-23

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

The Holy Spirit was sent by Jesus to teach us how to live in the kingdom of God while we still live here on earth.  Now, is it possible that we can actually show the world around us that the Spirit of God is encouraging us?

The fruit that we show in our lives of His activity in our lives is found in these seven attributes. 

We show love – not just loving those who love us or those who are nice to us, but we show love always, no matter what.

We are joyous – not just when we are happy about things because life is going our way, but true joy that comes from the depth of our being.  Joy that signifies the most important thing in our life is our relationship with God.

We show patience – enduring patience that remains long after we are tired of putting up with the things that annoy us.  Patience that waits through everything else.
We show kindness – not simply to those who are clean and tidy, smiling and sweet; but even to those who are filthy and on the street corners, ugly and mean.

We share goodness – our lives truly reflect the goodness that comes from God. When the rest of the world thinks that getting away with something is the easier way to exist, we choose to do the right thing – no matter what.

We show faithfulness – the depth of our faith in God never gives up, no matter the cost.  We will never allow the foundation of our faith to be shaken because God is our solid rock.

We show gentleness – when what we want to show is our strength and power, we back off and allow gentleness to overcome us.

We exercise self-control.  We don’t need to have everything that we want, we don’t need to say everything that wants to come out of our mouths and we don’t need to do all of those things that make us momentarily happy.

There is no law that would stop us from living as the Spirit calls us to live. 

February 21 - 2 Corinthians 2:4

Monday, February 21, 2011

February 21 - 2 Corinthians 2:4

“For I wrote you out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain, but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.”

At some point, Paul had visited Corinth and had to deal with some painful things.  There was a severe letter that had been written and this comes after all of that had happened.  Paul didn’t want to return and bring this church any more pain.  There were members of the church that had gotten defiant and he simply did not want to inflame the issue any further.

The worst thing was that if he had an argument with the church again, it would wound him terribly because the church there was his support and were the ones who cared for him when he was upset! (2 Cor. 2:2)

This is a man of great passion and intense love for his friends.  He was absolutely furious with them for their behavior.  He had sent an irate letter intending to help them move past the issue and forward into joy, but the message came back to him that they hadn’t quite gotten there yet.  He had intended to visit them to push them along the path a little more quickly, but we see in 2 Cor. 1 that he decided to stay away because he didn’t want to deal with those who remained obstinate and defiant.  No matter what he said or did, they would insist that he was wrong and would further divide the church.

Paul loved these people.  They grieved him – he cried for them. 

In that same way, God loves us.  We grieve His heart.  That will never change – we are humanity and we are prone to sin.  But, His love for us outweighs any pain or any grief. 

Every day that we are alive … we are loved, even when we are obstinate and defiant.  He still loves us.

February 20 - 1 Corinthians 13

Sunday, February 20, 2011

February 20 - 1 Corinthians 13
Love Chapter

“And now I will show you the most excellent way …”

Those words begin the glorious chapter on Love that Paul sent to the Corinthians. 

When I was in high school, one of the activities that we used was to place our own name in the 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.  Most of us couldn’t do it without getting choked up.  Patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered, forgets wrongs, protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres, never fails.  Some of those are impossible, all are difficult.

But, while Paul calls us to the greatness of love, what if we were to place God’s name in those verses.  God is patient with us … more than we can ever imagine.  He is kind.  His jealousy is holy – wanting us for himself, he is not envious of anything – He has no reason to be.  He doesn’t need to boast, His pride is non existent.  He isn’t rude, He isn’t self-seeking.  His anger has been abated by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  He forgets the sins that we commit when we repent.  He protects us.  His covenant with us shows that He continues to trust.  He never gives up on us, always hoping that we will come into right relationship with Him.  He will never fail.

The epitome of love is found in the person of the Trinity.

Everything else will cease.  Nothing will matter someday.  We can worry about the things of our church and our home, our friends and our family and all of that will simply fade away. 

But those things that remain are those things that will take us before the throne of God.

I remember the weeks prior to Mom’s death.  Up until that point she had been actively involved in the printing business, but she finally said to me one evening as I was trying to update her on the day’s activities, that it no longer mattered.  All that mattered was that she could love us and tell us about how much she loved us.  She was right.  Everything else had finally faded away.

