How Do You Say “Eureka”? – 2 Kings 5:15

Archimedes, a Greek mathematician, engineer, and physicist, was trying to figure out how to measure the volume of an irregular solid object and thereby determine the purity of a gold object. When he finally arrived at the solution, he supposedly exclaimed, “Eureka!”—or, “I found it!” (in Greek, of course).

What do you do when you find something for which you have been looking? Two things can be measured by your response: the value of the object of your search, and the gratitude you feel upon its discovery. For instance, what happens if you find the paper clip you dropped in your office? You don’t shout, “Eureka!” and tell your co-workers. You clip the papers and move on. And if you can’t find it, you instantly replace it with another one. Conclusion? An individual paper clip has little value in the workplace. It is cheap to begin with, easily replaced, and not worth the cost of the search.

But some things in life are more valuable than paper clips; they have infinite, immeasurable value. A pagan man in the Old Testament named Naaman had lost something that had great value to him: his health. Naaman and his king agreed to spend a considerable sum on gifts (750 pounds of silver and 150 pounds of gold, among other things) for the person who could heal his leprosy. When he was healed by the prophet Elisha, Naaman concluded that the world’s only true God was the God of Israel. Based on his confession and what he was willing to pay to regain his health (though Elisha refused the gifts), it was obvious that Naaman had found something of great value. In truth, he found more than health—he found life in the God of Israel (2 Kings 5:17-18).

Perhaps like Naaman, you have found that the world’s only true God does exist—the God revealed in creation and Scripture. If you have, there is only one gift that can express the value of what you have found; and it is the only gift God will accept—the gift of a heart devoted to Him. That’s how you say “Eureka!” in the kingdom of God.

God’s Promise to You: “Your heart is the most precious gift you can give to me.”

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Choosing God – 1 Chronicles 16:25-27

 

 

In the modern coffee bar, it takes folding money and a knowledge of foreign languages and flavors to buy “a cup of coffee.” Do you prefer latte or cappuccino? Brazilian or Colombian? A shot of this or a shot of that? Many people who love coffee have steered clear of these modern caffeinated carnivals, though they would love to try them! Why? Choice often breeds passivity.

Some people laugh off the notion of one true God when they see the millions of gods created by human worshippers (the Hindu pantheon alone contains 300 million gods). “Why bother?” they reason. And yet the choices reveal another truth. When man creates a god—an idol to worship—he is saying, “This is what I need in a god. If I empower it with my worship, perhaps it will meet my need.” Of course, figures of wood or stone or metal cannot be animated by human attention or desire, and so the need goes unmet. But lurking in that religious exercise in futility is a profound truth: the human need to worship can only be fulfilled in a god worthy enough to be worshipped. And the only god worthy enough to be worshipped is the one who can meet every need of every worshipper in every place and at every time.

The prophet Isaiah showed that using the limited glory of man as a pattern for a god can only have disappointing results (Isaiah 30:22; 40:19; 44:13). All the gold, silver, chains, and jewels in the world can not animate a column of stone and make it worthy or worship. But the writer of Chronicles reminds us that the true God, the God who created heaven and earth, does exist and is worthy of our praise. He is to be reverenced above all other “gods,” for they are but idols.

In the marketplace, it’s easy to be confused by the multitudes of choices. It’s even possible to grow passive and procrastinate. But with God, there is only one. We should never be passive about choosing the one true God.

God’s Promise to You: “Unlike idols of stone, I always hear when you call on Me.”

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Like the Swallows of Capistrano

San Juan Capistrano, a small city in southern California, is famous for the swallows that arrive and depart every year with predictable consistency. Around March 19 they can be expected to arrive, and around October 23 (the day that Saint John of Capistrano died in 1456), they can be expected to depart. “Like swallows returning to Capistrano” is a proverbial way to speak of that which is done by nature or by instinct.

Fortunately, we do not cycle between the northern and southern hemispheres on an annual basis! Indeed, we are distinguished from the animal kingdom by our ability to choose our destinations—where, when, and with whom we will go. The ability to choose reflects the image of our Creator God, and contributes significantly to an identity which sets apart from everything else that has life. However, there is one destination which all of the earth’s peoples seek instinctively—one yearning which makes us like the swallows of Capistrano—and that is our “instinctive” yearning for eternity.

Don Richardson, a modern missionary-anthropologist, has studied human cultures in the most remote parts of the world. His book, Eternity In Their Hearts, shows how people all over the world—from the Stone Age tribes in New Guinea to the sophisticated secularists of the West—demonstrate a yearning for God. They may not know the true God, but they know he exists. Why is this so? Because God has “set eternity in the hearts of men.” If there is no God, why do peoples of all cultures seek him? They seek him because he made them. As Capistrano is inscribed in the genetic material of a swallow, so eternity is written deeply in the souls of all people. A longing for God is the one part of a person’s identity which cannot be “turned off.” It can be denied, resisted, even cursed—but it cannot be removed.

