Monday, January 30, 2012

Powerful Transformation in the Spirit



Scripture

Acts 6:8 ¶ Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.
Acts 6:10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.
Acts 6:15 And all who sat in the council looked intently at him, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

Observation

Stephen was one of those selected by the church community to minister to the widows and to wait on tables.  He was also a man who was filled with the Holy Spirit and had a desire to be transformed into the image of Christ.  Not only did he have the desire, but he was being transformed into a genuine reflection of Christ.  He was able to perform miracles, he was filled with wisdom and even face became radiant.  In the light of his life, the priests became frustrated for they could not compete against the power of the Holy Spirit.

Application

Stephen had experienced the transformational power of being filled with the Holy Spirit which leads to holiness.  It was not a holiness defined by a set of rules, but rather, a holiness defined by Jesus, himself.  Stephen, a man who understood what it meant to seek the face of God, literally was become a reflection of Jesus to the world around him. That is true holiness, for it is about the holiness of Christ, which the world sees in us as we are transformed.  The hope of this transformation does not end with Stephen, but rather, becomes the hope for all of us.  We are challenged by the story of Stephen because the powerful transformation which occurs in him is what Christ would like to do in and through each of us.  We are to seek him daily, we are to turn our faces toward him and spend time in his holy presence.  Only then will we be transformed as we step out into a world that desperately needs him. 

Prayer

Lord, help me to see your face this day and may I be transformed so that the world will see you.  Amen.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

What to do with strangers?



Scripture


Ex. 23:9 ¶ You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

Observation


There are numerous variations on the translation of the word that we find here as "alien."  It can also be translated as foreigner or stranger.  God was reminding the Israelites what it felt like to be "foreigners" in Egypt and that there would be times when there would be "foreigners" among them.  From the very beginning the faith of the Jews was an evangelistic faith, one that would invite "strangers" or "foreigners" into their community and, if they were obedient to God, they, too could be a part of the community. 

Application

We, too, are never to forget what it feels like to be "strangers."  This may mean different things for us but lets begin with what it feels like when we are new to Christ.  When we first give our lives to him, we certainly feel like "strangers" among these Christians!  Those Christians have their own culture and way of life and when you are new, you have no idea how to act.  How in the world do you fit in? 

We are never to forget how it felt when we were new to the faith, because when we remember this, then we know how to reach out and minister to others who are new to the Lord.  Remember -- we too were strangers!  However, the longer we are within the community of faith, the more comfortable we become and it makes us uncomfortable to reach out to the new "strangers."  That's why God commands this to his people.  Sometimes we need a gentle reminder that we are not to get too comfortable within the family of faith, and we must constantly reach out to those who are new and, specifically, to those who aren't going to feel immediately at home.

What to do with strangers?  Greet them, love them, and help them feel comfortable until they are yours!

Prayer

Lord, please help me have your eyes to see the "strangers" around me and help me to do all I can to help them feel comfortable in your kingdom!  Amen.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Responsibility for the Pit



Scripture

Ex. 21:33 ¶ If someone leaves a pit open, or digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it,
Ex. 21:34 the owner of the pit shall make restitution, giving money to its owner, but keeping the dead animal.
Acts 4:5  ¶ The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem,
Acts 4:6 with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family.
Acts 4:21 After threatening them again, they let them go, finding no way to punish them because of the people, for all of them praised God for what had happened.

Observation

In Exodus we find some very basic rules being given to the people.  These include rules regarding responsibility.  You can't dig a pit and leave it open because this becomes something very dangerous.  Animals can fall into a pit and die, and the very livelihood of the people depends on caring well for the precious few things they had with them.  You couldn't be careless for it might be devastating to the life of another.  If you were careless and an animal did die, you had to take responsibility for your action and pray restitution.

Sometimes the pits are physical, and sometimes they are spiritual.  We, too, must take responsibility for the spiritual pits which may be dug by unChristlike attitudes.  In Acts we find the entire team of spiritual leaders gathering together to question Peter and John about what they've been doing.  Those who should have known better -- those who should have taken responsibility for the spiritual lives of the people around them simply would not give God the glory for the miracles which they themselves witnessed.  In refusing to do so they continued to dig spiritual pits which threatened the spiritual lives of the crowd around them.  In their smugness and desire to prove that they were right, they didn't care how many people fell into the pit with them.

Application

There are times when God wants to do something new and different by the power of his Holy Spirit, just as he did through Peter and John.  The movement of the Holy Spirit may not look the same as it did in the past, and yet it is a real and genuine gentle wafting of God's presence among us.  We must be careful that we don't guard the ways of the past so tightly that we are the ones digging the pits and keeping others trapped and dying in spiritual holes that we have created.  All the "official" priests were there watching what God was doing -- the people were praising God -- and yet they held onto the traditional ways things had always been done, creating one pit after another.

It is often those who view themselves as spiritual who don't realize that they are responsible for the pits into which those who need Christ are falling and dying.  We need to examine ourselves and take responsibility for our words and deeds.  We need to ask God to open our eyes to his movement among us so that he can be glorified.  Have we created any pits?  Let us take responsibility and cover them over so that we are not a stumbling block to anyone on their journey to know Christ!


Prayer

Lord, please help me to see clearly any pits that I have dug and to take responsibility and action for them this very day.  Amen.

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Booming Voice from the Mountain



Scripture

Ex. 20:1 ¶ Then God spoke all these words:
Ex. 20:18 ¶ When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance,

Observation


The Ten Commandments were given to the children of Israel on more than one occasion.  Here, this first time, God actually spoke the Commandments to them.  They could  see the flashes of lightening, and hear the thunder and blaring trumpet.  All of this was accompanied by  smoke coming from the mountain.  That's an amazing show of God's presence among his people.  There was no doubt that this was coming to them directly from God.  And yet, they were terrified and stood back and told Moses to go and talk to God. 

Application

How often do we say that we wish God would speak to us in this way?  If only God would show up and talk to me in a booming voice, then I'd know exactly what I'm supposed to do!  If only God would reveal himself and allow me to see the smoke and the lightening, then I'd believe he was really real and I would be willing to follow him and do what he wants me to do!  God knows human nature far too well.  It certainly did not make a difference to the Israelites.  They heard, they saw, and they probably even smelled, and yet, they were not faithful. 

Everything that we need to know about God is revealed to us in his word.  Once we begin to spend time with him, we discover that we don't need the big booming voice, or the blast of a trumpet, but rather, he comes in a still, sweet voice, and gently leads us along the path of life. 

Stop waiting for the booming voice from the mountain.  The children of Israel knew what was required of them to be faithful.  So do we!  Let's jump into a faithful relationship with our Holy God, resting in his gentle presence on a daily basis. 


Prayer

Thank you, Lord, for the way in which you reveal yourself every single day.  Amen. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Going out with Faith



Scripture

Ex. 14:8 The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt and he pursued the Israelites, who were going out boldly.
Ex. 14:14 The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”
Ex. 16:35 The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a habitable land; they ate manna, until they came to the border of the land of Canaan.
Acts 2:47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Observation

Today we find a common thread between the Old Testament and New Testament readings.  In the Old Testament we find the children of Israel finally leaving Egypt, and when the moment comes they leave boldly!  They've been given their instructions, God has been faithful and they leave with confidence in him.  Along the way however, they become scared as the Egyptians follow them and they wonder what they are to do.  God tells them that they are to do nothing.  He will fight for them.  They are only to keep still.  He does fight for them and then they end up out in the wilderness.  They are hungry and God provides for their needs.  He does so for forty years.  Finally, in the book of Acts we find God's continued provision and work, now through the power of the Holy Spirit.  The handful of faithful are obedient and God adds to their number daily.

