Month: August 2011

What Diotrephes Can Teach You

I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. 3 John 1:9-11

Today’s devotional will be short and sweet: selfishness is evil. We see this in a man named Diotrophes. He liked to put himself first in everything. Diotrophes would have loved Burger King because they hold out this promise: “Have it your way.” We, too, may fall into the “Diotrophes trap” by wanting our own way in everything. Consider these questions:

In your marriage, are you always wanting your way?
In church, do you want your musical preference/style to dominate the songs we sing?
In any area of your life, do you want to be #1?

Don’t forget today what John is stressing: selfishness is evil. The antidote to selfishness is not more will power, but the power of the Gospel. Look to Jesus when you want your way-

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:4-7

Praying that we never wear #1,


Page #843 in Your Hymnal

And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” Isaiah 6:3

“To say that God is holy is to say that He is set apart, distinct from us. And because of his set apart-ness, there is no way we can fathom all of who He is. To the Jews, saying something three times demonstrated its perfection, so to call God ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ is to say that He is perfectly set apart, with nothing and no one to compare Him to. That is what it means to be ‘holy.’” ~Francis Chan, Crazy Love (p.31).

Think about that.

God is “different, different, different.”

He is “set apart, set apart, set apart.”

He is “unique, unique, unique.”

There is no thing and no one like God. Period. He is in a category all by Himself. And yet Jesus humbled Himself and took on the form of a slave (see Philippians 2:1-11). And He calls us to be holy too-

“but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” 1st Peter 1:15-16

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1st Peter 2:9

Just as God is holy, different, unique, and set apart from creation, we too are to be holy, different, unique, and set apart from unbelievers. Grace has changed us and we’re to reflect that by the way we live.

So whatever you do today, be-

“different, different, different”
“set apart, set apart, set apart”
“unique, unique, unique”

for God’s glory.


Surely Goodness & Mercy… Stop Calling Me Shirley!

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23:6

Every time I read this verse, 2 things always come to mind. One is of substance, the other is amusing. Let’s start with the amusing…

I heard the story of a woman who had twin girls and this verse was the inspiration for their names. She named her girls:

1} “Shirley Goodness”
2} “Anne Mercy”


Now on to more substantial things…

Several days ago I proposed that disciples need to be pursuing God with determination, like one army chasing another army (Psalm 63). But did you know that God also chases us down? When David says that goodness and mercy shall follow him all the days of his life, he is speaking of the LORD who chases us down. The Hebrew word for follow is the same word used in Psalm 63:8 where David says he pursues/chases God. Here, in Psalm 23, it is God doing the chasing! God pursues His people! We might expect David’s enemies {v.5} to be chasing him down. But instead, God’s mercy and goodness pursue David. Here we have a beautiful picture of the LORD pursuing the people He loves.

Look over your shoulder today. God is pursuing you!

Thankful for His relentless goodness and mercy,

Grace At Work

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.
2 Thessalonians 1:3-4

What in the world is God doing in His church? Sometimes we may not see how He is working, but we must remember that He is always at work. Sometimes we have to look for evidence of grace. The Thessalonian church, however, made God’s work of grace visible. So Paul gives thanks to God for the evidence of grace that he sees in the church at Thessalonica. What did he see?

1} Their faith was growing abundantly. They were continuing to believe God’s word despite the severe persecution they were undergoing {see 2 Thessalonians 1:5}.

2} Their love for one another was increasing. This was a true sign that they were Jesus’ disciples {see John 13:35}.

3} They were steadfast in the midst of persecution and affliction. This steadfastness meant that they were remaining calm while they awaited the outcome of their suffering.

These 3 evidences of God’s grace in the Thessalonian church can easily be turned into 3 prayers that you can pray for the church. Will join me in praying that our faith grows abundantly, our love for one another increases, and that we would remain steadfast in the midst of trials? It will only happen by His grace!

Looking for evidence of His grace,

The (Possible) Martyr You Tuck Into Bed Every Night

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. Revelation 6:9-11

How often do you think of martyrdom? Probably (if you’re like me) not as much as you should. Why should we think about being killed for Jesus? Who wants that to occupy their minds? The answer to these questions is very important when it comes to fulfilling the mission that Jesus gave to the church to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:16-20).

What is the correlation between martyrdom and discipleship, you ask? For us, it is this: we need to be discipling others with a view to martyrdom. Verse 11 implies that there is a predetermined number of martyrs who will give their lives, be martyred, die for Jesus: “…until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been…” And some of those martyrs may be in your local church. Perhaps the child in your Sunday school class has been elected by God to be a martyr for Jesus? If that is possible, how important is discipleship for your church? What if one of your children was one of the numbered martyrs? How important then is family worship, prayer and Scripture reading for your household? Or, for your “future martyr?”

May God give grace to His church so that we work hard to see Christ formed in each disciple {Galatians 4:19}, so that it would be said of us “they loved not their lives even unto death” {Revelation 12:11}.

