God's Word is Powerful

God's Word is Powerful

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Have You Ever Been ABANDONED?

Have you ever felt abandoned, left behind?  When I was in High School I went on a short Term Missions project to Europe.  We had been told over and over and over - “do not ever get on the bus or go anywhere without your passport, and the list of addresses of the places we are staying.”  We were also warned “if you are late for getting back to the bus you will be left behind and you will be expected to catch up with us at your own expense.”  Then we were reminded one more time to always carry our documents.  Sure enough early in the trip my friend did not get back to the bus on time.  When he got to the spot where the bus was supposed to be - we were gone.  Here he was in a foreign country and everyone he knew had left him.  (Yes, it was his own fault - but that is how he felt).  It took him a couple of days to finally catch up with us.  Imagine what it would be like to be left behind and never be able to find those who left you again.  That is the emotion that David is capturing in verse ten.

PSALM 27:10-14 Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close.  [11] Teach me how to live, O Lord. Lead me along the path of honesty, for my enemies are waiting for me to fall. [12] Do not let me fall into their hands. For they accuse me of things I've never done and breathe out violence against me.  [13] Yet I am confident that I will see the Lord's goodness while I am here in the land of the living. [14] Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. (NLT) 

As horrible as it would be to be abandoned our Mother or Father or even a close friend.  GOD never Abandons us.  What an amazing thing.  God never turns away from us and just leaves us.  So if we are feeling distant and God seems a long ways off.  Guess who moved?  It was not God.  David asks God to teach him how to live and he asks God to lead him on the right and true path.  David brings his fears to God and then goes on to state his confidence in God’s Goodness.  Many times when we struggle it is because we do not believe God’s goodness is for us. We believe He is good - to others - but we do not believe He is good when it comes to us.  Part of that is the way our selfish hearts define what is good.  The other part is that we need to speak to ourselves the way David did.  He challenges himself and us by saying WAIT PATIENTLY for the Lord.  No matter what we face no matter how difficult a situation may seem we are supposed to TRUST the Lord and WAIT PATIENTLY for Him to act.  It is always worse when we try to act or live on our own without God. 

Prayer: Lord Your Goodness is awe inspiring.  When I get discouraged or down help me to go back and think about Your Goodness to me.  Lord, patience is not something I am good at but I do want to Trust You.  Help me to grow and to learn in my ability to TRUST You and to WAIT for You to act.  Help me NEVER to be in rush to do things in my own way or in my own strength.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Many years ago Carol and I knew a young woman who was raised in a Christian family and accepted Jesus as Savior at a young age.  However, as a professional pursuing a career she ran into a number of obstacles and hardships which cause her a lot of heartache.  She prayed and sought God but when nothing “changed” she walked away from church - and to this day is only marginally following God.  Why did this happen?  She grew up being told that when you have troubles and problems you go to God and He will fix them.  Not only that if you do what God says you will be blessed and be successful in your life. If you have struggles they can be handled quickly and easily by asking God to take care it all.  The problem with coming to God in that way is that it is very demanding.  It also makes us the ones who decide what we need and want.  For many people who were raised like this if God does not come through in the way that we want Him to then they feel betrayed or angry and many of them drift away from God.  Let’s look at these verses together. 

Romans 8:31-32 (NIV) What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Romans 8:28 (NIV) And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

I love verses 31-32 which encourage me and remind me that God is on my side.  It reminds me that nobody can fight against me successfully because they would be fighting God who is on MY SIDE.  It also reminds me that GOD gave His Son - Jesus died for me. If God was willing to do that then He must be willing to give me so much more.  Isn’t that what the ALL THINGS means?  Verse 28 uses that same word ALL THINGS but in a little different way.  Here the implication is that even in BAD things God is working for our good.  This is harder for us and we are not as interested in ALL THINGS working out for good if it means we have to struggle, or go through really difficult things.  It is so much easier to move on to vs. 32 and dwell on God graciously giving us ALL THINGS.  It is important to remember God blesses us in MANY different ways.  Part of His blessing, part of the good things He graciously gives us may be hardship and difficulty which has the potential to draw us into a more intimate relationship with Him - if we will embrace the hard things as coming from Him for a good purpose. John Piper comments: “God takes ALL THINGS and makes them serve our ultimate good.  It does not mean we get everything our imperfect hearts demand.  It does mean that we get what is good for us.” (God is the Gospel Pg. 124)  The ESV Study Bible: “God weaves everything together for good for his children. The ‘good’ in this context does not refer to earthly comfort but conformity to Christ, closer fellowship with God, bearing good fruit for the kingdom, and final glorification.”