Application

These stories have powerful lessons for us today in terms of prayer and living the life of faith. 

1)  When God tells you to do something -- walk out in bold faith.  Trust him to take care of you and don't wait !  We are not supposed to sheepishly hang onto the promises of God, but rather, we are to claim what he tells us and boldly move forward with him.

2)  Keep Still!!!  Too often we don't slow down enough or get still enough to hear the voice of God.  It is in the stillness and quiet that God wants to talk to us and tell us that the battle is his.  How often are we trying to fight the battles of our lives on our own strength.  We even become angry with God because we want to tell him what to do or how we want things to be done.  He is telling us to stop it -- be quiet -- let him fight the battle. 

3)  God will provide.  I read the other day that the average American eats one ton of food a year.  One ton!!  That's a lot of food and yet, all of those Israelites wandered around the desert for 40 years and didn't have to carry any food with them.  God provided food every single day.  If we did the math on how much food that was we would be astonished.  It is beyond our comprehension and in many ways it doesn't even make sense.  However, that's the way that God works.  He provides when we trust in him.  The math doesn't always seem to work out, but Gods math is higher than our math, so let him at it! 

4)  God adds to the kingdom.  One of the most important phrases here in Acts is that the Lord added to their number.  This was not the result of some strategic planning session which happened in the upper room on the part of the followers of Christ.  What happened on the day of Pentecost and thereafter was beyond their imagination.  They were simply obedient and walking on in faith and God did his work. 

The whole lesson here today is that our responsibility is to be in a faithful relationship with God.  We must be confident in that relationship and boldly live a life of faith, believing and trusting that if we are faithful -- he really will do the rest.  This, however, is where we are like so many that have gone before.  We want to take control into our own hands, but that is simply not God's plan.  Instead, let us try going out in faith today.

Prayer

Lord, too often I want to do things on my own.  May today be a day of total and complete trust in you.  Amen.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A New Beginning



Scripture

Ex. 12:2 This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you.
Acts 1:4 While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me;
Acts 1:5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Observation

When God was preparing the Israelites to leave Egypt he promised them a new life.  As a seal of that promise he told them to reset their calendars for their lives would have a new beginning.  The month of their deliverance was to be the first month of the year for them -- starting the calendar over again and marking it from a significant moment -- when God had delivered them from Egypt!  This was their new beginning.  Move to the New Testament and we find another significant new beginning.  Jesus has come to the earth, lived and died and is now preparing to ascend into heaven.  He is telling the people of another new beginning which they will experience in Jerusalem. 

Application

This is the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for we serve a God of new beginnings!  There are times when he says that enough is enough -- and it's time to reset the calendar and give you a fresh start.  This is a gracious God who loves and cares for everyone enough that he wants to give them hope for a new life in him.

For the Israelites the new beginning involved stepping out in faith.  They were to go and walk out into a desert to worship God.  They were to follow all of his instructions.  Their entire relationship with God was to change as a result of this new beginning.  They really struggled with the changes in their lives.  It was all so new to them, and yet they did follow God's instructions for the passover and he protected them and they were eventually allowed to go and have a new beginning.  For us to have a new beginning  we must take a lesson from these children of Israel who were scared and worried about what as ahead.  And yet, to have a new beginning one must trust in God who will provide and lead the way.

In Acts we find a different scene.  We find a rag-tag group of 120 people who are wondering what is going to happen next?  There's such a small group of them left after all the massive crowds dispersed.  Jesus didn't turn out to be the political leader they had hoped he would be.  The faithful few are told to go and wait in an upper room where there would be a new beginning.  They had no idea what that meant.  Jesus had said he had to leave so that he could send them the Holy Spirit.  What was a Holy Spirit?  And yet, they went to the room and they began to pray -- the men and the women who had been faithful followers of Jesus.  And they waited for a new beginning.  They too stepped out in faith not knowing what that future held.  When the Holy Spirit came, little did they know that they, on a personal level, would be completely transformed into new people!  They became the vessels that God used to bring about the new beginning.  They became vessels filled to the brim with the Holy Spirit. 

God is offering every one of us a new beginning.  For some it is simply starting out on the journey with God and allowing him to lead you.  It can be tough, just like it was for the Israelites.  Some days there was faith, some days you struggled -- but God never left you alone and went with you.  And the way he comes and is with us today is through the presence of his Holy Spirit.  His Holy Spirit is transformational.  It takes us from being weak and doubting followers to becoming powerful followers with abilities we could never even begin to imagine, for they are not our abilities, but his giftings flowing through us. 

Do we need a new beginning?  It all starts with a step of faith in the direction of a faithful God who promises to lead us and to fill us.  Let's go!

Prayer

Lord, morning by morning you bring your promises afresh and a new to me.  Thank you, and may I walk and follow you in faithfulness.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Feeling the Darkness



Scripture

Ex. 10:21 ¶ Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven so that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness that can be felt.”

Observation

     There have only been a few times in my life when I have experienced complete and total darkness.  It's true that when it's that dark you can't see your hand in front of your face.  It was this type of darkness that God sent to the Egyptians.  God, himself even described it as a darkness which may be felt.  That is a frightening darkness for there is not one single shred of light breaking in.  Literally the darkness feels like it envelopes you, it becomes disorienting and you don't know which way to go. 

Application

     The Egyptians experienced this kind of darkness for three days.  They pleaded with Moses to have God return the light for they were terrified, and yet, after the light returned, they no longer seemed afraid of the darkness, or of God.  Why is it that we can find ourselves in very dark places, having taken turns that we had not intended and we plead for God to save us, and yet, after he does, we find ourselves going back down the same paths again and again?  And there we sit in a darkness that we literally can feel and wonder where God is in all of this.

     It is in complete and total darkness that we discover the beauty of light.  It takes only one tiny beam of light to break the darkness.  Once that beam of light shines, we are drawn to it with almost an obsessive desire to find the light.  What is the source of that light?  We seek the source and discover the closer we get to the light, the clearer things become. 

     Jesus broke into the world to be the light.  Those who are not following God are stumbling around in the darkness, wondering where to go, and literally feeling the darkness engulfing them.  As followers of Christ we are to be the light in a hurt and dying world.  If we haven't stepped out of the darkness and into his light, that's where we need to begin.  However, if we've already stepped out of the darkness then we are light.  That's when we need to realize that we are the bright little pockets of light in a world that is desperately looking for a way out of their gloom of darkness.  That's why Jesus tells us to let our lights shine before people so that they can see what we are doing and God will be glorified. 

     Lift up your light for the world to see.  Allow them to be drawn toward you, for you are their road map to Christ and the path out of the doom and gloom of the ungulfing darkness.

Prayer

Lord, may I be willing today and everyday to lift up my light in the darkness to lead people toward you!  Amen.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Behind the Scenes





Scripture

But they kept on insisting, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching all over Judea, starting from Galilee even as far as this place.”
(Luke 23:5 NASB)
Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him.
(Luke 23:8 NASB)
Now Herod and Pilate became friends with one another that very day; for before they had been enemies with each other.
(Luke 23:12 NASB)
“No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him.
(Luke 23:15 NASB)
“Therefore I will punish Him and release Him.”
(Luke 23:16 NASB)
Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again,
(Luke 23:20 NASB)
And he said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has this man done? I have found in Him no guilt demanding death; therefore I will punish Him and release Him.”
(Luke 23:22 NASB)
But they were insistent, with loud voices asking that He be crucified. And their voices began to prevail.
(Luke 23:23 NASB)

Observation

      What was happening on that day?  Something incredibly political was happening behind the scenes.  Jesus is brought before Pilate who can find nothing wrong with him.  What had he done?  He had "stirred people up."  At the end of the day they would trade the life of Jesus, the innocent man for a man condemned of murder.  How did things get so distorted.

