Monday, April 30, 2012
Matt. 17:24 ¶ When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?”
Matt. 17:25 He said, “Yes, he does.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?”
Matt. 17:26 When Peter said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the children are free.
Matt. 17:27 However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me.”
Jesus and his disciples had been traveling around for a long period of time and had rarely been at home. The time of paying the temple tax had come and gone and the tax had not been paid -- presumably because Jesus had not been at home. The collectors of the temple tax came to Peter's home to check on Jesus' payment. Interestingly this was not a Roman or government tax, but this was a tax which all Jewish males were to pay for the maintenance of the temple. The Pharisees and the Sadducees argued over whether this was a voluntary tax or not.
The collectors wanted to get money, but they may have been embarrassed to approach Jesus himself. Instead, they went to Peter to inquire as to whether Jesus had paid his tax or not, or whether he intended to or not. Peter, in his usual blustery fashion, responded "Yes, he does." When he arrives at home he has a conversation with Jesus about the payment of this tax.
Jesus' response is reflective. He doesn't just find and/or give Peter money but he takes time to make him think. Think on this -- does a King ask his children to pay taxes to him? No, he doesn't for whatever belongs to him, belongs to them and it wouldn't make sense for them to pay a tax to him. Jesus was God's son. The temple was the house of God. If you really understood who Jesus was, you would never ask him to pay a tax for his own home! This was the irony of the story. The tax collectors didn't understand who he was, and neither did Peter.
Often the world doesn't understand and Jesus knew this and so not to offend them he sent Peter on a fishing mission to get the tax money. The money which Peter found in the mouth of the fish was enough to pay the tax for both Peter and Jesus! Jesus went out of his way to say that he and his followers would not take the exemption, but even with all its corruptions, he would be a supporter of the Temple.
Recently a message came across my desk from someone disgruntled with the church. Their recommendation to others who may be unhappy was to begin to withhold their tithe. Often we hear this referred to as voting with your pocket book! However today's lesson from Jesus would speak directly against such a practice. Jesus had more right than anyone not to participate in paying money into the temple. It was literally his temple! Yet, he provided an example for us in doing the practical thing and not offending others by not paying the tax. Jesus, as frustrated as he was with the religious system of his day, continued to support the work of the temple.
We are members of God's kingdom and as such we are ambassadors on this earth. There may be times that we feel that we needn't support certain organizations because of their practices. However, God has established systems and governments and organizations on this earth for the very purpose of providing order. Even if we are children of another kingdom, as long as we live here on this earth, we are to participate in and support the structures which exist -- whether we agree with them all the time or not. This is the example which Jesus has placed before us.
Twenty years ago now, when we first went to Russia, we watched what happened when the systems of society broke down. Lawlessness literally took over. Armed guards greeted us at the door of the local grocery store. Successful business people had to drive in bullet-proof cars. Nightly we heard shots ringing out in our neighborhood as the struggle for power was fought on our very streets. Bribery was a way of life and it all became rather maddening. Slowly structures have been rebuilt as society has again regained its form.
Sometimes in life we have to do things just for practical reasons. Jesus didn't need to pay the tax, and yet he chose to do so. Sometimes we are asked to do things that we really don't think we need to do -- and maybe we don't -- but we do because we don't want to offend. Being a follower of Jesus Christ means that I give up my right to myself and I am willing to do what I may not be required to do. Jesus took up his cross -- what are we willing to do?
Lord, please help me not to have stubbornness of heart, but to be faithful to you and to the systems which provide structure for our lives and the world. Amen.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Monday, April 23, 2012
Matt. 10:24 ¶ “A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.
Matt. 10:25 It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!
Jesus was telling his apostles what to expect when they spread out in their apostolic mission in the world. They would always and forever be associated with their teacher -- Jesus, and the world already had already developed preconceived notions about who Jesus was and what he was like. The student, or disciple, would not be thought of more highly than the teacher. Neither would those who serve Jesus be thought of more highly than he. The apostles were called to be like their teacher but the result was not necessarily pleasant, for Jesus as the head of their household was looked upon with disdain by many in his day. Evidently there were those who had taken to calling Jesus "Beelzebub," which had become synonymous with Satan. Beelzebub was an idol which existed in that period of time. He was a god of dung who attracted flies. He was a dirty and nasty god. He was the "lord of the flies" and this is what the people called Jesus. Therefore when the apostles went out and preached they were considered the flies which were attracted to manure and hung around the dirty god. That's a pretty descriptive picture of how the world would view these followers of Christ, and Jesus wanted them to be prepared.
