Tuesday, December 9, 2008


"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." 1 Peter 2:9

In spite of what one often hears on so-called Christian television these days, the nation mentioned in this verse is not referring to the United States of America. No, the nation-race-priesthood-people here is clearly referring to God's Kingdom, those who "proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."

It took me a long to to figure out what the bible is talking about when it says "God's Kingdom." I had a vague understanding that it meant the church, but I always wondered which one. I mean, the Catholic Church has been around for a long time now, and most of them would understand that it is truly God's Kingdom. And in a sense, they're right, but not completely.

My own church, the church my parents regularly attended way, way back when I first sprang into this world, and to which my sainted mother still goes each and every week; the same church my wife and I attend each and every week; the church where I was baptised as a scrawny 9-year-old, the same church in which I was married...twice; the church where I baptised my own sweet and scrawny 9-year-old daughter; that same old church, along with the other churches with which it is associated, always seemed to me to be God's Kingdom. And it is. Sort of.

But the thing I've come to understand is that God's Kingdom exists in the people who proclaim God as their King! God's Kingdom is anywhere and everywhere there are believers, regardless of physical or denominational boundries. You know, it's that "...where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there..." sort of thing.

So when it talks about a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, it's talking about us! About you and me!

Holy cow. Seems a little intimidating.

Lord, I believe you have chosen me. Why, I'm not sure, but I believe it's true. I want to be what you have chosen me to be - royally priest-like and holy for you because you are my God and my salvation. Without you I would be in darkness but you have called me into your light so I can see and understand how much you have truly blessed me and how marvelous you are, my Father. Bless you, Lord. You are one excellent God. I love you!

Monday, December 8, 2008


"Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf." Proverbs 11:28

Does it ever seem like someone is trying to tell you something?

I mean, first, our pastor at church has been going through a series of sermons about money, or more specifically, riches, and the fact that when the Bible addresses the "rich," it's talking to us...to me, because the definition of "rich" is to have more than one needs - and almost every American is rich by that definition.

Then, one of the last times I posted here, the daily verse that popped up dealt with honoring God with our (my) riches.

Now this. What is God trying to tell me?

Well, I do find it interesting that this verse seems to be saying that you cannot trust in your riches and still be righteous. Am I trusting in my riches? It certainly doesn't feel that way, but then again there's this quote from Dave Ferguson that I saw the other day:

"Greed is when I have to choose between my comfort and meeting someone else’s need. And I choose my comfort."

So, not only am I rich, but I am often greedy. I'll admit it. If that quote is correct, I am often truly greedy. A greedy person trusts in his riches.

Ta-da. Guilty as charged. I am one greedy muthuh.

But guilt is a terrible motivator...at least that's true for me. It does nothing but make me feel bad. It does not inspire me to flourish like a green leaf, that's for sure. No, my inspiration to righteousness can only come from God's presence in my life and my focus on his love for me, his will for my life, and his daily mercies. And out of that can spring a focus on serving others...on meeting another's needs in spite of my own discomfort.

My own righteousness eventually deteriorates into meaningless greed and devotion to my billfold. It is only the righteousness that comes from God that will flourish like a green leaf.

Father, everything I have is from you. I have no right to anything I own. It is yours. Help me to let go of it all and to stop trusting in my money to get me through. Help me instead to trust in you, and thereby allowing me to let you use my riches for those in need as you see fit. I give my all to you, Father. I love you.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


"Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is." 1 John 3:2

Our struggle as Christians is to be Christ-like, is it not? I know I struggle daily to live the kind of life that honors God. I am tested every day by circumstances that sometimes make it feel like everything is against me, and moment by moment I am tempted by my old sin nature, by lust, greed, dishonesty, selfishness, unfaithfulness, and most any other kind of bad thing that leads nowhere except away from the presence of God in my life. I'm continually tested and constantly tempted, and I consistently fail, I'm sad to say. Not always, but regularly.

But this verse grants the victory in Christ: We shall be like him.

I shall be like him. That's the promise. I don't know yet exactly how that's going to look, but nevertheless, I will be like Jesus. All the stupid stuff I've ever done will be gone, burned off in the Refiner's fire, and all that will be left of me is Jesus. Every bad decision I've ever made will be gone for good. Every missed opportunity to do something worthwhile will no longer haunt me. I will be free. I will be like him.

We were on vacation one year when my kids were quite young. My son was probably about four years old, and since our little car was packed from stem to stern, he was smushed between his little sister's car seat and a couple of sleeping bags in the middle of the back seat where I had a clear view of him in my rear-view mirror.

