Monday, September 30: 2Corinthians 3- Impacting others for Christ.

In Paul’s day you might send a letter of recommendation for a friend as they were traveling. The letter would introduce them to your friends who would show them hospitality as they traveled. Paul says that the Corinthians were his letter of recommendation. In other words, their faith testified to Paul and his ministry. 

My mind spun… and I wondered who would be the ‘letter of recommendation’ for my life as a Christ-follower? Whose life and faith testifies to my ministry, my love, my living for Jesus? In other words, who am I impacting for Christ and His Gospel?

How about you? Who have you impacted for the cause of Christ?

Lord, today I dedicate afresh my life to You and impacting others to turn to You. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Saturday, September 28: 2Corinthians 2- the fragrance of Christ.

As I allow the word ‘fragrance’ dance in my thoughts, smells and fragrances from my life pop like popcorn.

·         Fresh stew simmering or bread baking in the kitchen,

·         roses given to my wife,

·         the stench of sewage (I once had an incident allowing sewage to back up into the basement of my house. Yuck!),

·         walnut wood being worked in my shop,

·         my gym locker room

·         an ocean breeze

Smell, scientists say, is the fastest sense to retrieve memories from the brain. And it is interesting how some smells have a universal response. But for other fragrances the smell is personal and individual.

Paul writes that we are to be the fragrance of Christ. But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him (14). For some people we will be a wonderful fragrance for others we will stink. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life (15-16a).

Peoples’ responses to us will be similar to peoples’ responses to Jesus. For some Jesus was hailed Lord and Savior, for others He was a nuisance to be gotten rid of.

The final thoughts now tumbling in my brain ask me if I am living as a fragrance for Jesus. Does my life leave a presence –an aroma of Jesus-likeness– behind?

How people respond is their call.

Am I leaving a Jesus fragrance-trail as I live my life 24-7-365?

Lord, Jesus, tomorrow I get to recharge my spiritual batteries in worship. I pray that the fragrance of our worship is pleasing to You and I pray that my time with Your family will instill in me strength and energy to live another week for You, bringing with me wherever I go, Your Fragrance and Your Love. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Friday, September 27: 2Corinthians 1- Every experience useful.

I often marvel at the ways of the Lord. This summer I met a man from India with an extensive ministry to orphans throughout his country. As I sat and listened to his story I learned he was an orphan. Now he is being used by God to help orphans!

I read about a person stricken with AIDS who runs a ministry to people with AIDS.

I love the way no experience is wasted in God’s economy. Paul writes, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God (3-4).

We endure difficulty and find God’s peace and presence in the midst of it. Thank You, Lord, for your presence and care… but there may be more. God may be aligning things so that the comfort we receive we can give to others.

I know a cancer survivor, who for years when returning to the hospital for regular checkups, would talk with others who were facing what she faced.

Processing Paul’s comment about the Lord, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God, I am drawn to reflect. I am wondering what comfort and experiences I have had with the Lord that I might offer back to Him by passing along what God gave to me to others. In this way I will live the Scripture and not merely meditate upon it.

Lord, thank You for never leaving or forsaking me. Thank You for my 38+ year journey with You. Thank You for all the things You have brought me through and for all the ways You have shown Yourself to be faithful. I bless You and I praise You…

Lord, I offer my life to You as a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1). Use any and every detail of my life to touch others with Your Love and Comfort and Care and Peace and Redemption. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Thursday, September 26: 1Corinthians 16- Be on guard.

Paul closes his letter with a brief word about giving. I find reminders to be faithful in giving helpful. I drift so easily into a ‘take-care-of-me’ lifestyle that significantly reduces my ability and desire to give generously…

It was in the midst of his final personal remarks that I discovered my devotional-nugget for today. Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love (13-14).

Guard, stand firm, be courageous, strong, and love… what tremendous words and thoughts to ponder as I start my day and live throughout the day.

In fact, as I thought about these words, I copied them into an email, which I sent to myself to arrive later today as a reminder to continue to mull them over and over throughout the day.

·         Guard, stand firm, be courageous, strong, and love…

·         Guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus…

·         Stand firm in the Lord as the day continues and the temptations come…

·         Be courageous and strong as I live out my faith openly and boldly…

·         Love others as Jesus Christ loves and as I love to be loved.

My ‘Jesus Following’ to do list for today.

Lord, God, I choose to steep my life in these actions today. For Your Honor and Gory I live this and every day. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Wednesday, September 25: 1Corinthians 15- Who is influencing whom?.

