Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Living Sacrifice





Scripture

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
(Romans 12:1 NASB)
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
(Romans 12:2 NASB)

 

Observation


The Christian walk is not one which is to be taken lightly. We are asked to literally offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God. That means that our physical life, the things that we do on a daily basis are to be offered to God as a sacrifice to him. Not only are we to be living sacrifices, but we are to be holy as well. A holy sacrifice, meaning that every nook and cranny of our being has been made holy by the presence of God's Holy Spirit. Our daily offering of ourselves becomes our spiritual worship. The result is that we don't conform to the world, but rather we are transformed into the likeness of Christ. That is the transformation which occurs when we offer our entire being as a sacrifice to God on high. We are constantly in a state of transformation because our minds have been renewed because we are now in Christ. The will of God is acted out within our lives because his will becomes our will and the world can then see what God truly desires for his children.

 

Application


When I was a teenager my pastor preached a sermon series on the book of Romans. I can still remember the place where I was sitting when Dr. Gordon Wetmore preached his sermon from Romans 12. It's one of those messages that has always stuck with me and at that tender age I was moved by these words which challenged me to consider the life that lay ahead of me, and what I would do with it! Was I going to go my own way and do my own things, or was I going to be willing to offer my life to God as a living sacrifice?


The words of this sermon stuck with me and the question of becoming a living sacrifice haunted me. Was I willing to offer my life to him as a living sacrifice? I had my own dreams, my own goals, my own ideas about what I would become and what I would do with my life. However, a few months after hearing this sermon, I remember very clearly turning everything over to the Lord. I struggled and argued, but finally realized what it meant to offer myself as a living sacrifice -- allow God to take control of every part of my being and to use me for his glory. My prayer is that my life is a reflection of him. My life journey has been one that I could not even have imagined. It has simply been a journey with him each and every single day.


This call is for all of us. We are all asked to offer ourselves as living sacrifices. The paths which life may take may not be what we anticipate, but they will be ones that will allow God to get the glory. Become a living sacrifice today!

 

Prayer


Lord, please help my life to be a daily reflection of you to this world and to lay down my rights to myself so that I might be a continuous living sacrifice for you. Amen.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

He is the source of all things.





Scripture

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!
(Romans 11:33 NASB)
For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR?
(Romans 11:34 NASB)
Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN?
(Romans 11:35 NASB)
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
(Romans 11:36 NASB)

 

Observation


Human wisdom is nothing compared to God. God is the source of all wisdom and all knowledge and therefore his judgements are always right. It's why we really cannot understand or fathom what he is doing from time to time, and too often we spend too much time and energy speculating on what God is up to. I'm guessing that Paul may be speaking rhetorically here -- because how many of us have questioned God, or tried to tell him what to do? There are times when we try to play the role of God's counselor. We must recognize that he is the source of all things, of all wisdom and knowledge, and he is also the completion of all things -- of all wisdom and knowledge. Therefore, we want to join with those who have gone before and give God the glory forever.

 

Application


Giving God the glory forever, means that we don't take the glory for ourselves! No matter what we may be able to accomplish here on this earth, we must remember that the source of all things is God. The reason we are able to do the things that we do, is so that God will get the glory. When we begin to take the glory for ourselves, and don't allow the glory to given to God, then we place ourselves into the process and we begin to believe that we might actually be able to be God's counselor or guide. That's when things become turned upside down and soon after comes arrogance.

We are to walk humbly and in reverence with God. Look out the window today! I'm blessed to see a beautiful sunrise over the mountain peaks. What I see around me is the beautiful creative ability of a loving God. There is nothing outside my window for which a human should take credit. Rather, the very scenery screams out -- glorify God!!! Because all that I see is from him, and exists in him, and gives back to him.

There are times in life when we need to be reminded that God created us for the express purpose of bringing praise and glory to him. Whatever we do today -- remember the source, and give the source the glory and the praise that he is due!

 

Prayer


Lord, thank you so much for all that you've created. Thanks for the ability to soak in your beauty. Please, may every day be a humble reminder of your infinite wisdom and power. Amen.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Who will find Him?





Scripture

And Isaiah is very bold and says, “I WAS FOUND BY THOSE WHO DID NOT SEEK ME, I BECAME MANIFEST TO THOSE WHO DID NOT ASK FOR ME.”
(Romans 10:20 NASB)
But as for Israel He says, “ALL THE DAY LONG I HAVE STRETCHED OUT MY HANDS TO A DISOBEDIENT AND OBSTINATE PEOPLE.”
(Romans 10:21 NASB)

 

Observation


There have always been those who have felt that they were privileged, or that they were God's special people and God has reached out to them. Sadly, as God has stretched out his hands to his people, so often they have not responded. Then, there have been those who have not had the privileges and yet, they seek God out and respond to him. They are able to find him, when those who should know him seem to wander off lost.

 

Application


We may be surprised in the last day when we discover who really has found God. So often those of us who are a part of the established church take for granted that we are God's people. I am wondering whether God looks at us and says that he's been stretching out his hands to us all day long and we are being obstinate! Have we possibly traded a cultural Christianity for what it really means to be formed in the image of God? I recently read an article where it mentioned that the Church is busy answering questions that people aren't asking! Why is that? Are we too hung up on being God's "special people," that we are unable to truly respond to God and what he desires for us?  At the same time does that make us insensitive to the real questions of the world?

Those with the real questions are crying out to God.  There are those who are genuinely broken and in their most painful moments they cry out to God for help and he responds! God reveals himself to those who genuinely seek him with all their hearts. These days we are hearing testimonies of Muslims who have cried out to the Lord, and Christ has come to them and revealed himself to them personally.  We must be careful that by becoming a part of the church culture we do not develop insensitive hearts. Our lives must be ones in which we seek God on a daily basis, asking for his leading and guidance. Pray that our hearts do not become stubborn and obstinate, or we may be shocked by who it is that really finds him!

 

Prayer


Lord, thank you for constantly reaching out to us in your love. Please, help me to retain a sensitive heart as I seek you and your guidance in my life. Amen.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Lure of Temptation





Scripture


With her many persuasions she entices him; With her flattering lips she seduces him.
(Proverbs 7:21 NASB)
Suddenly he follows her As an ox goes to the slaughter, Or as one in fetters to the discipline of a fool,
(Proverbs 7:22 NASB)
Until an arrow pierces through his liver; As a bird hastens to the snare, So he does not know that it will cost him his life.
(Proverbs 7:23 NASB)
Now therefore, my sons, listen to me, And pay attention to the words of my mouth.
(Proverbs 7:24 NASB)
Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, Do not stray into her paths.
(Proverbs 7:25 NASB)
For many are the victims she has cast down, And numerous are all her slain.
(Proverbs 7:26 NASB)
Her house is the way to Sheol, Descending to the chambers of death.
(Proverbs 7:27 NASB)

 

Observation


Solomon in his wisdom understood the lure of the temptress, the one who could deceive a good man and bring about his destruction. Temptation flatters people and makes them believe things about themselves that are not true. It creates a false sense of self-confidence so that no other voices can be heard. No longer do we hear the voice of reason which comes from family or loved ones; we only hear what we want to hear and we believe the words which are being told to us, because they make us feel good. Disregarding all that we know is right, we simply follow the one who has pumped our egos, being willing to go anywhere with them. When we discover it's a trap, it's far too late. We have traveled on the path which leads to death.