      Luke takes us behind the scenes that day to see what was happening on the human front.  Pilate couldn't find anything wrong with him, but the pollsters came back and told him that the people really wanted something done with the man.  What to do with him?  Pilate decided that it would be expedient to say that he didn't have jurisdiction since Jesus was really from the Galilee.  He had heard that Herod (whom he really disliked) was in town.  Why not give him the opportunity to decide what to do with Jesus, and therefore Herod could take the blame.

      Jesus appears before Herod and the man is so excited.  He is wringing his hands with anticipation that Jesus is going to perform his "magic" tricks for him.  He'd heard so much about him.  However, at the end of the day, Jesus is a disappointment.  He does nothing -- not even defending himself.  The result, an uncanny political alliance develops.  Herod, too, gets the poll numbers and realizes that the people want this man crucified.  Why not mend his fences with Pilate so that they can be united in their response.  The two of them can do this together!  

      Both of them declare that Jesus is innocent and that he ought to be set free.  However, they don't set him free.  They wait for a little bit more "polling."  Eventually the "voices began to prevail." Herod and Pilate no longer do what's right, but rather -- do what's popular, and the Messiah is crucified. 

Application

      Are we ever tempted to go behind the scenes in our own lives?  Are we worried about what others think, to the detriment of the truth or of right?  Do we form alliances just because they are self-serving?  We often condemn Pilate for his behavior that day, and yet how much of ourselves do we find in him.  If someone were to look behind the scenes, to draw the curtain on our own lives, what would they find?  Are we simply doing what's expedient, or are we willing to go against the crowd and stand up for what is right?  That's what we are challenged to do today, and everyday.  Don't succomb to the temptation to go behind the scenes and to manipulate, but rather, trust in God and his Truth.

Prayer

Lord, may I be a follower of your truth today and not be tempted to step behind the scenes.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Crutch





Scripture

The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” And he said, “A staff.”
(Exodus 4:2 NASB)
Then He said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it.
(Exodus 4:3 NASB)
“You shall take in your hand this staff, with which you shall perform the signs.”
(Exodus 4:17 NASB)

Observation

Moses had just experienced God revealing himself to him by way of the burning bush. One can only imagine how stunned Moses was at the experience. Now God was telling him to go and to be a leader and Moses was terrified. God decided that he would allow him to have a crutch, or a tool to help him through this time of leadership. The crutch was the staff which Moses was carrying in his hand. God told Moses to simply look down and see what it was that he was carrying with him. It was a staff. This would have been something that Moses would have normally carried as part of his job. It was simple and most people had one. And yet God wanted to do something unusual with the usual. He told Moses to throw it on the ground and suddenly the staff transformed into a serpent. God told Moses to pick it up again and he did and it turned back into a staff. Now, everywhere that Moses went he was to take the staff with him. He did and God used it to do powerful signs.

Application

God was sensitive to Moses' weaknesses and provided him with tools to do the work which God had asked him to do. Sometimes we all need a crutch -- a staff -- or a tool to help us make it through what God has asked us to do. It is a loving God who is willing to provide us with what we need to get the job done.

The problem is that so often today we want to pick out the "crutch" or the "tool" for ourselves instead of allowing God to do the directing. Probably the greatest "crutch" we all need is to be a part of a community of Spirit filled believers. This is the place where we find strength to get the job done. When two or three are united together in prayer and in the Spirit -- much more will be accomplished for the kingdom than when we are left alone to our own practices. Too often we're looking for tools for kingdom work by doing google searches. We want to find the word from the latest Christian guru, or discover what media items we can use to tell others about Christ, or even how we are to live the Christian life. These may all be good things, but they may not be the best things. The best things are found in the Spirit filled community. Pick up your staff -- go and spend time in prayer the midst of a community of faith and allow the Holy Spirit to empower you to do his work. This is where the strength comes from!

The problem with "things" is that we become dependent on them. Moses became dependent on the staff and misused it, redirecting his faith into the staff rather than on God. This is what can happen when we utilize the things of this world to be our "crutch." Jesus' intention of a new crutch for all was not something material, but rather the Holy Spirit. Only through him can we be the faithful servants that God intends for us to be.

It's Sunday. Let's find a Spirit-filled community of faith in which we may find our "crutch" to help us live out the walk of faith in a very troubled world. Stop the google searches. We know where to go to find what we need!

Prayer

Lord, may we experience you today in our lives and worship in a very powerful way. Amen.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

It will lead to an opportunity





Scripture

And He said, “See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not go after them.
(Luke 21:8 NASB)
“When you hear of wars and disturbances, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end does not follow immediately.”
(Luke 21:9 NASB)
“It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony.
(Luke 21:13 NASB)

Observation

Don't we all love opportunities? It sounds like something really good that may be in store for us, but when Jesus describes the opportunity, it may drive people away. What he is saying here is in stark contrast with what many believers would like to think will happen in the future. Jesus is talking about times when things are difficult. He is saying that there will be those who try to divert peoples' attention away from him. They will try to have us believe that they are the Messiah, or that they are pointing the way to him who will return. There will be many false prophets, and we have experienced those in our day. He also says there will be all kinds of major world-wide disturbances in the forms of wars, earthquakes, etc. However, here is part of the message. He says that it is necessary for these things to happen but that does not mean that the end is going to happen immediately. Rather, they are just signs but hang on there's a reason for all of this. The reasons are not so that we can calculate a day or time when we are going to be removed from the earth, but rather, that we have an opportunity to share our testimony. Adversity leads to opportunity!

Application

The message here is powerful for followers of Jesus Christ. Yes, we have the hope of a future with him, but at the same time, we are messengers in the kingdom of God which is already here on this earth. Our hope is not to wait around to be removed from this earth, but rather, to engage in what is happening here on this earth. Yes, to engage in the results of wars, famines, and earthquakes, for these are opportunities for us to share our witness and our testimony about him. Too often our focus is on ourselves. We want to leave this place and we are longing for something better. Yes, that will happen, but our longing should be to be able to be his messengers and servants here in his kingdom. We are his foot soldiers and we are to march into the adversarial situations bathed in prayer so that God would give us the very words of testimony which he wants us to speak in those circumstances.

Prayer

Lord, please help me to make the most of every opportunity that I have to share you with this world around me. Amen.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Greater Condemnation



 

Scripture

And while all the people were listening, He said to the disciples,
(Luke 20:45 NASB)
“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets,
(Luke 20:46 NASB)
who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”
(Luke 20:47 NASB)

Observation

Over and over Jesus warns people around him about the condemnation that is to come. However, most of the words of warning are for those who think that they are doing well spiritually and in religious life. Curious, isn't it? He warned his disciples to beware of the scribes. These people wore really nice clothes, and they were wonderful at patting one another on the back as they passed each other on the street. They made sure that all the right protocol was followed and that they were treated with special honor. And yet, Jesus said that they devoured widows' houses. Obviously this is a jab at the fact that they failed to show compassion on those who were weaker and in need. Jesus does not tolerate those who have power, exercising that power to marginalize the weaker who are around them. He warns them about trying to look spiritual by praying long prayers. The outward appearance of spirituality means nothing if it is not combined with love and compassion for the poor, the needy and the weak that confront us on a daily basis. These religious people are the ones that Jesus says will receive the greater condemnation. Why? Because they know better. They have been privileged to study the word of God. They have financial resources which could be used to help others, but instead, they have presumably made their money off the poor. In Jesus' eyes, these are the very worst offenders.

