Extraordinary Power

www.bible.com/72/2co.4.7-9.hcsb

Need a miracle today? Consider that the church founded by Jesus Christ 2000 years ago still stands. Consider that despite the temptation and hardship you have experienced in your own life, you still cling to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Consider that God still loves, still protects, and still considers the Church His, especially after all the times we have abandoned Him and tried to make Christianity about us, tried to make a religion from our relationship, tried to pervert and undermine its very message of grace and love with rules and legalistic layers of ritual. Yep. That’s a miracle in my book.

Let us rejoice and be glad today that God has not abandoned us to our sins as we deserve. But He continues to watch over us, guide us, continues to lead us by His word and counsel. Blessed be the name of the the LORD.

God bless you today!

Private Prayer

www.bible.com/72/mat.6.6.hcsb

I wonder if God has had enough of our public prayers? This scripture seems to run counter to popular culture. I run into folks who ask for prayer and seem content to let someone else pray for them. I don’t think that is what this verse is talking about. I think what God is addressing in this text is the kind of prayers said by people who want to be known to their prayers, or their holiness, or some other pretentious piety. I can imagine God is really sick of that kind of praying. To keep us from that temptation He sends us to the closet to keep us out of the spotlight and in the Spirit. God has so much more reserved for those that are earnest in prayer.

This is not a verse to say to keep our faith private. A recent change in language is a freedom of religion to a freedom of worship. The intent is to put our worship behind closed doors, to make our practice of faith private, and many Christians are content to do so. That is a misapplication if this verse. Faith is to be practiced and public. Christians should never have to apologize for being Christians. In fact, we should expect persecution for practicing our faith in the public sphere. And so it goes.

God bless you today!

Love Rejoices with Truth

www.bible.com/72/1co.13.6.hcsb

WOW. I really needed a Bible verse to tell me this. I have been inundated with the message that love trumps truth from my culture trying to lecture me on what my faith ought to be. It tells me I ought to accept anyone’s preferences in love because love trumps anything that old dusty Bible says. Us Christians can’t be authentic because we put limits on love.

Well, yes, we do. Love is a powerful emotion, and powerful bond. “With great power” comes rules for its use. Nuclear energy is a great source of power. We don’t hand out uranium like candy. We have very strict rules about the use of nuclear energy because it is dangerous if mishandled. The power of nuclear fire is less potent than love. Love brought an infinite God unto a human form to die for our sins. There are rules for this kind of power, and it is Truth.

Without Truth, Love is dangerous. Adulterous love can destroy marriages, children, even several generations. It can destroy the fabric of society when divorce is easy. Adulterous love caused that. Homosexual love is destroying the family, and now threatens the church. Churches are being told not to indulge in “hate speech” which the Bible seems to be full of. How is this? Because the Bible declares there are rules for love. Good love rejoices with the truth. Bad love hates the truth. Self-love can destroy an individual, isolating and ultimately destroying him, especially in suicide. Self-love declares that what I think is always right, even when my thoughts are objectively wrong, like “nobody wants me”.

Love and truth are partners. One needs the other. Truth needs love so that it’s razor’s edge heals surgically rather than hurts by slicing to ribbons. Christian never discount the connection between love and truth. They are inseparable if they are to be used at all. They are the Christian’s currency and trade. Be careful how you use them.

God bless you today.

Another Thought, Another Day

www.bible.com/72/2co.10.5.hcsb

So it’s Tuesday. The old Norse called it Tyr’s Day. Tyr was the god of war, so it seems appropriate that we go to war today, against our own thoughts. You see we have a battle going on constantly in our heads over who gets to run the body. On the one hand is the high-minded and righteous blood-cleansed spirit given aid and comfort by the Holy Spirit who has chosen to dwell within us once we had come to faith and been baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

And the there’s the opponent. The old man, the corrupt flesh that still plagued us with its desires and “needs”. It plagued us with its needs because its needs call for no righteous solution, but by any means necessary. Sex is needed. Food is needed. Clothes are needed. Sleep is needed. Air is needed. But the flesh doesn’t care that there are good and righteous ways to acquire each of these. The flesh wants what it wants. The desires of the flesh run counter to the desires of the spirit. Thus we are at war with our flesh and the tempting thoughts it produces.

