Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Big Wedding Party





Scripture

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.
(Revelation 22:17 NASB)

Observation

We come to the close John's Revelation and we find ourselves at a wedding party. The Groom, Christ, and his Bride, the Church, are united together in the new heaven and the new earth. And they are still inviting those who haven't joined in -- to join in. God is patient, He doesn't want anyone to miss out on what He has to offer. And he offers that best drink possible at the party -- and he says it's all for free. You see, He has already paid for it. You just have to come and join in.

Application

Today is New Year's Eve. All around the world people are throwing parties. Friends will gather together to talk, reminisce, play games -- watch games, etc. It will be a great time of simply gathering and enjoying fellowship with one another. We love parties.
God loves parties too and He's inviting us to His party.

But today I'm concerned about the lack of response. Why do there seem to be fewer and fewer who are responding to the invitation? What challenges me is that God's invitation hasn't changed, and if His invitation hasn't changed, what makes the difference? Could it be us, those that make up the Church who have changed?

Almost every day I receive e-mails from companies that want to sell me something that will help a church evangelize and get the word out to more people. The reality is that we shouldn't need any type of fancy marketing plan to get the word out. If every person who is passionate about Jesus Christ would simply share that good news with everyone that they touch -- it would change the world. If every follower of Christ were excited about going to the wedding party -- they would want to invite others.

Maybe we should reevaluate our passion for the Groom. When a young person falls in love they want the world to know. They practically feel as if their heart were bursting from their chest. Where is our passion? In this New Year, may we again seek the face of God and ask Him to reignite the fire of passion about loving God, serving God and inviting others to the party! Personally, I don't want anyone to miss out on the Big Wedding Party!

Prayer

Lord, please ignite that passion to love and serve You in me. Amen.

Friday, December 30, 2011

How Quickly Things Change





Scripture

“And the kings of the earth, who committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her, will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning,
(Revelation 18:9 NASB)
standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’
(Revelation 18:10 NASB)

Observation

In Revelation we find reference to Babylon, the great city. I'm sure we can all imagine similar great cities around the world; New York, Moscow, London, Hong Kong, Dubai, Mexico City, Paris, etc. All of these represent dependency on human success. These are cities which have been built by human hands and often at a great price. Yet, somewhat like the Tower of Babel, we see them as symbols of "our" success. Babylon represents for us a center where we have placed all of our trust in what humanity can accomplish without the help of God. Here it mentions that in one short hour Babylon has been destroyed and those who had sold their souls to her are overcome with grief. They can't imagine their lives without the things that she has to offer them. She has given them shadows in which to hide their evil deeds. She has housed the prostitutes, the drug dealers, the sex trade, the corrupt officials, and the greedy. We are also told that she has devoured the prophets -- those who tried to come to her city and preach the Good News. She killed them, thinking that she could stamp out their message. But now she lies in ruins. How quickly things change!

Application

Having lived in Moscow for 13 years during a period of rapid transformation it felt like watching Babylon come to life. Once people had a taste of money they were never satisfied. Every man wanted to live just like the Czars had lived. The result was a crazy atmosphere in which those building businesses had to have "protection." Women were sold by the hundreds out on the streets with policemen turning a blind eye once their pockets had been filled. How often did I hear, "well, they have to feed their family too, don't they?"

And yet -- how quickly can things change? All of these things which the world has to offer really truly are temporary. Last years' earthquake in Japan changed that country in just a few hours. The lesson here is that Babylon WILL fall. The things of this earth WILL pass away. If that is true, where is our hope? Are we able to disentangle ourselves enough to be "in this world, but not of it?" As God's children we are not citizens of Babylon, but of His Kingdom. Only through a daily walk with Him are we able to navigate our way through Babylon and stay faithful. Then, when things change, the city may disappear, but we will be left holding the hand of God Almighty who will continue to lead us onward.

Prayer

Lord, take my hand and continue to lead me onward. Amen.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

John's point





Scripture

And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child.
(Revelation 12:13 NASB)
But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.
(Revelation 12:14 NASB)
And the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood.
(Revelation 12:15 NASB)
But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth.
(Revelation 12:16 NASB)
So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.
(Revelation 12:17 NASB)

Observation

Reading Revelation has never been easy for me. The whole story seems so wild and for centuries many bright scholars have tried to decipher the message. This paragraph on the woman tucked into the middle of the story I found rather interesting and and I found myself wondering what in the world John's point was in telling this story. It is about a woman who has given birth to a baby boy. The enemy awaited the birth of the child so that he could devour the baby. Instead, God snatched the baby away and saved him. This made the enemy angry and he went after the woman, trying to destroy her. Interestingly in the middle of the story the enemy who is at first in the shape of a dragon is then called the serpent. The scene of a woman, hiding in a wilderness area with a river and a serpent determined to "catch" her sound all too familiar, do they not?

Application

So, what exactly was John's point? I'm not sure that we can determine what John was saying but here, in the middle of his Revelation, I find an amazing story of redemption. For thousands of years "the woman" had been blamed for the fall of humanity. It was believed that there was a little "Eve" in every woman, just waiting to be the downfall of man. However, this story with this woman brings about something new. This woman is protected from everything that the serpent throws at her. She is not overcome by his temptations, but rather, this time she stands firm. By standing firm he becomes so angry that he leaves her alone and decides to go off and make war with the rest of her children. But do you hear how her children are now described? Her children are the ones who "keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus."

This is a new day -- a new era. Jesus has been victorious and the hope of restoration for all of humanity is found in this paragraph. The hope is a life restored in the original image of God -- in His desired image for each and every one of us. We don't have to live in sin. We don't have to live in the fallen state, but rather, if the woman can be restored and victorious -- so can all of us! The tables can be turned and her children no longer have to follow the lusts of the flesh, but rather, can follow God with all their hearts and take on the enemy.

What's John's point? That in the midst of this horrible battle -- Jesus has already won. Things have already been set right. There is hope for everyone who is "in" Christ.

Prayer

Thank You, Father for the victory which has already been won. Help us to live in that victory and rejoice in You day after day. Amen.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Silence and Prayer





Scripture

When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
(Revelation 5:8 NASB)
When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
(Revelation 8:1 NASB)
And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.
(Revelation 8:4 NASB)

Observation

What is the connection between silence and prayer? Here in John's Revelation we find an interesting sequence of events. First of all, it appears that God, in heaven, has saved up the prayers of all the saints. The elders bowing before the Lamb are carrying the bowls which are filled with prayers. Next there comes a time when the seventh seal is broken, that it creates such a moment of overwhelming emotion, that the only response is one of silence. All of heaven is silent for half an hour. At the end of that time, again the prayers of the saints are brought before God.

