Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Life of Devotion


Scripture
 
Acts 10:1   In Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian Cohort, as it was called.  2 He was a devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God.  3 One afternoon at about three o’clock he had a vision in which he clearly saw an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius.”  4 He stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” He answered, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.  5 Now send men to Joppa for a certain Simon who is called Peter;  6 he is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside.”  7 When the angel who spoke to him had left, he called two of his slaves and a devout soldier from the ranks of those who served him,  8 and after telling them everything, he sent them to Joppa.

Observation

Cornelius was a good and devout man who did not know about Jesus. He earnestly sought the face of God and was a leader who managed his own household well. Giving to others was a major feature of his life, as well as giving himself to prayer. While he was a Gentile, it was the sincerity of his motivations to which God responded. God had just used Peter to bring life to Tabitha, a woman who had been engaged in good works. Now, God would use Peter to transform this man’s good works and devotion into a Spirit-empowered new life in Christ.

Both the eunuch in Gaza and Cornelius in Caesarea were men of high rank. At the same time they were devout seekers of the truth and because of this, God responded to the deep desire of their heart. Both of these men had dignified positions, but they were especially devout and lived pious lives. What an incredible testimony when people of position humble themselves before God and are willing to be used as servant leaders.

He was a devout man who cared for his household but also his soldiers, and all the people. His devotion was not just a personal piety, but one which permeated every sphere of influence. This is what happens when one lives a life of devotion.

Application

Genuine devotion to God cannot be hidden for it will be visible in the way in which we live out our lives and the way in which we interact with our children, fellow employees and beyond.

The number of young people leaving the faith these days is quite astounding but the concerns they are voicing are very real. The disconnect between the expressed faith and the daily life have been far too visible in the lives of their parents or other influential adults and this has been disappointing. There is a deep desire to see faith lived out in word and deed in a way that is genuine and reflective of Christ. Not only our children, but the secular world is gazing in on Christianity and wanting to see authentic faith.

Authentic faith was being reflected in the life of a man who did not know Jesus. That’s pretty amazing. A life of devotion is necessary for God’s children and God will respond to those who are sincere. God will continue to work outside the bounds of traditional religion when there are those who are devout and are seeking with all their heart. We hear testimonies to this among refugees and persons of non-Christian faiths. If this can happen for people outside the Christian world, why not for those within? Maybe because there is a lack of devotion.

God’s people should be devoted in private and reflecting Christ in public.

Prayer

Lord, please help me to draw closer to you today and reflect you in all I do. Amen.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Participation


Scripture
 
Acts 9:36   Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity.  37 At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs.  38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.”  39 So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them.  40 Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up.  41 He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive.  42 This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.  43 Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.

Observation

The reputation of Christ’s apostles was growing and people began to call upon them when they had need. This woman, Tabitha, was a good woman who devoted herself to helping others. She was gifted with her hands and used her talents and abilities to help those in need. Sadly, she seems to have died quiet suddenly and her small communities was very distraught. They heard that Peter was nearby so called for him to come. Immediately he came and discovered what an amazing woman she had been. The people wanted him to know everything that she had done for them. The widowed women, without financial support, were grateful for the beautiful things she had created for them. One can only imagine the joy of a simple beautiful piece of clothing when one has nothing.

Peter, knowing that they were all suffering, sent them outside and he remained alone with the body. He becomes quiet, kneels down and begins to pray. The rest of the scene unfolds as he speaks to her, telling her to get up. Amazingly her eyes open and seeing the apostle, she sits up. This miracle was one which was retold on numerous occasions and because of it, many believed in Jesus.

Application
 
Let’s look at Peter a moment.  Not only did he pray, seeking to know where God was leading but something transformative happened in that time and space. God’s plan is for us to be transformed into the image of Christ – for us to be reflections of Christ in this world. This is holiness – we are to be like our holy God, participating with God, as we live our lives in the world. It’s easy to slip right over the significance of Peter taking time to pray in the story but it is in that moment that we see him slip into participation with Christ. Not only is it participation, but in participation there is transformation.