What is the only way to be safe? We cannot allow our hearts to be turned to her ways. Whatever the temptation, whether its a person, money, power, etc -- we cannot let our hearts be turned on by these. Instead, our hearts must be turned on daily by the Lord. It is the only way in which we can remain safe from the temptations of life. The temptations will come along and they will look and sound so good and we will want to follow after them. Suddenly we will discover that there is a path that leads us to that temptation. Do not walk down that path! It will lead to destruction.

 

Application


Far too often we do not become aware of the moment when we stumble onto the path of temptation. The sin which occurs as a result of temptation is not usually something that happens all at once. Rather, we begin to follow the path that will lead to temptation. What are those paths? In terms of relationships it is when we allow ourselves to be placed in compromising situations with others. An affair usually begins in a very "innocent" way, when we simply allow ourselves to talk to, think about and hang out with another person. But if we keep that up, the path will lead to destruction. You cannot allow your heart to go in that direction, but must keep your heart on God.

Temptation is not simply about human relationships, but temptation looks for the weakness in all of us. It is when our ears begin to get tickled by the things that others say and we are willing to follow the advice of those who have never been a part of our lives that we must ask ourselves where we are going! The lure of temptation is powerful. It will lure us away from all that God desires for us. If there are those around you who are trying to warn you and seem to be calling you back from a path, you ought to listen. Sadly, the enticing power of the temptation may have you in its grip. Get away, get time with God and ask him to intervene to set you free and run back to safety!

 

Prayer


Lord, I pray as you taught us, to lead us not into temptation, but deliver me from the evil one. Amen.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Walking according to the Spirit




Scripture

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
(Romans 8:1 NASB)
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
(Romans 8:2 NASB)
For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,
(Romans 8:3 NASB)
so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
(Romans 8:4 NASB)

 

Observation


Jesus Christ had come to change the paradigm for those who were wanting to walk with God. Christ also knew that he would have to leave so that he could send the Holy Spirit. By sending the Holy Spirit it became possible for people to be united with Christ, to be "in" him. This meant that by being united with Christ there would be an internal desire to follow the law. No longer would the laws be external, or simply a set of rules to which we tried to conform, but rather with Christ "in" us, and us "in" Christ we are set free from the bondage of the rules. The law became a bondage to those who tried to follow it to the very letter -- along with all the additional rules that had been established through the years. The good news is that today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit who can dwell within us and now we can walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh.

 

Application


The opening line of this scripture is so very powerful as we are reminded that there is now no condemnation for those who are "in" Christ Jesus! I'm wondering if we truly understand the implications of this simple sentence. The most important feature of the sentence is that we are "in" Christ. This had never been possible previously. By simply trying to follow the Law, humanity had never grasped what it meant to truly understand the nature and character of God. It had been God's desire that humanity would know him, but instead of seeing the Law as something relational -- that is, something that brought humanity into a deeper daily relationship with God, humanity distorted the Law and made it into a barrier. The Law became a barrier to relationships with God and with the rest of humanity. Jesus tried to point out this absurdity when he healed on the Sabbath. Following the law by not healing on the Sabbath had become more important to the religious leaders than the relational aspect of healing the neighbor. This is why Jesus could declare that the whole law was summed up in love of God and and love of neighbor. That was God's original intent and it was humanity which distorted the intent.

Therefore the intent of sending Christ was to restore the relational aspect of the law, and this could only be done through personal relationship. How could humanity participate in a relationship with God? Only by having God become man, and therefore, by way of the incarnation, preparing a way for humanity to follow which would lead them to fellowship with the Holy Trinity. This is what Christ did for all of us. He came to earth as a human so that it might be possible for us to have an intimate relationship with God. It is by way of this intimate relationship with God that we know the very heart and passion of God. When we know the very heart and passion of God, we are "in" him and his desires become our desires. Now we are privileged to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit day in and day out. We breathe him in and then breathe him out to the world around us. As we stay in this relationship with the Holy Spirit, we are in a continuous state of loving God and loving the world walk that is transformational to ourselves and the world around us. No longer do we have to check off to see if we're following the rules, for living by the desires of God becomes a part of our nature. The result is that the law is fulfilled, but only fulfilled when the focus is not the law, but God himself.

 

Prayer


Lord, thank you for your self-sacrifice of coming to earth, and for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit which sets us free. We give you praise and glory this day. Amen.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Wisdom vs. Knowledge



Scripture


The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.
(Proverbs 1:7 NASB)

 

Observation


As Solomon's proverbs unfold we are given some opening instructions. These proverbs are only useful if they are utilized within a particular framework. This includes knowing that there is a difference between pure knowledge and wisdom. To gain knowledge, one must begin by fearing the Lord.

 

Application


There is a balance which must exist between wisdom and knowledge. Pure knowledge in and of itself is useless if it is not offset by wisdom, and all of this must begin by having a healthy fear of the Lord. If we don't fear the Lord, then we begin to believe that we we can become wise by simply gaining knowledge. However, knowledge in and of itself becomes useless and leads to arrogance.
On the other hand, we are encouraged to seek as much instruction as possible. When we humble ourselves before those who can teach us, then we can be shaped and molded into what God desires for us. God has all knowledge and we are invited into a very personal relationship with him. If we open ourselves up to instruction, then we can learn from him -- and we can explore mysteries together with him. If we think through history and those who have made a great impact by their vast wisdom and knowledge, they have also had an incredible awe of God. For it seems that the more that we learn, the more that we discover about God's complex creative ability and we are left with a healthy fear of him.

As God's followers we ought not to be afraid to continue to learn and to seek greater knowledge. Sometimes only the first portion of this proverb is utilized and we are encouraged to have wisdom which comes from fearing the Lord. There seem to be those who believe that if we simply fear God then the rest of the knowledge that we need will fall into place. However, Solomon encourages us to seek instruction. The world is in desperate need of Christians who are willing to study, learning all that they can and then combine this with wisdom which comes from God. If Christians refuse to engage in education, then the world will simply be left with pure knowledge. We should not fear the academy, but engage the academy and ask God to help us find a healthy balance between wisdom and knowledge.

 

Prayer


Lord, please help me to be open to instruction in my life. Amen.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Love can lead you astray.




Scripture

Now King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women,
(1 Kings 11:1 NASB)
from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the sons of Israel, “You shall not associate with them, nor shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods.” Solomon held fast to these in love.
(1 Kings 11:2 NASB)

 

Observation


Solomon was the wisest man the world had ever seen, and yet, he was dumb when it came to love. He allowed his power to go to his head and instead of listening to God's instructions regarding marriage, he allowed himself to be seduced by women. Between his wives and his concubines, Solomon had about 1000 women, and they were from all over the world. This was indicative of the fact that Solomon had made alliances with other kings in the area and would reveal that he did not rely upon God, but upon his human skill to make those alliances. God would have taken care of him and of the Israelites without Solomon needing to marry the women from the other nations because God had given the Israelites instructions not to marry foreigners. Why? Because he knew that they would not worship him, but would turn the hearts of the Israelites away to foreign gods. And this is exactly what happened. In a desire to keep his wives happy, Solomon erected places of worship for foreign gods, and the adultery of Israel against God began!

 

Application


Throughout my ministry one of the more difficult things is counseling Christian young people who want to marry non-believers. They tell me that promises have been made that they'll come to church, or that the believing one will have freedom to do all they want spiritually -- but inevitably it becomes a very difficult journey. The problem is that the heart becomes divided. Instead of being able to focus wholly on God, both singly and as a unit, one discovers that part of the time the focus can be on God, but that the desires of the other person encroach upon living wholeheartedly for God. How do you make a spouse happy who has no desire to serve God? They will want to do things that you may not really want and yet, you compromise to keep the peace. Then comes the difficulty of raising children. Will they be children of faith, or not? Will there be a daily spiritual influence on their lives or not? Even Solomon with his great power and wealth could not resist the daily pressure to make his wives happy.


