Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Respect for the Younger Generation


Scripture:

2Chr. 34:1   Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign; he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem.  2 He did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of his ancestor David; he did not turn aside to the right or to the left.  3 For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was still a boy, he began to seek the God of his ancestor David, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the sacred poles, and the carved and the cast images.

Observation:

Think about this young boy becoming king. He was only eight and ruled until he was thirty-nine. In all his years he worked hard to transform the country. He didn’t wait all that long, beginning by seeking God at the age of sixteen, and planning major transformational projects when he was just twenty. This young leader was able to help bring about the spiritual reformation of his country.

Application:

As every generation ages they have trouble handing over leadership to the younger generation. I know that there is concern that they will not know how to lead properly and will not have the respect for the institutions which we may have helped to build. At the same time there are some Josiahs out there — young people whose hearts are right with God and may be able to bring about a greater spiritual revolution than we may have ever imagined.

Josiah had something going for him — he was king! The people were supposed to obey their king so one might think that it was easy for him to bring about the reforms. At the same time, if we read about the history of the people of God, they didn’t always follow their leaders. They were quite notorious for turning and going in different directions even when leadership was trying to be of assistance. What we recognize is that even though he is young, he is effective.

But where did all of this begin? He was a young person who earnestly sought the LORD. He wanted to get to know God and it was out of his personal relationship of knowing God that he was able to  reform the country. It didn’t matter his age — it was the power of God at work in him.

Next, he lived into his faith and was willing to be counter-cultural, making major shifts in the lives of his people. He was young, but that didn’t mean that he didn’t know what he was doing.

We have young people today who are passionate about serving the Lord. Some are speaking up and trying to help lead and guide us as a people of faith. Just because they are young doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re talking about. God can use anyone of any age, if they will seek his face. Let’s respect fellow Christ-followers, no matter the age!

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the young voices who are speaking into our faith today.  Amen.



Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.





http://www.nph.com/nphweb/html/nph/itempage.jsp?itemId=9780834135277

Monday, August 3, 2015

What Do You Really Know?


Scripture:

John 5:39   “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf.  40 Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. 

Observation:

The religious leaders knew the Torah for they had studied it in-depth for years. The problem was that they had become satisfied with knowing the scriptures but refused to know the one to whom they pointed. They had incredible amounts of head knowledge, but it had not led to heart understanding. The scriptures were the written word, but before them stood the word incarnate and they refused to believe.

Application:

There are plenty of brilliant people in this world who have all kinds of head knowledge. I have met those who have studied the scriptures and theology in depth and yet they do not know Christ. There is a difference between knowing about Christianity and knowing Christ. We may have the ability to articulate our particular position on a controversial topic but what does that mean if we don’t know Christ!

We should not take pride in our Bible Studies, nor our degrees, nor the number of books on our shelves. The call for us is to know Christ and this is a deeply intimate calling. The question is not how much do you know, but do you reflect the one that you are getting to know?

Prayer:

Lord, may I know you more and more each day.   Amen.


Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.




http://www.nph.com/nphweb/html/nph/itempage.jsp?itemId=9780834135277

Sunday, August 2, 2015

What Feeds You?


Scripture:

John 4:31   Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.”  32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”  33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?”  34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.

Observation:

Jesus had just been speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well. His disciples had gone off to find food and were returning with a snack. They were encouraging him to eat, quite sure that he would be hungry. However, after his encounter with the woman at the well, he was no longer hungry. He was filled with the food of accomplishing the Father’s will. Jesus’ life and ministry revealed that he was hungry for the salvation of the men and women whom he encountered.

Application:

In our call to Christlikness we are also called to Christ's passions. What fed Christ should also feed us. We are to be hungry to take the good news to those who are lost. There truly is nothing much more exciting than ministering to people in the name of Jesus.

While serving in the former Soviet Union we often had groups come over which are called, “Work and Witness teams.” For a concentrated period of ten days to two weeks these individuals would come to do physical work on a building or project of some kind, but also engage in intentional outreach. The energy that our guests received from doing this work was quite astounding. Doing the work of the Father filled them!

Jesus found great satisfaction in helping people find their way back to God. No, this didn’t substitute for his need for physical food, but it fed him in other ways. We can be fed by the joy of service to God when we follow Christ out to the harvest fields. Unfortunately I don’t hear many Christians talking these days about their passion for the harvest. We seem a bit caught up in our own busyness and it may be that the result is a lack of passion for Christ and the lost — and a dissatisfaction. We are left hungry and empty for we are not being fed.

I hear that people leave churches because they are “not being fed.” Jesus wasn’t fed by others, he was fed by doing the work of the Father. If we are waiting around for others to feed us we may just be getting it all wrong. What feeds us should be doing the Father’s will and following him to the needy corners of our world. It takes getting your hands dirty and reaching out to those who desperately want to hear about him.

What will feed you today? An expectation that someone will bring you food — or will you be fed by the joy of telling others about Christ?

Prayer:

Lord, may I be fed by the joy of your service.   Amen.
 

Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.




http://www.nph.com/nphweb/html/nph/itempage.jsp?itemId=9780834135277

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Hope and Refuge


Scripture:


Psa. 62:5        For God alone my soul waits in silence,
        for my hope is from him.
6     He alone is my rock and my salvation,
        my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
7     On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
        my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.

Observation:

David knew where his hope would come from. God was his refuge and he could put his trust in him. When everyone around him seemed to be against him, he could trust in God. He awaited God in silence, for he needed to hear that still sweet voice leading him to deliverance. David was a powerful warrior, but he knew where his strength really came from and he would trust in God.

Application:

Everyone needs a place to find hope and refuge. We may be tempted to seek out places of safety created by human hands. David had already learned that he needed to depend upon God, and so do we. I believe the secret of this entire passage is found in verse five where he lets us know that he waits in silence for God. This powerful warrior slowed down enough to allow the voice of God to speak to him. He knew the voice of God and would then follow.

We are called to do the same. For us to experience the hope and refuge found in God we must slow down and wait in silence for his direction. Our hope comes from him! God alone is our hope and salvation, but when we stand firm in him, we will not be shaken.

Prayer:

Lord, I trust in you and your leading today.   Amen.


Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.




http://www.nph.com/nphweb/html/nph/itempage.jsp?itemId=9780834135277

Friday, July 31, 2015

When Our Hospitality Runs Out


Scripture:

John 2:1   On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.  2 Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”  4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”  5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  6 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.  7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.  8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it.  9 When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.”  11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Observation:

This, Jesus’ first miracle is one in which we seen his work in extending hospitality. It was the responsibility of the hosts to throw the party which should have lasted for days. People would come from all around to enjoy the hospitality which would include food and drink. To run out of supplies would be a horrible embarrassment to this family and Jesus’ mother knew that this was the case. Mary may not have known that Jesus would perform a miracle, but may have thought that as her oldest son he could slip off and do something about the situation. The problem would soon become more than just embarrassing for the hosts. Maybe they hadn’t planned well — or maybe more guests came than they had invited — but they were in trouble. Their resources for hospitality had come to an end.

Jesus did step in and respond in the midst of their need. He provided the needed wine so that the event could be completed. People were amazed and praised the host for the quality of this new wine which was served. When the hospitality of the host had exhausted his resources, then Jesus took over and the extension of the hospitality glorified God.

Application:
As a people of God we are expected to show hospitality but we may just find ourselves in the same position as the host family of the wedding party. We may be planning to reach out to those around us — minister to those who need to experience the hospitality of God. Suddenly we realize that we have been trying to minister out of our own personal resources and they will soon be exhausted. Panic ensues as we find ourselves in a very embarrassing predicament. Ministry to others isn’t going the way that we thought it might and we are tempted to throw in the towel.

Who knows what’s happened. Maybe we got over-extended in our invitations, thinking that we, personally, could fix everyone’s problems. Now we’re exhausted and instead of looking for ways to continue, we give up. Or maybe we simply didn’t plan well and we’ve run out of resources. Instead of confessing our failure we look for ways to cover up.

Mary knew where to go when the hospitality had run out. Our holy God invites us into a lifestyle of hospitality, one that depends upon the gracious resources given to us through the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who leads us into hospitality that is not a program, but rather a lifestyle that includes complete and total dependence upon God. It is only in this way that our hospitality will not run out for it is not about what we can accomplish on our own, but what we can do together with God.

Exhausted and tired of trying to do it all on your own. Are you finished with extending hospitality. Take a deep breath and enter into rest with the God of all hospitality and let his grace flow through you. He will provide the resources and it will be better than anything you could ever do on your own.

Prayer:

Lord, may I rest in the arms of your gracious hospitality.   Amen.



Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.




http://www.nph.com/nphweb/html/nph/itempage.jsp?itemId=9780834135277

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Living in Beulah Land


Scripture:

Isaiah 62:4
No longer will they call you Deserted,
    or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called Hephzibah,
    and your land Beulah;
for the Lord will take delight in you,
    and your land will be married.

Observation:

The prophet could see a day in which the Israelites would be completely restored.  What would that restoration be like?  Her land would no longer be deserted, nor would it be filled with ruins.  Instead, the land would again be filled with God's people -- the people being called "Hephzibah" -- I delight in you.  This was the name of King Hezekiah's wife, and the two of them represented a period of faithfulness in loving and serving the Lord.  God would again delight in his own people!  The land itself would be restored and would be known as "Beulah" -- which means married, and it would be consecrated to God -- married to him.  This is the picture of restoration for all the people of God.

Application:


Today happens to be our 32nd wedding anniversary and it's a time when I reminisce about the years that Chuck and I have spent together.  In reminiscing I pulled up this blog entry from two years ago. I’m sharing with you some of what I wrote a couple of years ago with a few updates along the way.

Our life journey has been beyond anything we could have ever imagined.  God is an adventuresome God!  On the day we married we also would never have imagined what our relationship would become.  Our love for one another and our partnership in life is more than anything we could have ever imagined.  I would say that we embrace the language of "Hephzibah" and we are glad to be living in "Beulah Land."