Her faith was strong, her hope for eternity was strong … but love.  The love that flowed around us, through us, from us … that was the strength that helped her make the next step and allowed us to move back into life.

Love is the greatest of all.

February 19 - 1 Corinthians 2:9-10

Saturday, February 19, 2011

February 19 - 1 Corinthians 2:9-10

But, as it is written, “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”—  but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.”

This passage is rather incredible.  The Spirit … the part of the Trinity that Jesus ensured would come to us after He as ascended into heaven is that which transmits the thoughts of God to us.

God has set aside salvation and redemption for those who love Him.  We don’t have to worry about measuring up to anyone’s set of rules or man’s idea of who we should be or how we should act.  We need only count on God’s will for our lives.

The things of God are nearly impossible to comprehend, but God doesn’t want us to be ignorant about His plan for us or for the world.  He has made it clear … if only we take the time to listen to Him, to pay attention to Him.  When the Spirit came into the world after Jesus’ ascension, God was no longer hiding anything from us.  The mysteries were revealed.  While we don’t have all the specifics, we do have the assurance of His plan for us.

Because we love Him; though we can’t see, hear or even conceive of the things He has prepared for us, God will reveal them to us.  Paul tells us that our confidence is in knowing that we have the mind of Christ …

God grants us salvation through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ on the cross and reveals it through the Holy Spirit.  The Trinity is at work in our lives bringing us into a full relationship with God.

February 18 - Mark 12:33

Friday, February 18, 2011

February 18 - Mark 12:33

“and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

This response came from one of the Pharisees who had heard Jesus quote the Shema when asked about the greatest commandment.  The man had not only paid attention to the intent of Jesus’ words, but had also understood and figured out how to apply those words to the reality of their lives.

Jesus response to him in the next verse was just as interesting, “You are not far from the kingdom of God!”

Jesus Christ wants us desperately to understand that love is the greatest of all the commandments.  We can worry about how we live our lives each day, watching that we don’t sin in any number of ways, or we can learn to live our lives in love and in doing so, we will find no reason to worry about sin. 

When we spend those precious moments in our lives thinking and fretting over the negative things that happen around us, we toss away the opportunities that those moments give us to love someone else.  When we complain about how the world is treating us badly or snipe about the seemingly awful things that happen to us and to those around us, we miss chances to love.  When we are more concerned with the rules and social mores than we are with love … we misunderstand what Jesus came to teach us.

It’s about love – unfailing love for God and for each other, no matter who the other is.  God doesn’t call us to just love those who love us, but to love that annoying waitress or the coworker who seems intent on distracting us from our work, the driver who has cut us off in traffic and even the child who is bullying our own.  There is absolutely no one that God doesn’t call us to love.  He doesn’t give us approval to refuse to love people – even if we don’t like them very much.

This is what is important – more than anything else.

February 17 - Matthew 22:37

Thursday, February 17, 2011

February 17 - Matthew 22:37

“He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’”

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

The Pharisees had just watched Jesus undermine the Sadducees and decided that it was their turn to test Him.  As a group, this was their best effort – one of them went to Jesus with the question, expecting that any response would allow them to tear Him apart.  There was no way to choose one of the Ten Commandments over any other.  They thought they had Him.

The Pharisees never seemed to be prepared for the words that came out of Jesus’ mouth.  Every time they challenged Him, they walked away with their tails between their legs and their mind confused by the simplicity and truth that He spoke.

These words were in the Shema taken from Deuteronomy 6:4.  “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord our God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” But the heart of them is found in the body of the Ten Commandments.

We might be conditioned now to look at those commandments as a series of “Thou shalt nots,” but in reality, their purpose was to draw the Israelites into a closer and deeper relationship with God.

The first four of the commandments are all about the relationship with God: don’t worship anyone else, don’t make an idol, don’t misuse His name, set aside the Sabbath as holy.  God wanted (wants) His children to love Him with everything.  With heart, soul and mind.  As long as those are turned towards Him … all else will fall into place.

Jesus goes on in Matthew 22 with a second commandment saying, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  The final six of the commandments flesh out that command. 

