Posted in Acts, Habakkuk, Hosea, Psalms

A Song in the Night

“Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me.” Psalm 42:7-8

The Psalmist is in a time of mourning and desperation that has invited him to go deeper in God. God’s breakers have swept over him and they have broken him down to where all he has left is a thirst for God Himself. (Psalm 42:2) Have you ever been here? Are you there right now? God has a song He wants you to embrace; a song in the night.

David was in the wilderness being chased by Saul even though he had done nothing wrong. He had been anointed by Samuel and had an early victory over Goliath, but now an army was seeking to kill him and he was on the run with his men, hiding in caves. (Psalm 27:3) At this time David heard God say to his heart, “Seek My face.” (Psalm 27:8) In the midst of David’s great need for His hand (power to deliver), God invited David deeper, to seek His face (who He is). May our response be similar to David’s: “Your face, oh God, I will seek.” (Psalm 27:8)

Three things happen to us when we embrace the song in the night:

  1. Our joy becomes centered in God alone. Habakkuk says that when famine strikes and all external blessings are cut off, he will rejoice in God because God alone is his Savior, Strength, and Guide through life’s most difficult times. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)
  2. Our identity changes. Hosea declares that experiencing God’s tenderness in the wilderness will lead to us calling God our husband instead of our master. (Hosea 2:14-16) It’s in the frustration and despair of the wilderness that God calls us deeper and changes us. David says it this way: “Your gentleness makes me great.” (Psalm 18:35)
  3. We prepare the way for our own deliverance. David says the rising waters will not reach him because God has surrounded him with “songs of deliverance.” (Psalm 32:7) Paul and Silas sang this song in jail and it led to an earthquake that freed all of the prisoners (Acts 16). Is it midnight in your life? Lift your eyes higher, seek His face, and sing His song.
Posted in Acts, John

Assurance of Answered Prayer

“Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.” John 16:24

 There is fullness of joy in partnering with God.  To pray in Jesus name is to pray on behalf of His interests, kind of like the ambassador of a country.  An ambassador transacts business for the country they represent with the full backing and authority of the place they were sent from. Jesus has sent us into the world (John 17:18), and He wants us to know that all of heaven is behind us as we seek to honor Him.

 In the text above, Jesus tells us where assurance in prayer will come from: using His name.  When we pray in our own name we base our confidence on how deserving, or undeserving we feel we are, and that’s usually based on how we’re feeling that day, or on how we have performed recently.  This is a recipe for doubt.  If I have to achieve a certain spiritual feeling, or live a life that “deserves” God’s blessing, I will never have full assurance in prayer.

 But if my access has nothing to do with me, but only about how good Jesus is and how complete His sacrifice was for me on the cross, then it becomes easy to believe.  Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I have I give to you, in Jesus name rise up and walk.” (Acts 3:6)

 God wants us to possess Jesus’ name and our position in this world as His ambassadors.  He wants every one of us to know the joy of partnering with Him every day.  We’re called to nothing less!

Posted in 1Corinthians, Acts, John, Matthew

A Sign to Examine

“He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” Acts 17:31

Usually in church we are called to believe in our hearts something that we can’t see with our eyes. But there is one case where God encourages us to examine something we can see with the logic of our minds – the resurrection. God has “furnished proof” that Jesus is the judge of all mankind by raising Him from the dead.

In John 2 Jesus clears the temple and the religious leaders ask, “What sign do you show us as your authority for doing these things?” (John 2:18) The only person on earth that might have authority to move temple furniture around was the high priest. Outside of him, only God himself would have that kind of authority. “Who do you think you are?” is what they’re asking. Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19) The sign He gave of His authority was the resurrection. In Matthew 12 again He is asked for a sign but replies that no sign will be given except the sign of His death and resurrection as prefigured in the story of Jonah. (Matthew 12:39-40)

Paul says that all of Christianity hinges on the actual, historical resurrection of Jesus. “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins… if only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (1Corinthians 15:17-19) I’ve heard people say that they’d be a Christian “even if it wasn’t true.” Paul wouldn’t be. He’s only in if it’s true and to him it’s true because of a historical proof that God gave. Paul didn’t believe in Jesus because he was afraid he’d go to hell if he didn’t, and he didn’t ultimately believe because of the subjective encounter he had on the road to Damascus. He believed because it was the truth; not just his truth, but everyone’s. The evidence is the resurrection.

Posted in Acts, Ecclesiastes, Philippians

Emotionally Content

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11 NIV

I want to learn how to enjoy the season that I am currently experiencing instead of fighting it. Why is it so easy to pine over what once was, or to long for a future that is different than my life right now? God has made right now beautiful if I’m willing to see it. He has you and me where we are right now.  Can we agree with Him in our emotions and even learn to enjoy this season? Or do we fight with God, advise God, disagree with God, and basically go against the grain of the season we’re in with the slivers to prove it? Jesus said to Saul, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” (Acts 26:14)

We can’t fathom the whole of what God is doing in our lives and because of that we aren’t capable of judging how the present season fits. Why not trust God and get into the flow of what He is doing? Maybe you’re like me, frustrated by your seeming lack of control over what happens in your circumstances. If we surrender our need for control we are free to trust the One who really is in control. Easier said than done, but it’s only when we truly let go that we experience His peace. Here’s His promise to us in Philippians 4:6-7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Whether you are old or young, married or single, employed or unemployed, in school or out of school, happy or sad, on the top or on the bottom… whatever your life is like right now, I challenge you to find God’s beauty in it and to be at peace.

