Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What do you See?




Scripture:


Psalm 107

23Some went out on the sea in ships;
    they were merchants on the mighty waters.
24 They saw the works of the Lord,
    his wonderful deeds in the deep.
25 For he spoke and stirred up a tempest
    that lifted high the waves.
26 They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;
    in their peril their courage melted away.
27 They reeled and staggered like drunkards;
    they were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he brought them out of their distress.
29 He stilled the storm to a whisper;
    the waves of the sea[b] were hushed.
30 They were glad when it grew calm,
    and he guided them to their desired haven.
31 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
32 Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people
    and praise him in the council of the elders.

 
Observation:


The Psalmist recognized that everyone had an opportunity to get to know God in a personal level.  No matter what the person was engaged in on a daily basis, there they could find God.  In this portion of scripture we find the merchants who traveled the world by boat.  These were wealthy individuals as they traveled around the known world of their day in search of new items which they could trade.  They were powerful men and yet they were in awe of the mighty waters.  They were humbled by the power which existed within the water -- the power to go from a beautiful peaceful calm to a tempest which made them stagger like drunks.  They knew they had no control over the waves and therefore they learned to cry out to God, for God alone could bring the storm to a whisper.  The result was that these great merchants of the sea praised God not only in their circumstances, but when they returned home and told the people what God had done.

 
Application:


Where does my daily walk take me and do I allow myself to see God in my circumstances?  I think that's a vitally important question.  Just last evening were took a ride out of Nampa, Idaho and toward a small town called Marsing.  At one point we came to the top of a bluff, and there over a sudden drop was a beautiful valley where the Snake River made its way through the desert.  All along the river there was lush green ribbon surrounded by barren hills covered in ancient volcanic rock.  We stood on the bluff and watched the sun go down over the Cascade mountains in the distance.  As I took in my surroundings I thought about the incredible God whom we serve.  The God who paints an incredible portrait of his beauty which surrounds us on a daily basis.  Do I appreciate what God has done?  Do I give him the credit? 




God, who created all of this beauty, loves me.  That is pretty amazing!  Not only is it amazing, it is astounding, overwhelming, unreal, etc….because the God of all of this, cares for me.  Why do we become worried about the little details of our lives?  Why are we worried about the big details of life?  God, on a daily basis, is asking us to look around us and to see him.  He is constantly revealing himself to us and is simply asking us to put our faith and in trust in him for our lives.  The God who created all that we see wants us to be in a deeply intimate and personal relationship with him.  Just as he painted the world with his beautiful colors, he will paint our lives with his creative touch.  What do you see today?

 
Prayer:


Lord, I confess that too often I take off and begin to do things without allowing myself the opportunity to step back and see your hand in all things.  Please, help me today to see you.  Amen.

Monday, July 30, 2012

"Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?"




Scripture

Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
(John 1:46 NASB)

 

Observation


Nazareth was a small village in the southern part of Israel. it was a village of no consequence -- there were no great schools in the area -- and really, there wasn't much to do. You worked with your hands and continued on with an existence that had been there for generations. Who cared about Nazareth?

 

Application


For some reason we often think that God can only use the extraordinary to make a difference in this world. Over and over again God, through Jesus, demonstrated that he could take ordinary people and they could do the extraordinary, but only through the infilling and empowering of the Holy Spirit.
Today people may look at us and wonder whether anything good can come out of our lives! Why -- she's just a single mother! He's a truck driver! She's a girl -- trying to do things guys do! He's not very articulate in front of people! She doesn't have any financial resources! He's never been anywhere! And yet God takes all of those excuses away and he takes the very simple circumstances of our lives and transforms them so that they may be used for his kingdom and glory.

Today, I love visiting the town of Nazareth. It is a bustling city in the country of Israel. The main street is lined with churches -- a reminder that Jesus was from this town. In the very heart of the city is the "Church of the Nazarene." There are even special signs put up by the city pointing you in that direction. Why? Because the city now has significance and the church bearing the name of the citizen of this town is special to them. The presence of Jesus Christ is what transformed Nazareth from a town of no consequence into one which will be remembered for generations to come.

It is the presence of Jesus that transforms our ordinary lives into something extraordinary. Nazareth has been glorified because of Jesus. Jesus becomes glorified when we allow him to use our ordinary lives for him and his kingdom. That is the beauty of what God wants to do in us. "Come and See!"

Prayer

Lord, thank you that you can take the very ordinary and your presence can make it extraordinary. Please, use us for you and your kingdom's sake! Amen.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Young Love





Scripture

“For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the LORD of hosts; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called the God of all the earth.
(Isaiah 54:5 NASB)

 

Observation


Over and over again the theme of marriage is seen in the Bible. The whole story starts with a couple in the Garden of Eden -- a married couple. It also begins with the covenant of a Holy God who wants to have a relationship of fidelity between he and his people. In the middle of the Bible we find the love story in the Song of Solomon, and at the end we find the marriage supper of the lamb. In the intimacy of our relationship with God -- male and female alike -- are becoming the Bride of Christ. Here the wording is very clear -- God, our maker, is also our husband. Who is he? He is the LORD! And he is also our Redeemer -- the one who will save us.

 

Application


This morning I'm heading over to the wedding of my niece. Last evening we enjoyed the rehearsal and dinner and a time of hearing their "story." This is a young couple in love. They are not only excited about the wedding today, but about the marriage that will last a lifetime! They love to be together. They love to walk, to talk, to simply hang out with one another.

We are challenged to understand that our relationship with our Maker, our Creator is also one of love. He loves us and wants us to be his bride. Today my niece will be beautifully adorned as she walks down the aisle at the church. Each and every one of us are beautiful in such a way to the LORD. But do we really understand that? Do we understand the intimacy of relationship which he desires from each and every single one of us. This is not a shallow, once a week, maybe twice a month, go to church relationship. Instead, this is an every day, I can't wait to hang out with you, kind of relationship. This is, a relationship where I have to pick up the phone and share all the exciting (and even boring) moments of the day with the one that I love. That is what God wants with each and every one of us.

Young love is fun. Our relationship to God should be too! He wants to be our husband. Are we preparing to be his bride?

 

Prayer


Lord, thank you for your incredible love for us. Amen.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Cleverly Devised Tales





Scripture

For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.
(2 Peter 1:16 NASB)

 

Observation


Peter was letting the people know the value of his testimony. He lived in a day and age where there were people who were trained as great speakers of rhetoric. They would entertain crowds with their amazing speaking abilities and debate with other people with similar skills. But Peter was saying that this was not the case with his own personal life. He was not following after people who had a great ability and/or charisma to speak, but instead he had personally known Jesus Christ. He was an eyewitness to the majesty and power of Christ in the world and there was nothing that would sway him otherwise.

