Thursday, May 26, 2016

Dwelling and Delighting



Scripture:

Psa. 37:3        Trust in the LORD, and do good;
        so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
4     Take delight in the LORD,
        and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Observation:


Again the Psalmist reminds us of the priorities of life. When we are consumed by our difficulties we are encouraged to trust in the LORD. In the midst of trusting we are to continue to do good and not to succumb to pressure. We are to dwell in the land which many ancient commentators believe refers to abiding or dwelling the Lord. David was a man who lived much of his life in exile and yet, he found a place to call home, and that was the heart of the LORD. He learned to dwell in the presence of God on high and here he enjoyed security. If you can imagine his life on the run there was not an earthly home which provided him with security but dwelling in God’s presence was a daily reminder that he was secure in the arms of God.

Resting and dwelling in God’s presence resulted in delight. When David trusted in the LORD, even in the midst of his difficulty he found joy and delight. The sun shone bright, the rain fell, daily life continued and there was delight in the little things. When we dwell in the presence of God then he brings a delight to our lives that we would not typically find possible. The result is that he gives us the desires of our heart.

For most days of David’s life he did not have an overabundance of luxury. Yes, there was a period of time when he did, but I don’t believe this was one of those times. Instead, the desires of the heart are those things which we need to sustain us on a day by day basis. Really, we don’t need too much — we need just enough. David knew how to dwell and delight.

Application:

Life can become pretty complicated but this Psalm seems to call us back to simplicity. When we live in simplicity we are able to take the time to dwell in the land — dwell in God’s holy presence. Seeking first his kingdom becomes the priority of our lives and therefore on a daily basis we seek out time to simply dwell with him. The enveloping presence of God’s peace can be overwhelming when we quietly dwell with him.

God’s character can be, at times, a bit of a surprise — an overwhelmingly pleasant surprise. There is joy and delight that we may have never imagined. God loves it when we spend time with him! We delight in him — and he delights in us. It’s mutual! In this time of mutual indwelling his passions become our passions and his desires become our desires. In this way he gives us the desires of our heart — which are the desires of his heart — and there is mutual satisfaction. We discover the joy of participating with God in his mission in this world. This can only come about by dwelling and delighting.

Prayer:

LORD, please help me to slow down in you today.  Amen.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Waiting With Confident Hope



Scripture:

Psa. 38:15        But it is for you, O LORD, that I wait;
        it is you, O LORD my God, who will answer.
16     For I pray, “Only do not let them rejoice over me,
        those who boast against me when my foot slips.”

Observation:


David had experience waiting on the LORD. His life was filled with many ups and downs and I’m sure he wondered, at times, when God was going to show up! However, he had also learned that he could trust in the LORD. God was faithful, from beginning to end. He chose to wait on the LORD. David also knew that there would be times when he might slip up and that there would be people waiting to gloat over him when he slipped. This he too brought before the LORD as he waited with confident hope in the one who had never let him down.

Application:


Sometimes it can seem difficult to continue to trust in the LORD. We want to take matters into our own hands. Somehow David had learned the lesson that it wasn’t worth it to try and take control of things on his own. He had learned the secret of the long haul, and that was to trust, day by day in the God of all hope. It’s better to wait on the LORD, than to try and do it yourself. This is why we are invited to join David in waiting with confident hope.

Prayer:


LORD, thank you for your promises and so, we wait for you.  Amen.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Ut migraturus habita



Scripture:

Psa. 39:12        “Hear my prayer, O LORD,
        and give ear to my cry;
        do not hold your peace at my tears.
    For I am your passing guest,
        an alien, like all my forebears.
13     Turn your gaze away from me, that I may smile again,
        before I depart and am no more.”

Observation:

The Latin phrase  “ut migraturus habita” is translated, live as if you were about to move. David knew this kind of life from personal experience. He cries out to God to hear his prayer for he is constantly living as if he were about to move. He has been an alien in the land and yet continually went to the LORD for refuge. Now, he begins to ponder his final journey. The LORD has loved his “aliens” — those who have sojourned in the land. God will provide protection for those who continue the journey, even to the very end of life.

Application:

The Christian walk is a journey, one in which we are in continual motion, moving toward the final goal. We are to live every single day, as if we were about to move. We are to live as aliens or refugees in the land, only carrying with us that which we need for the day. When we linger too long in one location we put down roots which may keep us from being ready to move when God calls.

God’s promise is one of provision for those who will sojourn with him. Just as the manna was provided on a daily basis in the wilderness so those who journey with the Lord will experience his faithful provision. We are God’s passing guest, and as such he will be with us and walk with us, hand in hand, for the duration of our visit. Weeping along the journey, the LORD comes and brings his peace.

We don’t know what tomorrow will hold and so we live today as if we were about to move. It may be our final journey but if we have sojourned with the LORD, he will lead us by the hand and we will be comfortable for it will simply be another step in our journey with him.