These last few years of my studies have been a time of stretching in my life. In some ways it feels as if I stumbled into my doctoral program, but at the same time I know it's been the leading of the Lord. Along the way I have observed this entire system of post-graduate education. The system is very much based upon the teacher-student relationship. For example, in Manchester there are the New Testament scholars who came there years ago just so they could be students of F.F. Bruce. The question in doctoral studies is often, "who is your advisor?" In other words, "who are you a disciple of?" The reality is that as you continue in your studies you discover that you have a desire to glean everything you can from the mind of your Teacher. You also realize that you will never ever catch up with your advisor in your lifetime!
As I near the end of my doctoral studies I have come to appreciate on a deeper level the student - advisor relationship. There are times that you meet with your advisor and hold your breath until you make it back to your room before you let out the tears! You may have spent weeks on your work and when you take it to the Master he finds all kinds of flaws in what you have produced. It can be heartbreaking and you wonder if you will survive. But then you remember that the Teacher has your best interests in mind. He is wanting you to produce a good work and therefore is not willing to allow you to move forward with something mediocre which may, in the long run, be an embarrassment to you. You take the advice and you work hard to make the adjustments so that you can produce a better work, but also so that you can please the Teacher. Then there are the moments when the Teacher tells you, "yes" -- "well done!" and your heart is warmed because the teacher realizes that you are finally understanding and "getting it." I am grateful that I will be able to say that I was a student of Dr. Tom Noble!
At the same time I am grateful to say that I am a student of the great Master, Jesus Christ, and if he is called the "lord of the flies" -- then I am also happy to be called one of those flies that hangs around the dung. I want to be able to sit at the Master's feet and study and learn from him all the days of my life. I want the correction and the reproof from him, no matter how painful so that I may be able to produce a good work! And may I forever be known as a student of my Master -- no matter what nasty names the world may call him and therefore me.
Lord, please help me to sit and learn from you today. Amen.
Friday, April 20, 2012
Matt. 7:15 ¶ “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
Matt. 7:16 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?
Matt. 7:17 In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.
Matt. 7:18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.
Matt. 7:19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Matt. 7:20 Thus you will know them by their fruits.
Jesus knew that there would always be those who would try to be a part of the movement but who really did not know him personally. He knew that there would be those who would preach with false motivation, and that at times it might be difficult to discern the truth. How were we to find that truth? By looking at the fruit in their lives. Do they bear fruit at all and if so, what does it look like? Ultimately, if they do not bear good fruit, they will be cut down and throw them into the fire.
There is much discussion these days about different doctrine and whether the "Truth" is being preached. At times people split hairs over some of these issues and the result is often quite destructive to the body of Christ. Christ had already warned us that these days would come and that there would be one way in which to determine whether they were truly with Christ or not -- and that was by their fruit.
What kind of fruit was Jesus talking about? He says "good" fruit! It seems that those who are true followers of Christ are producing spiritual fruit in their lives, including the fruit of the spirit. What is reflected in our very nature? Would someone describe us as reflecting Christ? Would they see his peace, love, patience, long-suffering, etc within our very nature? Also, are we bearing spiritual fruit in the form of spiritual children? Are there genuine followers of Christ in this world as the result of our lives? Have we made a difference? I believe that Jesus is saying that a true follower of Christ will not be judged on their words, but on their fruit.
This is a challenging portion of scripture. I think that for all of us it is often much easier to talk about our faith and the things that we believe than it is to get involved in our faith and in making a difference in the lives of others. I know that there are times when I am guilty of this. May we be challenged the next time we want to be critical of someone else to stop and look at the fruit of their lives. If they are producing good fruit, then we must be very cautious, and before we would criticism them -- stop and look at ourselves. What fruit have we produced this very day?