 

Application


Today we have television which is filled with numerous preachers who are trying to sway people to their way of thought. They have cleverly devised tales and use their powers of rhetoric to try and make us believe one way or another. There are prophets from all religions and they are using every source of media available to sway people to their way of thinking. Sadly it's not just other religions but also those who profess to be Christians (but have some odd form of us) who are trying to sway us as well. They have cleverly devised tales -- they make us "feel good" and tell us that God is going to make everything in our lives honkey dorey. Things didn't end up so honkey dorey for the true followers of Christ. Tradition tells us that Peter ended up crucified upside down.
How can one discern that the message is true? We, too, must be eyewitnesses to the truth and we can be through a personal walk and relationship with Christ. In the intimacy of our time with him we discover that we, too, become personal witnesses to who he is. This also means that we need to seek out spiritual leaders and guides who have become personal witnesses of Christ. Sometimes they are not the most persuasive speakers, but that becomes unimportant when we see Christ shining forth in their lives. We need these kinds of leaders who reflect Jesus Christ in their lives and these, we can follow. Those who can come up with cleverly devised tales -- I'm not so sure that we can trust!

 

Prayer


Lord, please help me to be discerning in my life -- seeking you -- and learning from those who have genuinely humbled themselves at your feet. Amen.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

For the sake of prayer!




Scripture

The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.
(1 Peter 4:7 NASB)

 

Observation


Peter is talking to followers of Christ and encouraging them in the spiritual walk. Prayer is to be a central focus for one who desires to know Christ. However, prayer doesn't just "happen" on its own. Instead, there are choices which must be made for the sake, or purpose of prayer. Followers of Christ must have sound judgment and a sober spirit.

 

Application


What does sound judgment and a sober spirit look like. Actually it seems that if one has sound judgment and a sober spirit they will spend time in prayer, and if they spend time in prayer the result will be sound judgment and a sober spirit. Too often we equate prayer with simply bringing requests before God and we fail to realize that it is in the time of prayer, in times of intimacy with Christ, that we ourselves are shaped and formed.

Therefore, we must ask ourselves whether sound judgment and a sober spirit are actually characteristics of Christ which are passed on to those of us who are being shaped into his image! I believe that they certainly are his characteristics. First of all we are encouraged to imitate Christ and so, we may begin by working at having sound judgment and a sober spirit. However, that will lead us to better times of prayer, which will develop within us Christ's sound judgement and sober spirit.

But what exactly is sound judgement and a sober spirit? Too often peer pressure can encourage us to make decisions which are simply not wise. This week we have seen the punishment for Penn State as a result of unsound judgement. There are times when we have to make decisions which will be extremely unpopular and will have a trickle-down effect. Maybe we do discover that there is some kind of evil happening where we are -- just as what was happening at Penn State. Who in the world wants to rock that boat? And yet -- that is what happens when sound judgement takes over in our lives. No matter what, we are compelled to move forward with the truth -- with the right thing. This same problem has infused the Church in many ways. Think of the scandals we are seeing within the Roman Catholic Church of priests who have molested little boys. Those in leadership did not have sound judgement for they chose not to deal with the issues which were being presented to them. This is why sound judgement requires time in prayer for only there do we acquire the strength and courage of Christ which is needed to deal with difficult issues.

What is a sober spirit? It must be the opposite of a drunken spirit and a drunken spirit would lead an individual to making unwise choices and decisions about life. When people are under the influence of too much alcohol they can no longer make rational decisions and the results are often ruinous. How often do people have terrible car accidents when they've had too much to drink. Lives are lost! Or how often do people go home with someone they barely know and "sleep" with them when then are not sober. When they awaken in the morning they wonder what in the world they have done. To have a sober spirit is to remain in control of our faculties -- to be able to make wise decisions about life and not be carried off by whims that you may regret.

And all of this is done for the sake of prayer! Somehow prayer has taken a backseat in the lives of believers. We have not wanted to take the time to simply sit in God's presence on a regular basis because we are too busy. However, it is only in the place of prayer that God can shape us and mold us into the children he desires for us to be. It is only in the place of prayer that we will gain the strength that we need to go against the grain of society and be faithful. It is only in the place of prayer that we can enjoy intimacy with our Lord where we experience his love and comfort and peace.
The early church knew what it meant to make prayer a priority. They were willing to sacrifice to make it a reality. If we are to know Christ the way that he desires, it must be a priority for us as well. We must exercise personal self-discipline, having wise judgement and a sober spirit, for the sake of prayer!

 

Prayer


Lord, thank you for your powerful and peaceful presence. Please, help my life to be shaped by wise judgement and a sober spirit. Amen.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Real Strength





Scripture


He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power.
(Isaiah 40:29 NASB)
Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly,
(Isaiah 40:30 NASB)
Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.
(Isaiah 40:31 NASB)

 

Observation


God is the one who can provide us with real, genuine strength for the journey of life. Young people are full of life and energy compared to us older folks, and yet, they get tired. They become completely exhausted and need a few days in which they sleep-in until noon or so just to get their batteries recharged. And vigorous young men -- like the athletes who will be competing in the Olympics -- when they fall, they fall badly. It's a terrible experience.

God is promising a different kind of strength for life; one that is experienced through the LORD and through him alone. This strength will be beyond anything the world has to offer.

 

Application

My husband and I have been on a journey of physical fitness. We have altered our diet in the last couple of years and are much more conscious of what we eat -- trying to make good choices. We have also tried to work at strengthening our bodies. This began by me walking and him running. Sadly, he hurt his knee running and we had to find something else to do so after getting recommendations from some friends, we turned to P90X. This is a series of DVDs and you follow the exercise routine on one of them every day (or at least you try). We have had great times of laughing at one another over this experience. When we first began we would be exhausted by the end of the warm-up, we would fall flat on our faces trying to do a push-up, and we would fall over trying to do the balancing exercises. After several months of doing this we have discovered that we have become much stronger and we are developing stamina when it comes to exercising. However, none of this provides us with the kind of strength that we need to deal with the "issues" of life.