Application

How often do we simply jump into prayer time and it becomes a list of things we would like God to do for us. Prayer is a special and unique gift given to us by God in which we are to have a very intimate relationship with Him. The intimacy of this relationship is illustrated by what we have read today in Revelation. Those prayers are not to be a wish list of what we want God to do for us, but rather, they are to Him, love notes that are kept and treasured for years to come. Why else would He save them and have them placed before Him like incense. I have stacks of notes which I've kept from my husband through the years. They are precious to me. Those notes don't ask me for anything, but rather, are words of love and encouragement. That's what prayer is supposed to be like -- words of love and blessing spoken to the heavenly Father who loves us more than we can even imagine. And those prayers -- it seems that they don't end when we stop speaking them. Rather, God saves them up and they continue to move into God's future in ways that we can't even imagine. Prayer is the key to our intimate relationship with God.
 
And then comes silence. There are times when the news may be so overwhelming that there is no response. No prayers. No answers. Just stunned silence. And yet, God is there in the silence. All of heaven stood still for thirty minutes, overcome by what the scroll revealed. You can imagine no one moving, and in that, God doesn't move either. He continues to be facing humanity, reaching out to us and trying to draw us back to Him. He never turns His back -- even in the silence.

After the silence has passed, once again the prayers of the saints are able to be brought before God.


Prayer is an intimate time in God's holy presence and it's the call of every one of His followers to become a saint -- and to lift our prayers to Him. We must make time today -- every day -- to come quietly before Him, be ushered into His presence, and allow Him to guide the conversation. Be willing to simply sit in silence and allow Him to take the lead. And your prayers will go on forever.

Prayer

Lord, thanks for the silence. Wow! Amen.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Old Bread and a Rock





Scripture

‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’
(Revelation 2:17 NASB)

Observation

Through the revelation given to John we are challenged to be overcomers in our Christian lives. Literally we are being cheered on to not give in and/or compromise with the world around us. The first generation of believers were passing away and now those who were in the Church were being challenged to keep the faith! And what was the reward of this faithfulness? Manna! Interestingly when the children of Israel no longer needed the manna from heaven, it disappeared. What did it mean that there was still some hidden manna? That the people of God, who were faithful to Him, would have their daily needs supplied. The daily bread, about which Jesus taught us to pray, would be available for those who were overcomers. And not only would God supply our daily needs, but we would receive a white stone with a name written on it. This is a new name which is to last for all of eternity, uniting us with God and signifying our citizenship in His kingdom.

Application

It is simply too easy to compromise with the world and even with the Church around us. Living in the former Soviet Union we discovered what the communist system did to the work ethic. Basically the work ethic was completely destroyed. Everyone was paid the same amount of money dependent on the job, not on performance. Therefore there was peer pressure to be mediocre. If you came in and did a good job you were ridiculed by those that worked with you until you finally would come down to their level and live in peace with those around you.

The sad results of this mediocrity led to the demise of the Soviet Union. Creativity was destroyed because it had been replaced with paranoia. Therefore instead of designing new items, technology had to be stolen from the rest of the world. As soon as the computer era began technology changed at such a rapid pace that no longer could it be stolen and adapted in a timely manner. The first gulf war revealed this to the world as the Soviet technology appeared as if it were archaic compared to that of the rest of the world.

And this is what happens to Christians who give in to the mediocrity of the Christian life. Everything will eventually be lost if we are not challenged to raise to higher heights. Sadly, when someone begins to soar in their spiritual life they are often attacked by those around them because it makes the others feel uncomfortable. However, giving into peer pressure in regard to our spiritual lives has detrimental consequences.

I would like to encourage us to be motived by the old bread -- the manna -- that God wants to provide for us. I would encourage us to be willing to be aliens here on this earth and work toward our heavenly citizenship. I want that new white rock!

The world may think we're crazy but may our motivation be to continue seeking God -- and work for the old bread and a rock!

Prayer

Lord, please, help me to soar with You and not compromise with the world around me. Amen.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

King of Kings and Lord of Lords





Scripture

So they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”
(John 19:15 NASB)
Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.
(John 20:18 NASB)

Observation

I was shocked at the brazen response of the chief priests when they replied, "We have no king but Caesar." At that moment, they were not only rejecting Jesus Christ, but they were rejecting God, the Father as well. Those words go far beyond the moment in which they were spoken. It reflects humanity which has rejected God and willing to compromise with the world around them for this didn't mean that Caesar was just their earthly king. In those days there existed the Cult of Emperor worship and the Emperor, himself was considered deified. To say that you have no king but Caesar, is to say that you have no god but Caesar. In those few words we find a complete and total rejection of their heavenly Father.

Just a chapter later we find a very simple, and yet profound statement by Mary Magdalene. When she says, "I have seen the Lord," she is declaring that yes, she has seen Jesus, but in direct contrast to the chief priests, this statement declares His Kingship! Jesus is Lord! He is the Messiah. He is God. He is our Saviour. Mary had beautiful simple faith and she was willing to declare what she believed.

Application

It's Christmas Eve and tonight we will go to church and worship the true King. If we were to be honest we might admit that there are times when we can sink to the behavior of the chief priests. Their lives were based on human success and survival. To do that they were willing to compromise what should have been the most basic and foundational of their beliefs. God was their King! Even if they rejected Jesus, they should still have acknowledged their heavenly Father but they caved and lost their souls in the process.

When you have the chance -- what will you declare? Is Jesus King of Kings and Lord of Lords? This is truly what we celebrate this Christmas season. He came, He was and is the King, He will forever be our Messiah -- and the world will never be the same.

Prayer

Lord, may I be willing to declare You as my Lord to the world around me. You are my King! Amen.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Glory to God in the Highest





Scripture

“I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.
(John 17:4 NASB)
“Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.
(John 17:5 NASB)

Observation

The two-part phrase of the heavenly host was "Glory to God" and "Peace on earth." The night that Jesus is going to be betrayed He is in the garden praying. Here, near the very end of His time on earth again we hear words spoken about the glory of God. Jesus' mission was to bring glory to God and peace on earth. Jesus and His Father were having a conversation and Jesus was thinking back and evaluating His mission. Yes, He had glorified the Father because He had been obedient to the tasks which His Father had sent Him to accomplish. God, the Father had been glorified in Jesus' very life. But now Jesus, knowing that the end was coming began to have this conversation about the intermingling of the hearts of God the Father and His precious Son. Jesus had been glorified as God before He came to the earth. He had given up the glory of the Father to be on the mission -- to save humanity! The project was almost completed and Jesus was again imagining what it would be like to be united with the Father -- and the glory which would surround them both. The glory -- the absolute binding presence of the Holy Spirit that goes to the very depths of all.