Posted in 2Corinthians, Acts, Exodus, John, Revelation

Thinking Right

“But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.” Acts 14:2

Belize and Mexico are two places I regularly go for missions trips and in both places you can’t drink the tap water. It looks fine but is contaminated, so you can’t drink it or you become sick. A few years ago our whole team got sick and it was traced back to a restaurant where they had cooked the chicken we ate in contaminated water. You only have to get sick once to become very careful about what you drink!

Are we as careful about our thoughts? In our text we have a group of Jews who “refused to believe” the good news of God’s love and redemption through Christ and then poisoned others with their judgments. When we stop seeing ourselves and others as loved and worth redeeming, we tend to take up the enemy’s accusations instead. (Revelation 12:10) This is poison. Satan sows suspicion and bitterness toward others in our minds if we let him, and he can even use us to divide homes, friends and churches. He knows that a kingdom divided will not stand and is the master at using poisonous thoughts to bring offense, isolation, envy, and jealousy.

The judgments we make appear to be “the truth,” so we justify ourselves in thinking them and even speaking them, but judgment isn’t the whole truth. God loves people and sent His Son into the world to save us, not to condemn us. (John 3:17) We overcome the accuser by testifying about the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 12:11) which was shed for us and for everyone we know. The whole truth, therefore, is not just what is wrong with people, but must include what God has done through His Son to make them right. (2Corinthians 5:19)

When the children of Israel came out of Egypt, they drank from a water source that was poisonous. Moses cried out to God, and God showed him a tree. (Exodus 15:25) He cut it down, threw it in the water, and it became sweet. God didn’t show him a different place to drink that had pure water; He redeemed that which was bitter and made it sweet. He wants to do the same thing with our thinking. Why don’t we identify our poison, bring it to the cross, and allow God to sweeten our thoughts toward even the most difficult sinners in our lives.

Posted in 1Peter, Acts, Galatians, John, Mark

God’s Timing

“It is not for you to know the times (chronos) or dates (kairos) which the Father has set by His own authority.” Acts 1:7

Two of the Greek words for time in the New Testament are “chronos” and “kairos.” Chronos is the word for sequential time which is how mankind usually thinks about time. There are twenty-four hours in a day, seven days in a week, and fifty two weeks in a year. We make plans and appointments in sequential time and live our lives trying to fulfill them.

Kairos is a word we don’t have one English word to describe. It is not sequential time, but rather, God’s time for something to happen. 

Vine’s Expository dictionary gives this distinction: “Chronos marks quantity (of time), kairos, marks quality.” (554) So how does recognizing God’s kairos time practically make a difference in our lives? Let me give a number of ways.

  1. Although we live in sequential time our priority should be kairos time. Jesus waited for God’s time to go to the feast while his unbelieving brothers had no such concern. “The right time (kairos) for Me has not yet come; for you any time is right.” (John 7:1-2) 
  2. We should not be frustrated by our present difficulties but can have confidence that if we keep doing what’s right, the time (kairos) will come when we will see God’s deliverance. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God and in due time (kairos) He will exalt you.” (1Peter 5:6) “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time (kairos) we will reap a harvest if we don’t give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
  3. History has a purpose and a direction way bigger than us, so we should be able to put all of our minor irritations in perspective.  Jesus died at the “right time” (kairos) for us (Romans 5:6); and we can be assured that Jesus will come back in God’s “appointed time” (kairos – Mark 13:33).
  4. As we respond to God’s dealings with us with a spirit of repentance, He desires “times” (kairos) of refreshing to come to us from the presence of the Lord. (Acts 3:19)
Posted in 1Corinthians, Acts

To Speak or not to Speak?

“The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.” 1Corinthians 14:34

Why would Paul, who insisted that we are free from the law in the New Covenant, reference the law as the reason why women should be silent in the church? The motivation of all his ministry is explained to us just a few chapters earlier: “To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those under the Law, … so that I might win those who are under the Law; … I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.” (1Corinthians 9:19-23)

The church in Corinth is reaching out to Jewish unbelievers. It is already difficult for unbelieving Jews to have women sitting alongside men in the same meeting; but to have them speaking would be so offensive to them they would have no chance to respond to Christ. Because Paul is concerned about reaching these people who are under the law, he puts the churches reaching them under the law, even though they aren’t under the law, so that they might win those under the law.

Acts 2 is about the freedom God has brought to both men and women through the gospel. (Acts 2:17-18)  1Corinthians 14 is a reminder that we live in culture and we need to honor culture so that we can win people to Christ. A few years ago one of my daughters went to Oman on a missions trip. While there, she always wore a dress in public with a head covering. Why? It wouldn’t have been illegal in that country to wear whatever she wanted, but her team was trying to reach unbelievers for Christ. Dishonoring the Muslim culture in Oman would have made it very difficult for the team to share Jesus. Once you offend someone, it’s hard for them to hear anything else you are saying.