The "issues" of life usually cut us off at the knees. They make us weary and sometimes we even stumble and fall. We wonder how in the world we have come to this place and how we will survive the days that lie ahead. We want to just crawl in bed and hide our heads and let the world move on without us. But this is where the strength from the LORD comes into play. He knows that we will have tough times in our lives and he says that he will give us the strength that we need to cope. He knows that there is nothing within ourselves that we can trust for strength, but instead, we need to place all of our hope and trust in him. That is only possible when we wait on him. We must take time on a daily basis to meet with him in the quietness and allow him to recharge our batteries. The result is a type of strength we have never experienced -- as we float above the issues on wings like eagles. We run -- and we don't hurt our knees -- and we walk -- and we don't get tired. Not in the physical sense, but in the emotional and spiritual sense!

On a personal note -- my commitment to physical fitness can never come before my commitment to spiritual fitness. If I don't have time for both -- it's the physical fitness that has to go because the strength that I need from the Lord is the MOST important to me. This is where I know I will gain my real strength!

 

Prayer


Lord, thank you for your strength and peace which you make possible on a daily basis. Amen.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Royal Priesthood

Scripture 1 Peter 2:9-10 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Observation We are nothing apart from God. Without him we have no identity because the very stamp or imprint of who we are comes from him. We are God's people. As such, he has extended great mercy toward us so that now, as we respond to him, we have become his chosen people. As his people we are called into the service of the King, and we are a part of his royal priesthood. All who are believers are called to serve the King, and therefore we affirm the "Priesthood of all believers." As such we declare to the world the wonderful and mighty acts of God. Application If serving in the Royal Priesthood is the responsibility of all, and not just some, how does that affect our daily lives? Today, as I go into Walmart or Target, do I go with an attitude of service to God? When I get busy with the business of my work, do I do it all with an attitude of ministering to him? When I spend time with my husband, do I think about the ways in which I can bless him today? Do I call my children and minister to them? God has been incredibly merciful to me. I am not worthy to be his child, let alone serve in his Royal Priesthood, and yet he has extended that opportunity to me, and not just to me, but to all!!! What an amazing opportunity we all have, but the enemy doesn't want us to think about this or to believe it. The enemy will try to make us believe that we are nothing and that God has not redeemed us from what we once were. He does not want us to realize our full potential when we serve in the Royal Priesthood and he will do everything possible to be a stumbling block. Kick him out of the way today. Kick all temptations away and jump in wholeheartedly to the ministry into which we all are called. We belong to God! We are his...we are his people. We serve the King! Prayer Lord, please help me to face this day as your child, and as one serving in your priesthood. Amen.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Reach of God's Power

Scripture Psalms 76:10-12 Human wrath serves only to praise you, when you bind the last bit of [your] wrath around you. 11 Make vows to the Lord your God, and perform them; let all who are around him bring gifts to the one who is awesome, 12 who cuts off the spirit of princes, who inspires fear in the kings of the earth. Observation When humans begin to trust in their own power and reach, God has an amazing way of putting them in their place.  Even the most vile of humans end up bowing at the knee of God.  I think of the incredible wrath of people like Hitler and Stalin.  These men were truly evil and yet at the end of the day, they lost...and they lost miserably.  I think of the beautiful Church of Christ the Saviour which Stalin destroyed and yet the very ground fought back and would not hold the foundation for Stalin's palace of communism.  The action of Stalin,  wanting to express his own wrath resulted in God being glorified.  Hitler committed a cowardly act of suicide after all of his horrific acts.  God alone is awesome and powerful and when the world's authorities try to usurp him, they will lose! Application Humanity tends to become prideful within a very short period of time.  Instead of remembering that we are instruments of God on high, we tend to take credit for our skills and abilities.  All that we have and all that we can accomplish ONLY comes from him, and is intended to give him glory.  When we take the glory for ourselves, we are literally stealing it from God.   We must walk humbly before God on a daily basis.  We must spend time with God on a daily basis.  We must allow God to give us direction for the ways in which he wants us to fulfill his calling in us on a daily basis.  If we do not do this, we will become arrogant and proud.  The arrogance and pride, even or world leaders, may last for a period of time, but ultimately God's reach can even come to them, and they will be humbled...and the One deserving the glory will be glorified. Prayer Lord, may you be glorified in my life today and everyday.  Amen.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The sin of omission





Scripture

Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.
(James 4:17 NASB)

 

Observation


So often we think of sin as the wrong things that we do. This is an interesting statement helping us to understand that sin is also the right things that we don't do! Why is this important? Because the follower of Christ is transformed into the image of Christ. The responses of life are to be the responses of Christ. When we refuse to be Christ to our world, then we are sinning.

 

Application


What does this look like on a daily basis? I believe that it means that we pray every single day that Christ will be reflected in us -- whether we are at work, at the grocery store, or on an air plane! Every time I get on a plane I pray that God will help me to be sensitive to the person next to me and have the conversations with them that the Lord would want me to have. There are times when people will suddenly want to talk -- but there are others when people just keep to themselves. Either way -- I pray for those people, that they will sense God in all ways.

The noise of life can be deafening and can keep us from hearing what God truly wants and desires for us. We keep ourselves so busy with things that we can't begin to hear the direction in which God may be leading us. The result may be sins of omission, because we are not doing what God would want us to do. I think this may be one of the easiest ways in which the enemy can trip us up these days. We may not be wild and doing horrible things, but there may be many good things that God desires for us that we are missing out on because we are simply not getting the message.

Rarely does God allow us to sit in our comfort zone. He seems to always be stretching us and pushing us to limits that we could never have imagined. This is all to the glory of God, because we are accomplishing and doing things only through his power and not through our own. Therefore if God is pushing us to a limit we may not have expected -- allow him to do so. Do not avoid what God may have placed before you because that may become a sin of omission. Not moving forward in our walk with him becomes sin for us. Powerful words -- but a strong reality.

 

Prayer


Lord, please help me to respond today to the challenges which you have placed before me. Amen.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Highway of Holiness





Scripture

A highway will be there, a roadway, And it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, But it will be for him who walks that way, And fools will not wander on it.
(Isaiah 35:8 NASB)
No lion will be there, Nor will any vicious beast go up on it; These will not be found there. But the redeemed will walk there,
(Isaiah 35:9 NASB)
And the ransomed of the LORD will return And come with joyful shouting to Zion, With everlasting joy upon their heads. They will find gladness and joy, And sorrow and sighing will flee away.
(Isaiah 35:10 NASB)

 

Observation


The Highway of Holiness was the path that would lead the children of Israel back home -- the road to Jerusalem. Only those who had remained faithful to God, clean and pure would be allowed to walk on that road. The fools who had paid no attention would not be able to find the road. Even in their wanderings they wouldn't even stumble upon it. Why? Because the road was only for those who had been following God and this road was a safe road. The enemies who would attack -- both the lion and other vicious beasts would not be found there. They would not be allowed to come and attack the people of God. Only the people of God would be able to walk and sing with great joy as they made their way back home to Zion.

