Be Prepared

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This blog does not officially begin until January 1, 2015. However, I thought I would periodically recycle some old devotions here until that time. Enjoy.

Assorted Texts from Luke 12

Time spent in the gospels has been time well spent. As I have listened to my Lord’s words I have been able to discern themes that run near and dear to his heart. I guess these themes are fairly obvious and would be hard to miss even to the casual reader. What impresses me, I suppose, is the sheer frequency of certain teachings from our Lord. There’s a sense of urgency about them. Today’s reading in Luke 12 is an example.

Luke 12:1 – “Be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisees…”

Luke 12:15 – “Watch out! Be on guard against all kinds of greed…”

Luke 12:40 – “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Whether we are talking about false teachings and practices of religious leaders, temptation and sin in our own lives, or the consummation of all things at the return of the King, we are commanded to be on guard, to watch out, to be ready.

This theme of preparation appears and reappears much in Jesus’ teaching. As repetition for rabbis in the first century was a didactic tool or technique – to ensure a vital point was made and received – we do well to pay careful attention here. It would be akin to a school teacher in our day writing a point on a chalkboard and saying, “If I’m taking the time to write this out, you can bet it will appear on your exam.” We ignore such warnings to our peril. (feel free to insert whatever present-day technological version of this illustration is apt.)

What strikes me about this is the call on our part for disciplined intentionality. For you cannot casually or lazily “be on guard,” or “watch out,” or “be ready.” We could endlessly cite analogies from the world of sports or the military to show just how essential such intense, intentional, and disciplined preparation is. Without it, the game is lost, the city taken, the soul forfeited.

If I let my guard down today, it is true that Jesus may not return… this day. But I don’t think that’s the main point of our Lord. Instead, we must consider what the accumulation of days with a lowered guard will do to a person. The spiritual atrophy that would set in would be catastrophic to an individual. The dominion of the world, the flesh, and the devil would enlarge in that person’s life with one of two results. The first is that the person would possibly wake up, only too late to put up any real fight, and thus lose the battle. The second possibility would be that the person would never awaken from their slumber and thus become an occupied territory unaware. In either case, without a work of divine grace, the battle is lost, and perhaps even the war.

We do well to heed our Master’s words today – to be on guard continually, to always be ready, and to constantly watch out. For our foes are nearer to us and subtler that we can imagine. Only an intentional and disciplined watchman on the high wall of the citadel of the soul can and will be properly prepared.

Let us, therefore, be ready. For I can think of nothing worse than to fall in battle, knowing that I could have easily seen the attack coming and prevented it…if only I had listened to and obeyed my King.

Grace and Truth,
Dale

My Hero, Ezra

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This blog does not officially begin until January 1, 2015. However, I thought I would periodically recycle some old devotions here until that time. Enjoy.

Ezra 7:6 – this Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the Lord, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him.

Ezra 7:9-10 – He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. [10] For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.

You may not know much about Ezra, though you’ve probably heard of him. He has a book of the Old Testament named after him. For me, he exemplifies much of what I believe my own purpose is as a pastor. More than that, however, I believe he’s a model for all Christians.

Ezra was a descendent of Moses’ brother, Aaron, the chief priest. Ezra was a teacher, we’re told, who was well versed in the Law of Moses (Ezra 7:6). The end of verse 9 tells us that the hand of God was on Ezra. Why? Because, according to verse 10, Ezra “devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord as well as to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.”

In other words, Ezra passionately STUDIED God’s Word, LIVED God’s Word, and TAUGHT God’s Word to  others.

A pastor, or any Christian for that matter, must first STUDY God’s Word. This is obvious. This is where the pump is primed and fresh water is poured into the soul. This is where the renewing of the mind takes place so that it will become fertile ground for transformation later.

This leads to the next point – LIVING God’s Word. If you don’t believe the teachings of God’s Word and are not practicing it’s laws and principles each day, then one might ask why you are studying it in the first place. The Word of God makes us wise for salvation, teaches us, rebukes us, corrects us, trains us in righteousness so that we may become thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:15-17). We don’t study it to win Bible trivia contests or to impress our congregations. We study it so that we might become more and more like Christ.