Paul goes on to say in 1Corinthians 9 by saying, “to those without the law I become like those who do not have the law… so that I may win some.”  Do you think Paul would allow women to speak in church if he lived in 21st century America?

Posted in Acts, Hebrews

Continual Devotion

“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42

God is wholehearted toward you. He gave everything on the cross before we gave anything to Him, just because He loves us. The goal of the Christian is to have the same wholehearted love for God that He has for us. When we do we will have energy and joy to do whatever God wants us to do without even noticing the sacrifices we make. As Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2), even so, our burning love for Him will make any difficulty just one more chance to embrace the cross for His sake. 

Continual devotion is a great definition of being wholehearted. Continual means a 24/7 relationship instead of a religion that puts God in a box that you only bring out once or twice a week.

When you are devoted to something it is of the highest value to you and you will pay any price to protect it. God wants this fire for Him in our hearts. Our text then gives four things they were continually devoted to that produce an atmosphere of being wholehearted lovers.

  1. The apostle’s teaching – they weren’t devoted to the apostles but to their teaching which we have today in the New Testament. We must not be devoted to our favorite preacher but to the Word of God. Men are like the grass of the field but the Word of God abides forever. Do you read His word daily? I encourage you to start if you don’t. 
  2.  Fellowship – we must make some Christian friends that are seeking to be wholehearted as well. Go to church, get in a small group, and look for opportunities to grow.
  3. The breaking of bread – this is a reference to communion and the centrality of the cross. Christianity is not about how good we are but about how good Jesus was on our behalf. It is not about our great love, but that He loved us first. 
  4.  Prayer – spending time listening and talking to God. Allow His presence to be your breath and make prayer a moment by moment conversation as well as a special time set aside each day. 

Through these four disciplines God will ignite a fire in us and grow it until our hearts are completely healed and completely His.

Posted in 1Samuel, 2Timothy, Acts

Breaking Intimidation

“Then the Philistine (Goliath) said, ‘This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.’ On hearing this, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.” 1Samuel 17:10-11

I believe there was a spirit of intimidation behind Goliath’s threats that still seeks to paralyze the people of God today. If we listen to our fears we will do little to advance the kingdom of God in our lives. The Bible tells us that David, “served the purpose of God in his own generation.” (Acts 13:36) He didn’t live a sinless life, but God was able to accomplish what He wanted through him. If we fulfill our purpose, it will be because we broke intimidation the same way David did. Consider with me three common sources of intimidation:

  1. The opinions of family. “When Eliab, David’s brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, ‘Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.’” (1Samuel 17:28) We love our families but we dare not allow their expectations to determine our destinies. It’s hard for them to see us beyond the role we played in the family growing up.
  2. The way others have done it. “‘I cannot go in these,’ David said to Saul, ‘because I am not used to them.’ So he took them off.” (1Samuel 17:39) Saul put his own armor on David because that’s what Saul would have worn if he was fighting. Others have an opinion about us but it’s often based more on who they are then on who we are. We will never fulfill God’s purpose trying to be someone we’re not.
  3. The taunts of the enemy. How did David boldly confront the same enemy who had paralyzed the entire Israelite army for forty days? I believe the key is found in the previous chapter: “So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power.” (1Samuel 16:13) The key to breaking intimidation is being filled with the Holy Spirit. We have nothing to fear, God has given us the Spirit of power, love, and a sound mind. (2Timothy 1:7)  Be yourself, filled with the Holy Spirit, and know with confidence that you and God can accomplish anything together.
Posted in 2Samuel, Acts, Psalms

What’s Your Dream?

“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.” Psalm 27:4

David’s dream was that he would know the intimacy of God’s presence which is why he was called the man after God’s own heart.  His dream was to know God Himself. What’s yours?

David also had an assignment, in fact, it was a big one. He was appointed by God to be king in Israel which meant that he was responsible to lead and shepherd them, which he did with integrity and diligence (Psalm 78:72), but his assignment was never his dream.

This became evident when he sinned against God and was in danger of losing everything. In his prayer recorded in Psalm 51, he pleaded with God about his dream but never even mentioned his assignment: “Do not cast me from Your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me…” (Psalm 51:11) When Absalom was seeking to overthrow the kingdom, David fled, but made Zadok keep the ark in Jerusalem: “If I find favor in the Lord’s eyes, He will bring me back…”, but if not, “I am ready; let Him do whatever seems good to Him.” (2Samuel 15:26) David’s identity wasn’t in being king but in being God’s child. He didn’t have to fight to be or do something, He just wanted to be where God wanted him.

Acts tells us that David completed his assignment while on earth (Acts 13:36) and you should aim to fulfill yours as well, but I hope you don’t make it your dream. Making your assignment your dream will burn you out and all those who are around you because burn out is always the end result of putting the second commandment (Love your neighbor) before the first (Love God). But if we seek God Himself as our dream, like David did, we will find an abundance of grace to complete His assignment and all the glory will belong to Him.