Wednesday, October 7, 2015


The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.
Psalm 119:130

Over the past few weeks I have been working my way through Psalm 119. It is an acrostic poem in which the first letter of each stanza begins with the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Now, I'm no poet. (Far from it, actually.) But if I were to sit down and write a poem, I can't imagine coming out with something as long as Psalm 119. With an astounding 176 verses, it is the longest chapter in the Bible. What muse could so inspire a poet that he could write a single poem this long and this beautiful? 

Answer: God's wonderful word.

Almost every one of this chapter's 176 verses is dedicated to declaring the goodness and glory of God's word. So today I wanted to skip all the fancy writing and simply remind you that God's word is incomparably wonderful. If you feel like your life is shrouded in darkness, or that you just don't understand God, or that you can't quite grasp what is happening in the world today or how you got to this place in your life- then God's word is exactly where you should turn. 

It gives light. It brings understanding. And the best news of all is that you don't have to have an advanced degree or be some smarty pants to understand it. It is God's gift to the simple! 

So don't leave it sitting on the shelf or riding in the floorboard of your car until next Sunday. Pick it up, open it, and read it. Ask God to give you insight so you can rightly interpret His words and gain precious understanding.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Sword vs. Prayer

It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
Acts 12:1-5

This is a dangerous time for the church. The last time Rome aligned itself with the Jewish religious leaders against the church it ended with Jesus' crucifixion. That was 11 years ago and around this same time of year. Once again the great superpower is pandering to the desires of its political base in Jerusalem. Herod Agrippa I has already beheaded James. Now Peter sits in prison awaiting a certain execution. It was against Jewish law for anyone to be tried or executed during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. If it wasn't for that, Peter would almost certainly already be dead. And once Herod has dispensed with Peter, what is to stop him from killing off the rest of the apostles too? What can the little community of believers do against the armed might of Rome?

The church finds itself facing a big problem. What will they do? Where will they turn?

First, let's look at what the church didn't do. They didn’t attack Herod. They didn't raise up arms to try to overthrow Rome. They didn’t start a petition or go to Herod and beg. They didn’t take up a collection to start a Peter Defense Fund or to try to bribe Herod with. As far as we know the church took only one action... 

The church prayed.

They prayed! They realized that only God could save. and they turned to Him, and Him alone, for help. This passage pits the power of the world against the power of God. Rome vs. the church, 
the sword vs. prayer. In verses 6-11 we find out that prayer prevailed and the power of God carried the day as an angel rescued Peter from prison. 

Make no mistake, the same war that was being fought in this passage is being fought in your life day-by-day. You aren’t fighting against Rome or the sword. You are fighting against someone else. The Bible tells us that you have a supernatural enemy, an accuser, a deceiver, named the Devil. According to Peter, this enemy is out to devour you (I Peter 5:8). He prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. He is watching and waiting for you to slip up, to stumble, so he can attack. That means that as long as we live in this world, we will be under attack. 

If you aren’t facing some type of crisis today, then you will be tomorrow or next week or next month. If we call ourselves Christians then we must be certain that we know how to respond to these attacks. Our first response must always be to go to God in prayer. We must be firm in our conviction that God alone controls our fate. He alone can save us. So let me ask you, are you praying? Are you lifting up your situation to the Lord and asking for His help? If really should be. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

I Will Not Be Driven Away

The arrogant mock me unmercifully, but I do not turn from your law.
Psalm 119:51

Do you know that Satan has a strategy to keep you away from God's Word? He wants you to ignore it, to leave it sitting on the shelf. He wants you to reject it, to walk away from it and choose to live your life on your own terms. And if you must persist in reading it, then he wants you to misunderstand the Bible and misapply it to your life. 

Consider the strategies the enemy employs in the Bible. The first time Satan attacked and tempted a human what did he say? Genesis 3:1- "Did God really say?" He starts by casting doubt on God's sure word. And the second thing he said was a direct contradiction of God's word. "You will not certainly die" (Genesis 3:4). First, he cast doubt on God's Word, then he called God Himself a liar. 

Consider one more example. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness the second of his three temptations was built upon a quote of Scripture. Satan actually quoted Scripture at Jesus trying to trick Him into sinning. He tried to confuse Jesus, to make Him think that God's Word said He should do what Satan was tempting Him to do. Of course, considering that Jesus Himself is the Word and the greatest revelation of who God is, Satan failed.

What strategies is the enemy using to try to keep you away from the Bible right now? For the psalmist it was mocking. Even in our world today, people line up to deride and mock those who openly believe God's Word is without error and to be taken as 100% true. In response to those who verbally abuse him the psalmist says, "...but I do not turn from your law." You can almost hear the psalmist cry out with determination, "I will not be driven away from God's good word!"

He refuses to be driven away because he knows that God's word is 

So join with me in saying "I will not be driven away from God's Word!" Not by my busy schedule, or by force of habit, or by my sinful addictions, and certainly not by the mocking ridicule of naysayers. I believe that God's Word is true and good, so I will persevere in reading it and prayerfully applying it to my life. Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible is dedicated to sing the praises of God's good word. Dedicate your life to studying that Word, living by it, and giving glory to God for it. So what's the best way to start doing that today? Read it! 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Fiberglass Bathtubs and a Forever Rock

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.
Isaiah 26:3-4

There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who hear a tornado warning and quickly go get in the bathtub and those who immediately open the front door to walk outside to see if the tornado is close to their house. I am the latter, and it drives my wife crazy. 

The problem is that I'm just not convinced my fiberglass bathtub can protect me from a tornado. If I had a real storm shelter it might be different, but why huddle in a damp bathtub for an hour if it isn't going to do me any good?

Perhaps this is how too many of us think about God. "Why take my problems to God in prayer? He isn't going to listen to me. I've tried the whole God thing before and it didn't work for me. God didn't take my problems away." It's uncomfortable to humble ourselves before God. People simply won't do it if they aren't convinced it will work. 

These two verses in Isaiah give us some pretty good reasons to believe it will work. God promises to keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast. The word for "keeping" can also mean that God is guarding or watching over us, ensuring that we are kept in perfect peace. Perfect peace is literally "peace peace" in the original language. It is double peace. The Hebrew word for peace goes beyond our understanding of peace in the English language. According to the ESV Study Bible the Hebrew word for peace "shalom" meant more than just the absence of trouble but also included the idea of positive blessing. It was like saying "all is well." This is the kind of peace that God promises to preserve for those whose minds are dependent on Him. These people have God as their support. They lean on Him. He upholds them. They have confidence in God and trust Him for their security.

The passage continues to tell us that we should trust in God (a concept that includes boldness and confidence) because He is the rock eternal. Some translations render this as everlasting strength, but I like the picture of God as a forever rock. He is immovable and unchanging. Just the kind of shelter you want to run to in a storm. Just the kind of protection you seek out when under attack. God is our refuge!

Here is the takeaway. An immovable, lasting, perfect peace in life has to be built on an immovable, lasting, perfect God. This is the only way to double peace, peace that isn't dependent on your situation. The storm may rage, but your peace is unmoved because you have confidence in your refuge. You may fall, but your confidence is unshaken because your mind is stayed on God's faithfulness instead of your sinfulness. You are quiet even when you are under attack because you know that the ultimate victory has already been declared on your behalf in Christ.

Far too many of us lack this kind of peace, because far too many of us lack this type of confidence in our God. Will you place your trust in God today? Will you rest your mind steadfastly on His nature and His promises? Let God be your support, then you can move forward in confidence knowing that God is your forever Rock, a sturdy constant in a sea of change.