 

Application

The highway of holiness is already prepared for all of us. It is the road that leads us to eternal life with God our father. The problem is that too many people are out wandering and going their own direction and simply don't realize that they're not on the road! Why are they not there? Because they don't want to live a life of wholehearted devotion to God -- they are not interested in the faithfulness and purity which God demands and requires of his people.

The Christian life is a journey -- a continual journey in which we are traveling that highway of holiness. God in his very nature is holy and therefore he is calling us to come to him and walk with him on that path. However, if we are to be partakers of the divine nature -- then we too become holy and we can walk on this path. It is not by our own works that we are welcomed onto this path but by God's holiness which draws us in a direction toward him. The more that we participate in his holiness, the more that we are drawn toward him.

Sadly there are many out there wandering the wilderness thinking they're having a good time. When they are attacked by the lions or the vicious animals they tend to cry out to God and ask God why he is punishing them. He's not punishing them, or us. God has provided all that we need -- if only we would walk on the right road. However, if we make choices to stay off the road and "enjoy" the excitement of the wilderness, we must know that we will be attacked and the protection provided by the highway of holiness won't be anywhere to be found -- by our own choice.

Our calling is to walk on the highway of holiness that will lead us home! Our choice is whether we decide to jump on our not and allow the journey of holiness to be our journey.

 

Prayer


Lord, thank you for the provision of holiness for our lives. Amen.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Relying on Horses?





Scripture

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help And rely on horses, And trust in chariots because they are many And in horsemen because they are very strong, But they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the LORD!
(Isaiah 31:1 NASB)

 

Observation


The military strength of the day was found in horses and chariots. How was any country expected to succeed in battle if they did not have horses and chariots? Of course it was also necessary to have men who could handle the horses and the chariots and so a leader wanted numerous horsemen as well. The problem was that the Israelites had gone to other nations to get these instruments of war. God had promised that he would take care of them and yet, they did not have enough faith to believe and trust in him. Instead they made alliances with other lands so that they would be strong in human eyes. Not only did they make alliances with other countries, they specifically went to Egypt to get horses and chariots. Egypt -- the land from which they had escaped!!! They were returning to those who had enslaved them and asking them for help instead of looking to God.

 

Application


This is a sad indictment on the Israelites, but also on us today. Are we relying on horses -- even in a metaphorical sense? In other words, are we constantly looking for earthly solutions to the problems which we may be facing. God has said, "Come to me!" Sadly, we respond like Naaman who thought that was too simple to do what God had told him -- to go and dip in the Jordan River. He wanted to be told something bigger, more grand, but this just seemed far too simple. His servant had to encourage him -- "why don't you just try it!" He did -- and he was completely healed. But this is the way that God works. He works in a way in which he will get all of the glory for what is accomplished. Yes, God could use a small dirty river to heal a man. Yes, God can help a nation go to war without the horses and chariots from Egypt. Yes, God can help us in life without all the trappings which we think we may need.

This journey with God is one in which we experience his help and his presence on a daily level, each and every single step of the way. There are times when we will be tempted to run to Egypt for help. We will think that we need to figure out earthly/human ways in which to solve our problems. God has better plans!!! We don't need a horse -- we need him. It's time for us to stop looking back to Egypt. It's time for us to stop looking to the things of this world for solutions and to seek the face of God. Whenever we go after the things of this world, we take our eyes off of him. if we are to be a reflection of him to our world -- how can we reflect him if we are not facing him? This is the trick of the enemy -- to distract us and to keep us from our destiny with God. No horse will help us win -- only God. Don't rely on anything else.

 

Prayer


Lord, today I want to rely on you -- and you alone. Thank you for your faithfulness and your leading in all aspects of life. May you receive the glory for all that you do. Amen.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Imitating the Faith





Scripture

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.
(Hebrews 13:7 NASB)

 

Observation


There were those who had paid a great price to share the faith of Jesus Christ with these believers. Many had given up everything that they had to spread the gospel around the world and as a result many had come to faith in Christ. There was to be appreciation for those who had gone before, and not just appreciation, but those who came after them were to learn from them and to live lives in which their faith was imitated. Those who had gone before provided a pattern for those who lived today.

 

Application


I'm afraid that we live in a day when we don't place a lot of value on those who have gone before. We often act as if it doesn't matter that there are those who have paid the price for what we have. In recent conversations with a group of friends they noted that young African-Americans really have no interest in learning about the Civil-Rights movement, and young women have no interest in hearing about suffrage. In their minds these battles were fought but have little to do with them. They have had to fight very few battles and cannot imagine what it cost for them to have their freedom. At the same time there are radical changes within the life of the church. Many in our world today have no appreciation of what it has cost others to have religious freedom. Even within denominations, the younger generations are not interested in the sacrifices which were made over personal beliefs and faith. Sadly, we may be losing some of what the writer to the Hebrews is encouraging. There are heroes of the faith who have gone on before us and there is value in looking at them and studying them so that we can imitate them. If we refuse to look at those who have gone before us, we will simply make the same mistakes that humanity has made over and over again.

Within my own church tradition there are those who have paid a price for me to enjoy living out my faith. I think of those in earlier generations who would mortgage their homes to build a church building in a neighborhood so that children could learn about God. Would people do that today? I think of my grandfather who literally built churches with his own two hands; and his wife, my grandmother, who lived with almost nothing so that they could minister and lead others to Christ. The church which I am privileged to serve has been built on the blood and sweat of people like my grandparents who gave up nearly everything they had so that those around them and future generations could have a personal relationship with Christ. Am I willing to walk away from that because I want to find something that I like better, or that better fits my personal tastes? Can I truly say that I don't want to be a part of something that cost those who went before me so much, or am I willing to appreciate what was done for me, and also pay the price for the future? Am I willing to imitate the faith? For me, personally, the bar has been set high! I have a heritage of parents and grandparents who were wholehearted servants of Jesus Christ and who invested in me. I want to imitate them! I consider the result of their conduct -- and the result is good. Why would I not want that in my own life?

 

Prayer


Lord, thank you for the heritage which I have been privileged to enjoy. Please, help me to continue that line of faithfulness in service to you, and help me to imitate those who have gone before me. Amen.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

What are We Seeking?