But Ezra did more than study it and live it – He TAUGHT it. He passed along his knowledge to others. He added value to their lives from what he learned. And it’s the fact that he did faithfully study it and live it (or practice it) that brought credibility and integrity to his teaching. You see, the goal of any disciple of Jesus Christ is to reproduce himself in the lives of others. This is accomplished through learning what it means to be a disciple of Christ, faithfully living that calling out each day, and then passing it along to others. It’s what I call “pouring your life into another person.” Jesus put it this way in the gospel of John,

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:24)

In a sense, we die to ourselves as we diligently study God’s Word, conform ourselves to it’s standards, and pass it along to others – even at personal cost. But any sacrifice offered is more than worth it because, as Jesus put it, it produces many seeds.

How do we pass along God’s Word to others? This can be done in a variety of ways. You can teach others God’s Word from the pulpit, in a classroom, in a hospital room, in a counseling session, over lunch with a friend, around the family table at breakfast or dinner, or written correspondence. The list could go on and on.

Finally, I love how Ezra did all of this. The text says he devoted himself to it. He gave his life to it. He was committed to God’s Word in all of its life-transforming fullness. And because he was so devoted, we learn that God’s hand was on him. God has appointed his Word as a primary means of grace (as it works with his Spirit) whereby we are enabled to intimately know God and his Son Jesus Christ, know about the character, attributes, and works of God, learn how to love and serve God, discover how to become more Christlike in our daily lives, as well as how to spend eternity with him.

God’s Word: Know It – Live It – Teach It To Others.

Not a bad purpose statement for all of us. I want to be like Ezra. How about you?

Grace and Truth,
Dale

The Faith and Courage of Hobbits

833142This blog does not officially begin until January 1, 2015. However, I thought I would periodically recycle some old devotions here until that time. Enjoy.

Among the characteristics we could cite, our forbearers in the faith had at least two qualities about them that enabled them to stand up against great odds. These loved ones of the covenant had faith and courage.

There appears to be a lack in our day of both. More often than I care to think about, doubt and fear have won the day and left God’s saints in a puddle of impotence and despair. I know this has been true of my own life. But this ought never be the case for God’s people.

When Moses sent an expedition to Canaan to explore what awaited God’s children in the land of promise, the report confirmed all that God had promised – it was lush and flowed with milk and honey…as advertised. But there was a catch. There was also quite an obstacle before them. In the land there were also “giants” who made the Israelites seem like hobbits in a land of orcs. The report from the expedition team was that, “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (Numbers 13:33).

But this wasn’t a unanimous report. For in Numbers 13:30 we read:

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”

Caleb had faith in God and in his covenant promises, and therefore, could be as courageous as Frodo and Sam in Mordor.

David faced similar circumstances later on in redemptive history…with a similar response. As the Israelites shook in their sandals before the great Goliath and the Philistine horde, the young shepherd boy looked on in bewilderment. In what seemed like arrogance at worst and naiveté at best, this “king-to-be” just couldn’t understand why his people had not already taken the uncircumcised behemoth apart – especially in light of Goliath’s jeering and insolence before the living God. David queried:

Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26)

And so like Caleb before him, David volunteered to take Goliath on. So what if he seemed like a grasshopper before this giant of a man – all nine feet of him. David drew courage from his faith in the One who had never failed him before.

Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:36-37)

With faith and courage David faced the giant, and the rest as we say, is history. What was the foundation for such faith and courage in the lives of Caleb and David? We are told in Jeremiah 1:8 and 19.

Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

Caleb and David knew in their day what God told Jeremiah in his. That is, that God’s people will be opposed…that’s a given. We will seem like grasshoppers in comparison. The “apparent” odds will be overwhelmingly against us. But God calls the weak, poor, small, seemingly insignificant hobbits of this world to serve as his subjects – his knights – to advance his Kingdom – even in the face of the enemy (perhaps especially so).

What are the obstacles you are facing? Is anything greater than the covenant-making, covenant-keeping Lord of Glory? It is this very God who promised never to forsake us. That in itself is our grounds for faith and courage – in the midst of insurmountable odds.

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Cor. 15:58)

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. (1 Cor. 16:13)

Grace and Truth,
Dale