Application

It's that special time of the year -- it's Christmas! It's a time when the heavenly host declared that there should be "Glory to God" in the highest. Jesus, after His mission here on the earth, reunited with the Father and the glory shone through Him. A number of months ago I had the privilege of visiting with Dr. Dennis Kinlaw in his home in Kentucky. A few of us had gathered to spend some time in study and prayer with him. It was an amazing few hours as we sat around his kitchen table, as he shared with us what God had been speaking to him. He spoke of the mysteries of the holy Trinity. How the Father loves the Son who loves the Holy Spirit and how they are bound up in one another. In the conference room of their new building at the Francis Asbury Society there is a beautiful table with three branches, depicting the Holy Trinity. In the very center there is an unusually shaped piece which represents the overlap of the three. Dr. Kinlaw said that's where the humanity of Christ is located, in the very center of the holy Trinity, always bowing down in worship to God. That little piece also represents a very optimistic future for all of us, for this is where we are invited to participate in God. Jesus, He came and fulfilled His mission and then He made a path for us to be able to be united with and participate in God. Our place is to be with God, ever bowed down in worship and praise of Him -- giving God the glory.

Glory to God in the highest! Yes, it was announced that night and Jesus came to prepare the way. The message continues to this day as we continue to be invited into the very heart of God and give Him glory. That's the greatest Christmas gift ever!

Prayer

Lord, thank You for the gift that just keeps on giving. May I live in that very special sacred place -- in Your presence and ever bowed down in worship and praise of You! Amen.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Peace on Earth




Scripture

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
(John 13:34 NASB)
“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
(John 13:35 NASB)

Observation

The other day I was struck by particular portion of the Christmas story. The heavenly host comes and visits the shepherds and this is what they say:

Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
 and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

In a nutshell this is the ushering in of a new era where the greatest commandment will be foundational for all. Love God -- "Glory to God in the highest" -- and love your neighbor "peace on earth." The heavenly host was announcing it that very evening.

Fast forward about thirty three years and we find Jesus visiting with his disciples on the night when He is going to be arrested. He reiterates the second portion of this command -- "and on earth peace among those whom he favors." Jesus just happens to say it this way -- "love one another." That certainly says it, doesn't it? How do we have peace on earth without loving one another?

Application

I spent much of the day yesterday on airplanes. When I travel I often pray and ask the Lord to allow me to be open to His divine promptings of meetings with individuals along the way. Standing in line for the lavatory a gentleman began talking to me - -just making small talk. Where had I been -- what was I doing? He'd been in South Africa for a funeral. Somehow he was a bit bored with the long flight and thought a discussion about religion would be nice so after getting out of the lavatory he tracked me down for quite a lengthy conversation. While being raised Roman Catholic he really did not have any personal faith. He was disturbed by the state of the world around him and wanted to know that if God were really real, wouldn't He have decided that enough was enough and it was time to simply intervene in the world and call a halt to all evil. Why would God just not step in and do something?

I countered with the fact that God is doing something and is actively engaged in changing the world, because God lives in us, His followers and we are God intervening in the world. He kept telling me that there were a billion Roman Catholics in the world and yet it's not changing anything. But here's the question -- it's not about religion, but about being Christ in the world. Truly if all of those who claim to be Christians would "love one another" -- there would be "peace on earth!" I think that is our challenge this Christmas season, and all year round. The cry for the future was spoken by the heavenly host. Jesus kept reiterating it with His followers. Today, we are to be Christ to our world, loving one another bringing His peace.

I challenged this man to think about his faith in a different way.  What did he have to offer God.  He said he was very wealthy.  So, I asked him what he might be able to do with his wealth to help bring "peace on earth."  We discussed what Bill Gates and his wife do with their money.  He went away a bit quiet and I hope that he may have been challenged about his personal responsibility to bring peace to earth.  So, this Christmas season, may we all ask God to help us to love one another and help to usher in that "peace on earth" with the same hopeful optimism that the heavenly host revealed that night so long ago. 

Prayer

Lord, I pray for Your love and Your peace to cover this world! Amen.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A faith like Martha





Scripture

Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.
(John 11:21 NASB)
“Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”
(John 11:22 NASB)
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
(John 11:23 NASB)
Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
(John 11:24 NASB)
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,
(John 11:25 NASB)
and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
(John 11:26 NASB)
She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”
(John 11:27 NASB)

Observation

Of the two sisters, Mary and Martha, Martha is the with the reputation for being too busy to spend time simply listening and learning at the feet of the Master. Who would want to have faith like her? Wasn't Mary the one with incredible faith? That may have been the first scene in which we encountered the sisters but this time, when Jesus comes to raise Lazarus from the dead something entirely different unfolds before us. Mary is too overcome by grief to go out to meet Jesus, but Martha comes to greet him and has this conversation. Jesus tells her that her brother is going to raise again. Then she expresses her faith in God and her belief that there will be a final resurrection. You see, she has been listening and she has been learning. Then, however, Jesus takes this up a notch. He tells her that He IS the resurrection and the life. That there is a distinct connection between having faith to believe who He is and eternal life. That is a pretty deep concept and so He looks at her and asks if she understands. Her response is not simply one of understanding or reiterating what He has just said but rather, she takes it to another level as well. She affirms that He is her Lord. To call Him Lord is to say that He is God, and that He is greater than the cult of the Emperors. She's not saying that Caesar is Lord -- she's saying Jesus is Lord. Not only is He greater than the Emperors, but He is the Messiah (Christ) -- He is the actual Son of God -- and He's the One they've been waiting for to come into the world. That final sentence wraps up a complete and total understanding of who Jesus really was and is. The faith of Martha has moved in a dramatic fashion from the kitchen to a full-blown theological statement of the understanding of Christ.

Application

There is hope in the story of Martha. There is hope for all of us who may, at times, become preoccupied with the tasks of daily living. Somewhere along the way Martha really did learn to slow down and spend time at the Master's feet. In doing so her faith grew and developed to a depth that few others would ever reach.

Often we categorized Martha as the one who just never "got it." Truth is, she didn't get it at first, but she really got it later on in life. However, she still seems to have a rather negative reputation to this day. Somehow I wonder whether we really give people the chance to grow up and become fully developed in Christ. Too often there is a tendency to remember the crazy things that people did when they were young and we categorize them in that way. We comment on their immaturity or their inability to "get it." Sadly this is how Martha is remembered and yet that's not the whole story.

In the life of the Church if we are not willing to allow the grace of God to transform people and accept them in their new and transformed state, we are not genuinely being the Church. There are those who have made serious mistakes earlier in life, but that's not the end of the story. It wasn't the end of Martha's story. God took her and molded her into an amazing woman. God is doing the same today with men and women but often we, the good folks of the Church, don't allow them to become all that God wants them to become because we remember the past. Let's try and change Martha's reputation by focusing on the woman she became. Any of us would be fortunate to have a faith like Martha's. Look around -- we may be surrounded by Marthas -- people who have been transformed by the power of God's Holy Spirit. Set them free to be the new person God has created them to be. Stop judging them by who they used to be. Oh, to have a faith like Martha's!

Prayer

Lord, help me to see the new transformed lives which You have created and celebrate what You have done. May we embrace Your power at work in the world today -- giving new life. Amen.

