Monthly Archives: January, 2011

Savoring the Savior in the Psalms: Psalm 15

There is a very strong possibility that I will not receive a phone call today from the President of Egypt, seeking my advice on how to deal with the civil unrest in his country.  I probably won’t receive an email from President Obama, asking my counsel on how to help our nation’s economy.  Today I simply am not going to change the world nor aide anyone else in his attempt to do so.  That’s not my calling.  Instead of doing the big stuff which makes the news, God wants me to do the little stuff.  He wants me to be faithful today.  I was reminded of that calling as I read Psalm 15.  It’s a relatively short Psalm.  David begins with the question, “Lord, who may dwell in Your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill” (15:1)?  Isn’t that a great question?!  David wants to know who is qualified to worship in the tabernacle.  Perhaps the greater issue relates to our relationship with God.  Maybe David could have worded the question:  “With whom is God pleased?”  The answer is: “He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend;  in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change;  who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved” (Ps. 15; ESV).  With whom is God pleased?  He is pleased with those who walk faithfully, striving to do the right thing at the right time in the right way for the right reasons.  This is walking blamelessly, doing what is righteous (15:2) especially in our relationships (15:2-5).  Let me put it this way:  God is pleased when we are faithful to Him and to others.  I particularly like the concept stated in verse four: “who keeps his oath even when it hurts” (NIV). This could be translated, “who keeps his promises even if it costs him greatly.”  Faithfulness in relationships honors and pleases God, and it proves that we are Jesus’ disciples (Jn. 13:35).  Speaking of Jesus–the life of integrity described in this Psalm is impossible without Him.  We cannot do what is righteous (15:2) apart from His miraculous, saving work within.  We will not honor those who fear the Lord if we do not cherish (value) the Lord (15:4).  If I walk blamelessly to any extent today, if I do anything that would appropriately be described as righteous, if I speak truth (15:2), bless my neighbor (15:3), or honor anyone (15:4), it is because of Christ and what Christ has done in me and through me for His glory!

Reflections on the Quest: A Competitor for my Love

One week from today my Green Bay Packers will be playing the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl.  My family is more than a little bit excited about the game.  I trust that my thoughts about my team and the upcoming game will occupy some of my attention over the next seven days.  However, I need to be on my guard lest I think more about football than I do about my God and Savior!  Matthew records for us a very insightful event in the life of Jesus.  After Jesus shut the mouths of the Sadducees, the Pharisees sent a lawyer to see if he could trap our Lord in His words (some things never change).  Most of you probably remember the interaction.  The lawyer asked, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” (Mt. 22:26)  To his suprise, Jesus quoted Moses.  He said, “You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart, and with all your soul, and will all your mind” (22:37 [Mark adds “with all your strength” in 12:30]).  Jesus quoted from “the Great Shema” (Dt. 6:4,5), a passage which challenged the Israelites on the verge of entering the Promised Land to love God with their whole being.  Jesus told the lawyer that the greatest of all commandments is to love God supremely.  He is most deserving.  In Sunday School this morning, we briefly discussed the competitors for our love.  Some of them are good gifts of God (family, food, football).   Others are actually enemies of God.  The Apostle Paul listed three in 2 Timothy–love of self (3:2), love of money (3:2) and fleshly pleasure (3:4).  A few years later, the Apostle John told his friends to not love the world (1 Jn. 2:15).  Without a doubt, we are continually bombarded with temptation.  “Whom do you love?”  I asked that rhetorical question last week to my wife, and my little girl who was perched upon her lap replied, “Mine kitty cat.”  My point exactly!  Far too often we cherish the gifts more than the Giver of those gifts.  I do love football, and I especially love the team I have cheered since I was my daughter’s age.  But I do love Christ more because of His person and His works.  Football teams disappoint.  Jesus satisfies me today and He’ll do so for an eternity.  I hope you have come to the same realization. 

Thanks for stopping by!

