Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Glimpse of Heaven

"One Year Bible" Old Testament Passage
Job 37:1-39:30

When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy... Job 38:7 (NKJV)

It is common for men to speculate and wonder at what Heaven will be like.  If you know Jesus, Heaven is your ultimate destination.  Heaven means eternity and whole lot more!

One of the consistent images concerning Heaven is that of incredible joy and exultation before God.  Heaven means worship in the richest and most powerful dimensions imaginable.  God speaks to Job in a kind of rebuke asking him if he was witness to eternal realities at the moment the world was created.

In that moment, THERE WAS WORSHIP.  Scripture says the morning stars sang in perfect harmony.  There was shouting because of the goodness of God in creation.

It always encourages me to consider what is going on in Heaven right now.  Despite our frantic, frustrated, stressed-out existence here on Planet Earth, there is great joy, peace, and power in Heaven.  So we pray today, "Our Father, Who is in Heaven, may Your Kingdom come -- Your will be done -- on earth as it is in Heaven!"

Monday, August 29, 2011

One in a Thousand

"One Year Bible" Old Testament Passage
Job 31:1-33:33

If there is a messenger for him, a mediator, one among a thousand, to show man His uprightness.  Job 33:23 (NKJV)

True friendship is a gift from God.  A faithful counsellor is beyond value.  Many a time, we find ourselves in a place where we need words of direction, comfort, and encouragement.  Job found himself in such a place.  A faithful messenger showed up in the person of Elihu.

Friendship is not simply AFFECTION or SIMILARITIES.  Friendship is more than CHEMISTRY.  True friendship reaches to the place of helping each other see the Hand of God in our lives.  We can only do this as we walk together in the circumstances and challenges of life.

We have a friend in Jesus.  The Holy Spirit is our Comforter.  He then uses brothers and sisters in the Lord to stand as exhorters and encouragers as we trace out the path God has laid before us.  Such a person is of great value.  They are "one in a thousand."

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Refined to Shine

"One Year Bible" Old Testament Passage
Job 23:1-27:23

But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. Job 23:10 (NKJV)

Testing is not designed by God for DESTRUCTION. It is designed for PROMOTION. In the Kingdom of God, everything either goes forward or it goes backward. It either improves or it erodes.

While all things OUTWARD are passing away, we are INWARDLY being transformed (improved) day by day. God knows the surpassing worth of your life. The indication of this is the PRICE He paid for you! In that you are GOLD, He has determined to show His glory though you.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Getting to Know God

"One Year Bible" Old Testament Passage
Job 20:1-22:30

Now acquaint yourself with Him and be at peace; therefore good will come to you...Yes, the Almighty will be your gold and your precious silver. Job 22:21,25 (NKJV)

There is an important truth recorded in Isaiah 55:8 where it says that God's thoughts are higher than our thoughts as far as the heavens are above the earth. His ways are beyond our ways. We so often have a tendency to bring God down to our level. We want Him to conform to our ways, our plans, our reasoning.

But He calls us up to where He is. He tells us to get acquainted with Him and His ways.

Our God is awesome - majestic in power - great in wisdom - infinite in strength and justice. HE KNOWS BEST! So here is the great plan for your and my life. We are being elevated to know the One Who created this entire universe. He has already come to where you are; now He calls you to come up to where He is!

When we become acquainted with Him, we begin to find the answers to EVERYTHING. "Acqaint yourself with Him and be at peace!" Pray today as Moses did, "Show me your ways, O Lord." (Ex. 33:13) it is there that we will find true worth, true value. He will be your gold.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


"One Year Bible" Old Testament Passage
Job 8:1-11:20

Can a papyrus grow without a marsh? Can the reeds flourish without water? While it is green and not cut down, it withers before any other plant. So are the paths of all who forget God; and the hope of the hypocrite shall perish.  Job 8:11-13 (NKJV)

We are designed for fellowship with God.  It is like water to a plant.  As I write these words, we are in the heat of summer.  Beautiful plants in our flower beds at home are wilted badly due to the lack of adequate water.  You and I are the same way.  We are designed to flourish in the waters of continual fellowship with God.