Prayer:
LORD, I am your passing guest and I am grateful for your provision.  Amen.

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Monday, May 23, 2016

The Refugee Finds a Home



Scripture:


Psa. 15:0   A Psalm of David.
1     O LORD, who may abide in your tent?
        Who may dwell on your holy hill?
 
Psa. 15:2        Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right,
        and speak the truth from their heart;
3     who do not slander with their tongue,
        and do no evil to their friends,
        nor take up a reproach against their neighbors;
4     in whose eyes the wicked are despised,
        but who honor those who fear the LORD;
    who stand by their oath even to their hurt;
5     who do not lend money at interest,
        and do not take a bribe against the innocent.

Observation:


David had experienced displacement in his life. He had spent plenty of time wandering and wondering whether he would ever be able to settle in at a place he could call home. Through this experience he discovered what it meant to sojourn and to find a place of abiding. No matter where he was geographically, he was able to abide within the tent of the LORD.

This Psalm becomes an invitation into the tent, or sanctuary of the LORD. This is a place where those who are not at home on this earth may find a place to settle down and rest — and to abide in God’s holy presence.

But who may enter that tent? Who can abide in that place with God? How does the wanderer — or the refugee find a home?

The remainder of the Psalm sounds a bit like a reiteration of the ten commandments. Those who abide are those who become a part of the LORD’s family, and in doing so take upon themselves his characteristics. To live on the holy hill is to be consumed by the very holy love which is the nature of God. The results of that abiding include all of the attributes mentioned. God’s people are transformed when dwelling on his holy hill.

Application:

We are all refugees, wandering and searching for a place to call home. We do not belong here but are citizens of the kingdom and therefore long for a place to dwell. We are drawn to the LORD’s tent for there we finally feel a sense of belonging.

We will encounter others who are looking for a place to call home. There are many wandering refugees in this world, both spiritually and physically. The church is to be the community in which we find our home. This gathering of God’s holy people becomes the place of transformation where people are invited to abide.

The church needs to be the place where every refugee can find a home. Even if we are dwelling in a country for which we have a passport — we are still a spiritual refugee and need to find a home. The world is teeming with people who are spiritual refugees, wandering day by day and looking for a place where they can finally belong. If the church is not that place they will look elsewhere and there they will abide.

Why should we stop short on simply considering the spiritual refugee? Today the world is full of physical refugees who are fleeing for their lives and looking for a place of safety. Where will they find the place where they can abide? What would happen if they found a sanctuary of God’s holy love where they might experience the transformational presence of the LORD? All refugees are looking for a home. God has already invited us into his home and in this way becomes an example for the church to follow. To reflect God is to become a sanctuary of his transformational presence for the wandering.

Let’s open our doors and invite those in who need to a place to abide.

Prayer:

LORD, thank you for providing a place for me.  Amen.

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Trinitarian Vision and Invitation



Scripture:

John 1:29   The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’  31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.”  32 And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.  33 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’  34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

Observation:

In this opening sequence of John’s gospel the full and complex nature of Christ is revealed. Jesus’ earthly cousin, John the Baptist was following his calling, baptizing with water and preparing the way for the one who would come after him. John is privileged to baptize Jesus and in that moment he has a vision of the Triune God. Jesus, the God-man is baptized and the Holy Spirit descends and the vision expands for John to be able to declare that this is the Son of God. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are all revealed in this climactic moment at the initiation of the work and ministry of the one who is called, “the Lamb of God.” The vision reveals the fullness of who Christ is and the loving engagement of God with those who are lost.

The vision will expand into an invitation through the sacrifice of the lamb. Through participation in Christ, humanity, empowered by the Holy Spirit may participate in the community of holy love revealed in the Triune God. John lays it out for us right here at the beginning. giving us a little foretaste of what will be unpacked throughout his gospel.

Application:

Today is Trinity Sunday when much of Christianity will celebrate the Triune God. I remember growing up as a child in the church and wrestling with this idea of the Trinity. We learned about it in Sunday School and in Caravans. People were always trying to come up with ways to understand the Trinity — like water being revealed as ice, liquid and steam — however, even these ideas and models seemed to always fall apart at some point. I later learned that some of these models were actually heresies and had been named as such centuries previous.

One of my most vivid memories is sitting in my first Systematic Theology class in Seminary and reading “Grace, Faith, and Holiness.” There I began to discover the richness of the Trinity and I had this aha moment when I understood why it would be the very first Article of Faith for our church. This understanding the truth is foundational to everything else that we believe. The holy and loving community found within the Trinity was an open invitation to me.

Kent Brower sees throughout John’s gospel a holy dance of mutual love within the Trinity. “John invites us to enter into just this kind of dance to enter into this unceasing dance of perpetual love, to be enveloped in the holy love of the Triune God and swept up into that most intimate of relationships. The words come out again, ‘Come, dance with us!’” The vision of the Trinity is an invitation to become participants in fellowship with the divine nature of God — and this is transformational.