Aiming the Arrows: Parenting is difficult because children are devious

Anyone who says that parenting is easy either has no children or has one compliant child.  Today I talked to an exasperated friend dealing with his daughter and a parent at school seeking advice in how to train her son.  Later, I was able to reconnect with a friend whose wayward daughter hasn’t contacted them in almost twenty years.  Parenting is difficult on the best of days.  The main reason that is true is found in the passage of Scripture I read this morning in my devotional time–Psalm 14.  In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul used this passage (Ps. 14) and others to describe the sinfulness of man (Rom. 3).  Both passages (one in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament) mention not only the need for salvation (sin) but the provision for that salvation (righteousness).  Consider first the need for salvation. 

David wrote:

“There is no one who does good. The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one” (Ps. 14:1c-3).

Paul wrote:

“There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands. There is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one” (Rom. 3:11-12).

Now consider the provision of salvation:

David wrote:

“For God is with the righteous generation (Ps. 14:5)But the Lord is his refuge (14:6)Oh that the salvation of Israel would come (14:7)…”

Paul wrote:

“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction” (Rom. 3:21,22).

Raising children will always be a battle due to the fact that our children are sinners (Rom. 3:23).  Everyone was born in sin (Ps. 51:5 ;Eph. 2:1-3) and began to sin at a very early age.  All parents of toddlers can testify to this fact!  Then–when you add to that–our sin in the process of parenting, the task is almost impossible.  The word almost is the key.  Our efforts are not completely in vain if we remember that God can and will help us as we strive to do our best for His glory!  I have four children, and I still feel as if I am floundering in my parenting.  My hope is that God will one day water the seeds I am planting and the far-from-perfect example I am living.  I pray that our quality time and–more importantly–our spiritual times will eventually produce the fruit we very much desire to see (salvation, spiritual maturity, commitment to spouse, blessing to church and community, etc.).  Without the salvation and righteousness mentioned by both David (Ps. 14) and Paul (Rom. 3), however, none of this is possible.  Parents–pray for the salvation of your children!  Grandparents–pray for the salvation of your grandchildren!  Pray that the little ones you love will come to the G0d-given understanding that they need righteousness; and that righteousness is only available by faith in Christ.  And as you pray for your children, pray for God to grant you much patience and wisdom as you stay faithful to your high calling of parenting!  I’m in the trenches with you.  I know it is difficult, but we must stand firm and do what is right, believing that somehow–in some way–God will reward our blood, sweat and tears!

Red, White and Blue: Doing their duty

James Wehse (US Navy).  Richard Wehse (US Army).  Terry Wehse (US Army).  Tim Wehse (US Army).  Ryan Wehse (US Marines). 

Three generations.  Wehse men doing their duty. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about World War II lately (I am teaching the subject to the 5th & 6th graders at the academy).  My father, James, was drafted in August of 1945.  He served in the Navy, decommissioning ships.  His cousin, Richard, fought in Europe in 1944 and 1945.  It grieves me to know that every day we are losing members of “the greatest generation.”  I noticed in the latest edition of World Magazine that Dick Winters died.  He was the Army officer who led Easy Company (506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division).  Heroes like Dick are rapidly passing away.  Having just studied D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge, I find myself more patriotic than ever and thankful that so many American men were willing to pay the ultimate price to rid the world of the conquering military states of Germany and Japan!  I was proud to wear their uniform and continue to be grateful for those who returned and those who did not.  Any good our nation has been able to accomplish since was purchased with their blood.

Savoring the Savior from the Psalms: Psalm 13

Life is–at best–challenging.  Some days are difficult; some seasons are difficult.  David had his share of trying circumstances.  Consider how he began Psalm 13:

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide Your face from me?  How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?” (13:1,2b; NIV) 

Do you ever feel “forgotten” by God?  Does it ever seem as if He is hiding His face from you?  Has there been sorrow in your heart?  Maybe these descriptions fit you today.  Perhaps you feel some separation from God presently.  Particularly difficult circumstances often cause such feelings in my soul.  Honestly, that’s where I found myself today.  That’s why it was so important for me to meet with God this morning.  And–as God would have it–my daily reading took me to this passage of Scripture–Pslam 13.  David can relate with me.  He was often in a tough spot.  Sometimes he even found himself despairing.  But, he also knew the way to hope and joy, and his example in this song is exactly what I needed to hear!  This is how he dealt with his emotions:

“But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me” (13:5,6; NIV).

