Monday, June 24, 2013

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands

On the drive into town last night we saw the Super Moon on the eastern horizon. Wrapped in clouds, it was a spectacular sight. We stopped along the rural road to take a picture, which didn't turn out. Had I been thinking I would have taken a better camera for that kind of shot. Anyway, I'm enjoying looking at the pictures of the moon that are posted online today.
taken by my friend Rick Smith
at 4:15 am June 24, 2013

Three days a week I get up at 4:30 to walk 2+ miles. I've been doing it for almost 18 months so I find it hard to sleep much past 4:30 the other 4 days of the week. I ventured outside with the dog just after 5:00 this morning and found the Super Moon headed toward the crystal clear western horizon. It was a spectacular sight, too.

Beyond the moon are millions of stars. Beyond those are millions more. And God has the whole spectacular world in his hands.

Let me clarify who I am talking about. "God" has become a generic term that encompasses specific ideas of deity as well as generally anything, so I have to be careful not to ascribe to a false god what only the one, true, living God does.

The Christian Bible tells us who he is, what he is like, what he does, and how we can know him. Psalm 19 declares his glory in saying that creation points to his glory, that the Law of God points to his glory, and that his people point to his glory. The Super Moon was screaming of God's glory last night and this morning. The Bible constantly reveals the glory of God. I want my life to be as consistent as God's creation and his word in pointing people to him.

"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer" (Psalm 19:14 NIV).

Friday, June 21, 2013

Weekly Devotional - June 21, 2013

"'You will not surely die,' the serpent said to the woman."
Genesis 3:4 NIV
God means what he says. You and I see people every day who live as if they do not believe that God means what he says. Maybe it's us who live that way!
We would not be the first to doubt what God says. The original humans bought into the idea that God's commands might not really be what they appear to be at face value.
The serpent asked Eve what God had said about eating from the tree in the middle of the garden. She said they weren't to eat it or touch it or they would die. God had not said anything about touching the tree, but that's a topic for another devotional about misunderstanding God's commands.
The serpent seized an opportunity to drive a wedge between God and man by suggesting that God would surely not allow them to die just because they ate the fruit of the tree. He went on to suggest that eating the fruit would allow them to think like God thinks.
Once the consequences were removed or diminished and the benefits were embellished Eve felt compelled to eat the fruit. Adam did, too. But the consequences remained even though their perception of them did.
Which statement is true: "God means what he says" OR "God means what I think he said"?
It is true that we are to correctly handle the word of God (2 Timothy 2:15) so we have to apply all our mental ability to understand the Bible. God knows our limitations in that area so the Holy Spirit guides us as we study and apply biblical truths. God has gifted men and women to write helpful material so we can have a clearer understanding of his word.
Ultimately, it's what God says that matters, not what we think God says. That's why daily interaction with the Bible matters - because God means what he says. Pray that God will help you understand his commands and put them into practice for his glory and for your good. And watch out for serpents!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Some Thoughts on Relationships

In our Bible study last night we talked about the creation of humanity. Of course, we took the biblical perspective starting with Genesis 1:26-27, Genesis 2:4-25, and Ephesians 5:22 & 25.

Three takeaways challenged me. First, I am in a relationship with God because he is my creator and I'm created in him image. God says in Isaiah 45 that the pot does not ask the potter why he's doing what he is. The pot is completely at the will of the potter. Likewise, I am completely at the will of God. He created me for his glory and my good. If I am obedient to the Lord then I am fulfilling my purpose as a created being.

Second, I am in relationships with other people because we are all his creation. One aspect of being created in God's image is that humans are capable of and in need of relationship. We work together, live together, play together. We are responsible to one another. And we need each other. If I take seriously the Lord's command to love my neighbor as myself, then I will make the most of the relationships I have with others.

Third, I am in a relationship with my spouse within the context of marriage. Adam was given the position of authority within the family; Eve was created to be his helper. They were both created in God's image so are equal in value yet have different responsibilities. In God's design I must be the spiritual leader of my family, I must remain faithful to my wife, I must love her as Christ loved the church.

