Thursday, August 21, 2014

Living Our Lives In Him



Scripture:

1John 2:28 ¶ And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he is revealed we may have confidence and not be put to shame before him at his coming.

Observation:


As disciples we are challenged to grow up spiritually. We begin as little children and we come with childlike faith but there is so much more in store for us as we grow in him and this is the challenge, to “abide in him.” This is the very act of living our lives every single day in the Lord. The result of living in him is that when we meet him face to face there will be no fear, for we have been united with him in the journey.

Application:

John has been informing us about the importance of discipleship in the lives of those who are following Christ. The relationship with the Lord must be one of constant and on-going growth.  The whole idea of disciple-making is an active and continual on-going activity without end. This is what God wants from us, his followers, who are not just following, but also learning for at the root of the word disciple we also find a student, one who follows and learns from the teacher.

In a practical sense, then, we need to think about what it means to “abide in him.” While I’ve mentioned the idea of growth and movement in discipleship there is also something rather static sounding about “abiding.” I believe the “static” part of abiding is that it is constant and continual. This is not a journey where you hop on and hop off. 

I travel an awful lot these days and as I make my way through airports there are many moving walkways. If I choose to use one of these, I commit myself to getting on. I must abide on the moving walkway or else I’m going to hurt myself trying to get off somewhere in the middle. Therefore there is a sense of trusting in the system and abiding there. However, at the same time I can choose to simply stand there and let the walkway move me along, or I can join in the activity and walk on the walkway that is moving and end up travelling at some pretty fast speeds.

First of all I have to commit myself to the journey. I have to get on with it! Am I willing to be on the journey with our Lord, and if so, I need to stay there and journey with him throughout life. The results of jumping off the journey are just as harmful as it would be for me to decide to jump off the moving walkway half-way through where there is no exit. Abide — jump in and stay there. It’s worth the trip.

Once I am abiding I have a choice to make regarding the speed at which I’m willing to travel. You may step to the right and stand for the journey. The result is that you travel at a smooth slow pace, pulled along by the grace of God. You will reach your destination but you won’t get everything out of the trip that you could have, had you put a little of your own energy into it.

For those who are abiding in him, on the journey, who really want to know him at a deeper level, we are challenged to participate in the spiritual disciplines. Just like I can participate in the journey on the moving walkway, so we can participate in the journey with our Lord. By abiding in the word, abiding in study, abiding in prayer, and abiding in living like Jesus in the world we move even faster and draw closer to him, looking more and more like him.

Our world desperately needs to see the real Jesus at work. They will only see him through committed followers who are abiding in him, willing to put in the effort to look more and more like him so that Jesus is clearly seen on a daily basis. This is abiding. This is how we live our lives in him.

Prayer:


Lord, please help me to continually abide, live and grow in you.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What Have You Seen?



Scripture:

1John 1:1 ¶ We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—

Observation:

The opening line of this letter is one in which we are invited to read the testimony of the author. The author is declaring the things he has seen, heard and touched. This Jesus whom he is proclaiming is not dead, but instead is the living word, the life-giving word and a man whom he knew personally. There was nothing to be made up about the Savior, for he had experienced more with Jesus than he could even recount and Jesus’ teaching had brought truth that revealed the mysteries from the beginning of time. John had seen it all!

Application:

This Scripture really is a challenge for all of God’s children for we wonder whether we could possibly have a testimony like this. What would it mean for us to declare all that we have experienced with the Lord.

I find it fascinating that John utilizes all of his senses in relation to Christ. Christ is not an immaterial spiritual being, but is instead the very incarnate presence of God on earth. Jesus has walked and talked with his disciples for years and has revealed to them what it means for God’s people to be his holy people. It’s not just a state of mind, nor is it exclusion from the world, it’s being holy in the world. It’s Jesus walking and talking with sinners. It’s Jesus being intentional about teaching and discipling others. It’s Jesus using every moment and opportunity to call sinners to him. It’s Jesus going to the needy and reaching out and touching them at the point of their deepest need.

John had heard the teaching of Jesus.

John had seen the miracles of Jesus.

John had rubbed elbows with Jesus.

We don’t often think about the very personal way in which the disciples knew Jesus. Think about hours together on hot boats out on the sea of Galilee with the sweaty and smelly bodies of fishermen. This was the Jesus that John had experienced — a very earthy human and yet divine being who led him into knowing all Truth.

And all this begs the question — what could you declare about Jesus? Have we given him enough space in our lives that we would be able to report on all that we have experienced? If not, we need to allow him into every part of our lives and this can be a bit tricky. Somehow it may seem comfortable to allow him into our minds and into our worship but somehow we compartmentalize him there and don’t let him into the earthiness of our own lives. However, this is where he wants to dwell with us in all that we do — including the nitty gritty of every day life.