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank You that You are Sovereign and in control of all things.  Thank you that even the hard and difficult things in my life can be used by You for my good and Your glory.  Please Lord, help me to embrace Your work in my life, draw me closer to you, help me to see Your goodness and grace in all that happens. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I’m sure you have heard of Murphy’s Law - “If anything can go wrong it will.”  But have you heard of O’tooles corollary to Murphy’s Law?  It states “Murphy was an Optimist”.  Fortunately most days I don’t buy into either one of those statements.  But once in a while.......    Last night I got home and there were two bills waiting for me.  I opened them up and both of them were way, way higher than I expected.  About an hour later Carol told me that one of our appliances was not working properly.  I’m not proud of this but in my heart my attitude went past Murphy at light speed and straight to O’toole's corollary.  I did not swear or kick things I did not yell at anyone but I have to admit my attitude was awful.  And everyone knew I was not happy.  I went to bed in a sour mood and woke up this morning under the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  The Lord was gently speaking to me about the twisted desire of my heart and my attitude of the night before.  I knew I was wrong.  So I confessed to the Lord and spent some time praying. Then I opened my Bible in to the Psalm I was supposed to read today.  This is the verse that met my eyes:

Psalm 23:1 (HCS) The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.

I have to be honest I almost started to laugh.  Here I had been upset about how to pay for these bills.  And in the process I had forgotten how many times God has done remarkable things in even worse circumstances.  It was JUST the reminder I needed.  Mark you have ALL that you need.  Mark you do NOT LACK anything.  But Lord, what about that thing that may be breaking down?  The verse is pretty clear.  As long as the LORD is MY shepherd I do not LACK anything. Even if I have to go without - I still LACK NOTHING.   

Next I went to the verses I was supposed to read in the New Testament.

1 Peter 2:11 (HCSB) Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires that war against you.

Talk about adding fuel to the fire. I am to remember that I am a temporary resident. This world is NOT my home and I am NOT supposed to give in to my selfish Desires.  When it comes to anything I think I must have I have to weigh in light of this verse.  I am not supposed to give into my selfish desires. I am supposed to REFUSE to take part in pursuing those things at all.  Now I am not kidding when I say these were the verses I was supposed to read today.  I always read systematically through the books of the Bible that I am reading.  Right now that is Psalms and 1 Peter.  So I did not search for these verses this morning.  They were right there waiting for me and God in His Infinite wisdom and sovereignty knew I would need those verses today.  What an amazing God that He shows such patience and grace. 

Prayer: Lord Jesus thank You for Your patience with me.  Thank You that You are at work in me.  Thank You that I do not have to worry - but that I can bring all the things that are weighing on my mind straight to You.  Thank You that You are big enough to handle whatever I am facing. 

Monday, August 15, 2011


One of the pictures I have on my bulletin board in my office is a handwritten Bible. It is written on a yellow legal pad. It always makes me stop and think about the amazing power of God’s Word. Those who do not have it, long for it and will spend days and hours writing it out by hand so that they can have their own copy. Have you ever stopped and wondered what it would be like NOT to own a Bible? To hope and pray and wonder if you’d ever be able to get one? Most of us have so many translations sitting on our shelves we don’t even know what we actually have. What an amazing blessing. Not only that, we can get software with many translations, or go online to sources which let you read and download the Bible. I wonder, are there times when we do not value God’s Word as we should? Are there times we take it for granted? What would we do if we knew soldiers were on their way to take away our Bibles? The question really is do we value God's Word enought to submit our lives to it. Let’s look at these verses together.

Hebrews 4:12-13 (NLT) For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. [13] Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.

“The Word of God is not simply a collection of words from God, a vehicle for communicating ideas; it is living, life-changing, and dynamic as it works in us. With the incisiveness of a surgeon's knife, God's Word reveals who we are and what we are not. It penetrates the core of our moral and spiritual life. It discerns what is within us, both good and evil. The demands of God's Word require decisions. We must not only listen to the Word; we must also let it shape our lives.” Life Application Notes

PRAYER: Lord, please make Your Word come alive in me. Don’t hold back, please cut away what is NOT of value or benefit for Your purposes. Help me to seriously seek You in everyway so that You are impacting not only my actions and words but also my thoughts and motivations.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Our home is full of boxes and suitcases.  WHY?  Because Tascha and Kathryn are in the process of sorting, storing, and packing as they get ready to leave for Costa Rica next Thursday.  It is kind of hard to be on this side of it.  The side that is staying home rather than going.  Carol and I did exactly what they are doing several decades ago.  It was easier to be getting ready to leave than it is to watch our daughters get ready to leave.  Don’t get me wrong - we are proud and thrilled and excited for them.  This has been a long process for each of them and it is wonderful to see them preparing for the next chapter in their journey.  As we send them off my prayer for them comes from these verses.

Luke 6:43-44 (NLT) A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.  A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs never grow on thorn bushes, nor grapes on bramble bushes.

John 15:5 (NET)  I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me - and I in him bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing.

What QUALITY of FRUIT is my life producing?  The quality of the fruit determines the health of the tree.  If I say that things are going well and that I’m growing in my knowledge and love for the Lord Jesus and yet the visible fruit is not healthy and good then who am I trying to fool?  Certainly NOT God and probably not anyone else either.  Jesus told us that our job is to BEAR MUCH FRUIT.  He also told us that the only way that can happen is if we are connected to (abide in or remain in) the vine.  The warning is also clear if we DO NOT stay connected to Jesus, our vine, then we will ACCOMPLISH NOTHING.  Psalm 1 makes it clear that anyone who meditates and delights in God’s Word will be like a tree planted by streams of water which is ALWAYS fruitful. So I need to ask myself am I firmly planted in God’s Word?  Do I delight in focusing my heart and mind on the Bible?  Am I taking time to read and think about what God is saying to me?  May each of bear MUCH GOOD Fruit and honor our Lord Jesus.