So, how does your garden grow?  The very purpose of daily prayer and Bible study is nourishment and replenishment.  They are NOT the actions of religious duty.  We should enjoy it and benefit from it.  For this reason, our enemy fights it.

The disciplines of nourishment for your spirit work almost opposite to those for your physical body.  Physically, the less you eat or drink, the more you WANT to eat and drink.  You get hungry.  You get thirsty.  Spiritually, however, the less you "eat", the less you want to "eat".  Conversely, the more your pray, the more you WANT to pray.  So it is with Bible reading and study.  People who stay away from God's presence, find it harder and harder to even want to return.

The busy-ness of life can starve us.  We lose touch with our water source.  As a result, we wither and languish.  So, today, drink deeply from the waters of life.  Let your insides be restored.  It is the best -- the highest -- way to live.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Why Bad Things Happen

"One Year Bible" Old Testament Passage
Job 4:1-7:21

Behold, happy is the man who God corrects; therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty.  Job 5:17 (NKJV)

Why do back things happen to good people?  This is the age-old question asked by believers and skeptics alike.  Job is the biblical character who embodies the plight of those who seemingly suffer for no apparent reason.  These are, by most standards, good and moral people upon whom disaster descends.

The counselors of Job seek to find explanations for these sufferings.  In most cases, their wisdom and advice seems to only offend and frustrate Job further.  But amidst their words can be found glimpses of divine truth. 

Suffering is never without a purpose.  This may sound brutal in some people's ears.  The devastations and destruction witnessed today in Somalia and Sudan cannot really be a backdrop for blessing, can they?  Evil is alive and well on Planet Earth.  But, God has not determined at this time to remove sin and suffering from our world.  Instead, He seeks to redeem.  This is harder to perceive when we consider the big picture of international disaster (tsunami, plague, genocide), but on a personal level, we might see more clearly.

It has been said that God never wastes a hurt.  He does not always prevent sin, but He ALWAYS provides a solution to sin and suffering.  He is a redeemer.  Therefore, we should always seek to see our circumstances through the eyes of a providential God. 

God's corrections are a sign of His love, not of His hate.  He does not want us to be robots, so He allows us a degree of self-determination.  Then He is with us when the inevitable correction and chastening come our way.  Scripture says that when He does this, He deals with us as a father would with the son He loves.

So, don't wilt under the loving corrective hand of God.  He deals with us as with sons.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Praying for Your Family

"One Year Bible" Old Testament Passage
Job 1:1-3:26

So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, "It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts." Thus Job did regularly. Job 1:5 (NKJV)

Job prayed for his family. He knew that in the course of daily and weekly activities, his sons may have done foolish and offensive things. Therefore, he regularly prayed for them asking that the Lord forgive and withhold judgment.

There is a special place of prayer that God grants us for our family members. This does not mean that they will not ultimately be responsible and answerable for their own actions. But, it does mean that you have a special place of authority to intercede in their behalf.

This is a godly duty granted to all parents for their children. So today, hold up the needs and the circumstances of your family. Touch heaven for your loved ones.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Finding Your Place in God's Great Story

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Esther 4:1-7:10

For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish.  Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?  Esther 4:14 (NKJV)

This is the most famous, most often quoted verse from this small, beautiful book of Esther.  "For such a time as this."  There are so many layers to what God is saying here. 

First, THE PLAN OF GOD WILL GO FORWARD.  God had determined that He would deliver the Jews.  This is an action of sovereign God Who brings to pass that which He desires. 

Second, Esther is offered the OPPORTUNITY to be a part of this great plan.  Esther has a choice.  God is going to accomplish His will.  Esther has the choice of joining God's plan or running from it.

Third, Esther must RECOGNIZE GOD'S HAND in her life.  Mordecai tells her to re-examine the very reason she lives where she lives.  Re-examine why her life has taken the course it has taken.  Esther is called to discover the HIDDEN HAND OF GOD at work in her life.