What we see happening in the middle of the story is a change in focus. Tabitha, or Dorcas, was known for her good works. This was wonderful and her life was a testimony because of the good things she had done. However, Peter’s goal was not to do good works – his goal was to become like Christ. After praying, he turns to the body of Dorcas and uses her Aramaic name – Tabitha. If he spoke the entire sentence in Aramaic his words would have been only one letter different from the words that Jesus spoke when he raised the little girl from the dead, “Talitha cum.”…now Peter speaks, “Tabitha cum.” It’s in that moment that we look at Peter and we don't know if we’re seeing Peter, or if we are seeing Christ. We don’t know the difference…and this is the call of Christian life – one of holiness – which leads us out into mission.

The call of the Christian life is participation in Christ. We are to be partakers of the divine nature, being transformed by his holiness which will always lead us to mission.

Prayer

Lord, may my simple prayer lead me to participation in you today. Amen.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

An Invitation to Partake


Scripture
 
John 6:52   The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”  53 So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day;  55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.  56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.  57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.  58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”  59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

Observation

The Jews were continually confused by Jesus. What was he suggesting in this language? The idea of partaking his blood and flesh would have sounded ridiculous and repulsive to them but they didn’t seem to understand, or possibly desire to understand this metaphorically. Jesus had come to provide a way for humanity to partake of the divine nature and to become God’s holy people. No longer was this to be through the law but by the transformation of their lives through participation in Christ. That’s why the bread came down from heaven, to be accessible to all. The love of the holy Father compelled Christ to come in the flesh so that flesh might become partakers and live forever.

Application
 
Not everything in Scripture is literal and when we get hung up on the literal we may lose sight of the real message. This invitation to become partakers of Christ is really quite astounding. It is a pathway to transformation in all of our lives that is probably beyond our human understanding and it goes to the very core of holiness. It is in partaking that we become abiders. This continual, day in and day out abiding in holy communion with God provides for us a way in which to live. The strains of life can be overwhelming and far beyond our control. It is in the moment that we think we have one thing settled that another arises and we discover that we have no control. All we can do is partake and abide and live in the peace of knowing Christ.

The invitation to partake comes to us directly from Christ. Every time that we fellowship at his table we are reminded of this beautiful promise of participation in God. This is our hope for today and the future. We can learn to trust in the Lord and walk daily, nourished by participation in Christ.

Prayer
 
Lord, please help me to live in your abiding presence today. Amen.

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

THE Name


Scripture
 
Psa. 113:2        Blessed be the name of the LORD
        from this time on and forevermore.
3     From the rising of the sun to its setting
        the name of the LORD is to be praised.
4     The LORD is high above all nations,
        and his glory above the heavens.

Observation

The name of God, the LORD had been revealed to Moses at the burning bush. The LORD, the great “I am that I am” is God’s name forever and title for all generations (Ex. 3:15). The name reveals us to us the very nature of God and a commitment to life. There is an endlessness that is expressed in the name of the LORD and praise responds at its revelation. All of creation joins in praising the LORD whose name is worthy of all praise.

Application
 
Every now and then I have to get up really early to catch a flight. If I leave the house between four and five in the morning I experience something that I usually miss and that is the awakening of the birds. There is such an incredible cacophony of praise which can be heard throughout the trees of the early morning just before the rising of the sun, and it is stunning. Could it be that all creation is awakening with the dawn and praising the name of the LORD? If the simple creatures of this earth know how to praise God with the rising of the sun, why can we not do the same?

