Monday, April 30, 2012

Things we do for Practical Reasons



Scripture

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.”

Observation


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. 

Application

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?


Prayer

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.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Reacting to Bad News





 

Scripture

Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities.
(Matthew 14:13 NASB)

 

Observation


John the Baptist had prepared the way for Jesus and had baptized him at the onset of his ministry. Now, John had been imprisoned and finally beheaded. The disciples of John came and personally brought the news to Jesus and his disciples. Jesus experienced very human emotions and had to take time to go and deal with his grief. He couldn't be around all the people, but he got into a boat and went off to be by himself.

 

Application


There is much to be learned from Jesus, and not just about his death on the cross and what that means for us, but also from the way in which he lived life. Jesus is the ultimate example of living out the sanctified life here on this earth. I think that there are times that we think of Jesus as superhuman and of being able to handle so much more than we may be able to handle. However, he truly did come to earth in human form and experienced life in the same way that we experience life.

So what happens when we receive bad news? Somehow I think there is a misconception that as a follower of Christ we should be able to keep a stiff upper lip and just "handle it." Jesus couldn't -- why do we think we can? Jesus had to take time to deal with his grief. He couldn't continue to minister to other people, instead he had to get away. He didn't even go away with all of his disciples, but went away all by himself. He got in a boat, found a place of seclusion and was all alone. We don't know what he did out there in the boat all by himself, but we can imagine that he had some pretty strong conversations with his Father. Not only was this a deep personal loss, but it also represented the reality of what was going to happen to him. This was an incredibly sobering moment for Jesus and he had to take some time to regroup before he could continue in his ministry.

Jesus was not superhuman, and neither are we. There will be difficult times in life when we will need to retreat, cry out to the Father, and ask him to renew our strength. Who knows how long we may need to stay out in our secluded boat -- but we must be willing to give ourselves the space and the time to allow God to minister to us at the point of our deepest need.

 

Prayer


Lord, thank you that you have provided an example for us, and provide space for us as we come to those moments of grief in our lives. Amen.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Where did this man get all these things?





Scripture

When Jesus had finished these parables, He departed from there.
(Matthew 13:53 NASB)
He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?
(Matthew 13:54 NASB)
“Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?
(Matthew 13:55 NASB)
“And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”
(Matthew 13:56 NASB)

 

Observation


Jesus had been teaching the people of his nation about the kingdom of God and some were really getting it and learning from him. However, when he traveled home to Nazareth -- they didn't get it. They remembered the little carpenter boy who had grown up in their town. They all knew his mother and his brothers and sisters. They absolutely could not figure out how he had become so wise and why he had miraculous power. They couldn't see beyond the little boy who had been raised in their midst. Absolutely dumbfounded they asked, "Where then did this man get all these things?"

 

Application


We must recognize that there are abilities which God gives to his servants for which, at times, there is simply no explanation, except it is a gift from God. We are to glorify God in our lives, day in and day out. Paul said that in our weaknesses he is strong. That is the truth! Too many people today seem to want to take credit for their own skills, abilities and personal success. We must recognize that we are absolutely nothing without God! He is the one who has gifted and graced us, and not for our own personal benefit, but for his use in the kingdom.

My prayer is that people may look at Christ's followers today and ask, "Where did they get all these things?" "How in the world did they end up so wise?" "Why do they have power that seems to result in changed lives?" And at the end of the day, we should respond that we have nothing, except the joy of knowing Christ. Daily we are called into a relationship with Jesus Christ that is transformational. We are on a journey becoming the very reflection of Jesus Christ to our world around us. That is why they ought to be astounded and wonder about the source of these abilities. But wondering about the source is a good thing, if we lead them to the very source! That is how God is glorified in our lives.

The people of Nazareth couldn't handle seeing Jesus in this way. Because they couldn't look past his humanity and see his divinity, they lost out on what he could have brought to them. He simply had to leave town and didn't do much work among them.

Remember the source today. Spend time with the One who can give us wisdom and power to make a difference while working in his kingdom. 