In the midst of the most extensive teaching on the Resurrection in the Scripture, there were two verses that caught my eye. Even at his theological best, Paul always has a practical spin. For Paul theology affects living. Thinking about God and God’s Ways is supposed to influence how we live.

Verses 33-34 were the ones that caught my attention, Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God--I say this to your shame.

Loosing sight of the resurrection, thinking that maybe it was not going to happen, opened the door for the some Corinthians to dive head long into sin. Why live God’s Way? It doesn’t matter anyway?” might have been their thinking.

I love Paul’s direct words. "Bad company corrupts good character." The quotation marks suggest this was a proverb from his day. Proverb or not, it is true! Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning, Paul pleads!

Who we hang with matters. God doesn’t want us to withdraw from the world and people who don’t know Jesus. We are to be a light to them. BUT who is influencing whom?

This is my meditative thought for today. Who is influencing whom… who is influencing me?

If certain people are a negative influence on me then I need to eliminate the bad influence and the sin I am embracing because of it.

"Bad company corrupts good character." As I mull on this, I realized that in our digital age, bad company can have a digital facet. And the bad company need not be physically present in our digital age. A person’s music, movies, webinars, blogs, YouTubes, Twitter feeds and the like can be corrupting me if I am giving them more credence in my life than say, the Word of God or brothers and sisters in Christ.

I need to consider if any bad company I am hanging around is influencing me away from Jesus and godly living. And if so, I need to end the relationship and/or turn off the digital connection for the sake of godliness.

Think about it…

To You, Oh Lord, and to none other have I sworn allegiance. Show me chinks in my armor where I am letting ‘bad characters’ unduly influence me to sin that I may cut off the sin-filled influence and live more wholly for You. In Jesus’ name and for Your sake, Oh God –Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.



Tuesday, September 24: 1Corinthians 14- A passion for God's body.

Paul’s passion is for the church, for the body, for the group and he longs for us to understand and live his passion for the church body,

Our individualistic Western mindset has trouble processing Paul’s passion for the body. It shows up again in and throughout chapter 14. Over and over Paul calls the people of the church to live in such a way that the group, the body, is enhanced, not merely the individual…

As he is winding down a section on why prophecy is more important for the body than tongues, Paul writes, Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church (12).

God whispers to me through these Words, “Be eager to build up the church. Be eager to strengthen the body, excel in your care for the body and help the body.”

‘Excel’ is such a great word, but so often we hear it in things like excel in school or sports or your job. Paul longs that we excel in gifts that build up the body.

His focus is body of ‘Christ centered’… not ‘me centered’. And this is my challenge today… it is a challenge of the heart, a challenge of perspective, a challenge of mindset and priority. And I have much maturing to go to approach Paul, and thus God’s passion for the church…

Lord, Your Word today is challenging my ‘take care of me, live for me’ mindset. I am far from Your desire and ideal. Keep working on me. Holy Spirit, infiltrate the darkest, neediest places of my life and change me from the inside out. I need Your help, Oh God… so that my life might emulate You and live for You and Your body, the church. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Monday, September 23: 1Corinthians 13- Love.

Love, love, love.

Love, Love, love

All you need is love… all you need is love

So sang the Beatles.

It sounds good as a lyric, but hard to live in real life. And what is love anyway?  Is it the sex-driven eroticism we see on the every screen every day?

Paul certainly would say ‘no’. His timeless definition remains the pinnacle for love.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails (4-8).

I sat and asked myself, is this how I LOVE my wife, family, church family, etc.???

As I considered each relationship, I laid this definition upon it. I have a long way to go to ‘love, love, love’ consistently.

Oh, Lord, love is supposed to be the hallmark of Your followers.  I fall far short. Forgive me, teach me, show me and love me as I work on this. Amen.


Saturday, September 21: 1Corinthians 12- Life without toes.

When I was in middle school there was a teacher we all made fun of. His name really helped, too, Mr. Weredy (pronounced Were-dee). Behind his back, when we were talking and making fun of him, we pronounced it ‘weird-ee.’ But what really amped up our ‘behind-the-back fun-making’ was the way he walked. It is hard to describe on paper. He walked kind of like Herman Munster of Adams Family TV fame. He always placed his feet flat on the ground in a sort of mechanical manner. He never ran, never walked briskly, never leaned forward, like we all do and pushed off with his toes. And when he stood still, he teetered a bit as if he was unstable.

As middle schoolers we were merciless behind his back… until we learned some of his story.

Turns out Mr. Weredy walked the way he did because he didn’t have any toes. They were amputated because they developed gangrene while on an expedition in northern Alaska. I guess he was fortunate to be alive.

