Get Your Bucket!

Isaiah does something interesting as he writes. At certain points in his prophetic narrative he breaks into songs of praise. Isaiah 12 is one of those places where he switches from prophecy to worship.

Writing in 700 B.C., Isaiah knew that God had a right to be angry. The Jews have been rebellious against God. They have chased idols. They have measured their life’s success not by their closeness to God, but rather by their own personal power, prestige, possessions, positions and playthings.

But one day that will all end, and their lives will once again center on the Lord. One day they will turn back and experience God’s grace and forgiveness. They will understand that salvation is theirs, as a gift from the Son of God, the Messiah long-promised.

What a day that will be! Because that day will bring the demise of fear, and the rise of faith. It will replace all weakness with true strength. It will replace hurt and sadness with joy and peace.

Isaiah taught that all this would be the result of “drawing water from the wells of salvation.”

Today, 2,700 years later, it’s still critical to draw water from the wells of salvation. But in 2015, we call it being regular at worship, joining a growth group or Bible study, making regular use of the sacraments, finding a time and a place in our daily schedules for personal devotions and prayer, and making Christian music and hymns part of our regular listening repertoire.

That’s how we come to live by faith rather than fear. It’s how we replace puny, weak spiritual muscles with big, strong spiritual muscles. It’s how we find our joy again, maybe even when it seemed to us to be lost forever.

Get your bucket. That’s the well we definitely want to be drinking from!

“In that day you will say: ‘I will praise you, Lord. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.’ With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:1-3, NIV).

Lord, you are amazing. Thank you that you not angry with me for my many sins. Help me by your Spirit’s power to constantly draw from the wells of salvation. You are my Savior. You are my strength and my defense against the devil, the world and my own sinful flesh. I will trust in you and not be afraid.

Our Bible reading for Sunday, September 6, is Isaiah 10:20 – 13:22, 2 Corinthians 8:16 – 9:5 and Psalm 105:37-45.

Header image based on "Thor's Well" by Bill Young, CC By 2.0

From One Generation to the Next

Asaph must have been a parent.

How can we guess this? Because we can hear the determination in the Psalm-writer’s voice when it comes to sharing the word of God with the next generation. The emotion here is so strong, it certainly appears to have been personal for Asaph.

And it may well have been a key motivation for his authoring so many of these songs we call the Psalms.

His children would know the Lord. His children would be taught all the the powerful things that the Lord had done. They would not only know them, but want to pass them on to the next generation after that!

What a powerful encouragement for us — to keep our hearts and minds on our own children today. Whether young or old, we still want our children today to trust the Lord, not forgetting his deeds, and keeping his commands.

As parents (or grandparents) this means surrounding our children with the word, and especially with the gospel. It means leading them to the waters of baptism. It means living our faith in Jesus in such a way that it is just a natural, normal part of everyday life. It means surrounding them with Christian friends and teachers. It means encouraging them in their faith and giving them the tools they need to “own” their own faith.

No one can ever guarantee what a child will do with such an upbringing. But we know this: God’s word and sacraments are powerful tools of the Holy Spirit. And he is the One responsible for creating and maintaining faith.

And let’s never forget this: The Savior-God who is as powerful as Asaph describes him to be, and as loving as the cross demonstrates him to be — he loves our children exponentially more than we do!

“We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lordhis power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands” (Psalm 78:4-7, NIV).

Lord, draw our children’s hearts to you. Help us to teach them your word, and share especially the beautiful gospel of Jesus Christ with them. And then, keep watch over them, so that if they wander, you will relentlessly search them out and draw them back to yourself.

Our Bible reading for Wednesday, June 24, is 1 Kings 12:25 – 14:20, Acts 16:1-15 and Psalm 78:1-8.

Header image based on "child 3" by ann_jutatip, CC By 2.0

Why the Bible?

People have many theories about why the Bible was written.

Some think of it as merely a collection of spiritual fables. Some think it is an instruction book for improving morality. Some think it’s just good classic literature, helpful for understanding Western culture’s religious thinking and Judeo-Christian ethic.

But the authors, the ones who actually did the writing, tell us that they wrote for an entirely different reason. They had a clear purpose in mind.

They believed firmly that they had met and followed the Son of God, the Savior of the world. They believed they had encountered the one who holds the power over life and death, and the authority to open the gates of eternity to mankind.

They believed Jesus when he said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” So they did not want to keep this information to themselves. They wanted to share it with the world.

So they wrote. And the Bible was the end result. As John the apostle tells us, their purpose was to share life — eternal life.

“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Monday, June 1, is 2 Samuel 1:1 – 2:7, John 20:10-31 and Proverbs 13:20 – 14:4.

Lord, thank you for giving us the Bible. Thank you for John and the other authors who followed you, and recorded your acts. Send me your Spirit that I may believe that you are the Son of God, my Savior, and my Lord, and have eternal life.

Header image based on "bible and ball cap" by Eric Golub, CC By 2.0

When Life Truly Begins

Sometimes it feels like we’re in a holding pattern, just waiting for life to get started.

Life will begin when we finally get to high school. Or is it college?

Life will really get started when we graduate and get that first big job. Or maybe it’s when we — at last! — meet that woman (or man) of our dreams, our soul-mate, our life’s companion.