The reality is that any heart which is divided will have difficulty being faithful to God. There are many ways in which the heart can be divided, and it is not always through relationships. Any heart which loves other things more than, or as much as God can be divided. It seems that these days we find more and more things to fill our days and these can divide our loyalty away from God. Sports has become a new god in our day. We want to raise our children to be great athletes and society is providing us with everything imaginable for our children to gain experience to become "great." We invest hundreds and thousands of dollars in these sports and send our little children away on weekends to be on "travel" teams so that they can become the very best sportsmen. The reality is that very few children have the raw talent to become "super" sportsmen but by the time we have figured that out, we will have kept them out of church for weeks on end so that they can "travel" and play their sport. It all starts out like a good idea but in the long-run, we slowly, like Solomon, turn our hearts away from God.


The Israelites had been taught from the time of Moses the "Shema." They were to "Hear Oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One!" They were to never, ever, have any other gods before them. They were to teach this to their children as they walked and talked, day in and day out! Anything that distracted them from this one singular love of God was dangerous to them. Solomon allowed the love of women to lead him astray. Love can lead us astray. Our love of God must so permeate our very being that we would not desire anything to come between us and the Lord. May God help to keep and protect our heart so that we are not led astray by love.

 

Prayer


Lord, thank you for your incredible love for us. Please, help me each and every single day to not allow other "loves" or "desires" to take me in a direction away from you. Amen.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

To Him who made the great lights!





Scripture

To Him who made the great lights, For His lovingkindness is everlasting:
(Psalms 136:7 NASB)
The sun to rule by day, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
(Psalms 136:8 NASB)
The moon and stars to rule by night, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
(Psalms 136:9 NASB)

 

Observation


This is a psalm of praise and thanksgiving for what God has done in the life of his people. There are times when God does things that leave us rather speechless. Here the Psalmist thanks God for creating the great lights! What are they? The sun, the moon and the stars which are in the sky. These are the great lights of God which are a daily reminder of the everlasting lovingkindness of God.

 

Application


Does God ever leave us speechless? When we stop to think about the things that God has done for us, are we left wondering how in the world we can even express his love to others. This phrase, "the great lights" is fascinating. Even today, when we have amazing technology we can do nothing that would even come close to creating the kind of light that God does. All of our lights are miniscule compared to that of the sun. Even within the small space of a home we cannot create the kind of light which God does, that filters through our windows and lights every nook and cranny. We all know how dirty our house looks on a really sunny day!

Probably our greatest attempt at replicating the work of God in terms of lighting is what we do at a large sports arena. And yet -- no matter what we do as humans, we will never match what God has done in creating the "great lights." As we look at the "great lights" on a daily basis, they are a reminder that the God who created them is the same God who loves and cares for you and me. He wants us to know that he loves us and wants to care for us.

What has God done for us today which is beyond description?

 

Prayer


Lord, thank you for your lovingkindness and care for me on a daily basis. There aren't enough words to thank you for all that you have done for us. Please, just help me to be faithful every single day and may I not miss seeing your hand working in the world. Amen.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

That which does not exist...





Scripture

For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,
(Romans 4:16 NASB)
(as it is written, “A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.
(Romans 4:17 NASB)

 

Observation


Abraham was a man who exercised incredible faith in God and recognized that while other gods were worshiped, there was only one God! Our God and Father, the loving Creator of all things is beyond our imaginations. Abraham understood a very profound fact about Yahweh -- and that was His ability to create from what does not exist.

 

Application


There are times when I simply want to sit back in awe of God and worship Him. We live in a period of history in which there is great creativity and many new things are constantly being made. I heard a tale years ago about the US patent office and that at one time they thought they would have to close down because they thought that probably pretty much everything had been created that ever would or could be created. Today, I would imagine, they are busier than ever as humanity's creative juices continue to flow! However, even with all of today's creativity, humans can only create from what already exists. We utilize the resources which have been provided for us. There is no one who can create from nothing -- aside from God.

Today we are called to serve God, the one who raises the dead and can call into existence that which does not exist! Just pondering that thought for a moment today is overwhelming. We are invited to share in His divine nature -- to fellowship with Him -- through prayer and time in His word. The more we hang out with Him, the more we participate in Him -- but at the same time, the more we discover that He is so great and so powerful that He is simply beyond our comprehension.
I rejoice in simply worshiping the God I love this day and am in awe of who He is!

 

Prayer


Lord, my heart cries out to you in love this day. Thank you that you show such love and care for a small creature, a little piece of your creation. Amen.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

May the peoples of the earth know that the Lord is God!




Scripture

“And may these words of mine, with which I have made supplication before the LORD, be near to the LORD our God day and night, that He may maintain the cause of His servant and the cause of His people Israel, as each day requires,
(1 Kings 8:59 NASB)
so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no one else.
(1 Kings 8:60 NASB)
“Let your heart therefore be wholly devoted to the LORD our God, to walk in His statutes and to keep His commandments, as at this day.”
(1 Kings 8:61 NASB)

 

Observation


Solomon has completed the work on the Temple and the time of dedication has come. After the ark is placed in the holy chamber of the Temple, the presence of God fills the place. His presence is visible as the cloud envelopes the Temple and God resides in his new home. The people carry on an elaborate ceremony in their worship of God. You can sense their excitement as the story is recounted. Solomon's desire is that the whole world would see the faithfulness of God! He knows that this is only possible if the people of Israel remain faithful to God in all things. He challenges them to be wholly devoted to Yahweh, walking daily according to the law and keeping God's commands. Solomon understands that this is necessary for God to be glorified and for the people of the earth to know that Yahweh is the One true God! There is no one else!

 

Application


What a challenge to the people of God -- both then and now! I believe that we often fail to realize that we exist to glorify God. Our lives are to be a living and breathing testament to the work of God in our lives, however this is only possible when we give him first place in our lives. What does it mean to be wholly devoted to God? How many other ways can we say it? We aren't supposed to be half-way devoted, or occasionally devoted to God, but we are to be wholly devoted to him. We are to be like the Apostle Paul who believed that it was possible to "pray without ceasing." We are to keep our faces constantly turned toward God in all facets of our life, day in and day out, we are to breathe him!

Solomon understood that this type of intimate relationship with God was necessary for the people to remain faithful. He had been a personal eye-witness to his father David's relationship with God. He had seen and experienced the intimacy which happens when two are in this type of a relationship and he understood that the same relationship was available to the people of God, if only they would seek the face of God by being wholeheartedly devoted to him.

Solomon admonished the people to walk in God's statutes. A statute constitutes the underlying foundational law of a land, and for the Israelites, they were to be God's people. They were not to worship any other gods, but were to focus their lives on the worship of God and being in a faithful relationship with him. The entire nation was built upon this foundational understanding. As long as they did not turn to chase after the things that other nations had to offer, as long as they remained faithful to God, he would be with them and he would bless them. Throughout the entire Bible the metaphor or a marriage is utilized. Israel was the bride, and the foundational principle for Israel was to remain in a faithful marriage relationship with God! We are challenged today to remain in a faithful marriage relationship with our Lord. We are not to commit adultery with the world. This is what it means to follow God's statutes.