The Christian walk is one in which God is continuously transforming us into his image and likeness. We must walk daily in obedience and humility before him. Human battles and arguments are sometimes simply a cover for the fact that we are not producing fruit. May God help us -- and may the enemy not fool us into being divisive!
Lord, it is my heart's desire to be your servant and to bear fruit for you in my life. Please, help me to keep my eyes on you daily as your servant. Amen.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Matt. 5:43 ¶ “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
Matt. 5:44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Matt. 5:45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.
Matt. 5:46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
Matt. 5:47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
Matt. 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The entire Sermon on the Mount is about a new kingdom in which the love of God rules all things. Jesus sits down with his disciples and lays out for them the blueprint of his kingdom in which things operate on a completely different level than they do within earthly kingdoms. The final paragraph of this chapter is all about relationships. God's people were proud of the fact that they at least loved their neighbors, but kept their distance from their enemies. Jesus was going to change all of that. He told them to love their enemies. He told them that in his kingdom it was our responsibility to love those who don't love us. Why? Because we were to be perfect, or to complete the purpose (telos) for which we were created. That purpose was to become a reflection of the Image -- of the heavenly Father. If it is in God's nature to reach out and to love the unlovable, then that is to be our nature as well. Only in this way will we be partakers of the new kingdom together with him.
There is always a relational aspect to sin. When we sin, or when others sin, relationships are damaged. First of all, as a result of sin our relationship is damaged with God the Father. When we are in a right relationship with him, we are facing him and when we are facing him our lives become a reflection of him to the world around us. That is why he challenges us to be perfect. This isn't a word about human perfection in the way that we like to define this -- but rather the root of the Greek word here is "telos." The "telos" of something is the goal or completion -- so our goal here is to be what God created us to be -- which is to be a reflection of him. If God constantly reaches out to sinful humanity, always and forever trying to draw us back into a relationship with him, wouldn't this also be our response to a sinful world around us? That is, if we are in a right relationship with him! Therefore, for this to happen, we must repent of our sins, turn around and begin to move toward the goal of our lives, which is Christ. In doing so, we are in relationship with him, and we become a reflection of him and his nature to the world around us.
The second result of sin is broken relationships with others. Adam and Eve sinned and their relationship with God changed, but so did their relationship with one another. No longer were they equal partners working in the garden, but Eve was to serve Adam. This was not God's "telos" for humanity but was the result of sin and corrupted relationships. Jesus came to say that these relationships were again to be set right because of the new kingdom, the one in which we were to be perfect -- a perfect reflection of God. And if we are to be a reflection of the perfect relationships in God -- what would that look like? God, in the Holy Trinity -- is an incredible relationship of pure and holy love, where the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Holy Spirit, who loves the Son, who loves the Father -- etc. etc. This is what is to be reflected in each and every one of us!
If we have damaged relationships with those around us, it is our responsibility to reach out to them to bring healing to those relationships. This is just like God who, through his prevenient grace, is constantly reaching out to humanity in a desire to draw us back into relationship with him. Just as humanity has free will and can choose whether to respond to God's act of grace, those to whom we reach out may also choose whether to respond or not. However, the response of another is not our responsibility. We must simply continue to reach out and never give up! It's what Jesus would do.
Is the kingdom of God reflected in our relationships with others? This is the call of Christ to each and every single one of us. "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Lord, please help me to be a reflection of you and may there be healing to damaged relationships within my life. Amen.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
1Chr. 7:24 His daughter was Sheerah, who built both Lower and Upper Beth-horon, and Uzzen-sheerah.
Ephraim and his family had been attacked by the people of Gath and many of them killed. Ephraim was horribly grieved by the attacks on his family and the loss of life. He has a son after the attacks whom he names Beriah, "because disaster had befallen his house." But out of the disaster comes a daughter who learns something from this experience. You don't have to sit around and be the victim over and over again. It was time to get the family out of the tents and sitting as targets before their enemies. It was better to live in cities with walls around them for protection. She has a plan that she believes will help her family and so she takes action. This girl oversees the construction of three cities. No, they are not major cities, but they are cities non-the-less and provide protection for a family that has faced much destruction. Three cities are built and one is named for her, "Uzzen-sheerah."
