Monday, June 27, 2016

How Soon We Forget



Scripture:

Psa. 106:13        But they soon forgot his works;
        they did not wait for his counsel.
14     But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness,
        and put God to the test in the desert;
15     he gave them what they asked,
        but sent a wasting disease among them.

Observation:

The people of God were self-indulgent and filled with self-seeking discontent. Completely impatient with God, they decided to make their own decisions. They forgot about all that God had done for them in the past and the didn’t bother to consult the God of the future. The result was that “they fell prey to their own unsanctified emotions.” (New Bible Commentary). In doing so they suffered the consequences of forgetting about God.

Application:

This morning our world is in a bit of turmoil. The vote in the UK last Thursday has thrown things into a bit of uproar and created a sense of uncertainty regarding the future. Economically it could make things challenging for the whole world.

We all have days when we wake up and our world is in turmoil. We suffer illness, unexpected loss and decisions that shake us to the very core.  This quote from J.R.R. Tolkien in the “Fellowship of the Ring" is a gentle reminder for how we may want to consider our response:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” 

The time that has been given us is one in which we are to remember and contemplate God and God's counsel. All of the Israelites’ needs were met when they were wandering in the wilderness. They became impatient and put God to the test instead of trusting in God's tender loving kindness and leading.

Let us not forget all that God has done for us in the past and that the God of the future still has us on his heart and mind. The world around us may not feel very good and/or secure. The world has been through these times before and will happen again. We wish difficulties wouldn’t come — but they do. We must decide how we will respond. Will we trust in the God who has always been faithful, or will we give in to our frustrations and ultimately destroy all the good that God wants to do for us? Unsanctified emotions will destroy. Sanctified hearts and minds will follow and trust the leading of our God who will walk with us and make provision through the wilderness of life.

Prayer:

LORD, thank you for your faithfulness in the past and in the days and years to come.  Amen.

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Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Steadfast Love of the LORD



Scripture:

Psa. 107:33        He turns rivers into a desert,
        springs of water into thirsty ground,
34     a fruitful land into a salty waste,
        because of the wickedness of its inhabitants.
35     He turns a desert into pools of water,
        a parched land into springs of water.
36     And there he lets the hungry live,
        and they establish a town to live in;
37     they sow fields, and plant vineyards,
        and get a fruitful yield.
38     By his blessing they multiply greatly,
        and he does not let their cattle decrease.
 
Psa. 107:39        When they are diminished and brought low
        through oppression, trouble, and sorrow,
40     he pours contempt on princes
        and makes them wander in trackless wastes;
41     but he raises up the needy out of distress,
        and makes their families like flocks.
42     The upright see it and are glad;
        and all wickedness stops its mouth.
43     Let those who are wise give heed to these things,
        and consider the steadfast love of the LORD.

Observation:

The LORD has the power to transform.

The LORD has power to turn the world upside down.

The wise will heed the steadfast love of the LORD.

Application:

Sometimes we just need to dwell on the steadfast love of the LORD and be reminded of all that he does for us.

When life hands you a dry desert and your fruitful labor becomes a salty waste the LORD transforms it into fresh pools of water. The LORD  takes that which has been destroyed and transforms it into a place where we can flourish.

Consider the LORD’s steadfast love in the midst of whatever comes your way today.

Prayer:

LORD, your love overwhelms. Thank you. Amen.

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Friday, June 24, 2016

What Would You Ask?



Scripture:

Matt. 20:29   As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him.  30 There were two blind men sitting by the roadside. When they heard that Jesus was passing by, they shouted, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”  31 The crowd sternly ordered them to be quiet; but they shouted even more loudly, “Have mercy on us, Lord, Son of David!”  32 Jesus stood still and called them, saying, “What do you want me to do for you?”  33 They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.”  34 Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they regained their sight and followed him.

Observation:


Jericho was the last stop before reaching Jerusalem. You can imagine the excitement and the focus of moving on to the final destination. The crowds were not very encouraging to the two blind men and they had to shout above the others for Jesus to hear them. They caught his attention and he called back to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” Their response may be seen as both physical and spiritual. “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” The response is also both physical and spiritual — for their regain their sight and they become disciples.

Application:

If Jesus were walking down the street in your community today — what would you ask? The blind men asked out of their own perceived need. They wanted to be able to see. Their physical blindness affected nearly every aspect of their lives and limited their ability to join in with the norm of society. They cried out from the margins for the Lord to have mercy on them and he heard and responded. We may cry out to the Lord with our perceived need, while at the same time he knows our real need. Therefore, again I pose the question — what would you ask?

I’m guessing that most of us would respond from our perceived need, which may not be our real need. Just like the blind men, our real need is growth in discipleship. When the goal of life becomes Christ himself, then our real need is to have our spiritual eyes opened and to draw closer to him. If we knew this was our need — what would we really ask?

Prayer:

LORD, open my eyes to see my real need and help me to draw closer to you every single day. Amen.

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Divine Virtues and Earthly Troubles



Scripture:


Rom. 5:1   Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.  3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Observation:

Paul rejoices in what Christ has done for his people and invites them to share in the hope of the glory of God. At the same time he is well aware of the struggles that Christians face in the world. However, instead of threatening the peace of God’s people they actually can produce in us a greater assurance of our hope. Sufferings in our lives are used by God produce an ability to endure and to shape character. This, in turn, produces hope because our desire is to be like Christ. Therefore the shaping of the divine virtues in our lives is of far greater value than any earthly troubles which we may face. Basil the Great tells us that “tribulations are like certain foods and exercises for athletes which lead the contestant on to the inheritance of glory.” (Homily 16) Hope will not let us down as we press on to be shaped by our circumstances into the likeness of Jesus Christ.