Finally, the people are told to keep God's commands. These are the specific rules which God laid down for the his people. The stone tablets from Moses were the only items to be found in the ark of the covenant. The commands which God gave to his people were quite simple -- ten items which, if followed, would radically change God's people and they would be a glorious representation of him here on this earth. If Christians today would follow God's commands -- if they would live according to the ten commandments -- the world would see that Christianity is real and God would be glorified.

The sad part of this story is that we know the ending. The Israelites literally commit adultery with every neighboring god. They don't follow God's laws and in their self-centeredness they become self-destructive. The world does not get to experience God because of their unfaithfulness. What a challenge to us today! Christianity truly has the answer to the needs of humanity, if only we would be faithful day in and day out to the calling to which he has called us. So much is done in this world in the name of Christianity -- and often it is done by those who are only culturally Christian. Maybe today we need to listen to the call of King Solomon and return to the Lord our God. We are being called to a personal daily walk with him, one in which we find an intimacy which is normally reserved for the marriage relationship. This is what he wants and desires from us. He wants his people to make him the first priority in their lives and serve him in faithfulness. And what of the ten commandments? Yes, we know that since the coming of the Holy Spirit the laws are written on our hearts -- but are they? Is the result that we actually live by the ten commandments without even thinking about it? That is what God wants from us.

May we live in obedience and faithful before the Lord our God and may the world know that He truly is the One and only God of all things. May our lives lead people to him today, and every day. That is the challenge which Solomon places before us.

 

Prayer


Lord, help us today to seek you with all of our hearts and to live faithfully before you. May you be glorified through our lives. Amen.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Remember the Pomegranate!




Scripture

He also made two pillars for the front of the house, thirty-five cubits high, and the capital on the top of each was five cubits.
(2 Chronicles 3:15 NASB)
He made chains in the inner sanctuary and placed them on the tops of the pillars; and he made one hundred pomegranates and placed them on the chains.
(2 Chronicles 3:16 NASB)

 

Observation


The pomegranate appears several times in the old testament and its placement is interesting. Why include pomegranates hanging off the hem of a priests garment and now, while building the temple, why are there pomegranates as a part of the decoration?

 

Application

One of my favorite places in all the world is Armenia and I have been privileged to visit there on numerous occasions. I've always been curious about their attraction to the pomegranate. While there I am often served pomegranate, we drink pomegranate juice and the pomegranate is found decorating everything from china to fabrics. I was told that the pomegranate is a symbol of Armenia.

Because of the attention given to the pomegranate in Armenia, it strikes me every time I read it in the Bible. The Armenian people have such strong Christian and religious roots that their connections seem fascinating. Therefore I wanted to know why the pomegranate continues to appear in the Bible. It seems that there are several different theories. One is that the pomegranate is actually the fruit of which Adam and Eve eat in the Garden of Eden. Considering the fact that my Armenian friends are constantly reminding me that the Garden of Eden was in Armenia, this would be an interesting thought. Therefore, the pomegranate would be a symbol of the fall of mankind. Interestingly the word pomegranate from the Latin which means "seeded apple." In our ethnocentrism we have often made that apple a "red delicious" from the state of Washington found right there in the Garden! But wouldn't it make sense that it was a bright red "seeded apple" -- the pomegranate -- which is still found in that part of the world to this day! Therefore the pomegranate can serve as a reminder that mankind is in need of God.

Legend also tells us that when the Israeli spies went and checked out the land of Canaan they brought back with them all different kinds of produce from that land, and it included pomegranates. Now the fruit takes on an additional meaning. Not only is it a reminder that humanity needs God, but that God will provide. The land is full of God's promises, if only his chosen people will move forward in faith. Sadly they do not and that generation has to die off before they can enter the promised land and feast on the wonderful pomegranates.

Therefore the pomegranates in the Temple are a constant reminder to God's people. They are a reminder that they must continually turn toward God. They had turned away from him in disobedience in the Garden. They must seek the face of God on a daily basis. Also, as they feast upon the fruit they are reminded that it is God who has provided for them. God has brought the victories and the peace. God will continue to provide for them in the days to come.

We don't often fill our churches with symbolism these days. Maybe we're missing out on something! Maybe we need to have reminders around us, in the very ordinary things of life, that God has always been with us and has been faithful. Next time you go to the grocery story - remember the pomegranate; and remember there is a loving and faithful God who continues to reach out to all of humanity.


Prayer


Lord, thank you for your faithfulness day in and day out!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

On Peace and Leadership




Scripture

Now Solomon had 70,000 transporters, and 80,000 hewers of stone in the mountains,
(1 Kings 5:15 NASB)
besides Solomon’s 3,300 chief deputies who were over the project and who ruled over the people who were doing the work.
(1 Kings 5:16 NASB)
Now Solomon decided to build a house for the name of the LORD and a royal palace for himself.
(2 Chronicles 2:1 NASB)
So Solomon assigned 70,000 men to carry loads and 80,000 men to quarry stone in the mountains and 3,600 to supervise them.
(2 Chronicles 2:2 NASB)
“Now behold, I will give to your servants, the woodsmen who cut the timber, 20,000 kors of crushed wheat and 20,000 kors of barley, and 20,000 baths of wine and 20,000 baths of oil.”
(2 Chronicles 2:10 NASB)
Then Huram, king of Tyre, answered in a letter sent to Solomon: “Because the LORD loves His people, He has made you king over them.”
(2 Chronicles 2:11 NASB)
Then Huram continued, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who has made heaven and earth, who has given King David a wise son, endowed with discretion and understanding, who will build a house for the LORD and a royal palace for himself.
(2 Chronicles 2:12 NASB)

 

Observation


Solomon takes over leadership of the kingdom after his father. In these short chapters there are numerous items to glean to help us understand God's desire for leadership. Solomon makes peace with his neighbors, and specifically Hiram to the north. He takes time to negotiate with him and determine what might be mutually beneficial to the two of them. Solomon is able to begin the work on the Temple because the nation is at peace. Solomon needs resources from Lebanon, specifically cedar with which to line the temple. Hiram has the trees which are needed, but he and his countrymen need the grains which come from Israel. They are kind and generous to one another, supplying each others needs.

Next Solomon must determine how best to accomplish the work. He looks at the abilities of the laborers within the land and assigns them to their abilities. He has men to carry loads, men to quarry the stone and then has a system of supervisors to keep the work organized and efficient. The men who go north to work in the forests work in shifts. They go for a month at a time, but then are brought home for two months to be with their families. They rotate the men so that their families are cared for at home.

Ultimately the Temple and Royal Palace are built and they are a testimony to God's work in the life of David's son, Solomon.

 

Application

It is amazing what can be accomplished when people are not selfish! Solomon was a very wealthy man, but he had asked God to give him discernment regarding justice. He acted justly when it came to the construction of the Temple and the Palace. For the work to go forward efficiently there was a system of job assignment and supervision which was developed, but it was not designed to take advantage of people. Instead, Solomon's system was not selfish, but purposely cared for those who were laboring.

Sadly, in today's day and age there are leaders who are far too selfish. I think of all the "home-grown" companies and businesses that developed around leaders who cared about their communities. After the original founders are gone, leaders have come in and decimated the companies in an effort to make money, and leave an entire community destroyed in the wake. This is not the kind of leader that Solomon was, and nor is it the kind of leader that God wants us to be. A leader is to care for all of those within their sphere of responsibility. The work cannot be accomplished at the expense of the workers.

