Commitment


1 Chronicles 5-9 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He carefully planned for the security and care of His Temple

I have had the privilege of meeting some of the most outstanding pastors, missionaries and evangelists of our time.  Life has just afforded me that honor, and I’m grateful to have met them and to have sat under their ministries. If you would ask who I considered to be the most faithful man or woman in the work of the church in my lifetime, it would be difficult to choose.  It could be a missionary hero like Mark Buntain who changed the future of so many in Calcutta, the great evangelist David Wilkerson whose ministry rocked the drug culture of our nation, Reinhard Bonnke and his powerful evangelism of Africa or it could be a church custodian I knew by the name of Bob. 

@ 1 Chronicles 9
“In all, there were 212 gatekeepers in those days…David and Samuel the seer had appointed their ancestors because they were reliable men.” (22)  In the verses that follow we learn the role of the gatekeepers who opened the Temple doors in the morning, protected and cared for the Temple furnishings and utensils, oversaw the entrance and those who entered, took care of the money, made sure supplies were available for the priests, provided the showbread for the offerings and finally closed the doors of the Temple at night.  We may call them gatekeepers, custodians or even janitors, but all those who follow after them in this role serve the house of the Lord with faithfulness.

Bob was the custodian at my church when I was growing up.  He opened the church early Sunday mornings long before Sunday School began and stayed to lock up until the very last souls left the building late that evening, which usually included my mom, my sister and me.  Mom was a prayer warrior. Every time we came to church for any event on any given day we walked into a spotless building, every chair in place, paper goods always provided in the restrooms, communion set ready to go…Bob was reliable, Bob was amazing.  We always knew where he was by the jingle of his keys and the song he was humming.  Bob smiled through the messes his fellow parishioners made and smiled even when we stayed late at night.  Bob served his church for many, many years and is one of the most faithful men in the work of the church that I have ever known.

Our churches are filled with workers just like Bob who receive few accolades for their faithful service – janitors, ushers, nursery workers, Sunday school teachers, offering counters, sound men and pew fillers.  Oh, the list is endless.  Most are volunteers, some receive some small remuneration; but, trust me, it’s not enough.  However, Someone sees everything they do and is keeping record of it.  God was concerned enough about His Temple that He gave detailed instructions about its security, care and maintenance, and we can be sure that He sees every moment spent on something that is so close to His heart.

Some day when God divvies out all the eternal rewards, Bob is going to get a boatload, as well as all of God’s many other faithful gatekeepers.  In the meantime, we would bless the Lord by praying for these faithful servants and by sending notes of thanks and sharing kind words of gratitude to the many Bobs in our churches who serve us so very faithfully.  “Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” (Proverbs 16:24) 

Moving Forward: My prayer today is special blessings for the gatekeeper and servants at my church, followed up by words of thanks. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 96-98

Daniel 1-6 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: “He is the living God and He will endure forever, He rescues and saves his people.”

I developed a Chicken Salad recipe several years ago that has become somewhat infamous in my little world.  It has very simple ingredients and is easy to make, but there are some necessary steps involved that give it the taste that everyone seems to enjoy.  I’ve given the recipe out to dozens of women and men alike and even posted it on my website.  Occasionally, someone will say they made the chicken salad, but it just didn’t taste the same as what I had made.  My response is always the same, “Did you follow all the steps and not compromise?”  Well, they just thought it would be easier to skip toasting the pecans or decided not to chop those golden raisins.  They ended up with a chicken salad that wasn’t the real deal.  Compromise will do that to you…fortunately, this is just chicken salad.

The book of Daniel gives the stories of men who would not compromise their faith in God.  Life would have been a great deal easier for them if they had just been willing to politely eat the food put before them, skip the prayer time or bow to the statue for just a split second.  But no, they decided to follow the recipe step by step, and when it was all said and done, they were the real deal.

When facing the fiery furnace because of their refusal to bow to the golden statue, the captive Hebrew young men responded, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” (3:16-18)  No compromise!  At the risk of death!  Likewise, to the edict that prayers could be offered only to King Darius, Daniel responded by opening his windows and praying to the true and living God.  No compromise!  God’s response to these faithful children living as captives in a foreign land was to give them great favor and promotion.