 

Prayer


Lord, may my life be a reflection of you, directing people back to you, the source! Amen.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Disunity in the Body





Scripture

And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand.
(Matthew 12:25 NASB)

 

Observation


The Pharisees struggled with Jesus because he did not fit their paradigm of the Messiah. Not only did he not meet their expectations, but he seemed to have a different attitude toward the Law. For them the Law had become a legalistic and rigid way in which to live their lives. They fought for and defended the Law on a regular basis. Jesus viewed the Law through a different lens; through the love of God. When the Law was viewed in a relational manner (Love God -- Love your neighbor) it changed everything. The Pharisees could not see this and were sure that he was going to destroy everything and complained that he must not be from God, but rather from Satan. Jesus knew what they were thinking and tried to help them see that he was not being destructive to the kingdom of God. Jesus was working daily for his Father in heaven and while his tactics may have been different, he was not being divisive.

 

Application


We seem to live in a world where people thrive on being divisive; within society and within the kingdom of God. Has there ever been a time when the United States has been so partisan? We seem to paint one another with incredibly broad brushes -- literally painting people into one corner or another with nothing in between. We do the same thing spiritually. It seems that if people cannot align with us identically in terms of doctrine, that we feel that we have to move them out, or that we must move out, and the result is that we continue to divide the kingdom of God. The result is a weaker kingdom because just as Jesus said, "any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste."

Followers of Christ, members of the kingdom, have a serious responsibility on a daily basis. We are to pray that we will be "one" -- Just as Jesus and the Father are one! That's what Jesus prayed and we must as well. We must work so that the enemy does not come in and divide us against one another. That is what he truly desires and he will work hard to deceive us into believing that our "righteous indignation" is the correct attitude that we should have. But that's not how Jesus told us to respond. We are to live as humble servants before the Lord, seeking the face of God on a daily basis. We must pray for unity within the kingdom of God and we must reach out to our brothers and sisters who are also of the faith. We may not always agree doctrinally, but we must join hands and move forward together to bring the good news of Jesus to our world. Otherwise, what message of hope do we have to bring to a hurt and dying world? Jesus came and healed the sick. He is our model. We are to help heal the sick and the wounded. We must be a model of the healed for those needing healing.

Pray for unity within the body of Christ for we cannot be divided against ourselves! These are troubling days and we need to stand united, hand in hand, and show the world that being a follower of Jesus Christ is the best answer to the problems of our day. Our job is not to correct those around us, but to seek the face of God, and in seeking his face, to be a reflection of him to a needy world. If all of God's followers were making this their priority, the world would be changed by what they saw!

 

Prayer


Lord, may I seek you today in all things and may I be an instrument of unity in the body of Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Soft Clothing?




 

Scripture

“But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces!
(Matthew 11:8 NASB)

 

Observation


The people were questioning Jesus about John the Baptist. They had the wrong impression of the one who was to announce the way before the Messiah. Somehow they had developed their own thoughts on what he ought to be like and were disturbed by the one who had been sent to them. Had they expected someone looking like a king? Well, they had certainly looked in the wrong place for John was not in soft clothing like those in the palaces who did not have to work, but rather he was dressed to live in the wilderness and was preparing the way for Christ.

 

Application


How often do have expectations of how God is supposed to become involved in the affairs of our lives? We have a rather worldly perspective and vision of what his work in the world is supposed to look like. Often that is what might be viewed as "an acceptable" way in which he should work, or engage us in his work. We want his work to be dressed in soft clothing, when often he needs to come in the rough and tumble of the day. We are not necessarily comfortable with the rough and tumble and the soft clothing is so much more attractive to us. Doesn't God get it? Why wouldn't he do things in ways which are more pleasant for all of us? Maybe that's the whole point -- that the things that God does are about kingdom work, and are therefore centered on him, and not on us. We can't expect everything in life to be wrapped in soft clothing. There will be times when things will seem as crazy as the wild man, John the Baptists who was dressed in coarse clothing and ate wild food! But the Spirit of God was with John the Baptist, and we are promised that the Spirit of God will be with us as well. All we are required to do is to trust him, day in and day out. We must stop looking and wishing for the soft clothing, and trust God in the coarseness of life.

 

Prayer


Lord, thank you for the coarse moments which help to define us into the people you desire us to be. Amen.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Lord of the Flies



Scripture

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!

Observation

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. 

Application

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.