When there is peace, much more can be accomplished! God had told David that he would not be the one to build the temple. There was too much fighting in David's lifetime. Resources in David's day had to be allocated to fighting battles. When we are fighting battles, we don't have the resources necessary to be building up. This may be true in terms of nations, but can also be true in regard to organizations and personal relationships. When energy is being spent on being defensive, we can't be on the offensive. There are times when we may need to be engaged in battle, but we must also ask whether we spend time and energy in unnecessary battles. These battles will keep us from fulfilling the purposes that God has for us.

Finally, don't do everything yourself! Solomon had a vision which he received from God via his father. He knew what it was that was to be accomplished. However, he didn't try to micro-manage the project. Instead he found the very best leaders he could find and then set up a system of accountability. He trusted his skilled leaders to do the work. When skilled people are trusted and empowered to move forward with the work, they will accomplish great things for their leader.

Sadly, Solomon doesn't continue in this manner throughout his entire life. We see the final negative results of going your own way -- of become selfish, and allowing power to corrupt. But let's take time to learn from this Solomon and ask God to help us when we find ourselves in places of leadership.

 

Prayer


Lord, please help me to seek your wisdom and guidance on a daily basis. Amen.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Discernment to Understand Justice





Scripture

It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing.
(1 Kings 3:10 NASB)
God said to him, “Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justice,
(1 Kings 3:11 NASB)
behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you.
(1 Kings 3:12 NASB)

 

Observation


Solomon was a new and young king and he had the opportunity to ask God for anything. He didn't ask for "things" for himself but instead asked that he might have wisdom, or discernment to understand justice. This was a pleasing answer in God's sight. God gave him what he requested and Solomon became known as a very wise man.

 

Application

Often we simply read that Solomon asked for wisdom, but this translation's language is interesting. "The ability to discern justice!" We live in a day and age where we shy away from words like "justice" and specifically "social justice." However, it's fascinating that God would honor Solomon for making this request so that he would be able to act justly! The first story which is told later in this chapter is of the two women who both claim to be the mother of a baby boy. Solomon ends up with a "just" decision as God helps him to discern who is the real mother of the child. The people of the kingdom praise him for this act.

Sadly, we live in a world that does not really understand justice. What is just, or what is right? In the former Soviet Union we had many times where I became so frustrated at the corruption and I wondered whether there was any justice in the land! I remember one instance when we were purchasing a piece of property for the church and we had an agreement with the builders. This was a brand new building which was being built and we were essentially buying in faith -- we were purchasing "air" six stories up! It was quite a handsome some of money which was being invested and, they wanted it all in cash. We were concerned about using cash and asked them if they could provide us information on how to wire the money directly into their bank account. It took them weeks to get us the information on how to transfer the funds. We were able to finally transfer the funds, just days before the deadline. Sadly, they had not given us the correct information and our money sat at the Russian Central Bank. We had to work to get it retrieved electronically because the builders never could figure out how to give us their correct information. After retrieving the funds electronically, we had to fly someone to the Regional Office to pick up the entire amount in cash and bring it into the country. We were one day late with the payment because of all of the mistakes of the builders, which had cost us a great deal of money. We went to meet with the builders about a month after this payment was made and they had a new document for us. We were being "fined" for making our payment late. It was a percentage of the entire cost of the project and it was significant. I remember being so angry and frustrated with them. They had a young lady in charge of speaking with us so that they would not have to face us. We tried working through a lawyer and eventually we were told we could do nothing about it. Either we paid the additional "fine" or we would lose everything. I remember the day we sat in that office and I had to sign those papers that I was at fault for the delayed payment. I told the young woman that this was not justice! She looked at me and said very honestly, "There is no justice in Russia!" I wrote this across the bottom of the contract and then signed my name.

This is only one instance in Russia, but it was one of those things that we faced on a daily basis -- the corruption. I longed for justice! There are people in our world today who long for justice! There are those who are the marginalized of our world who are mistreated simply because of where they live, or to whom they were born, or because of their nationality, skin color or gender. Things really are not fair! I wonder what would happen if we, God's people, would join with Solomon in praying for "discernment to understand justice." Solomon had discernment to understand justice, and then he took action based on his discernment. If we are able to discern justice, are we then ready, willing and able to take action?

Justice is a part of God's nature and this is why it pleased God that Solomon made this request. Solomon wasn't asking about having earthly things, but rather he was asking whether he might become more like the very God who created him. It meant his mind was on the heavenlies! When we step into issues of justice with God, we cloak ourselves with the very nature of Christ who was concerned about the injustices that he saw in the world. The truth is that this is not an easy issue. It's often difficult to determine exactly where the need lies, or how to get to the root of the problem. This is why we have to pray for God's discernment, just as Solomon did. May we have the discernment to understand justice!

 

Prayer


Lord, please help me to know you better each day so that your sense of justice helps to lead me in the way I respond to the needs in the world. Amen.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What's your attitude?




Scripture

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;
(2 Thessalonians 1:3 NASB)
therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.
(2 Thessalonians 1:4 NASB)

 

Observation


This letter is written to a new, small church that is struggling to be faithful in the midst of a hostile environment. While they are being persecuted, they continue to have a good attitude. They are having tough days and yet they are allowing God to work in them and their faith grows, and the love they have for one another is visible to those around them. Therefore, it's easy to brag on these folks, who are allowing God to give them a good attitude, despite their circumstances.

 

Application


There are times when we feel absolutely slammed by life. We literally feel like the circumstances around us are unfair and they can feel crushing. It becomes easy for our circumstances to dictate our reaction. The folks in Thessalonica were being persecuted because of their faith. While that scenario may be increasing these days, I'm not sure that's what most of us are having to deal with in our Christian walk -- out and out blatant persecution. However, we may be facing what feels like persecution on a different level. It's when outside forces begin to crush in on us that our attitude can become a reflection of our reaction. Life doesn't always play out the way we would like, but we can choose how we will react. What kind of attitude will we have toward life? How will we respond to those who may be persecuting us?

The Thessalonians chose to allow God to work in their negative circumstances. I believe that is truly an option. We may choose to nurse our hurts, or we may choose to allow God to minister to our woundedness. The result is that either our faith will grow, like that of the Thessalonians, or we will become stagnant with the result of hardness and bitterness. Either our love for one another will grow cold as a result of the difficulties, or our love for one another will flourish. No one ever said that allowing God to minister to us in tough times was easy, but it is possible.

What's your attitude? Will we allow God to so fill us that we can we respond to difficult situations with a heart of love and grace and God's image may continue to grow and develop in us? Your attitude -- your response -- it's your choice!

 

Prayer


Lord, please help me in the difficult days of life to keep my eyes on you and may those becomes moments of growth in my life. Amen.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Human Manipulation




 Scripture


Now Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, “I will be king.” So he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen with fifty men to run before him.
(1 Kings 1:5 NASB)
“For he has gone down today and has sacrificed oxen and fatlings and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the king’s sons and the commanders of the army and Abiathar the priest, and behold, they are eating and drinking before him; and they say, ‘Long live King Adonijah!’
(1 Kings 1:25 NASB)
The king vowed and said, “As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life from all distress,
(1 Kings 1:29 NASB)
surely as I vowed to you by the LORD the God of Israel, saying, ‘Your son Solomon shall be king after me, and he shall sit on my throne in my place’; I will indeed do so this day.”
(1 Kings 1:30 NASB)
“Let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him there as king over Israel, and blow the trumpet and say, ‘Long live King Solomon!’
(1 Kings 1:34 NASB)
Zadok the priest then took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, “Long live King Solomon!”
(1 Kings 1:39 NASB)
All the people went up after him, and the people were playing on flutes and rejoicing with great joy, so that the earth shook at their noise.
(1 Kings 1:40 NASB)
“Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet have anointed him king in Gihon, and they have come up from there rejoicing, so that the city is in an uproar. This is the noise which you have heard.
(1 Kings 1:45 NASB)
“The king has also said thus, ‘Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who has granted one to sit on my throne today while my own eyes see it.’”
(1 Kings 1:48 NASB)
Then all the guests of Adonijah were terrified; and they arose and each went on his way.
(1 Kings 1:49 NASB)
And Adonijah was afraid of Solomon, and he arose, went and took hold of the horns of the altar.
(1 Kings 1:50 NASB)

