Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Cradle in the Shadow

The Cradle in the Shadow

‘Twas the day after Christmas and all through the stable
Not a creature was stirring so Mary was able
To quietly wonder with infinite joy
Just what was the meaning of her baby boy

She remembered the angel who had visited one day
With amazement she listened to the words he did say
With God you’ve found favor, a son you’ll conceive
By the Spirit of God this gift you’ll receive

She thought of the shepherds who had been there last night
How they talked of the angels and the glorious light
This baby’s a Savior, God’s Messiah’s been born
And He lays in the manger in the cold quiet morn

She looked then at Joseph as he slept in the hay
Such love and such courage He’d shone every day
She silently prayed and thanked God for this man
Who’d faithfully trusted in God’s heavenly plan

She noticed the star that appeared in the night
A magnificent star she’d not seen one so bright
It seemed to be shining straight down on this place
Where the baby was sleeping, it shone on His face

Yes, the day after Christmas and Mary lay there
Alone with her treasure, alone with her prayer
She pondered intently what all this could mean
This baby from heaven so tiny, serene

But there in the stable in the soft morning light
While Mary was thinking just out of her sight
On the wall of the stable, oh, what could it mean
The shadow of a cross could barely be seen

                                                                                      Christmas, 1993

Monday, December 22, 2014

Praying to the Temple

READ 2 Chronicles 5-6

In Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the temple he expresses a recurring theme in his requests to the Lord. He lists many different circumstances that might arise in the lives of the people that would cause them to pray “toward this house” (6:20, 29, 32) or “toward this place” (20, 21, 26) and asks God to listen to their pleas and hear from heaven and forgive (21, 25, 27, 30, 29). In other words, the temple is the place to go to commune with God in prayer and know that they will be heard.

Again, we have a beautiful picture in the OT of the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Fast forward to his post-resurrection life and ministry as the writer of Hebrews tells us we have a great High Priest who is the pathway for us in prayer into the very presence of God. Jesus himself said that we ask anything of the Father “in his name” we will have it (John 15:16, 23, 24). So now, it seems, that praying in the name of Jesus, i.e., according to who he is and his will, is the New Covenant way of assurance of the Father hearing our prayers. We do not pray through an earthly temple but through our risen Savior who is our heavenly temple.

Prayer: In the name of Jesus and on the basis of his redeeming work on the cross I ask that you would help me and my brothers to be men of prayer. Help us to know that when we come in our Lord’s name to you that you hear and answer. So help us to pray as he would pray were he in our place and with our needs. Help us to pray according to your will.

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Place to Worship God

READ 2 Chronicles 1-2

Solomon begins the preparation to build the temple, the house of the Lord. The plans that were given to him by his father David are magnificent and the materials are stunning in their costliness and beauty. The phrase “spare no expense” certainly comes to mind. But in the midst of all his preparation, in a letter to the king of Tyre, he acknowledges one deeply profound truth: “But who is able to build him a house, since heaven, even highest heaven, cannot contain him? Who am I to build a house for him, except as a place to make offerings before him?” (2:6)

The temple, rather than a place that will “contain” God, will be primarily for the worship of God. It will be the place where the people come to make offerings to the Lord. He knew that heaven was the true dwelling place of God (1 Kings 8:30) but even heaven was not vast enough to “contain him.”

What was God doing? He was given his people a place to worship him and bring their offerings. The thought reminds me of Jesus statement, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) God is providing for man’s need to worship. There is no place in all of creation that can contain God for he is omnipresent — he’s everywhere. But that is not even an accurate description because God is never limited to a location (even everywhere) but is pervasive over all that is and beyond all that is. Don’t worry. It’s too big for us to grasp. Just think about it.

One day God himself will be the temple (Revelation 21:23). But right now the temple, the place of worship, is the Body of Christ, both individually and collectively (1 Cor 3:16 [you plural]; 5:19-20 [you singular]. So, as the people did in Solomon’s temple and as Paul exhorted, “glorify God in your body (the temple).”