Jesus’ wasn’t about to be trapped by the Pharisees.  He didn’t need to be.  The greatest command is to love God, followed immediately by loving each other.  No matter how much we rebel against the “thou shalt nots,” the truth is that when we put in place “thou shalt love,” our rebellion drops away.

February 16 - Song of Solomon 8:6

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

February 16 - Song of Solomon 8:6

“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame.”

The love story found in the Song of Solomon is as much a story of Solomon’s love for a woman as it is the story of God’s love for His people.  That passion that we feel when falling in love with someone or the way we love our children is the same passion that God desires we feel in our relationship we Him. In fact, He wants our love for Him to outweigh anything on earth.

God yearns for us to draw close to Him.  By allowing Him to be in our hearts, by showing the world that we are His with a seal on our arm, we acknowledge His presence in our lives. 

To this day, phylacteries (or tefillin) are worn by devout Jews.  They are small boxes with leather straps that are bound to the upper arm or on the forehead. Within the box is found the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord our God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

Moses then instructs the people that the commandments are to be upon their hearts and tied as symbols to their arms and foreheads as well as written on the doorframes of their homes and their gates.

The passion of the Israelite’s love for God was to be found in the hearts and on their arms.

Jesus carried the message of God’s love for us to the cross.  Love is strong as death.  “Greater love has no man than that he lay his life down for a friend.”  Jesus’ death on that cross showed us what passionate love is really all about and calls us to love like that.

February 15 - Ecclesiastes 9:1

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

February 15 - Ecclesiastes 9:1

“So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, but no man knows whether love or hate awaits him.”

Sometimes the author of Ecclesiastes gets a little morose and that really isn’t what you expect when you read the Bible … someone who doesn’t offer the best hope and the best ideas.  He just says what all of us feel.  It makes me think of the transition from the Brady Bunch to Roseanne.  All of a sudden we’re confronted with the gritty reality of life and we aren’t sure that we really want to have that in our Bible. 

It’s one thing to read about wars and battles and worshiping idols, a Savior who loves us enough to die for us.  We know those stories really well and have they have become part of our nature.  But, we aren’t so sure that those feelings we have when nothing makes sense and it seems as if the world really isn’t on our side are what we want the Bible to emphasize. 

Yup, the righteous and the wise are in God’s hands, but who knows what tomorrow will bring.  The world presents both bad and good to us all the time.  We want it all to be good, but that just isn’t reality.  There are some who seem to have only good things that come to them and we envy those people.  Then there are those whose lives have fallen into complete disrepair.  We are thankful to not be them.  And then there we are.  Right there in the middle.  We don’t know what is coming next.  It could be bad, it could be good.  We pray for the good and fight through the bad.

Now, while Ecclesiastes doesn’t tell us that everything is going to be good if we believe in God, it does tell us that everything is in God’s hands.  These words remind me more and more that the place we want to be is not here on earth where we don’t know what is coming next, but to be in eternity with God.  These are the things that make us yearn for home, that remind us we really are aliens in this land as much as we try to adapt it to fit our lives.  We will never be content here.

We don’t know what awaits us tomorrow – it could be love or hate.  But, the first part of that sentence is as important as the second.  God has it all in His hands and there is no safer place to be.

February 14 - Proverbs 22:11

Monday, February 14, 2011

February 14 - Proverbs 22:11

“Those who love a pure heart and are gracious in speech will have the king as a friend.”

There was an article on CNN.com today about the Four-Star General and Five-Star Grace.  It seems that a White House adviser was at a state dinner and glancing behind her, saw the pants of a waiter and asked for a glass of water.  When the man graciously brought her the water, she realized that though his pants might have looked similar to the waiter’s, the rest of him was a four-star general.  Rather than embarrass her or challenge her, he chose the way of grace.  Further down in the article, the author mentioned (not by name) a singer who was approached by an usher at a show he was doing – inquiring if he was the comedian who would open the show.  The singer demanded that the usher be fired. 

As I was growing up, there were two types of people that I remember.  Those that made a big scene if they were injured, no matter how great or small – no matter if it was an accident or deliberate.  It was embarrassing for everyone around them when they screamed and cried, whined and moaned about a small injury – especially if it had been unintentional.  Then, there were those who sucked in a breath and managed to get out of everyone’s field of vision before reacting to the pain that had occurred.  The last thing they wanted to do was embarrass anyone, so they set their own feeling aside to ensure that others were comfortable in the situation.