We practice compromise almost every day when we negotiate a deal, agree on who is taking the kids to school and even when driving through traffic – after all, yielding our right of way is easier than having an accident.  But when it comes to our faith and the standards by which we live, there’s no room for compromise if we want to be the real deal for Him. When we live without compromise we may face some ridicule, we may lose some friends or we may even lose the job promotion.  After all, Daniel did spend some time in the lion’s den, but fortunately, he didn’t stay for lunch!

Shocked and thrilled by the outcome for Daniel, heathen King Darius’ life was touched by God’s faithfulness to Daniel, and we read in 6:25-27, “Then King Darius sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world:  ‘Peace and prosperity to you!  I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel. For he is the living God and he will endure forever.  His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his rule will never end.  He rescues and saves his people; He performs miraculous signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.’”  And the best news today is – God hasn’t changed! 

Moving Forward: “I have decided to live like a believer, turn my back on the deceiver, I’m gonna live what I believe…” (M.Card)  No compromise! 

Tomorrow @ John 3-4

Luke 21-22 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He prays that we will remain faithful in the face of temptation

I told my children when they were young that if they were accused of something by someone, they needed to understand one thing: I knew that it was possible for them to be guilty of anything they were accused of.  I would hope in my heart that it wasn’t true, but I would seek out the truth.  I imagine this mindset came from serving for decades in youth ministry and encountering the moms or dads who refused to believe that their son or daughter could be guilty of anything.  Be assured, this attitude did not serve their children well.  In this same way, I believe that it is possible for me to fail in any sin, but I hope in my heart that I will not.  Peter, however, was in denial…on two counts. 

@Luke 22
In the timeline before His death, Jesus was approaching Calvary and had just shared a time of fellowship and instruction at the Last Supper.  From the Gospels we know that Jesus declared to His disciples that they would all desert Him during this time of trial.  This news was met by opposition by Peter, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.’ But Jesus said, ‘Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” (Luke 14:33-34)  “No!’ Peter declared emphatically. ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!’” (Mark 14:31)

I would have thought that Peter was mature enough by this time to know that never and always are fighting words in any setting.  When we say in a dialogue, “I always…I never…you always…you never,” we should get ready to rumble.  Satan was right there to take Peter on. In fact, Jesus had just predicted it. “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” (31-32) But when the moment came to accept the Lord’s warning and proceed with caution, Peter felt he was too committed to the Lord, too strong to fail.  He thought he would never deny the Lord.

Of course, we know that he did deny Him; then, after the third denial, “And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.  At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: ‘Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.’ And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.” (61-62)

When the enemy throws a temptation my way to deny the Lord or to fail Him, I hope I will remember the failure that followed Peter’s arrogance.  Paul expressed it this way in I Corinthians 10:12-13, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”  We will never see the way out that the Lord provides if we think we would never need it. It just won’t be on our radar.  And may I add, the thought of the Lord looking at me in the midst of my failure as He did with Peter is one I can hardly bear.

The good news in this story for Peter as well as for us is that Jesus is praying for us when we face temptation (32), and if we will accept His help with humility, we will be victorious.  Peter repented and went on to be a powerful leader in the emerging church, proving that there is hope for all of us! 

Moving Forward: What an assurance I have that in the face of any temptation Jesus is praying for me to remain faithful.  I move forward today accepting His prayer and His cautions with the knowledge that He’s looking at me. 

Tomorrow @ I Thessalonians 1-3

2 Kings 11-15 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He sees our good deeds, but rewards our strong and faithful finish

As somewhat of an overachiever in school, my dismay at discovering an Incomplete on my college grades one semester was huge.  How did it happen?  This was unacceptable!  After investigation, I found that someone, a professor who will remain nameless, had lost my final term paper, leaving my classroom work unfinished, incomplete, undone.   Of course as dramatic as this was for me, it pales in comparison to, say, Schubert’s The Unfinished Symphony, or Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales.  However, my term paper eventually was recovered, and I received the grade I desired.  And these two gentlemen? Well let’s just say that they have some work left to do.

Today we read about a number of other men who failed to complete the task they had started, and the repercussions were much more impacting than incomplete grades, symphonies and novels.  The kings of Judah, namely Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah and Jotham, started their reigns on the right track but didn’t finish strong, “Joash did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight…Yet even so, he did not destroy the pagan shrines, and the people still offered sacrifices and burned incense there.” (12:2-3)  This was said about each of these kings.  Many of them accomplished good things for Israel, but did not complete the work that needed to be done as their forefather David had done in removing the occult places of worship and sacrifice.  Why didn’t they finish the job, complete the task, do the deed?