 

Observation


Adonijah was a rather arrogant young man who decided that he would take the future of the kingdom into his own hands. He wanted to become king so he began to manipulate the situation. He hired fifty young men to run in front of him as he made his way through the town so that he would look like he was an important man. It all became a facade as he tried to impress the people around him. Then he threw a big party and invited all of those whom he believed would be willing to participate in this manipulations -- even though they all knew this was against the King's wishes. They had all decided that King David was too old and weak to even notice what was going on. David, however, was God's man, even in this final stage of his life and God allowed those who were faithful to become aware of the manipulation. The end result was that David took immediate action and Solomon was anointed king. Suddenly the situation changed. Those who had been cheering for Adonijah were terrified as they heard the city filling with cheers for Solomon. All the "friends" disappeared as they left, trying to protect their very lives. Adonijah was left alone, having only had "friends" when he was able to buy them, or when people perceived he was a man of power. Fearing for his own life he ran to the sacred altar and grabbed hold of it. We are left with a scene where this man is pleading for his own life, hoping that Solomon (whom he would have killed) would not kill him.

 

Application


On Sunday there were two huge soccer (football) games in England and fans were flipping back and forth trying to catch the results of each match. The ultimate league winner would be determined by the results of these two matches. Would the overall winner be Manchester United who had won the title so many times, or the underdog Manchester City who had never won? The final result did not come until the last five minutes of the Man City game. Manchester United had already won their game and if Man City lost, then they again would be the overall winners. The Man United fans were already cheering for their team for with five minutes left Man City was losing! Then, in a sudden turn of events, in the last five minutes of the game Man City scored two goals, winning the game and the title. The Man United fans were stunned and suddenly the city erupted in cheers for the team in light blue, Manchester City.

It was this kind of rowdy cheering that had occurred in Jerusalem when it came to cheering on the new king. I can just imagine Team Adonijah thinking that they had everything in the bag -- that they had won they day. They were already cheering, when suddenly the underdog comes from behind and wins the day. The city erupts into cheers for the new King -- Solomon.

There are times in life when we may think that we want something and so we try to manipulate the situation to our ends. However, if God is not in the plans, they will backfire. It may seem okay for a period of time and we may enjoy the party and think things are turning out our way, but they will not in the long-run. Eventually, if we are trying to accomplish things in this world for our own good, we will get caught. The "friends" we have will disappear as they discover they have aligned themselves with the wrong person. We will find ourselves incredibly alone.

Our journey in life is not one in which we are to try and "help" God out with his plans. Our journey in life is one in which we are to seek the face of God. Our purpose is to get to know him and love him. That's really it! Anything else that may happen in life must be because it is God's plan and he has worked out the details. If we don't trust him, and we try to "help" him out, we will get caught and the consequences are quite sad. We must relax and enjoy the path and the journey which God has laid out for each and every one of us. Enjoy the journey and take time to fall deeper and deeper in love with him each and every single day!

 

Prayer


Lord, thank you that we can put our trust in you for the journey of life. Amen.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

God has called us in Sanctification





Scripture

For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.
(1 Thessalonians 4:7 NASB)
So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.
(1 Thessalonians 4:8 NASB)

 

Observation


The purpose of the Christian life is to become like Christ and this is the result of sanctification. It is not the work of humans, but the work of the Holy Spirit within each and every single one of us. Therefore, we are not called to be impure people, but to be God's holy people. If we refuse to listen to this message, we are not rejecting the one who brings the message, but instead, we are rejecting God who has called us all to be pure and sanctified through the Holy Spirit whom he sent to us.

 

Application


Too many people don't like that word sanctification, and nor do they like the idea of living a life of purity. Why? One reason seems to be because sanctification was, at one point and time, associated with a legalistic set of rules, as if following a proscribed set of actions would make one pure. That is where we have distorted the message, and in the distortion we have made excuses for our own behavior. Somehow we have determined that "it is only human" to be impure. Therefore, when we do things that we should not do -- it is okay because it is human nature to not be perfect. Actually true human nature is made in the image of God and is a "perfect" reflection of him. It is fallen humanity that no longer looks like Christ, but lives in sin. Therefore, to be "only human" means that we would look like Christ. To use this excuse means that we think that God's norm for humanity is fallen, sinful and corrupted humanity. The message of sanctification is not the message of a task-master, but a message of hope for all of God's children that they may all once again be restored to the true humanity which God intended in his creation. Why would God want us to continue to languish in our sinful selves? He doesn't, which is why his desire for each and every one of us is a life of purity, made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us.

When we push back against the idea of sanctification, we are pushing back against God himself. He did not call us to a life of purity, without giving us the power to live a pure life! That's not the kind of God that we serve. Every day of our life journey is one in which the transforming power of God's Holy Spirit can draw us closer and closer to the original Image of God, Jesus Christ himself, and in drawing closer we become a clearer reflection of who he is. This is real humanity, with the image of Christ stamped on each and every one of us, through the power of the Holy Spirit making us a crystal clear reflection. Don't buy into the "only human" excuses, but seek the face of Christ every single day of your life and allow the sanctifying work of God's Holy Spirit to work in and through you leading you to a life of purity in him.

 

Prayer


Lord, today and every day may I keep my eyes fixed on you and may your sanctifying work continue daily.  Amen.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Trying too hard to Compensate



Scripture

Matt. 27:6 But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.”
Matt. 27:7 After conferring together, they used them to buy the potter’s field as a place to bury foreigners.
Matt. 27:8 For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.
Matt. 27:9 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one on whom a price had been set, on whom some of the people of Israel had set a price,
Matt. 27:10 and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”

Observation

Judas had betrayed Jesus Christ and suddenly he was overcome with what he had done.  Maybe he had thought that Jesus would be able to save himself.  Surely Jesus wouldn't really be crucified and die on a cross?!  And yet, that was the path on which he had placed Jesus.  He comes to the chief priests and he confesses his wrong-doing and declares that Jesus is innocent!  The chief priests who were to listen to the confessions and absolve people of their sins would have nothing to do with Judas.  Why? Because they themselves were complicit;  they had set the entire scenario in motion with their payment of Judas.  Now, they could no longer perform their priestly function.  In this moment Judas himself is genuinely confessing of his sin and takes responsibility.  He does not blame the chief priests, but asks for forgiveness. 

The forgiveness is never given which is seen in their act of the purchase of the field, which is ultimately done in the name of Judas.  This is their way of technically never accepting his return of the money.  Their hypocrisy is seen in the fact that they refuse to "contaminate" the treasury with the return of the "blood money."  When did it become "blood money?"  Before, or after they gave it to Judas?  One wonders whether the money had originally even come from the very treasury to which Judas was hoping to return it. 

Ever wanting to look good in the eyes of the people the chief priests come up with a scheme to compensate to for their behavior.  They eventually purchase a field outside the city in which foreigners can be buried.  It was originally called the Potter's Field because, presumably, it had been owned by a potter who would use the field as a place in which to discard his broken pieces of pottery.  However, the people were not so easily fooled and they came to call it the "Field of Blood" because they knew that it had been purchased with the blood money which the priests had paid for the life of Christ.