Condemnation





Scripture

Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?”
(John 8:10 NASB)
She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”]
(John 8:11 NASB)

Observation

It was easy for the officials to point their finger at a woman who had been caught in adultery. She looked like the type of person you would expect to be a sinner! They gathered around her and were ready to stone her when Jesus said something very simple. The ones who have not sinned may throw the stones. Suddenly on self examination they discovered they were just as sinful as this woman. One by one they left and she was alone, standing before her Saviour. He asked where they had gone and whether no one had condemned her. No one had remained. Now Jesus, the only one who was without sin stood before her and forgave her. He did not punish her. He gave her a new life in a moment and sent her out to live in the world to sin no more. In that moment in time he restored her into the woman that God had originally intended, her life was set right and as long as she kept her eyes on God, He would lead her into a life without sin. This was the love which reached out to her from the only man who would have had the right to condemn her.

Application

Are we ever guilty of condemnation? Do we judge others by the fact that they look like sinners and their sin may be more visible than ours? We must search our hearts and ask God to reveal to us what exists within our own hearts before we start throwing stones at others. Instead, we are asked to be Jesus to our world. Jesus came into the world to be redemptive, not punitive. That should be our role as well. We are to be agents of redemption to a sinful world. Too often we want to take the punitive role, desiring to punish those who have done wrong. That is not our responsibility. We must remember on a daily basis that our job is to be Jesus in the world, and to respond to a lost world in the same way Jesus would respond. May those around us find no condemnation in us, but rather an outstretched hand of restoration, welcoming them back onto the original path that God has prepared for all of us.

Prayer

May I have a heart of compassion and redemption for the world around me today. Amen.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Loneliness





Scripture

As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.
(John 6:66 NASB)
So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?”
(John 6:67 NASB)

Observation

As Jesus got deeper into His preaching people discovered that He was extremely serious about the Christian walk. The major feature was to understand and have to believe that Jesus had been sent by the Father. It was a new and radical way of thinking about living the religious life. No longer were we to follow a list of rules, but rather, we were to put on Christ. We were to actually partake of Him and be filled and led by the Holy Spirit. This was something incredibly organic and it couldn't be tied up with a neat little bow. It made many of the followers uncomfortable, and so they decided they simply would no longer follow this man, Jesus. Can you imagine, hundreds of people suddenly dispersing and leaving Jesus alone with the twelve. He looks at them and asks them whether they would like to leave as well, and you can imagine that within them there is a hint of wanting to run. Jesus, at that moment, realizes how alone He is in this world. He is His Father's son, and He belongs to God alone. The world was rejecting Him and even those closest to Him are, more than likely, looking at Him with suspicion.

Application

Sometimes being a follower of Christ can be quite lonely. Just like Jesus, Himself, there are times that those around us "just don't get it." There are times when people don't understand why we do the things that we do as we try to follow Christ. That's because there are times when the decisions made to follow Christ may take us to places that simply don't make sense to the rest of the world -- even those in the religious world. And yet, our daily walk with Him leads us to a place of "putting on Christ" -- and to simple, quiet, and faithful obedience -- even in the face of loneliness. Jesus gained His strength from His Father. We must gain our strength from the Father and walk each and every day in faithfulness to Him.

Prayer

Lord, thank You for Your love and leading each and every day. Thank You for Your presence that is with us in all walks of life. Help me to be be faithful to You, each and every day. Amen.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Still Stirring things Up





Scripture

And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables.
(John 2:14 NASB)
And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables;
(John 2:15 NASB)
and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.”
(John 2:16 NASB)
His disciples remembered that it was written, “ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE WILL CONSUME ME.”
(John 2:17 NASB)

Observation

Jesus came to the temple and He stirred things up. He looked at how things were being done and He was greatly disturbed. The people had found a way to make money by commercializing God's work. Jesus was literally angry with what He saw and this is the one time we see Him respond in such a manner. The temple was His Father's house and it had been turned into something that His Father would never have wanted. Jesus was ready to stir things up because He couldn't stand to see what had happened to the house of God.

Application

We are faced with the concern today that we need to stir things up in regard to passing on the faith to the next generation. However, that is not the only concern where things need to be stirred up. What we are reading is that the next generation is not necessarily "un" spiritual -- but rather, they are rejecting the "religion" of the previous generation. That is when we have to ask ourselves, "why?" Does the stirring up need to begin at home?Is there something about the way that we have practiced our faith that has become repulsive to the younger generations? Is there an incongruity between the religion we purport to believe and the way in which we live?

Jesus stirred things up at the temple because they just weren't right. Maybe we need to stir things up at church because they're just not right! Maybe we need to stop and look at ourselves and wonder why the next generation isn't interested in our faith.

I want to stir things up! I want to be able to pass on a healthy faith to the next generation but they've got to be able to look at me and see that it's real. Being the church, or a person of faith has nothing to do with commercialism or "selling" anything. It has to do with stepping into the stream of the power of the Holy Spirit and living a genuine Spirit-filled life day in and day out. It must be a life in which God gets the glory.

It's time to stir things up. Let's start by stirring ourselves up.

Prayer

Lord, may I look at my own life and desires and please, stir me up and help get rid of the things that are inconsistent. Amen.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

It's time to stir things up!





Scripture

Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you.
(2 Peter 1:12 NASB)
I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder,
(2 Peter 1:13 NASB)
knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.
(2 Peter 1:14 NASB)
And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind.
(2 Peter 1:15 NASB)

Observation

Peter was nearing the end of his life and yet, at this juncture, he wanted to make sure that those who had come to Christ though him, would continue to serve the Lord. Those in the first century of Christianity were so closely connected to Christ, Himself. Many had seen Him, hear Him, followed Him and willingly were giving their lives for Him. However, Peter was concerned about passing on the faith to the next generation. Would they be as diligent with the Gospel which had been placed in his hands? Peter feels that, even though these people are faithful followers, he needs to send them a reminder. He needs to stir them up, so that they will continue to be faithful.

Application

We may be witnessing one of the greatest failures of a generation to pass on faith that the history of the world has ever experienced. We are living in a day and age where secularism is winning the day. Consumerism and materialism have taken the place of God. Everything we need is available to us -- so why do we need to trust in Him? As I walk the streets of this great city of Manchester I overcome with the sights and sounds. People who have had great influence in this part of the world include John Wesley, and Karl Marx, and just this week the English atheist, Christopher Hitchens passed away. There have been loud voices who, over time, have stirred things up. However, maybe Peter is saying something different to us. I don't think he's being a loud voice. Rather, I believe he's being a gentle voice with those who have been raised in the faith. He's not just going to let them be -- he's not going to let them wander off. Rather, he is reminding them -- he's stirring things up a bit -- and getting them back to the basics. Remember what was important to you! Remember the commitments you have made! I'm going to be gone and I want the next generation to carry on. This is what Peter is saying.
We must find a way to keep stirring things up. I want to be cautious here because I don't mean in a wild tele-evangelist sort of way. Rather, within our personal sphere of influence we must keep up the reminders. We must remain consistent in our walk. We must continue to talk to the next generation about the importance of our faith in Jesus Christ. If we are going to be able to keep the flame of Christianity alive, we must be willing to keep stoking the fire. If we don't, we live in danger of it going out.