Scripture

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
(Hebrews 11:1 NASB)
For by it the men of old gained approval.
(Hebrews 11:2 NASB)
By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.
(Hebrews 11:3 NASB)
All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
(Hebrews 11:13 NASB)
For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.
(Hebrews 11:14 NASB)
And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.
(Hebrews 11:15 NASB)
But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.
(Hebrews 11:16 NASB)
They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated
(Hebrews 11:37 NASB)
(men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.
(Hebrews 11:38 NASB)

 

Observation


Those who lived by faith knew that they were aliens here on this earth. That is, their connection was not to what they could see and smell and hold in their hands here and now, but their connection was to the things which are eternal. The result included three things. 1) Their faith was in God, the creator who created all things. 2) Their desire was not for this earth, but to be with God. 3) They were not necessarily treated well by others who were not of faith.

 

Application


These three results are rather contrary to things that we hear preached from time to time, and yet, they are very real for us who are followers of Christ. Think for a moment about the fact that faith is in the Creator who creates with things that we cannot see. Our faith is in the One who can do the creating out of nothing, or in any way shape or manner which he desires. How much time and energy do followers of Christ put into trying to figure out how God created, or within which time-frame God created. Within the great Faith Chapter here we are reminded that faith is about having trust in the One who did the creating, and having faith that he can do that creating in any way that he desires. It is not about the how or with what -- but it's all about the Creator himself. What are we seeking? Are we seeking to know the One who has the ability to create from nothing, or are we seeking the "facts" of how the great Creator did his works. God is constantly calling us into a relationship with him, and we seem to constantly be finding ways to be distracted from the relationship. Again, we must as ourselves, "What are we seeking?"

Those who are mentioned in this great chapter on faith realized that what they had obtained here on this earth was simply temporary. Their focus in all that they did was not on the earthly, but on the eternal. Again this speaks to relationship. When we are in a personal relationship with a holy and infinite God, then our perspective on things definitely changes. The more time we spend with God the more we are united with him and our desires change. Why would there be a desire for things that will pass away when we are invited into the eternal? Again we have to ask ourselves, "What are we seeking?" Why would my desire be to amass "things" while here on this earth only to lose them all because they are simply temporary. Would I not want to be involved in kingdom business where the results are relational and can have a trickle down effect which can go on throughout eternity?

Finally, as we flip through the television channels we are constantly confronted by those who are preaching a type of prosperity gospel. If God has promised all this nice stuff, then tell me about these who are listed in this great chapter on faith. Here, near the end of the chapter we read of those who are stoned, cut in two, they are destitute, afflicted, etc. Honestly, none of that sounds too exciting to me -- but there it is! For many of those who have gone before us they have paid a price for their faith. Their faith did not result in everything going well for them while they lived here on this earth, but again the question comes up, "What are we seeking?" Are we hoping that being a Christian means that I suddenly have a wonderful life? Or, do we understand the eternal perspective? We truly are aliens here on this earth and we are simply passing through when we are seeking a relationship with God, our creator.

"Faith is the conviction of things not seen" -- this is what we are to be seeking!

 

Prayer


Lord, there are some tough concepts in this chapter today but I ask for your help and leading every day of life that you would help me to seek you in all things! Amen.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Copies of the Things in Heaven





Scripture

Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
(Hebrews 9:23 NASB)
For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;
(Hebrews 9:24 NASB)

 

Observation


The writer of Hebrews continues to make this comparison of the old covenant vs. the new. The old covenant is represented by the Temple -- which is referred to as a copy "of the things in the heavens." The outer and inner chambers of the Temple represented how humanity was able to enter into an intimate relationship with God. It was difficult because only the High Priest could enter into the very intimate chamber, the Holy of Holies once a year, and a sacrifice had to be made. However, when Christ came and made his own personal sacrifice he didn't pass into the human copy of things in the heavens, but instead, he entered the real Holy of Holies -- the intimate inner presence of the Father himself. This is where Jesus resides today and this is why he can and does constantly intercede for us. No longer is the copy of the things in heaven necessary -- instead Jesus is the real deal!

 

Application


We tend to love replicas of famous things. Small statues and momentos of items are sold around the world. We can purchase a miniature Leaning tower of Pisa or the Gateway Arch -- taking them home as a memory of a pleasant journey. However, those small replicas are simply that -- they are replicas of something much greater. In the same way the Temple was a replica -- a much smaller one -- of something incredible that existed within the kingdom of God. The place of intimacy, the Holy of Holies only provided a small glimpse of what God intended for all of humanity. On the grand scale, the Holy of Holies is a place where the Father and the Son in their holiness fill the space and are constantly interceding and reaching out to their lost children.

Sadly, too often we are satisfied with the replicas of things in the heavenlies when it comes to our spiritual lives. It is just "enough" to go to church on a Sunday and enjoy the presence of the Lord, but to genuinely get to that place of intimacy with him on a daily basis can make us uncomfortable. We are comfortable with the copies of the things that are in heaven when Christ's sacrifice has made it possible for us to enjoy the real thing! We don't have to put up with copies, but instead we can come to the place of deeper intimacy with Christ and we can enjoy the real deal in the here and now. Christ, through his sacrifice has made this possible and is inviting us into this relationship with him. What is required of us is vulnerability and a willingness to be in a deeper relationship with him. When that happens we become partakers of the divine nature and in doing so we are able to share in what he is already experiencing in the true Holy of Holies.

 

Prayer


Lord, thank you for what you have done for us and the sacrifice which you have made. Please, help me this day to walk in the ways which you have prepared and continue to draw me toward you. Amen.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The old is disappearing





Scripture

When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.
(Hebrews 8:13 NASB)

 

Observation


We continue to read about Christ who is now our new High Priest. The manner in which he does his work is completely different from anything that anyone had previously experienced. He sits at the right hand of the Father and he is constantly interceding for us who are a part of the new covenant. The law has now been written on our minds and in our hearts because we have been united with Christ. But there were those who continued to practice the old law and the more they practiced the old ways, the more they became obsolete and began to disappear. God's presence was no longer in the house.

 

Application


Most Christians would vehemently deny that they would be attracted to or living within the old covenant, and yet -- here is where we find many of us. The church is filled with those who are comfortable with the letter of the law, with fulfilling a list of duties. The problem is that when we become obsessed with the letter of the law, we do not allow Christ in to fill our hearts and our minds. Why is that? Because sometimes when we invite him in, things are no longer as black and white as we would like for them to be. When the love of Christ fills us we may look at someone who is living in sin and discover that our heart is completely broken for them. Why? Because Jesus' heart breaks for them, and then we discover that the heart of Jesus compels us to reach out to them in the middle of their mess and then we find ourselves in the middle of their mess. Suddenly we're not this clean, white, and pure person hanging out in the church, but maybe we're in the middle of a bad neighborhood, hanging out with people doing things that we would not do -- but the heart of Jesus compels us to be there with them. This is the new -- this is the heart of Jesus which tells us to look beyond the lists and the laws and follow his passion and love to a hurting and needy world.
When we hang onto the old ways, many of which may have been structured after the law, then we don't allow the freedom of the Spirit to move in and through us. If we try and hang onto structure, it will disappear, and if the Spirit has not been invited in -- gradually there will be nothing left. It's as if we are trying to hold onto a mirage and eventually there will be nothing.