God in the Trinity is a relationship of holy love. No wonder we are charged to love God and love neighbor for this is a reflection of all that is found within the Trinity. It is awe-inspiriting and it is overwhelming.

My tribe comes from the holiness tradition. Again — that aha moment sitting in class. If God IS holy love, then holiness becomes God’s desire for all of humanity. Holiness isn’t optional — for to opt out would mean to opt out of a relationship with God.

As we celebrate the Trinity this day may we be reminded that we are invited into the relationship of holy love. Christ will be revealed in and through those who are reflecting that in which they are participating.  The vision and the invitation are before us. Come — let us join in.

Prayer:

God, thank you for the invitation into divine fellowship. Your love overwhelms. Amen.

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Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Right Role Models

Scripture:

3John 9   I have written something to the church; but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority.  10 So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing in spreading false charges against us. And not content with those charges, he refuses to welcome the friends, and even prevents those who want to do so and expels them from the church.

3John 11   Beloved, do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.  12 Everyone has testified favorably about Demetrius, and so has the truth itself. We also testify for him, and you know that our testimony is true.

Observation:

Diotrephes and Demetrius — both men who were serving in the church and yet, one was a living example of what it meant to follow Christ and the other was not. We don’t know the exact circumstances or the basis of Diotrephes’ actions but he was holding fast to the power which he had somehow assumed. He took authority to judge people and even expel visitors. More than likely Diotrephes refused to preach what he had been taught by the Apostles and chose to preach his own teachings. Often this becomes the birthplace of heresy and the Apostles refused to be silent for this abuse of preaching, if not corrected, would corrupt the understanding of many others.

It’s common for people to look to others as their role models and imitate them in life. We are to be discerning about what is good and what is not. A good role model is one who reflects Christ. If their behaviors are not consistent with that of Jesus Christ then they should not be imitated. Demetrius was a faithful follower, just like the elder Gaius and worthy of imitation. His life reflected Christ and those around him testified to this truth. He was the right role model.

Application:

How discerning are we about those whom we allow to influence our lives? If Diotrephes had been alive today I imagine he would have had an incredible following on social media. I’m guessing he would have been blogging and posting almost all day long, sharing with others from his “great pool of wisdom,” whether it was consistent with traditional theological truths or not. Innocent and uneducated people would be star-struck by his uncanny ability to communicate and make them feel good and they would begin to imitate his behaviors, even if they weren’t consistent with the life of Christ.

People are hungry for good role models in life and it’s easy to become attracted to the most charismatic person around. This Scripture is a gentle reminder for cautious consideration when it comes to following others. Demetrius was known for the way in which he lived his life, not for the way in which he wielded power and influence. His life was seen as good and reflecting of the truth. He may not have had much time for social media because he was simply too busy serving the Lord.

The best role model for life may be someone you’ve never noticed because they’ve been quietly going about the business of serving God. Look for the person who can walk the walk, not just talk the talk! This is the kind of role model we all need in our lives.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the faithful servants whom I’ve been blessed to encounter. Please use them to influence my life. Amen.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Time to Rest



Scripture:

Matt. 11:25   At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants;  26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.  27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
Matt. 11:28   “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Observation:

Living into the mission of Jesus takes faith because it doesn’t always make sense in the eyes of the wealthy and powerful. Instead, we are to live in faith — as little children.

Jesus’ relationship with his Father is unique. The Son lives out the Father’s mission and we are invited to participate in the mission, as well as the relationship.

The burden of the mission can seem overwhelming and when we try to carry it alone we will break. During the time of Christ a yoke was used to lighten the load. Jesus’ yoke not only lightens the load but it helps us in the mission. Instead of working hard on our own, we are encouraged to find rest for our souls. When he leads -- he takes on the burden.

Application:

I’m preaching to myself again today because I can get pretty excited about serving in God’s mission. At the same time I have a tendency to try and carry the burden myself. Over and over again the Lord reminds us to trust in him and his leading. Not only are we to trust in him, but we are to rest in him. We are to take a deep breath, relax and realize that God knows better than we do what we need to be doing and where we need to expend our energies. The best thing we can do today is to draw nearer to our Lord. He graciously invites us to come and rest with him.

From time to time I have the privilege of snuggling with my grand baby. I love scooping her up in my arms and holding her close in my arms. When she relaxes she lays her head on my chest and we just enjoy the moments of bonding together. I believe this is the invitation that we are receiving from the Lord today. The burdens of life will wear us down if we don’t take the time to simply rest. Resting in the Lord rejuvenates us for the challenges of life and ministry. Let’s make space in our lives for the strength and mission which we received from him.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the promise of rest. Amen.

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