OK, so I have a lot of stuff to think about, some changes to make, and a few sins to confess. Do you?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Weekly Devotional - June 14, 2013

"Also in Judah the hand of God was on the people to give them
unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials
had ordered, following the word of the Lord."
2 Chronicles 30:12 NIV
King Hezekiah called all the Hebrew people to gather for worship. The kingdom was split and had been since Solomon died. The northern kingdom, Israel, had fallen to Assyria because they failed to honor God in worship. The southern kingdom, Judah, was nearing the same fate for the same reason. Hezekiah saw a chance to bring the nation together and back to God.
Messengers took the call into all the land. Jews in the north generally rejected the message but some responded favorably and humbled themselves. Those in the south joined in the assembly in Jerusalem. The Bible tells us that God brought them together in unity.
In the New Testament, Paul tells us that the Spirit gives unity and we are to keep it (Ephesians 4:3). Followers of Christ are blessed with the gift of unity, however we sometimes fail to keep it. When that happens what the church is designed to do is forfeited.
The church is designed to worship God. A break in unity keeps that from happening. The church is designed to fellowship. Unity is necessary for good community. The church is designed for mission. Christians must work together to be effective in ministry.
In Hezekiah's day the hand of the Lord provided unity so they could come together in worship. God does the same today for the same reasons.
What are you doing to keep the unity in your community of believers? The most important thing you can do is to seek the Lord on a daily basis. Draw near to him and he will bless you with many blessings, including unity.
What are you doing to break down unity in your church? Whatever that is, it is an attempt to undo or stall something God intends to do. That is a sin. Pray that God will forgive you and lead you into unity with other believers.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Weekly Devotional - June 7, 2013

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken
and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."
Psalm 51:17 NIV
Everyone has a relationship with God. Don't misunderstand - I'm not a universalist who believes everyone will be saved. I believe that a personal, transformative, saving relationship with Jesus Christ is the only way to be right with God and be in his eternal presence in heaven.
But God has reached out to every person to offer the way to that kind of relationship. Since God has contacted us through Jesus Christ's sacrificial death, we everyone has a relationship. Although for those who have not placed faith in Jesus for their salvation that relationship is simply a line of communication where God has initiated a conversation, they may or may not have replied in some fashion, and no salvation has taken place.
It's kind of like this: my wife says there is no way some of my "friends" on Facebook are really my friends. Good point! We have some connection but may not really be friends outside the Facebook environment. Being a friend of God because you clicked a button (or whatever motion you may have gone through) is not the same as being a friend of God because you know him intimately.
Making a sacrifice to God without a heart that mourns for the sin (see Matthew 5:4) is an empty attempt to appease him. God despises that kind of sacrifice - that attempt to be right with him will not accomplish what you may think. But a sacrifice from a broken and contrite heart is acceptable. Coming to him with the right attitude is what matters.
Sometimes our children say "please" and "thank you" but with a bitter attitude. I'd rather have them say something, even if not the "right words," with the right attitude than to just repeat the magic phrase.
Here's a timeline: a person sins, the Holy Spirit convicts of that sin, the person confesses with a pure heart, God forgives. Pray that God will help you have the attitude that represents a pure heart.

Thursday, June 06, 2013


In writing about the French constitution, Thomas Paine said, "A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not be trusted by anybody." In Luke 16:1-2 Jesus said, "There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.'" Jesus believed in holding people accountable! Another person said that when it comes to privacy and accountability, we want privacy for ourselves and accountability for others.

I am accountable to God. How I live, how I treat my family and neighbors, how I share my witness...I'm accountable to God for this. As I study the Bible I learn more and more of what God expects of me. And I'm accountable.

I'm accountable to my wife and children. I am to provide for them, care for them, love them, guide them. Part of my accountability to God is that I lead my family in worship and Christlikeness. Should I fail in any of these areas of my family life, I must answer to God and to my wife and children. I am accountable.

I am also accountable to my church. Christians are to live in community with one another. Not in a commune! But in community. We share our lives together. The joys and the hurts. The gains and the losses. The Holy Spirit gives us unity and we are to maintain it. We keep each other encouraged and in line. I am accountable.

I am also accountable in my job. For me, that is a church that I pastor. This opens up a big discussion of various levels of pastoral authority. I believe that Jesus is the head of the church so that pastor cannot fill that roll. The pastor is an under-shepherd responsible to both God and the church. He is to guide believers into a faithful expression of community, Christlikeness, faithfulness, obedience, and witness. I am accountable.

And you are, too, depending upon your various rolls in life. If you are a teacher you are accountable to the students and the school administration. If you are a dentist you are accountable to your patients and your staff. If you are a manager you are accountable to those you manage, those who supervise you, and your customers. Even the CEO is accountable to the shareholders.

Nobody escapes accountability. And ultimately, every area of accountability includes accountability to God. We are to work as if working for the Lord. We are to forgive one another as Christ forgave us. We are to love because he loves us.

Who are you accountable to? Are you honoring God with the way you respond to accountability? "Leave me alone" or "I don't have to do what you say" or "you're not the boss of me" are responses that show a push away from accountability. Like Thomas Paine said, one who will not be help accountable cannot be trusted. Like Jesus said, failure to be responsible in the face of accountability hinders your ability to serve in that capacity.

Don't get pulled out of the game. Embrace accountability.