Application:
None of us would wish to have earthly troubles. It would be so nice if life could just go by smoothly and everything turn out the way that we would like. Unfortunately, this is not the way that things will usually work and we can determine what type of attitude we will have in the midst of difficulty. We tend to shy away from things that are hard and gravitate toward the easy path. What is lost on us is the easy path may not be the path of virtue. Divine virtues are the practices in our lives that reflect Jesus Christ. Our Lord never sought out the easy path for his life. He deliberately chose the rocky road which ultimately led to his death. To become like Christ in this world means that we will suffer, but we will endure. We will endure and we will be shaped by Christ’s character. We will share in Christ’s character and we will have hope because we will participate in the glory of God. There is nothing in comparison with knowing Christ. Paul knew this and was willing to sacrifice everything to know Christ intimately.

How much do we really want to know Christ? How far are we willing to go in our spiritual lives to seek him? As we pray this prayer may we be ready to face what may lie ahead in perseverance and endurance, living into the hope that will never disappoint.

Prayer:

LORD, thank you for your incredible promise of hope. Amen.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Testimonies and Decrees



Scripture:

Psa. 119:137        You are righteous, O LORD,
        and your judgments are right.
138     You have appointed your decrees in righteousness
        and in all faithfulness.
139     My zeal consumes me
        because my foes forget your words.
140     Your promise is well tried,
        and your servant loves it.
141     I am small and despised,
        yet I do not forget your precepts.
142     Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness,
        and your law is the truth.
143     Trouble and anguish have come upon me,
        but your commandments are my delight.
144     Your decrees are righteous forever;
        give me understanding that I may live.

Observation:

The faithfulness of God is affirmed through the Psalmist. In this translation the word “decrees” is used, while in another the word “testimony.” The word “decree” sounds like a declaration from God and “testimony” more of a witness to the activity of God. But in this case God’s decrees are testimony to the very nature of God. Decrees and testimonies have something to do with righteousness — the rightness of God in the midst of difficulty. Words and actions become one and the same when it comes to God and therefore we can trust and believe.

Application:

Years ago when we were pastoring in Austin, Texas we would have “testimony” services. I loved hearing the testimonies or witnesses to the faithfulness of God. These words were a blessing to me as they encouraged me in my faith. They brought together the witness of the word and the witness of God’s activity in this world.

Words and actions are one and the same when it comes to God. For God’s children who are being transformed into the image of God, the same should be true. There should be no distinction between the two as as we seek to live a life that reflects God in this world. It is in doing so that our lives becoming living and active testimonies to the decrees of God. God becomes faithful and trustworthy through the witness of the lives of his children.

Prayer:


LORD, Please help me to live into your decrees and may you be reflected in my life. Amen.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Good Deeds



Scripture:

Matt. 19:16   Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”  17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”  18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness;  19 Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  20 The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?”  21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”  22 When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Observation:


The rich young man was probably pretty good at doing good deeds. He had the financial resources to do all kinds of things, but not to the point of being sacrificial. He was able to give out of his abundance, but he still had plenty for himself. Doing good deeds was not difficult for this person and Jesus knew his heart. Keeping the commandments and following the letter of the law had been possible but this had not come from a heart focused on God. That’s what was so difficult about what Jesus required of him. It wasn’t just good deeds, it was to have a good heart, one which was wholeheartedly devoted to following Jesus Christ. This, he was unable to do.

Application:

There are plenty of ways in which we can participate in good deeds. The proliferation of non-profit organizations probably is an indicator of the ways in which people like to do good things. It seems, however, that doing good deeds by many may be filling the same void which this wealthy young man had encountered in his life. He wanted to have eternal life and he somehow thought he could get there by doing good things. That seems to be where most people live these days — by doing good things they are good people. What’s lacking is any kind of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Our motivation for doing good deeds must come from a heart focused on love of Christ. Because of our love for Christ we are motivated to love others and to give of ourselves unselfishly. Good deeds alone are not enough.

Prayer:

LORD, please hep me to be driven by my love for you. Amen.

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Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Graciousness of God



Scripture:

Psa. 67:0   To the leader: with stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song.
1     May God be gracious to us and bless us
        and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
2     that your way may be known upon earth,
        your saving power among all nations.
3     Let the peoples praise you, O God;
        let all the peoples praise you.

Observation:

The people of God,
created in the image of God,
reflect God
when in a face to face relationship with God.

The potential for this reflection always exists because of the graciousness of our holy God. God never steps out of alignment with his people, but it is his people who turn their backs on him. God in his graciousness is always in a position to shine his face on us. The only reason we wouldn’t reflect his image is because we refuse to look upon his face. The cry of the Psalmist is that the people of God would respond to the graciousness of God. When that happens then God is reflected through his creation to all of the earth. God is then known on the earth and his saving power revealed through the transformed lives of his followers. It is when we are in a face to face relationship with our holy God that we are filled with love and devotion which overflows and results in praises day and night for our gracious God.

Application:

It’s Sunday morning and about time to head out to church. It’s also Father’s Day and we all wonder what kind of a message we will hear. I have the privilege of preaching this morning — a message about living life without excuses. The world is filled with excuses about why things happen in particular ways. This Psalm leads us into a prayerful life without excuses.

Our gracious God wants to shine his face upon us and bless us. God wants us to be his reflections in the world. God wants his salvation revealed through you and me. God wants us to praise him.

What are our excuses for this not happening? It’s not God’s problem — it’s ours. We choose to be out of alignment with God. We refuse to respond to his grace. We enjoy wallowing in our negative circumstances and if we respond to God’s grace we just may have to quit complaining!

All the while we struggle, God remains constant. He is constantly reaching out toward us, ready for his face to shine and be reflected in and through us.

Prayer:

LORD, your gracious love is overwhelming. Thank you.  Amen.
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