“Do you see that nice-looking lady over there? Do you see her? Doesn’t she look nice?”

“Don’t even go there brain. I am happily married to a wonderful woman who satisfies me and I her. I have no need for anyone else. Besides, you’ve seen enough broken marriages, hard-hearted children and evil consequences resulting from such thoughts. God doesn’t want this, and neither do I.”

“Alright, alright, all I am saying is that she looks nice. Jeesh!”

It’s a never ending battle. Always be on your toes.

God bless you today.

Careful Words

www.bible.com/72/psa.19.14.hcsb

The Bible repeatedly says that our words are important, enough that we are accountable for our words before the throne of Christ. So an extra prayer today for us to be careful in our words.

Have you ever met someone who has few words? Usually those are the folks whose few words are of great weight. I tend to pay attention to those when they speak. Perhaps they are more aware of this counsel than I am.

Spend careful watch on your lips today. Loose lips sink souls. 😁

Hard-Hearted

www.bible.com/72/ezk.36.26.hcsb

You probably don’t know anyone like this. Right? What does this actually mean? A person whose heart is hard lacks compassion, at least as far as we understand the term. For Ezekiel, it was similar. A hard, stony heart was a heart confirmed in its rebellion against God. It was set like concrete in its wickedness (which is the source of hard-heartedness, its pride and self-love).

So what does the Lord offer? He offers an unfair exchange. He offers to take your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Doesn’t sound fair, does it? It’s not. What does God need with a heart of stone? Nothing, but He can do much with a soft heart, a heart willing to worship, to listen, and to love. God wants to give you a new heart; to remove the heart scarred by despair, abuse, misery and pain; to remove a heart given to addiction and suffering and replace with a new, tender heart. God offers to do what no one else can do. Because no amount of good works, no medicine, no amount of self-sacrifice can effect this kind of change. God’s offer is free, because it has already been paid for. He offers to perform this surgery on His dime, as long as you are willing to submit to it.

Lord give me this heart today. Take out my heart, hardened by sin and shame, and create in me a clean, willing, fresh heart. I pray to liberate me from the shame of my past and create in me a love that cannot be snuffed out.

Entitled?

www.bible.com/72/mat.6.11.hcsb

There is a sentiment among our younger generations that we are entitled to three squares a day, a home to live in, free education, and a job when you graduate college. Whether you agree with that sentiment or not probably shows how old you are or what your political persuasion is. It doesn’t make you a good person or a bad person, but it does affect your attitude towards the providence of God.

In this verse, we come to closest to the idea of entitlement when it comes to daily needs. Hear me out. Asking for daily bread (or if you read it in a certain voice, it sounds like a demand), was a simple request, but it called for a great deal of faith. You see when Jesus uttered these words, people lived from day to day. We may live paycheck to paycheck, but they didn’t know for certain that tomorrow would bring a meal. Among the poor and often hungry people He ministered too, asking for “daily bread” was a pipe dream. It requires extraordinary faith to trust in a God Who would provide daily needs like that. They didn’t doubt they would need to work for it, so this Prayer included the idea that the work needed to pay for the bread would also be requested. Also then the health to be able to work, and the ability to do the work. Daily bread was about God’s provision. They didn’t think God would drop manna from heaven, but that He would provide the circumstances so that they could get their bread as they needed.

We have often expanded this to include all daily provisions, and provisions for the day, as we have no assurance of tomorrow. But for these hearers it meant a lot to have the assurance that today God is looking out for me. We have that assurance too. God is looking out for your needs today. And yes, we need to be praying that dependence upon Him. When we pray this prayer, we remind ourselves both of His provision and our need for it. God honors such humility. Don’t be afraid to ask.