Graciousness in all things.  The stories will be told of those who are gracious and those who aren’t.  I know which stories I want to be told about me.

February 13 - Psalm 40:10

Sunday, February 13, 2011

February 13 - Psalm 40:10

“I have not hidden your saving help within my heart, I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.”

While we may not be prone to write hymns, poems, songs or chants of praise whenever God wins a victory for us, we part of our very make up is to say ‘thank you.’  Sometimes we speak words of thanksgiving in private, sometimes in public. 

David cried out to the entire nation of Israel … the great congregation … singing words of victory in order to give God glory and praise.   The people responded.  As their king sang out, they grew confident in the work of the Lord and so trusted Him to care for them.  The king’s victories were the people’s victories.

While our kingdoms may be nothing like David’s, we are surrounded by people who need to hear our thanksgiving.  Our families need to hear of God’s faithfulness and salvation.  Our friends and coworkers need to see that His love is steadfast and His faithfulness is apparent in our lives.  Without us to show and teach those around us that God has saved us from things great and small, how will they know?

David refused to hide his relationship with the Lord from the people of Israel … we need to share our relationship with the people in our lives.

February 12 - Psalm 36:10

Saturday, February 12, 2011

February 12 - Psalm 36:10

“O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright of heart!”

David emphasizes the great chasm between the goodness of God and the sinfulness of the wicked in this Psalm.  The difference between the two is clearly shown to be … love.

The wicked don’t fear God, they flatter themselves, they don’t hate sin, they cease to be wise and even when sleeping are plotting evil.  Psalm 36:1-4 describes this sinfulness.

On the other hand, the Lord’s love reaches down from the heavens.  “How priceless is your unfailing love.” (Ps. 36:7a)

All mankind finds refuge in the shadow of His wings and feast on the abundance of his house.  In the Lord is the fountain of life. (Psalm 36:5-9)

This love is unlike anything mankind knows.  We know and understand evil – we encounter it every day.  Sometimes we are still stunned by the incredible power that it can hold over man, but it is that which humanity has made its own, giving it many forms.

God’s love is eternal, it is greater than anything we can conceive and more powerful than anything we can imagine.  It is so far beyond our capacity for love that we find it difficult to believe it really exists.  God’s love is steadfast and His love brings salvation.

This love will rebuke evil and bring freedom to the oppressed.  Nothing that mankind can do alone will set evil aside – only through releasing God’s love will we ever live in a world free from evil.  We can’t do it alone.

February 11 - Psalm 13:5

Friday, February 11, 2011

February 11 - Psalm 13:5

“But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.”

These words don’t give us the full picture of this Psalm.  David is in bad shape.  It’s a short Psalm so I’m just going to share the entire thing with you here.

Prayer for Deliverance from Enemies
To the leader. A Psalm of David.

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O LORD my God! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.

But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Sometimes we feel so guilty about questioning God when things go wrong.  We feel guilty when we feel as if He has pulled away from us. We don’t allow ourselves to have feelings of frustration with His response to our needs.

David’s words remind us that frustration and worry, anger that the enemy seems to be winning and wondering whether or not God is even paying attention are appropriate behaviors in our relationship with God. 

Because that is exactly what God wants to have with us – a relationship.  Those behaviors aren’t appropriate if we don’t walk with God, because we can’t balance the frustration with the complete trust that God also expects us to have in Him within that relationship.

The Lord deals bountifully with us, even in those moments of time when we don’t see it because of the pain that surrounds us.  We so quickly and easily forget the things that He has done for us in the past and we can’t imagine the things that He will do for us in the future.  When we are surrounded by pain and sorrow, all we can focus on is the here and now and right now it might not feel as if God is anywhere close.

David reminds himself and us that God is near.  He’s got it all.  He cries out to God in his pain and remembers then, that there is more to life than the immediacy of that pain.  God is to be trusted, even in pain we are to rejoice.  God will always care for us.

February 10 - 1 Kings 11:2

Thursday, February 10, 2011

February 10 - 1 Kings 11:2

“from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the Israelites, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you; for they will surely incline your heart to follow their gods”; Solomon clung to these in love.“

Solomon loved foreign women.  That’s what the Bible says.  He loved the daughter of Pharoah; Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian and Hittite women.  God had pretty much told the Israelites not to fall for these women because there were so many other gods out there and everyone knew that a pretty girl had a lot of influence over the man in her life.