Application

This entire sad story is filled with people who are trying to compensate for their sin.  Judas wants to give the money back and doesn't want to have to carry the guilt of what he had done to Jesus Christ.  The chief priests don't want to take responsibility for their action and try to pretend in their self-righteousness not to contaminate the treasury and do something nice for the foreigners.  Sadly, there are times when we are all guilty of similar behaviors when we find ourselves being driven by our own personal desires in life.  Often this does not begin as a blatant out and out journey against the desires of God, but a simple adjustment in the trajectory of life and small decisions or choices which eventually lead us to a place which is out of alignment with God's desire for our lives.  This is what happened to Judas.  His love of money continually led him in a direction which was out of sync with his Master.  While, previously it led him to poor judgement with the management of the Jesus Team money, now it led him to betrayal.  For the chief priests it was several years of jealousy which brought them to a point where they were able to devise a scheme which would lead to the demise of Jesus Christ.

In the end they all felt guilty and when we get off track in our relationship with Christ, we too will eventually feel guilty.  The question is what we do when we find ourselves in that place.  Do we come and repent.  Judas repented before the chief priests.  What would have happened had he repented before the Lord?  Maybe the outcome would have been different.  The chief priests on the other hand still wouldn't repent.  Instead, they chose to try and look good in the eyes of the people.  That is the scariest response;  when we refuse to take responsibility and instead choose to compensate.  How many people try to compensate when in a difficult situation.  I'll never forget a parent in a hospital room with their dying child telling their pastor that they would start tithing, if only God would save their child!  Oh yes, I'll compensate now!  There are numerous ways in which we try to compensate for our lack of response.  Usually it is in overcompensation -- whether in the way of funds or overly zealous behavior.  Usually it is because we are not dealing with the very core issues.

God does not call us to pay back or compensate for the things we have done.  God calls us to genuine repentance.  If we are genuinely repentant, he will will forgive us.  It's that simple!  The compensation has already been paid by the death of Jesus Christ.  He knew that there was nothing we could do that would compensate for our sin.  He is trying to tell us to quit trying so hard.  Let go, let loose and let God simply guide and lead in every single aspect of our lives.  We are not the ones who are called to compensate for our sins.


Prayer

Lord, help me to be relaxed in my relationship with you as I seek your direction in each and every single day of life.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sacraments of Significance




Scripture


“But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”
(Matthew 26:29 NASB)

 

Observation


On the night that Jesus shared the cup and the bread with his disciples, he ushered in a new practice for those who would be his followers. The early church practiced communion frequently because Jesus had told them to do so. Interestingly, Jesus was telling them that he would have this last meal with them but then would not share this ceremony with them again until all would be joined with him in his Father's kingdom.

 

Application


I'm afraid that too often we don't recognize the significance in sharing together at the Lord's table. For those early disciples every time they ate and drank this together it was a very visible reminder of something they had personally shared with Jesus Christ. It was a reminder that Jesus Christ was waiting until they all arrived to be with him to continue the same practice. It was something that connected them in a very physical way to one another.

When we share in communion or the eucharist, we are stepping into a long line of Christian history and joining with those who have gone before, and with those who are yet to come in celebrating what Jesus has done for us. We don't just practice sacraments because they are rituals to remind us of something, but rather sacraments are literally something "mysterious." This is the Greek understanding of the word "sacrament" and it invites us into a mystical relationship with Jesus Christ, one which cannot always be explained in human terms. Taking communion is not simply a ritual, but it is a mysterious experience which allows us, in some way to step into communion with an unbroken community of faith which has now existed for over 2000 years. It is a mysterious dinner which began many years ago but which will not end until we sit down at the marriage supper of the lamb.

Every time we partake of the eucharist we ought to remind ourselves that this is something which is beyond ourselves. It is a reminder of the past and of what Christ has done, and yet it is also something that pulls us into God's future. It is a message of the hope of restoration, and the hope of completion. It should never become old or stale, but it should also be done often. Let's allow ourselves to step into the mystery of the sacrament and recognize its eternal significance. Won't you join me?

 

Prayer


Lord, please help me to be aware of the significance of the cup and the bread each time I am able to share at your table. Amen.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What did we do to you?





Scripture

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
(Matthew 25:34 NASB)
‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;
(Matthew 25:35 NASB)
naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’
(Matthew 25:36 NASB)
“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?
(Matthew 25:37 NASB)
‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?
(Matthew 25:38 NASB)
‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’
(Matthew 25:39 NASB)
“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
(Matthew 25:40 NASB)

 

Observation


Jesus was telling the disciples who would inherit the kingdom. It was not the ones who had been zealous at following the religious laws, but the ones who would live within his kingdom here on earth. As ambassadors within the kingdom we are called to be imitators of Christ. Imitating Christ doesn't take us to following a list of rules, but engaging with a hurt and needy world. We are to clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, feed the hungry, and give the thirsty something to drink. These are the behaviors which are expected of Christ followers. Every human being is created in the image of God and as we minister to the very least, we are ministering to Christ himself.

 

Application


The key to being ambassadors is the desire to minister to Christ by meeting the needs of the least of these. We struggle within the church, trying to find the right balance in regard to compassion and evangelism. Often we have used compassion as a tool of evangelism. If we provide for someone's need, then we will get them to come to Christ. Interestingly, that's not what Jesus is saying here. Jesus is saying that we are to find the needy of this world and minister to them, simply because this is our worship of God.

What is my level of involvement with the needy of this world? Am I willing to get in there and minister in the name of Jesus, simply to be Jesus, or do I always evaluate what the return might be? This is a serious question which we must ask ourselves. What if there is no measurable return? Jesus ministered for three years and touched thousands of lives and on the day that he died, what was his measurable return? All that remained was a little band of followers. All the rest had left him. What is our expectation? We are called to worship Jesus through our love and ministry to the very least. Time to check our motivations and our actions!

 

Prayer


Lord, I want to worship you daily through ministry to the least of these. Please, help me to be a faithful servant. Amen.

Monday, May 7, 2012

You do not know....





 

Scripture

“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.
(Matthew 24:42 NASB)
“But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.
(Matthew 24:43 NASB)
“For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.
(Matthew 24:44 NASB)

 

Observation

Jesus was speaking of the fact that someday he would return again. He made one thing perfectly clear over and over again and that was that no one would know when he would be returning! His message was one of preparation. He said to be ready -- and interestingly, made the point to say that he would come when we don't think he will.....

 

Application


I am amazed at how many people spend time speculating about the second coming of Christ. Inordinate amounts of time are spent on trying to decipher dates and the signs of the times. However, I think Jesus is trying to make a point that end-time speculation is a futile attempt. Even Jesus Christ himself does not know when he will be returning. Over and over I hear people say that they believe that we are living in the last times, and maybe we are, but maybe we aren't! I think that final statement of Jesus is quite interesting. "The Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will." If you think about about it, if people truly knew when the Jesus were returning, they would live their lives any way they wanted until that moment and then would try to repent and turn to him. That's not Jesus' plan. Salvation is not about a moment in time, but a life given in wholehearted love and devotion to him. Why is there so much fascination and speculation about the moment when he comes? Maybe it's because we don't want to have to live in the moment as wholly committed followers of Christ. Being engaged in kingdom work is not an easy task.