Sheerah, or Sarah, is an unusual woman who is tucked away in this one simple verse of the Bible. There is really no reason that a woman should be listed here as a city builder! First off, she was a woman!!! Women didn't do these kinds of things. Women were not construction workers or leaders who would help their community plan a project like this. However, not only did she help to plan one city -- she built three of them! Secondly, she came from a tradition of nomadic tent-dwellers. Why would she even be creative enough to come up with a plan for a city?
All we know about Sheerah is what is written in these brief words and yet they truly are remarkable words. They can inspire each and every one of us to think and to pray about the circumstances in which we find ourselves. I'd like to believe that Sheerah called on God in the midst of adversity and he gave her the strength and the courage to go out and do something that was beyond the imagination of those around her. Can you imagine the response of her family to her leadership in building three towns? I'm guessing the first time around there may have been skepticism but then, seeing that her work would save the family from future attacks, they were willing to trust her for future endeavors, and built two additional cities.
What might God be calling us to do? Do we allow cultural norms to keep us from being radically obedient followers of Jesus Christ? Is it more comfortable to fit into the expectations of others, rather than doing something that may be beyond everyone's imagination?
We are blessed to live in a day and age where many of societal barriers have been destroyed and yet we may not respond to the threats around us in the way that God intends. Today there are many marginalized people in the world who need men and women to stand up to the threats and take action to protect those who are weak. What will we, as followers of Christ, do to keep them safe? Are we willing to do something as radical as stepping out of our comfort zone, facing ridicule and criticism, and build the walls of safety that they need? God can use us to do unusual things because he is all powerful. Remember, it's not about us, its about him -- and he can do all things! Let's not be afraid of what God might want to do through us.
Lord, help me not to be afraid to build cities or walls or anything else you may challenge me to do for you in this life. Amen.
Friday, April 13, 2012
2Cor. 13:3 since you desire proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful in you.
2Cor. 13:4 For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.
The tiny prepositions in these two scriptures jump out at me today. What a difference little words like "in" "by" and "with" can make. These simple words define where we may be in relation to God as Paul tries to draw the Corinthians on to a deeper walk with Christ. This Corinthian church is a tough crowd and Paul is speaking to them with clear language. Paul himself is "in" Christ. He has united himself to Christ to the point that he has "put on" Christ and is allowing everything about the Christ nature to permeate his very being. However, the Corinthians were not "in" Christ -- but were somewhere close by. Therefore Christ has to deal "with" them -- and can be powerful if "in" them. Christ was crucified in weakness -- not his own -- but "by" human weakness. The jealousy and fear of certain humans, their very weaknesses put him on the cross. But while human weakness may have crucified Christ, "by" the power of God, Christ has overcome the weaknesses of man and he lives! We as humans are weak in him, because we willingly give up our own human strength and desires for the very purpose that we can live "in" him "by" the power of God. I willingly give up my human weaknesses -- the things that crucified Christ, so that I can live "in" resurrection power.
So we must ask ourselves what we might be living "in" today. If we are continuing to live "in" ourselves, then we are living in weakness. We are single, simple, little humans living here on this earth. God may have placed all kinds of skills and abilities within us, but we are still single entities living on our own and in weakness, if we are on our own. This is not God's intention for humanity. God's intention is that we are "in" him. That's how he created each and every single one of us. We may only become what he fully intended for us to become when we are "in" him. We can't be "by" him, or "near" him, we have to be "in" him. That means that we have to give up our rights to ourselves and come into such a relationship with him that, that we are literally "in" him in all things.
We are "in" a relationship with him on a daily basis. He is the object of all of our love, desire and attention. By remaining daily in this intense relationship with him, he leads us, guides us and most importantly, gives us strength for the day. Paul was weak on his own, but when he was "in" Christ, he was a strong man. It is when God uses our human weaknesses to change the world that people are in awe. Why? Because they can't imagine that these people are the ones that God wants to use -- and in the midst of God using the unlikely -- God is glorified.
How often do we measure people by our human standards -- by the skills and abilities which they possess? Even those working in the kingdom do this. We have assessments tools to determine who might be the best for particular jobs and/or abilities. However, the person who is best for the work of the kingdom is the one who is so plugged "into" living in Christ that the power of God is revealed in all they do. It's not about the person, it's about who the person is "in." When I am weak -- then he is strong!