Let's get the job done. Let's be faithful. Let's be willing to stir things up!

Prayer

Lord, give me the courage to keep the fires burning. Amen.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Living Stones





Scripture

And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God,
(1 Peter 2:4 NASB)
you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
(1 Peter 2:5 NASB)

Observation

There are two living stones mentioned here. First of all Christ is the ultimate living stone -- the cornerstone. He is the foundation of all things and around Him every thing is to be built. But, we are also invited to be a living stone. We are to be like Him, the One who has gone before us and literally 'paved' the way. However, it also means that there are those who will reject us as well. We, who are living stones like Him. Along the way there will be those who trip over the living stones, because they simply see them as obstacles to their own "easy" path which they are creating.

Application

It was certainly not easy for Christ to be a living stone, and nor is it supposed to be easy for us. However, when the living stones unite together, they are able to build "The Church." Remember the Scripture where it refers to us as being the Temples of the Holy Spirit? I remember as I child that verse was used to remind us not to do things to harm our physical bodies because the Holy Spirit lived within us. Therefore we wouldn't want to smoke or drink. However I think we have to question whether that individual sense is what is really meant in that case. If we are living stones, then it would seem that combined, as a people of God, we build together to become the Temple of the Holy Spirit. That there is a sense in which He dwells within us corporately. For me, it makes me have to question where I fit within the community of faith. My desire is to be a living stone within that community -- holding up my part of the building! Being the part of a wall which contains the Holy Spirit. My desire is truly to be a living stone, in the image of Jesus Christ, not conforming to the world, being rejected, and joining together with others of faith to build His Temple.
Come, Lord Jesus -- fill this place!

Prayer

Lord, may I live today as a living stone of Yours. Amen.

A Prostitute does the Right Thing





Scripture

In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?
(James 2:25 NASB)
For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
(James 2:26 NASB)

Observation

James is concerned that we understand that there is a connection between faith and works. The statement regarding Rahab the harlot, or prostitute is a little tough. How was she justified by works? Aren't we supposed to be justified by faith? Wasn't that what the whole reformation was about? How could this woman have been justified by her works? In reality I believe that it was her works which revealed the state of her faith. She had, in faith, believed that the messengers were true men of God and that they were the "right" team. By taking care of them, and saving their lives, her "works" revealed her "faith." Therefore we can read that Rahab was justified by works.

Application

Now there is a tough part in this lesson about Rahab. I remember one evening having a Bible Study in church and those on the leadership team really struggled with Rahab. The way that she saved God's messengers was by lying to her leaders. So, how can we read that she was justified by right works when those works included lying? She is immortalized in the word for all of eternity as one who was found faithful!

It would be so much tidier if everything were simple and so black and white! However, there are times when life is not that simple and the decisions we have to make are not clear cut. There are times when we have to seek the face of God and go with our gut -- and suffer the consequences. I think of the Ten Boom family who hid Jewish people in a small room built into their wall, so that they could save their lives. The Ten Booms themselves ended up in a prison camp, punished for what they had done. But it was the right thing! There are times when the law of God rises up above the things that are happening in the world around us. What will we do?

The past few weeks there has been turmoil in Russia. There has been great corruption in the elections. Just today someone sent me a YouTube link which was a German site joking about the elections. They rather sarcastically reported that 93% of Hospital #3 had voted in favor of the current government, and 100% of Cemetery #10 had also voted in favor.

A friend of mine in Moscow posted this quote from Martin Niemöller on her facebook site last week:

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Thousands of years ago a prostitute did the right thing and it was credited to her as faith. When the moment of crisis comes in our lives, may God give us the strength to stand up and do the right thing.

Prayer

Lord, when faced with challenges which we may not truly comprehend, may we always seek You, Your face, Your wisdom and Your leading. Amen.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Demise of Discipline





Scripture

For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.
(Hebrews 12:10 NASB)
All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
(Hebrews 12:11 NASB)

Observation

Numerous times in the Bible we read about discipline. In this instance there is a comment about parental discipline, the purpose of which is to train up children during a period of time while they are still malleable to become disciplined adults. Then there is a recognition that God, Himself, disciplines us. None of us like that very much and there is much conversation these days about a God of love who really shouldn't punish or discipline. However, it is just because He does love us that He disciplines us. That should be the very reason that parents discipline children, because they love them! When there is discipline in a life, it makes it much easier to be a disciple! Having discipline results in what the author says, "the peaceful fruit of righteousness."

Application

Sadly, we are living in a day and age where there seems to be a decline in discipline. Just yesterday in conversation with my advisor, Dr. Tom Noble, we were discussing the decline of the family and its structures. No longer is there much discipline found in the household. This is often visible around the dinner table -- if there even is one! Seriously, there no longer seems to be a structure to the household. People go into the kitchen, grab food and sit around a television. No discipline, no conversation, no structure or discipline to life. Part of yesterdays discussion revolved around the role of the Church in helping to create a culture of discipline for society. There were morals which were taught in church. There were disciplines such as tithing and helping others that were taught in church. There were cultural traditions within generations of families which centered around the life of the church. Mealtimes were often planned around service times in the church. The Church was the anchor around which the disciplined life was built.

Today there are homes in which the children set the agenda. How often have I heard, "If the kids want to get up on Sunday we'll come to church." Why should the kids decide? Parents -- it takes discipline to get kids up and ready for church on time, but it's our responsibility. Over and over I hear parents say, "My child won't eat that," or "my child doesn't like that." Well, why not? Who's the parent here? New studies have shown that children who have conversations around a dinner table do better in school as compared to children who don't. Parents, it's not up to the children to decide where dinner will be eaten. There are some pretty basic truths in the Bible for us to follow and this is one. We need discipline.

However I must ask, is it really so much the demise of discipline, as it is the demise of the Church? As our society becomes more and more secularized, how do we, as followers of Christ, continue to have Him and the body of Christ -- the Church as a central figure in our lives? It does involve discipline because it goes against the current of society. Having discipline and routines in our homes also goes against the flow of society. However, the author to the Hebrews had it right -- that this discipline is necessary for us to have the "peaceful fruit of righteousness." Therefore, maybe it's time for us to take inventory of our lives. What is the anchor? Is there discipline? If there is not, we will reap chaos in the future. It may be painful for a time, but we must revive discipline and bring it back into our lives.

Prayer

Lord, give the grace to accept Your discipline. Amen.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

In Exile





Scripture

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
(Hebrews 11:13 NASB)
For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.
(Hebrews 11:14 NASB)
And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.
(Hebrews 11:15 NASB)
But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.
(Hebrews 11:16 NASB)

Observation

The great Faith Chapter tells us the stories of those who have gone before us and have lived in faithful obedience to God. Interestingly one of the characteristics of those who went ahead was a sense of restlessness. The more they followed God, the more they realized they weren't at home here on this earth. Rather, they desired a new and different land. The earth was simply a place of exile for they desired to be with their heavenly Father in the place He was preparing for them. The more they focused on their Father the more they realized that they were simply strangers or aliens here in this land. They would remain here in exile until they could truly go home.

