Hosea 6:6

The Lord says, “I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt-offerings.”

Romans 12:9–10 (NIV)

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Butchart Gardens, Vancouver Island, Canada - June 2015
Jesus teaches us that if our brother or sister in Christ comes to us seventy-times-seven, repenting and asking for forgiveness, we are to forgive him or her. That is a difficult calling and challenging action to take. Anyone would become forgiveness weary after the sixth time with the same person – not to mention the seventieth, or the seventy-times-seventh time! 

One alternative to forgiveness is based on a false notion regarding our need for forgiveness. Religious self-righteousness expressing itself in God-ordained ritual performance can become the true measure of righteousness. I don’t need to forgive you because I don’t sin like you do and I do all these religious things. This is what Hosea speaks of: Covering over our need for true forgiveness and hardening our hearts toward others is not what God desires.

Sincere love doesn’t offer fake religious formalism in place of kindness, humility, and compassion. Acknowledgement of our sin – the real and ugly cancer that invades our souls – and rejoicing that Christ has forgiven us from all our sin, leads us to hate evil, devote ourselves to that is good, offer steadfast love to others, and care for the welfare of others. This is Christ’s call and what God truly desires.

What will that look like when your lawn crew shows up today, or the driver needs to get into your lane, or your co-worker drops the ball…again!, or your husband is forgetful, or your neighbor’s dog dies? Could it be that those feet-on-the ground events are actually occasions to offer steadfast and sincere love?

Isaiah 31:5

Like birds hovering overhead, so the Lord of hosts will protect Jerusalem; he will protect and deliver it, he will spare and rescue it.

Romans 8:31 (NIV)

If God is for us, who can be against us?


Several years ago, as I was driving out of a gas station, a man about my age gave me the proverbial one finger salute. I’m not certain it had to do with the fact that I was wearing a clerical collar at the time or not, that’s my guess. I was actually a bit surprised at his gesture; I had done nothing intentionally to provoke such an action. Whatever I had or had not done seemed not to be the issue. He simply expressed his contempt toward me.

There are many enemies committed to our destruction. ISIS terrorists, hard core Communists, North Korean dictators all wish to do us harm. Add to those enemies, the horde of Satan’s cabal. Consider the thief who steals, kills, and destroys. What of the human traffier who abuses people or the embezzler who wipes out people’s retirement accounts? Each of these are aligned against good decent people that we are.

Above all those, however, is the Lord God of angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. He protects his people. He delivers those who look to him. He will rescue us at the break of day.

Today I will have many opportunities to align myself with God and his purposes. I will have business dealings, work conversations, traffic interactions, and one-on-one conversations with friends and acquaintances. Through it all, I will seek to align myself with God’s purposes and will. I will do that not only so that I don’t become a target for God’s rebuke as he saves his people, but also because I have been saved, and wish to remain under the protection of the Lord of angel armies. When danger comes near, that is a good place to be!

Amos 5:4

Thus says the Lord, “Seek me and live.”

Luke 19:2–3 (NIV)

A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was.


As a child I played the game, “Going on a Bear Hunt”. As I recall, the point was to go on the bear hunt when suddenly you would encounter the bear and have to run for your life back to the safety of your home. It’s kind of like hunting for rattle snakes in West Texas or wild boar in Arkansas: what do you do when you actually catch one?

Sadly, however, many people hunt for things far more dangerous – although not seen to be so. We hunt for excitement and thrills at the expense of safety and due caution. A youthful moment of carelessness ends in the tragedy of an auto accident during an impromptu on-the-street drag race. A slip of the hands sends someone falling to their death on an untethered rock-climbing outing. A momentary flirtation with drugs invites disease into the body of a young woman through a shared needle. An indiscriminate look takes a man into an adulterous affair to relieve his boredom. Drugs, money, sex, fun, adrenaline: each provide a moment of excitement and a cheap counterfeit sense of joy. But these do not bring life.

Jesus, on the other hand, invites people to look to him and live. God says, “Seek me and live.” Zacchaeus wanted to see who Jesus was. He was rewarded for his tree-climbing efforts. Jesus literally changed his life. We can search for happiness, significance, meaning, hope, or inner peace. All these are good things to have. But they will not save us. Jesus calls us to seek God’s reign and righteousness first, and all the other things of life will be added to us. Whatever effort it may take to seek Jesus’ presence in our daily lives, will be well spent. Jesus is on the hunt for people who will look for him and his salvation.

Nehemiah 13:2

Our God turned the curse into a blessing.

2 Corinthians 5:19

In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.


There is no more unjust treatment of a human being than that which was visited on Jesus of Nazareth. Consider this: He was fully and unwaveringly committed to doing the will of God from a perfectly pure motive. He did not seek his own glory. He did not do good so that good would come to him. He did not flinch from the truth or stray from the path of love. He showed God’s mercy and love to those who needed it. He expressed God’s word of truth and judgment to those who deserved it. He was gracious with sinners, yet calling them to “go and sin no more.” He was outraged at the self-righteousness of the religious leaders who hid behind false pretenses in order not to show love and mercy to those in need.

Jesus did everything right. Everything. And not just right, but right from the heart: loving, merciful, gracious, and good. All that Jesus did was done for God’s glory and man’s benefit, with a pure heart, without ulterior motive.