Fourth, Esther must display COURAGE.  Just because God is guiding your life, that doesn't mean there is no risk.  In verse 16 she says, "If I perish, I perish!"  We are not allowed to see the results of our actions before we take them.  We must move in pure faith trusting that God will meet us. 

Lastly, Esther's actions reach far BEYOND HERSELF.  She is certainly in personal danger.  But her entire people are in danger.  Her actions -- her own small actions -- count for a much larger picture.  I think that is what God says to us today, too.  "You think you're just affecting your own life, but really your actions affect an entire host of others." 

So today, realize that your life counts for a much larger story.  It is the story of God's working in our world -- in your world.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Battle Over Worship

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Esther 1:1-3:15

And all the king's servants who were within the king's gate bowed and paid homage to Haman, for so the king had commanded concerning him. But Mordecai would not bow or pay homage.  Esther 3:2 (NKJV)

There is always a battle over worship.  God reserves all true worship for Himself.  Scripture says that He is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5 and 34:14).  He wants our whole heart and will not share it with any other. 

The world and the devil seek to divide our heart by asking (or demanding) that we offer token allegiance from time to time.  "Just bow the knee for a few moments!"  "Just say a quick word and then you can go on your way."  We might think this is so insignificant that we can "fudge" for a moment and God would understand.  God would, in essence, look the other way.

Mordecai stands in the heritage of a long line of men and women who would not bow the knee.  He would not cave in under temporary, passing pressure.  He would not defile his heart.

The result, as we shall see in this wonderful book of Esther, is that he brought down a firestorm of persecution not only on himself but upon all the Jews in Persia.  This is also the setting for a powerful intervention by God. 

Scripture says that "the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him." (II Chron. 16:9)  God is looking for those who are not ashamed or afraid to stand for Him.  Just like Mordecai, God will show Himself strong in behalf of such people.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

An Enemy in the Courts

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Nehemiah 12:27-13:31

And I came to Jerusalem and discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, in preparing a room for him in the courts of the house of God.  Nehemiah 13:7 (NKJV)

From time to time, we all need "housecleaning."  Either through ignorance, carelessness, or worse, we may allow foreign things to take up abode in our hearts and our homes.  These things may sound like they are friends to us, but they are really enemies.

In Nehemiah's day, Tobiah had been an enemy from Day One.  He had fought against the rebuilding of the walls around Jerusalem.  Inexplicably, after the wall was successfully built, the high priest, Eliashib, invited Tobiah to set up residence "in the courts of the house of God." 

There is only one thing you can do with a "Tobiah."  Throw him out!  God calls each of us to regularly do a good old fashioned housecleaning.  It's good for you.  Don't rest on yesterday's revival fires.  Every morning and every evening pray as David did:
     "Search me, O God, and know my heart;
     Try me, and know my anxieties;
     And see if there is any wicked way in me,
     And lead me in the way everlasting." 
          (Psalm 139:23-24)

Isn't amazing how quickly "Tobiahs" can creep into our hearts.  May you have a clear heart and a clean house today!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Giving the Sense

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Nehemiah 7:23-9:21

So they read distinctly from the book of the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them understand the reading. Nehemiah 8:8 (NKJV)

There was a great celebration that day. The city of God was restored. The wall was built. The Word of God was once again central in the life of God's people. It was a time of great joy declaring that "the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Neh. 8:10).

It is important to know the details of how this unfolded. Ezra stood before the people to read the Scripture. But there was a problem. Due to 70 years of Babylonian captivity, the crowd was comprised of many who no longer understood the Hebrew language. Therefore, they needed interpreters.

From within the leaders came those who could "give the sense" and help them to understand what God was saying. This is foundational to all that we do in the Lord. It translates and interprets the Word of God into our world.

To this we are all called.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Two Themes of God's Present Work

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Nehemiah 3:15-5:13

Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon.  Nehemiah 4:17 (NKJV)

Nehemiah is a wonderful book about restoration.  God rebuilds the devastated, beaten down areas of our lives!  He gives us a new future.  First, there must be the re-establishing of vital, powerful, God-honoring WORSHIP.  Then, He leads us in the rebuilding of the walls of our lives.  He fills in the gaps.  He repairs the burnt out areas. 