As for Joash, he became king at the ripe age of 7.  The priest, Jehoiada, influenced much of Joash’s early years, including the repairing of the temple.  Perhaps they felt that with the temple once again a beautiful house of worship, the Israelites would soon forget about the pagan shrines, but it didn’t happen.  It would have been wiser destroying the sin rather than ignoring it with hope that it would just go away.  When we don’t deal with sin, it somehow manages to rear its ugly head somewhere down the line.  Eventually Joash worshipped at the shrines himself.  Ugh.

Popularity may have been an issue for the kings.  The Israelites loved their pagan shrines and the immoral festivities that took place around them, and certainly any king who destroyed them would suffer drastically in the polls.  However, I would think these kings would have preferred unpopularity over the murder and disease that finally took them. The story could have ended differently for these leaders had they completed their tasks and finished strong.

Rather than accomplishing just a few good things in my life and then falling off the wagon because of sin or seeking popularity instead of godliness, I’m challenged to finish strong for Him.  I want to say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” (2 Timothy 4:7)  No more incompletes for me! 

Moving Forward: May I remain faithful to Him, not only finishing the job, but finishing strong! 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 84-86

Proverbs 7 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He calls us to a pure and moral life

Triple chocolate fudge cake with chocolate mousse filling…can you see it?  I see it every time I pass by the dessert counter at my favorite restaurant.  It’s not content to just sit there on the counter.  No, it calls to me. In fact, it walks right up to me dressed in its seductive ganache icing, surrounded by a blanket of silky sauce and a perfumed dusting of cocoa.  I inhale its fragrance, and it’s as if I hear it say, “You are alone and no one will ever know you allowed my sweet creamy mousse to kiss your lips, you deserve it.”

Seduced by its smooth flattery and clever words, I eat it, and then I am immediately filled with remorse, remembering “a moment on the lips, forever on the hips” and all the things I know to be true.  I vow to never eat it again…until next time…when I walk that way again and it calls to me…triple chocolate fudge cake with chocolate mousse filling…can you hear it?

All that to say that I understand seduction.  Although too many fudge cakes may send me to an early grave, there are seductions that will send me to an eternal grave. In Proverbs 7, Solomon warned his sons about the road that leads to the grave through seduction.  A much weightier subject than cake.

The way of the temptress is something to reckon with amid the vast array of seductive tools the enemy has at his disposal today.  When I started in ministry 45 years ago, adultery was something that happened in society but was frowned on and discouraged. Today, it is accepted as a part of social living by many and often celebrated throughout the media.  Men and women alike have yielded to the seductive call of the immoral man or woman, leaving behind precious children caught in the fray.

After counseling hundreds of hurting young people over the years, I can promise that there is not a man or woman on the planet worthy of sacrificing the security and peace of these dear ones – not one.  They may act as though everything is great; but believe me, for most, it is not.

“Follow my advice, my son; always treasure my commands.  Obey my commands and live!  Guard my instructions as you guard your own eyesTie them on your fingers as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart.”(1-3) When I married and the beautiful wedding ring was placed on my finger, it wasn’t meant to be an ornament.  It was intended to be a safeguard, a watchman if you will, to keep me from sin as I remember its significance.

The ring, a circle without beginning or end, symbolizes eternal agape love that is not threatened by the seductress or seducer.  “So listen to me, my sons [and daughters], and pay attention to my words…Don’t wander down her wayward path.  For she has been the ruin of many…her house is the road to the grave.” (25-27)  Don’t wander over to the dessert counter, don’t go down the path to ruin Solomon warned.  Heed the watchman.

Moving Forward: I cherish my wedding ring today and all that it symbolizes – eternal love and fidelity and the commitment to God’s morality, written deep within my heart. 

Tomorrow @ Ezekiel 13-18

Philippians 1-2 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He empowers us to do what pleases Him 

@ Philippians 1
What a treat it is when we attempt to encourage someone who is going through a difficult time and find ourselves encouraged the most! This is probably how the Philippians felt when they read Paul’s letter to them.  The Philippians were his first congregation on the European continent and his affection for them is obvious. “Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.” (3)  I feel this same way about so many people in my life.

