Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Family



Scripture:

Heb. 2:10    It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.  11 For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters,  12 saying,
    “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,
        in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”
13 And again,
    “I will put my trust in him.”
And again,
    “Here am I and the children whom God has given me.”

Observation:

Photius reminds us that Jesus is God by nature and our brother by grace. (Fragments on the Epistle to the Hebrews 2.11)  When we begin to ponder the incredible impact of Christ's incarnation it becomes a bit overwhelming. His love for us compelled Christ to become what we are so that we might become like him. We are invited into family life, to take on the very holy nature of God and Christ, fellowshipping with the Trinity. This is life in the family.

Application:

Some of my best memories in life come from hanging out with the family. I have always loved spending time with my parents and brothers. It's not often that we all get to hang out together but when we do, we have a blessed time. There's always a lot of laughing and reminiscing.

Favorite memories of family time with our girls will take me to our apartment in Moscow on Ulitsa Mariy Ulyanovou. I can see us sitting around our breakfast table, talking and having devotions together in the morning. I loved walking to school with the girls when they were little. Picking them up at the end of the day was the best because they talked non-stop all the way home, filling us in on the day.

Playing table games together is also a fond memory -- or watching the latest video we had been able to procure. Listening as Chuck sat on the couch reading the "Chronicles of Narnia" to the girls out loud in the evenings was great. Just being together as family was such a warm and safe feeling.

Jesus came to bring us into the family. All the rights and privileges of family life are ours when we enter into this relationship with our holy God. Time to settle in and embrace all that it means to be a part of this family!

Prayer:


Lord, thank you for the incredible love shown to us through you.  Amen.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Not The Same Results



Scripture:

Matthew 13:23 But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Observation:

The parable of the sower gives us a glimpse of the different kinds of responses that can result from sowing seeds. There are those who will simply continue to live in the carnality of their own life and desires. There are others who will be distracted by their wealth and the things of this world. There will also be those who truly hear the word and are transformed. As they follow Christ out into the world they will reach out ministering in his name. The results for each of God's faithful followers will not be the same. All of the yields are greater than the normal human harvest and therefore they are dependent upon God. As long as one hears, understands and is faithful, the size of the harvest remains in the hand of God.

Application:

There were plenty of farming methods available to the people of Jesus' day and they understood how to apply those principles, but even the best farmer might only yield an eight fold harvest. Lots of hard work, study and strategizing could be seen as successful but it had its limitations. Those who are laboring for the Lord often feel the need to produce results and be successful in both the worlds' and the church's eyes. We measure results and these days we are hopeful that there may be a two-fold harvest. Instead, when Christ tells us that the one who hears the word and understands it will have a harvest greater than what they could have imagined.

Hearing the word and understanding it takes time learning from Christ himself. This doesn't fit our patterns of busyness in the kingdom. We think that we have to follow the latest plan or program which has been laid out for us but the reality is that we need to spend time with the Lord! When the Lord gets involved then the results are his -- not ours. In God's creative imagination the results of kingdom work vary from time to time. Just because one has a hundred fold response and another thirty doesn't mean that one worker is better than another. Both of these results are greater than simple human effort and therefore the Lord is glorified -- and should get the credit!

We are not to compare ourselves by human standards, but we are to live in complete and total obedience to the word. Listen to where God may be leading this day and follow into the harvest which is already being prepared. The results belong to God.

Prayer:


Lord, may this be a day of listening to your leading and guidance.  Amen.

If you would like to read more "Reflecting the Image"  click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.


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Monday, May 2, 2016

Truth and Holiness



Scripture:

Psa. 93:5        Your decrees are very sure;
        holiness befits your house,
        O LORD, forevermore.

Observation:

In the midst of the raging waters of this world God’s truth remains the same. The world will change her mind and things will be in and out of season, but God’s holiness doesn’t change with the styles of the world. God’s holiness is just that — God’s holiness! The very nature and character of God and when God dwells in the house, then God’s nature fills the place. Your temple, both personal and corporate, is to be a place of God’s dwelling. When God is in the house it becomes a holy house, cleansed from sin and reflects the beauty of God’s holiness. “It is the holiness of God’s house that secures it against the many waters and their noise.” (Henry) God’s truth set the Psalmist free as he lived into the very nature of the God with whom he fellowshipped.

Application:

The promise of this passage is transformation into the image of God and living in his holiness for all of eternity. God’s truth leads us to a place of all encompassing submission to God’s leading in our lives. There must be complete surrender to our own personal desires and submission to God's.