Application

Those of us "in" the church need to realize that Jesus is holding us to a very high standard, but not one of religiousity, but rather of responsibility. Over and over we are reminded that we have what we have so that we will use it for others, not for ourselves. That's why Jesus gets so frustrated because ultimately those of us in the church who refuse to do his kingdom business are guilty of misappropriation of resources! The resources have been made available to us for us to be his ambassadors here in the kingdom of God which already exists here on this earth.

The focus of those in the church should constantly be outward. We do not exist for ourselves, but rather, we exist for a needy and suffering world. The challenge is for us to determine, with God's help, how we can get outside of ourselves and change the world. The little handful of disciples who refused to be corrupted by the religious systems of the day did just that. They changed the world and the effects of their faithfulness continue to this day. We are called to be just as radical and faithful today. Woe to us if we are not, for the greater condemnation is for those who "think" they are spiritual and yet are not servant leaders in the kingdom.

Prayer

Lord, help me to keep my feet on the ground and my eyes open to the needy and hurting world around me. May I not get caught up in religiousity, but rather, only in you. Amen.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Seek





Scripture

When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”
(Luke 19:5 NASB)
When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”
(Luke 19:7 NASB)
“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
(Luke 19:10 NASB)

Observation

As I read this scripture today the simple song, "Zaccheus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he" has kept going through my mind. It's a simple story that many of us probably remember hearing numerous times in our childhood. Jesus comes into the town and a short man, unable to see over the crowd climbs up into a tree so that he can catch a glimpse of the man, Jesus, as he walks by. Instead of walking by, Jesus stops, looks up into the tree and calls the man by name. The man is shocked, because he's a tax collector! That was pretty much a dirty word -- for tax collectors were some of the biggest scoundrels of the day. You couldn't look up any tax rules of tax codes on the Internet back then, but rather, you had to pay what the tax man said. They were known for being greedy, for not only were they collecting for the ruler, but they got a cut for themselves. To make the ruler happy you had to collect a lot of money, and to take care of yourself, you had to collect even more! These people knew how to make everyone else miserable and men like Zaccheus were despised by their community (except of course, his friends with whom he shared some of his loot and probably gave them discounted taxes).

And then the King of Kings says he's going to stay at this man's house. I can imagine the silence and the dumbfounded looks on the faces of those in the crowd. How could this man, Jesus, go to Zaccheus' home? They all felt like he had turned his back on them. But he hadn't, he had simply continued to reach out, and using this as a teachable moment, reminded them that his purpose was to seek out those who were lost.

Application

This must become a teachable moment for us as well. Let's stop right there and ask ourselves how often do we go out and seek those who are lost? When do we go to the home of someone that our entire community might despise and simply hang out with them in a desire to bring them to Christ? And if we go, what will our "friends" do? Will they stare at us in silence and wonder what it is that we have done, where have we gone?

I'm rather new in our latest position but we seem to spend a lot of time with the "church" folks who have a lot of concerns about "their" church. Don't get me wrong, I love these people and they have been good and faithful people through the years. But there is a sense in which we all have been doing church for so long that our focus becomes inward. We are so concerned about our own survival that we forget to seek! The Pharisees of Jesus' day were this way. They had been persecuted, exiled, and treated poorly through the centuries and they were looking for their own survival. Surely Jesus was concerned about their survival as well? But instead, Jesus seemed to go out and hang out with bad guys. What the Pharisees didn't see was that their very survival hinged on the fact that Jesus would seek the lost. The same is true today. The survival of the church hinges, not on protecting ourselves and what we have, but on going out and seeking the lost. We must be willing to leave the confines of our church buildings and be armies of saints which are combing this earth and seeking for those who need to know Jesus Christ.

Prayer

Lord, may I be a member in your army that is seeking out those who need to know you this day! May there be divine appointments along the way with those like Zaccheus, and may I be willing to and visit with them in their "home." Help us to take the church to them. Amen.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Jesus instructs on prayer




Scripture

Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart,
(Luke 18:1 NASB)
And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said;
(Luke 18:6 NASB)
now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?
(Luke 18:7 NASB)
“I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”
(Luke 18:8 NASB)
“But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’
(Luke 18:13 NASB)
“I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
(Luke 18:14 NASB)
But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
(Luke 18:16 NASB)
Those who led the way were sternly telling him to be quiet; but he kept crying out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
(Luke 18:39 NASB)

Observation

In this chapter full of parables Jesus has lessons for us on our prayer lives. Prayer is one of those great mysteries that is rather difficult to comprehend. Why would God need or want us to participate with him in prayer? And yet from the first parable we learn about persistence. Somehow as the woman continues to cry out, her prayer is answered. If God knows what we need before we even ask, then why does he want or need his people to cry out to him in prayer? Second, we learn about our attitude in prayer. We are not to be demanding of our God, but rather come before him with a spirit and attitude of humility. The cry of our heart is that God would have mercy on us. We are absolutely unworthy of his goodness and his love and mercy are a gift to us. That is why he tells us to come to him like little children. Come in innocence and faith believing that we may humbly sit on his lap, and ask, "Daddy, can you forgive me?" And as we cry out, the Lord hears our cries and he answers our prayers.

Application

There is nothing in our human behavior which changes God's nature. God, in his grace is constantly reaching out to us, and wanting to draw us near to him. However, he is asking that we join into the stream of his grace, or the movement of his Holy Spirit through a life of prayer. This is one of the mysteries of heaven which we do not comprehend, but when God's people unite together with him in prayer, things are unloosed in heaven which have been bound up. Does God need man to participate with him for this to happen. No, I don't think so, because he is an all powerful God. However, I believe that he desires so -- and has established an order in which he desires for us to unite with him through prayer. If we examine historically all of the great revivals or awakenings which have occurred, it has been when God's people have prayed. Significant time has been spent in prayer, not just a few moments here and there. Rather, there has been a persistence, a getting a hold of God time and just not letting go until the power of his Holy Spirit has been poured out and there has been a significant movement or shifting here on earth.

This is a crucial time in world and certainly for Christianity. The shifts which we see around us are simply astounding and we wonder what the future holds. Christianity is under attack around the globe, and unless Christians unite together within the power of the Holy Spirit through prayer, we don't have a chance. We must cry out for God to have mercy on us, for we have been unfaithful!

Prayer

Forgive us, father, daddy -- but please, move us into your future and help us to be your faithful servants. Amen.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Why are you staring at one another?





Scripture

Now Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, and Jacob said to his sons, “Why are you staring at one another?”
(Genesis 42:1 NASB)
Give ear to my words, O LORD, Consider my groaning.
(Psalms 5:1 NASB)
Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, For to You I pray.
(Psalms 5:2 NASB)

Observation

Jacob and his family were starving for the famine had already become severe in the land. There was nothing left to eat and yet, no one was doing anything. Jacob chided his sons and asked them why they were just sitting around and staring at one another. They didn't seem to know what to do. The Psalmist reminds us that we are to bring our needs and concerns before the Lord. He will consider our groaning and heed our cry for help, if only we'd stop staring at one another!