The Psalmist leads us into a beautiful song of praise before the LORD. Day in and day out praise and worship of the LORD should be on our lips for God is worthy of our praise. The name of the LORD reveals more than we can truly comprehend. We have tried to take YHWH — what is known as the “tetragrammaton” and translate it into something meaningful for all of us. Because there were no vowels in early Hebrew those four letters have been expanded to become Yahweh. Throughout our contemporary translations of Scripture whenever YHWH is encountered in the original Hebrew we find LORD — which is not to be confused with Lord in the New Testament. LORD, in all caps, is the English translation of YHWH. THE name means “I am” or “I am that I am,” THE name is the very root or essence of life itself and has eternal qualities. God has always been, is presently, and always will be. God is life itself.

The creatures awaken at the dawn and sing praises to the LORD. We are invited into that beautiful life of praise and worship of the One who brings life to all things. As we arise with the dawn and head out for the day may we join with all creation in singing our praises to the LORD who is worthy.

Prayer
 
Lord, with the dawn of this new day, I praise your name. May praise for you be on my lips throughout this day until the setting of the sun. You are great and glorious. Amen.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Just One More Miracle


Scripture
 
John 6:31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 

Observation

Jesus had just fed the 5000 and then traveled to the other side of the sea. The people were looking for him because of the miracle and they wanted to experience more. Suddenly greed was taking hold and they wanted what Jesus had to offer, but they didn’t want Jesus! Chrysostom tells us:

There is nothing worse, nothing more shameful, than gluttony, which clouds the judgment and reduces the soul to satisfying appetites. . . . For instance, nothing can be more unreasonable than their asking for another miracle, as if none had been given already. And they do not even leave the choice of the miracle to our Lord but would oblige him to give them just that sign that was given to their ancestors: “Our fathers ate manna in the desert.” . . . There were many miracles performed in Egypt, at the Red Sea and in the desert, and yet they remembered this one the best of any. Such is the force of appetite. . . . They do not mention this miracle as the work either of God or of Moses, in order to avoid raising Jesus on the one hand to an equality with God or lowering him on the other by a comparison with Moses. Rather, they take the middle ground, only saying, “Our fathers ate manna in the desert.” (Chrysostom, HOMILIES ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 45.1)

Expecting Jesus to perform for them on demand, they were disappointed for what he had to offer was was much more transformational, as he was the bread of life.

Application
 
Life comes crashing in around us and we cry out to the Lord for help. The Lord supplies our need and we are grateful but somehow we become fixated on the thing that met our need, and not on Jesus himself. We pray earnestly for the things that we think that we want, but we don’t seek the face of God. We want just one more miracle and we promise that we will be satisfied but we don’t want God to rule in our lives. The struggle becomes very real as we refuse to confess that Jesus is Lord and instead hang onto every bit of power that we can.

Expecting one more miracle from Jesus, just so that he will perform at our whim, is manipulative. Jesus will not perform on demand and there won’t be just one more miracle. We are, instead, invited into the very presence of the one who will transform our lives and feed us with himself on a daily basis. Seeking the face of God on a daily basis we are transformed as we reflect Jesus in all that we say and do. This is the miracle and none other is required.

Prayer
 
Lord, I seek you today and my desire is to be more like you.  Amen.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

For the Love of Power


Scripture
 
Acts 8:18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money,  19 saying, “Give me also this power so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”  20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God’s gift with money!  21 You have no part or share in this, for your heart is not right before God.  22 Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.  23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the chains of wickedness.”  24 Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may happen to me.”

Observation

Simon saw the way in which the disciples were transformed when filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. Instead of understanding the infilling of the Holy Spirit as a way for the good news of Jesus Christ to be spread throughout the world he immediately began to imagine the ways in which his life could be enhanced. The Holy Spirit was powerful and lives were being changed and people healed as a result. If only he could harness this power he could make money! Basil the Great reminds us however, that “the Spirit’s power is not a business transaction.” The Holy Spirit is not presented for the love of power, but for the love of Jesus.

Peter pronounced judgement on him, not because of vengeance but because of justice. What the man was wanting to do was simply wrong and the results would be catastrophic in his own life. The grace of Jesus was extended to Simon who was offered repentance. If he would have the right heart, he would seek with the right spirit then the love of power would dissolve and the love for Christ would consume.