Well, Solomon had a LOT of pretty girls.  Seven hundred princesses and three hundred concubines, as well as his wives.  And the scripture says that they did turn his heart away from God.  As he grew older, each of them was able to influence him and we read that he didn’t turn his heart to God as his father, David, did.

While this passage gets attention from many when a marriage might occur between religions these days, I think there is more to the story than the fact that Solomon was easily influenced by a beautiful woman.

The greatest part of this story is the God did not want him to marry those women and Solomon disobeyed.  His heart was more intent on loving women than it was on loving God.  Though it seems out of control to us, the story isn’t even about the number of women that Solomon had in his life.  I’m not at all sure how he thought that he could manage that lifestyle … but, he gave it a shot.

The Lord wants us to love Him with our entire heart.  To set Him before everything else in our lives … even our spouse and our children.  If God asked you to stay single so that you could better serve him and you chose to get married … you would be as disobedient as Solomon was.  God knows what it is that we need in our lives to stay true to him. 

If we cling to the things that we love on earth just as Solomon did, rather than allowing our hearts to be inclined to God, we miss the glorious relationship that He offers to us.

February 9 - 1 Kings 8:23

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

February 9 - 1 Kings 8:23

“He said, “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart,”

Solomon began his prayer to dedicate the great Temple in Jerusalem with these words.

David had begun preparing things for the building of the Temple and in 2 Samuel 7, God promised that his son (Solomon) would be the one to build it.  But, in 2 Samuel 7:11b we read, “The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you.”

The Covenant that God established with David in 2 Samuel 7 was a covenant that would place David’s lineage on God’s throne forever.

“I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his Kingdom forever. (2 Samuel 7:12-13)

“Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; and your throne will be established forever.” (2 Samuel 7:16)

The Israelites had never had a king until Saul.  The devastation that he brought to the kingdom was enough to nearly destroy their relationship with their God.  David’s reign – establishing a right relationship with Go and honoring God as the true ruler, brought them back.  In all of the next hundreds of years as kings came and went and the Israelites moved back and forth in their relationship with the Creator, God was preparing them for the coming Messiah, the one who would be seated upon the throne mentioned in the Covenant of 2 Sam. 7:16. 

He loved His people.  His love was steadfast.  He gave them whatever it was that they needed and many times gave them whatever it was that they wanted.  When they broke the covenant with God, He refused to set it aside.  He maintained His love for them and brought the Messiah to transform their hearts.

In the end, He will reign.  There will be no king or ruler that is an intermediary.  There will be only God and His people. 

God allowed Solomon to build the house for His Name, but read what John reveals in Revelation 21:3, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people and God himself will be with them and be their God.”

Solomon dedicated a Temple so that God could live among His people.  Solomon reminded God of the covenant that He had established.  That love … that steadfast love will take us through to the end, when God will again dwell among His people.  But, there will be no need for a human king or ruler.  He will be our God – we will be His people.

February 8 - 1 Kings 3:6

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

February 8 - 1 Kings 3:6

“And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. “

I don’t know about you, but the fact that these words can be spoken by David’s son, Solomon when talking to the Lord, does a lot for my poor sinner’s heart.

We all know that David was a sinner … in multiple ways, yet we also know that he was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22) and only because he had been a man of war, not a man who had sinned, was he not allowed to build the Temple for God in Jerusalem.  God honored David with a covenant which was fulfilled in Jesus Christ and his name as King of Israel remains a name that continues to be honored.

David’s sin was not held against him.  His life was difficult, he faced great trials.  Some of those were brought about because of his sin, but it never separated him from God’s love.

We tend to measure God’s love against our sin.  We measure our love for each other against the sin another has committed, whether it is great or small.  Unconditional love is nearly impossible.  If we perceive any type of sin, we find it very easy to reject a person.  We have found ourselves rejected because of another’s perception of our sin.  It is a human thing to do.

