Saturday, April 18, 2015
Psalm 34:1 I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2 My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. 3 O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.
David had times in life when things were not going right. His biggest enemy was his father-in-law who was terribly jealous of him. To avoid the turmoil of that relationship on a daily basis he left, leaving behind his dearest friend, Jonathan. It was a very difficult and painful, and yet, he continued to praise the Lord.
He blessed and praised God, because his focus was on the Lord and not on himself. Yes, things were difficult, but he sang songs of praise to God in the midst of his difficult moments.
When the focus of our lives is on all the earthbound issues we are facing we will lose balance. Turning our attention on the Lord, praising and worshiping him will bring the needed peace in the midst of the storm.
David encourages us to bless the Lord at all times — in all things — in the midst of all circumstances. Praise for God must be on our lips.
Any boasting should be in the Lord, and in him alone! God is our strength, he is our refuge! Stop looking for other people to solve your problems. Stop expecting others to be your strength and your refuge. Realizing that God is the only provider brings about great humility, for we are dependent upon him in all things!
Let’s join with David today, magnifying the Lord and exalting his name together. Praising God — it’s good for what ails you!
Lord, may my life be one of praise and worship of you today in my heart and in my life. Amen.
Thursday, April 16, 2015
Matthew 3:8 Bear fruit worthy of repentance.
People were coming out in droves, excited by the preaching of this wild man, John the Baptist. Even religious leaders were making their way to the countryside, enticed by his charisma. John, however, knew that they were still very self-absorbed. Their faith was far too wrapped up in traditions and in their own personal lineage. The inheritance which they received was of huge importance and for them was really their salvation.
John was challenging them to something new — something deeper. Now their repentance had to mean something — they were to be different! Their lives were to bear the fruit of one who had truly repented. No matter what their inheritance or heritage may have been, that would not be good enough. Society may have thought it was worth something, but it was not worth anything in the eyes of God.
Repentance meant a new life that was evangelical by nature, sharing the good news with others, and thus bearing fruit. We become part of an “evangelical society that exists ‘in newness of life.’” (Cyril of Alexandria, Fragment 20) It was John's challenge to the religious leaders. What would their lives really reveal?
The true inheritance is what we receive by way of Christ. That which we receive from our parents, or from the world is not a pedigree that will bring us eternal life. What we receive by way of Christ is new life. As we are baptized into this life we are made new — regenerated as his children. That’s why the things of the world do not matter! What matters is being in him and living as a part of God’s family.
As a member of God’s family we want to share what we have with others. Why wouldn’t we? We are invited into a deeply personal relationship — to become children of God. We are united with him throughout all of eternity and the song of the old hymn becomes so clear — “The things of this world will grow strangely dim.” The pedigree we may have, the things we may have obtained — they will all grow strangely dim in light of God! And wouldn’t we want others around us to experience this as well? If we are not sharing this with others, aren’t we being exceedingly selfish?
“Bear fruit worthy of repentance.”
The work of Christ makes regeneration possible. Repentance on our part leads us into the new life which is made a reality because of Christ’s work, but we must bear fruit. No excuses. We are a blessed people. If we don’t share what we have we may just shrivel up and die because we have been reborn to bear fruit. Our true inheritance — Christ. The challenge is huge! Live worthy of him!
Lord, please help me be aware of opportunities you provide. Amen.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
I Samuel 17:47 and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’S and he will give you into our hand.”
A young boy, David, was about to do battle with Goliath. Everyone around him wanted him to do battle using the typical weapons created by humans. He tried on the King’s armor and it nearly suffocated him! Now, he was ready to face the giant with the talents that God had given him, and that he was willing to submit to the LORD.
By submitting himself entirely to God the battle became God’s. It wasn’t a human fight of power and strength, but it was a quiet battle of God at work. When God worked the results were different than any had imagined. The one little boy with one rock empowered by God calmed the storm.
Theodore of Cyr says that “we need only the Lord’s goodness to stay the storm.” (Letter 16) The goodness of the LORD is what saved David. It is the goodness of the LORD who brings about victory — and why? David had clearly stated in verse 46, “so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.”
The battle wasn’t about David or Goliath winning, it was about the LORD being lifted up as the God of Israel.
A number of years ago we were purchasing an apartment in Russia and we had a deadline for making payments. The building was not yet even built but we had to make three initial lump sum payments, in good faith, so that we could have our flat. We had asked for a routing number so the money could be wired in and wouldn’t have to be brought in cash. The money was wired but landed in the Russian Central Bank where they would not move it any further because the apartment company had given us the wrong numbers. We worked for days to get the numbers fixed but the company didn’t seem to know how to fix their own problem. Finally we had the money wired back to the original office outside the country and we sent someone to pick it up in cash. He arrived and we paid them the money a day later than the deadline. All of this because they were unable to give us the right information. Then, they fined us 15% for delivering the money late. I was not happy!
I was ready to do battle with the apartment company. I tried everything I knew to get that fine removed. I called people and we wrote letters but to no avail. It wasn’t going to make a difference. Either we pay the fine or we lose the apartment. When we were in the office of the apartment company signing papers I shared my frustration with the agent. She had no power nor authority to do anything about the problem and she shared my concern. I asked her if I could sign the paper but write at the bottom that this fine had been unjustly imposed because it was the fault of the company that the funds came in late. She allowed me to do this and somehow I felt better.
I went away thinking about this very scripture. I’m not sure what battle I thought I was fighting. I never got to reach the people who were responsible for this “fine.” I also realized that I was the Lord’s representative in all those meetings. Was I being a jerk? Would I be the only Christian some of them ever met? What impression would they have of a Christ-follower?