Three godly actions based upon three wonderful truths.  David said he trusted in God’s unfailing love.  The action is trust.  The reason he can trust is that God’s love for His people is never-ending.  The second action mentioned is that his heart rejoiced.  He experienced great joy as he considered the salvation of God.  Thirdly, David said that he would sing.  Did you notice the reason why?  He said that God had been good!  Can I follow in David’s footsteps today?  The answer to that question lies in the answer to this question:  Are these wonderful truths still true?  You know that they are!  God’s love remains unfailing, and nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ (Rom. 8:39).  God’s glorious grace is still amazing and creates joy in my soul (1 Pet. 1:3-9)!  God’s blessings are many, and He has blessed me in many ways (Lam. 3:23; Ps. 119:68)!  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Eph. 1:3)!  Truth makes a profound difference in difficult circumstances! 

Be encouraged!  If your day began in the dark, it can end in the light, thanks to the truths we find in the Lamp of God’s Word (Ps. 119:105)!

Sights from the Sidelines: One Happy Cheesehead

You had to know that I’d mention it.  My Green Bay Packers are headed to the Super Bowl!  We haven’t been to the “big game” since 1998 (we lost to John Elway and the Broncos that year).  Sunday’s victory over the Bears wasn’t pretty, but any type of win in the conference championship is a good one!  One of the images which stands out in my memory is the interception by three- hundred-pound B.J. Raji.  It was gridiron ballet as Raji lumbered into the endzone!  And–as the final score would indicate–those points were the points we needed to advance to the Super Bowl.  Think on that.  We did not win on another perfect pass by quarterback Aaron Rodgers, nor did one of our awesome receivers make a fingertip catch in the corner of the endzone.  Nope.  When our offense simply could not conquer the tenacious Chicago defense, Raji intercepted the ball and, seconds later, put six more points on the scoreboard.  I’m encouraged.  I’m not a great athlete.  I’m not going to change the world or make the front cover of Time.  I’m far more likely to become infamous rather than famous.  But I can do what I am supposed to do.  I can be faithful.  And–who knows–maybe a third-string quarterback will toss the ball in my direction and I’ll have soft hands and quick feet!  Mind if I say it:  Go, Packers!  Beat the Steelers!

Timeless Truths: An Amazing Paraclete

In Sunday School this morning I facilitated a discussion on the person and works of the Holy Spirit.  We limited our study to Jesus’ words in the Upper Room Discourse (John 14-16).  To believers, the Holy Spirit (14:26)–the Spirit of Truth (14:17, 15:26, 16:13)–is the promised paraclete (Greek word that we translate into English as advocate, comforter, counselor or helper).  His arrival and ministry were promised by Jesus (Jn. 14:16) and, at the perfect time, He was sent by the Father (Acts 2:1-4 [see Jn. 14:16 26, 26]).  I shared with the class this morning that the concept of intimacy grabbed my attention as I meditated upon the Spirit of God.  We all (Christians) understand that God is everywhere (this is the doctrine of God’s omnipresence).  Although God is not in everything, He is everywhere present.  We also know that Jesus is “the Word became flesh” (Jn. 1:14).  While He walked the planet, He was Immanuel–God with us (Mt. 1:23)!  But now Jesus is in heaven.  We long for His return, but we remain grateful for what He is doing in the present!  Meanwhile, we are not left as orphans (Jn. 14:18)!  The same Holy Spirit who dramatically appeared to the disciples in Jerusalem descends upon all of us at the moment of salvation!  He comes to abide with those He makes alive (Jn. 14:17)!  Even better–He moves in (Jn. 14:17)!  God indwells His children!  Now that’s amazing!  Believers in my theological camp (Reformed Baptist, Presbyterian) tend to focus more of our attention on God the Father and God the Son.  I think that practice is appropriate (“He [Spirit] will glorify Me [Son]” [Jn. 16:14]).  However, I think that it is also appropriate to pause and meditate upon this amazing paraclete.  God is in us!  God is for us!

