Monday, March 31, 2014

Waiting for Dad


[Photo of a little boy welcoming his soldier father]

 “Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey
my teaching. My Father will love them, and we
will come to them and make our home with them.”
 —John 14:23

We’ve all seen the wonderful videos of children of military families surprised by the arrival of the father for whom they have waited so long. Through long months that drag on and on, finally the day arrives. The overwhelming relief shows so clearly on the child’s face.

Sometimes waiting for our Heavenly Father to answer our prayers feels like that. We don’t know when He’s coming, and days stretch into weeks and into months and sometimes even years. We pray and watch as Paul taught us in Colossians 4:2:

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”

Yet, as the waiting stretches on and on, it seems like the answer will never come. Even so, we know that God’s timetable is not the same as ours. He will come in His own time and His own way with an answer that will bless us and bring Him glory.

The verses of Scripture in John 11 illustrate this kind of waiting. Lazarus had died and his sisters, Mary and Martha had called for Jesus to come, but He hadn’t arrived. They mourned and wondered, because Jesus could have saved Lazarus, yet now he had died.

Imagine their joy when Jesus did come looking for them specifically. They still grieved, because Lazarus had died, but they must have felt profound relief when Jesus began to care for them and show them His obvious distress over their sadness.

But, they had a big surprise coming. Not only did Jesus come to comfort them and minister to them, He came to bring up Lazarus from the grave in a remarkable miracle.

When Christians speak of Christ’s second coming, many unbelievers scoff and doubt. Peter acknowledged this to his followers in 2 Peter 3. He assures Christ’s followers that even though it appears as though He will never come, we can know for certain that He will come back to Earth to retrieve His waiting people. He promised in John 14:3:

“If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

And, Jesus’ words, recorded in Matthew 24:42 instruct us:

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”

Plenty of military families wait with longing to see their soldier—father or mother—come home at last. Many of us wait and wait for answers to our prayers. And, all who know Christ wait and watch for His coming again. With more surety than human children can have to see their fathers again, we absolutely know our Heavenly Father will come at last in answer to our expectations for Him.

Whenever you see one of those wonderful reunions between children and their military fathers or mothers, let the image remind you that your Heavenly Father waits for the day when He will come in answer to your prayers.



Monday, March 24, 2014

Cleanse Me with Hyssop


[Photo of hyssop]

 “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”
 —Psalm 51:7

Long before the “Fuller Brush Man” went from door to door selling his wares, people used the natural herb, hyssop, for cleaning and scrubbing. In addition, this branch carried strong fragrant blooms that often proved useful for many purposes. If you scrubbed with hyssop, you meant business—something like a mother taking a rough washcloth to her son’s dirty face.

In Psalm 51:7, he meant serious business with God when David said:

“Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”

David knew his sins had defiled him and separated him from God. He not only expressed sorrow over his sin, he meant to put it behind him and serve God from then on with a purity his Lord would accept.

Hyssop is mentioned frequently in Scripture besides this reference, especially in the Old Testament.

In Exodus 12:22, before the destroying angel came through Egypt on the night of the Hebrews’ escape, they were told to take hyssop and use it to spatter blood on the doorposts of their homes. This blood symbolized the protection God would give these families, while all others were destroyed.

In Leviticus 14:3-7, the Lord told Moses to instruct the priest to use hyssop in cleansing lepers’ skin.

In Numbers 19:18-19, hyssop was prescribed again for the cleansing of unclean persons.

In Hebrews 9 in the New Testament, we find a description of the history of Moses using the hyssop branch to sprinkle blood on the scroll, the people, the tabernacle, and everything used in the ceremonies.

God’s attention to detail in His word is pretty incredible. According to John 19:28-30, at the death of Jesus on the cross, He said, “I am thirsty.” In that moment, the hyssop branch was lifted with a sponge dipped in vinegar to His lips, just before He gave His final word, “It is finished.”