There are two major themes that the Holy Spirit has been emphasizing and re-emphasizing to the Church in the past few decades.  Those two themes are CONSTRUCTION and WARFARE.  These two are at the core of what God wants for each of our lives.  He wants to build something great in you, your family, and your church.  This is more than just blessing you.  It means He will build you according to His good plans for your life.

But there is also an enemy who seeks to thwart and stop this restoration.  We have become aware of a realm of resistance that is hidden yet powerful.  Therefore, we must daily take up our weapons in spiritual warfare. 

So there you have it.  With one hand we build, while with the other hand we war.  Such is required for the advance of the Kingdom of God in our day.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Re-building the Walls

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Nehemiah 1:1-3:14

Then I said to them, "You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire.  Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach."  Nehemiah 2:17 (NKJV)

Many of the stories that we find in the Old Testament have great meaning to us beyond simple history.  Such it is with the story of Nehemiah. 

Ezra had overseen the rebuilding of Solomon's Temple.  About fifteen years later, Nehemiah arrives to lead in building a wall around the city of Jerusalem.  The Temple stand for worship and relationship with God.  The walls stand for the way we live our life in the world.  Here's the important truth we need to grasp:  It is very possible to have a good vertical relationship with God while in your personal life "the walls are broken down."  You know and love God, but you are constantly under attack and being beaten up by the devil

The message of the book of Nehemiah is that we need to have walls of strength built in our personal lives so that we can live to the glory of God.  When our "walls" are broken down, we are vulnerable and suffer continual set-backs.  When the "walls" are built, we can live in discipline, protection, and hope.

In Nehemiah's day, the walls were built with brick and mortar.  In our day, they are built with forgiveness, healing, truth, integrity, and all the host of Christian virtues.  May you take ground today!  May your defenses be steadfast!  May you grow in grace and truth.  Such is a blessed life.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Return to Your God

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Ezra 10:1-44

The Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, "You have transgressed and have taken pagan wives, adding to the guilt of Israel.  Now therefore, make confession to the Lord God of your fathers, and do His will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the pagan wives."  Ezra 10:10-11 (NKJV)

Israel had returned from Babylonian captivity.  After 70 years of exile, they had come home.  Their original problem had been idolatry.  They had gone after foreign gods until God finally poured out judgment.  Now they were already falling back into the same patterns.  By intermarrying with pagan wives, they were opening themselves up to compromise in their very households.

This is symbolic of a problem we encounter today.  We are called to evangelize the world, but unfortunately too often the world evangelizes us.  Marriage is an earthly symbol of our spiritual relationship with God.  We are to be totally in love with Him.  Unfortunately, too often we have divided hearts.  We love "pagan wives."  We get joined to the world in such a way that it challenges our love relationship with Jesus.

God has one answer for that: REPENT.  If a man or woman were cheating on their earthly spouse, what is the best immediate advice you could give them?  That's simple.  QUIT!!!  Break the bad linkage.  Don't negotiate; don't think about it; don't try to figure it out.  Just QUIT IT. 

That may seem harsh to some people.  But it is the only answer to spiritual adultery.  RETURN TO YOUR FIRST LOVE.  That is what Ezra called for Israel to do in his day, and that is what God calls for us to do today.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Delivery of God's Word

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Ezra 7:1-8:20

One the first day of the first month he began his journey from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him.  For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.  Ezra 7:9-10 (NKJV)

Ezra made a four month journey to deliver the Word of God.  Even though he was traveling back to his original home, his journey is similar to the Great Commission.  He went to make disciples.  He went carrying precious cargo for the purpose of raising up a new generation of God-seekers/God-followers.

God was with him in the journey.  It says here that "the good hand of God was upon him."  Jesus said the same thing: "...and lo, I am with you always" (Matt. 28:20).  He will be with us as we step out of our comfort zones and into His mission.  It may be across an ocean or across the street.  This is His heart -- for those who have not heard or been taught.