He wants to be with us in the classroom.

He wants to be with us in the grocery store.

He wants to be with us in the church softball game.

He wants to be with us on that date.

He wants to be in our marriages.

He wants to be in the midst of our outings with our friends.

He wants us to be able to explain what it is that we have heard, and touched and seen. We are to testify to the work of Jesus Christ just as John has. This is only possible when we are experiencing him in every aspect of our lives.

Prayer:

Lord, may I be able to share today and everyday what it is that I have seen.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Model for Prayer



Scripture:

Psa. 105:1      ¶ O give thanks to the LORD, call on his name,
        make known his deeds among the peoples.
Psa. 105:2     Sing to him, sing praises to him;
        tell of all his wonderful works.
Psa. 105:3     Glory in his holy name;
        let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
Psa. 105:4     Seek the LORD and his strength;
        seek his presence continually.

Observation:

The Psalmist had a deeply intimate relationship with the LORD. He knew what it meant to spend time in the LORD’s presence and to seek his face. In this Psalm he provides us with a model from what he has learned in his personal relationship to the LORD.

He begins his prayer by giving thanks to the LORD. It’s time for God’s people to give him thanks for all that he has done and to call on his name. There is a suggestion of intimacy here that one would call upon the name of the LORD — because by knowing the name of the LORD, one has become close to God. We are invited into this friendship with God and are to call him by name. We are also to brag on our God and let those around us know of our thanksgiving to God for he has been engaged in our lives and has been working. Therefore as we enter into the sanctuary of prayer we give thanks, calling out to God and letting others know what it is that he has done!

This is just the preamble to this time in the LORD’s presence. Next it is important to sing to him, to sing and praise God for all of his wonderful works. Some may not be able to carry a tune at all but that doesn’t matter to God. It is the motivation that we find at the center of it all — the motivation of a heart turned toward the God whom we love. The Psalmist was a musician and so this was a powerful way for him to express his deep and abiding love for God.

Either through music or by simply sitting in God’s presence it’s possible to “glory in his holy name.” Just imagine the difference between the living God and the gods that other people serve. Whenever we see the word “glory” we should think of God’s holy presence. It is possible to experience the living God’s holy presence in the here and now. Therefore when we call upon his name, he comes to us and we are able to participate and fellowship with the God of all creation. No wonder we are encouraged to “let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!” Rejoicing is the automatic response to being blessed by his holy presence.

Finally in our model for prayer we are encouraged to continually seek the Lord. Day in and day out we desire to be in his holy presence and we seek him out. After we have tasted and seen how sweet the LORD is we will desire to be with him at all times. His strength will fill us day after day to accomplish what he desires as we walk and talk and dwell in his presence.

Application:

The Psalmist was onto something in his prayer life. We are in need of this same intimacy with the LORD. May we follow his example and be led into a deeper and continual walk in God’s presence today and everyday.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the sweetness of your presence which gives strength every day.  Amen.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Prince of Peace



Scripture:

John 20:19 ¶ When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
John 20:20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
John 20:21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

John 20:26 ¶ A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

Observation:

Jesus came to this earth as the “Prince of Peace.” On the night he was born those who announced his birth declared, “peace on earth.” Now, at the closing chapter of his life, recorded for us in the Gospel of John, the resurrected Jesus visits his disciples to bring them final words. Again they are words of peace. Three times in these few verses he appears and tells them,”Peace be with you.”

Just as he came to usher in a kingdom of peace, so Jesus was breathing his peace upon his followers. The new kingdom was now gaining ground, day in and day out, in the lives of his followers. For this foothold to really take shape he would need to ascend to heaven and send them the Holy Spirit. The breath of peace would be upon them all as the Spirit filled them. The Prince of Peace had come to bring an everlasting peace that would forever change the lives of his followers and begin to sweep across the known world in ways that they never would have imagined. Kingdom of God peace had come and continues to be available to all today.

Application:


Our world is anything but peaceful these days. Unfortunately this is not anything new. As we read through human history we will discover that it is sketched out, and the story told, by one conflict after another. From the second generation of humans we discover Cain killing his brother Abel. Peace didn’t last very long in the very beginning and as humanity has leaned into the “bent toward sinning,” conflict and war has continued. Unfortunately it is a part of our corrupted nature.