If you long for heaven, it is because the God who made you is there. But he is also here, confirming that part of who we are is a seeker after him.

God’s Promise to You: “Your longing for eternity is evidence that I exist and that you are my unique creation.”

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Knowing God by Name – Deuteronomy 3:34

 

On your next visit to a large shopping mall, see if one of the busiest kiosks is not the one selling genealogical information: family histories, coats of arms, and the derivation of names. People are fascinated with discovering their “true” identities. “Were our ancestors really ‘bakers?’” the Baker family asks. “Are we descended from blacksmiths and metal workers?” the Smith children ask their parents. A name can tell a lot about who we are—or were.

God takes naming seriously as well. Not only did he name the parts of his original creation (Genesis 1:3-10), but he named the stars as well (Isaiah 40:26). And to Adam he gave the task of naming the animals (Genesis 2:20) and Adam’s children (Genesis 4:1,2,26). God’s own names were one of the most important indicators of his identity. Not only did God name himself at times (Exodus 3:14), he also received the names which his chosen people gave to him as they came to know him personally. One of those names was “Sovereign Lord.”

This compound name of God is beautiful in that it reveals the two attributes of God most cherished by Israel: God’s personal approachability and his mighty rule. Think of a father in a home who tenderly lavishes affection on his children yet firmly acts as the authority. Or think of a shepherd who binds the wounds of his sheep, yet uses his rod to drive away the ravenous wolves. Affection, yet authority. Tenderness, yet strength. Servant leadership, yet sovereign lordship.

“Sovereign” to the Israelite meant master or ruler; the one over whom no one else had power or authority. “Lord” (Yahweh) was the name God gave the Israelites to use in their personal relationship with him. “Sovereign Lord” is the name of the God who tenderly saved his infant nation from slavery, and totally destroyed her enemy in the Red Sea. Moses truly knew God as “Sovereign Lord.”

Do you know God like Moses did—as Sovereign Lord? One of the reasons God exists is to reveal himself to you—to show you his true identity—as the God who loves and protects his children.

God’s Promise to You: “I will always love you and protect you.”

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Excuse My Unbelief – Romans 1:18-20

“No excuses!” How many times in your life have those case-closing words rung in your ears—or proceeded from your mouth? While the words are often spoken by parents, teachers, coaches, or judges with a finality that sounds irrefutable, there is probably always room for argument in the realm of human experience. Were the instructions really clear? Did my child truly understand? Is the law really without loopholes? Sometimes in life there may be a valid excuse even in the face of “No excuses!”

However, there is one place where excuses are not valid: the court room where the existence of God is on trial. The Bible promises that God has made His existence crystal clear to every person who has ever lived. So clear, in fact, that “men are without excuse” (v. 19).

How can we be sure that God exists? First of all, because God has made it plain. If it is so plain, we wonder, why doesn’t everyone simply see the evidence and believe? Without proposing all of the theological and philosophical answers to that question (and there are some good ones), the problem at its simplest may be one of looking for the wrong thing; not being able to see the forest for the trees. Do you remember the Russian cosmonauts who boldly announced their intention to solve the problem of the existence of God? They would simply look around heaven and see if He was there! Upon returning to earth, they said, “We looked, and there was no God.” In Biblical terms, that’s like saying, “We saw no forest; all we saw were thousands of trees.” They were so focused on seeing a “being” that, in the midst of one of the most spectacular showcases of God’s mighty power, they were blind to the evidence of His existence.

If you ever question God’s existence, simply look around. A star-studded sky, the dimpled cheek of a newborn, the complex design of a flower, the life-giving rain and sunshine—all these and more paint a plain picture of His presence and His power in our world.

God’s Promise to You: “Even in your darkest moments, My presence and My power are plainly seen in what I have made.”

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Setbacks and Circumstances

Author and Ruler of all things, I confess that I am often impatient with the processes of life that force me to cease striving and know that You are God and I am not. My resources, wisdom and power are so bounded that I control very few of the things that happen in my life. I get frustrated and impatient with the challenges and unexpected troubles that crop up so often. But when I think more deeply, I realize that these setbacks and circumstances can accomplish more in my character formation than in having things go my way. It is through such things that patience and forbearance and steadfastness and fortitude are forged by Your wise and loving hands in my life. May I learn to wait on You, to hope in You, to trust in You, to delight myself in You and to unreservedly commit my ways to You.

• Wisdom reminds us that the Lord is God and we are not.

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The Resentment of Opposition

- This is part of a series on dependence on God. -

We live in a time when all forms of external authority are being challenged in favor of subjective, inner authority. The quest for autonomy rather than accountability has become rampant. Yet the Scriptures tell us that an autonomous mindset is a mark of foolishness, since it ignores our fundamental need for dependence on God.

Jeremiah struggled with occupational hazards faced by many effective leaders. Because he knew that Israel’s behavior was destructive, he needed to function as a constant agent for change. He preached and counseled and urged his followers to turn from sin and to practice righteousness.