Confessions and Denials: Me and Goethe’s Devil

Cascade brought me a book from our library today and said, “This looks like you, Daddy.”  Sadly, she was pointing to the cover of Faust by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe.  It contains an orange-headed devil with white horns.  The facial hair on the demon reminded my two-year-old of me, but she was more correct than she realized!  Believe me when I say that there are times that I more resemble a demon than an angel!  Thankfully, however, I know the truth.  My theology, based upon the Word of God, teaches me that my identity in Christ is glorious!  Goethe began his tragedy with these words:

I’ve studied now philosophy

  And jurisprudence, medicine,

And even, alas theology—

From end to end, with labor keen;

And here, poor fool! With all my lore

I stand, no wiser than before:
 
Friends, I cannot express my gratitude to God for the gift of the Bible, and what I learn through it about myself (my sinful condition) and Christ (God’s provision for my sin “problem” [that’s a gross understatement]).  The other day, Dayton (five-years-old), informed me that people with a lot of sin go to hell.  I corrected him, telling him that people with one sin deserve hell.  The news floored him because he is smart enough to know that we all sin (that truth is innate).  It’s a bit humorous that my young son was seeking to justify himself (“I’m not so bad”).  After humbling him, I exalted Christ.  I shared with him that we are great sinners, but Christ is a great Savior!  Rather than being lore, theology based on the Bible makes me “wiser” than before! 

Reflections on the Quest: Flush that stink away

We are–in earnest–attempting to potty train Cascade.  I would describe our effort yesterday as somewhat victorious.  Several times we were able to coax her to drop small (though large in stench) bombs into the toliet.  If you are parent of older children, you probably remember those sights and smells vividly.  You recall how your child beemed with pride when you congratulated them, and how happy everyone was to flush the poop away!  (I write this with great hope that Cascade will quickly learn this process as we have had a child in diapers now for ELEVEN LONG YEARS!)  Now comes the spiritual application.  When I went to bed last night, I was stinking.  That smell remained when I woke up this morning.  It was the stench of a bad attitude.  Ever have those?  Thought so!  What do you do when you are stinking up the place?  This morning, I did two activities that I should do every time I realize that my attitude isn’t honoring to God–I read the Bible and prayed.  Verse 17 of Psalm 10 particularly encouraged me.  I’ll share it in several translations.

LORD, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear:” (KJV).

“You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry” (NIV).*

Now check out a paraphrase:

“The victim’s faint pulse picks up; the hearts of the hopeless pump red blood as you put your ear to their lips” (The Message).

In a context about the sovereignty of God (Ps. 1o:16), the author of this song reminds us that the Lord knows the desires of His people, encourages them, and listens to their prayers.  Does that strengthen your faith today?  It does mine!  Does that provide the fuel you need to flush your stinky attitude down the toliet?  It does the trick for me!  My joy has returned.  God has spoken, and I have spoken to God.  Is the same true of you? 

*Jump over to the Quick Takes page for a discussion about the NIV.

Savoring the Savior in the Psalms: Psalm 10

“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spirituall discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14; NIV).

“He boasts of the cravings of his heart he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord. In his pride the wicked does not seek Him; in all his thoughts there is not room for God” (Ps. 10:3,4; NIV).

“He says to himself, ‘God has forgotten; He covers His face and never sees'” (Ps. 10:11).

That was me in my natural state, my spiritually dead condition (Eph. 2:1-3) prior to regeneration (2 Cor. 5:17).  But now–because of the Spirit–there is room for God in my thoughts!  I know Him and I know about Him.  Consequently, I rejoice in the following truths:

“The Lord is King for ever and ever; the nations will perish from from His land. You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afficted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry” (Ps. 10:16,17; NIV).

Today I exult in God (take great pleasure in) that He is “the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:15,16).  He is absolutely God and He is absolutely sovereign (“the nations will perish”).  That’s my Jesus!  Later today I will be challenging a group of students to ask themselves this question:  Do I know about God, or do I know God?  The Apostle Paul is my biblical example.  He knew about Jesus, but he did not know Jesus until Jesus invaded his life on the road to Damascus (Acts 9 [“God’s blitzkrieg”]).  I also plan to show a clip from Lou Giglio where he illustrates the difference between knowing about God and knowing God with a Krispy Kreme donut.  May God use that time in the lives our our middle school students!  I am savoring Jesus Christ today.  He is my sovereign King who sees my desires and hears my prayers (Ps. 10:11)!

Check out the Quick Takes page for the Giglio link on You Tube.