When we learned this, it didn’t seem cool to make fun of the man. We also learned about the important part toes play in the human body. He walked the way he did because he didn’t have toes to balance himself.

Who would have thought that our little toes were so important? Apparently even the loss of a couple of toes can cause a problem with balance.

Paul describes each of us as believers as a part of the body and the body is incomplete without each of us. Oh, the church can function if we are not functioning, but it does require compensation by the other parts of the body and the body (church) probably won’t function as God intended but it gets by.

God’s Word to me… play my part and fulfill the body function God intends me to play.

Are you playing the part God intends for you? If not, the body is suffering and others are compensating for your lack.

Think about it. I am…

God, You made me with certain gifts and abilities. Help me to use them for the common good and not to bury them like the lazy steward in Jesus’ parable in vvvv.

Lord, I want to hear ‘well done good and faithful steward, enter your master’s happiness’ and that will only happen as I do those things You have me to do for You.

Help me, Holy Spirit.  Help me to be faithful to You every day. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Friday, September 20: 1Corinthians 11-.Who we listen to matters...

Who are the authors you read? Who, in your business, do you listen to, watch, or track? Who’s blogs do you read? What columnists do you frequent? Whose Twitter feeds do you follow? Who are you emulating? Who are your role models?
These people are shaping you and are likely having a more profound affect on you than you think.
Paul wrote simply, Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ (1).
Who we follow, who we idolize, who we pay attention to, matters.
Lord, are the people I am following leading me closer to You? This is the question pounding in my head.
Oh, God, I pray so…
Lord, those who are not, help me to recognize that and replace them with more Christ-like role models.
Thank You for those people who are leading me closer to You. I pray this Jesus, in Your name. Amen.

Thursday, September 19: 1Corinthians 10- Beneficial and constructive.

Considering that we are not under the law.  Does that mean anything goes? Obviously not! But how do I decide what goes and what doesn’t? One good thing about the law is that the law made it clear what was and what was not approved.

Paul gives a wonderfully concise answer for us who are no longer under the law… "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others (23-24).

First, Paul says consider what is beneficial or constructive. I assume he means what is spiritually beneficial and constructive. Questions like…. Will it help me grow closer to the Lord? Will it build my faith or the faith of another sister or brother? These are great starters in answering if it will be beneficial and/or constructive.

Secondly, Paul suggests we consider the effects of what we are considering doing, based on how it will impact others. We should seek the good of others.

As I think about Paul’s counsel, I find the simplicity of his approach so helpful…

Is it beneficial for my spiritual growth and does it benefit others…

Thank you, Lord, for this straightforward approach to living in Your kingdom and living well for You. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Wednesday, September 18: 1Corinthians 9- Singular focus.

In chapter 7 Paul mentioned how those who are married have multiple responsibilities to serve Christ and to care for their spouse. He advised not marrying, if that were possible, so that people could be singularly focused on serving Jesus (see 7:28, 32, etc).

Today we get a glimpse of what singular focus looks like for Paul. Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings (19-23).

I sat silent before these words. My focus on advancing God’s kingdom is not even in the same zip code as Paul. Even after I cut myself a break for being married and raising a family, since these necessitate a split focus, I am not in Paul’s zip code. His life had a singular focus… making disciples… house, home, retirement, vacations, hobbies, there is not a hint of these in Paul’s self-description here or anywhere in his writings for that matter.

Like I said I am not even in his zip code. I don’t even know who to pray today…

Help me, Lord, help me…


Tuesday, September 17: 1Corinthians 8- Knowledge & love.

Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up (1b). What an interesting statement. I spent time contemplating this and the more I did the more it resonated.

Knowledge does puff up. The more I know, the more I think of my myself and the more I think of myself the more my head swells with ME.

Love on the other hand builds up… it builds others up because it thinks and acts for the betterment of others. Love is supposed to be the hallmark of Christ-followers. We are directed to love neighbors and even enemies. We are to speak truth but to do so in love.

Love is key, because love builds up.

And yet here on this orb called earth, more often than not, a person is measured by his/her knowledge more than his/her love.

Oops, we apparently have this backwards from God’s point of view…

Think about it.

Lord, help me grow in love. That’s a big enough prayer for today, Lord. Help me grow in love. Amen.


Monday, September 16: 1Corinthians 7- All things marriage.

Well ‘all things’ is a bit of an exaggeration, but this chapter is devoted to many issues that result from marriage. Its raw honesty is refreshing.

Toward the end of the chapter, there was one brief clause that pulled me in. Verse 39, discussing the context of remarriage after a spouse’s death Paul notes, if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. It was the last 6 words that grabbed me.