Or maybe life will truly commence once I’ve achieved financial freedom. Then again, it could be when my health issue is resolved. Or is it when I finally get to retire and travel the world? No, no, I mean move to that cabin in the woods.

Or is it a beach house?

Surely, that’s when life truly begins.

Jesus has a different take. He tells us that life — true, eternal life — begins the moment the Holy Spirit moves our heart to trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. And how does the Holy Spirit move our hearts? The Spirit moves when we listen to Jesus’ word!

That’s what the Creator of all life tells us. We give life a chance to commence when we put ourselves in position to listen to the Bible. And true life begins when faith in Jesus begins. At that moment, as Jesus says, we “cross over from death to life!”

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life” (‭John‬ ‭5‬:‭24‬ NIV).

Our Bible reading for Thursday, May 7, 2015 is Judges 6:1 – 7:8a, John 5:16-30 and Psalm 57:7-11.

Lord Jesus, thank you for giving me life. I no longer have to wait for it. You have already granted it to me, when you sent your Spirit to give me faith in you!

Authentic

How important it is to hear the voice of Jesus, to tune in to the words of the Son of God. We can trust what Jesus says, and stop living in fear. We can know that what he says is true and real, and not worry so much what everyone else has to say.

The beauty is this. Now when we need true wisdom, we can listen to just one voice, and tune out the rest. His words are the words we will lift up and praise. His words are the words that will shield us from harm. His words put our fears to rest.

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4, NIV).

Jesus’ words are convincing. That’s because his words are real, and that authenticity inspires faith.

“And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.'” (John 4:41-42, NIV).

It’s so important that we carve out time every day to listen to Jesus’ voice. As we do so, his Spirit enters our hearts, and he persuades and convinces us that Jesus is real. And he especially assures us that Jesus is real help in times of trouble.

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, May 5, is Judges 2:6 – 3:31, John 4:27-42 and Psalm 56:1-13.

Lord Jesus, your words are real, and they are the words of eternal life. Send me your Spirit to help me take your authentic words into my heart and trust you as the Savior of the world.

Header image based on "Real" by takomabibelot, CC By 2.0

Found, and Held Fast

Charles Duhigg, in his book The Power of Habit, calls them “keystone habits.” These are single habits or patterns that, once successfully established, will “pay forward” and help us create other positive, productive habits and patterns in our lives.

It can be something apparently small. Did you know, for instance, that people who have the keystone habit of making their bed in the morning tend to be more organized and focused in other areas of their lives–making them more successful than the general population?

It can also be something very big. Making a habit of searching for God’s wisdom is one of those keystone habits, according to Solomon, the author of Proverbs. It’s extremely profitable to find and hold on to wisdom, he says. In fact, “nothing you desire can compare with her” is Solomon’s big claim for the Lord’s wisdom.

Really? Nothing?

That’s what Solomon says. And he guarantees that blessings will follow our acquisition of that wisdom.

As you’ll see in just a moment, Solomon makes a lot of promises about wisdom. They are huge promises. The thing is, right now in our daily readings (see below), we are also reading the book of Job. So we know that sometimes these blessings are not received immediately. Sometimes, in fact, big blessings from the past can even be stripped away.

That’s why it’s important to remember what Paul tells us in the book of 2 Corinthians: “For we live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7, NIV). And that applies here too. We seek God’s wisdom and its accompanying blessings by faith. Even when we don’t see the results right away, we know that they will come. If they don’t come today, then tomorrow they will. If they don’t come tomorrow, then next week, next month or next year.

And even if they never come in this life, faith in Christ teaches us that they will certainly come in eternity. So find wisdom, and hold it fast!

“Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed” (Proverbs 3:13-18, NIV).

Jesus, I believe that when I find your wisdom, I find everything. Your word is the one thing necessary. Bless me with your wisdom as I read your word and put it into practice in my life–by faith.

Our Bible reading for Wednesday, January 28, is Job 8:1 – 10:22, Matthew 19:16-30 and Proverbs 3:11-20.

Header image based on "Bible" by Sebastian, CC by 2.0

Wrestle God Down.

It’s so interesting when one Bible passage informs another. It might be two different books of the Bible, written by different authors, written hundreds of years apart even. But when you lay the two passages alongside one another, they show us exactly what God desires for us, and from us.

Today the lesson is this: Sometimes it’s just about grabbing hold and not letting go. Jacob wrestled with God, and God could not overpower him. God even wrenched Jacob’s hip out of his socket, and still Jacob wouldn’t let go.

“So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’ But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me'” (Genesis 32:24-26, NIV).

Wow. Really? I will not let you go unless you bless me. That’s saying something, isn’t it? This guy is Navy SEAL tough when it comes to getting God to bless him.

In Proverbs 2, Solomon writes to us. And while he uses different language, he means exactly the same thing. Grab hold, don’t let go. Don’t release him, or his wisdom, until he blesses you.

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding—indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:1-5, NIV).

God, I will wrestle you down!

Our reading for Friday, January 16, is Genesis 32:1 – 33:20, Matthew 12:22-45 and Proverbs 2:1-11.

Header image based on "Four Soldiers Make Team USA" by U.S. Army, CC by 2.0