Archive for February, 2015
“Manoah said, ‘Now when your words come to pass, what shall be the boy’s mode of life and his vocation?’ So the angel of the Lord said to Manoah, ‘Let the woman pay attention to all that I said…let her observe all that I commanded’” (Judges 13:12-14).
The angel of the Lord had given specific instructions to Manoah’s wife regarding the coming birth of their child, Samson. Because he had questions of his own, Manoah prayed that the Angel of the Lord might appear once again. All the angel offers, however, is a recap of the instructions already given to the woman. It’s a simple reminder that our greatest need isn’t more information, but action–an obedience to what we already know. Even if we were to never again learn something new from God’s word, how much more effective would the witness of the church be if the members of the body of Christ put into full practice all that we already understand about scripture and living the Christian life?
“But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).
God’s word is either fulfilling its work in us–bringing transformation, guiding in obedience, birthing daily renewal and understanding–or our hearts are being hardened against it by disobedience and indifference. By refusing to embrace the life of repentance; living in outright defiance to God’s word, a person eventually crosses a dangerous and imperceptible line. It’s the point at which the heart becomes so hard that what was once an attitude of “I will not repent,” gives way to “I cannot repent.” Willful disobedience diminishes our perceptiveness of God’s word and Spirit as he seeks to work in our lives.
“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).
The widely accepted adage states, “What’s right is right.” That’s not altogether true, however. In fact, right is never right when it is a “rightness” determined by us. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are not left to our own impulses, instincts, feelings, intuition–what is right in our own eyes–when it comes to living out the faith. Such a platform for our decision-making is but a self-serving pursuit that disregards the clearly stated principle and precepts of God’s word. In a world gone wrong, it is he that establishes what is right.
“Forgetting what lies behind, I reach forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13).
Each day introduces us to the discovery of never imagined possibilities. By pouring ourselves into the opportunities presented by this day, the better positioned we are for the days to come. Have a decidedly good day. It makes for a better tomorrow.
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is se before us, fixing our eyes in Jesus, the author and protector of faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Having a focal point helps to prioritize our choices, decisions, and activities. The sinful things to be avoided are obvious, but what can be of even greater distraction in our goal of glorifying Christ are those things that though not sinful, and possibly even good, entangle and distract us from the more significant, Kingdom building endeavors we should be pursuing. Proper focus brings proper pursuits.
“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
Just as God’s inspired word was given for a purpose–to instruct–it must be read with a purpose–to be instructed. Through his word we find ourselves in the presence of God, drawn to his fellowship, rooted in his call, and growing in the likeness of his Son. It is a work accomplished not in a “one-and-done” approach to bible reading, but a persevering desire that longs to master the material. To know his word is to know the One who spoke it into being.
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).
Christ having died for our sins, God’s desire is for us to know not only the sufficiency of Jesus’ atoning death but to understand, metaphorically, how far these sins have been removed. Unlike traveling from north to south, when one direction gives way to the other, traveling east to west is a never-ending journey of infinite proportions. This distant dispatching of our sins is a picturesque reminder of the free and unfettered life of victory God desires for us. If haunted by the sins of your past; if they are ever before you, holding you hostage, we must know that this is the work of the enemy. It is the evil one who seeks to bring near what God has banished far away. Claim the promise and live the victory.
“When Gideon heard the account of the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship. He returned to the camp of Israel and said, ‘Arise, for the Lord has given the camp of Midian into you hands’” (Judges 7:15).
Worship for some is introspective. For others it is expressive. For all of us, however, it is to be “egress-sive.” That is, worship should bring forth action in a life of service and dedication to the call of Christ and the mission of his church. Coming to an understanding of God’s plan, and his role within that plan, Gideon worshipped. It was an experience that did not end at the altar of introspection or expression, but evoked a response that sent him forth to fulfill a mission. Are you worshipping “egress-sively”?
“He said to them, ‘Look at me and do likewise. And behold, when I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do’” (Judges 7:17).
Gideon understands that leadership and influence cannot be separated from being an example. This is why I have never understood those members of the clergy who so often complain about living in a fish bowl. My first thought is, “What are you hiding?” If we are to be an example to the people of God, and an effective witness to a lost world, we must live and exude our faith in such a way that we can say without hesitation, “Look at me. Do as I do.” When identifying potential leaders in the church, Paul tells Timothy to look for those possessing certain qualities (1 Timothy 3:1-7), of which only one was a spiritual gift (teaching) while all others were based on character. There is no substitute for example. People will not follow you to a place you’re not going.
“Then Gideon said to God, ‘If You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken, behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor’” (Judges 6:36-37).
The expression “putting out the fleece” should not be understood as an expression of great faith or deep spirituality. Gideon’s request is actually a reflection of his doubt and unbelief in the clearly stated directives of God. How often do we try to spiritualize our hesitation and reluctance to be obedient to God’s word with “fleece” language such as “I’m praying to know God’s will” or “I’m just waiting on a sign from God?” While Gideon had the word of the Lord spoken to him, we have the word of the Lord in the canonical text of scripture. Knowing God’s will is no mystery. Whether or not we will do it is the greater mystery.