The Philippians had supported him throughout his ministry, including his time in prison where he sat writing his letter to them.  I’m sure their hearts were breaking for this father of their faith who had nurtured them and was now in prison for sharing that very faith. Their gifts and messages sent through Epaphroditus – never will I complain about my name again – were no doubt intended to lift his spirits and encourage him.  His response was the joyful letter of Philippians.

Just like a father would do, Paul encouraged them to continue to mature and grow in the Lord regardless of their concern about his prison confinement.  “I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.  For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives…” (9-10)  Don’t worry about my state of affairs and what I am going through, but press on and you will understand what really matters in life.

“I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die.  For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” (20-21)  We can tell if we have discovered what really matters in life by how tightly we hold on to this world and what it has to offer.  Paul had let go.

Oh, that I would always view the trials I face with the heart and attitude of Paul, “And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News.  For everyone here…knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.” (12-14)

What if Paul had responded to his chains with depression and fear, disillusioned by his situation?  The local Christians in Rome, who would soon face great persecution themselves, would have no role model of tenacious faith to follow.  There would be no encouraging letter to the Philippians that we so often quote and receive blessing from today.  Thank you, Paul, for showing us what really matters. 

@ Philippians 2
Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.  For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.” (12)  When we reverence God and obey Him, the same power that raised Christ from the dead (Rom 8:11) and the power that changed Saul to Paul will empower us to do what pleases Him, to do what really matters.  Just as Paul was not alone sitting in that prison cell, we are not alone in our trial.  We can respond to our trial with the same heart and attitude as Paul because of what God is accomplishing within us. 

Moving Forward:  With God working in me today, I am empowered to face this day with tenacious faith, living His example of one who knows what really matters in life – the eternal side of living. 

Tomorrow @ Leviticus 7-9

Luke 13-14 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He asks that we count the cost of following Him, loving Him more than any other 

@ Luke 14
Within our cache of junk mail, we all have received the seemingly innocuous credit card offers.  What a deal!  Free annual fee, 0% interest for about two minutes followed by a monthly pint of blood and extortive interest rates.  Well, somebody has to pay for it!  We would be wise to count the cost of this incredible offer – some offers just are not what they appear to be.

On the other hand, we all have been offered an amazing opportunity that is not only more than what it appears to be, but more than we can even imagine:  free paid membership, life-long eligibility as per the agreement, including out-of-this-world dividends – literally.  However, before we sign on the dotted line, it would be good to read all the print. There will be some dues to be paid as well as commitment to the everything stipulation.  In spite of this, the offer is miraculous, and there’s really nothing like it anywhere.

“If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison…carry your own cross and follow me…count the cost…giving up everything you own,” Jesus explained to the large crowd following Him that day. (26-33) While these requirements to His offer may seem difficult, this blog couldn’t begin to hold all the blessings that result from our acceptance of His offer – abundant life here on earth and eternal life in heaven, just to name a couple of them.

We can easily understand the examples Jesus gave of the builder, the king and the importance of counting the cost to follow Him.  And because of the example of Jesus at Calvary, we can somewhat understand what it means to carry our own cross and the willingness to follow Him even to death.  Many throughout history have followed Him to this very end, and others are walking this path today. Does He really require us to hate our families and friends? In comparison to our love and devotion to Him, it may appear that way at times.

The giving Him everything stipulation is a tangible, hardcore, giving of all that we are, all that we ever will be, all that we have and all that we ever will have.  The truth is that our everything could not be in better hands—He gives back to us what we need, when we need it and how we need it.  We couldn’t find a better life coach and financial planner anywhere!  More importantly, He is our Creator, the One who knows us better than anyone else does and the One who knows our tomorrow.

Jesus desires that we count the cost of following Him so that our passion and enthusiasm is authentic and eternal.  The offer is this:  “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  When counting the cost, how can we can we not consider His incredible offer!

Moving Forward: Today I renew my commitment to the cost of following Him, regardless of the path it takes. I’m yours, Lord, everything I am or ever hope to be, everything I have or ever hope to have.  I love Him most. 

Tomorrow @ Philippians 1-2

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