He must belong to the Lord… Paul’s counsel, marry within the faith.

In our multicultural and multi-faith world of political correctness, these words seem so restrictive, so narrow, so oppressive. But are they wise? Do they make sense?

I am happily married for more that 33 years, so these words don’t really have direct meaning to me, yet I found myself engaging them in thought and prayer this morning.

Marry within the faith… the reasoning is sound. If faith is the core of who we are, which true faith will be… if our faith is the lifeblood of how we live, our guide for all seasons, then it makes sense that we should marry someone with a similar core.

Marriage is all about two becoming one and there is no way to blend two religious faiths (whatever they might be) with each other and have both faiths remain pure and true to their historic roots.

Marriage brings with itself enough issues, situations and complexities just melding two lives into one. Why add the intensity of divergent faiths?

To put it another way… is your faith so low on your hierarchy of importance that you are willing to compromise, bend and change your faith for the sake of your spouse?

Think about it… particularly if you are not yet married or are considering marriage.

Lord, I am so thankful for my wife. She has been a gift from You. Her voice and her lifestyle have consistently drawn us closer to You, even as I hope and pray my voice and consistency have done.

Thank You for this woman with whom I can share everything and with whom I live for You daily. Through your name Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Saturday, September 14: 1Corinthians 6- The changes God can bring.

The writer of Ecclesiastes says there is nothing new under the sun (1:9). Well, reading 1Corinthians makes that clear. Problems and issues in the church have been around as long as the church has been around. Paul is certainly exposing some whoppers!

It was Paul’s descriptions of the before and after life of a person who converts to Christianity that caused me to pause and ponder… Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (9-11).

Before Christ we Christians are a messy lot. We are marred and scarred. What is wonderful is that in becoming a disciple of Jesus we were washed, … sanctified, … justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

With Jesus it is not where we start because Jesus can clean the worst of sinners. With Jesus it is about WHO we become! The inference of the text is plain, we are people who get to live differently, live better!

Pondering this, God took me down memory lane, considering who I was before Jesus and then who I am now that I am following Jesus.

God also asked me a direct question, “Can others tell you have changed because you follow Me?” Boom.

There’s the morning application of the Word… Is my life truly changing because Jesus is my Lord? Am I a different person today than I was when I first met and believed in Jesus…

How about you???

Lord, I sit silently before You today… pondering, thinking. In some ways I have changed dramatically, in others, not so much. In some ways I change and then fall back again. I am a mixed bag.

This morning in Your Word causes me to pause and take stock…

This morning in Your Word causes me to reaffirm, I am in. I am Yours. I need Your help of the Holy Spirit to become the person You saved me to be. I cannot do this on my own. I need You and I love You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I pray to You and in Jesus’ Name. Amen.


Friday, September 13: 1Corinthians 5- An uncomfortable word.

This is a difficult chapter as I sit and meditate on it because it is forcing me to think about the dark and dirty underbelly of church life… when sin, significant, debilitating, cancerous sin, invades the church.

First, it forces me to realize that such things do happen. The Church and my church are not perfect. They are not perfect because I am not perfect.

Secondly, although I have not acted like the brother in this chapter, I am capable of such sin. Proverbs reminds me that pride goes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). Humbleness in recognizing that sin lurks in me and I must be vigilant in my fight against it. It is also coupled with a constant willingness to listen to the voice of the Spirit warning and correcting me is my only valid defense against the sin-filled part of my nature that is not yet surrendered to Jesus!

Thirdly, I have to beware that I don’t get things backwards, like the Corinthians did. They were lenient on sin for people within the church, while at the same time expecting non-believers to live as if they were following Jesus. I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people-- not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world (9-10).

This morning is a tough chew… an uncomfortable Word.

Jesus, bring the light of Your Word into the dark places of my life. Mold me and shape me to be like You, who offered grace to sinners and an invitation to repent and begin life anew with You. Help me to be such a person… for Your Cause and in Your Name, I pray. Amen.


Thursday, September 12: 1Corinthians 4- Two important reminders.

Many potent meditation stops caught my eye this morning. Eventually verses 4-5 drew me in to time with Jesus today.

My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts….

My conscience is a gift from God, that impulse from within not to do certain things that do not honor God. But as the first sentence reminds me, my conscience, like all of me, has been corrupted by sin and can lead me astray as well. It is so easy for me to say, “Hey, I’m clean, I’m good, I’m okay before God”. Verse 4 cries to me… not so fast. My conscience [may be] clear, but that does not make me innocent.

