Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Heat Wave


Due to the heat wave our church network including Internet access is down. This has made it difficult for me to post on 365 Forum for several days. I'll get back on it as soon as I can.

Thanks for your patience,


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Day 206: Song of Songs 1 - 4

Promise me, O women of Jerusalem . . . not to awaken love until the time is right. (Song of Songs 3:5, New Living Translation)

This is a repeating charge in Song of Songs. Don't awaken love until the time is right. It can be found in chapters 2, 3 and 8. There has been a whole range of opinion regarding the love affair chronicled here. Is it a story of the relationship between God and Israel? Christ and the church? Two young lovers? A king and his bride? Over the years majority opinion has shifted between these choices.

Joseph Dillow has written a great book called Solomon on Sex – The Biblical Guide to Married Love. He focuses on this repeating verse as the key to understanding this work of Old Testament wisdom literature.

God intended sex to be enjoyed within the bonds of marriage. Solomon's bride charges the women of Jerusalem with that very truth. Nowhere is the sexual relationship as beautifully expounded as in this book, and nowhere is it as beautiful except within the marriage relationship.

How cool is that?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Day 205: Ecclesiastes 10 - 12

Whoever watches the wind will not plant. (Ecclesiastes 11:4)

The preacher of Ecclesiastes teaches that it is better to seize an opportunity, even if it's less than perfect, than to wait for a perfect opportunity that may never come. General George Patton remarked: A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.

How many good opportunities have we let slip through our fingers because we were waiting for a perfect opportunity? And did that perfect opportunity come? Probably not.

What are you waiting for?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Day 204: Ecclesiastes 7 - 9

Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you. (Ecclesiastes 7:21)

This is a wonderful example of Ancient Near East humor and wisdom rolled into one. First the writer warns that if we listen hard enough to hear people praising us, we're just as likely to hear someone maligning us. If we would have minded our own business, we wouldn't have heard the praise, but then we wouldn't have heard the insult either. And, who are we kidding? Even a dozen accolades can't take the sting out of one insult.

A pastor I know had just finished preaching and was standing at the back door shaking hands. A man walked up and asked, Is that the best you can do?

Reminds me of the time we were getting ready to go out for the evening and my wife asked, Is that what you're going to wear?

Uh... no; are you kidding? Wear this? How could you even ask that?

And part of what makes this all so funny is that we've done exactly the same thing. The writer continues: ...for you know in your heart that you yourself have cursed others. But it sounded so innocent when I said it about him, and so mean when he said it about me.

Listen hard enough, and you're bound to hear something that hurts your feelings.

Who are you listening to? There's only one opinion that really counts.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Day 203: Ecclesiastes 4 - 6

All labor and all achievement spring from man's envy of his neighbor. (Ecclesiastes 4:4)

My truck is 10 years old with 160,000+ miles. I love that truck – the best vehicle I've ever owned. I bought it from a woman whose husband was serving 12 years for vehicular manslaughter, and she needed the money. (No, I don't think my truck was involved in the accident.)

There's nothing special about my truck. It's not an extended cab, and doesn't even have power locks or windows. For my younger friends, that means one actually has to turn a crank to raise or lower the windows. I know. Archaic! Unthinkable! Unlocking it requires a key! Look it up in an encyclopedia.

When I bought my truck, Ben and Will were 9 and 6. Now they're 17 and alllllmost 14. The three of us fit a lot easier 8 years ago than we do now. Picture eyes bugged out, and elbows digging into ribs.

Here's my point. I'm content with my truck. Until, that is, I see a TV commercial for a flashy new car or truck... or I drive past the dealership... or one of my friends gives me a lift in his new ride. Then my contentment evaporates and I desperately need a NEW CAR!!! What was good enough is no longer sufficient. And what was not even a remote desire morphs into a raging lust. It's all about keeping up with the Joneses.

What new thing, bright and shiny, are you coveting?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Day 202: Ecclesiastes 1 - 3

He has also set eternity in the hearts of men. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

The very fact that we aspire to something greater than this mortal life is seen as proof by some that we are God's creation. As the writer here has so eloquently said, we have been given the capacity to reach beyond what we can see and touch, and to encounter the living God. How could we be satisfied with anything less?

It's no wonder we get bored. We set our hearts on temporary things when we were meant to strive for things eternal. We fill our days with spirit-numbing activity when we were meant to encounter God. We settle for a paycheck when we were meant to transform our culture. We are satisfied with getting by when we were meant for glory.

So how are you going to change the world this week?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Day 201: Proverbs 28 - 31

He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)

Over and over the Scriptures make the point that in our efforts to save face, we instead set ourselves up for catastrophe. Damage will be done and people will be hurt when secrets blow up in our faces, but it doesn't have to be that way.

Psalm 32:5 - Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord" – and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Then why is it our default setting to cover up our sin and failure? Do we think we can pull a fast one on the Creator of the universe? Do we expect God to turn a deaf ear to our cry? If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness . . . if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. (1 John 1:9; 2:1)

Do you need to defuse the "secret bomb"?

Day 198: Proverbs 19 - 21

He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity. (Proverbs 21:23)

Like the old carpenter’s adage: Measure twice; cut once, the writer of James puts it this way: Be quick to listen, slow to speak. (1:19). With two ears and one tongue, the wise person listens more than he/she talks. Personally, I have more often regretted speaking, than holding my tongue. Mark Twain is credited with saying: Better to keep one’s mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.

That’s why God gave us a filter. The idea is that, rather than speak every thought that comes into one’s mind, we engage the filter and it catches things we shouldn’t say. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. But every once in awhile we forget to engage that filter, and before we know it, someone gets hurt. Sometimes it’s just us, but on those especially unfortunate occasions, we hurt someone else.