Prayer

Lord, please help me to sit and learn from you today.  Amen.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Ministry in the Home





Scripture

When Jesus came into Peter’s home, He saw his mother-in-law lying sick in bed with a fever.
(Matthew 8:14 NASB)
He touched her hand, and the fever left her; and she got up and waited on Him.
(Matthew 8:15 NASB)
When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill.
(Matthew 8:16 NASB)


 

Observation


Peter and family have established a home in Capernaum. Peter is living with his wife and mother-in-law which is a rather unusual arrangement. It means that there was probably the loss of all men in that household and so instead of Peter having his wife come and join his home, he was willing to become the man of his wife's home. One can only imagine this tight-knit family and today you can visit Capernaum and find the ruins of an early church which was built right on this very site .
This was the home that loved and nurtured Jesus. When you look closely at the years he spent in ministry, he wasn't in Nazareth with his family, but he was living in Capernaum. This woman would have been near and dear to him. Jesus came into the home and found the woman of the house terribly ill and had compassion on her and healed her. The next verse allows us to see how complete the healing was for she was well enough to step right back into her usual routine which was caring for the household which included caring for Jesus.

The community had come to know that Jesus was living in this house. Now, as evening came, the home was not consumed with the illness of one among their midst, but rather, were ready to serve those who had need. The sick, the poor and the needy from the town and surrounding area came, wanting to see Jesus and to be healed.

 

Application


Much of Jesus' ministry took place in a simple setting such as this home. He reached out to a needy world but met them in the simplicity of their daily lives. However, there was something significant about this home. Here were women who could have complained to God that they had been left without a man to care for them. Instead, God sent them a man by the name of Peter who was willing to leave his family and become the provider for his wife's family. Here is a mother-in-law who watched the transformation of her blustery fisherman son-in-law into a man of God whose faith in this man Jesus would literally change the world. Not only did she watch the transformation but she became a part of the team. She opened her home and it became a center of ministry, now remembered for all time!

God is asking us to open our homes to be centers of ministry. Too often we think that ministry has to be something complicated when in reality it is opening our doors to being hospitable in our corner of the world. It's inviting Jesus in and allowing him to become a part of everything we do in our home. In the midst of that service to him we also discover his healing touch.

Ministry is not a difficult thing. Open the door and simply let him in and discover that ministry begins in the home.

 

Prayer


Lord, may I simply and faithfully follow you in the ordinary steps of each day. Amen.

Friday, April 20, 2012

What kind of fruit?



Scripture

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.

Observation

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.

Application

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!


Prayer

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.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

When you pray...





Scripture

“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
(Matthew 6:5 NASB)
“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
(Matthew 6:6 NASB)
“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.
(Matthew 6:7 NASB)
“So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
(Matthew 6:8 NASB)
“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
(Matthew 6:9 NASB)
‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
(Matthew 6:10 NASB)
‘Give us this day our daily bread.
(Matthew 6:11 NASB)
‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
(Matthew 6:12 NASB)
‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]
(Matthew 6:13 NASB)
“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
(Matthew 6:14 NASB)
“But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
(Matthew 6:15 NASB)

 

Observation


Jesus didn't tell people, "if" you pray, but told them "when" you pray! In other words, prayer was to be an active and vital part of the Christian walk. Obviously Jesus' perspective on prayer was something different than that of the religious leaders. For Jesus, (who practiced prayer regularly) prayer was an intimate relationship with the Father in which they had intimate conversations. Hence -- meeting in a quiet and private place. But for the religious leaders, prayer was an outward sign for the world to see how religious they were. There was nothing intimate or relational about their prayers. They prayed loud so everyone could hear. Jesus said they already had their reward -- because what they wanted was the praise of men.
True disciples were to desire a quiet, deep and intimate relationship with the Father of all things. They were to go and spend time alone with him. Then they were to pray after the model that Jesus used. This was the prayer life of the follower of Christ who was desiring a spiritually deeper walk.

 

Application


Prayer is not an option for a follower of Christ. This is the very place in which we grow in intimacy with the Father. So often we think that prayer is about us talking to God about our requests, when in reality, prayer is about transformation -- our transformation. It is in that place of intimacy with God that he can speak to us and we become more of a reflection of him. Jesus had to go away and spend time with the Father night after night. This is how he remained connected to his Father, knew the Father's will, and received the power that he needed to fulfill all that his Father needed him to accomplish here on this earth.