We do live in a time of questioning -- when we begin to wonder if there is any such thing as truth. The word tells us that Jesus is truth. All truth can be found in him and therefore to know truth, is to know him in a personal way. To know the decrees of the Lord is to know the mind of Christ. His thoughts become our thoughts and he begins to infuse our understanding with with his very nature and character. God begins to dwell in and through us and in every facet of our lives. The nature of God befits our house -- for God dwells in our house.

What dark corners of our house are unbefitting holiness? They are the ones in which we do not allow the truth of Jesus to enter. I'm guessing we all have those areas of our lives where we would like to remain master. Submission to God must become a natural part of our daily walk with the Lord. The Psalmist had to learn his own lessons and so do we. It's that daily invitation -- keeping the doors of our personal lives unlocked and allowing the Holy Spirit to freely dwell in every part of our being. God's holiness becomes ever-present, permeating our lives, and leading us into an everlasting relationship with our holy God.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to walk in your truth.  Amen.

If you would like to read more "Reflecting the Image"  click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.


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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Waiting for Instruction



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:

God had been revealed as faithful over and over again, constantly supplying the needs of the Israelites. However, for them it was never enough. They were impatient and didn’t want to wait for God’s instruction for their lives. They wanted what they wanted and they wanted it now! They forgot the God of the past and they didn’t want to consult the God of the future. They succumbed to their unsanctified emotions, tiring of the food and becoming frustrated with the leadership God provided. “There comes a point where prayer can become stubborn insistence on our own way and, as an act of just judgment God gives us what we insisted we must have.”  (New Bible Commentary) In this case they are reminded that yes, he gave them food but they were satisfied until they were nauseated! What we think we want may not always be the best thing for us.

Application:

It seems far too easy to forget about the wonderful ways of God. One week we are praising him for his answers to prayer and the next we are wondering whether God is really listening or willing to care for us! We chastise the Israelites and yet there are days when we find ourselves within their very camp.

Learning how to pray takes time and patience, awaiting in God’s holy presence. The more we spend time with him the more we begin to understand his will and how to pray. When we come to him with an insistence on our own plan we need to be careful, because God may just give us what we are insisting upon. The Israelites said they wanted something different to eat and so God gave them meat and they ate until they were sick. Manna from heaven provided them with health and well-being but it didn’t satisfy their selfish desires.

Waiting for instructions from God doesn’t satisfy our selfish desires. Instead, waiting for instructions from God brings about our own transformation. His desires become our desires resulting in instructions that will lead us into his kingdom work where he is already engaged. God is providing the way for us, we are simply to follow. Impatience will lead us to strike off on our own path and suddenly we will find ourselves in selfish territory far from the place where he is already at work. 

Don’t forget what God has done in the past and wait patiently for his leading.

Prayer:

Lord, I want to know your heart. I know I’m not always the most patient, but please, help me to wait upon you.  Amen.

If you would like to read more "Reflecting the Image"  click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.


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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Things We Treasure



Scripture:


Matt. 6:19   “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal;  20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Observation:


Jesus knew how easy it was to treasure the things of this world. His comments here focus on having things made of fabric and metal. The wealthy in Jesus’ day had several outfits of clothing — the poor did not. Clothing that goes unworn is susceptible to moths and metal objects unused or uncared for — to rust. In other words, he is speaking to those who have more than what they need and what happens to those items when they are stored up and unused. But maybe those aren't just physical robes but there are also the robes of office. Moths could also destroy these as well!

The word used here for rust could also be worm, which could be a reference back to the manna of old which could only be used on a daily basis. Too much manna and it turned to worms. The entire concept is one of complete and total dependence upon God who will supply our needs.

Real treasure is that which is incorruptible. Heavenly treasure is that which is transferable from earth and into eternity. This is found in relationships both with God and man and is defined by love of God and love of neighbor. This treasure cannot be stolen, nor can it be corrupted by earthly forces. We will be defined by the things that we treasure.

Application:

In the last five years we have moved twice. I really don’t like moving and all the work it entails but one thing it makes you do — is that you sort through all your stuff. Should you move the “stuff” or not? There tends to be a major purging with each move because as you look at the “stuff” you realize that there is so much that you don’t need. There are all the things you haven’t even noticed for a couple of years. Why do you have them? Why should you have them? Who knows! I love cleaning things out and getting rid of lots of stuff and just getting down to what we really need.