Lord God, this is why regular confession and times of self evaluation are good and necessary but even they are no guarantee… I always rest on Your Grace. Always.

So if I cannot, with 100% accuracy, judge even my own self, I have to be doubly careful when it come to judging others.  Why?  Because I only know in part and I cannot ever judge motives with clarity. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts…. Only God can judge with perfect clarity. I must never forget this… NEVER.

Two pretty good reminders for today…

Lord, may I have Your grace and Holy Spirit unction to live out the truth seen today in Your Word! I offer You my day… to advance Your Kingdom, to serve at Your beckon call and to sit at Your feet to learn. I pray this through Jesus, Master, Lord and Rabbi. Amen.


Wednesday, September 11: 1Corinthians 3- A passion for God's body, the church.

Paul is riled up in this chapter; animated, angry, peeved… because the people of Corinth are not doing what is best for the body, the church. They are jealous and quarreling, strutting their stuff about which teacher they follow! Like a mama bear fighting to protect her cubs, Paul rears his neck hairs and confronts the childish behavior of the Corinthians…

I found myself flipping to my world…

Do we act like the immature Corinthians when we laud pastor so-n-so, when we make our identity what earthly teacher we follow instead of making it clear that we follow Christ?

Do we act like the immature Corinthians when we pit church against church, growing jealous for our fellowship at the expense of others? Do we act like immature Christians when we badmouth other churches lead by pastor so-n-so?

Through Paul’s pen, God reveals a tenacious passion for His Church and I (we) best not do ANYTHING that harms, injures or destroys God’s possession, i.e., His Church!

Lord God, what about me? How am I doing with regard to Your Church? Am I strengthening or weakening Her? Am I sewing Her together or tearing Her apart… even a little bit?

Lord, even in my thought-life, do I pit church against church or teacher/pastor against teacher/pastor and so hurt Your body? Do I, Lord?

Give me a purer passion for Your Church and a companion desire to build and care for Your body. This I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Tuesday, September 10: 1Corinthians 2-Thank you Holy Spirit.

Yesterday I noted a distinction between peoples; those being saved see the cross as the power of God while others see the cross as foolishness. Why is this?

Reading today I learned a piece of the answer. Verse 14 says, The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. Understanding the cross and other aspects of the Gospel is spiritually discerned, and people without the Spirit… cannot understand them.

Sometimes I think of the Holy Spirit as the ‘power producer’ of the Trinity, the one who empowers Christ-followers to do the works of God. And, yes, this is so as He wills, I should add. But the Spirit is much more. In verse 14 and its surrounding context, we learn that it is God’s Spirit within us that enables us to comprehend the things of God.

Yes, the Spirit brings power, but also understanding, wisdom and discernment. No wonder God gives His Spirit to all who believe in Jesus.

Praise be to the third person of the Trinity, God, the Holy Spirit. May I open myself up to Your wisdom and power, Oh Holy Spirit, and may Your wisdom and power help me to know more deeply and follow more closely the Son and the Father.

This is my morning prayer… prayed in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Monday, September 9: 1Corinthians 1- The Power of God.


After spending time in the Old Testament I often experience a rush of delight when I return to reading in the New Testament. I experienced that ‘rush’ today as I read the wonders of God expressed in 1Corinthians 1.

Verse 18 became my meditative melody for today. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

My heart sang, yet with a tinge of sadness, “So true. So true.”

The wonder of the Gospel that I see and experience regularly as a Christ-follower, many others simply do not ‘get.’ When I share my faith some people latch on and the Gospel fills their thirsty soul, while others scratch their heads in bewilderment, as if to say, “Hey, it’s OK for you but not me; I don’t have a need for ‘religion’ or ‘Jesus’ or whatever their word.” Worse yet is when the other person’s reaction is hostile or condescending or …

I return to Paul’s words, For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. People may think the ‘Jesus-Story’ is foolish or I am foolish for believing it, but I cannot do anything about that. But I don’t have to allow their disconnect or hostility to steal the joy I have found.  Every day I experience the latter half of Paul’s words: … but to [me] who [is] being saved it is the power of God.

This morning I revel in the power of God… the power of God that is saving me, that is guiding me, that is empowering me, that is restoring me, that is using me, that is filling me, that is…

Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Alleluia. Amen.


Saturday, September 7: Numbers 36- .

Numbers concludes with Moses clarifying the inheritance issue of the daughters of Zelophehad I mentioned last week.