I think we were somewhere near Joplin, Missouri, when I happened to notice that my beloved firstborn son, the fruit of my loin, was using his right index finger to scour out the inside of his left nostril. After a moment of concentrated digging, he produced a rubbery black booger which he proceeded to roll between his fingers and then, much to my chagrin, he popped the little ball of dried snot into his mouth, chewed a moment and swallowed.

Once my stomach stopped lurching, I reminded him that he shouldn't be putting things in his mouth . . . especially things that used to be inside of his nose. Of course, he already knew that, and when he realized that I had seen him, he cried. I felt bad, and so did he, but we moved on and finished our vacation and had a lot of fun. I'll admit that I stopped looking in the rear-view mirror.

My point is this: I loved my son, even if he ate boogers. It disgusted me, but I still loved him. I knew that day, though, that he would eventually grow out of that particularly revolting behavior, and that he would eventually mature into a man. Here we are more than 25 years later, and I am confident that my son no longer eats his boogers, and I still love him.

I think it's just a little bit like that with our Father God. Oh, he hates our sin, no doubt about it - it disgusts him. But he loves us anyway and because he has provided the victory in Christ, he knows that we will eventually become what he wants us to be - to be like Jesus. Our booger eating days will be behind us, we will be perfect in Christ, and we will see the Father face to face. Until that day, God is willing to love us in spite of the stupid stuff we do because he knows what we will become.

Father, thank you for loving me so much even when the things I do disgust you. Be with me today and help me to remember who I am - your beloved child; and who I will be - perfect in Christ. Help me to grow daily, for as long as you give me life here on this old earth, into that person you have planned for me to be - mature and Christ-like. Oh, and if my son is still eating his boogers, help me to never see it in my rear-view mirror - I don't want to know about it. I love you, Father.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


"Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine." Proverbs 3:9-10

Interesting that this verse should pop up right now since our youthful new pastor is in the midst of a series of sermons entitled "How to be Rich." Note that he isn't talking about how to get rich, but how to be rich. The fact is that almost anyone living here in these United States of America is truly rich by the standards of the rest of the world. We don't like to think of ourselves as being rich, and most of us try to deny the fact, but it is still the truth.

Even those of us who owe more on our houses than they're worth, who struggle to pay our credit card bills each month, who settle for Netflix instead of going out to the theater, still have much, much more than most of the rest of the world. Almost all of us Americans own at least one car, a couple of televisions, a DVD player, a computer or two, a lawnmower, a hairdryer, and a heck of a lot of other things that half the rest of the world would consider extreme luxuries. The fact is that, by definition, anyone who has more than they actually need to live is rich. And so the sermons have been talking about how to "be" rich - how that ought to look in our daily lives.

The pastor's messages have been based on this verse:

"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life." 1 Timothy 6:17-19

Folks, whether we like it or not, you and I are the ones he is talking about here, the ones who are "rich in this present world."

But for me, the main thing is that first phrase from today's verse, "Honor the Lord with your wealth." If we can get that right, even when we don't feel especially wealthy, all the rest will fall into place - which is what he's saying in the last part of the verse, I think. I do not think that God is promising to increase our wealth if we give generously! No, I think he's just saying that if we use everything we have for him, we will be satisfied.

God, I want to be satisfied with what you have given me and to recognize the fact that I am truly wealthy. I am rich. I don't feel rich, and I don't like saying it, but it is nevertheless true. Help me to never put my faith in my riches, to never be arrogant, but to put my hope in you alone. You're the one who has blessed me with everything I have, and if I struggle to get by, it isn't your fault. I want to honor you with my wealth and to do good with what I have rather than always spending everything I have on myself. I want to recognize the fact that everything I have belongs to you. Thank you, Father, for always, always providing for my needs, and help me to stop complaining when my wants aren't always met. Help me to honor you, Lord. I love you.


"Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations." Psalm 100:4-5

A most beloved and oft-quoted verse, and rightfully so. I love this verse and regularly sing it to God as part of my personal worship. You know the song since the words are almost literally from the scripture:

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving,
And into his courts with praise;
Be thankful unto him, bless his holy name;
For he is good, his mercies eternal;
His truth endureth to all generations.

Reading this verse always leaves me with an overwhelming, awestruck gratefulness for God's eternal faithfulness and love for me. And not just for me, but for all generations, past and future - faithfulness to all my ancestors, and the exact same faithfulness to every descendant to come - something that becomes more meaningful to me now that I am becoming a grandfather for the first time.

