2 Chronicles 26: 3 – 5, 16

Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years. His mother’s name was Jekoliah; she was from Jerusalem.  He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father Amaziah had done. He sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the LORD, God gave him success. 

16 But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God.

How many of us have fallen in the same trap, the trap of arrogance? We begin a project or some new undertaking and are in the beginning so keenly aware of our shortcomings and inadequate skill set. We are humble and prayerful. God meets us at the point of our need and makes us successful in spite of ourselves. In our humility we give God all of the glory, all of the credit. We are almost painfully aware of how inadequate we are for the task and how God is carrying the load for us. He makes us look good for which we are immensely grateful. Unfortunately, like poor old Uzziah here, we eventually begin to believe in our prowess. We slowly stop giving God the glory and ultimately begin to think that we are the source of our success. Then comes the great fall.  

Proverb 16: 18 reads, “Pride precedes a disaster, and an arrogant attitude precedes a fall” (God’s Word Translation). Arrogance is always a problem and always leads to problems. We need to learn to be confident, yes, but that confidence should reside in knowing who our God is. The minute we begin to believe our own press we are doomed for failure.

I caught myself stepping woefully close to the rim of the great chasm which is pride recently. I have played bridge a couple of times lately. By the grace of God I have enjoyed a bit of success. I don’t play often so even as I acquire a bit of skill it is difficult to maintain any level of proficiency. But I have the good fortune to play with some wonderful partners. Not only are they largely responsible for our success but they also compliment me and build my confidence. They are beautiful people who attempt to build up those around them. I began to believe my own press though and that is very dangerous. All of a sudden I heard myself think, “Hey, maybe I am kinda good.” Praise God that when that thought went through my mind it set off alarm bells. It is not I, who is skillful, but my Lord and God, He carries me. He causes me to be able to do things which I could not do in my power.

Never let yourself be too impressed with yourself. As soon as you do, you are headed for a great fall. Be confident but let your confidence be in the Lord. He really can empower you so that you can do all things but it is only because of his strength, wisdom and guidance. Do not let your success go to your head but instead let it go to your heart and praise the Lord God Almighty.

Jew or Gentile

Isaiah 11: 10       NKJV

And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious.

Did you think that the gentiles coming to Christ was a New Testament idea? Didn’t we all? Apparently, it was not. I really appreciate these consistent pieces of evidence that show that throughout the millennia God has not changed. He had a plan in the beginning before there ever even was an earth and that plan is being fulfilled right now. And, you are, and always were, a part of God’s master plan.  

God raised up a people to be His own but those people were supposed to be a lamp unto the world. The rest of us were supposed to see the majesty of God through their lives. Today, Christians are that lamp. Our lives are supposed to so shine that all people will seek the Christ. His name is a banner to all people saying, “Come. This is the way.” All people are called to Jesus. He is the banner that we lift up and glorify.

But God is the Father of all. There is no one, I mean no one, who is outside the family. That does not mean that everyone chooses to accept their position but it is, none the less, available to them. He had His eye on the Gentiles since the beginning of time so that they might come into the family and live with Him throughout eternity.

I like that because it is indicative of God’s great love for us all. He always meant to include all of humanity. God is love. If we can ever wrap our heads around that everything else will make sense. There was so much turmoil and debate over the Gentiles coming into “the church.” This was a really big issue in the days of Paul. Now we look back to the book of Isaiah and find that it was foretold long before. If the people complaining about the Gentiles had actually paid attention to their holy writings they would have known that this was always in God’s plan. Much conflict could have been avoided. This should inform us today as well. There is no one, no class of people, no segregated group, not even Muslims, left out of God’s plan. Everyone is welcome. Whether Jew or Gentile, all have the banner of his glorious name lifted up for them so that they may seek him and come into the family.

The Contemplative Life

Proverb 20: 15        NIV

Gold there is, and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel.

In reading this verse, I am struck by how out of place it is in today’s culture. First of all, who would say such a thing? Preachers, I think, might still say these sorts of things but that is probably the limit of it. I ask myself why and find many answers vying for my attention. The most pronounced, though, is that this speaks to ideals that are outside our value system. So, what is in our value system or more plainly stated, what is it that we value? That question is most easily answered by observing what we, as a culture, spend our time, energy and money on. The contemplative life does not seem to make the list and seeking out the one person who has made meditative study a priority is even of lesser importance to us.