The only hope that we have is to be in Christ and to continually move forward with him. The old is disappearing but behold -- he makes all things new! That's the best place to be -- with him, as he is continuously creative in all that he does.

 

Prayer


Lord, thank you for the joy of knowing you. Please, help me not to hold onto the things of the past which might keep me from a great future with you. I want to go where you are -- and where you are leading. Amen.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Why Melchizedek?

Scripture

11 If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? 12 For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. 13 He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar.

17 For it is declared:

“You are a priest forever,
    in the order of Melchizedek.”[a]
18 The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.

26 Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.

Observation

The order of Melchizedek represented something completely new and different that the world had not yet experienced.  The presence of Melchizedek in the Old Testament becomes a premonition of the one who is to come later.  He represents God and the Son of Man in a way that no other priest could.  He doesn't belong to the Levites, he stands outside the system, and yet, Abraham brought his sacrifice to him.  For the Jews this was significant for no one on this earth was greater than Father Abraham.  Jesus would come and change the whole system.

We are told that the system, or the law, could not bring about perfection.  The Levites were humans and as they made their daily sacrifices for the sins of others, they had to make sacrifice for themselves as well.  When Jesus died on the cross, that was changed.  Now, Jesus became a priest for us in a new order.  There was no longer any need for the priest himself to offer sacrifices for his own sin, but he could fully focus his time and attention on intercession.  He is holy and blameless, set apart and pure!  This new priest brings with him the hope of perfection, that is the hope that humanity can be restored into the image of God, for that is God's goal for all of humanity.

Application

Too often we feel comfortable living under the old system.  I'm not sure why that is because it really is so much more difficult than what Christ has provided.  However, it boils down to relationship vs. rules.  The goal of humanity is a restored relationship with the Creator.  Somehow it seems that we struggle with relationships these days.  Why is that?  Maybe because there is so much give and take involved in relationships.  Our self-centered human nature doesn't like to give (but sure enjoys taking).  The divorce rate ought to show us how much we struggle with relationships.  Parent child relationships are becoming more and more complex as children have parents, and step-parents, and parents' boyfriends and girlfriends to contend with.  It's no wonder that we love cuddling up with our latest electronic device and turn on the social media where we can have relationships at a safe distance where we don't have to put ourselves our there emotionally.  The list of rules is looking safer and safer all the time!  And yet, if we simply live within the rules we will completely miss out on the relationship, and this is the one relationship that's safe.  God will never hurt us!  He will restore us and help us to become everything he ever desired for us.  There is no mores striving for perfection, for Christ draws us into perfection, which is Christ in us.

We have a High Priest forever in the order of Melchizedek who wants to help us in every aspect of our lives.  Maybe we ought to examine whether we are allowing him to be our Priest, or whether we maybe going to the Levites....in hopes that we may be doing the right thing.  It's time to be set free frothy old system and make ourselves vulnerable to a personal relationship with the perfect High Priest.

Prayer

Lord, may I have no fear of you and the intimacy of a relationship with you.  Amen.

Monday, July 9, 2012

God's Unchanging Purpose





Scripture

In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath,
(Hebrews 6:17 NASB)
so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.
(Hebrews 6:18 NASB)
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil,
(Hebrews 6:19 NASB)
where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
(Hebrews 6:20 NASB)

 

Observation

In a world in which there seem to be many variables on a daily basis there is one who does not change, and that is God. God has promised faithful humanity that there is a purpose -- and that his purpose for us is unchangeable and therefore we press on in our relationship with him. The hope, he says, is within the veil -- and here comes the big clue. What is within the veil? The Holy of Holies! Jesus, through his incarnation, has become human and has provided the pathway for all of us to be transformed like him so that we too can follow him into the Holy of Holies. The purpose of God is for us to be able to enter into that very holy and sacred space and fellowship with him. The methodology and other external variables in life may change, but God's desire for us to share with him in an intimate relationship beyond the veil will not change.

 

Application


Of course we must become concerned about the factors which may keep us from this unchangeable truth of God. Along the way the Israelites became distracted and they did not keep up their end of bargain. They were unfaithful by worshiping other gods. I am concerned about what it is that distracts me from this journey. Am I faithful to God on a daily basis or do I allow the things of this world to crowd in around me? What do I spend my time, my energy and my finances on regularly? What would these things tell about my fidelity to God? God has promised on his very nature that he will be faithful! The purpose is laid out before us -- we are to enter into the Holy of Holies and abide there with him. All that we do in life is to be done out of the relationship which exists in the Holy of Holies. We may feel compelled to do good things and to help others, but if those are done outside of the Holy of Holies, then even these good things can become a distraction to the real purpose and intent of life. Only when we experience intimacy with Christ in the Holy of Holies can we go out and interact with our world in the way that Christ would truly desire. The goal must always come first.

The world around us is changing at lightening speed -- but God's purpose for us will never change. That's a comforting thought we can hang onto in the midst of chaos which may reign around us.

 

Prayer


Lord, please help me to keep from being distracted by the world around me -- and to keep my focus on you. Amen.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Why Pray?





Scripture

He has regarded the prayer of the destitute And has not despised their prayer.
(Psalms 102:17 NASB)
This will be written for the generation to come, That a people yet to be created may praise the LORD.
(Psalms 102:18 NASB)

 

Observation


The Psalmist was well schooled in prayer. He had a deeply intimate relationship with God and knew that he was highly dependent on that relationship. God had answered his prayers in his times of deepest need. He would cry out when he was destitute and God responded. Not only did God respond to his prayers for the here and now, but also for the future generations, for the ones that the Psalmist himself would not see. However, the Psalmist already had in his heart a desire for those who would come after him to know the Lord just as intimately as he did and so he prayed for his children and their children and their children that they might all praise the Lord!

 

Application


We may be able to identify many reasons to pray -- but they all spring out of the intimacy found in prayer. He hears the prayers of the destitute! Maybe this is a foreshadowing of the Sermon on the Mount where we are told "Blessed are the poor in Spirit" -- because once I realize that all that I have is nothing compared to him -- then I'm destitute -- and I realize that I am poor in Spirit and my prayerlife is consumed with a desire to be near to him so that I may be filled with him.