Moses and Israel stand poised on the plains of Moab across from the Promised Land. Soon Moses will die (God has already told him so) and the people will enter the Promised Land. Before that will happen, Moses like every great leader, ties up loose ends, making sure he has fulfilled his word and clarified what he has spoken.

As I sit very early in the morning, this text is a good reminder to me…

·         Fulfill my words

·         Make sure what I have spoken is understood

·         Finish well and finish strongly

Moses is an incredible role model for any leader. I am glad I have spent time with him these last weeks.

Lord, thank You for Moses, this man of faith. He is not perfect, which actually encourages me. I know that I am not perfect. And yet, despite his imperfections, You used Moses to do great kingdom work. I pray, Lord, that despite my imperfections, I would surrender to You as Moses did. And that my life might be a tool in Your hands to complete the kingdom work You, Oh Lord, have for me to do.

I pray this through Jesus, my Lord and Savior, and the reigning King of kings and Lord of lords, whose return I await with expectation. Amen.



Friday, September 6: Numbers 35- Honor, vengeance and mercy.


Having spent 3 weeks in two African contexts this summer, I notice that men in these cultures are quicker to resort to shouting and even hitting than men in my culture.

If someone feels as if they have been slighted or dishonored, anger erupts. Standing for and fighting for one’s honor is a living reality. I wonder if this African tribal culture is closer to that of the ancient Israelites. I wonder this because of the comments today about striking and hitting other people addressed by God through Moses. The issue of intentionality is specifically emphasized in vv. 20-22. It is as if these words speak directly to the African culture that I have seen…

Although the connection is somewhat less to my culture, what I noticed is how God protects the innocent. The concept of the cities of refuge is a gift to people who, without malice, accidently kill someone else. Without these cities, the person who kills without malice and/or by accident, would be at the mercy of the avenger of blood. And in a culture governed by ‘eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth’ mercy is non-existent.

God displays His heart of mercy by establishing these cities. Justice is maintained, the guilty person cannot hide out in a city of refuge, but the innocent can. And for those difficult cases, the city of refuge gives due process where the accused and avenger of blood plead their case to the elders who determine the truth and make their judgment.

I found myself contemplating God’s mercy… so rich and so free. Yet mercy is balanced by justice, which God will administer with perfect integrity!

Thanks be to God. Thanks be to You, Oh God.  You sent Jesus to apply Your mercy while also fulfilling Your perfect justice.

I thank You, God, that Jesus found me and saved me and gave His righteousness to me while taking my guilt and sin. Mercy… MERCY! Amen.



Thursday, September 5: Numbers 34– Boundaries…

As I churned this chapter around in my thoughts, the word ‘boundaries’ kept rolling to the front. As God established the boundaries of Israel’s inheritance, so I began to contemplate the boundaries God puts around us. God puts these boundaries around us for our good.
Even though my meditations stretch the text, I found myself continuing the meditation on God’s boundaries.
God gives boundaries of time. Night and day; day and night… God gives us a rhythm of rest and work, work and rest. When I stray past God’s boundaries and His rhythm of work and rest, I pay with a rundown body and less ability to cope with the people and things of life that do not go ‘my’ way.
I thought about the boundaries God gives around intimate relationships. Intimacy within marriage gives a man and woman full and beautiful closeness that cannot be matched. Lord, thank you for these boundaries, they keep us safe and allow us to enjoy totally the gift of wife or husband.
Lord, I pray for those who disregard this boundary, that they would find Your mercy and grace.
I contemplated the boundaries the Lord God set around our tongues… to use our speech to build up rather than tear down.
Our world would be a better place if we honored these boundaries more faithfully.
Lord, help me to better keep this boundary or speech.

Lord, thank You for the boundaries You set for life here in Your world. Help me to honor You by keeping them. Lord, I pray, too, that I might see the good in these boundaries, that I might see them as Your protection and love for us. I pray this through Jesus, the Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, September 4: Numbers 33– Remembering, remembering our past…

