Thursday, April 16, 2009


Sounds good, doesn’t it? Save the best for the Lord, and honor him with a public display of sacrifice . . . but that is not what God asked us to do! God said to get rid of all that is to be “devoted to destruction,” without sparing any part of it – not even the very best:

But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good . . . 1 Samuel 15:9

Do we hold back the very best for God? Do we make exceptions for ourselves, with valid reasons in our heads why it is OKAY to live a little differently than the way we’re called, or do we strive to set our minds in complete agreement with what God says in his word?

Tuesday's reading
strikes fear in my soul! I do not want to be guilty of saving “the best” of what God has told me to get rid of, even if I could justify it in the most plausible way. The reading goes on to say:

Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you . . . (from verses 22-23)

There is a time when it is too late to say, “Oops, I’m sorry, I messed up!” The results of holding back from God can be permanent and unyielding, just as Samuel stated:

. . . the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret. (from verse 29), see also Numbers 23:19.

In the New Testament, Jesus said, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple,” (Luke 14:17). Without a doubt, each of us has our own, personal cross to bear! What is your cross today? Regarding what has the Lord spoken to you in your own private heart-of-hearts, without demanding a public display of sacrifice, but simply requesting a quick and quiet act of faith?

I pray the Lord will help you and me both today, to hold nothing back, but to do all that God has requested of us with NO EXCEPTIONS OR EXCUSES!

Monday, April 6, 2009


After reading a third of the book of Judges in a single sitting, I'm struck by how far and fast God's people went astray without tangible leadership. Judges describes the bizarre roller coaster ride of Israel's unfaithfulness and oppression (the low points), as well as their renewed faithfulness and deliverance (the high points), with no middle ground in between. Rather than following God steadily from day to day, God's people went whizzing along either completely off-course and out of control, or riding the rails to the heights of victory and freedom behind their judges. They seemed helpless in spite of their good intentions, strapped in for a bumpy ride.

It is a lot like that with me. I take roller coaster rides between oppression and deliverance, either on course and willing to honor Christ in every detail, or way off (off track, off my rocker, "off" like something left in the 'fridge too long). When I spend time in God's word from day to day, it is a lot easier for me to stay on course, but when I get out of the habit of reading the Bible, I can quickly get off course. God's word provides me tangible direction, and I pray the Lord will use his word in your daily life as well, to guide your prayers, your conversation, and your thinking. May he use it to enable you to withstand the distractions that try to take your focus off Jesus.

The word is unique when it comes to keeping us on track. Look at our armor, described in Ephesians 6:11-18. Every piece except one is an abstract concept (truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, salvation). There is only one piece of our spiritual armor which is tangible. We can hold it in our hands and view it in printed form. The Bible is also unique in its use. Each piece of armor save one we use for our spiritual defense: belt, breastplate, boots, shield, and helmet are all to keep us safe, but the sword -- now that's different! With the sword you reach out and advance forward, claiming ground. I pray you will continue to pick up your sword, and practice wielding it even if it feels heavy and awkward at times.

God's word IS heavy and awkward at times, especially the current Old Testament readings, like Judges, which describe things like tent pegs struck through temples (Judges 4:21), wars waged with trumpets and torches (Judges 7:20-21 -- think about it. With a jar trumpet in one hand and a torch in the other, in what hand did the soldiers hold their weapons? Yet the enemy ran for their lives!), and a father's sorry oath before God which resulted in human sacrifice (Judges 11:35). It is almost too much to process. It might seem preferable to choose some intermediary (a teacher, preacher, writer, or mentor) to stand between you and the word of God. It might seem safer to have somebody tell you what the Bible means, to insulate you from the hard facts and harsh realities contained in scripture -- yet I hope the Spirit will call you to keep reading!

May the Lord bring his word alive to you, and use it to speak to your heart. God promises his word is living, active, and sharper than a two-edged sword (that wonderful weapon analogy again). Learning to use a sword is an awesome undertaking, one that calls for practice and patience. To use it responsibly, we often turn that sharp point inward to cut away falsehood and hypocritical thinking. It takes a lot of guts to pick up the sword and point it at the enemy of our souls, to swing it and cut down the devil's lies. It takes precise control to use the sword with authority, praying the truth of scripture in intercession on behalf of others and not in judgment or condemnation. May God continue to bless you and keep you on track in your training from day to day.