The question is one of a simple preposition -- where am I in relation to Christ? Am I "in" or just somewhere close "by?" One is strength, and the other is weakness.
Lord, please help me to be "in" you every single day of my life. I want the power of Christ to be glorified "in" my life. Amen.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
1Chr. 2:7 The sons of Carmi: Achar, the troubler of Israel, who transgressed in the matter of the devoted thing;
2Cor. 12:19 ¶ Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves before you? We are speaking in Christ before God. Everything we do, beloved, is for the sake of building you up.
2Cor. 12:20 For I fear that when I come, I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish; I fear that there may perhaps be quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.
2Cor. 12:21 I fear that when I come again, my God may humble me before you, and that I may have to mourn over many who previously sinned and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and licentiousness that they have practiced.
As I read this scripture today I had to take a little time to figure out who Achar was. Who was this man who was simply remembered as the one who "transgressed in the matter of the devoted thing." Other translations call him the "troubler" of Israel. How would you like to be remembered as the "troubler?" Who was he? Here he is called Achar, but earlier he is referred to as Achan. He is the man who disobeyed God by taking plunder in battle and keeping it for himself. His selfish act brought disaster upon all of the Israelites. So, he is forever remembered as a transgressor or troubler. What a legacy.
Paul is writing this second letter to the church at Corinth and its also about a legacy. There are those in the church who are gossiping about him and are causing him and others all kinds of trouble. There are things going on in that church that should never be happening in God's community. There is impurity, people are involved in sexual practices and relationships that God would see as disobedient. Paul has tried to speak to these issues and yet the truth becomes twisted and they make Paul out to be the bad guy. But in the end -- which legacy would you like to have? In the end Paul is the one who is remembered as being faithful, and the people of Corinth as being the troublers. For all of history we see the church in Corinth as a very troubled church.
There are long-term consequences as a result of our obedience or disobedience to God. At the very moment when we are in the middle of the scene we may not be aware of the long-term effects of the situation. Achan was excited about the loot that he might have for himself and his family. I imagine he looked with excitement at the "stuff" that he was taking and thinking what a great and rich man he was now! By the time he got home he realized that he'd have to bury it under his tent! Little by little it began to sink in that he had done something really stupid and it would have eternal consequences.
Paul remained faithful in his Christian walk. No matter what people said about him or did to him, he remained faithful. The legacy that he leaves with us is that he was the greatest missionary of all time. He was the man that God used to spread the Gospel around the world of his day. He went from being a radical who attacked Christians to a man completely consumed with knowing Christ. His letters laid the foundation for the New Testament and his legacy is that his teachings and his life inform us to this day. His critics in Corinth are only remembered as some troubled individuals.
Just this week the football coach in Arkansas was caught doing something incredibly stupid. This married man and father was having an affair with a 25 year old woman. He was having her work as his secretary and was illegally getting money to her. It wasn't until he got into a motorcycle accident with her on the back of his motorcycle that he was caught. Then, he was terribly sorry. Maybe not really sorry for what he had done, but sorry that he was caught. The man is losing his job and millions of dollars over something really stupid. He is ruining his life because of his selfish personal desires. He is ruining the life of his family as well. He won't be remembered as the great coach of what may have become a national championship team, but rather he will be remembered as the man who had an affair and ruined his coaching career.
What legacy will we leave? When we live our lives each and every single day, do we live with the eternal in mind? Do we look at the big picture? Ultimately each and every single one of us will have a legacy which we leave here on this earth. This legacy will be dependent upon our faithfulness to God. Today we have a choice about how we will serve him -- or ourselves. The choice is up to us and there may be backlash from time to time, but faithfulness to God is always the best choice and eventually -- as in the case with Paul -- the truth will win out. At the moment we may find ourselves in situations where people just don't "get" why we do what we do, but if we remain in the center of God's will and are obedient to him, the legacy will be what he desires for us. Hang in there. Be faithful. Don't allow the enemy to turn us to the side.
Lord, thank you for your faithfulness. Please, help me to remain faithful to you day in and day out. Amen.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
2Cor. 11:2 I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
2Cor. 11:3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by its cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
2Cor. 11:4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you submit to it readily enough.