Application

There is a call to action found in these verses today. How often do we end up in difficult circumstances of life and respond by staring at one another? We are immobilized by fear and therefore we take no action but remain in dire circumstances. God does not intend for us to be people of inaction, but rather, people of action. We are created in his image, and he is a God of action. God, in his action reaches out to all of humanity and through his grace draws us closer to him. He is desiring that we draw nearer to him in all things, including dire situations. Therefore, our first response should always be to seek him. Things are tough, we're not sure what to do -- seek him! As we spend time in his presence, he draws us ever nearer to him, and as we draw closer to him, he presents us with a plan of action. No longer must we sit around and stare at one another, but we get up and we get going! There is a solution to your problem, and you are a part of that solution.

It seems that these days too much time is spent sitting around and staring at one another and waiting for God to magically intervene. Isn't that what a sovereign God should do -- just jump in and make a difference? If that's what we're waiting for, we just don't get it. We are to be God's people of action in a hurt and dying world. What do we do about the needs that confront us on a daily basis? Recently as we were entering a building a woman came running across the parking lot shouting at us, and asking us for help. She could barely get the words out because of a speech impediment, but also because it was obvious that she had been drinking heavily. She had a baby at home and needed diapers and a few other things, could we give her some money? We learned from our Russia days that when people asked for bread, we went and bought them bread, but never gave them money, because the money would be used to buy more alcohol. We said we'd buy her some diapers so we turned and went the other direction and found a store where we could buy some baby items, as well as food. After shopping, we drove her home. Did we make a difference in her life? I don't know, but all along the way I kept praying that God would give us wisdom to know what to do. I don't want to be a person of inaction, but rather, a person of action, bringing about a little taste of the kingdom of God to those who may not have had a chance to experience Jesus. Over and over the verse came to my mind..."When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?"

We must stop staring at each other, and be God's people of action in a desperate and dying world. May we begin by being active in our prayer lives, and then go out and touch our world in the power of God's holy spirit.

Prayer

Lord, my heart breaks over what I see around me. Please, help me to touch my world for you. Amen.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Some Practical Advice





Scripture

“Let Pharaoh take action to appoint overseers in charge of the land, and let him exact a fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven years of abundance.
(Genesis 41:34 NASB)
“Then let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and store up the grain for food in the cities under Pharaoh’s authority, and let them guard it.
(Genesis 41:35 NASB)
“Let the food become as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land will not perish during the famine.”
(Genesis 41:36 NASB)
“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.
(Luke 16:10 NASB)
“Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?
(Luke 16:11 NASB)
“And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?
(Luke 16:12 NASB)
“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
(Luke 16:13 NASB)

Observation

It is amazing how we can find practical advice for living right in the word of God. Joseph had interpreted Pharaoh's dream and realized that the land was facing seven years of prosperity, followed by seven years of famine. In order for the entire world to be helped, Egypt was going to need to be prudent with her resources. She could not eat everything they produced, but rather, they needed to store up for the years that would lie ahead. How much were they to save? Not ten percent, but rather, twenty percent of everything that they raised went into the barns and storehouses for the future. Interestingly you would think they would only have had to save 1/7th each year for the coming years but that wasn't God's plan. They were to have more than enough for the years of famine to feed, not only themselves, but those who would come to them from other parts of the world that were suffering.

In Luke the Gospel writer records the words of Jesus as he reminds us that he is looking for good stewards. The Pharisees were wealthy people and they didn't like hearing Jesus talk about money, or how to manage money. Jesus wanted them to recognize that the resources that they had were not their own. There were to have used them for others, and in wise and prudent ways so that God could multiply their resourcefulness, just as he did for Joseph.

Application

The practical lesson is here for God's people. God's people are not supposed to treat money or resources the same way the people of the world are. Rather, we are to be stewards of everything that we may have and use it for God's glory. We are not supposed to be using everything that we have on ourselves. We are supposed to be saving and storing away so that when times of difficulty come we may be able to get through those days ourselves, and help others as well.

Too many of us are living on the very edge financially these days. Credit cards and debt have made it too easy to live an unrealistic lifestyle. However, as we've seen the last few years that house of cards is falling, or has fallen. Christians need to be an example to the world, that we follow God's word and God's leading when it comes to management of our resources. What would happen if we began to store away 20% of what we make and learn to simply live on less?

Joseph was able to impact the entire known world of his day because of his ability to manage well. He was God's steward. What would happen today if God's people were to be in such good shape financially that they could significantly impact the world? The world is hungry to find something that is "real" and that works in this day and age. Being good stewards in the kingdom reveals something unusual to the world, and becomes a reflection of his image to those that desperately need him. It's time to follow some practical advice.

Prayer

Lord, please help me to make good choices in the area of stewardship in my life. Amen.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A hole of your own making



 

Scripture

He has dug a pit and hollowed it out, And has fallen into the hole which he made.
(Psalms 7:15 NASB)

Observation

The Psalmist is speaking here about those who do evil. They have dug a pit and most certainly have made it a large one, never being content with something simple. What is this pit? Often it's the path that we begin to take when we are disobedient to the leading of the Lord. We begin down a path of of deceit and along the way there have to be more and greater lies to keep up the facade. Eventually the hole which we have dug becomes increasingly large and no longer are we able to step over or around it, but we simply fall in. It seems that at that moment is when we cry out to God and ask him why he has placed us in this hole.

Application

Looking back we realize that God has not placed us in this hole, but rather, we have taken ourselves down this path. However, to get out of the hole means that we must stop blaming others for our current state of affairs. Standing in the hole and yelling out at everyone who passes by that it's their fault that you're down there won't get you out. If anything you will offend those who may have been able to have pulled you out. Instead, maybe it's time to look humbly on your circumstances and realize that you have gotten yourself in this mess. When we get to that point, we are able to cry out for help. We are able to realize that we are sinners, we are lost, and we are in need of a Savior. We can reach out our hands and grasp the hands of the one who is just waiting to pull us out of the pit (when we get over our little tantrum!).

What holes have we dug for ourselves, and our pride keep us from getting out? Maybe it's not living in gross sin, but maybe it's poor decisions about our finances, our health, relationships, or our worship. Have we dug ourselves into a spiritual hole where we have decided how we are going to live our spiritual life and how we are going to worship. Maybe we're sitting down in our own spiritual hole as the Holy Spirit passes by and instead of reaching out and joining into the stream or movement of the Holy Spirit we are content to just let the Spirit go on without us. The Cappadocians said to not move forward spiritually is to sin. We seem to only want to equate sin with the big evil things of the world, but if we have dug a spiritual hole and have hunkered down and are refusing to grow, then that may be sin for us. Have we fallen into a hole of our own making?

Prayer

Lord, please help to look to you with humility on a daily basis. Please, don't allow my pride to keep me from the movement of your Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Oholibamah?





Scripture

Esau took his wives from the daughters of Canaan: Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah the daughter of Anah and the granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite;
(Genesis 36:2 NASB)
These were the sons of Esau’s wife Oholibamah, the daughter of Anah and the granddaughter of Zibeon: she bore to Esau, Jeush and Jalam and Korah.
(Genesis 36:14 NASB)
These are the sons of Esau’s wife Oholibamah: chief Jeush, chief Jalam, chief Korah. These are the chiefs descended from Esau’s wife Oholibamah, the daughter of Anah.
(Genesis 36:18 NASB)
These are the children of Anah: Dishon, and Oholibamah, the daughter of Anah.
(Genesis 36:25 NASB)
Now these are the names of the chiefs descended from Esau, according to their families and their localities, by their names: chief Timna, chief Alvah, chief Jetheth,
(Genesis 36:40 NASB)
chief Oholibamah, chief Elah, chief Pinon,
(Genesis 36:41 NASB)
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
(Luke 14:11 NASB)

Observation

Often in scriptures we find something incredibly obscure. Here is the name of a woman, Oholibamah, who has become fascinating to us because of her name. But who in the world was she and what did she do? The simple answer is that she was one of Esau's wives. The curiosity comes in when she is listed in verses 40-41 as a chief. Why would a woman be listed here among this list of men? Evidently this woman is unusual for her day and carried with her some type of power or authority. She is of a royal line and her name itself means "most high tent" or "tent shrine."