Individually we get swept up in the tide of the culture, few of us ever stopping long enough to ask ourselves what is really important. There are images painted for us in media, advertising and literature and we integrate those images into our psyche’s and begin to hotly pursue them without ever questioning whether those things have any real value in them or if they add value to our lives. The first realization we have is that we have no time in our lives. Everyone is so busy. We have no time for the real friends so we have to have virtual friends. Our friends and family are nothing more than social media entries. We have no time them much less for quiet study, meditation and contemplation because we have three other places we need to be. But if we could be honest with ourselves for one minute we would have to accept that we are only as busy as our value system allows. We do what is important to us. If we say that we are too busy for any particular thing it is only because we have not placed a high enough value on that item. So, now when I hear someone say they are “too busy” for something in particular I understand that they are really saying that it just is not important enough for them.

I have this picture in my mind of people sitting at the feet of the sage listening intently to words of wisdom. It is a very tranquil image. It is also a fallacy. Even if we purposely slow our lives a bit then ego interferes. We have become a nation of egomaniacs. Who knows better than we? Is there anyone smarter, wiser or more informed than I? If so, do I value that person or shun them? This is not true for everyone for there are some of you who really do have humility but for many of us we ostracize one who has answers and wisdom because our self-esteems are so low that we see their wisdom as a threat. So those of you who do seek out teachers keep gaining knowledge while those of us who so desperately need guidance cannot receive wisdom because of our outsized egos.

Israel had the same problem. People didn’t listen to the prophets even though God spoke to them through the prophet. So they lacked guidance. I am sure they thought they knew it all just as we do today. We don’t need anyone to speak wisdom into our lives because we are the smartest people we know. It is all very cyclical. We think we are wise, or we allow our tiny self-esteems convince us this is so we do not pursue the teachings of those who could, in fact, help us. Secondarily, we have become so deceived by the devil as to what is important that we do not pursue God in our own time. There are few wise people because few people spend time with God. And then those few who actually have made the contemplative life a priority get shunned because they are wiser than the rest of us. Israel suffered greatly because they wouldn’t listen to the prophets but today we are even worse because we won’t even give anyone the title prophet or teacher even when they have been appointed by God to those positions. 

I wish that by writing this Word of the Day I could change the culture but if it provokes one or two people to a deeper life then it will be successful. Those of you who are thoughtful and meditative, pull on your teachers. Make a demand on them. Teachers, your followers have a right to draw on what God is teaching you and you may have to increase your study. It is your responsibility to feed the sheep and Jesus is the bread of life, so study.

If we could just take one month away from our worldly pursuits, away from seeking pleasure and direct that energy to seeking God, we would not only transform our own lives but our families and communities as well. Consider your time, your obligations and your God. Take time to think about what is really important in life. Then allocate some time to the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. Seek out teachers. Honor them and make a demand on their knowledge base. Make the pursuit of the knowledge of God a priority in your life.

Sentry Duty

Psalm 141: 3

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.

Yesterday’s Word was actually a teaching on spiritual warfare. It was about how to survive and even win the battles of life. I can’t leave you with yesterday’s teaching without giving you this verse too because they go so very much hand in hand. As you run into the presence of the Lord the very last thing you should do is explain the problem over and over to him. In truth, He already knows the problem. What He is looking for from you is trust and faith. So, the key thing you have to do is to guard your mouth. Now I know for myself that I don’t necessarily do a very good job of even that in my own strength so the first thing I do is to pray asking for help. Don’t make this hard. Just pray these exact words. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Write this verse on a 3 X 5 card so that you have it handy when you need it. Then just speak it to the Father.

You won’t be surprised, perhaps, to discover that David wrote this psalm in addition to the one from yesterday. (If you missed yesterday’s Word of the Day you can read it at .  It seems to me that he learned that one of the first things you have to do in the day of trouble is shut your mouth.  

When we get upset it seems to loosen the cords that hold our mouth. The first thing that many of us want to do is to call someone and tell him how someone did us wrong. You may feel that if you don’t tell someone you will just explode. I know the feeling. That is why the first thing to do is to pray this verse. Honestly, God will help you. Then get out your Bible and read. Let God lead you into peace.

This is a trick of the devil and we really must stop playing by his playbook. His strategy is to get us upset or angry so that we let loose with our language. When we do that we actually give him building blocks that he can use to defeat us. In a sense we defeat ourselves because we provide the ammo that shoots us down. So, do yourself a big favor. The next time you get mad, someone does you wrong or some ugly problem jumps up in your face, set a sentry over your mouth. Get one of those big dudes to stand guard for you. Put this verse into action and then let the Lord lead you.

Remedy for Trouble

Psalm 27: 4

One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to meditate in His temple.

I have used this verse before but the Lord led me to it today and He showed me some new insights which I would like to share. First, though, let us look at the NIV version of it; “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” This psalm, not surprisingly, was written by David. As I read it today I reflected on all the trouble that David had to deal with. In order to really put this verse in perspective you should read the whole psalm or at least the verse before it and the verse after it. Both the preceding verse and the following verse reveal suffering and concerns of David. In the midst of those challenges, though, David focused on his Lord and God.