This attitude of gratefulness is the attitude I want every time I come before the Lord in prayer. And considering what I said yesterday, I guess it's the attitude I want to have all the time, since I aspire to pray at all times.

Lord, I do enter your gates today and every day full of thanksgiving and praise for your faithfulness. Even though I have never earned it, you are faithful to me - you are there for me when I turn to you even when I don't deserve it. Your love for me is staggering. I love you, Lord.

Monday, December 1, 2008


"Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal." John 6:27

I mean, really, somehow I don't think my family would appreciate it if I didn't "labor for the food that perishes." But I think I know what Jesus is saying here, and it isn't that I ought to spend my paycheck on canned Spam instead of fresh vegetables.

No, I think Jesus is commenting on my focus.

I think Jesus is saying that I shouldn't be living my life in order to put food in my mouth.

And I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that I'm going to say "instead of living to eat, we ought to be eating to live." And while I do think that's probably true, if somewhat trite, I still don't think that's what Jesus is saying.

No, I think Jesus is saying that instead of living to eat, I ought to live for him and not worry about eating at all. Not about eating or sleeping or shelter or health or money or anything like that, but just living my life in service to him, depending upon him and expecting him to take care of all those other things because I believe . . . I know that he has my best interest in mind.

Sometimes it doesn't feel that way. But when that's how I'm feeling, it is a sure sign that I'm focused on eating and not on him.

Lord, help me to focus on you today, this afternoon, this very moment. Help me to let go of my concerns for this physical life and let you take over. If I eat, I eat for you, Lord. If I excercise, I excercise only for you, because this body is yours and I want to take care of it for your sake, and not for mine. And if I don't have enough to eat, I will trust in you, my Father, to provide according to your will and I will be satisfied. If you help me. Help me to be yours and yours alone. I love you, Father.


"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." 1 Thessalonians 5:1

We talked about this in our small group a couple of months ago. Not about this verse in particular, but about praying without ceasing and what that might look like if we could actually accomplish it.

Some of the folks in our group, the leader in particular, suggested that it doesn't really mean that we are supposed to be constantly in prayer, but that our prayers should not cease. In other words, if we normally pray for ten minutes on a daily basis, we should never stop doing that.

Personally, I think that's sort of a cop-out.

If you put the phrase in context with the rest of the verse - "Rejoice always...give thanks in all circumstances" - it makes it difficult to avoid the superlative, the absolute quality the verse seems to indicate. No, to me, "pray without ceasing" means that I ought to be constantly in prayer, 100% of the time, no matter what I'm doing. With every breath, with every heartbeat, with each and every thought I need to be in prayer.

Seems a little impractical, doesn't it? I mean, how am I supposed to get anything done if all I do is sit around praying?

Well, that's not what I'm talking about and I don't think it's what Paul meant, either. To me, praying without ceasing means being in constant communion with God. It's nothing more than a realization, a recognition that God is constantly with me, beside me no matter where I am, no matter what I'm doing, and his desire, his will, is that I acknowledge his presence and simply talk to him, communicate with him - yes, even chat with him.

When my lovely spouse and I take a road trip, I often eat sunflower seeds in order to stay alert on the road, and, to be honest, it annoys my wife. Why? It isn't because she dislikes sunflower seeds (even though she does), and it isn't because I spit the shells all over the floor of the car (which I never do). It's just because I can sometimes drive for hours at a time without talking to her, and it can appear as though I'm eating my seeds instead of communicating with her - using the seeds to keep me alert instead of staying alert by chatting with her. She gets jealous of the seeds because it seems like they're taking her place.

I think it's sort of the same with God. He wants us to talk to him and stop ignoring him. I mean, he's sitting right there and we go on as if we were alone in our thoughts, ignoring him and focusing on those other things that we think are so important. And yes, I think God, the Creator of the Universe, gets a little jealous . . . maybe even a lot jealous of those things that get in the way of our relationship with him.

The thing is, we don't have to change the way we live, the way we work, the way we interact with other people - we don't have to stop eating sunflower seeds - we just have to let God in on our lives and remember that he is always with us and he wants to be involved in our lives. Once we learn to live with the recognition that God is constantly with us and to include him in every thought, we are truly in constant prayer.

Father God, help me today, right now, to be continually aware of your presence. I want more than anything else to be in touch with you with my every thought, and to be constantly thankful for your love and guidance and protection in whatever circumstances I find myself - because no matter where I am, you are right there with me. Thank you, Father. My heart rejoices every time I remember. I love you, Lord.