Application

I am of that rather strange breed of people known as an MK, or a Missionary Kid. Not only am I an MK, I grew up to become the parent of MKs. There is a joke shared among m's or mks who meet each other back in their "home" country (generally the country for which you hold a passport), where we ask one another how we are handling our time in exile. The truth is that once you have been a child of the world you no longer feel at 'home' in one particular place. The most difficult question anyone can ask me is "where are you from?" I have to ask them, "what do you mean by that?" In other words -- do you mean where do I currently reside, where was I born, or what do I consider home? All of those have different answers and it also depends on what country I'm currently in.

The upside of all of this is that I get what they're talking about here in Hebrews. I am an alien everywhere I go here on this earth. I will always have a sense that I am an exile. I am not home because I truly don't have a home anywhere on this planet. Therefore I look forward to a better country, a heavenly city where I WILL be at home, for I will be with my Father.

That is truly what God desires for all of us. We all need to recognize that we are simply here on this earth as His children -- His ambassadors, but citizens of His kingdom. If we stop and think about life in this way, how would we act from day to day? Maybe we're not supposed to put the roots down too deep here on this earth as we think about what lies ahead. Heaven is our home and our citizenship.

Prayer

Lord, thank You for preparing a home for us where we truly will be "home." Amen.

Monday, December 12, 2011

What's for dinner?





Scripture

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.
(Hebrews 5:12 NASB)
For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.
(Hebrews 5:13 NASB)
But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
(Hebrews 5:14 NASB)

Observation

What's for dinner? This is a question in relation to spiritual food. Not everyone is eating the same thing because not everyone is in the same place in terms of their spiritual life. However, if we've been walking with the Lord for a long period of time, there is no reason that we ought to still be eating baby food! We are warned that we must grow up, that there is no way that we can survive on milk only. It is good for a particular period of time in our lives, but as the body grows, milk will never sustain us. In the same way, for those of us who are followers of Christ, if we are to grow, we must continually move on and become mature. Jean Daniélou reminds us that we are not to try and hold onto any particular stage in our spiritual development because that would "put a stop to the movement of the soul. For sin is ultimately a refusal to grow." (From Glory to Glory, 59-60)

Application

So again I ask, what's for dinner? If sin is a refusal to grow, this becomes a very serious question. There seem to be places in our spiritual walk where we almost get to a plateau and we want to hang out there. Maybe it is as we first begin our spiritual walk. We are enjoying being in church and learning new things but when we are challenged to go deeper, we simply say that this is enough and we don't need more. The truth is, we do need more. We must keep on pressing on and getting to know Him more and more. There may be another plateau as well, one in which we believe that we have reached a point of spiritual satiety. We have been entirely filled with the Holy Spirit and we have entirely consecrated ourselves to Him. But here comes another powerful statement from Daniélou. "It is thus a mistake to imagine perfection as a state of complete immobility in restored innocence. Perfection is progress itself: the perfect man is the one who continually makes progress. And this cannot have limit." (From Glory to Glory, 52) There is no limit to our continuous forward progress because we are united with Christ and He is God, and He is infinite. Therefore to think and/or believe that there is an end is simply wrong. Every single day of our lives ought to be one of forward progress in our relationship with God, for our goal is to know God.

So, what's for dinner?

Prayer

Lord, may I, this day, draw nearer to You and grow in Your holy presence. Amen.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Friends





Scripture

Make every effort to come to me soon;
(2 Timothy 4:9 NASB)
for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.
(2 Timothy 4:10 NASB)
At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them.
(2 Timothy 4:16 NASB)
Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.
(2 Timothy 4:19 NASB)

Observation

The American TV show about friends was popular for more than a decade. Weekly the world watched with interest the relationships which ebbed and flowed out of this core group of individuals. Paul, too, had his core group of people, those who stuck with him through thick and thin. However, there was another group of people who called themselves friends and yet, when things were difficult they simply could not stick it out. Now, Paul, in prison in Rome sounds rather lonely. Demas has decided that he loves the things of this world more than the things of God and so has left Paul and gone home. Others have left as well. He was called before the court and no one showed up to defend him. They left him alone. And yet, there are the friends which have remained faithful, albeit from a distance. Prisca and Aquila seem to be a rock to him. They remain true to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Onesiphorus and his household stay true to the faith and continue to support Paul as well. They are the true friends who are willing to suffer the consequences of being Paul's supporters.

Application

What does Christian friendship look like today? It is in the very deepest time of need that Christian friends stick with their brothers and sisters, standing up in their defense when the world comes against them. This past week via facebook I have watched an incredible display of Christian friendship and support. A friend of ours, married for just 32 years lost his dear wife to cancer. As if this weren't enough, just a few months ago his 19 year old son suffered a tragic medical accident leaving him in a coma from which he has yet to awaken. And so, with his son in a hospital bed in the remodeled garage, and his wife in a hospital bed in the living room Mike made his way back and forth day by day hoping to just make it through each twenty-four hour cycle. When he lost Carol last week my heart broke for she had been his anchor. However, as I've read the notes throughout this week I've been amazed at the Christian friends who have come to surround this brother. They have taken over the care of his son, they have helped make the funeral arrangements, they have taken care of the house and they have simply loved this man of God. Today there will be a memorial service for Carol and I know that Mike will be surrounded by friends, both physically and emotionally. That's what God intended. He intended the Bride of Christ -- the Church -- to be a community of faith and friends who would love and care for one another.

Prayer

Lord, please be with Mike and his children today as the celebrate Carol. Amen.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Meet Pressing Needs





Scripture

Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.
(Titus 3:14 NASB)

Observation

Those who work for the Lord (meaning all believers) must be attentive to the needs around them on a daily basis. Especially during this holiday season it's important that we don't become so absorbed in our own activities that we miss those around us who have pressing needs. For many people the holiday season simply exacerbates their needs and they feel even more inadequate. Therefore, we must ask ourselves what we can do to meet the pressing and immediate needs.

Application

There are those who would say that it is not worth it to meet the pressing needs, but rather we need to go to the root of the issues and work on those so that these problems do not continue. This is true in a sense. There is the famous saying, "Give them a fish and they eat today. Teach them to fish and they will eat for a lifetime." While visiting Mother Theresa's home in Calcutta, however, I was struck by this saying of hers which had been framed and put on the wall. "Don't talk to me about teaching them to fish. If I don't feed them today they will die." In this Christmas season may we look around us for those who have pressing needs and reach out to them so that they may know the reality of Jesus.

