Powerless or Powerhouse?

Asa was a good king. He did things the right way. He cleaned house in Judah and got rid of the idols and places of worship that foreign guests had built in the country.

He directed the hearts of the people back to the LORD, and led them to center their minds on the eternal God. He also encouraged them to be obedient to the commandments and follow God’s gracious will for their lives.

For a long time, God blessed Asa’s leadership by keeping the enemies of Judah at bay. And the land of Judah enjoyed a solid season of peace and prosperity.

Of course, peace doesn’t last forever. So Asa — being the wise king that he was — made use of this opportunity to build up a solid defense system. He fortified the walls, towers and gates of the cities of Judah. He also built up his army, until there were almost 600,000 skillful and courageous warriors ready for battle — should a battle come to them.

And come it did. An Ethiopian (Cushite) general named Zerah brought one million troops to the Valley of Zephathah, just one valley over from the Valley of Elah, where Asa’s great-great-grandfather, David, had slain the Philistine giant Goliath.

And where did Asa’s eyes turn when it came time for him to lead his men into battle against a significantly superior force?

Did he find confidence in the many courageous troops standing ready to go to battle before him?

Did he take refuge in the fact that backing him up were the fortified walls and gates of the cities that he had built up (and could run to, if needed)?

Did he pat himself on the back for how obedient to God he had been, and how brilliant his defensive chess moves had been?

No, Asa’s eyes looked up. He prayed and he said, in essence, “Lord, you aren’t impressed by Zerah’s million soldiers. You’re not intimidated by their show of force. Lord, we know you, and we know no mere mortals can stand against you. Without you, we are powerless. But we also know you love to help the powerless. With you on our side, we’re the powerhouse.”

Where do you look when you feel powerless and in trouble? Do you trust that God loves to help the powerless, and that he wants to deliver you from trouble? Do you have the same confidence that if you look up — to the LORD — you will no longer be powerless, but a powerhouse?

I hope so. Because it’s all true!

“Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, “Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. Lord, you are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you” (2 Chronicles 14:11, NIV).

Lord, when I feel powerless and in trouble, I am tempted to look to other places than you for my strength and comfort. I repent of that, and ask for you Holy Spirit’s help to imitate Asa and look only to you. You love to help the powerless, and you have the ability to turn me into a powerhouse. Help me to always look up to you as my help and my refuge.

Our Bible reading for Friday, August 21, is 2 Chronicles 13:1 – 15:19, 1 Corinthians 14:20-40 and Psalm 104:1-8.

Header image based on "power" by Bronson ABbott, CC By-SA 2.0

Unlimited… Even with the Limits On.

Sometimes we feel like our situation or circumstances limit us. And that can be hard to take. We like to live our lives without limits.

But often the limits are not nearly as limiting as we think they are.

Paul demonstrated this when he came to Rome and was placed under house arrest, with a Roman soldier guarding him. It would have been easy for Paul to cave and think that this would hinder him from accomplishing his goal of sharing Christ with the Romans.

But instead, Paul maintained his focus on his purpose — glorifying God and sharing Christ. He wore Jesus’ heart on his shirtsleeve, and was warm and welcoming to any who came to visit him. And he used the exceptionally powerful weapon that he had at his disposal — the gospel.

He simply went about his business, and didn’t let the imposed limitations disturb him or distract him from his appointed mission.

When we remember that our real purpose in life is to glorify God in all that we do, limitations don’t seem so limiting any longer. Paul could glorify God from his rented house in Rome.

When we recall that our job description is always, “Love!” the limitations fall away because we can show the love of Jesus wherever we are.

When we wield the powerful word of God as Paul did — it’s the sword of the Spirit! — we realize that all we ever need to accomplish our mission is to teach about the Lord Jesus Christ. Wherever we might be, we can do that with boldness and without hindrance.

We become unlimited, just like Paul did, even when serious limits might seem — to the casual observer — to be present.

“For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!” (Acts 28:30-31, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Saturday, July 11, is 2 Kings 22:1 – 22:20, Acts 28:17-31 and Proverbs 16:28 – 17:4.

Jesus, help me to move beyond all limitations — whether self-imposed, or imposed by others — and continue to share you and your salvation boldly with others.

Header image based on "Fenced In" by Jeff Golden, CC By-SA 2.0

Over-Promise? Not God!

An angel named Gabriel came with a message for Mary. She would be the mother of the Messiah. This was an amazing statement. Because the Messiah would also be the Son of God. And he would be the Savior of the world. And a King whose kingdom would never end.