David experienced tribulation from every angle. His family was a clear thorn in his side. When we first learn about David his father has neglected to present him to the prophet Samuel who approached Jesse saying that one of his son’s would be king and that he, Samuel, had travelled there to anoint the chosen one. Then we see him at the battle lines with the Philistines. David’s brothers were serving in the army and his father sent him to deliver bread and grain to them. When David volunteered to fight Goliath the scripture records that his oldest brother became angry with him and insulted David. Later in life his own sons betrayed him, sought to kill him and take the throne. His wife hotly criticized him for his dancing before the Lord the day they brought the Ark to the city.

Then there is the whole conflict with Saul. David began his relationship with Saul when Saul asked that David be sent to him in order to play musical instruments and sing for him. David served Saul faithfully. He even refused to kill the tormenting Saul when on several occasions it appeared that God had delivered him into David’s hands. He was devoted to Saul but Saul persecuted him. Isn’t that the way of things?

All of these torments were by the people that loved David. Can you imagine how painful this was for David? And supposedly these were not even his foes but rather his friends, his family. But David had other trials too. First as a warrior and then as king David knew what it meant to have many enemies. There is no author who wrote about being surrounded by enemies as much as did David and there is no author who is more inspiring in his expressions of trusting the Lord through the trials.

Imagine yourself surrounded on every side by enemies and then add to that all of the betrayal by friends and family. That is the context in which David writes these inspired words. I believe that he is saying that the only way for him to survive this turmoil is to put his eyes fixedly on the Lord. David’s response to these attacks was to run into the presence of the Lord. In this context re-read today’s verse. Can you see that David learned that the only way to deal with the enemies and challenges of life is to dwell in the presence of God? I doubt that any of us has ever been under more intense pressure than was David and this is the way God taught him to not only survive all of the threats but to triumph. It is no accident, either, that no other Old Testament author speaks about the Holy Spirit as insightfully or as often as does David. He learned that the only way to deal with these kinds of overwhelming problems is to focus all of your life energy on the Lord. You cannot fight all of the battles. You could never have the strength. And you certainly cannot win. There is only one solution. Jesus! He is the way, the truth and the life. He is the breath that we breathe and the morning sun.

David survived impossible odds. Yes, he made some mistakes, even some big ones but I think you will find that the throne of David has been established and will endure forever and the reason why is because he knew who his strength was and he loved the Lord with all his heart.

This is, I believe, what David is teaching us. Don’t fight the battles. Don’t put your eyes on the enemy. Turn your face to God the Father. Let Him be your righteous sword, your unassailable champion. Even when it looks like the battle is lost and you are going down for the third time, keep your trust and faith in your Father. Do not waiver. Run into his presence, lock yourself in the sanctuary of your heart and behold your salvation.

Christian Leadership

Romans 15: 1 – 2           NIV

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.

This is one of my least favorite scriptures in the Bible. I can hear that voice in the back of my head saying, “So … you think you are a strong Christian, do you? Well, here is what strong, mature Christians do.” Then I look at my life and I am not sure that I measure up and it causes my heart to seize.  

This was written by the Apostle Paul who learned these lessons himself. Then, as though, he just didn’t have time to soften his expression he unleashes this teaching upon us all. One gets the sense from his tone that this is something very important but also urgent. The church was growing by leaps and bounds but there was no leadership in place. Everyone was new so they had to grow up fast and Paul was the leader in teaching spiritual maturity. 

I feel that same sense of urgency today. We are living in the closing chapters of the story and the time is short. I do not believe that we can afford the casual Christianity of our past. We must each put on our big boy pants and grow in the things of the Kingdom. I know that I fall short of the mark but as I look around I am convinced that I am not alone. We have played around with our Christian faith and used it as a convenience rather than adopting it as a lifestyle. Now Paul is calling us to higher ground. Awaken! The time is at hand for all of the children of God to grow into spiritual maturity.

There are three clear mandates in this short passage. Each one of them is a message unto itself but you will have to preach those three messages to yourself since this format does not lend itself to that level of comprehensiveness. First, there is a recognition that there are those who are weak and whose weakness is seen by their spiritual failings, chief among these failings is their inability to live up to this passage. There is an assumption that we are not one of the weak but rather the strong. Everyone was new and weak at one time but by now we should have grown up a bit. So, the first admonition is the carry your brother who is not yet able to stand for himself, bear him up on your shoulders. This necessarily precludes our judging them, by the way.

