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August 2015
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October 2015

Life Matter - Other Gods

"I know that the Lord is great,
    that our Lord is greater than all gods" - Psalm 135:5.

The Bible is clear that there are no other gods besides Jehovah, but that doesn't mean that people don't try to make them up or create them. Those so-called 'gods' may seem to have some power, like the 'sun god' or the 'moon god,' but of course the only 'power' they have is the purpose for which God created them. Yet the foolish and sinful heart of man ascribes a divine nature to those created things and identifies them as gods. Idols are not limited to nature, but can be anything to which a person attaches worshipful attention and energy, like careers, family, religious doctrine, money and reputation. The Lord brought Ezekiel in a vision to the Temple where he saw idolatry in the 'church' or the leaders of God's people: "He then brought me into the inner court of the house of the Lord, and there at the entrance to the temple, between the portico and the altar, were about twenty-five men. With their backs toward the temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east, they were bowing down to the sun in the east" (Ezekiel 8:16). Is your heart divided? Do you worship anything or anyone other than the living God? Don't answer too quickly, but ask God to show you any unholy alliance or attachment you have with any created thing that rightfully belongs to the Creator.

Today's reading - Psalm 131-135

Life Matter - Be a Blesser

"May the Lord bless you from Zion;
    may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
    all the days of your life.
May you live to see your children’s children—
    peace be on Israel" - Psalm 128:5-6.

Today's verses are a good prayer you can offer for others, but they are also a blessing that the psalmist was bestowing on his fellow believers. You were meant to participate in God's blessing distribution business, giving those blessings freely and without bias or discrimination. In order to bless someone in a way that they can participate in the blessing, you must utter that blessing within their earshot so that they can, well, be blessed as they hear your kind words. The good news is that blessings cost you nothing and you never run out - as long as your heart is to uplift and edify others. Peter spoke about your role as a blesser, even when others don't bless you, when he wrote: "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing" (1 Peter 3:9). Are you living up to your full potential as a blesser of others? What is holding you back? Why are you so hesitant to utter words of life to others, when they are free and within your total control to do so?

Today's reading - Psalms 126-130

Life Matter - Daily Salvation

"We have escaped like a bird
    from the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
    and we have escaped" - Psalm 124:7-8.

I am sure God has saved you, your family, or your organization from something. Perhaps it was financial debt or lack, or a dysfunctional relationship, or a cruel supervisor, or some other dilemma that was inescapable, except by and through God's power and help. The psalmist in these verses likened his escape to a bird that is caught in a trap but somehow managed to escape its doom. That is why you can truly declare that you are saved - saved from eternal separation from God as well as the woe of life. Therefore, salvation is not a one-time experience; it is a way of life. Therefore, when you thank God for your salvation, you should be mindful that your Savior is saving you every day, over and over again. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about being saved: "But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth" (2 Thessalonians 2:13). Do you see the scope of your salvation? Do you see that this is an ongoing salvation, for you were saved and are being saved on a daily basis? Are you mindful of God's saving power to protect you on a daily basis? Can you think Him today for His salvation?

Today's reading - Psalms 121-125

Life Matter - The Cost of Fear

"The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?" - Psalm 118:5.

This verse is a bold acclamation that is a worthy goal in life but can be difficult to obtain. Why is that? It is because we are Adam and Eve's children, and we were born in fear. It clings to us like cat hair on a dark wool suit. What's more, we are so grooved with fear, and so accustomed to its presence, that we are unable to confront it. Now, there is good fear, for you should be afraid of stealing from your company or of putting your hand down a snake hole. Yet, the fear of what others think, of criticism, of losing their approval, of rejection, and of not being part of the group can keep you from saying or doing what God wants. Even the parents of the man born blind whom Jesus healed succumbed to this fear and could not rejoice in their son's healing: "'We know he is our son,' the parents answered, 'and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.' His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. That was why his parents said, 'He is of age; ask him'" (John 9:20-23). Of whom are you afraid? What is that fear costing you and keeping you from doing? What are you prepared to do about it?

Today's reading - Psalms 116-120

Life Matter - Leader's Blessing

"The Lord remembers us and will bless us:
    He will bless his people Israel,
    he will bless the house of Aaron,
he will bless those who fear the Lord—
    small and great alike" - Psalm 115:12-13.

You get the idea from these verses that the Lord is in the "blessing" business, for the psalmist indicated that God was about blessing all of Israel. It is interesting that He singles out the house of Aaron, which is seldom mentioned as a house, since they were the priests of the priests - the nephews of Moses who were the high priests in Israel. It's almost like God is saying in singling them out, "I see your service and there is a blessing for you as you serve me and the people." Paul indicated that anyone who desires to lead God's' people desires a good thing: "Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task" (1 Timothy 3:1). Can we deduce from this that there is a special or unique blessing for those who choose to willingly and eagerly serve as leaders?