This chapter is a walk down memory lane. Moses records Israel’s journey to freedom.
It occurred to me as I was reading this morning that it is good for us to remember from time to time where we are from and the journey the Lord has taken us to get on to where we are.
Remembering gives perspective. We did not always enjoy the freedom we have found in Christ. We did not always understand the goodness of God Almighty and His providential hand of protection, care and love. It is good to remember where we began so we can appreciate God and where He has brought us.
It is good, from time to time, to recall our journey… the path and places the Lord has taken us. To recall the life lessons we have learned at the hand of the Lord, both positive and negative life lessons. To recall the miracles we have seen. To recall how the Lord has been with us every step of the journey.
It is good to recall the vistas God has opened to us along the journey. As I spend my time with the Lord this morning I am writing from the Atlantic Coast of Liberia. In all my wildest dreams I never would have imagined speaking to Liberian pastors about the Word of God. And yet in less than an hour, I will stand before 150 people teaching for 6 hours…
Recalling also gives courage for the future. God had been with Israel for 40 years in the wilderness and God will be with them as they enter the next part of their journey… battling for the Promised Land!
As I recall my past I gain encouragement that wherever God takes me in the future He will be with me.
It is good for us, from time to time, to recall our past… that we may gain courage for the days to come and the journey the Lord will lead us on…
Lord, thank You for my journey. I bless You and praise You, for the Your goodness to me as I have walked with You these 37+ years. What a wonder You are Lord… I praise You through Jesus, my Lord, Amen.

Tuesday, September 3: Numbers 32– Commitment to others in need…

The Ruebenites and Gadites saw a good possibility… land east of the Jordan. This easily could have become a highly divisive situation, which Moses forcefully explains (6-13). These tribes quickly quelled any potential problem through a declaration of commitment to the cause of Israel and in support of their brothers.
They willingly made a sacrifice to show their loyalty to their brothers. After building cities for families and livestock, they would lead the assault into the Promised Land. We are ready to arm ourselves and go ahead of the Israelites until we have brought them to their place. Meanwhile our women and children will live in fortified cities, for protection from the inhabitants of the land (17). They will leave their families without adult males for an unspecified amount of time and willingly be the first into battle for the 10 other tribes, as their brothers possess the Land.
I shifted to my life.  Would I be willing to make such a commitment on behalf of the brothers and sisters in my church or for brothers and sisters in the Church living somewhere else in the world?
Yes, the Ruebenites and Gadites gain something from their commitment, but what they really gain is a change of inheritance. They would have inherited land west of the Jordan. By taking their land east of the Jordan they actually give a gift or extra inheritance (land) to their brothers. In fairness, I also realized that they would have fought in battles had they traveled with everyone else into the Promised Land…
God keeps His commitments (they are about to receive their inheritance) and God expects us to keep our commitments.
I found myself thinking about commitments God expects of me toward others, especially my sisters and brothers in Christ…
·         I thought about the parable of the Good Samaritan and how I am to help my ‘neighbor.’
·         I thought of Paul’s words in 2Corinthians 9 about helping brothers in need, even far away
It seems God expects us to be there for others in need…
Lord, as I round up this morning, I am finding myself contemplating what You desire of me in regards to Your church and Your world! Lord, continue to lead and guide me. Challenge me as needed, also Lord, that I might do and be all You would have be do and be.
I lay everything at Your feet…
Through Jesus, my Lord, I pray. Amen.

Monday, September 2: Numbers 31– A difficult lesson…

These are hard chapters to read, God rending judgment on an entire people. I struggle with chapters like this and I suspect most people struggle with chapters like this, too.
I sit early in the morning. I find myself contemplating the judgment of God. God was seeking vengeance on Midian for their seduction of Israel away from the Lord at Peor.
Even though I do not like this kind of a message, God is reminding me that He will have His day of vengeance over those who do not believe and particularly those who try to seduce people away from the truth.
Today’s reading is not a pretty sight.  God’s final day of vengeance and judgment will not be pretty either.
I find myself thanking God for the faith in Jesus I have and praying for those who do not yet believe. I pray that their eyes will be opened and they will come to know the truth of God’s love, mercy and grace…

Oh, Lord, may it be so. May Your glory cover the earth as water covers the seas. May my life be a living testimony to Your love, faithfulness and grace. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Saturday, August 31: Numbers 30– …

Vows are a big deal to God. When we make one, God expects us to keep them. When a man makes a vow to the LORD or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said (2).
Vows are serious business to God. This got me thinking about vows we make to God.
I thought about the vow congregations make when someone is baptized in worship: Do we the members of the church, promise to guide and nurture these new members by word and deed, with love and prayer, encouraging them to know and follow Jesus Christ and to be faithful members of Christ’s church? If so say, “I do.”
I thought about the vows we make when we join a church:
·         To renounce evil and its work in this world
·         To pledge fidelity to Jesus and God’s Word, and
·         To share faithfully in the worship and work of this congregation, giving of yourself in every way
Then there are wedding vows made before God, if we are married, and the list goes on.
This text is driving me to examine the vows I have made…asking myself if am I faithful to the vows I made to the Lord.
How about you, are you faithful to the vows you made?
Lord, God, it is so easy to speak pledge words fidelity and to vow this and that before You. You hold us accountable to the words we speak and the vows we make.
Forgive me when I have NOT lived up to my vows and even more so, God, may I have the strength to fulfill my vows made to You.