Consequently, we expect God to treat us in the same way.  But, God’s love is never ending and He does not base it on us.  His love is always there for us.  It never lessens, it never fades, it never wanes.  It is unchanging and it is eternal.  God’s love was fulfilled on the cross and was never measured by our propensity to sin.  His work on the cross was done to cover that sin, to atone for that sin. 

We need to understand that God does not treat us as we treat each other.  We may value a person because of how good they are or devalue a person based on their actions and lifestyle.  God never approaches us in that same manner.  Never.  He always loves us.  His forgiveness is infinite and is love is immeasurable.

February 7 - Judges 16:15

Monday, February 7, 2011

February 7 - Judges 16:15

Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me three times now and have not told me what makes your strength so great.”

You just gotta love a woman like Delilah.  She just gives us a bad name.  Sneaky, conniving, manipulating.  How could a man ever trust someone who would twist his love like she did?

She tossed intimacy in his face – if he didn’t trust her with the innermost secrets of his life, how could he honestly love her.

While we know the outcome of the story – she wasn’t worthy of his trust, the words themselves are important even at a very spiritual level.

I know that there is one person that I can trust with every intimate detail of my life – and that is God.  He knows all of my ugliness and pain, all of the terrible thoughts and the crazy behavior that I hold at bay.  Everything is laid bare before Him … every moment of the day.  I suppose that I could try harder to hide those things from Him, but I know better than that and I know that there is absolutely no one else I would trust with those things.

We all know that humanity is hurtful and that there really is no one we can trust implicitly.  Even those that we love more than anything and trust with nearly everything have hurt us in anger or frustration, even if it was unintentional. 

The Lord doesn’t react in ways that will hurt us – whether deliberately or not.  He won’t carry tales of our exploits to others so that we are exposed in ways that will damage us.  Everything that we turn over to Him is given to a God who is honorable.

In Jeremiah we read, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer. 29:11)  This is the Lord who hears our deepest pains and knows our most tender feelings.  He takes all that He knows about us and puts it together to bring hope and a future.

Samson knew that his life was to have been given to God.  He knew whom to trust, but in the end, he gave up and trusted a woman who would not hold his life with honor.

God is worthy of our trust – He has never been found without honor.  If you think that you are hiding things from Him, think again.  He is already holding all of those things for you and does so without using them to wound you.  He loves you more than you can imagine.

February 6 - Joshua 22:5

Sunday, February 6, 2011

February 6 - Joshua 22:5

Take good care to observe the commandment and instruction that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to keep his commandments, and to hold fast to him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

To love. To walk.  To keep.  To hold fast.  To serve.

These words are similar to those we read in Deuteronomy 10:12-13.  Joshua’s leadership of the Israelites required that he remind them of their responsibility to the relationship they had with God.  In the early days of this relationship, it was never about legalism, it was about devotion and how they could take pride in their covenant relationship.

Much like we take great pride in the things we do well and live by the honor of always doing our best in our work and our lives, the Israelites felt great pride in their covenant with God. 

The reason that God gave Israel the Law was to help them express their love for Him.  They obeyed Him because they made a choice to do so.  While the progression of history found them obeying because it was the thing to do, the early relationship was because they desired to do nothing other than obey the Lord God who delivered them from Egypt, the Creator of all and their Sustainer.

This is the same relationship that we began with God.  We obey and worship Him because we love Him.  He saved us from our sins and offered us a new life that leads to eternity.  Yet many of us are like the Ephesian Church in Revelation 2.  We have forsaken our first love (Rev. 2:4).  We get caught up in the rules and the relationships we have with everyone else and have forgotten that the ‘love relationship’ with God is primary.  When that is fully in place, when we fully love God and are completely confident in His love for us, there is no need for rules. 

This is what Paul tried to teach in all of His letters and what Jesus Christ continually reiterated.  Love is all that is needed.  Love for God, love for each other.  When that is all there is, that is all that is needed.  Everything else becomes unimportant.

February 5 - Deuteronomy 30:6

Saturday, February 5, 2011

February 5 - Deuteronomy 30:6

“Moreover, the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live.”

Way back in Genesis 17, God had set up a covenant with Abraham – that He would bless Abraham with a great many descendants, many nations and that God would be their God and they would be His people.  The physical sign of the covenant was circumcision, so Abraham and every single male in His household was circumcised on that day.   This was to remind each of them every moment of every day that they had chosen to follow God.