Paul has some pretty strong words for the church in Corinth. It sounds as if they have been inviting new and popular preachers to come into their midst. They're willing to pay these people to come and preach because they are exciting and can put on a really good show. Paul is deeply concerned! Do these people really preach the gospel of Jesus Christ? Do they have sound doctrine? Why are the people flocking to them?
Paul speaks of his divine jealousy for the church in Corinth which has been prepared to be the bride of Christ. This bride is to be faithful to the Bridegroom and not to turn away to others who come along. The church is just like Eve -- cunning and talented speakers have come along and tempted the church to go a different direction. Why stay with the grind of faithfulness to God on a daily basis, when we can turn toward the newest and most exciting craze in religion?
In today's vernacular, Paul is saying that either you are watching too much TV religion, or getting too much of your teaching from the internet! He's saying that it's time to shut that stuff down and to stop allowing yourselves to be led astray by everything you hear and that you read. Paul is all about the fruit of the spirit being revealed in the life of the individual. For those who become hung up on arguments which are read about on the internet, the question has to be whether the fruit of the spirit is present!
Paul had faithfully lived a life of service to God. He was willing to put up with being mistreated for the sake of the Gospel. His life and his lifestyle proved his faithfulness to God, and yet, there were those in his beloved church who would forget the teachings of Paul and follow the latest fad.
There are those today who do not realize how destructive they are being to the body of Christ by attacking those who have been faithful and obedient leaders of the church. Somehow there seems to be an appeal toward legalism. It seems that it is easier to follow a list of rules than to follow the one who wants to write the rules on our hearts. We jump at the chance to become critics of those around us, instead of following him wholeheartedly. Paul had obviously been wounded by the things that were being said about him. We must be careful to seek him with all our hearts and ask God to help us live a lifestyle worthy of him!
Paul was daring enough to call this spiritual adultery -- to be drawn away to the latest fad or teaching. There is value in the truths that have been passed down to us for generations from those heroes of the faith who have gone before us. They may not be as pretty or articulate as some of the things that we run into these days, but their lives reveal to us a faithfulness beyond what we can imagine. Being a follower of Jesus Christ often involves grunt work on a daily basis where we learn to be faithful to him. It is like a marriage! We love him and are committed to him and we stick with him through thick and thin.
God has been faithful. Paul was faithful. For many of us, our churches have been faithful. Be careful because the enemy is cunning and he will come at us and tempt us with the things that we think look good, drawing us away to spiritual adultery.
Lord, please help me to keep my eyes on you and help me to be faithful to you, and to those who have paid the price and have gone before. Amen.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
1Sam. 10:21 He brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its families, and the family of the Matrites was taken by lot. Finally he brought the family of the Matrites near man by man, and Saul the son of Kish was taken by lot. But when they sought him, he could not be found.
1Sam. 10:22 So they inquired again of the LORD, “Did the man come here?” and the LORD said, “See, he has hidden himself among the baggage.”
1Sam. 10:23 Then they ran and brought him from there. When he took his stand among the people, he was head and shoulders taller than any of them.
The people of Israel had cried out that they wanted a king. This was not God's intention for the people and yet, he listened to their cries and found them a king. Saul was to become their king. Samuel had met up with him a week before this particular meeting. Saul knew that he had been chosen by God to become the leader of the people of Israel. Here he was a big, strong, strapping young man who knew that God wanted him to become king. Samuel had told him where they would meet the following week and now the time of the meeting had come. Saul, having all of this information, went and hid among the baggage!
Obviously Saul had trouble trusting God. He had plenty of information that day that should have allowed him to have the strength and courage needed to stand up before that crowd of people and accept his responsibility. Not only did he have the promise of God, he had the physical strength and prowess as well. People looked up to him, both literally and physically. And yet, he was hiding away in the baggage.
God creates each and every single one of us with his purposes in mind. We are created to be a reflection of Christ to this world, and each one of us is infused with talents and abilities, not for our own benefit, but for the benefit of God. There are moments when we are called into action by God. He says, "now is the time that I need you to bring everything that I have put into you and allow me to use you." The question is -- do we trust God when we get that call? Or, do we take God's talents and abilities and hide them somewhere because of our own fear. Maybe it's a fear of failure. Who knows what Saul's fear was that day. From our perspective it looks like a no brainer in terms of trusting God. Maybe that's the way it ought to be in our lives too -- a no brainer to trust God.