I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen

Friday, August 30: Numbers 29– Holidays…

Most cultures that I know have special days, holidays, to celebrate important landmarks in the culture or country’s heritage. In the US we have the 4th of July, the celebration of our nation’s birth and enjoy a slice of Americana fireworks included.
We have Thanksgiving, a day to feast on Turkey and enjoy family. The celebration harkens back to the Pilgrims thanking God for watching over them and providing for them. Although more and more the thanking God part of Thanksgiving is disappearing in our culture.
Then there are days like Memorial Day, Labor Day and Presidents’ Day. We could possibly add Halloween (although I don’t know who this got to be such a big deal in our country).
Christmas is a unique holiday in the US. Starting as a religious celebration of the incarnation of Jesus, it is now a huge commercial engine for our materialist-driven society. Retailers generate something like 20-40% of their annual profits from Christmas, often referred to now as ‘Holiday Sales’. The jewelry industry reports 33% of their sales in November and December.
My stroll through yearly holidays in the US is simply recognition that holidays play an important role in most cultures.
In today’s reading, Moses reminds the people of 3 key feasts or holidays that God wants His people Israel to celebrate annually. (I am shocked that Passover is not mentioned here.)
Celebrating the goodness of God is a very good thing. These celebrations become anchors of the faith in the yearly calendar. Also they become tremendous ways to pass along faith-highlights to our children.
In our western world, Easter remains far more religiously pure than Christmas, although the secular creep is certainly present in the Easter bunny and baskets. Christmas has been almost completely swallowed up by the US secular culture…
As I ponder the engulfing of Christian feasts by secular culture, sadness falls on me. What have Christ-followers done or allowed to be done to these celebrations of God’s amazing message?
God, I grow even more sad realizing that we have likely crossed the tipping point and cannot reclaim Christmas from the secular world. The question I am wrestling with personally is what could I do within my own family to reclaim Christmas for Jesus… and even more do I really want to part with the many secular additions to the celebration???
Lord, I am left today wondering about the place of Faith-Feasts in life. Be with me in my wonderings, I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thursday, August 29: Numbers 28– My Life as a please aroma to the Lord…

I found my attention glued to the daily and Sabbath offerings described in this chapter.
Twice a day, in the morning and at twilight, a lamb without defect was offered to the Lord as a burnt offering along with some grain and oil. As a burnt offering fire consumed the entire offering. I don’t know how long a burnt offering would burn, but I would think it would burn for many hours. As the meat cooked and then charred, the aroma would fill the Tabernacle… an aroma pleasing to the Lord (2). I’m thinking that the aroma of the morning burnt offering would fill the Tabernacle until evening when the second offering was made.
Thus, it seems that a pleasing aroma of worship was before the Lord constantly in His Tabernacle.
On the Sabbath 2, additional lambs with grain and oil were offered.
I found myself thinking about the offerings and equating or connecting them to my daily offering of praise and worship to the Lord. First, I connected it with the imagery of Psalm 1, meditating on the law of Lord day and night. Then I contemplated my life as a constant fragrant offering to the Lord, that my life would produce an aroma pleasing to the Lord day and night (check out 2Corinthians 2:14)!
Finally, I thought about the Sabbath as a double offering. Maybe I should double my offering, double my aroma, double my time with the Lord on my Sabbath days?

Lord, may my life be a pleasing aroma to You. May the words I speak, the actions I live, the thoughts I have, be captive to You and thereby be pleasing to You, my Lord and my Redeemer. Amen. 

Wednesday, August 28: Numbers 27– Standing up for what is right…

It took a lot of guts for the daughters of Zelophehad to approach the Lord through Moses and all the other leaders of Israel.
In most ways, the OT world was a man’s world and these women had a legitimate problem. From our 21st century perspective, this is a no-brainer but not so back in their day. As a result of their boldness, God issued a decree that not only answered their concern but set a precedent for all time in Israel. "Say to the Israelites, 'If a man dies and leaves no son, turn his inheritance over to his daughter. If he has no daughter, give his inheritance to his brothers…” (8-9).
With no assurance that they would even be heard, these women approached Moses and elders with their problem. How many times do I see an injustice and do nothing? How many times to I allow the possibility of defeat keep me from taking up a cause or seeking to correct an injustice?
Oh, Lord, give me the courage and boldness of the daughters of Zelophehad. In Jesus’ name and for the sake of justice for all people, I pray. Amen.