I find it interesting that throughout the Bible we are continually drawn back into marriage imagery.  The Bible opens with a scene of marriage between the original couple, Adam and Eve.  Throughout the word we see God loving his people and drawing them into a covenant relationship with him.  Sadly humanity continues to commit adultery and the relationships crumble. 

In Christ we find a renewed covenant, one into which we have been invited and where we again find Beulah land, for in this new relationship we are invited to become the bride of Christ.  Often we see this metaphor as referring to the Church, but it is also an invitation for us as individuals. 

We hear the language so often these days as the church in exile. These are troublesome days and yet, as the Church, we are to be the faithful bride of Christ.  The Church is to behave in such a way that the Bridegroom would delight in her.  Whether in exile or not. The Israelites had been unfaithful to the Lord and the prophets were constantly calling them back to fidelity. 

I think that we would have to challenge ourselves and ask whether the Church in exile is being faithful to her relationship with her Bridegroom?  I'm afraid that too much focus and attention has been paid on the Bride!  Could it be that modern culture has done that as well?  Look at all the crazy TV shows about "Bridezilla" or "Say Yes to the Dress!"  What's wrong with this?  What's wrong is the focus which is not on the marriage relationship but on what the bride wants!  Too many are not concerned about the marriage that will come after the wedding, but on the party at the wedding being "spectacular."  Wow -- how far can that analogy go to the Church?  Could it be that the Church has become too focused on being "spectacular" that she has left the Bridegroom standing all alone out in the foyer wondering whether anyone even cares whether he is there or not? 

The decay of marriage within the culture may signify something happening at an even deeper level.  Could it be that the self-centeredness of humanity doesn't allow us to be in, or make a commitment such as marriage?  And when this happens, then we see moral decay across the spectrum.  But what about this covenant on a personal level, one between Christ and me?  As a teenager I remember hearing the song, "Beulah Land."  It sounds like an old southern Gospel song, but it was actually written by Squire Parsons in the 1970's (during my teen years). 

I'm kind of homesick for a country
to which I've never been before.
No sad goodbyes will there be spoken,
And time won't matter anymore
Beulah Land I'm longing for you,
and someday on thee I'll stand.
There my home shall be eternal.
Beulah Land... sweet Beulah Land
I'm looking now across that river
to where my faith is gonna end in sight.
Theres just a few more days to labor,
Then I'll take, my heavenly flight
Beulah Land I'm longing for you,
and someday on thee I'll stand.
There my home shall be eternal.
Beulah Land, Sweet Beulah land

The truth about Beulah Land is that we can experience her now -- not some time in the future.  Christ is inviting us into this marriage relationship with him that is beyond anything that we can experience here on this earth and it is available to us today.  This is a relationship in which we are entirely committed to him, through and through.  But, it goes even deeper.  We can enter into Beulah land in the present and experience the very nature of Christ, his holy love, as it permeates every part of our being as we walk in fidelity to our relationship with him.  This is holiness!  And then our beloved looks at us and says, "You are my Hephzibah, I take great delight in you."

May we long for Beulah land each and every single day of our walk with him. 

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the blessing of 32 years of marriage, which is simply a shadow of the relationship I can have with you.   Amen.


Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.



http://www.nph.com/nphweb/html/nph/itempage.jsp?itemId=9780834135277

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

When’s the Last Time you Fasted?



Scripture

Is. 58:6        Is not this the fast that I choose:
        to loose the bonds of injustice,
        to undo the thongs of the yoke,
    to let the oppressed go free,
        and to break every yoke?
7     Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
        and bring the homeless poor into your house;
    when you see the naked, to cover them,
        and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8     Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
        and your healing shall spring up quickly;
    your vindicator shall go before you,
        the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
9     Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
        you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

Observation

This call to fasting in Isaiah is rather unique. It is not just a personal fast from food, but instead moves into a fast that touches others. This is a foretaste of Jesus’ approach to the law. Love of God must flow into love of others. Therefore fasting cannot simply be about my personal spiritual growth, but must also be a fast that points toward social engagement, loving care for the needy, and giving up “finger pointing” in return for personal action. It is in an active fast that touches our world that the light of God is reflected. In this way his light will shine before us, leading and guiding us through life.

Application

I am challenged by the words today. Fasting has never been easy for me and yet it is something we are called to do. Now, this scripture takes us beyond what we traditionally think of as fasting and challenges us to do so much more. How often have we thought about our actions towards others being a part of our fast — our spiritual discipline? Maybe not often enough.

The challenge for us today is take upon ourselves the self-discipline of fasting. This includes the type of fasting which helps us with our personal spiritual development. John Wesley our theological church father fasted two days a week — on Wednesdays and Fridays. It was his practice for his entire life. But he was also very engaged socially, pushing for change within his world. Years ago I heard Tony Blair on BBC radio refer to the impetus for social change in England, and that it from John Wesley and the Methodist movement, and should not be credited to a political party.

We are all called to fast. Our fast is to be a reflection of our love of God and love of neighbor. May God challenge us to reconsider our engagement with fasting.

Prayer

Lord, thanks for moving me out of my comfort zone today.  Amen.

Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.




http://www.nph.com/nphweb/html/nph/itempage.jsp?itemId=9780834135277