God bless you today!

Our Unique God

www.bible.com/72/2sa.7.22.hcsb

We’ve been used to monotheism for so long we have taken it for granted. How could anyone believe in more than one God? And yet, in the culture of 2 Samuel, belief in multiple God’s was common. Every nation had its own god. I believe it has something to do with the dispersion of Noah’s family. The first few generations were larger than life, and became rulers of their families and territories. As such legends about their origin sprang from their actual histories, and from these legends, myths. Soon, great-grandfather, who was still alive and ruling after hundreds of years took on divine qualities and when he did die, he was elevated by his progeny. Statues were erected and children were raised on stories of his exploits. These regional rulers became the pantheon, and by David’s day, they were the many gods that competed with the one true God of Israel. Only in Israel did ancestors keep from becoming gods. No one worshipped Noah or Abraham, it only because God demanded worship for Himself alone.

As we read Scripture we find this uniqueness of God. He is alone. No other god compares with Him in love, grace, and the capacity for self-sacrifice. No other god loves us with such intensity that He sacrifices His own Son to save us from sin. Sure, the other gods have no problem punishing for sin, but none other sacrifices so much to save us. Our God is unique, and He is the only God we need worship for this reason.

May God bless your walk today as you hold Him up in worship.

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

www.bible.com/72/psa.23.4.hcsb

“Darkest Valley” may be a better translation, but it will always be “valley of the shadow of death” for us reared on the King James. I’ve seen a few of these valleys in my my life, and counseled many others going through the same thing. It isn’t a pleasant place, but everyone’s road goes through this valley. David spoke to common experience, not just to his own.

Note here that David says we are not alone in this valley. The Shepherd is here. He carries both rod and staff. The rod to keep us on the path, and the staff to show us the way. When Christ is lifted up, He draws all men to Himself.

As sheep, we are apt to go astray and get lost in this valley. We get stuck here in grief and sorrow. We get caught in a niche or a corner and can’t see to get out. But the Shepherd will come, He will find us, and He will pull us away from danger. He is always looking for us, always working to keep us together where we are strong, rather than alone and weak. The Shepherd knows when our place goes missing in the flock.

Are you lost?

Are you alone?

Are you in the valley?

Then maybe it’s time to look for the Shepherd. He’s not hard to find. He’s the one carrying the staff. It looks like a cross sometimes.

✝️ = ❤️

Effective Prayer

www.bible.com/72/jas.5.16.hcsb

Ever feel like your prayers are ineffective. I know I do. I heard a long time ago that God offers three answers to prayer: yes, no, and wait. It’s hard to tell the difference between the third and the first two sometimes. I know there are many who feel like their prayers don’t reach past the ceiling, that God isn’t listening at all. I do know from 1 Peter 5 that sometimes God leaves us alone for a while in order to test our resolve. But there are others who don’t pray enough or at all.

This verse stresses righteousness for powerful and effective prayer. It presents this in the context of forgiveness for sin. Here is a definite contrast between sin and righteousness. Those who have sin, confess it to a fellow Christian. Allow that Christian to pray for you (this is in light of the previous verse about being physically ill). And pray for one another. James poses here that physical illness may in fact have something to do with spiritual sin. And that confession and prayer have the power to effect healing.

There are some illnesses, we call them psychosomatic, that directly link one’s emotional state to their physical well-being. When you feel uneasy, your stomach starts to churn. When you are under stress, you get a headache. Tell what guilt does? Tell me what shame does to the body? Sometimes, extended shame and guilt lead to unexplainable physical illnesses. When the doctor can’t figure it out, maybe it calls for confession and prayer. That’s why we include Chaplains in our healthcare system, just to make sure all of our bases are covered. Include your pastor and your church in your health care. It might make a difference.

Just s thought for a Wednesday.