As he prodded, Jeremiah lived with opposition and persecution, and one wonders whether Jeremiah ever asked himself the question that confronts many leaders today: “Since change arouses opposition, why not back off and let things remain as they are?” That wouldn’t have been a good option for Jeremiah. It rarely is for a leader, because change is intrinsic to the nature of leadership. And that led to the second hazard: Since the changes were essential to Israel’s survival, he was compelled to live with the hard knocks he was taking as the agent for change.

No one has ever found a way to improve anything without changing it in some way. Our second dilemma could be phrased: “Since change arouses personal opposition, I have to steel myself against the way people feel about me. But I can’t stop caring about what they think or feel. If I do, some of those I am supposed to lead might become my ‘enemies.’” The second leadership hazard, then, is that the leader may become so hardened to opposition that he or she no longer hears or cares about the personal concerns behind it. The resentment of opposition can turn followers into opponents.

• The leader may become so hardened to opposition that he or she no longer hears or cares about the personal concerns behind it.

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Trusting God in the Face of Daily Pressures

- This is part of a series on dependence on God. -

As leaders who want to reach our generation for Christ, we need to lead in a way that allows others to see our faith in God. One way we can do that is by depending on God in the face of our daily pressures. The next time you’re under pressure, pray for the grace you need to depend on God, who is perfectly and eternally worthy of your trust. Remember that those you lead will see how you respond to such pressures and will follow your actions.

Those who have not placed their faith in God often live only for the moment. Their peace of mind or anxiety is tied to their circumstances. But those whose faith is secure in the One who is secure are able to live above the worries of this world. As Dallas Willard points out:

People who are ignorant of God…live to eat and drink and dress. “For such things the ‘gentiles’ seek” – and their lives are filled with corresponding anxiety and anger and depression about how they will look and how they will fare.

By contrast, those who understand Jesus and his Father know that provision has been made for them. Their confidence has been confirmed by their experience. Though they work, they do not worry about things “on earth.” Instead, they are always “seeking first the kingdom.” That is, they “place top priority on identifying and involving themselves in what God is doing and in the kind of rightness…he has. All else needed is provided” (6:33). They soon enough have a track record to prove it.[1]

This is not to say that believers in Christ will be exempt from the usual troubles of this world. Worry-free does not mean trouble-free. Sometimes it may be our faith which actually brings on troubles as we navigate our way through a world that insists on flying upside-down. Still, in spite of our circumstances, those who depend on God will find out for themselves the truth the psalmist discovered long ago: “A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all” (Psalm 34:19).


[1] Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998), p. 212.

• Those who have not placed their faith in God often live only for the moment.

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The Great Story

Dear God, I know that the stories, prophecies and wisdom of the Hebrew Bible are critical for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. You have made it evident that we cannot understand Your great Story without the witness of inspired Scripture prior to the coming of the Lord Jesus. May I regularly expose myself to the full counsel of Your Word and drink deeply from the well of both Testaments. I give thanks for the profound wisdom and marvels of Your revelation through the people You inspired, and ask that I would make the time to read, meditate, pray and rest in Your Word so that I will walk in the path of righteousness, trust and obedience. May the life-giving seed of Your truth bear much fruit in and through me.

• We can have hope through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures.

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Reasons for Trusting God Rather than Worrying

- This is part of a series on dependence on God. -

Fifth, we are God’s children. God will never treat us as orphans who need to fend for themselves. Failure to grasp this will lead inevitably to worry and failure in our moral lives. In fact, it is not an overstatement to say that the most important thing about us is what comes to mind when we think of God, as A.W. Tozer clarifies:

That our idea of God correspond as nearly as possible to the true being of God is of immense importance to us. Compared with our actual thoughts about Him, our [doctrinal] statements are of little consequence. Our real idea of God may lie buried under the rubbish of conventional religious notions and may require an intelligent and vigorous search before it is finally unearthed and exposed for what it is. Only after an ordeal of painful self-probing are we likely to discover what we actually believe about God. A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well. It is to worship what the foundation is to the temple; where it is inadequate or out of plumb the whole structure must sooner or later collapse. I believe there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God.[1]

If we view God as a cosmic killjoy, we will likely be plagued with guilt and shame over every sinful thought or angry moment. If God is seen as some kind of doting grandfather who turns a blind eye at our shortcomings, we will be likely to excuse our wrong actions. If we think God is looking for a good bargain, we will expect him to come through for us when we have done something good for him. Our quality of life will always rise and fall on our view of God and our expectations of him. Once we come to know God as the faithful Father he is, worry simply does not make sense.

Sixth, when we worry about tomorrow we miss out on today. Jesus recognizes that our days will be filled with trouble. We simply cannot afford the luxury of worrying, casting our eyes on future affliction. Each day will demand our best attention. Any problem we face can be handled, with God’s help, one day at a time.


[1] A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York: Harper & Row, 1961), p. 8

• When we worry about tomorrow we miss out on today.

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