Grabbing the Gospel

Re: Verse reading–Hebrews 3:7-4:13 (day five)
Only twice in the entire book of Hebrews does the author use the verb, “to believe” (although he’ll use the noun, “faith” or “belief” thirty-two times). Like a carpenter driving in an extra nail to hold the board securely in place, the author slams home the point that it is those who believe the good news who find rest not just those who hear the good news (4:2). It‘s not enough to be around people of faith. We must become a person of faith. It’s not enough to inherit a tradition of faith. We must take hold of it ourselves. As Jacob grabbed the Angel of the Lord and demanded a blessing before he released him (Genesis 32:24-26), so we must grab hold of the claims of the gospel and not let go until our lives are utterly transformed. Transforming faith is an active faith. The bad news is some will miss the “rest” offered by the gospel because they simply stood still. The good news is the promise to “enter the rest” is secure for all who believe.

Powerful Words

Re: Verse reading – Hebrews 1:1-2:4 (day 5)
“He has spoken to us by His Son” (1:2). Words are powerful. His “I’m proud of you, son” anchored my heart against the tumult of difficulty and failure. Her “yes” to my marriage proposal hurled me into a whole new way of life. His “welcome home” opened a wide door of ministry in a new city. His “can I pray, Dad?” gave me a glimpse of the lifetime that is at stake in quiet moments we share as a family. Words are powerful. They shape identity, define relationships, propel progress and create hope. If words spoken between two human beings can carry this life-shaping power, how much more is contained in the Word of the Infinite, Mysterious Divine One? “We must therefore pay even more attention to what we have heard…” (2:1). “Even more attention” seems to be a bit of an understatement! If the Divine has indeed spoken, then we must pay the utmost attention to that Word.


Re: Verse reading–1 Corinthians 15 (Day Five)
“I passed on to you as most important what I also received…” It was my parents and a 5th grade Sunday school teacher, a soccer coach and “Brother John,” not to mention pastors, friends and even books. I didn’t arrive at a living and active faith all by myself. My faith rests first on the Holy Spirit’s transforming work in me through the gospel and second on the countless followers of Jesus who “passed on” to me what they had “received.” It is a strong foundation on which to stand. Likewise, my ministry rests on the gospel and the churches that have trained and trusted me. I owe to them the “debt of love” that can never be repaid (Romans 13:8). It’s a humility required by the gospel to say, “I received” rather than “I built.” It’s a humility required of us as we remember that someone else sacrificed and served so that we could be here today. It’s a humility that drives us to ask, “Am I sacrificing and serving enough so that someone else can receive?” Thank you Seaside, South Oaks and FBC San Antonio for sacrificing and serving so that I could “receive.” I’m praying for you, Columbus Avenue, that God will “renew your strength” (Isaiah 40:31) as you faithfully carry the legacy of sacrifice and service you have received.

“Dying Before You Die”

Re: Verse reading–Deuteronomy 34 (day five)
“So Moses…died…his vitality had not left him” (34:5, 7). All of us die, but many of us will die before we die because our “vitality” leaves us. The Hebrew word for “vitality” or “strength” refers to a young tree that is fresh and growing. It’s what happens when God’s Spirit inhabits and rules in a person’s life. The Apostle Paul put it this way, “though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). This foretaste of resurrection is evidence of the Spirit’s work of restoration. Not everyone will taste it, however. Some will die long before they die because they have ceased to be fresh and growing. The person who has died before they die is no longer learning, challenging, building, failing, investing, meeting, initiating, risking, loving, giving, reading, serving. Sadly, many will die in this way in their young adulthood having been deceived that there is no more to life. Others will die as they retire feeling that they have done enough. Is there a glimmer of life left? If so, then there’s hope! Don’t die before you die!

Two Voices

Re: Verse reading 2 Samuel 13:1-2, 20-22,30-37, 2 Samuel 14:21-24, 2 Samuel 15:7-14, 2 Samuel 18:6-15, 33 (day two)

2 Samuel 12:13
Rape. Murder. Hate. Manipulation. Betrayal. Rebellion. Revenge. Death. David’s life proves that the face of sin is ugly, horrifying. Yet the Enemy continues to whisper, “you will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). “As long as it’s just a small sin, it’s not that big of a deal. Even the greatest pastors sin yet still have God’s favor. As long as I ask Him after, God will forgive me. I’m only human. At least I didn’t do what she did. Everyone else is doing it. I’ll do it just this once so I’ll know what it’s like.” “You will not surely die” echoes across humanity. Perhaps by pondering David’s story our hard hearts will hear the warning. “Look, the Lord will come with fire…to execute His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire. For the Lord will execute judgment on all flesh with His fiery sword, and many will be slain by the Lord” (Is 66:14-16). No. It’s not a misprint. The Lord will slay those who persist in rebellion. He will put an end to sin and to all who embrace it. However, there is hope for those who would reject sin and cling to Christ in faith. They will hear another voice saying, “The Lord has taken away your sin; you will not die” (2 Samuel 12:13).