God is asking all of us to be workers within his kingdom. We are his ambassadors and yet, how do we know what we are supposed to be doing as his ambassadors if we never spend time with the King? We have become so busy these days that we want to have our five minute prayer sessions but this will never be enough for us to be the types of followers that God needs in this day and age.
So, "when" we pray -- we are to find a place of quiet and intimacy with him. Then, follow Christ's lead in that prayer time.

Our Father -- our Abba, Daddy -- reach out to him in love. Worship him and praise him for who he is.

Who art in heaven -- worship the one who is in heaven, the creator of all things. The one who has accomplished all that is necessary for our salvation!

Hallowed be thy name -- Holy is your name, Oh Lord. And you are calling your people into your holiness.

Thy kingdom come -- We are not just sitting around and waiting for a day for him to come again, but we are praying for the kingdom to be here already on this earth. Today -- may his kingdom come. Today -- may we participate as ambassadors in his kingdom. Today -- may we see a little glimpse of the kingdom here on earth and may someone be touched by the kingdom today. Pray specifically for those who need to come to the kingdom. Who are we praying for that needs to know Jesus?

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven -- Jesus submitted to the will of the Father because they were in such intimate communication with one another that the Fathers' will was Jesus' will. We are to do the same. Pray that we would know him so intimately that we would desire to fulfill his will here on earth, for his will becomes our will!

Give us this day our daily bread -- And only here do we pray for personal needs and they are simple and sustaining needs. Not what I want -- but what I "need" for "today." Not what I need or want for tomorrow or for next week -- but today!

Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us -- May we live lives of forgiveness. We will make mistakes, we will hurt others around us and relationships will be damaged, but may we forgive and find forgiveness, constantly reaching out to others around us in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil (or the evil one) --- Praying about temptations is a healthy thing because it makes us more aware of what may be temptations for us. It may also prompt us to take action and stay away from things which may be a problem or temptation to us. Too many people fool themselves into believing that they are strong enough to live in the midst of the things that tempt them most. That is foolish. Admit our weakness to God and allow him to lead us away!

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. -- This new kingdom that Jesus was talking about is eternal. The kingdoms of the earth will fall away, but this new kingdom in which we are serving will last forever and God will have all the power and all the glory. Worship the King today. Pour out your heart in glorious praise to him.

Amen -- So be it!

It's not "if" you pray --- it's "when" you pray.

When will we pray today?

 

Prayer


Lord, you are holy, mighty, powerful and glorious. Thank you for your incredible love and for the intimacy of a relationship with you. Amen.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Perfection in Relationships



Scripture

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.

Observation

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.

Application

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."

Prayer

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

Sheerah who -- did what?



Scripture


1Chr. 7:24 His daughter was Sheerah, who built both Lower and Upper Beth-horon, and Uzzen-sheerah.

Observation

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." 

Application

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.

Prayer

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. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Face of God





Scripture

For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; The upright will behold His face.
(Psalms 11:7 NASB)

 

Observation


The Psalmist understood that the very nature of God is righteousness. It is the Lord's desire that all of his children be a reflection of him and therefore of his righteousness, but this is not possible unless we are turned toward him and seeking his face. If we will do this, and only if we are seeking after him and living a life that reflects his righteousness -- will we see the face of God.

 

Application


There is vulnerability involved in seeing the face of God. We cannot hide in the shadows and seek him. Instead, we must be willing to come out of our own safe places and move towards God. Sometimes this means that we open ourselves up to attacks from the enemy on all sides. People around us may think that we are strange because our behavior doesn't fit the mold of what we as humans have defined as the Christian walk. But who are we to define what the Christian walk looks like? The Christian walk is one in which we are seeking the face of God on a daily basis and allowing a reflection of him to be shine on the world around us.

Moses was the example of this kind of a relationship with God. He went out to the "Tent of Meeting" and met there with God on a daily basis. The result was that his face shone from literally being in God's holy presence. It made his people very uncomfortable and they asked him to cover his face. What is it about seeing the face of God that makes those around us uncomfortable?