Then God, man, government, and religion all conspired against him for his demise. And as if that weren’t enough, the means by which he was tried, convicted, and executed was unfair, contrived, and falsely based. He was charged with things he did not do, convicted of things he was not responsible for, and executed like a common criminal on a shameful cross – a physically-excruciating experience of human torture, and a naked-to-the-world experience of shame and humiliation.

Out of all that, however, God brought us salvation. For Jesus embraced all this injustice, sin, and unrighteousness willingly, taking to himself the sin of the world, and dying in faith in the face of the abandonment of God. Because Jesus saw it through, we have been saved. God’s wrath has been appeased. True righteousness has been vindicated. What no one else could do, Jesus did. And by his stripes we have been healed.

Injustice has gone good in Jesus, and we have the privilege of spreading the message of reconciliation between God and man to everyone. In fact, it is only because justice was so thoroughly miscarried and fully embraced that the result is as powerfully good. Thanks be to God!

Psalm 22:22

I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters.  

Romans 10:14

How are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 
Not too long ago a friend in the photo club of which I am a member asked me a question that stumped me. He asked, “What do you do when people don’t pay?” He was referring to the fact that I am a pastor of a large church with a major program and good-sized budget. He was wondering, I think, about how the finances work. I stumbled out an answer about free-will offerings and the support of God’s people. But I missed the opportunity to tell about Jesus…at least for a few weeks.

It was perhaps two months later, at the same restaurant which we frequent after our club meetings, that I said to my friend, “You asked me a question a while back that I didn’t know how to answer about people who don’t pay. I’ve been thinking about that for some time, and I remembered the story of Jesus watching people put money in the temple treasurery. Rich people put in large sums of money, and a poor widow put in two pennies. Jesus said that she gave more than all the others.” 

I left it there, letting the story of Jesus do its work, hoping for more questions. But the conversation took a crazy Ivan to rich celebrities giving large amounts of money for show, and other red herrings. I’m not certain how much got across to my friend. But I do know that Jesus had some context in our conversation. 

Telling God’s story is more difficult if your understanding of that task is all about reciting a story in mid-air, rather than bringing Jesus’ story to a particular context. What story of Jesus might you tell that fits a particular context? I am praying for more opportunities to tell of Jesus, and for the opportunity to see that story take root in my friend’s life. How might Jesus’ story make an eternal difference in the life of someone you know? 

Genesis 24:7

The Lord will send his angel before you.

 Acts 8:26–28

An angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went.

Yellow-Orange Blossom

I love to think about angels! But not the cute chubby cheribs that inhabit the book shelves and display cases of many Christians. And not “the Lord needed another angel, so he took Grandma” misguided sentiment. I understand the idea of cute angels and the desire for the comforting thought that Grandma is watching over her loved-ones when she dies. But neither of those ideas find any biblical support.

Angels, according to the Bible, are mighty warriors. They fly in the vaults of heaven around the throne, with six wings (Isaiah 6), and surround enemy armies with their mighty power at God’s command (1 Kings 18). Their appearance is so majestic when they appear to people, that most often their first words are, “fear not.” Sometimes they are mistaken for God and worshipped.

But these servants of God are not to be worshiped. They might be fear-inspiring, but they serve God’s good causes for us. Jesus speaks of angels as assigned to the care of little ones (Matthew). Their intent is to fulfill God’s will, and support and protect all who seek God’s reign.

These two passages remind us that angels support us whenever we pursue God’s mission and kingdom. They go before us, and even direct our ways according to God’s will and plan. I thank God for angels and pray that he will send his angels to my side today in all that I do. How about you?

Psalm 121:5–6

The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.

Matthew 2:13
An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 

The ongoing and providential care of God toward his people is not always readily apparent. Christians and non-believers alike are involved in car accidents, become victims of violent crime, and experience grave illnesses and troubles of many different kinds. 

Yet we have this promise and the example of God’s intervention and protective care for Joseph and Mary, together with Jesus in the face of Herod’s menacing intentions. How do we embrace this idea of God’s protection in the face of the very real troubles we see and experience all around us? That seems to be the legitimate question of those who have experienced grave loss or harm – even while looking to God for deliverance. 

The answer lies, I believe, in seeing how God was intervening in the lives of all people through his Son, Jesus of Nazareth. In Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, an epic battle takes place against the promise of deliverance by Gandalf “on the third day.” The armies of Middle Earth suffer greatly for the first days of the battle, until at last Gandolf arrives with reinforcements and saves the day. Intervention comes; it doesn’t always come as quickly as we would wish. 

Our redemption has been won by Jesus Christ. He has conquered sin, death, and the devil. The Lord is our keeper and our shade. We can rest in him, and will for all eternity. Sometimes we get a foretaste of that here and now. But even the most remarkable deliverance will pale in comparison to the final deliverance on the Great Last Day. 

Jesus survived the plots of Herod when he was a toddler. He did not survive the schemes of the Jewish religious leaders and Pilate’s soldiers’ scourge and cross. Nevertheless, Jesus endured through faith and now is exalted to God’s right hand on high. We look forward to our perfect keeping through faith in him. 


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 135 other followers