James understands: No man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (3:8)

We need help. This is not a battle we’re going to win on our own. God knows. God sees. And God comes to our assistance. He will help us guard our mouths to speak only words that are honoring to him, honoring to ourselves, and honoring to others.

How’s your filter working?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Day 197: Proverbs 16 - 18

In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

Most Christians believe God has a plan for their lives. At the same time, many Christians also believe in the concept of free will. So which is true? Or could both be true? And if so, how does that work? What's the balance between God's plan for our lives and our freedom to choose?

Have you ever walked one path only to arrive somewhere completely unexpected? It can take years for the reality of God's plan to unfold, but as we look back through the interplay of free choice and random coincidence, we can see the hand of God that has taken us to this time and place to fulfill his purpose in our lives.

Some would say, "Okay, then God's pretermined plan trumps our free will." But which God is greater? The God who pulls people's strings like a puppeteer, giving them only the illusion of choice? Or the God who allows his children real freedom directing their steps only through the persuasive power of his amazing love?
How has God brought you here?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Day 196: Proverbs 13 - 15

He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker. (Proverbs 14:31)

One of the main complaints lodged by the prophets against Israel/Judah was the oppression of the poor. Woe to those who make unjust laws . . . to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed. (Isaiah 10:1,2) On your clothes men find the lifeblood of the innocent poor. (Jeremiah 2:34) They oppress the poor and needy. (Ezekiel 22:29) You trample on the poor. (Amos 5:11)

A Proverb that really puts things in perspective is 19:17 - He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done. What a strange thought – to loan something to God. Surely we need not fear God defaulting on his obligations.

And lest we dismiss this as an Old Testament technicality that doesn't really apply in a world top-heavy with governmental social programs: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. (Matthew 25:40)

This is true whether the you addressed is an individual, a church, or a nation.

What have you done this week to be a friend to the poor?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Day 195: Proverbs 10 - 12

He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. (Proverbs 11:25)

The writers of Proverbs assert that what goes around comes around. Whether it's generosity or greed, kindness or malice, the things we do have a way of coming back, either to bless us, or to haunt us.

Jesus said, With the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:2) Wow! It's my choice.

It can be an enlightening exercise to write one's own obituary. What do we want others to say about us after we're gone? The trick is to not stop with writing those kind words, but then to live the life that would make that obituary fitting and true.

With the measure I use, it will be measured to me. My choice! Just a few verses earlier, Proverb 11:17 reads: A kind man benefits himself.

Every life writes its own obituary. What's your life writing?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Day 194: Proverbs 7 - 9

She seduced him with her smooth talk. (Proverbs 7:21)

Yesterday the theme was weighing the consequences. That's easier said than done. It's not like there's an even playing field. Our tendency is toward evil. It's our path of least resistance. Add to that tempation's powers of persuasion... it can be so seductive.

The question is not: How could anyone be so stupid as to fall for that? But: How could anyone resist? And yet the Apostle Paul makes it clear we should not live like sin is inevitable: You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature, but by the Spirit. (Romans 8:9)

To have any hope of living morally in an ungodly world, we'd better have a plan. Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God. (Romans 6:11-13)

Sin is a smooth talker. What's your plan?

Day 193: Proverbs 4 - 6

Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? (Proverbs 6:28)

One of the recurring themes of Proverbs is the way things can backfire when we least expect it. In fact, the writers warn us we should expect trouble to backfire on us if we indulge in certain behaviors. In this particular proverb, the lesson is about giving in to lust, but it also applies to every situation where the consequences can get the better of us.

If I play with fire, shouldn't I expect to get burned? (Proverbs 6:28 - Pastor's Paraphrase)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Day 191: Psalms 146 - 150

The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. (Psalm 147:11)

How do we measure success? With the recent deaths of several celebrities, it seems clear that our society has adapted the old adage, He who dies with the most toys wins.

Prior to death, it sure seems like success is measured by looks, prestige, bank balances, sex appeal, credit scores, possessions, position, power, influence, fame, academic degrees, accomplishments, etc.

Who would have guessed God's simple formula for measuring success: He delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.

Elie Wiesel, holocaust survivor, author and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, writes: God created man because he loves stories. [1] It's becoming clear to me that those stories have nothing to do with the typical shallow definition of success, and are being written in the lives of people who honor God, and who put their faith and hope in him.
What story do you want to write with your life?
[1] Wiesel, Elie. Souls on Fire: Portraits of Hasidic Masters. New York: Vintage Books, 1972.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Day 187: Psalms 128 - 131

If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? (Psalm 130:3)

Who would want to live under condemnation for every bad choice we've ever made? The psalmist is only saying what we've heard from many other biblical sources: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

Thankfully neither Paul, in his letter to the Romans, nor our psalm writer let it stop there.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23,24)

If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness. (Psalm 130:3,4)

Is there anyone you need to let off the hook?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Day 183: Psalms 113 - 117

Our God is in heaven and he does whatever he wants. (Pastor's Paraphrase - Psalm 115:3)

This is another one of my favorite psalms. Our God is in heaven and he does whatever he wants. How cool is that? I'm so thankful that what God wants is to prosper me and not to harm me, to give me a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

What is there that God won't do? What is there that God can't do to fulfill his purpose in your life?

What are you believing God for?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Day 182: Psalms 109 - 112

Oh God, whom I praise, do not remain silent. (Psalm 109:1)

This is the story (technically a lament) of a man betrayed. Lies, hatred, attacks, accusations, and doublecrosses. And a desperate cry to God, "Don't you turn away from me, too!"

But when God seems silent, even distant, we can know that "he stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save his life from those who condemn him." (vs 31)
When's the last time you thought God had forgotten you?