Psalm 11

            God is quite serious about people living in such a way that is righteous, that is, in right relationship with others.  He does not tolerate the wicked – those who only have regard for themselves and violate others with hateful speech and actions.  At the core of God’s very being, he “hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.”  We are to be righteous because God is righteous; we are to hate wickedness because God hates it.
            Anytime we talk about wickedness and righteousness, it typically is in the context of others who are violent and we who are not.  This is, at best, misguided, and, at worst, flat-out a self-deception.  It is easy to observe violence in others while ignoring our own part in wickedness.  We rarely equate violence with our words, but the sheer fact is that our tongues are prone to violent speech.  Whenever we seek to dominate a conversation; start an argument in order to win at all costs; put others down for their thoughts and ideas; engage in name-calling; or, speak against another behind his/her back; then we have come under the judgment of the God who abhors every form of violence.
            We often feel justified in our violent speech because of our supposed pure motives.  But this disregards the mental activity that takes place in our heads before we speak.  Too many people are prone to jumping to conclusions and thus misinterpret another’s words and actions.  If we would but stop and listen to ourselves, paying attention to the erroneous stories we can tell in an instant about others, then we would measure our words and seek to connect them with the righteous nature of God.  Righteous deeds spring from righteous thoughts based in truth. 
            Holy God, your perfect character and righteousness has always been and always will be.  Help me to connect so deeply with your goodness that my thoughts, words, and actions reflect your impeccable nature through Jesus Christ my Lord.  Amen.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

            The news is rarely filled with good wholesome edifying reporting; it is usually filled with the grit and grime of human depravity.  Whether it is terrible war and economic meltdowns half-way across the world, or child pornography, theft, and murder closer to home, we live in a time of both unprecedented communication and unparalleled evil.  So, where does God fit into all this?
            He is there, calling his people to a life of moral sobriety, spiritual holiness, and unflagging encouragement of one another.  In the midst of the sinful muck, the Apostle Paul made the astounding statement that “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  God is patiently and constantly working behind the scenes to overshadow the world with grace.  There will come a time when this present order of things will pass away and the fullness of God’s rule and reign will be established forever. 
            In the meantime, until that Day occurs, we are to be vigilant to “encourage one another and build one another up.”  While God works, we encourage.  We are to come alongside each other, speaking grace and helping one another become successful in our daily Christian walks.  That is no small task, considering the immense evil in the world.  Thus, no lone ranger Christianity will do.  Individual mavericks will not make it unless they accept the encouragement and help of God’s people.
            So, are you trying to live the Christian life in your own strength, on your own terms, in your own way?  “Private Christian” is an oxymoron.  Every believer needs the encouragement that God provides through his people, the church.  What will you do today to foster and/or deepen your bonds with other believers?
            Gracious God, thank you that I do not need to live the Christian life on my own.  Not only have you given me your Holy Spirit, but other believers to help and encourage me as I strive to walk in holiness each and every day.  Empower me to bless others, as well, through Jesus Christ my Lord.  Amen.

Daniel 9:1-19

            Daniel was one of the godliest persons in the whole of Scripture.  It was not so much because he was wise and insightful, savvy and ingenious.  He was certainly those things.  But what made Daniel godly was his tremendous sensitivity to sin.  It drove him to prayer.  It led him to fast.  It caused him to cry out to God with a great penitential confession.  Now, mind you, Daniel did not have all this concern because of his own personal failings; he was not the one running from God.  Yet, he identified so closely with his fellow Jews that he was totally distraught over their disloyalty to God’s covenant stipulations.  In other words, Israel simply did not care to obey God and they were not concerned to offer any kind of prayer of confession.  Daniel did for them what they either would not or could not do for themselves.
            The Lord Jesus told his disciples what truly characterizes a person of righteousness.  He said that God’s stamp of approval rests upon those who mourn (Matthew 5:4).  Genuinely godly people react emotionally over sin – not only theirs, but the sins of others.  Dwelling in the light of God’s presence will always cause us to discern the blackness of sin in all its foul depravity.  To not grieve over sin and disobedience is to not know God.
            Every human being is rushing toward eternity, and will be judged according to God’s gracious revealing of himself and his ways for humanity.  The person who grasps this reality cannot help but grieve over sin.  He mourns over the sins and the callous disregard of God in his nation.  He mourns over the greed, the hate, the cynicism, and the base lack of integrity around him.  Indeed, such a person mourns that there are so few mourners.
            Merciful God, I confess to you the sins of your people – their inattention to the things that are most important to you.  I grieve over the state of so many that do not know your grace and goodness.  I am ashamed before you that so few are sensitive to sin, even in your church.  To you, Lord God, belongs mercy and forgiveness.  O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive.  To you do I plead on behalf of the sins of many so that your grace will become operative through Jesus Christ.  Amen.