Today's reading - Psalms 111-115

Life Matter - Envy's Options

"In the camp they grew envious of Moses
    and of Aaron, who was consecrated to the Lord" - Psalm 106:16.

Envy is a sneaky disease, for you can look at someone's success, goods, relationships. reputation, money, job, ministry or looks and secretly want what they have. In fact, you can get downright angry and agitated that you don't have what they have. That can lead to a) bitterness; b) an effort to get things similar to what they have; c) an effort to actually take what they have; d) a campaign to minimize what they have through sarcasm or character assassination, or e) all of the above. In other words, envy is a dangerous attitude that must be dealt with ruthless abandon. The story of Cain and Abel is rooted in envy and we read the tragic results in Genesis 4: "Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, 'Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.' Now Cain said to his brother Abel, 'Let’s go out to the field.' While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him" (4:2b-8). Are you envious of someone else? What is that doing to your thoughts and actions? How do you feel toward the person whom you envy? What are you going to do if you are envious?

Today's reading - Psalms 106-110

Life Matter - The Light

"The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment;
    he stretches out the heavens like a tent
and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
    and rides on the wings of the wind.
He makes winds his messengers,
    flames of fire his servants" - Psalm 104:2-4.

First, notice how beautifully these verses are written. They create a vivid picture of a powerful God who uses nature, His creation, as part of His transportation system. For us, nature can be an awesome experience, but for God, it is His playground. Second, the psalmist mentions light, and light is a favorite word or theme in John's gospel, starting in the first chapter: "In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:4-5). Yet, it wasn't just that John wrote about the light to describe Jesus, but Jesus also said it about Himself: "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life'" (John 8:12). Therefore, light for guidance and understanding should never be a problem for you if you follow the Lord and keep your ways in the light. Are you walking in the light? Do you expect to find God's will easily or do you think God is playing hide-and-seek with you, playing hard-to-get?

Today's reading - Psalms 101-105

Life Matter - A New Song

"Sing to the Lord a new song,
    for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm
    have worked salvation for him.
The Lord has made his salvation known
    and revealed his righteousness to the nations" - Psalm 98:1-2.

The psalmists listed many appropriate responses to God's mercy and salvation, and in today's passage the act of singing was not only mentioned but commanded. Everyone is commanded to sing a new song to the Lord, and that can take place either in a corporate church setting or as a private act of worship. Yet one should not take priority over the other, so you must find a balance of personal worship along as well as adding your voice to others in a public worship setting. Yet I have watched people over the years come to church, stare at the hymnal or screen and not open their lips to sing! Paul taught the Ephesians about this very thing: "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 5:18-20). Do you sing and take an active part in public worship? Do you give exuberance to your sports team and then withhold the same from God?  How often do you sing a new song of praise to God?

Today's reading - Psalms 96-100

Life Matter - Your Fruit

"They will still bear fruit in old age,
    they will stay fresh and green,
proclaiming, “'The Lord is upright;
    he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him'" - Psalm 92:14-15.

Age is not necessarily a factor in your ability to serve the Lord. In today's passage, the psalmist declared that those who love and follow God will 'still' bear fruit in old age. This indicates they were bearing fruit while they were younger, so they will still bear fruit in their latter years. What is your fruit? How do you define it? What does it look like? Jesus empowered you to bear fruit and expects you to produce it as indicated by this promise: "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it" (John 14:12-14). What works are you doing because Jesus went to the Father? What answers do you see when you pray? Does that promise from Jesus only pertain to acts He did like raising the dead and healing the lame, or does it also pertain to you writing books, learning languages, starting ministries and helping the poor on a regular basis? Are you using your age - "I'm too old, I'm too young" - as an excuse to not bear fruit?

Today's reading - Psalm 91-95

Life Matter - Behind the Scenes

"Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;
    save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord,
    for I call to you all day long" - Psalm 86:2.

Sometimes you may think that God did not answer your prayer, but then you must consider the possibility that things would have been much worse or different than they are if you had not prayed. There are times when it may appear that God is not acting on your behalf, but you can never say that with absolute certainty. You never know what God has done and is doing that you cannot see or realize. What accidents did He prevent from occurring? What evil assignments against you did He overrule or thwart? What curses did He cancel? What consequences of your sin did He mercifully absolve? In Peter's case, we learn that Satan wanted to destroy him, but Jesus prayed that God would limit Satan's work and use it for God's glory when it was all over: "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers" (Luke 22:31-32). Can you thank God in faith for what He is doing behind the scenes that you cannot see or hear?

Today's reading - Psalms 86-90