God is wanting to use his people in ways much greater than any of us could ever imagine. Are we limiting God's ability to work in this world by not affirming the abilities he has placed within us? Are we simply not trusting God and hiding out, hoping he won't call on us to use what he has given us for him? We are not gifted for our own personal benefit. We are gifted to give glory to God. Therefore there ought not to be fear in moving forward and trusting him. We must stop hiding ourselves, get up, and get going with God.
Lord, help me to trust in you every moment of every day and may you use me to accomplish your work here on this earth. Amen.
Monday, April 9, 2012
2Cor. 9:6 ¶ The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
It's Monday morning, and Easter is now over. We've had a great time of celebrating the entire season leading up to Easter yesterday and now -- now what? As we walk in the power and presence of God's Holy Spirit, he leads us to things beyond our imagination. We are to move forward in God's confidence that he wants to do great and mighty things here on this earth. He is encouraging us to join him in this venture. We are not supposed to sow sparingly, but rather, we are to sow generously and then leave the results up to God.
I think there is fear involved in sowing bountifully. On a personal level, how much am I willing to open myself up to others so that I may sow seeds in them? Often that requires an openness and transparency on my part, to be willing to make myself vulnerable to planting a seed. That is the real point of it, isn't it? Making ourselves vulnerable! Who really wants to do that? When we plant seeds, not only do we have to put down our guard to become vulnerable, but we also open ourselves up to failure. Who wants to fail? If we were honest with ourselves, we'd say that we don't want to fail! But when people are afraid of failure, they sow sparingly. The result is reaping sparingly.
Somehow I believe that God is calling us to a greater vision of what he wants to accomplish here on this earth. He's asking us to place our vulnerability into his hands. Be willing to to allow him to give us a greater vision than we have ever had before. Allow him to help us to step out in faith to accomplish things with him that we have never accomplished before. Put ourselves out there -- offering ourselves as living sacrifices for his will and purposes on this earth. Sow with everything that we have and then see what God wants to do with the results.
Our fear of failure needs to be removed! Our fear of not having enough for ourselves -- needs to be crucified. Ultimately, it boils down to complete and total trust in God on high for all things in life -- personally, and for his kingdom. What is your vision for the kingdom? Is it his vision? Are you willing to step out in faith with him? Yesterday was Sunday -- but today is Monday and we must continue to move forward.
Lord, please help me to continue to move forward with you in faith, toward the vision to which you have called us. Amen.
Sunday, April 8, 2012
John 20:18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
It was the third day and Jesus had been buried in such a hurry that his body had not been properly prepared. His followers had to wait until after the Sabbath day before they could come and prepare him properly. That's what the women were doing that first Easter morning. They hadn't come to the tomb with any kind of anticipation, but rather, to simply care for Christ's body. They came as soon as they could -- at the first light of dawn on that first day of the week. The women wondered who would roll the stone away from the tomb for them because they knew it was too heavy for them -- but even knowing this, they chose to come and care for their Lord.
It's Mary that has the personal encounter with Jesus that morning. In her tears and the dim morning light, she does not immediately recognize him -- until he simply calls out her name, "Mary." At that moment she knows who he is. He sends her to the rest of his followers to let them know that he is alive. Mary is then ready to share that she had seen the Lord! And from that moment it spread like wildfire - Jesus was alive!
Do we come before the Lord daily in expectation that he truly is alive? Or, do we wake up at the crack of dawn, and come to him, prepared to spend time in his word but not really having an expectation of communing with him. The reality is that just as he was alive on that first Easter Sunday -- so, he is alive today. When we meet with him on a daily basis we discover the joy of knowing a resurrected Christ who wants to commune with us. We are not to come to him with our funeral spices, but rather with our live hearts and a desire to have him so infuse our beings that we are transformed into his image and likeness here on this earth. Jesus is alive -- and therefore I can be alive!
It's a great day -- let's celebrate! Today, and everyday!
Lord, may we live daily in the joy of your resurrection! Amen.