Jesus came in human flesh to bring healing to the corruption in our nature, providing a pathway for the corruption to be healed. No longer do we have to have this “bent toward sinning,” nor this inclination to war, fighting or conflict. Instead, as God’s children we can live in his kingdom of peace. Unfortunately we cannot make that choice for others who live around us but it does challenge us and our response when provoked.

Jesus breathed peace to his disciples. History records that nearly all of them suffered unpleasant deaths at the hands of those who saw them as a threat. At the same time they seem to have left this world with an incredible peace that could only have come from the “Prince of Peace,” the one who has overcome worldly kingdoms.  His peace remains available for us today as we are challenged to step into and live out our lives in his kingdom, transforming us, his citizens, in every aspect of our lives from a people of conflict, to a people of peace.

Prayer:

Lord, may I lean into your kingdom of peace today.  Amen.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Submission to Human Power



Scripture:

John 19:10 Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?”
John 19:11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”
John 19:12 From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.”

Observation:

Pilate had tested the winds and become well aware of what it was that the Jewish religious leaders and the people wanted from him. He had convinced himself that he was in control and that he had power over the situation. He reported this to Jesus. What Jesus was saying to him was that he really did not have any power and whether or not Jesus would speak in his own defense had little to do with the outcome of the upcoming events. The reality was that Pilate didn’t have the power. God knew what the responses of the people would be and he recognized that Pilate was a man who would become complicit in the affairs of the people because he would do everything that he could to maintain his appearance of power. The Jews even used Pilate’s own fear of power from the emperor to manipulate his response. So, while Pilate had said that he had the power to release or to crucify Christ, in reality he only had his own personal submission to human power.

Application:

Wouldn’t we all like to believe that we would not respond in the same way as Pilate? Of course we would like to believe that, but putting ourselves in the same position, would we? This is where the question of submission really becomes important in our lives. As Jesus followers we are to submit to his leading and authority in our lives in all things! The result is that there will be times that those around us will not like us and may stand up against us. What do we do in those kinds of situations and how can we guard against submitting to human power?

First of all I think we need to be realistic about the temptations that we face.  Pilate had allowed himself to believe that he was still in control and was not being manipulated by the people around him. However, while Pilate had declared that he could find nothing wrong with this man, he ended up sending him to be executed. So, how did that happen?  The temptations of Pilate were many for he was an insecure man.

Pilate was a Roman leader in a Jewish land and he wanted to make both the emperor and the people happy. This meant trying to keep the peace and his temptation was to keep the peace at all costs because he was worried about his own career. The temptation was to place his career above doing the right thing. In this way he was always ready to submit to the power of the Empire. But at the same time he faced the temptation of not being liked by the local citizenry. While he didn’t seem to totally understand the religious systems and structures of the Jews he wanted to keep their leadership happy. Now they were asking him to do something that made no sense but he was tempted by their human power of persuasion and their ability to manipulate the masses. Finally he steps out to poll the masses and realizes that they really do want to crucify this man. The people have spoken and they have now manipulated the leader who is afraid to disappoint them. He masks this fear in language of power but the reality is that he has none in this situation and simply capitulates to the power of the crowds.

This is exactly why God was able to use him in this circumstance. Sure, God’s power could have saved Jesus but it was God’s intent that Jesus would die for the sins of the people and Pilate was an instrument in the plan simply because God knew his character. Pilate had fooled himself into believing that he had power and yet God knew that he would succumb to the manipulation of the crowds. God really was in control!

All around there are those rising up against Christianity and telling us what to do. We are being pushed into submitting to human power and control and yet, what is it that God wants from you and from me? How do we keep ourselves from testing the winds of the loud and angry crowds before determining our response?

If we are not “in Christ” we will not understand real power. Real power comes from God above and sometimes looks radically different from anything that you would experience here on this earth. What we must ask ourselves is whether we are willing to trust in the power of God in our lives, even in the midst of temptations.

God, himself, is the source of all power and we are called to put our trust in him. This means that we are not to test the winds of this world in regard to our response but we are to stand firm on the foundation of God’s word and our relationship with him. As the pressures and the temptations increase to conform or submit to human power we must all the more seek the face of God. He is the source of all true strength and may God help us from giving into the temptation of submitting to the false notion of human power.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me stay connected to you and your power every day. Amen.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

What Is Truth?



Scripture:

John 18:36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”
John 18:37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
John 18:38 Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”

Observation:


Jesus was bold when it came to talking about the kingdom of God and when he is captured and turned over to the government authorities he does not try to hide his purpose. His life is one that that testifies to the truth and that points people away from the kingdoms of this world and to the “kingdom of our Lord and of our Christ.” The deception is really the world that we see around us on a daily basis because it blinds us to the truth of the kingdom of God. Jesus was trying to help Pilate see this truth but he could not. For him the question “what is truth?” remained and he continued stumbling in the darkness, trying to satisfy the deceptive world around him.