I learned a lesson that day. We need to allow God to work in the midst of our battles. Victory is for the purpose of revealing God for who he is to the people.
We are challenged to live our lives and fight our battles so that the world may see that there is a God among his people. The battles are not ours — they are his.
Lord, may I remember to release the battles into your hands. Amen.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.”
The angel came and spoke a few simple words to Joseph, but they were profound. The son which Mary would bear should be named Jesus. This is the name that people would call him and the one that would be recognized through the centuries.
However, his actions would speak louder than a name given him and people would name him — Emmanual, for by his actions they would recognize, “God is with us.”
Actions speak louder than words.
That’s something our moms told us growing up. But it’s the truth. The ways in which we act on a daily basis reveal who we really are.
Jesus’ actions revealed that God was among his people. His name became superseded by what people named him.
What would people say about us? When our actions speak louder than our words — Who are we beyond on our name?
Lord, may our lives reveal you today. Amen.
Monday, April 13, 2015
2Cor. 13:5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless, indeed, you fail to meet the test!
We are encouraged to manage our physical health and have regular check-ups. The same is true for our spiritual lives. We must take time out and examine ourselves from a spiritual perspective. We are to test ourselves and this relates to Christ living in us. Does Christ actually live in us, or is Christ being reflecting in our actions/reactions/comments? Unless Christ is reflected in the ways in which we do things, then we fail to meet the test.
The Jesus test. That’s a hard one at times because there are times when we don’t want to act and/or react in the same way that Christ would have responded! The emotions of the moment can sweep us away and suddenly we end up in a place that we had not intended. I think Paul understood that and that’s why we find this verse.
Stop — examine what’s happening. How are you acting and/or reacting to what is happening around you? Stop looking at others for a few moments, and examine yourself. Can Christ still be seen in you? That’s what Paul is saying to the Corinthians.
And then the subtle warning — Christ is in you, unless you fail the test. When Christ is not reflected in your behavior and/or actions, then you fail and it’s time to make readjustments.
Christ in us — this is our hope. Christ — he is our focus. Being like Christ — this is our goal. Examine yourself today and see how you do on the test.
Lord, please help me be like you today. Amen.
Sunday, April 12, 2015
2Cor. 12:19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves before you? We are speaking in Christ before God. Everything we do, beloved, is for the sake of building you up.
Paul’s concern was not for himself, but for these whom he had led to Christ. There were others who had come around and were very charismatic and persuasive with their speech. They were influencing the people and by their very “super apostle” status, drawing people away from Christ. Sometimes Paul came across as being a bit hard on the Corinthians as he wanted them to be a discerning people. He wanted them to know without a doubt that his concern was not about building himself up or defending himself before them. Instead, everything that he was doing was for their good. He wanted to make sure that they were built up.
He feared that if they listened to the voices of these others there would be great dissension among the people of God. He goes on to describe what he might find:
20 For I fear that when I come, I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish; I fear that there may perhaps be quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.
So that this will not occur, Paul continues to point the Corinthians toward Christ. Everything that he does, even when it is misunderstood, comes from a heart and motivation of building others up. He does not tear them down, but points them again and again in the direction of knowing Christ — and the power of his resurrection! This is building up.
How easy it is to tear people down when we ourselves feel threatened. What would happen if we took Paul’s approach of doing everything to build others up. He is personally humbled by his situation and is willing to be the servant of these, if only it will build them up. His passion is for the Corinthian church to be a healthy group of individuals who wholeheartedly love God. He wants to point them in that direction.
Distractions in life keep us from building one another up. We can forget about the goal - of building others up to become more like Christ! Instead, we become pretty good at tearing one another down. Let’s stop and think about the end goal when that begins to happen. Christ is not lifted up. The bride of Christ is sullied. And there are wounded individuals both as the result of direct hits and collateral damage.
I feel challenged by Paul’s words today. What if we faced every day with the challenge of building others up and pointing them in the direction of Christ? Every person that we meet, every encounter along the way, viewed as a divine encounter of building others up.
Paul said that everything he did for his beloved, was to build them up.
Lord, may my life be one of building others up both today and always. Amen.
Saturday, April 11, 2015
2Cor. 11:28 And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches.
Paul had dedicated himself to the birthing of numerous churches. Now, the weight of “parenting” those churches weighed heavily on him. He had a sense of “anxiety” on a daily basis for those fledgling congregations. Not only would they have been young, small and struggling, but they would also have been under pressure from government authorities. The persecutions would begin and his “beloved children” constantly under pressure. Until the very end Paul did not give up his responsibility and lovingly guided and prayed for them on a daily basis.
We all carry burdens in our lives. We may have birthed children, churches, relationships, or organizations. Paul understood both physical and emotional pressure. He had suffered both of them.
His incredible love for the churches under his care came with an emotional burden. It was one that drove him to the place of prayer on a daily basis. Not only did he pray, but he sought out ways to support them financially, help them out in crisis, give them counsel when things weren’t going the way they should, or simply share their pain in persecution. He never stopped being their beloved father.
Everything about who we are should exist to the very core of our being. When we are Christ followers — we are transformed through and through! We cannot help but carry a heavy burden for the things of Christ. His burdens become our burdens because we are united with him and that does not always make things easy. If we don’t have this sense of burden — then we must ask ourselves about our relationship with Christ!
Loving with Christ’s love brings with it a heavy burden for Christ bears a heavy burden for us. When we step into that relationship and are united with him we are forever transformed and we bear his likeness to the world around us. When he is saddened by the bride of Christ, the church, we are as well and we become like Paul…under daily pressure because for our anxiety for the church.
We carry a heavy burden!
Lord, may your love compel us to be heavily burdened with you. Amen.