The number one reason to pray is to know Christ! We will never get to know him the way that he desires if we don't make it a priority to spend time with him, to get to know him and allow him to mold us and to shape us into a reflection of his image! Without knowing Christ everything else really becomes worthless. All of our actions and responses must come from a deep passionate relationship with Jesus Christ -- where we get to know him. Only when we get to know the heart of Christ will our hearts break for the things that break his heart -- and then we will know how to pray for others. We will awaken in the middle of the night and have such an overwhelming burden for someone that all we can do is join with Christ in prayer for that person at that very moment. We will be sitting in a church service when all of a sudden we will know that a particular person is struggling and we will join in prayer with Christ for that individual as we recognize the spiritual battle sensed through our intimacy with Christ. And it is this intimacy with Christ which draws us deeper in our walk with him -- it becomes so sweet and beautiful you feel that you can almost touch him and you desire this kind of relationship for all of those whom you love. This is when we begin to cry out in prayer for our loved ones -- desiring them to know the deep, deep love of Jesus. You pray for your children and your nieces and nephews...and you pray for those sons-in-law that you don't even know yet -- and you pray for those grandchildren who aren't even born yet -- and you pray for those great grandchildren whom you may never see -- and yet you pray! We pray because we are so desperately in love with Jesus Christ that we want a people "yet to be created" to praise the Lord!

Why Pray? Because without prayer there will be no spiritual life...there will be no life.

 

Prayer


Lord, thank you for your beautiful and sweet presence. Amen.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Whose earnings?





Scripture

Do not rejoice, O Israel, with exultation like the nations! For you have played the harlot, forsaking your God. You have loved harlots’ earnings on every threshing floor.
(Hosea 9:1 NASB)

 

Observation


In 1 Timothy we are reminded that the "love of money is the root of all evil." Sadly when it comes to money, or to the material, it becomes easy for us to be drawn away from our "first love." God had promised the Israelites everything and yet they were willing to throw it all away for the lust of earnings. They were willing to sacrifice to foreign idols in the hopes of getting something in return. Most every home had a threshing floor, the place in which they would bring in the crops and prepare them for use. The people remained unfaithful to their faithful God and instead of worshiping him where he required, or fulfilling the sacrifices as he desired -- they began to worship the foreign gods right in their own homes -- on their own threshing floors. God required that they bring a tithe to him -- and the people complained about this, while at the same time they would offer up the first fruits of their labors to the foreign gods on their threshing floors. Somehow they could not make the connection and they loved the "harlots'" earnings.

 

Application


I'm wondering if we are able to make the connection today? What might we be sacrificing on the threshing floor of our daily lives instead of worshiping the true God? Let me touch on a ouchy subject -- but what about our recreation and our big kid toys? Do we give time and attention to them and then complain about what God might want from us -- because we really don't have enough left for him? In this way we are loving the "harlots'" earnings -- the things the world has to offer and we keep giving them more and more in the ordinary places of life, all the while ignoring the Temple and the worship of God. It all happens so easily and innocently but one day we wake up and we are like the Israelites. We have traveled far away from God and we are surrounded by the things that we have accumulated but in the midst of those things, we can no longer find God. He is long gone while we have "made love" with the things of this world.

Our relationship with God is designed to be an intimate relationship of fidelity; it takes sacrifice and self-discipline just as any kind of relationship that is of any value does! When we remain faithful in an intimate relationship with our Creator, we get to feast on the earnings which come from him. Those earnings and good for us -- they are pure and will not create any type of corruption. They may seem innocent to the world, but they are so much better for us, but if we succomb to the earnings of the world, the end result will result in separation from our beloved. To whose earnings are we being drawn?

 

Prayer


Lord, please place your hedge of protection around us and our relationship with you. Amen.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Sanctified





Scripture

For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren,
(Hebrews 2:11 NASB)

 

Observation


The word sanctification seems to create a sense of fear in many because it is a word that brings to mind the concept of the "holy." Obviously we understand and accept that God is holy, but over and over again we read in the Bible that it is God's desire that we take on his nature, which means that is desire is for us also to be holy. In this short statement we see this brought to light again; the very One who does the sanctifying (the One who is already by nature holy) -- sanctifies those who are called his brethren.

 

Application


Those who are children of God take on the nature and character of the Father. If the Father's entire nature is holy, then the children, through the Father's nature also become holy. Sanctification is nothing to be feared, nor is it something which we cannot attain. First of all, no one can attain "sanctification." That would be just as ridiculous as thinking that I can attain having red hair! (Truly red hair, not red hair from a beauty parlor!) The gift of hair color comes from nature -- it is what is written within my DNA code and the result is seen within me. We cannot do anything on our own to be holy people -- or to attain sanctification. It is not the result of working hard or of trying to look good! Instead, when we submit ourselves wholly to Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to fill every crevasse of our being, then we are sanctified. This is God's desire for every child of God -- to be sanctified, to be made holy by the very nature of God.

Somehow we have made sanctification something that it is not and the result is that we have written it off as unattainable. In the meantime, I'm afraid, we have become satisfied with a mediocre faith which is not transformational. We believe that we are being humble when we say that there is no way that we can be holy or sanctified while here on this earth. That's not humility, but it is a lack of faith and/or trust in the very nature of God. The reality is that we have few people seeking this deeper transformational walk with Jesus Christ because we enjoy running our own lives. We are afraid of what it might mean to be totally sold out to Jesus Christ. This very chapter ends by discussing the suffering of Christ. The Sanctifier -- went on to suffer. Maybe that means the sanctified will as well! No, it probably means that yes, the sanctified will as well -- but are we willing to do that for Jesus? He already gave up heaven and his life for us -- are we not willing to give up the little things for him? Are we not willing to be God's children in radical obedience to him here on this earth? It is worth it -- for one day the ones who have been made holy will have the joy of sitting in the presence of the One who is holy! Until then, we are encouraged to allow him to so fill us with his nature, that he sanctifies us through and through. When that happens, his heart will be our heart and we will desire nothing but intimacy with him.

 

Prayer


Lord, draw me close to you and to your holiness. Amen.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Infidelity




Scripture


When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD.”
(Hosea 1:2 NASB)

 

Observation


How many times did God try to call his bride -- Israel -- back to him? Over and over there were pleas for Israel to be faithful to God. Now, God asks Hosea to marry a prostitute so that his relationship with his wife can be a living example of the infidelity of God's people. And God's heart, as well as that of Hosea, is broken!