The Christian walk is a radical walk. It is not a comfortable go to church a few Sundays a month walk. Rather, it is a walk that is transformational to the core, where we are willing to walk in obedience to the will of God as we seek his face. God has never been about challenging us to live a comfortable and satisfying life! God has always been about stretching us to the very boundaries and continually drawing us on to a deeper walk with him that is transformational to ourselves and the world around us. There is nothing comfortable about that life, but rather, it is a life that can be disturbing. Walk upright -- walk in righteousness -- his righteousness -- and we will see the face of God!

 

Prayer


Lord, may I continue to seek you day in and day out. Help me be willing to be a radical follower of you in every aspect of my life. Amen.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

God is Greater!





Scripture

Put them in fear, O LORD; Let the nations know that they are but men. Selah.
(Psalms 9:20 NASB)

 

Observation


The Psalmist David had experienced the power of God in his life. He had slain the giant, Goliath when all odds were against him. Young David, small in comparison to Goliath, went out with no armor and took on the giant. David had faith in God and in the abilities that God had given him. The Philistine fell. When he fell, the entire army fell.

Arrogance and pride in our human abilities will lead to our downfall. Nations, such as the Philistines, believed in themselves, or in the power of one individual. They were but men -- and men fall. Nations today are simply made up of men -- and God is greater than all of these.

 

Application


The problem with humanity is that too often we get "too big for our britches!" We think that we have some kind of power on our own. Lord Acton famously said, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." It's a sad statement, isn't it? Lord Acton said this just a little over a hundred years ago, but the Psalmist was saying it several thousand years ago. The problem is that human nature and the bent toward sinning hasn't changed. The only solution for this problem is a life that is wholeheartedly committed to God. This is not a simple, going to church on Sundays relationship with God, but rather, a wholly sanctified life -- where every portion of our being is brought into alignment and service to God on high. This is a daily walk in which we recognize that we are nothing without the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us. It is a walk where we submit daily to the will of the Father in all dealings in our lives. It is a life in which we give God the praise and the glory for the things that are accomplished, for without him -- we are nothing.

"Let the nations know they are but men!" -- God is greater than anything that man can do or accomplish. Our job in life is to get to know God intimately on a daily level and to allow him to use us for his glory. It's not about us, it's all about him!

Prayer


Lord, please help me to walk humbly before you today and may you be glorified in and through my life. Amen.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Who's missing?





Scripture

Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel (for he was the firstborn, but because he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel; so that he is not enrolled in the genealogy according to the birthright.
(1 Chronicles 5:1 NASB)
The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham:
(Matthew 1:1 NASB)
Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.
(Matthew 1:2 NASB)

 

Observation


As much as we would like to believe that there are no consequences for our behavior that is simply not true. Again and again we discover that not everything can be made right again. Reuben the oldest son of Jacob was responsible to care for his siblings. He allowed his brothers to take action against their little brother, Joseph and for this reason he loses his birthright. Note that back in 1 Chronicles it mentions that he is not enrolled in the genealogy. We can see that this is true when the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah is listed in the New Testament. Who is missing? Reuben. Instead, we find that Jacob is listed as the father of Judah and his brothers.

 

Application


These days we don't really want to take responsibility for our actions. We find this by simply listening to the news! It's always someone else who is at fault. And yet, there are consequences to our behavior.

This week the news has been filled with the Trayvon Martin case. We don't know the whole story and it appears that there is finger pointing on both sides with no one wanting to take responsibility for any action. These things don't just happen in a vacuum. There is a reason that this tragic accident occurred in Sanford, Florida and sadly, there are consequences. There are consequences for the Martin family who have lost their son and there are consequences for the Zimmermans as well.

Just saying "I'm sorry" and thinking that we can go on with our lives is not enough. Reuben allowed his brothers to take action against Joseph and then thought he could go back and make it right. He couldn't! His brother had already been sold into slavery. He was too late because he had not done the right thing in the moment. Later in life Reuben's relationship with Joseph was restored, but there were still eternal consequences for his behavior.

At the end of all time there will be a list of those within God's family. There are eternal consequences to the choices that we make in life. Just as Reuben was missing from the genealogy of Jesus Christ, who will be missing from the "Lamb's Book of Life?"

 

Prayer


Lord, please help us to be faithful in the choices that we make in life. Amen.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The difference in a simple preposition!



Scripture


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.

Observation


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. 

Application

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.

Prayer

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

What will be Your Legacy?