Spiritually we need to have these times of evaluation as well. Earthly treasures may not just be things that we accumulate but it may be the ways in which our calendars are filled. What has become most important to us? Is Church attendance still a treasure to us and our lives? What about spending time in the word? How much time do we spend in prayer?

The things that we treasure will define who we are and what we become. Whether we want to admit it or not our treasure pulls at our heartstrings. Therefore our heart can be given away to a sports team, a new car, a new home, another trip or to our well-deserved “free time.” In the meantime there is a world that desperately needs to know the love of Jesus. Sadly, they won’t experience the love of Jesus because the hearts of God’s people are too tied up with their treasures.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to treasure the things that you would treasure.  Amen.

If you would like to read more "Reflecting the Image"  click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.


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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Discipline and Holiness



Scripture:

Hebrews 12:7 Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline?  8 If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children.  9 Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness.  11 Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Observation:


There will be difficulties for the life of the Christ-follower. There has never been a promise that things would be easy. These difficulties are to be seen as discipline. Every loving parent disciplines their children because if they do not, the children will never learn the boundaries within which to live their lives. Children without boundaries become a detriment to themselves and to society as a whole. It is through discipline that a child takes on the characteristics of the one who provides the discipline. The child’s behaviors begin to mimic those of the parent. For the disciple of Jesus Christ, it is through discipline that we take on the very character of God in Christ. That is, we become holy as he is holy. This happens because God, our Father, loves us and wants us to participate in his holy loving nature.

Application:

Today I’ve been hanging out with my daughter and son-in-law in Michigan. They happen to be parents to our only grandchild — Mackenzie, who is now 9 months old. Quite recently she has become extremely mobile and you have to keep an eye on her or before you know it, you will find her climbing on furniture, crawling into spaces where she’s not to be, or touching things she is not to touch. One of those spaces where she is not to be is the hearth of the fireplace. They’ve been teaching her that she is not to go off the carpet and touch the marble. Just this afternoon she was speeding across the room and made her way up to the marble. She stopped just short, lifted up her hand as if to touch, but first turned and looked at her daddy. At nine months of age she has already learned that some things are just not good for you and yet, she was testing her father. Just as she was ready to put her hand down where it should not be her daddy swooped in and picked her up, lovingly and gently telling her no. She got the message and didn’t return to that place.

My daughter and son-in-law are disciplining Mackenzie because they want the very best for her. She may not always appreciate the boundaries which they have already established for her life, but without those boundaries she would be in serious danger.

Our heavenly father loves us more than we can ever imagine and if we are going through difficult days and are feeling disciplined — thank him! He loves us and wants the very best for us — and that is to participate in his holiness. This is the very character of God and we are invited to participate in who he is. For us, it becomes transformational and provides us with hope while living in a very difficult world. Sometimes God’s work in our lives may seem painful, but the discipline comes out of sheer love and a desire for us to be his holy children.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to be grateful for your discipline in my life.  Amen.


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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Prayer and Action



Scripture:

1 Thess. 1:6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit,  7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.

Observation:

The followers of Jesus Christ in Thessalonica were inspired by the life of Paul and his ministry team. They were genuine and transparent in the way they lived their lives. They were a people of prayer, inspired by the Holy Spirit. This led them to be an active people of faith, living out and imitating the life of Paul. They had seen the ways in which he was persecuted but this did not stop them from boldly living out their faith. They combined their prayers with the imitation of Paul and of Christ — actions which spoke louder than their words. Their lives became an example to those in the entire region.

Application:

The daily challenge of the Christian life is the call to action. We are to rise up and follow Christ into the world. There is no promise that this will be easy, or that we will not face persecution. On the contrary, if we follow Christ, we will face difficulties — for Christ did!

Spending time in prayer with our heavenly Father empowers us for action. The followers in Thessalonica received the word of God and “with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit.” This was what empowered them for work and ministry. Their own lives became a living testament to the transformational work and power of the Holy Spirit.

After time in the word and in prayer, we are empowered to engage in Jesus’ ministry in this world. There may be seasons when we are called to prayer and we must wait upon the Lord’s nudging before moving and/or acting. But don’t use prayer as an excuse to not engage in action for the kingdom’s sake. Jesus often got away to spend time with the Father in prayer and then got up and to the business of ministry.

Prayer is the place where get to know the very heart of God, and then we rise up and follow his leading. In this way our lives, too, become an example for the believers. May God give us the grace to enter into this kind of a relationship with our loving Savior.

Prayer:


Lord, please help me to be joyfully inspired by the Holy Spirit and spurred into action for you.  Amen.

If you would like to read more "Reflecting the Image"  click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.


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