While hyssop carries no magic potion to cleanse us from sin, as David seems to have requested, it does nevertheless convey the intent of God to “scrub us” of our rebellion and moral filth. When Jesus hung on the cross, His blood was shed as the agent of our purification.

Let hyssop, the “little plant with the big purpose,” reminds us daily of the cleansing power of that shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and the resulting forgiveness that God has given us as a gift of His mercy, grace, and love. God reaches out to us and scrubs, sprinkles, and cleanses us in order to bring us back into fellowship with Him that we may serve Him with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strength.



Monday, March 17, 2014

Take and Eat!


[Photo of a serpent and an apple]

 “When the woman saw that the fruit of the
tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye,
and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took
some and ate it. She also gave some to her
husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”
 —Genesis 3:6

That old serpent, the Devil, or Satan, used his appeal to Eve’s lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life when he tempted her to eat of the forbidden fruit. She liked the thought of the taste of such a beautiful fruit, and the beauty of it tantalized her even more. But, when she heard the serpent tell her that she would gain wisdom too, she couldn’t pass up the chance.

With that bite, and more so with the bite of her husband, the human race “fell” away from God’s perfect design for them. The whole line of humans after them became tainted with the same poison of sin that became Adam’s and Eve’s undoing.

They were the first, but we join them with our own sinful natures in a pathetic, irreparable path of corruption that leads to death, as the Scripture tells us in Romans 6:23:

“For the wages of sin is death.”

And, in Romans 3:23, the Apostle Paul reminds those in the church at Rome:

“ for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

Not only did mankind “fall,” but God cursed the entirety of His creation. He told Adam in Genesis 3:17-18:

“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you.”

That could have been the end of the matter. But, God had a “Plan B.” In His astounding love for those He had created, He gave His only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Holy Ambassador to this world.

Jesus would come to earth as a human and live a perfect life in front of all mankind. He suffered sickness, disappointment, sorrow, temptation, the whole range of human experiences. And then, Jesus was deserted, accused of wrongdoing, and killed in the most gruesome manner imaginable.

Remember those thorns with which God cursed the earth? Wicked men wove a crown with them and placed them on Jesus’ head. He willingly submitted to God’s plan and gave His life for us. On that glorious Easter morning—the time we move toward during this Lenten Season—Jesus rose from the grave, conquering sin and death. He lives, sitting at the right hand of His Father and making intercession for us.

When we receive Jesus’ sacrifice for us, and acknowledge that He is our Savior and Lord, we become reunited with God and may now live our lives knowing, loving, and serving Him.

Thank God during this Lenten Season for His unspeakable gift of mercy, grace, and love. When you hear the “Words of Institution” at the Lord’s Supper from Matthew 26:26, “Take, eat; this is my body…,” allow these words to transport you in your mind back to Eden, and to remember all the sin that caused our Lord to suffer and die.

Praise Him for His plan to give His body for us that we may receive God’s forgiveness for our sins.

“Take eat,” indeed! This is life to us!



Monday, March 10, 2014

What Are You Aiming For?


[Photo of a woman looking up into the sky]

 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.”
 —Matthew 6:33

C. S. Lewis once wrote of this post’s opening verse this way:

“Aim for Heaven and you will get Earth
‘thrown in.’”

In Charles Spurgeon’s time, he wrote of this post’s opening verse this way:

““You mind His business, and He will mind yours. If you want paper and string, you get them given in when you buy more important goods.” 2

Jesus, in his conversation with Martha, said to her, as recorded in Luke 10:41-42:

“‘Martha, Martha, …you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”

We are bombarded with so many things that grab our attention. Like Martha, most of us who want to please the Lord with our living get distracted by secondary things. What Jesus really wants from us—what is primary—is to seek Him. We should be aiming for Heaven. We should aim for those things that are important to our Lord, knowing that He will care for all the other things that concern us.