A possible martyr with you,

Pursuing God

My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:8

I love this verse. Here we have a great marriage of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. David is declaring that his soul clings to God. And yet God is involved in action too: God’s right hand upholds David. I think that’s why David says in verse 5 that God satisfies him and he’s singing joyfully (“My soul will be satisfied…my mouth will praise you with joyful lips…”). What a wonderful Gospel truth! God sustains His people.

But David doesn’t just sit back basking in God’s sovereign “upholding hand.” He’s moved to action. He says his soul clings to God. The NET Bible translates this verse as, “My soul pursues you.” It’s an interesting Hebrew word that David uses. He pursues God. This Hebrew word is used in other passages where one army pursues another army with determination {see Judges 20:45; 1 Samuel 14:22; 1 Chronicles 10:2; Jeremiah 42:6}. David is pursuing with determination the God who upholds him.

Are you pursuing God with determination? Are you chasing Him down like one army does another? He is there upholding you… go chase Him down.

Praying that we pursue Him,

Luke, It’s Your Destiny…

Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. 1 Thessalonians 3:1-4

I hear people say this a lot: “It’s my destiny.” Whatever it is that they desire in life (job, spouse, house, money, etc), somehow they are convinced that it is their destiny to have it. Fair enough. Maybe it is. Who am I to disagree with someone over their destiny?

But I do know something about our destiny as disciples of Jesus. Disciples can say with assurance, “It’s my destiny,” when it comes to suffering. Paul knew this. He was convinced that the church was destined to suffer. That’s why he sent Timothy back to the Thessalonians. He knew that suffering would come to the Thessalonians and he wanted to remind them of this truth. Paul feared they would be discouraged and give up when suffering came their way. In fact, Paul says that he kept telling the Thessalonians over and over that they would suffer affliction for following Christ. He wanted to get it into their head so he told them repeatedly and then sent Timothy back to remind them anew.

So on behalf of pastors all over the world, let me remind you again that you will suffer for Jesus Christ. It’s your destiny!

You will suffer for following Jesus. It’s your destiny.
You will suffer for following Jesus. It’s your destiny.
You will suffer for following Jesus. It’s your destiny.
You will suffer for following Jesus. It’s your destiny.
You will suffer for following Jesus. It’s your destiny.
You will suffer for following Jesus. It’s your destiny.
You will suffer for following Jesus. It’s your destiny.
You will suffer for following Jesus. It’s your destiny.
You will suffer for following Jesus. It’s your destiny.

Suffering alongside you,

Growing and Going

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. Colossians 1:9-10

You can’t help but notice Paul’s emphasis on “knowledge” in his letter to the Colossians. First, he prays that the Colossian church would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding {v.9}. Then he prays again that the Colossian church would increase in the knowledge of God {v.10}.

Alright, Paul. We get your point. We need to increase in the knowledge of God. Got it.
But if you know Paul, he won’t settle there. In fact, he again prays for the Colossians and other area churches in ch. 2 that they would begin to comprehend the riches of the Gospel, namely Jesus Christ as the source of all wisdom and knowledge-

“…that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3

Later in ch. 3 Paul encourages these believers to be renewed in knowledge as part of the sanctification process-

“…and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Colossians 3:10

Why all the emphasis on growing in our knowledge of God? I think Paul keeps stressing it in his letter because he knows that if the Colossian church is going to make any difference in the world they must keep increasing in their knowledge of God. Knowledge of God affects every area of the Christian life: evangelism, discipleship, sanctification, missions, giving, serving, etc.

That’s why Paul will ask the Colossians to pray for open doors of evangelism for his ministry and knowledge on how to do it effectively {see Colossians 4:2-6}. The Colossians too will need wisdom in how to live the Gospel out in a pagan world {see Colossian 4:5-6}. If they don’t grow in the knowledge of God, they won’t make a difference in the world.

Perhaps the reason churches and believers aren’t making a difference for the Gospel today is that they have stopped growing in the knowledge of God? Let’s make it personal: perhaps the reason we aren’t sharing the Gospel and discipling others is because we have stopped growing in the knowledge of God?

I think D.A. Carson is spot on: “The greatest incentive to evangelism, witness, and mission emerges from a church’s deepening knowledge of God.”

Want to share the Gospel more? Grow in the knowledge of God. Want to witness more to neighbors, co-workers and family? Grow in the knowledge of God. Want to be missions-minded? Grow in the knowledge of God.

If we are ever to be a church that evangelizes, witnesses and stays on mission, we have to be people of the Book, not people of books about the Book. We must be Scripture-saturated. We must, as Paul exhorted the Colossian church-

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” Colossians 3:16

If you are filled with and increasing in the knowledge of God, you can’t help but be thankful for the Gospel:

“…giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:12-14

When you begin to comprehend all that God is for you in Jesus Christ, you can’t help but share it with others! When you begin to grow in your understanding of who the Triune God is, it should lead to a sharing with those in your lives. Perhaps a memorable way to remember this devo is this: “Growing leads to going.”

Go grow so you can go!