Application

Oholibamah has been lost to history. Searching the commentaries the silence on the presence of this woman is deafening. Perhaps it was assumed that there were two Oholibamah's in the same chapter, one who was the wife of Esau and the other a man who was a royal -- a duke, a chief, or a priest. However, that is highly unlikely and it is more likely that she was both the wife of Esau and a royal leader of her day. However, this is the way that God works. In Luke's Gospel we are told that those who exalt themselves will be humbled, but those that are humble will be exalted. Oholibamah has never been exalted, and more than likely because of her gender has simply been ignored. But is there more to the story?

In Matthew's genealogy of Jesus Christ we find another obscure woman, Tamar. Tamar was an Edomite woman, who could have been from the very line of Oholibamah. Therefore could this obscure woman, Oholibama, a priestess, have actually been part of the line and seed of David that would eventually give birth to the Messiah? Wouldn't it be just like God to reach into history and take a person on the very margins and exalt them?! How much more marginalized can you be? She is the wife of Esau -- the "non-chosen" one. She is a woman. She is a leader when she's not supposed to be one.

Oholibamah stood up and fulfilled the purposes which were laid out for her in life, even when the odds were stacked against her. What we know of her is that she must have been a woman of great character to have been remembered as the "most high tent." Esau's very character is changed when he meets with his brother years later. What kind of influence may Oholibamah have had on her husband? He no longer sought revenge, but peace with his brother and his brother's family. She retained her royalty and royal character throughout her marriage and motherhood, being listed as the leader of a royal clan. And yet, history has forgotten her. Somehow, I don't think that God has!

When you feel lost and forgotten, remember that you are called to simply be faithful. We are called to fulfill the purpose for which we have been created and as we grow in the grace of God we are drawn to his ultimate goal for us. It doesn't matter whether history records us, or forgets us. God will never forget us, and if we are faithful, he can do things in and through us that we would have never imagined. May Oholibama be an example for us all.

Prayer

Lord, my desire is to be faithful to you this day and every day. Please, lead me. Amen.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Yeast





Scripture

And again He said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God?
(Luke 13:20 NASB)
“It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.”
(Luke 13:21 NASB)

Observation

Over and over again in the New Testament we hear about the kingdom of God. This is the new era that Jesus Christ is ushering in, God's kingdom here on this earth. Israel has been unfaithful and is being replaced by the new kingdom which Jesus has brought with him. This kingdom is not like earthly kingdoms but rather is like yeast. It is sprinkled here and there and then begins to do its work. It works from the inside on the things of this earth and transforms them. The yeast is not visible in the bread, and yet it affects the entire quality and nature of the bread and it raises up. So too, the kingdom of God is transformational as it works on the very substances which exist here on this earth.

Application

Many years ago there was a recipe placed in the old "Herald of Holiness" for someone's special Sunday dinner rolls. I'm amazed at how many women copied down that recipe and began making those rolls. I've heard them lovingly referred to as "Nazarene buns," or "Herald rolls" or "Herald of Holiness rolls." These rolls are loved because they are so light and fluffy. The secret is in the yeast and allowing the rolls to raise all night long. One small packet of yeast infuses the dough and the result is 24 beautiful, light and fluffy dinner rolls.

During the years we lived in Russia I would stockpile yeast so that I could make bread on almost a daily basis. However, it was at Thanksgiving and Christmas that I wanted to be able to make my best bread -- and the "Nazarene Buns." However, because I was stockpiling my yeast, sometimes it would go out of date. When the yeast is old and dried up, it doesn't do its job. The rolls came out small and puny and a little hard.

I believe that too often we become discouraged, thinking that we have very little influence here on this earth. But Jesus compared the kingdom of God to the yeast or leaven. One tiny packet of yeast creates a delicious batch of bread. Shouldn't that be an encouragement to us? We are members of the kingdom of God, right here on this earth. We are supposed to be the yeast and when we are sprinkled here and there, we infuse everything that we touch and the very nature and character of what is earthly is transformed. However, we must not allow ourselves to become old, outdated and dead!

Instead, we must be fresh and alive to be workers in his kingdom. We must seek him and his face on a daily basis and only in this way do we become fresh. However, there is something pleasant to be found here. You see, the yeast does its job not on its own power or strength, but simply because it is yeast! We can do the work in the kingdom of God when we are simply yeast. Our job is not to make the bread -- but rather -- become the yeast. If we are the yeast, the healthy bread will simply be a result. Seek first Jesus! Allow him to transform you -- and then simply live the transformed life. Go and be yeast!

Prayer

Lord, may I seek you today with all that I have and may you continually transform me and sprinkle me around this world. Amen.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

What are you doing with what you have?





Scripture

And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time?
(Luke 12:42 NASB)
“Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.
(Luke 12:43 NASB)
“And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes,
(Luke 12:47 NASB)
but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.
(Luke 12:48 NASB)

Observation

We expect to hear harsh criticism from Jesus for those who live a sinful life, and yet, it seems that some of his greatest concern is for those who would call themselves followers of God. Jesus is looking for good and faithful stewards; those who will take responsibility in his kingdom. We are called to be God's responsible stewards here on this earth. We are servants of the Master and our responsibility is to work for him each and every single day. Jesus' frustration and criticism wasn't the harshest for those who were away from God and walking in sin, but rather, for those who knew that they were stewards and didn't do their jobs. The stewards had been entrusted with much, and Jesus was wondering what they would do with all that he had given them.

Application

Many years ago I was deboarding a plane in Frankfurt, Germany. The flight had originated in Moscow. In the jetway there were border control agents to greet our flight. As we walked down the jetway we were to show our passports. We weren't even going to get off that plane if we didn't have the right documentation. I looked around and saw the fear in others' eyes. I felt a bit guilty. I had one of the enviable blue passports. While others' documents were scrutinized and the line grew longer, all I had to do was hold up my US passport and I was waved off of the plane. I almost felt ashamed that others were being treated in a rather undignified manner and I could simply walk free because I had a particular passport. What did I do to deserve that passport? Absolutely nothing! I was simply born, not even in the United States, but to two individuals who were US Citizens. That day I began to realize that I had been given resources within the kingdom through no effort of my own and that with those resources came great responsibility.

Just because I was born a citizen of a particular country I have had privileges that others would love to enjoy. I have been blessed with enough food, a good education, a life without war and the freedom to work and make money. But it was that day in that airport that I realized that I had not been blessed for myself, but the only reason I had the privilege of these resources was because I was God's steward. I only had access to these resources because I was to care for them -- because they were his resources. We must recognize that everything we have in this world is simply his and we are only given the opportunity of utilizing the resources to make a difference. What would Jesus do with all that we have?

Thank God for the blessings that you have in your life, but realize that they are given to you for his purposes. Ask yourself on a daily basis whether you are being a good steward of the things he has placed into your possession and serve him faithfully. Jesus' greatest disappointment is with those who call themselves his servants and then do not faithfully care for what he has given them. Sobering thought!