Ezra "prepared his heart."  This is important.  Scripture says that "the preparations of the heart belong to man" (Prov. 16:1).  It is our responsibility to prepare our heart for God's service.  We do this by keeping it clean and clear -- in communion with God -- free and alive. 

Then Ezra did three things: the NKJV says he prepared his heart to "seek" the Law of God.  Another translation says "STUDY."  Ezra was a continual studier of the Word.  He did not rely on yesterday's teaching.  He always sought "fresh bread."  Then, he DID it.  Ezra did not study the Bible simply to be smart or impressive.  He wanted to do what he learned.  This leads to the third thing he did: he TAUGHT.  Ezra did not consider the goal of his life to be himself.  He wanted others to benefit.  He became a conduit for blessing. 

God calls us all to do as Ezra did.  Get into God's Word, then live it, then share it.  God Himself has promised that His hand will be upon us as we do this.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Day of Fulfillment

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Ezra 3:1-4:23

But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the father's houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard afar off. Ezra 3:12-13 (NKJV)

What a scene! After much labor, much struggle, and overcoming much discouragement, the foundation was laid. For young and old, this brought forth a flood of emotions. Old men began to weep. The young shouted for joy. This was truly a "God moment". The long-awaited promise had come into reality.

Such moments are part of our faith journey in God. We work. We wait. We hope. We endure. The worst thing we can do is quit - give up - cease. God has promised that if we continue with Him a day is coming in which our joy will be full even to overflow. God's promises never fail. They simply may be long in coming.

ENDURE. CONTINUE. Your eyes will see the goodness of God in the land of the living.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Greatest Endeavor

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Ezra 1:1-2:70

Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house Jerusalem which is in Judah. Ezra 1:2 (NKJV)

Restoration is an amazing, awe-inspiring event. It is also extremely rare. Few people really deny themselves for the sake of a greater cause. Paul once said "all seek their own, and not the things that are of Christ Jesus." (Phil. 2:21) The vast majority of humanity is devoted to one end: self.

There is a greater, eternal cause: the building of a house for our God. This house is eternal. In the days of Cyrus it was located in Jerusalem. Today it is located in the shared hearts of all those who follow Jesus.

There is no greater cause. It is worth all our efforts. May a house, an abode be built on earth in which Almighty God can show Himself mighty. There is nothing greater.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Source of Our Strength

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
II Chronicles 35:1-36:23

There had been no Passover kept in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet; and none of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as Josiah kept... II Chronicles 35:18 (NKJV)

Josiah was one of the greatest kings in Israel's history. He restored the worship of God. He brought back the primacy of God's Word. However, it was too little too late. Within a few years God's judgment would fall on Judah and they would be carried off to Babylonian captivity for 70 years.

The writer of Chronicles makes an amazing observation. In all the years since the days of Samuel, there had been no proper celebration of the Passover! No wonder Israel had steadily grown weaker and weaker.

Let's give present day application. The celebration of Passover points to the central significance of the Cross of Christ. In the Old Testament, they looked FORWARD. In the New Testament, we look BACK. Failure to "celebrate" the Passover means failure to love and revel in the Cross. A Cross-less Christianity is destined to die. A life focused on what God has done for us in Christ will always be strong.

Let's celebrate the Passover today! Not the formal ceremonial ritual, but instead the inward adoration of our awesome Savior - crucified, buried, and risen again.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

National and Personal Revival

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
II Chronicles 33:14-34:33

Then the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes with all his heart and all his soul...And he made all who were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin take a stand. II Chronicles 34:31-32 (NKJV)

National revival must be accompanied by personal revival. Josiah was one of the greatest kings of Judah. He "stood in his place" and made covenant with God. He did this both for himself and for his nation.

He reformed the outward structures but he also made a personal commitment to follow the Lord "with all his heart and all his soul". Then he led all the people to take the same step.

I am impressed with the phrase "in his place". Where is your place? Where do you take a stand? God has granted each one of us a particular "place" in which we live and move and make decisions. We sometimes refer to a persons "place" as their entire life situation.

The beginning of all true reform and all true progress is to stand "in your place" and make covenant with Almighty God. This will change your world. When we all do this, we will have national revival!