Second, we are not to spend our energies pleasing ourselves. How, then, do we spend our effort? First in supporting those who are weak and secondly in the third admonition; please your neighbor building him up as you do. We really are not supposed to have ourselves on our minds all of the time. Our thoughts are not to be consumed with our perceived wants and needs. It is God’s job to meet all your needs and you know how to pray. So, you say your prayers thanking God for meeting all of your needs today and then that is the last time you have to think of your needs. Now you can use your mental and physical power meeting the needs of others. You have it in your power to bless others. What are you doing with that power? Look around you. What are the needs of your family members and friends? How can you be a blessing? Are there those at work who could use a spiritually mature person to help them? Of course there are. Everywhere you look today are people you could bless if you should choose to do so.  

It is time for us to go to the next level of growth. Are you with me?

The Essential Prayer

2 Samuel 7: 18

Then David the king went in and sat before the Lord, and he said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that You have brought me this far?

I would like to continue some thoughts on prayer from yesterday’s devotional. Prayer is an interesting topic because everyone knows what prayer is and yet doesn’t seem completely comfortable with their knowledge. All across the country and the world ministers continue to teach on prayer, as did Jesus, because there is so much room for deeper insights.

I like this passage from David because David asks such a basic question, one that probably most people think about at some point in the relationship with God. Who am I, Lord? Another way to think of this is, who am I in relation to you? What is my standing with you, Lord and why do you even show me such kindness? When I wish to study this mystery of an interpersonal relationship with the Lord of Hosts I most often turn to David. He loved God and God actually called him “friend”. Yet, David pondered these same questions that we too stumble over.

When we say the prayer of salvation acceptance and confess Jesus as our Lord and savior a new creature and a new life is born. We are born anew and begin a journey of transformation with our Lord. Being born again is far from the end. It is supposed to be a beginning. We accept discipleship to the Lord Jesus and begin to allow ourselves to become unified with him. This is a fascinating process and not all together easy or comfortable at times, which brings me back to prayer. 

The most powerful prayer we can ever pray is a prayer of submission. In that prayer we can even daily ask the Lord this important question, “Who am I?” Perhaps the question we really want to ask, though, is, “Who am I becoming?” This can be a challenging question, but I know the answer. We are called to allow ourselves to manifest the beautiful creation that God first created. You were made in the very image of Christ himself but as we live in this world that perfect child begins to take on the corruption and taint of the world. That is not to say that you are corrupt but rather that the things of this world get on us and they can be difficult to shake off. Jesus, though, has come to our rescue. He has saved us out of the mire of this world and given us a beautiful new garment. That sounds great, and it is true but how many of you know that there is a transition period? That is why the scripture says, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3: 18).

There is a period of time wherein we allow the transformation to take place within us so that we become the version of ourselves that God saw in the beginning. You will not be changed into someone else. You are just expected to allow the Holy Spirit to work out the transformation within you that reveals the glorious you. We are transformed from glory to glory, from one little success to another. It is a process. It would be great if the Holy Spirit just swept into our hearts and recreated us into that perfect manifestation of Jesus but that is not how it works. None of the three persons of the trinity are ever going to do anything within you without your permission and your participation. Furthermore, transformation does not come from God waving a spiritual wand. As I said, transformation is a process. A caterpillar does not transform into a butterfly in an instant. Now, here is the key piece of information. We are in charge of this personal metamorphosis. We are the captains of this ship. God is not going to change you while you sleep. I wish it worked that way. Instead this is a process of conscious surrender and determined purpose. We have to be dedicated to this process and we must put the car in gear. Having so done, God always supplies the power. This is where prayer at its most basic and perhaps most powerful level is engaged. We must go to the Father in our prayer time and ask for Him to change us. We must prayerfully surrender all of our idols, whether they be our ego, previous injuries and the subsequent scars, our protective walls, our schedules and everything else that would interfere with the transformation process.

This is essential Christianity. It is so easy to get caught up in all of the business of modern life and fail to recognize that Christianity is far more than a one-time prayer. It is not about receiving salvation and accepting the Lordship of Christ in a singular prayer and then never allowing that lordship to impact our lives. Our prayer lives could be much better spent if, instead of praying for our needs, we humbled ourselves before the Almighty and asked Him, “Who am I? Who have you created me to be? Father, I beseech thee, transform me into the image of that vision you have had for me since the dawn of time.” Then we must stop, listen and be honest with ourselves. God will meet you on this sacred ground. He does want to change you and although that sounds very uncomfortable, the truth of it is healing. God will restore you to that healed and perfect you.

As you think about prayer today or when you enter your prayer time think of what significant and important conversation you can have with the Lord. You have the ear of the Almighty; do you really want to talk about trivialities? Look into the heart of God and your own heart and begin to pray this most powerful prayer, “Help me, Lord, to be changed. Help me to embrace this transformation process so that I can be a disciple of yours and follow you wherever you lead.”