Prayer

Lord, thanks for reminding me today that everything is from you. Please, help me to be a responsible servant in your kingdom. Amen.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Unity in the Body





Scripture

But He knew their thoughts and said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls.
(Luke 11:17 NASB)
But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”
(Luke 11:28 NASB)

Observation

Jesus had the power to cast out demons and this disturbed the religious leaders of the day. They decided that the power that he had gained must have come from Satan himself. Jesus pointed out to them the ridiculous nature of that claim. Why would Satan work against himself? It doesn't even make sense because even if that's done as a pretense it becomes self-destructive. However, in all of this was a lesson because on the other hand, the religious leaders were being critical of one who was being obedient in the kingdom of God. Why would you be critical of someone who is working to build the kingdom? When the kingdom of God is divided, Jesus was warning them, it would fail. Then he reminded them that obedience to the word of God is the most vital. Their behavior was divisive to God's kingdom, and they knew it.

Application

Why is it so easy to jump onto the bandwagon of division? It seems that this is the number one ploy of the Enemy when it comes to the Kingdom of God and the life of the Church. If the Enemy can get us to turn on one another, then he divides the house, and the house will fail.

The Enemy is known as the "great deceiver" and he uses his powers of deceit in very clever ways. One of the best ways is to convince people that attacking the Kingdom will make the Kingdom a better place. Surely if we can "beat" this organization into shape!

Jesus' advice was to spend time in the word, and be obedience to the leading of the word. When we focus on the word and the ability of the word to transform us and mold us into his image, then our critical nature will be tamed. Rather than looking at others, we will look at ourselves and realize our own short-comings and the things that need to be adjusted by God, himself in our own lives. We will seek unity in the body, and ask what we can do to bring peace and direction without destruction.
This is what Jesus intends for his children -- unity in the body. What was Jesus' message for those who did not obey this truth? That they might just clean house, but if they didn't fill it with the things of the kingdom, the demons would return seven-fold and fill that house and make it worse than it ever was before.

This is the result of division and deceit. May we, as God's people, be set free from the blinders of deceit and the spirit of criticism. We must stop tearing down our own house and be obedient to the word, and accountable for our own personal walk with Jesus Christ.

Prayer

Lord, please continue to mold me in obedience to your word. Amen.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Where's your Well?





Scripture

But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of flowing water,
(Genesis 26:19 NASB)
the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with the herdsmen of Isaac, saying, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek, because they contended with him.
(Genesis 26:20 NASB)
Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over it too, so he named it Sitnah.
(Genesis 26:21 NASB)
He moved away from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it; so he named it Rehoboth, for he said, “At last the LORD has made room for us, and we will be fruitful in the land.”
(Genesis 26:22 NASB)
So he built an altar there and called upon the name of the LORD, and pitched his tent there; and there Isaac’s servants dug a well.
(Genesis 26:25 NASB)

Observation

Over and over again we find the need for water. Water is needed for life, for sustenance. In the days of Isaac and his family the need for water was so great that one had to plan their survival around the location of the wells. When water was in short supply tempers would become short as people fought over the wells. Ultimately those followers of the Lord discovered that he would lead them to the right location, and he would provide their need for water on a daily basis -- as long as they trusted in him.

Application

We are in need of daily sustenance today as well. Maybe it's not physical water, but in the New Testament this water becomes 'living water.' Jesus tells the woman at the well that he has water so that she will never be thirsty again. This new well of water doesn't need to be dug out of the soil, but rather, the well springs into our hearts and lives through the infilling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is promised to us on a daily basis, quenching our thirst for God and empowering us with all that we need for a holy life.
But where are we digging our wells? Many of us are searching for soul quenching satisfaction in the wrong places. Our wells must be dug on our knees and in the word. There is no shortcut. There is no easy well to dig, but there is the promise that if we dig at his well, it never will run dry.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for your word this day and for infilling us daily with you. Amen.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Is anything too difficult for the Lord?





Scripture

“Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
(Genesis 18:14 NASB)
They struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they wearied themselves trying to find the doorway.
(Genesis 19:11 NASB)
Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, and said, “Up, get out of this place, for the LORD will destroy the city.” But he appeared to his sons-in-law to be jesting.
(Genesis 19:14 NASB)

Observation

In these Genesis passages we find, again and again, God's attempt to draw his beloved humanity towards him. He fulfills his promise to Abraham and Sarah. He tries desperately to save Lot, which proves to be a challenging case. There were times in the former Soviet Union that we used to say that trying to help people was something like a reverse mugging. Please, beat me up and steal from me so that I can help you :) Here the angels of God try to save Lot and his household. They perform a miracle, blinding the eyes of the men who were ravenous with their fleshly lustings. Lots solution to the problem was rather despicable. He was willing to give his daughters away -- rather than trust in God. Then, he tries to save the young men who are betrothed to his daughters. They, quite obviously, were not followers of God, and yet, Lot was willing to give his daughters to them. They figured that Lot was just joking and so we can only assume that they were burned up with all of Sodom and Gomorrah. All along the way faith was tested, for they really did not believe that with God all things were possible!

Application

It's so easy to be critical of the responses of Sarah, Lot, the son-in-laws and the rest of society. How in the world could they not have believed that God would intervene and provide a miraculous response? He had promised, hadn't he? Of course God had promised that he would provide the answers to these problems, if only Abraham and his family would be obedient. Over and over God proved his faithfulness to Abraham and his progeny. God is still in the business of being faithful to us today. He is still trying to tell us that nothing is too difficult for him! The problem is that that we could probably find ourselves somewhere in the story. We may belong with Sarah -- snickering and thinking, yeah right! We may be with Lot who, though faced with the angels of God, thinks he has to come up with some solution to his problem -- and he comes up with a pretty stupid one. That's generally how it turns out when we try to do things ourselves. Or, we may be like the son-in-laws who didn't believe in God at all and thought it was just a big joke. However, it is the same God today, for whom nothing is too difficult, that loves us and wants to help us. Are we willing to step into the stream of God's ebb and flow in this world and trust him for the journey? He really will continue to lead us, day in and day out, if we will simply trust him. Nothing is too difficult for him -- even our unbelief.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the ways you have been working and intervening. I do see your hand at work and am so very grateful. May I always continue to trust in you day in and day out -- to your glory. Amen.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Prayer and Power





Scripture

It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.
(Luke 6:12 NASB)
And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles:
(Luke 6:13 NASB)
And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all.
(Luke 6:19 NASB)

Observation

Jesus, himself, often took time to get away and pray. Here we see that he went alone and spent the whole night in prayer. It was after this time alone with God that he came down and began to call the twelve disciples. Was there a connection between the time he spent with God and the calling of the twelve? Of course there was. He had spent time with the Father and he led him to the ones that were to be his disciples. Not only did the Father lead him to those who were to be his disciples, but he also filled him with power. That power permeated from his being and as Jesus walked down the streets people simply wanted to touch him for they realized they could be healed.

Application

If Jesus had to spend time alone with God the Father for direction and power -- why don't we? Frequently Jesus would spend the night alone in prayer. It was his custom! Significantly, it was after this night in prayer that he "runs" into those who are to be his disciples. I believe there is a reason that we are told to pray for workers for the harvest fields. We have spent too much time trying to do the work of God on our own power and with our limited resources.

For years we were challenged by the Church Growth Movement. It was by adapting models of attraction and marketing that we were to be able to grow churches. The result is that we have grown churches on our own power, and on not on the power of God moving among us. Instead of focusing on a deeper walk for those within the church, we focused on more and more programs that might bring people in. The result was a shallow and wide church that is not sustainable, for the foundational pieces are missing. We taught those seeking churches to be just as consumeristic as the world. Look for the church that was the right "fit" for you. Look for the place that meets "your" needs and is "your" style.