 

Application


We have seen the devastating effects of infidelity on relationships. The pain and the damage which ensues is much worse than most people ever imagine. It all begins so simply -- a simply flirtation -- or simply hanging out or spending time with someone other than the one to whom you have committed your life. The Israelites did not plan to go after foreign gods. However, Solomon flirted with other women -- women who had their own gods. It began with marriages which he justified as helping to strengthen the kingdom by setting up political alliances. He didn't plan to have the gods of those women become a permanent fixture in Israel, and yet, eventually they were. Now, the Israelites were prostituting themselves by worshiping the gods of the other nations.

The Bible begins with a marriage. Adam and Eve's relationship, before the fall, was a representation of God's desire of fidelity between humans and with God. Sadly, self-centeredness changed everything and all the relationships became distorted. Humanity's relationship with God was marred by infidelity -- and the human to human relationship of Adam and Eve was distorted. However, all of this does not need to be an excuse for us -- that this is the way things must be. Half-way through the Bible we are given the picture of an incredibly intimate relationship in the "Song of Solomon." Sometimes the descriptions here make us uncomfortable and yet, this picture of intimacy is a foreshadowing of the restored relationship of humanity to God through Christ. When Christ would come the intimate Bride-Bridegroom relationship between God and man could be restored. This was the hope of "fidelity" which would come through Christ, resulting in the final chapter of the Bible where we find the Spirit and the bride inviting all to come.

God's intention for humanity has always been fidelity -- fidelity to him and to one another. This is only possible when we are filled with the Holy Spirit and live in an intimate relationship with Christ, our bridegroom, on a daily basis.

 

Prayer


Lord, thank you for your incredible love which draws me near to you. Please, help me stay close! Amen.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Interceding on behalf of others

Scripture Philemon 1 4 When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God 7 I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you,  8 For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, 21 Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. Observation Paul had gotten to know a runaway slave, Onesimus, while in prison.  This slave had come to know Paul who had led him to faith in Jesus Christ.  He was a changed man and had become very precious to Paul.  However, Paul knew that the right thing to do was to send Onesimus home, and this was rather disconcerting.  How would Onesimus' master respond?  Paul saw it as his duty to intercede for Onesimus.  Paul's responsibility, or duty did not end with brining this one to Christ, but included a support system that would allow Onesimus to return to life as a follower of Christ. Application We who are followers of Christ have a responsibility to lead people to Christ, but then to go beyond this and become an intercessor, actually leading to a life where they can live out their faith.  Too often we fall short in this entire responsibility.  First, I'm not even sure that many in the church feel a burden for the lost.  We need to just open our eyes and see the harvest field around us.  There are spiritually hungry individuals everywhere we look.  Paul found them in prison where he could have sat around griping but instead saw it as an opportunity to tell others about Christ.  But when God gives us these opportunities we must not stop there.  If this person has gone down a destructive path, we must be intercessors who will help to set them on a path where they can now live out their faith.  It means stepping into the life of the sinner and helping them figure out how to move on.  Maybe it's interceding with a boss to get them out of a bad job...or interceding with someone who should hire them...pleading for a chance.  Maybe it's helping this person move to a new neighborhood, getting them out of the place where the temptations run rampant on a daily basis. Ultimately our responsibility to one another goes to the heart of transformation.  It will cost us something to become involved with those who need Christ.  This cost includes putting ourselves out there and interceding on their behalf, when they themselves are powerless.  Paul's example here is beautiful, and we must believe it was successful.  A runaway slave becomes a useful member in the body of Christ.  That is the redemptive power of God available to each and everyone of us.   Prayer Lord, may each one of us see those around us who need you, and become intercessors for them.  Amen.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Responding to Others





Scripture

keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.
(Jude 1:21 NASB)
And have mercy on some, who are doubting;
(Jude 1:22 NASB)
save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.
(Jude 1:23 NASB)

 

Observation


Primarily all are to remain in the love of God. That small word, "in" becomes crucial in our understanding of the remainder of the text. This does not mean that we are around or near, but that we remain in such a centrally focused relationship with God that his love is "in" us. Therefore, everything we do in life is motivated by his love because it is "in" us. The result of having his love "in" us is that our relationship and response to others is modified by that love. There are those around us who are doubting their faith. What are we to do? We are to have mercy on them. That is, compassion and patience as they work through their doubts. There are others who are placing themselves in danger and we are to go after them -- snatching them from the fire. Finally there are those who are not just on the brink of danger, but have plunged in and allowed their entire being to be polluted by their actions. Our responses to them? We are to have mercy -- compassion, patience, love for them -- but added to it fear. The question here is how to apply the word "fear" in this sentence. There are two options. One is that I have a fear of the contaminating effects of sin which have so thoroughly polluted this individual that even their garments are covered in filth. This means that I must have love and compassion, but also set up healthy boundaries for myself so that I don't become overcome by their sin. Another interpretation is that we are to speak to them with the desire to "scare" them or to help them to become fearful of their own state or condition. This means we have to be clear in discussing the effects of sin in the life of an individual.

 

Application


No matter which strategy we are to take, we must understand that we are to have the love of God "in" us and it is this love which will take us out to a needy world which is desperately in need of a response. I have concerns about why the church does not seem to be growing in the US. It is rare when I encounter individuals who have a passion for the lost world around them. Yet, isn't this what the scripture is talking about? When we have the love of God "in" us we become passionate about the lost around us. Then, we are encouraged to be wise in our response for not everyone is in the same condition. However, the love of God will compel us to go after the lost. For some we will have mercy and pray and allow them to work through their doubts. For others, there will be times when we literally have to go after them and physically snatch them from the brink of destruction. If we love them -- we will go after them! The good shepherd left the 99 to go after the 1 lost sheep! He is our example. Our hearts should be broken over the very things that break God's heart -- and our response will come from this. Finally there will be those who have steeped themselves in the evils of this world and we must have a healthy fear of the contamination which can come from that evil. We pray, we reach out, and yet we must place barriers for our own spiritual health. Yet, in the midst of it all, we cannot avoid those who have jumped into the deep end of sin. We must respond to them as well.

My prayer is that the passion for the lost will so burn in our hearts that there will be nothing that we can do but respond -- and seek after those who have been lost. May the passion of Christ consume us so that we will not allow those who are lost to go over the brink, but that we will be passionate to snatch them from the edge and to help them find the answer -- in Christ. This is our response to others.

 

Prayer


Lord, please help me to burn with your passion for the lost. Amen.