The Blessing

Re: Verse reading–Genesis 47:27-31; 48:1-2,8-19; 49:33; 50:1-6 (day one)
“Then he blessed Joseph…” Joseph? But his hands were on Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. How was he blessing Joseph if his hands were on Joseph’s sons? The blessing that a father gives is never just for one generation. Pouring wisdom, love and discipline into a child is a kind of investment that is reaped for generations. But Joseph’s blessing that day was as much practical as it was spiritual. In a great act of favor, Jacob gives his blessing, his inheritance, not to Joseph himself which would then be split in two for the boys. No. Jacob adopts Joseph’s sons as his own so that Joseph received two full shares of his father’s blessing/inheritance. That’s how it is with a father’s favor. It is as unfair as it is lavish. That’s how it is with our Father’s favor. When He places His hand on your head, it is unfair — you will receive far more than you deserve, and it is lavish – the generosity is astounding. But He doesn’t place his hand on your head because of you. He places His hand on your head because His favor has fallen on His Son in whom He is “well-pleased.”

The Prayers of a Christian Leader

Re: Verse reading–Numbers 13:1-2, 17-33; Joshua 14:6-10 (day two)
Joshua 15:12 “Now give me this hill country the Lord promised me…” A Christian leader doesn’t pray small prayers. He or she prays bold prayers. Here’s some bold prayers based on Paul’s guidance to Timothy: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

“Approved” – let Your “well done” be the reward I seek above all else.

“Worker” – let me be productive out of proportion to my natural gifts.

“Ashamed” – let me honor Your name through how and what I produce.

“Word of truth” – let Your revelation be the source of life for me and those I serve.

God Sent

Re: Verse reading–Genesis 41:25-57, 45:4-8 (day three)
When a stranger holds the door open so you can exit the store with arms full of groceries, you might say, “You’re a God-send!” When your tax return is just enough to cover the unexpected car repairs you might tell your friend, “it was a God-send!” What is this instinct in us that attributes unexpectedly good happenings as sent from God? Some will call it good fortune. Others will refer to providence. It takes no real act of faith to recognize and celebrate these fortuitous moments. The real act of faith is to look on the darkest and most painful moments of life and declare, “that was a God-send.” The eyes trained by faith will see God’s sovereign hand “preserving life” not just in the moments of “good fortune” but also in the moments of “sheer, bad luck.” Joseph said, “God sent me” through the trouble “to preserve life” (45:5). Joseph’s heart of faith was revealed by what his eyes perceived through his trouble. What do your eyes perceive through your trouble? Does what you perceive reveal a heart of faith?


Re: Verse reading–Ruth 1:1-19a (day two)
There are many unique characters in the Bible. Murderers turned into leaders. Prostitutes turned into followers. The portrait of many Bible characters is not very flattering, and you’ll find children’s Bibles selectively retelling their stories. Occasionally, you come across people whom you’d actually like for your children to imitate. Ruth and Boaz are two of them. Ruth is unflinchingly dedicated and ready to trust God. She works hard and respects authority. She is articulate and brave in the presence of foreigners and earns a good reputation. Who wouldn’t want their daughter to be like her? Boaz is a good manager and a generous man. He shows kindness to the needy and respect for his ancestors. He refuses to circumvent the law and is willing to redeem even a foreign woman in need of his care. Most contrary to American norms, he is attracted to Ruth because she is a “woman of noble character” (3:11). Who wouldn’t want their son to be like him?

Desperate Prayer

Re: Verse reading–1 Samuel 1:1-20 (day two)
“Deeply hurt, Hannah prayed to the Lord and wept with many tears…” (1 Samuel 1:10). What prayer surfaces the deep longing in your soul? It’s a faithful prayer that believes one is being heard by One who is powerful enough to respond. It’s a hopeful prayer that trusts that the One who hears is good and will respond favorably. It’s a desperate prayer from one who has realized that there is no other One to whom the request can be brought. Prayer that surfaces the longing of the soul results in rest well before the answer is realized (1 Samuel 1:18). Haven’t experienced this? Perhaps your soul longs for too small a thing? Try longing for spiritual birth in someone you love, and you’ll find that faithful, hopeful and desperate prayer is the only way forward. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “if sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees. Let no one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”