What we forgot here was that our spiritual lives are supposed to be about God! Jesus said, "I will build my church." Our job as Christians is to know Christ. This is where the focus of our time should be -- getting to know him on a daily basis and spending time with him. It is only in this precious time with him that he can transform us and take us on that deeper walk. It was only after Jesus had spent time in prayer that he knew where to go to find the disciples and he had the power to heal. When we spend time with God he will lead us into divine appointments with the world. He will fill us with his power. Can you imagine a whole church full of people like that?

Our young people today are hungry to be within a community of believers whom they see as genuine.  They are hungry to spend time with us in prayer.  They want to see what is in the word lived out in the lives of those who have gone before.  For the future of Christianity, those who have been followers of Christ, must dedicate themselves to really getting to know Christ.  This is our hope and our future.

Spending time alone with God -- if it was good enough for Jesus, it ought to be good enough for us!

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the reminder today to commit to time alone with you. I want to know You! Amen.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The appearance of Melchizedek





Scripture

Then after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).
(Genesis 14:17 NASB)
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High.
(Genesis 14:18 NASB)
He blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth;
(Genesis 14:19 NASB)
And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” He gave him a tenth of all.
(Genesis 14:20 NASB)

Observation

The arrival of Melchizedek is a foreshadowing of the coming Messiah. Really, the story has barely begun but the appearance of this king already begins a trajectory which will culminate in the life of Christ here on earth. Melchizedek is not a part of Abram's family. He is a priest and later all of the priests would come from the line of Levi. The line of Levi hasn't even begun and so this priest appears from outside the structure. He is the King of Salem...Salem meaning peace...could it be that he is laying the groundwork for the "Prince of Peace?" In his worship of God, he broke the bread and shared the wine. Here Abram was already partaking of a meal which would become, for all of time, the Lord's supper. Abram and his men had been blessed by victory and he wanted to give God thanks. He gave Melchizedek a tenth, a tithe of the plunder. Melchizedek was an earthly ambassador of God on high and Abram, honoring him, gave him the tithe of the victory.

Application

When Jesus came he was remembered as being "a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek."Jesus came to establish a new system, a new covenant that went beyond the bounds of the traditional religious practices of the day. It was a frustration to the religious leader of the day, but this had been God's plan for centuries. He knew that this is what would need to happen to be able to set people free.
There are moments in our lives today where we have experiences that foreshadow what lies ahead. God continues to step into history and nudge humanity in the right direction. Somehow Abram understood that Melchizedek was special and unique, and he responded to the ministry of this King. He respected this King and brought his tithe.

What are we responding to and respecting these days? Melchizedek was authentic in his walk with God. The world is hungry for Christians whom they can truly respect. Our lives are also to be a foreshadowing of Christ, for his image is stamped on us. This is a humbling message today, because it was not often that there were faithful individuals, like Melchizedek, who broke into time and space for the world to see the coming Messiah. The challenge is to live each and every day in the grace of God, allowing his image to be brought into clearer focus so that our lives touch the world and give a momentary glimpse of what is to come.

Prayer

Lord, may I reflect your image today. Amen.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What a Nimrod!





Scripture

Now Cush became the father of Nimrod; he became a mighty one on the earth.
(Genesis 10:8 NASB)
He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.”
(Genesis 10:9 NASB)

Observation

For years I have heard the word "Nimrod" used as a derogatory term such as, "He is such a Nimrod!" A political commentator used the term on television the other day. However, here in the book of Genesis we find the original Nimrod. Nimrod is one of the great-grandchildren of Noah. He is mighty and becomes a great hunter before the Lord. The only things that are said about this man are good. How is it that we take things that are good, and we make them into something bad?

Application

We humans are good at wanting to believe the worst in others. Here's a very case in point where history has literally been overturned by the negative use of someone's name. It makes me think about the destructive power of the human tongue. If we can destroy, without question, the reputation of a man who is written about in the Bible, what can we do to others around us? It's far too easy to share and spread the negative things about others than it is to remember the positive.

Today I'd like to remember the positive things about Nimrod and work at changing his reputation. Actually -- I'd like to be a Nimrod! I would like to live a life that is glorifying to God so that at the end of the day he can say that I have been a good and faithful servant. I'd like to be a mighty one of this earth -- not because of my own abilities, but rather, because my life glorifies God, who is mighty. And I'd love to be a mighty hunter before the Lord -- a hunter who participates with God in his activity on this earth, reaching out to seek and to save those who are lost.
What a joy it would be to be a Nimrod!

Prayer

Lord, help me to be a Nimrod for you. Amen.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Make Ready the Way





Scripture

as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT.
(Luke 3:4 NASB)

Observation

The prophet Isaiah had said that there would be one who would cry out in the wilderness. John the Baptist was that man. The message was to make ready the way for the one who was coming. How was that to happen? His paths were to be made straight, the valleys were to be filled in, the high places to be leveled out and the crooked places straight. It was a commentary on the actual physical preparation of a community for the arrival of the King. The road needed to be completely repaired before the King would come. You didn't want the King to be traveling on a bad road that had lots of curves and ups and downs to it. Instead you did everything that you could to make the road as nice as possible. It was as straight as possible, and the low spots were filled in, while you cut paths through the mountainous regions -- all in an effort to make it easy for the King to arrive. This was the message that John was preaching to the people of his day.

Application

John knew that the Messiah was coming soon. The best way for people to be prepared to receive him was to get the obstacles out of their lives. They were repenting and being baptized. They weren't accepting Christ as the Messiah, but rather, they were simply getting back on track from where they'd been in their lives. So many had wandered away from what God had intended for his children. Simply heading again in the right direction made it possible for them to make the path straight -- so that when the Messiah came, they would see him for who he was and be ready to accept him.

I believe that followers of Christ are also called to prepare the way. That means preparing the way for those who need to find the Messiah. We are called to make the paths straight, to level out the low places, and take the bends out of the road. Sometimes Christians are the boulders in the road that keep people from finding Christ. Sometimes it's our attitudes or the impression that we may give off that we are "holier" than others that becomes the obstacle. Or maybe it's the Church, itself that makes the path difficult. Do we make it too hard to find Christ because the road through the Church is so complicated that it would take a road map to even know if Jesus, Himself were there. We are called to prepare the way for the Messiah. Get rid of anything that would lead someone down the wrong path, and make the way to Him simple and clear!

Prayer

Lord, please help me examine my own life for the boulders which may be in the way of others finding you. Amen.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Mother's Ponderings





Scripture

But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.
(Luke 2:19 NASB)
And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him.
(Luke 2:33 NASB)
And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
(Luke 2:51 NASB)

Observation

Mary had been told what kind of baby she would be carrying but the reality of that was far beyond her wildest imagination. Day by day she cared for this little boy and many a day he was an ordinary boy and yet there were moments when he was extraordinary. Mary seems to soak it all in. She doesn't try to explain it away, but rather, by faith she thinks, she ponders, she is amazed and she treasurers in her heart the things she sees and hears.

Application

There are times in our walk when we should also simply ponder. Too often we want the answers right now. It would take years for Mary to see the full story of her some come to fruition, and yet, along the way, she didn't write him off, but continued to have faith.

It's the New Year and there are many who want to make predictions about the future and what is going to happen in this year. Predictions of the future are often based on past track record. Eventually Mary's prediction that Jesus could do something about the wine problem at a wedding was based on the things that she had pondered in her heart during past experiences.

We may not understand all that is happening around us but God does. May we take time in this new year to ponder the things that we experience and learn to see the hand of God in the ordinary.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the moments each day that simply inspire awe -- and ponderings. Amen.