Quite the promises! Mary was astonished at the words that fell from the angel’s lips. First, she was troubled in her heart. Then came bewilderment. Had this guy never heard of making promises you can’t keep?

After all the amazing and confusing things that Gabriel told her, there was one phrase that seemed to turn the tables for Mary.

For no word from God will ever fail” (Luke 1:37, NIV).

Gabriel’s reminder to Mary was that when God says something, you can bank on it. That’s a reminder we also need, isn’t it? We especially need that reminder when it comes to having a Savior named Jesus.

We hear so many confusing, competing, “promise-the-world” messages in our world today. So we don’t always know what we can bank on and what we can’t. We sometimes feel much the way Mary did — astonished, bewildered and confused.

And let’s face it. A time or two we’ve probably even been guilty of this ourselves. We’ve sent messages that confuse or over-promise.

What Gabriel wanted Mary to know — and you to know — is that God cannot over-promise. No word he speaks to you will ever fail.

You can bank on that. Even better yet, you can bank on him.

Our Bible reading for Saturday, March 14, is Numbers 1:1 – 2:9, Luke 1:26-38 and Psalm 33:12-22.

Father, thank you for giving me your words and promises. I love knowing I can rely on them. I get great peace from having somewhere I can go and be perfectly confident in what’s being said. Most of all, thank you for Jesus. He is the One in whom I confidently find forgiveness and salvation.

Header image based on "Promise?" by Carmella Fernando, CC By 2.0

Next Time You See Me

Jesus had been arrested and was being interrogated by the High Priest, the highest appointed religious leader of the Jews. Clearly, this official didn’t want to accept what he’d been hearing about Jesus.

Some of the people were making what he considered to be outlandish claims about the man. Naturally, he wanted to know if Jesus would dare make the same claims for himself. So he asked Jesus point-blank: “Are you the Messiah? Are you the Son of God?”

Even today people will say things like, “Jesus was just another man — just like you and me. Yeah, he was a good man and a wise man. But that’s all. He never really claimed to be the Son of God. He never made himself out to be ‘the Chosen One’ or ‘the world’s Savior.'”

Well, those who believe that might want to take a second look. The gospel writer, Mark, records what happened when Jesus was confronted directly with these claims by the High Priest.

He demanded to know. Were these things he was hearing just the misguided assertions of others? Or did Jesus himself make these claims?

Not only did Jesus clearly answer the High Priest’s direct question. He also promised him, “The next time you see me, there will be absolutely no doubt in your mind who or what I am!”

“Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ 

‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven'” (‭Mark‬ ‭14‬:‭61b-62‬, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Monday, March 9, is Leviticus 19:1 – 20:27, Mark 14:43-72 and Proverbs 6:30-35.

Lord, some are reluctant to recognize who you are right now. But I know that when you return, every knee will bow before you. I am sorry for the all too frequent times when I fail to recognize you as the Son of God by taking my sins too lightly. Help me not to treat your grace as cheap. Thank you for being my Savior. I eagerly await your glorious return and my release from sin and the pain of this fallen world.

Header image based on "Interrogation" by Kapoutsis, CC By 2.0

A Stark Contrast

Know your path, the Bible teaches us. Because there’s a stark contrast in the two paths we can follow in life. One is well-worn, one traveled lightly.

The destinations differ too. One leads to emptiness and destruction. No, that emptiness and destruction does not always arrive in this life. But, yes, always at some point it does.

The other path, less-frequented, runs beside the “brook” we call the Bible. That path, the author of Psalm 1 declares, leads to fulfillment, hope, and most of all, life.

That’s because that path leads us to Jesus, to the cross, and ultimately, to the empty tomb.

And finally, the company we travel with will differ. One path has people who trust what they read in the Bible. Sometimes they trust boldly, but often meekly. 

The other path has those who do not trust. Sometimes they doubt quietly and respectfully but often, sadly, they doubt with derision and contempt.

Where will you walk in 2015?

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lordand who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction” (Psalm 1:1-6, NIV).

Guide my steps and the steps of the ones I love along the path that runs beside your word. Help me to delight in your law, O Lord. Most of all, may 2015 be a year of meditating on your grace as you reveal it to me in the gospel.

Our reading for Thursday, January 1, is Genesis 1:1 – 2:17, Matthew 1:1-25 and Psalm 1:1-6.