Jesus' message is that we are to be ready every single day. Allowing ourselves to become consumed with speculation as to the future simply serves to distract us from the engagement of kingdom work to which we are called on a daily basis. Our calling is to be involved with him every single day of our lives. That is how we will be ready because, you do not know....

 

Prayer


Lord, may I be prepared and engaged. Amen.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Don't Be Called a Leader



Scripture

Matt. 23:10 “And do not be called 1leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.
Matt. 23:11 “But the greatest among you shall be your servant.
Matt. 23:12 “And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

Observation

Jesus was addressing the Pharisees who thought far too much of themselves.  They saw themselves as the spiritual leaders of their people and yet they were leading their people to spiritual destruction.  The word here used for leader can also be translated "teacher."  Whichever one you use, he was warning them to recognize that the only true leader or teacher for them was the Messiah -- or the Christ!  They had been holding themselves up as honored individuals above all others and Jesus was reminding them that there was One greater.  We are to lift up the One who is greater because if someone exalts themselves, they will be humbled. 

Application

We are called to live lives of humility in this world and everything about our lives should point people to the Messiah.  This is a great reminder on a weekend where many people are celebrating commencement and human achievements.  Really, they are nothing except achievements which are to glorify God.  Human achievements would include being called a leader or a teacher, but Jesus reminds us that these are not titles which are to be placed upon us as humans, but should be reserved for the true Leader and Teacher -- the Messiah! 

The problem is that too often we can place our trust in ourselves and our own personal abilities.  Any talents and abilities which we may have are simply a gift from God to be used for his kingdom purposes in a desire to draw men and women to him.  It's not for us to be called "leader" but for us to lead people to the true "leader."  Jesus will lead us and teach us in all the ways of life.  May he be exalted!

Prayer

Lord, thank you for your leadership and guidance and please, help my life to lead others to you.  Amen.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Stupidity with Eternal Consequences



Scripture


Matt. 22:1 ¶ Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying:
Matt. 22:2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.
Matt. 22:3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come.
Matt. 22:4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’
Matt. 22:5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business,
Matt. 22:6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them.
Matt. 22:7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Matt. 22:8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy.
Matt. 22:9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’
Matt. 22:10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

Observation

Yesterday we read about King David's envoys who were treated so poorly.  Today Jesus tells a similar story, but he's talking about his very own Father.  He has sent out envoys over and over again to invite people to come to an incredible banquet!  But the people are too preoccupied with their farm (or maybe weekend retreat) and their work.  They don't have time to appreciate the fact that they've been invited to the King's table. 

While some simply continue doing the normal things they've always done in life, there are others who go out of their way to mistreat the envoys of the King.  They mistreat and then kill them. 

The people who had been invited were the people who would have thought that they SHOULD be invited - but didn't respond to the incredible invitation.  Instead, the King told his people to go and to gather all the people that they could find and bring them to the table.

Application

Self-centeredness keeps these people from enjoying all that God has for them in life.  They are too preoccupied with their own dealings, whether it be their work, their recreation, or their self-absorption.  Their pride gets the best of them and they refuse to respond to the kind and generous invitation of the Father.  Just like the princes of Hunan, these people mistreat the Father's envoys.  Their self-centeredness leads them to making stupid decisions which will now have eternal consequences.  Those who do not come to the marriage supper of the lamb will be left to the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

I'm not sure why the people in this parable didn't recognize what was really happening.  It was the King sending out the invitation, and they didn't respond.  But aren't we just as crazy these days?  God, the Creator, the King of all things is constantly sending out invitations to us on a daily basis, wanting us to be his holy people.  He is willing to provide absolutely everything that we need to be all that he created us to be, and yet, we are often too preoccupied with the things of life to respond.  I have too much work to do -- or I have all these toys for which I must care! 

Don't do anything stupid!  The kingdom is spread before each and every single one of us and we are invited to come and partake and live in that kingdom. 

Prayer

Lord, please help me to keep my eyes open to the work of your kingdom and not be so busy that I don't see what's really happening.  Amen.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Don't Do Anything Stupid!




Scripture

Now it came about after this, that Nahash the king of the sons of Ammon died, and his son became king in his place.
(1 Chronicles 19:1 NASB)
Then David said, “I will show kindness to Hanun the son of Nahash, because his father showed kindness to me.” So David sent messengers to console him concerning his father. And David’s servants came into the land of the sons of Ammon to Hanun to console him.
(1 Chronicles 19:2 NASB)
But the princes of the sons of Ammon said to Hanun, “Do you think that David is honoring your father, in that he has sent comforters to you? Have not his servants come to you to search and to overthrow and to spy out the land?”
(1 Chronicles 19:3 NASB)
So Hanun took David’s servants and shaved them and cut off their garments in the middle as far as their hips, and sent them away.
(1 Chronicles 19:4 NASB)
When the sons of Ammon saw that the Arameans fled, they also fled before Abshai his brother and entered the city. Then Joab came to Jerusalem.
(1 Chronicles 19:15 NASB)
The Arameans fled before Israel, and David killed of the Arameans 7,000 charioteers and 40,000 foot soldiers, and put to death Shophach the commander of the army.
(1 Chronicles 19:18 NASB)
So when the servants of Hadadezer saw that they were defeated by Israel, they made peace with David and served him. Thus the Arameans were not willing to help the sons of Ammon anymore.
(1 Chronicles 19:19 NASB)

 

Observation

"Don't Do Anything Stupid" is a phrase that my husband loves. It's just a simple little piece of advice that can help keep us out of trouble. This advice would have been good for the princes of Ammon. David was trying to do the right thing. He had worked well with Hanun, the previous king of Ammon. Hanun had died and so David simply wanted to send a message of condolence. He sent comforters to the new prince, but instead of receiving them -- the prince and his friends did something really stupid. They couldn't accept the kindness of David, and instead they took these men and thoroughly humiliated them. They shaved their beards and cut off their clothing at the waist. People didn't carry around extra sets of clothing back in those days! These men were left humiliated. What a way to say "thanks." It was pretty stupid.

The result of their stupidity was felt by the whole community. They entered into battle with David and lost! Thousands of people lost their lives. All because someone was really stupid!

 

Application


There are times in our lives when we may be tempted to react to a particular situation. The reaction may not be the best for the situation and yet, in our stubbornness we talk ourselves into believing that we are right. Instead of asking ourselves whether we are really doing the right thing, we move forward, to try and prove our point, and refuse to listen to common sense. At that point, we don't want to admit that we might be wrong, so we take action, and the domino effect has begun.

There were any number of times in this scenario that the princes of Ammon could have stopped. They could have talked among themselves and decided that maybe these guys were telling the truth. They could have just been polite and sent them home, even if they didn't believe them. They could have just cut the beards, I suppose....but then they cut off their clothes too. After that, they knew they were in trouble so, instead of asking David for forgiveness, in their stubbornness they lined up the troops and went to war with David. They lost and thousands of people suffered the consequences of the pride and stubbornness of the princes of Ammon.

This story may seem outrageous but I wonder how many times good Christian people do something stupid, and then refuse to say that they are sorry and allow numerous people to suffer the consequences? We must take the time to examine ourselves, and allow Christ's light to shine into the deep corners of our motives. Even if we have done something stupid, we don't have to follow that to its conclusion. We can allow God to speak to us, and in humility, ask for forgiveness. We can go to others and tell them that we were wrong!

I'm afraid that too often, even in the Christian world, we are left with the slaughter of numerous individuals because pride has kept us from resolving a conflict after we've done something stupid. May God help us!

Prayer


Lord, please help me to have a humble attitude and spirit to be willing to say when I have been wrong! Amen.