PRAYER: Lord, help me to pursue You with passion and excitement.  Help me to fill my heart and mind with Your Word and to grow in my Obedience to YOU.  Lord help me to stay CONNECTED to You no matter what.  Help me to be Fruitful for Your honor and glory. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Down through the years in meeting with people for discipleship, or in small groups there have been times when I have seen someone who said that they were sorry for something that they had done. But even though they said the right words their attitude showed that they were more upset about being caught then they were actually broken over their sin. In some cases it turned out that they really did not think what they had done was all that bad. And unless there was a true  brokenness and a realization that they had sinned against a holy God there was seldom any real change in their lives. We must ask the question: Do we have the same tendency in our own lives? Are there sins in my life which I actually enjoy and really do not want to give up? Are there things that I do or think that I know do not honor God but which I’m unwilling to part with yet? Let’s look at these verses together.

Joel 2:12-13 (NLT) ... the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. [13] Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish.

Psalms 34:18 (NLT) The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

Time for Israel was running out. God spoke through the prophet Joel reminding the people that unless they repented and truly turned back to Him with all their hearts they would experience God’s horrible judgment. The fascinating thing is that He challenges them to TRUE repentance. God makes it clear He is NOT interested in having them merely go through the motions.  Outwardly ripping their clothes as a sign of mourning and humility over sin meant absolutely NOTHING if their hearts were still focused on enjoying their sin. God called them to return to Himself - God called them to be BROKEN hearted. He did not want them to say I’m sorry, go through the motions, and continue having their thoughts and hearts focused on themselves or other gods.  God longs to forgive, to show His grace and compassion, and restore. But He can ONLY forgive those who are truly broken. Only those whose hearts are ripped up over their sin can rightly expect God’s forgiveness and restoration. Going through the motions no matter how elaborate or how good they look never fools God. Psalm 34 reminds us that God is close to those who are brokenhearted. Perhaps the application would be that He is close to those who are truly brokenhearted over their sin. The reality is that we must be truly broken over what we have done. We have to be convinced in our own hearts that we deserve God’s anger and judgment for what we have done. We should realize there is no HOPE or FORGIVENESS apart from God’s mercy and compassion. He longs to forgive and to draw us close to Himself. But pretend repentance, fake remorse, no matter how elaborate will NEVER fool God.

PRAYER: Lord God, please keep me from going through the motions and pretending about anything with You.  May I have a growing hatred for my own sins and those things which dishonor You in my life. Please, Lord God, help me to be genuinely broken over anything that could bring shame to You. Please Lord, break my heart open before You and do what You Must to draw me closer, and closer to You.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


As a teenager I thought of sin mostly in terms of those things that I should not do, or say.  Especially the obvious things like lying, stealing, cheating.  It was clear that those things were wrong they were sin.  As I grew in my walk with the Lord I started to realize that God wanted my words and actions to conform to His standards.  But He was also very much interested in my thoughts and my motives.  So it was no longer enough NOT to say sinful words I had to make sure that my mind was not thinking them.  It made me realize that God was so much bigger than I had ever imagined.  He could see ALL my actions, hear all my words, understand my thoughts and motives.  But I still saw sin primarily as NOT doing, saying, or thinking something sinful.  That is a seeing sin primarily as the wrong things we do.  But sin can also be about things we do not do. Look at a verse with me please.  

James 4:17 (NET) So whoever knows what is good to do and does not do it is guilty of sin.

James 4:17 (ESV) So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

As I was reading these verses I was challenged to think about sin in a different way.  This was no longer merely staying away from those things which God has forbidden.  This is the idea that if I know of something that God wants me to do and I refuse to do it then I have sinned. For example if God has placed before me the opportunity to say something encouraging to someone that is hurting but if I am afraid that what I say might not be received and as a result I refuse to try then for me that is sin.  Hughes explains it this way: Be concerned not only about what you do -  but also about what you fail to do.  In the past these have been called sins of Omission - those things we should have done, those good things which God placed before us to do - but which we chose not to do.  In all of life there are those things to which God has said NO.  There are other things in our walk with Jesus that may not be wrong but they may not be of any benefit before God (1 Cor. 10:23).  We may decide that they simply do not help us to walk a more godly life.  Then there is this last category of things which God calls sin.  When we KNOW - the Right thing to do - the GOOD thing to do - then the challenge for us is to OBEY God by doing it. That may be what Paul had in mind when he said:

Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

PRAYER: Lord, God help me to become more and more aware of those things which I think, say or do which are sinful.  May I turn from them and hate them as much You do.  Lord, please help me also to see those good things which You are placing before to do.  Give me Your wisdom to see them, and give me Your Help to Accomplish them.