Prayer: Father, the magnificence of the earthly temple of Solomon was perhaps the most beautiful building ever built, but it was not big enough nor splendid enough for even you. However, in the wonder of your grace, you dwelt among your people. Now you dwell in us. We are humbled and amazed that you would dwell in such a humble place. Help us to do what was done at that first temple. Help us to truly worship you in spirit and in truth.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Gatekeepers & Parking Lot Hosts

READ 1 Chronicles 26-27

When I read 26:12 this morning I thought of Frank Miller. Notice the wording, “These divisions of the gatekeepers, corresponding to their chief men, had duties, just as their brothers did, ministering in the house of the Lord.” (emphasis mine) It seems that a distinction is being made of those who serve inside the house of the Lord and those who serve outside. That’s why I thought of Frank. You may or may not know that he is in charge of our Parking Lot needs on Sunday mornings and other special times. He sets out all the cones and signs and stands duty faithfully all the time.

The gatekeepers of Israel and Frank show us the importance of every helpful ministry that is done in the life of the church. There are no small jobs. One famous actress once said, “There are no small parts, only small actors.” That is most certainly true in the life of the church. The jobs that are the least noticed are still vital to the overall health and life of the church. We see this in Acts 6. I’m thinking waiting on tables for widows wasn’t the most exciting job in the world. But it required “being of good reputation and full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.” So one needs to be Spirit-filled to be a gatekeeper or parking lot attender? Absolutely. Only then can it be done to the glory of the Lord. Thanks, Frank, for your example to all of us.

Prayer: Father, once again I am thankful for Frank and for so many others in our church who serve in “unnoticed” places. Lord, I know that you will reward their service with your blessings. Help us all to follow their humble example and honor you with our lives.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Second Fiddle

READ 1 Chronicles 22-23

Someone once asked Leonard Bernstein what was the most difficult instrument to play in the orchestra. His answer, “Second fiddle.” We all get it—but think about something even more difficult. What if one is asked to move from first fiddle to second?

In the listing of the priests and the Levites for the service in the temple we see this inversion take place in the descendants of Moses and Aaron. Moses, the great leader of Israel in bring them out of Egypt, was without question one of the greatest men of the OT. Aaron, his brother, assisted him faithfully as they faced Pharaoh and left Egypt and wandered in the wilderness. But now the place of prominence is inverted. The sons of Aaron are to make offerings to the Lord in the temple (23:13) but the sons of Levi (including Moses) are to be their assistants (23:28, 32). I wonder if there were ever any jealousies that arose because of their lineage.

So it is today when we are asked to serve others. Is it possible that we might be resentful thinking we deserve a higher standing? Or do we humble ourselves willingly before the Lord and others for the glory of the Lord? “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

Prayer: Father, help us to have the mind of our Savior in being willing to lay aside our privileges in order to serve others. Help us to honor you by the way we serve, even in secondary places, out of the limelight, where no one else will see. Thank you, Lord, for so many faithful servants who serve in this way before you.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Our Threshing Floor

READ 1 Chronicles 20-21

David sins in Ch 20 by numbering the people. God is displeased and gives David three options for judgment, of which David chooses to be punished by the Lord himself knowing that he is more merciful than man (20:13). When God sends the death angel and the people are being killed, David repents and cries out to God. So the Lord sends Gad to tell him to buy the threshing floor of Ornan and use it to make a sacrifice that will avert the wrath of God from the people (21:22). Gracious Ornan offers to give it to David but David invokes those famous words of commitment to the Lord, “No, but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” (21:24)

I must admit that my mind went to my own commitment to the Lord and what it has cost me to serve the Lord — even thinking what I need to do to avert the punishment of the Lord in my own life for my sins. But, thankfully, God didn’t let me go down that road for long. In my own mind, I was reminded of the Gospel. David is a picture for us of our Lord Jesus Christ. He averted the wrath of God for his people by what cost him his very own life. He is the threshing floor of Ornan; he is the altar of sacrifice; he is the offering to the Lord that is acceptable for our sins. Jesus is our all in all. Let us worship him.