Prayer

Lord, may today be a day of surprises as I seek to be Your servant in the world. Amen.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Prayers, Petitions and Thanksgivings





Scripture

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,
(1 Timothy 2:1 NASB)
for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
(1 Timothy 2:2 NASB)

Observation

"I don't know how to pray!" How often do we hear this today?  In the past it seems that the art of prayer was passed from one generation to the next and yet, suddenly we live in a day and age when many people tell me that they simply don't know how to pray. In this letter to Timothy we get a glimpse of the expectation of a follower of Christ. All were encouraged to spend time in prayer, and while they were praying they were to bring their petitions before God. However, not only petitions were to be brought to God, but also thanksgiving for what God had already accomplished. We are not to be choosy about those for whom we will pray. We are to pray for all people that we may know personally but also for those who are in authority over us. Yes, we are even to pray for those who may not be confessed followers of God. Why? Because ultimately as we pray for others God brings a peace and tranquility into our lives.

Application

We must find a way to carve out time for prayer in our daily lives. In that prayer time it may be helpful to make a list of those for whom we need to pray. Maybe it's something we do on a rotating basis, praying for different people, or groups of people on different days of the week, but we need to have some type of a plan. Praying for others includes praying for those that we may not even like. We are admonished to pray for everyone! This includes those who are our leaders.  It doesn't matter whether they are followers of Christ or not, we must pray for them.  It is only through this time in God's presence, through prayer for those with whom we have affinity and with whom we do not, that we find a very deep and amazing peace.  This peace is what gives us a life of tranquility and dignity.  Now, that sounds appealing, doesn't it?  Therefore we must again practice the "art" of prayer, filling our time with God with petitions and thanksgivings. 

Prayer

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

THE image





Scripture

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
(Colossians 1:15 NASB)
He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
(Colossians 1:18 NASB)
For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him,
(Colossians 1:19 NASB)
and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
(Colossians 1:20 NASB)

Observation

We tend to throw around the terms "image" and "likeness" from time to time but it is in this letter to the Colossians that it is made abundantly clear that THE image is Jesus Christ. God sent His son to be the visible image of the invisible God. This is THE image that we are to be reflecting to the world around us. The visible representation of God is seen as the head of the Church. Today, we may feel that the "Bride of Christ" suffers from some warts and age spots, and yet, the Church serves a special and unique role as His bride. Jesus is the groom who lovingly awaits His bride. Shouldn't we be lovingly caring for and preparing His bride for the wedding day which lies ahead? Shouldn't the bride be a reflection of THE image as well?

Christ is THE image of all things -- for all creation, visible and invisible is found in Him. He is also the first one who was physically born to be resurrected into the new future which God, in Christ, is preparing for all of us. In this way the future is already here, and yet, not completely. As His "image bearers," we are to be a reflection of the future hope of the Kingdom of God in this world today.

Application

The hope of Jesus Christ which is found in THE image is what the world needs so desperately. The words "peace" and "reconciliation" resound in my ears. What would it be like if we, His "image bearers" were reflecting His peace and reconciliation to the world around us? Would that make a difference today in the mall, on the road, or in the office? As His followers, we are to seek His face, and if we keep our face turned toward His face, we will be a reflection of THE image to the world. In ancient Greek understanding the reflection was much more than just skin deep. The reflection represented a "real" change of the object that was reflecting the original image. That must be true for us as well. We are to be a reflection of THE image but we are to be genuinely changed, ourselves. So today, THE image is also to reside in our homes, bringing peace and reconciliation to hurt and broken relationships. If this were true, if all of Christianity were to be a reflection of THE image, the world would be dramatically changed. It is the challenge to all Christ followers, to seek His face and be His "image bearers" to the world!

Prayer

Lord, may I seek Your face day and night and help me to be Your image bearer this day. Amen.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pressing On





Scripture

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
(Philippians 3:13 NASB)
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:14 NASB)
Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you;
(Philippians 3:15 NASB)
however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.
(Philippians 3:16 NASB)

Observation

Paul believed that day in and day out he, whether he was a prisoner or free he was to be pressing on toward the goal of his life. He always believed there was more for him as he was called upward in Christ Jesus. For him the spiritual journey was always a continuous upward climb because Jesus Christ was always before him. He even encouraged those who had been made complete (or perfect) to have the very same attitude. That is, Paul understood that the goal of the Christian life was to always have Christ before you, and for you always to be reach out and up toward Him; a life in which you continuously pressed on toward Him.

Application

Sometimes we fail to understand a very important point here. There has been a misunderstanding regarding perfection. You see that Paul uses this word here to refer to other followers of Christ. They had reached perfection, and yet, he encourages them to press on. That is because Paul understood that the perfection that one could attain here on earth was to fulfill the purpose for which you had been created -- that is, to be a child of God. Paul would say that he had been made perfect. Look what Christ had done for him on the Damascus road and now Paul was following and serving God every single day of his life. And yet -- Paul realized that his life was to be one of continual transformation as he kept his eyes fixed on God. The Cappadocians of the 4th century talked about our ever increasing participation in God. As we climb up higher in our spiritual journey we are becoming more and more like Him because we are ever more participating in Him. However, we must recognize that God is infinite, and therefore our ever increasing participation can and should go on forever. Paul had this figured out. He ever kept Christ before him as the example and continued to seek the face of God day in and day out, no matter his circumstances. He never gave up pressing on!

Prayer

Lord, may I never give up pressing on toward You. May You be revealed in my life on a daily basis. Amen.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Personal Responsibility





Scripture

How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, Who seek Him with all their heart.
(Psalms 119:2 NASB)
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;
(Ephesians 5:1 NASB)
and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
(Ephesians 5:2 NASB)

Observation

God is gracious in His love for humanity. His prevenient grace reaches out to each and every single one of us, but there is a human response which is required. We must take hold of that which is offered to us, and once we have taken hold, we must continue to seek the One who has reached out to us. Over and over again we are told to seek Him, to seek His face, to desire to know Him with all of our being! Responding to His grace is simply the first step in a life-long journey, of a relationship with our God of holy love. There is something synergistic that happens when one is engaged in the relationship with God, when one has their eyes fixed on Him. There is a desire to imitate the One who stands before us. That is why we become imitators of God, we walk in love, and our lives become a sacrifice to Him. At the same time, through imitation we are actually transformed into His very image and likeness. We are His children, and the world begins to see Christ in us as we continue to walk this journey in His grace.

Application

There is much talk these days about the grace of God which often times lacks the need for human response to that grace. Paul didn't tell his followers to "keep on sinning so that grace would abound." No -- he told people to stop sinning and to become imitators of Christ. We are asked to put something into the relationship or equation. Many of us don't like the idea of discipline, whether we're talking about self-discipline or spiritual discipline. However, it is when we begin to discipline ourselves that we begin to look like disciples! Human effort, when placed under the power of God's grace has exponential results.