Down through the years, rather than remaining as a sign to remind the Israelites, circumcision became a law and the reason for the initial act was left behind in a flurry of rules and regulations.  Circumcision occurred because it was expected and not as a heartfelt response to the relationship that God wanted to have with His people.

God reminds the Israelites of this reason with a different approach in this passage.  Since circumcision cuts away part of the man’s body, the allusion here is to cutting out those things that stop people from being in relationship with God.  The purpose for circumcision was not to simply set people apart from everyone else physically, but to remind them of their covenant relationship with God the Creator.  What He wanted from His people was for them to love Him with their heart and with their soul.  He wanted to offer them life.

Centuries continued to pass and the desire to remain in communion with God was lost over and over again, but the law regarding continued.  In fact, it was so important to the Jews that they demanded any Gentile who became a Christian prove himself by being physically circumcised.  The law was so much more important to them than the actual relationship that a person had with Christ.

Paul reminded them that Abraham had a strong relationship with God before he was circumcised in Romans 4.  Being circumcised was not a requirement for believing in God.

The Jews firmly believed that the sign of the covenant was circumcision, but Paul argued in his letters that faith in Christ was what made a person part of the kingdom of God.  Belief in the work of the Cross was the path into the covenant, not the physical act of circumcision.  For Paul, there could be no distinction between the circumcised and uncircumcised, the Jew or the Gentile.  All are unified in Jesus Christ.

This is the path to our relationship with God – it takes us to the Cross of Jesus where our hearts are measured by our willingness to believe and accept that He has done the work of atonement for us. 

February 4 - Deuteronomy 13:3

Friday, February 4, 2011

February 4. Deuteronomy 13:3

“…you must not heed the words of those prophets or those who divine by dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you indeed love the LORD your God with all your heart and soul.”

It is so easy for us to listen to everyone else about how to follow God or what we have to do to obey God.  We turn preachers and singers, authors and speakers into folk heroes, according them the power to interpret the word of God for us.

History is filled with tales of charismatic leaders.  Some of them are amazing teachers and have changed the course of Christianity for good.  People like Martin Luther and John Wesley.  Others like Jim Jones and David Koresh did enormous damage to the people that listened to them. 

We laugh at smarmy televangelists and cringe at the immense number of gullible people that they have hoodwinked over the course of their careers, but it isn’t easy to discern between someone who gathers people around because they truly have something good to say or someone who simply draws people by the force of their personality.  Many times it begins as truth, but power and greed corrupt the truth that once came from their mouths.

We’d like to think that we are smarter than those who followed the wrong people, but the truth is that as long as we rely on someone else to interpret God’s word for us and elevate that person to a level that sets them between us and God, we are allowing our hearts to be led by man and not by God.

Moses told the people of Israel that God was testing them with these false prophets and diviners.  The Lord wanted to be right there with His people … part of their every day lives, but that didn’t make sense to them, so they began to rely on others to interpret His words and their actions in response to Him.

If we love the Lord with all our heart and soul, we will remember that He is closer to us than any other human being and we can trust that He will give us the interpretation of Scripture that we need to know.  His truth is within each of us … it isn’t far away, we need be confident that it is a relationship based on His goodness – not on our fallibility or that of anyone else.

February 3 - Deuteronomy 10:14-15

Thursday, February 3, 2011

February 3 - Deuteronomy 10:14-15

Although heaven and the heaven of heavens belong to the Lord your God, the earth with all that is in it, yet the LORD set his heart in love on your ancestors alone and chose you, their descendants after them, out of all the peoples, as it is today.

God is above all.  He is beyond anything that we can imagine.  He has control of the heavens and the earth.  He is the Creator and the ruler of all creation.

God is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient.

God is.

God is in love with His people. 

God is in love with you.

February 2 - Deuteronomy 10:12-13

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

February 2 - Deuteronomy 10:12-13

So now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you? Only to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being.

Micah 6:8 begins with these words as well, “What does the Lord require of you?” The answer in that passage is ‘to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’

Within these two verses there are five things that Moses calls on the Israelites to do.

To fear. To walk.  To love.  To serve.  To keep.

The sequence of these actions is not tossed out there at random.