Prayer: Father, how gracious you are to remind us of your love demonstrated on the cross for us. How merciful you are that you gave your only begotten Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. Father, you did not redeem us with ways that cost you nothing. Thank you for your great love and everlasting mercy.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Yes, Lord, Yes, to Your Will & To Your Way

READ 1 Chronicles 18-19

Joab was David’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, except that he was more like an Eisenhower on D-Day or a Schwarzkopf in Desert Storm. As head of the Israeli army he was actually engaged in the field with the battle. David sent him and the army to take care of the Ammonite problem. But the Ammonites had hired the Syrians to come and help them fight against David’s army. They had separated into two camps so that Joab’s men were confronted front and back. So Joab split the army in two and gave his brother Abishai commanded of one of the forces.

Listen to Joab’s instruction to Abishai, “If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me, but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will help you. Be strong, and let us use our strength for our people and for the cities of our God, and may the Lord do what seems good to him.” What amazing faith and submission to the will of God is demonstrated in that statement.

Joab knew he had to fight and he knew that the situation could go either way. What he did not know was what the outcome would be. But he did have faith that God was in charge of the outcome and he also was willing to surrender himself to what God purposed to happen.

You and I can learn from Joab. We are to fight the good fight of faith in our lives before the Lord and we must stand strong and do all that we can in the power of the Lord. But we must also surrender the outcome to the Lord. He doesn’t have to do things the way we want them done. Remember Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Father, not my will but thine be done.”

Prayer: Father, you are holy and sovereign in all things. I praise you that this is true. I’m so thankful, Lord, that we are not left to our own ends but that you as the holy, righteous, loving, merciful, gracious God of all are overseeing the course of history to your purposes and your ends. Help me to surrender my will to yours and to be content with your ways.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

What Small Thing Has God Done for You?

READ 1 Chronicles 16-17

What small thing has God done for you in your life? David rehearsed before the Lord a glorious song of praise, extolling “his deeds among the peoples” (16:8ff). He exalts the Lord for his wondrous works, his miracles and judgments, his covenant with Abraham, giving Israel the land of Canaan, choosing Israel to be his people, making the heavens, establishing the world, his goodness and his steadfast love that endures forever! What a glorious song of praise this was.

Then David wants to build the Lord a house but God will not allow him to do it. Rather, he promises to raise up one of his sons after him who will build the house for the Lord.  David, again in deep gratitude goes in and sits before the Lord (17:16f) to thank him for choosing him to be his servant and his family to rule over Israel, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And this was a small thing in your eyes, O God.”

A small thing!? Was he serious? God had chosen him to be king of his people and David calls it a small thing. But note carefully, he wasn’t saying it was a small thing to him but a small thing “in God’s eyes.” What he meant was that for God this was no great undertaking. He did this with ease. To put it in anthropomorphic terms it didn’t wear God out. For David it was monumental. For God it was the continuation of his eternal plans and purpose.

I thought to myself. What “small” thing has God done for me. And the first and most obvious answer was my salvation. God, being rich in his mercy, made me alive together with Jesus Christ. It was difficult for him. For me it was, and continues to be, cataclysmic. Wow!

Prayer: Father, as David said, “What more can I say to you for honoring your servant?” Yet, Lord, I pray that you would fill me with continual wonder and praise to you for your gift of salvation — perhaps a small thing in your eyes, but for me an everlasting transforming blessing. Thank you seems so weak. But my heart is full of wonder.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


READ 1 Chronicles 14-15

“Obedience is doing what God says, when God says, with a happy heart.” Those words from Life Action, designed for little ears, ring true in our adult minds. We know that real obedience is doing things God’s way and not our own. When we choose to do things our way, rather than obeying God, we have broken the 1st  Commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me.”