Application
 
The love of power can be intoxicating. Wielding gifts and talents given by God with the wrong motivations can lead to a very destructive path. We hate being reminded of that and may even take offense when being corrected. But correction may be coming from a heart of love that is trying to deter the individual from misusing what has come from God.

Power can be manifested in many ways in our lives. Little children, early on, learn the power of manipulation. It’s amazing how such little humans can control a room of adults! Later in life we find power in relationships in which there is to be mutual love and submission. The love of power encourages one to dominate the other. In different countries of the world people of particular race or ethnic backgrounds may simply be born to power. Without realizing they have been born with the privileges of power people assume it is simply the natural state and love their positions. As people accumulate wealth they exercise power. When justice begins to question the role that power may be playing righteous indignation often ensues.

The good news is that there is room for repentance. Peter revealed to Simon the depth of his sin but also provided him a way out. Confronting the love of power may be necessary to help bring us to the place of repentance. We can be set free from the love of power and be bound by the love of Christ.

Prayer
 
Lord, may your love consume me today and every day.  Amen.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Near As Our Shadow


Scripture
 
Psa. 121:5        The LORD is your keeper;
        the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
6     The sun shall not strike you by day,
        nor the moon by night.

Observation
 
The Lord is thy keeper. Here the preserving One, who had been spoken of by pronouns in the two previous verses, is distinctly named—Jehovah is thy keeper. What a mint of meaning lies here: the sentence is a mass of bullion, and when coined and stamped with the king’s name it will bear all our expenses between our birthplace on earth and our rest in heaven. Here is a glorious person—Jehovah, assuming a gracious office and fulfilling it in person,—Jehovah is thy keeper, in behalf of a favoured individual—thy, and a firm assurance of revelation that it is even so at this hour—Jehovah is thy keeper. Can we appropriate the divine declaration? If so, we may journey onward to Jerusalem and know no fear; yea, we may journey through the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil. The Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. A shade gives protection from burning heat and glaring light. We cannot bear too much blessing; even divine goodness, which is a right hand dispensation, must be toned down and shaded to suit our infirmity, and this the Lord will do for us. He will bear a shield before us, and guard the right arm with which we fight the foe. That member which has the most of labour shall have the most of protection. When a blazing sun pours down its burning beams upon our heads the Lord Jehovah himself will interpose to shade us, and that in the most honourable manner, acting as our right hand attendant, and placing us in comfort and safety. “The Lord at thy right hand shall smite through kings”. How different this from the portion of the ungodly ones who have Satan standing at their right hand, and of those of whom Moses said, “their defence has departed from them”. God is as near us as our shadow, and we are as safe as angels.(Spurgeon’s Treasury of David)

The sun and the moon are both objects that either bring or reflect light. In both of these circumstances there is a shadow that cannot be shaken. The visible enemies of the day and the invisible of the night are all seen by God who remains near as a shadow and always on guard on our behalf.

Application
 
I remember as a little girl playing with my shadow. Maybe I had recently read or seen “Peter Pan” but I found it fascinating that no matter what I did, I could not disconnect myself from my shadow. I would jump and run and try and hide, but somehow my shadow always came with me. On a bright and sunny day it was impossible to escape my shadow because it was attached to me.

The Lord is our keeper who cannot be shaken from us. God’s prevenient grace is always reaching out to draw beloved children back home. In the midst of trials and adversity God never runs away but remains as a tool of defense in the time of trouble.

Either we embrace the beautiful gift of God found at our right hand, or we try in vain to create distance. Trying to do things on our own looks just as silly as a child trying to shake their shadow. The natural order creates the shadow and so the natural order is for God to be our helper. Managing without the help of God doesn’t work well because we were created with connection. God is near as our shadow, so live into the peace of the presence of the shade at our right hand.

Prayer
 
Lord, thank you for always being near.  Amen.

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