Scripture


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.

Observation

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.


Application

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.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for your faithfulness.  Please, help me to remain faithful to you day in and day out.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Committing Spiritual Adultery



Scripture


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.

Observation

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? 


Application

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.

Prayer

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

Trusting God



Scripture

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.

Observation

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! 

Application


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. 

Prayer

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

How Great Is Your Vision?



Scripture


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.


Observation

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. 

Application

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.

Prayer

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

"I Have Seen the Lord!"



Scripture

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.


Observation

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!

Application

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!

Prayer

Lord, may we live daily in the joy of your resurrection!  Amen.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

In an evil vacuum





Scripture

Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the LORD
(1 Samuel 2:12 NASB)
and the custom of the priests with the people. When any man was offering a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand.
(1 Samuel 2:13 NASB)
Then he would thrust it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. Thus they did in Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there.
(1 Samuel 2:14 NASB)
Thus the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD, for the men despised the offering of the LORD.
(1 Samuel 2:17 NASB)
Now Eli was very old; and he heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting.
(1 Samuel 2:22 NASB)
He said to them, “Why do you do such things, the evil things that I hear from all these people?
(1 Samuel 2:23 NASB)
“No, my sons; for the report is not good which I hear the LORDS people circulating.
(1 Samuel 2:24 NASB)
“If one man sins against another, God will mediate for him; but if a man sins against the LORD, who can intercede for him?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for the LORD desired to put them to death.
(1 Samuel 2:25 NASB)

 

Observation


The story of Eli's sons is one of the saddest which can be found in the Bible. These men were the priests who were supposed to be leading the people to God. Instead, they were incredibly selfish. They did not seek the face of God, and nor did they desire for the people to know God. Rather, they only saw their "service" as a way in which to get what they wanted. Namely, they stole the food which was brought to sacrifice to God and they coerced the women serving in the temple to sleep with them. Wow! Is there anything much more repulsive which they could have done?

 

Application


Today is that day between Good Friday and Easter. In many ways its a day of darkness, quiet, and gloom. It's a day when the followers of Christ didn't know what to do. It was a Sabbath day and so they would have gone through the motions, but yet, there was a vacuum there that day. What was going to happen? This day becomes a pivotal day in the life of Christ's followers. What will they do in the vacuum?

In the former Soviet Union an official spiritual vacuum was created by an atheistic government. They were lovers of the theory of evolution, for this meant that humanity left to its own vices would simply evolve to become better and better. However, that was without an understanding of original sin, or a bent toward sinning which we all inherit. Left in a vacuum -- the bent toward sinning takes over. Humanity doesn't just automatically get better and better without a personal relationship with God. The sons of Eli did not have a personal relationship with God and the evil and corruption which they perpetrated in the name of God was horrific. They met their doom! In the former Soviet Union human rights abuses ran rampant. Why not -- every person was out to save their own necks, at the expense of everyone else.

The vacuum for the disciples lasted only until Sunday morning. There wasn't time for them to digress a great deal. However, in their despair I wonder what really went on that day, and I wonder if sometimes we get hung up on that day. Do we sometimes dwell on the Saturday before Sunday and live in a spiritual vacuum? Do we wonder whether what he's done means anything for us? Do we wonder what in the world lies ahead and do I have to figure it all out for myself? Don't stay there -- it is an evil vacuum and it will suck you down a path that is very unhealthy. Instead, we must keep our eyes on him and keep moving forward in our relationship with him. Ask him to help pull us out of the doom and gloom in which we may find ourselves for this may be Saturday -- but the resurrection day is coming! We know -- we've read the rest of the story.

 

Prayer


Lord, please help me to live in the hope of resurrection day, every single day of my life! Amen.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Unlikely are Faithful




Scripture

“Moreover, may your house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah, through the offspring which the LORD will give you by this young woman.”
(Ruth 4:12 NASB)
Now these are the generations of Perez: to Perez was born Hezron,
(Ruth 4:18 NASB)
and to Hezron was born Ram, and to Ram, Amminadab,
(Ruth 4:19 NASB)
and to Amminadab was born Nahshon, and to Nahshon, Salmon,
(Ruth 4:20 NASB)
and to Salmon was born Boaz, and to Boaz, Obed,
(Ruth 4:21 NASB)
and to Obed was born Jesse, and to Jesse, David.
(Ruth 4:22 NASB)

 

Observation


It's Good Friday and as we continue the journey through Holy Week we find ourselves walking through a day with Jesus' followers. This is a day which will end in darkness and death. Jesus will die today on a cross and tonight he will be laid in a tomb. Tonight the Disciples will not remember the promises that the temple will be rebuilt in three days, but rather, they will go into hiding, fearing for their very lives. Their leader will die today.