David and the people of Israel learned a hard lesson when transporting the ark back to Jerusalem (13). They placed the ark on a brand new cart. Wow! Imagine how wonderful that cart was. Think Rolls Royce turning out a one-of-a-kind vehicle just to carry something for one time only…spare no expense. But something went terribly wrong. The oxen stumbled, Uzzah reached out to steady the ark and God struck him dead. David was so afraid he put the ark in the house of Obed-edom and left it there for three months.

Then in Ch. 15 David prepares once again to bring the ark to Jerusalem. But this time he does it God’s way (15:15). God had given clear instructions how the ark was to be carried and they had violated that with the new cart. This time the ark would travel on the shoulders of the priests.

What’s the big deal? The big deal is “doing what God says, when God says, with a happy heart.” God demands complete obedience in word and action from an obedient heart. First, we learn his will from his Word. Then we do it. Simple, huh? (James 1:22)

Prayer: Father, my prayer today is first confession that I so often do not do what you say. Or often I do what you want but too late. But, perhaps most often, I am guilty of trying to obey you in half-heartedness. Help me, Lord. God be merciful to me a sinner. Help me to walk in your way constantly with a joyful heart that seeks your glory above all else.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Guidance from God

READ 1 Chronicles 10-11

Why was Saul rejected as king over Israel? The writer of Chronicles gives us a clear explanation. “So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. He did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.” (10:13-14) Saul’s failure to trust in the Lord and seek him for guidance was his downfall.

That’s a great reminder for you and me today. We must seek the Lord’s guidance in all that we do also. But how do we do that? We do it through his Word and through prayer. As we pray to the Lord for guidance we search his Word for instruction. His method of speaking to us is through his written Word that he has given us for “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

That’s why things like Scripture reading plans are so important. They help us to stay in the Word on a consistent basis. But even these plans are not enough when seeking the Lord’s guidance, obviously. We must search out the mind of the Lord through what He has revealed to us in his Word. Don’t be content with a little guidance. Be an eager seeker of God through his Word.

Prayer:  Father, thank you that you have given us the treasure of your written Word. How grateful we are that you wrote it down for us through the pens of your inspired writers to teach us and guide us and correct us when we go wrong. Help us to love your Word and treasure it. Help us to demonstrate our love for you by how we hunger for your Word.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Chronicle of Destruction

READ 2 Kings 17-18

In Chapter 17 there is a chronicle of destruction. God itemizes the steps in the fall of Israel in 722 b.c. First, the people of Israel “had sinned against the Lord their God” (7) How had they sinned against the Lord? By mixing with the nations whom God had told them to drive out and by committing idolatry with their gods (7-12). Remember, idolatry is the act of worshipping something other than the one true God.

The second step was that God warned them by the prophets and seers telling them to repent and obey his Word, i.e., believe (13). Verse 14 makes clear that their disobedience of the Word constituted unbelief. Interestingly enough, that is exactly the same call that goes out to people who do not worship the Lord today. The message really hasn’t changed except for the full realization that Jesus, the Word made flesh, is the one to whom we turn in our repentance and faith.

How did they respond? That’s the third step. They were stubborn and continued in their idolatry (14-17). Which led to the fourth and final step of God removing them from his sight (18). What a tragic scenario was played out over these two hundred years.

Brothers and sisters, there is such real danger in idolatry. Of course, our idolatry is much more subtle. We don’t build images on high places and go up and bow down to them. Rather, we tend to make idols of material things or even people in our lives. A friend once defined an idol for me: Anything that one is not willing to give up for God is an idol. I would expand that a bit to saying: Anything that one puts before God in his heart is an idol. Could it be that as we say we long for spiritual awakening it doesn't come because we are caught up in idolatry? 

Let us search our hearts. Is there anyone or anything that has captured God’s rightful place in our lives? If so, we must repent and believe by obeying the Word of the Lord and loving him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

Prayer:  Father, you alone are worthy of our worship. You alone are worthy of our praise. O, God, search our hearts and see if there be any wicked way in us and lead us back to your everlasting way. Show us, Father, if anything or anyone has captured our devotion above you. Help us to repent and trust in you alone.