In the middle portion of the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus tells His disciples not to store up treasures on earth, but rather to store up treasures in heaven. Why? Because where they place their treasures is where their hearts will rest.

How does God benefit those who choose to first look after His pleasures? He dwells close to them, shares His divine plans with them, and uses them as though He Himself walked in their bodies. In John 15:7, Jesus also promises that He will answer the prayers of those who “abide” in Him and who keep His word.

Charles Spurgeon makes the point that God will trust prayers that He will answer only to those who walk with Him like Enoch, love Him like John, and are in constant communion with Him. 3

Ask the Lord today to reveal to you new ways to seek Him first, above all other things. For only if we “aim for Heaven” will we get the earthly things we need as well.


1 from Lewis, C. S. The Joyful Christian. New York: Macmillian Publishing Company, ©1967.
2 from Spurgeon, Charles H. Faith’s Checkbook. New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House. © 1992. Reading for October 25th.
3 ibid. Reading for February 23rd.



Monday, March 3, 2014



[Photo of a pothole]

“Wow!! Ouch!! I didn’t see that coming!”

That’s how most of us respond when we hit a pothole. Drive most any route these days with your mind in reverie and you will find that the announcement of the pending change of seasons from winter to spring often comes with the harbinger of potholes. The harder the winter, the more potholes scatter themselves along the surface of the roads. They lie in wait to catch unsuspecting drivers and shake them up.

During this same period, the Church Year announces the upcoming Easter season with the harbinger period of Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday.

Both potholes and Lent bring a time for preparation and repair. And, both should cause us to slow down.

In Scripture we read of John the Baptist, the messenger, calling out in Mark 1:3:

“Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him.”

We read of the woman at Bethany anointing Jesus’ head with perfume and Jesus explaining in Mark 14:8:

“She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.”

What kind of spiritual preparations and repairs do we need to consider for our own spiritual lives during this Lenten period?

First of all, we need to pay attention. Just as a driver needs to watch and avoid the cavernous pothole pits, so we need to slow down, spend time before the Lord looking for the spiritual “potholes” that may have formed in our lives over the long period of winter sleep. Lent gives us a logical time period to achieve these daily inspections and to plan appropriate repairs.

Please allow me to suggest that we learn to write our prayers of inspection in a journal or notebook during these 40 days. This will allow us to take the time to more carefully examine our live, to recount what that examination has disclosed, and to repent of those things that have made “ruts” in our walk with God.

In preparing for this time of self-examination, let me also suggest that we read Psalm 32 and Psalm 51. These Psalms provide fruitful places to begin the process.

Secondly, once we find the spiritual potholes that have scarred our lives, we want to repair those holes in a way that will last.

A pothole filled in with a temporary cold patch may last only a day or two. The traffic of our lives will loosen the patch. Before long, the pothole will open up again and maybe even deepen.

In repairing our sin-damaged lives, let’s learn to fill in the potholes with new ways of thinking and speaking and acting. These new ways will prepare us to travel with the Lord in whatever direction He leads along a smoother, more stable pathway. These new ways that will fill up our potholes in a way that will last for the long run.

New habits that not only patch old craters, but strengthen us against the formation new potholes, take time. When we slow down and listen to what God says to us, He may instruct us to set aside time daily to meet with Him. Or, He may encourage us to continue writing our thoughts and prayers in our journal or notebook. Or, He may ask us to take on a new project that will benefit others in the name of Christ.

Sin creates the potholes in the first place. When we repent of those sins, we move forward on a new pathway and repair the scars along the old ways that we’ve traveled before. Some deeper chasms may require confession, not only to God, but to others as well. This kind of more intentional repair will bring lasting benefits to our relationships. God wants to restore us to new paths, and strengthen us to walk more closely with Him.

During this period of Lent, let’s determine to slow down, choose to fix the potholes in our lives, and mend them so strongly that we will prepare the road ahead for travel with Christ day by day.