Application:

Part of the deception of worldly kingdoms has to do with power. As much as we may not want to talk about it, much of life is about power. Who has it and who doesn’t! What we we do with it and what we don’t!

There are many different types of power in this world including ethnicity, race, gender, physical attractiveness, voice, ability to speak, athletic prowess, etc. Humanity seems to endow certain people who have particular physical characteristics with power. Then there is positional power. This is the power that we have by way of the position that we hold. This is why we are, at times, almost smitten by charismatic and physically attractive leadership — but it should also be a warning to those who have these characteristics. Beware of where your power comes from and how you use it! All earthly power should exist in submission to Kingdom power which is true power. All of human power — that which comes from human characteristics or circumstances is temporal and is, actually, deceptive. For what happens to the deposed leader? Once their positional power is gone the fall is great. Often they are left with nothing for all of this is a deception, a facade where we engage in games of manipulation for the sake of personal gain. This is not truth!

What happens to power when it is submitted to the authority of the kingdom of God, the one in whom we find Truth? This would be the plan of God for humanity, to become participants in God’s kingdom. We are challenged to put aside human models and systems of power because in these we are easily manipulated by the desires of humanity. What did Pilate do that day? He did not submit to the Truth of the kingdom but he went outside and took a poll to see what would make him more popular among the people. He was seeking human power, he wanted to be liked by those whom he “thought” he was leading. He floated the idea of setting Jesus free and this probably assuaged his conscience, but at the end of the day the polling numbers showed that the people wanted Jesus crucified and Barrabas set free. Pilate wanted power — not Truth — and so he had the “King of the Jews” crucified.

What is truth? Jesus is Truth! To know Jesus is to be given the opportunity to see into the real kingdom — God’s kingdom. In that moment Truth is revealed for the deceptiveness of humanity’s power struggles give way to the Father’s kingdom in which the pettiness of our earthly shenanigans look ridiculous. Pilate had Jesus standing right in front of him and declaring the kingdom of God and he couldn’t see it. Jesus is revealing himself and the kingdom to us on a daily basis. May we not be deceived by the things of this world and may they not distract us from the Truth.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to live in your Truth daily.  Amen.

Friday, August 15, 2014

God’s Love Revealed



Scripture:

John 17:25 ¶ “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me.
John 17:26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Observation:

Jesus is praying for his followers and in this prayer we can hear and sense his deep love for them all. God’s very nature is holy love and it is in these passages that this is again revealed. Jesus has been sent by the Father and by his incarnation he has revealed the nature of God to the disciples. They are able to see God in the flesh in Christ and this means an embodiment of holy love. God’s love is revealed in Christ.

The Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit make up a community of holy love, one into which you and I are invited. The invitation is extended for us to fellowship with our holy and loving God. In this way the love which exists in God, and revealed in Christ Jesus is extended to you and to me. We may be filled up to the brim with his love, and with Jesus. God’s love is revealed in Jesus and this is to be reflected in you and me as we live and walk in this world.

Application:

It’s when I meditate on Scriptures such as this one that I can become overwhelmed by the love of Christ. I can only scratch the surface of understanding what it is that Christ has done for us by coming and living in human flesh. The love of God revealed in this act may be something that we can never, ever truly understand but there are implications for us in our daily lives. Jesus came in human flesh so that God’s nature of holy love could be revealed to us. This revelation becomes an invitation for us to become “partakers of the divine nature.” By becoming “partakers of the divine nature” Christ is in us and Christ is now revealed through us. Just as God's love was revealed in Christ, now, as his followers who are living in him, Christ’s holy love is revealed on a daily basis in you and me.

This is what it means to be God’s sanctified children and it is his plan for all of those who are following him. We are his holy (sanctified) children because of our participation in him. It is his holiness (holy love) which is reflected in us. We are to seek his face on a daily basis for he is transforming us “from glory to glory” until we become the very radiance of God.

The only way this transformation can occur in your life and mine is to soak in God’s holy presence on a regular basis. It is in this place that his love is revealed to us and that we become a reflection of his love to the world around us. We must take the time to sit at the Master’s feet and learn from him. It requires time in prayer and in the Scriptures, and time is precious. But once we learn to quiet ourselves in that place we discover that we are constantly being drawn back because there is no place sweeter than in his holy presence.It is in this place God’s love is revealed and here we experience Christ and his love.

Prayer:

Lord, your love overwhelms me. Thank you.  Amen.