But among the closest followers of Christ are the women. There's an entire group of women who have been faithful. They have followed Jesus everywhere he's gone. They have provided for him out of their personal wealth, and they have cooked and supported the entire team of disciples. Today they are standing at the foot of the cross. And Sunday morning they will be the first to receive the good news.

 

Application


Today's scripture comes from the story of Ruth. Near the end of the story another woman is brought into the picture -- an unlikely figure from history. This is the woman, Tamar. Tamar is the woman who had to pretend to be a prostitute to get her father-in-law to sleep with her so that the family line could be continued. And yet she is mentioned in this story -- for she had been faithful and her line was blessed because of her faithfulness. Unlikely Tamar -- joins the story of the foreign woman -- Ruth! Both of these women did not fit the traditional mold and even today we might raise our eyebrows wondering about these "outcasts." Yet, these two unlikely women were faithful and obedient to serving God. God blessed them and from their line comes not only the great King David -- but also the Messiah!

Sprinkled throughout history we find women who are the unlikely faithful that become the common threads that hold together the faith. When the men of Judah were unfaithful, a little gal named Tamar had to go to ridiculous lengths to help draw them back. Ruth, a girl from the outside readily adopted the ways of God and did everything she could to be faithful, and God blessed her. The women of the cross remained faithful and were the first at the empty tomb.

Just when we may feel rejected by the world around us, let us remember that God has a whole different perspective on things. Maybe we're the unlikely. God can and wants to use us to make a difference. This Good Friday, let us not run and hide in the shadows, but rather, may we stand in the shadow of the cross and be one of those unlikely faithful. That's who God uses to change the world!

 

Prayer


Lord, please lead me to the cross today and help me to remain faithful, day after day. Amen.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

God's Tent





Scripture


Let me dwell in Your tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. Selah.
(Psalms 61:4 NASB)
For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
(2 Corinthians 5:1 NASB)
For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life.
(2 Corinthians 5:4 NASB)
Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.
(2 Corinthians 5:5 NASB)
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
(2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB)

 

Observation


When I was a little girl my family used to go camping. We were living in Germany at the time and we would travel to different countries and stay in our tent -- and mom would do the cooking. It was a cheap way to travel for a family of six. I remember camping in Sweden and Yugoslavia. I think it was in Yugoslavia that we had an interesting experience with a group of gypsies who were there in the same camp. Honestly, we were not the best campers in the world. We were okay at it, but it seems that when we got to a place in life where we could afford to travel in a different way -- we did!

Tents are really just temporary things. They don't last forever. They are mobile, but they also wear out -- get holes in them, and get to a point where they simply can no longer do the job they were intended to do. This is the state of our human tent -- our human covering which we carry around in life. From the Old Testament God is calling out to us to come and dwell in his tent. His tent, by far, is better than our tent. His tent will never wear out and will never get holes or leaks. His tent will supply all of our needs.

We are invited to throw off the old tent and live within the new -- beginning here on earth. How is this possible? Because in Christ we are made new creatures. The old tent may wear out and we will physically die, but once we have entered the new tent, we will be sustained eternally.

 

Application


Jesus continues his walk through Holy Week on this Maundy Thursday. Today we will celebrate his servant attitude as he washed his disciples' feet. Tonight we will celebrate the Passover and partake of the last supper together with his followers. It was a week in which the old was being shed so that the new could come and all of humanity could be transformed.

How many of us are allowing ourselves to be exposed to the elements of the world because we refuse to get under the tent of God's protection? The tent has been put up -- the stakes driven deep into the ground. It is a safe, warm and inviting place to be. Come in out of the rain, the pain and the frustration of life and allow yourself to be transformed under the tent of God's protection.