This passage in Ephesians included a long list of behaviors to avoid. We don't really like those lists anymore but the reality is that we must create some boundaries for our lives. If we are going to be imitators of Christ, what does that mean for us? What are we going to do with our free time? Where are we going to hang out? What kind of jokes are we going to tell? How are we going to spend our money? How many people are we willing to help today? How much time are we willing to spend daily in God's holy presence?

Discipline is not a fun word, but it is our human response and responsibility. Let's jump on board and seek Him with all our being! It was once said of John Chrysostom, a great church leader of the 4th century that he "genuflected with his whole being." Shouldn't that be our desire? That every facet of our lives would be surrendered wholeheartedly to God on high -- seeking Him and His face every moment of the day!

Prayer

Lord, my desire is to step into Your holy grace today as an imitator of Christ. Amen.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

What are you wearing?





Scripture

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
(Romans 13:14 NASB)

Observation

Every day we get up and probably wonder, "What will I wear today?" As a follower of Christ, there is one thing that we should never forget. That is, that we should put on Jesus Christ daily! That is what Paul was reminding the Romans. Every day of their lives they were to remember to put on Jesus Christ. They were to wrap themselves in Him, as if He were their outer garment, their very shield and protection. Because they were dressed in Christ, they were to be Christ to the world around them. They were not to be controlled by the lusts of the world, or the lust of the flesh. Clothing oneself in Christ meant that one could live like Christ in the world and didn't have give in to human temptations.

Application

The temptations of the world will always surround us. If we do not clothe ourselves in Christ we will leave ourselves vulnerable to those temptations. Some of the temptations are very simple, as we are encouraged to "fit in" to the world. We try more and more to look like and act like the world because as Christians we want to be "acceptable." Jesus wasn't "acceptable." He was radical in the way in which He viewed the Kingdom and our citizenship within that Kingdom. It doesn't mean that you have to be rude and/or arrogant, but rather, simply clothe ourselves in Christ and live like Him! Maybe that's simpler said than done, and it is much more difficult to do if we forget to put Him on! Every single day of our lives we must consciously take time to put on Christ and wear Him out into the world. Only in this way can we be the holy people of God that He wants us to be. Remember, it's not about our holiness, but rather, His.

Just this week I read an article about Tim Tebow the football player who puts on Christ. There are many in the world who literally hate him, mock him, and are doing all they can to find fault in him. They think that he's simply too good to be true. The author of the article said that the reason the world mocks him is that he actually makes us feel uncomfortable. Tim Tebow puts on Christ and simply by his genuine actions it puts the world on edge, because they know they are not living in the light of God's truth.

What would the world be like if all of God's children would put on Christ on a daily basis. The world would be changed! What are you wearing today?

Prayer

Lord, may I be clothed in You today and may You be glorified!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Appreciate the Roots





Scripture

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree,
(Romans 11:17 NASB)
do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.
(Romans 11:18 NASB)

Observation

The Israelites were God's chosen people and in this analogy by Paul they are the roots. We (Gentiles) have been privileged to be grafted into the tree. They were privileged to be partakers of the rich root. That is, God had planned for them to be partakers of His divine nature. Now, as a branch which is grafted into the tree, we too can become partakers of His divine nature. We should not look with arrogance on the children of Israel, but rather, be grateful for what was begun through them. We are simply branches and the branches grow because of the nourishment they receive from the root. We are privileged to be connected to the root because we have been grafted into the tree. May we be grateful for the grace which has been extended to us!

Application

In the fourth century a man named Gregory (known as the Theologian), wrote about his parents and how they came to faith in Christ Jesus. Utilizing this same scripture as background, he referred to his mother, Nonna as the great olive tree. That is, his mother was a follower of Christ and was extremely strong in her faith. His father, (also Gregory) was not a believer. He actually belonged to some strange cult of their day known as the Hipsistarians. Nonna -- the strong one, the olive tree -- began to pray for her husband that one day he might be grafted into the tree. She prayed for years and years when finally her prayers were described as the "drip which hollows out the stone." Her husband finally turned toward the Lord, and their son describes his father as the branch which is grafted into the mighty tree. The father is the new graft, while Nonna is the strong and mighty tree. Gregory goes on to say that his father grew quickly in his faith and became strong because Nonna's roots were so deep that they were able to nourish her and her husband alike.

Gregory has immortalized his mother Nonna in his writings but has helped us to see a practical application of this scripture from Paul. Too often we don't take the time to appreciate the depths of the roots which are partakers together with God. In this case, a woman was deeply united to God. She lived with an unbelieving husband for many years, never giving up on him. Ultimately the strength of her faith was enough to support her husband and soon after his conversion he became a Priest and Bishop. Their children were all followers of Christ. Her second son became the physician to the Emperor and even debated the Emperor over Christianity -- and won!

Too often these days we look at the branches and want to ooh and ah over their beauty. May we never forget to look at and appreciate the roots. They aren't pretty but without them the branches will die. Be grateful for those who have gone before us who have been willing to dig deep and put down the roots for all of eternity. Only there can we be partakers together with Him. Only there do we receive real strength and nourishment.

Prayer

Lord, I am grateful for those who have gone before me who have been willing to go deep with You. Please, help us today to pay the price that it takes to go deep. Amen.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Reflecting the Wrong Image





 

Scripture

Professing to be wise, they became fools,
(Romans 1:22 NASB)
and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
(Romans 1:23 NASB)
Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.
(Romans 1:24 NASB)
For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
(Romans 1:25 NASB)

Observation

Paul is describing the fall of humanity. Humanity which was created to be a reflection of the Image! However, once humanity turned their backs on God, they could no longer reflect Him because they were no longer facing Him. So often in the Old Testament we are called to "seek the face of God." Why is that? so that we will be drawn toward the Image. Sadly, Paul says that we have turned our backs on Him and now, instead of reflecting His image, we are reflecting the world around us. Instead of being in the image of an incorruptible God, we are reflecting the images of corruptible humanity and even the behaviors of the creatures of this earth. The result is that humanity has chosen to worship and serve the creatures rather than the very Creator Himself. We are reflecting ourselves!

Application

This may have been Paul's indictment against the Romans but what about us today? We are still humanity and we were created with the intent of reflecting God to the world. We are to be His image bearers. Sadly, we have turned our backs on Him. Even followers of Jesus Christ are somehow following Him at a distance -- a long distance and therefore the reflection of the Image is so small that it is barely visible. The ugliness of this world is being reflected in those who profess to follow Christ. We see behaviors that the world would encourage because we have traded the Image for the image of the world. We are enticed by the things of this world. We want to look like the people of this world. We want to have the things the world has to offer. And the worst is that in relationships we have given up the things of God to behave in creaturely like fashion. Even adopting animal-like behaviors in some instances. Isn't that scary?

Are we reflecting the wrong image? It takes courage to admit that we have been facing the wrong direction. However, if we desire to turn around and face Him and seek His face, He will be there to help us. His grace will draw us into His presence and we may again be restored to be His image bearers.

What are you reflecting today?

Prayer

Lord, may I seek You and Your face this day! Amen.