Proverbs 1:7 says that the ‘fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.’  While this word in Deuteronomy does actually mean ‘terror,’ the implication is that when we come into that type of reverential awe before God, we will begin to understand what it means to walk in his ways.  It is so difficult to be submissive to the will of God – especially in our culture today.  Not many of us are submissive to anyone.  Fear of the Lord, believing that He is the ultimate authority in our lives, is absolutely necessary for us to progress through all of these steps.

It is hard to walk with the Lord when our eyes are off the path.  We think we are doing good things and hope that He will approve of the choices we make, but when we are making those choices without consideration for His authority, we swerve off the path – and everything else becomes corrupted.

We can’t love Him as He asks us to do.  In 1 Corinthians 13, we find out what perfect love is all about.  I know how difficult it is to live up to the ideals Paul sets forth and there is no possibility of achieving that type of love without beginning with the fear of the Lord.

Without love, we are unable to serve.  We might serve those things that we love – but if those are limited to the small world-view that we each have … it does nothing for God’s kingdom on earth.  We are to serve God with all of ourselves.  Our hearts and our souls (being – life) are to be brought before Him.  When He calls for sacrifice, we are to do so immediately and without question, no matter what it is that He asks us to release.  Serving God is more than anything we believe it might be – it is definitely more than spending a few hours in the church office, running a Bible study, taking up the offering on a Sunday morning or teaching a kids Sunday School class.  It is allowing Him to guide our lives and make decisions that might make no sense to us.  It is being available to do His will wherever He calls us to be.  It is sacrificial service.

Keeping God’s commands and decrees will be natural for us as we move along this path.  It should never be easy – we should always be battling our natural desire to forge out on our own.  But, the final phrase reminds us that God never calls us to do anything that will go against His good pleasure for us.  All of these things are required of us for our own well-being.

The Israelites could never understand that the things God asked them to do would benefit them in the end.  We seem to have the same perspective.  We work so hard to set out on our own.  But, God requires us to fear Him, to walk with Him, to love Him, to serve Him and to keep His commandments – not for Him, but for our own well-being.

February 1 - Deuteronomy 6:5

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February 1 - Deuteronomy 6:5

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

These words are part of the Shema – “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength (might).” Deut. 6:4-5

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

“Shema” is the Hebrew word for ‘hear’ which not only means for us to hear these words, but to obey and believe these words.  It is as if Moses is telling the people of Israel that unless they obey the words that they hear, they didn’t hear them at all.

The Israelites lived among people who believed in many gods – there was a god for everything.  They prayed to gods of fertility, gods that would protect their crops, bring rain, bring sunshine.  They prayed to gods that would protect them from invaders and others who would protect their steps as they walked through a day.  God had declared His sovereignty with the covenant He set up with Abraham, but in those years that they lived as slaves to the Pharoahs, they had lost that relationship with Him as their sole provider.

The very first commandment given to the Israelites was, “You shall have no other gods before me.” From that moment, God declared His demand that He be the One God they worshiped.  There was to be no other, they were His and His alone – He would be theirs and theirs alone.

This verse is just as important today as it was to the Israelites several thousand years ago.  God did something quite interesting in this verse.  He separated the ideas of how to love God to ensure that we wouldn’t be confused.  He didn’t stop simply by saying, “You shall love the Lord your God.”  He particularized the idea by stating that every portion of our being should love Him.

We’ve missed out on some of this today.  It’s too easy to say “I love God” and believe it in our heart, but then we live our lives as if we don’t.  We hide our heart from the rest of our existence.  Our daily work (strength / might) doesn’t show the world that we love God.  We curse, swear, gossip, cut people off, ignore those that annoy us, cut corners, tweak things a little here and there … anything at all to make ourselves look good.  We’ll do whatever it takes to get ahead.

We hide our heart from our lives.  The word used for soul in this verse is also the word for ‘being or life.’  While many times we speak about God and expect the world to know that our words portray our beliefs, our actions speak much louder.  We slander, we are greedy, we play power games, we waste time and energy on things with no meaning, we allow our hurts and anger to control our relationships.  There are so many ways that we hide our hearts from our lives.

The command from the Lord is that we tie all of these things together and love Him.  He is one God.  We are His children.  He wants us to bring a unified life filled with love for Him and present it at His altar. 

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength (might).”