 

Prayer


Lord, may I see you daily with all my heart and seek to constantly remain in your tent. Thank you for what Christ has done in preparing the way for us. Thank you seems so incredibly inadequate -- but there are no words that can express my gratitude. I love you, Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Time to Take Action





Scripture

But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and brought her out to them; and they raped her and abused her all night until morning, then let her go at the approach of dawn.
(Judges 19:25 NASB)
As the day began to dawn, the woman came and fell down at the doorway of the man’s house where her master was, until full daylight.
(Judges 19:26 NASB)
All who saw it said, “Nothing like this has ever happened or been seen from the day when the sons of Israel came up from the land of Egypt to this day. Consider it, take counsel and speak up!”
(Judges 19:30 NASB)
“And I took hold of my concubine and cut her in pieces and sent her throughout the land of Israel’s inheritance; for they have committed a lewd and disgraceful act in Israel.
(Judges 20:6 NASB)
Then all the people arose as one man, saying, “Not one of us will go to his tent, nor will any of us return to his house.
(Judges 20:8 NASB)
“But now this is the thing which we will do to Gibeah; we will go up against it by lot.
(Judges 20:9 NASB)
Thus all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, united as one man.
(Judges 20:11 NASB)
but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
(2 Corinthians 4:2 NASB)

 

Observation


It's holy week -- a week when Jesus took action! He knew that it was time to step into the very timeline of history, for events to occur, which would change the world forever. There are times when we are also called to action -- when the atrocities of this world are so great that we can no longer look on from the outside, but we must decide to take action!

A man was traveling with his concubine -- his wife -- when they stayed overnight at a Benjamite village. This man was a fellow Israelite and as was the custom he should have been invited into someones home and protected. However, the people of the town did not invite him home, but left him out in the city square until finally one last man, on his way home from work, took this man and his wife home with him. The men of the city, certainly not following the laws of God, came to the house at night and asked for the visitor. They wanted him! The host refused but finally, in an effort to make the men be quiet, he sent out the concubine. The men raped her all night long and then left her for dead at the entry of the house. Her husband was so angered by the behavior of his "brothers" that when he got home, he cut her body into pieces and had her delivered to every other tribe of Israel.
The remaining tribes got together and decided that enough was enough! This type of behavior could not be tolerated among the Israelites and so they took action and punished the Benjamites. They stood up and said that they would not allow this type of terrible behavior to occur in Israel!

Paul, in this second letter to Corinthians, says that we renounce the hidden things. Just as the children of Israel could not tolerate this kind of behavior within their community, so also, followers of Christ are to renounce the evils of this world which we encounter.

 

Application


I am still haunted by a scene which we saw repeatedly in Moscow in the late 1990's. I will never forget the first time I noticed something unusual was happening along the highway leading to the major international airport in Moscow. A handful of beautiful young girls were standing beside the road. There were maybe a half dozen or so -- but I wondered what in the world they were doing there, all lined up in a row. It didn't take me long to find out that this was become a human meat market, for every time we returned to the airport the line became longer and longer. Finally there was a point where there would probably be one hundred young girls lining each side of the highway. Buses were provided behind the line of girls so that men could take them right away and "enjoy" their time with them. This went on for months as the authorities turned their backs (or probably opened their palms) to what was going on.

We may be appalled by this story in the Old Testament. How in the world could civilized people behave in this way? We would like to believe that we have moved far beyond that type of behavior today but sadly, we have not! Human rights abuses continue to be a major issue around the world. The abuse of women continues at an alarming rate. The story of these young women in Russia is repeated throughout Eastern Europe and Asia. Their documents are "taken" from them by those "handling" them and they become slaves to the "owners." Often these girls are kidnapped or lured away with the promise of "modeling" jobs. Their parents never hear from these girls ever again. Most of them are used until, just like the concubine, they are left to die.

I am still haunted by the faces of the girls in Moscow. But I believe that there is time that we must take action. The Israelites took action against their brothers, the Benjamites. Jesus took action when he entered Jerusalem that holy week. Paul calls us to renounce the hidden things. We, as Christ's followers, cannot sit by idly and allow this type of sin and evil to continue in our world. What will we do? What will be our call to action?

 

Prayer

Lord, please he me not to sit by silently as people around me, or around the world, are being used and abused. Please, help me to know how to take action! Amen.