Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Hairy Crowns



Scripture:


Psa. 68:21      ¶ But God will shatter the heads of his enemies,
        the hairy crown of those who walk in their guilty ways.

Observation:

The Psalmist David was praising God for victory over numerous enemies.  Some of those enemies were referred to as ones with hairy crowns.  This meant that the very scalp of their head was hairy.  Who were these enemies?  It could have been David's son Absalom who was obsessed with his own hair and eventually died as a result of having so much long hair that it got caught up in a tree. Or, it could have referred to some of the more barbaric enemies in the region.  In an effort to make themselves look scary to the people they would grow their hair out long, not caring for it until it was simply a wild and unruly mess on the top of their heads.  It didn't matter -- either those who were prideful of their hair, or those who chose to use their hair as a crazy costume -- God was going to be victorious, and he used the very center of their pride to bring them down.

Application:

Human pride and arrogance are enemies to God.  The hairy crowns were symbolic of those who had chosen to follow their own vices, and not submit to God.  We run into these types of people on a regular basis.  There are those who are obsessed with looking perfect, and then there are those who take pride in being as wild as possible.  In many ways they are both extremes.

David's son, Absalom was known for having incredibly beautiful hair.  It was heavy, thick, long and wavy.  Because his hair was so beautiful and he got so many comments about its beauty he became almost obsessed with caring for his hair.  It needed to be washed and dried regularly, and brushed out just so!  It was the very source of his pride that created his downfall.  His hair was caught up in the branches of a tree as he was riding by and he was caught, hanging in the tree. 

There are enemies of God today who are hung up on their personal perfection.  Their goal is to look just right; act just right; and do everything just perfect.  Their lives become stunted by their desire for perfection.  If they can't do something perfectly, then why do it at all?  This is a type of pride, a pride in which God is not allowed to do his work in and through you.  Instead, you take all control and try to tell God how he can work.  Sadly, it will be one of those "perfect" qualities that may bring you down.

Of course these days we also confront those on the other extreme.  There is a sense of utter lawlessness that continues to rise in popularity;  an idea that we deserve everything and therefore we must be accountable for nothing.  It is this idea of looking wild and crazy and acting in barbaric ways.  It's a self-centeredness that screams "It's all about me!"  The world is supposed to stop and take notice of the fact that these people can live without rules or boundaries and simply do anything that they feel like doing.  We are not supposed to be intolerant of them because they are allowed to "simply be themselves."  But we all know that this kind of behavior is ultimately destructive, both to themselves and to those with whom they come in contact. 

Could it be that we all have a little bit of a hairy crown?  Maybe there is some source of pride which gets in the way of our personal relationship with God.  The hairy crown was symbolic of the enemies of God.  We cannot have these types of barriers for they will lead us into guilty ways.  Guilt will keep us from the relationship we are created to have with him.  Let's look at whether we have allowed hairy crowns to develop in our lives and if so, let's cut them off and never allow them to be the cause of our personal destruction. 

Prayer:

Search me O God, and know my heart!  Amen.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Flip Flop Faith



Scripture:


Matt. 16:21 ¶ From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
Matt. 16:22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.”

Observation:

Peter had just confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, the very son of God.  This was a very powerful statement and up until this time Jesus had been praying that the disciples would begin to fully understand who he was and his mission.  Once this powerful confession was given, Jesus felt that he could reveal the next stage of his work with the disciples.  First, they had to know that he was the Messiah, and now they had to know what was coming.  There would be difficult days ahead. 

They would have to go to Jerusalem where he would undergo great suffering.  A contingent of individuals were already in Jerusalem who would make his life extremely difficult.  The elders, men who were the rich supporters of the religious work in town.  They would be disgusted by Jesus and his message and they would help supply necessary funds to get rid of him!  Next would be the chief priests.  These men were accustomed to having power as a result of their position.  Jesus and his new kingdom language threatened the positions that they had carved out for themselves.  They would never give up their power for a man such as Jesus.  Better to be rid of him than to have him create chaos with their system.  And finally the scribes would make him suffer.  These were the conceited scholars who thought that they could discern better than anyone else what the scriptures had to say.  How dare an "unschooled" man like Jesus come and talk to them as if he knew more than they did!  And the result would be that these men would connive together to have Jesus put to death.

But Jesus also knew that he would be victorious over death and the grave.  He told the disciples that even if all these things were done to him -- he would raise again on the third day.

Peter had just declared that Jesus was the Messiah.  He was the son of God!  Jesus trusted him enough to reveal to him the difficulties of what lie ahead, and then Peter declares, "God forbid it, Lord!  This must never happen to you."  What happened to his faith?  How could he have been so sure about who Jesus was, but then unwilling to believe the prophetic words and declare Jesus' statement as untrue!

Application:

No -- this devotional has nothing to do with first-century footwear!  Instead it has to do with where we stand in our faith.

Peter often comes across as a pretty emotional guy.  There is emotion in his statements about Jesus being the Messiah and about the fact that this wasn't going to happen to him!  But maybe it was because of his emotions that he would flip flop around in his faith.  He may have been declaring the truth when he said Jesus was the Messiah, but did he really believe it?  By the time Jesus was telling him about the suffering he would experience, his emotions again took over and he said No!  But if Peter truly believed that Jesus was the Messiah, wouldn't he have simply accepted what Jesus said and tried to understand God's purposes in all of this?

Do our emotions sometimes result in flip-flopping faith?  In the heat and passion of the moment during worship or prayer we may be willing to submit and confess our faith to God.  What happens next is that we head out into life and are confronted with things that seem so unfair and we shout out "no!"  It's easy to condemn Peter for his flip-flop faith and yet we may need to realize that we tend to do the same thing. 

Unfortunately our emotions do tend to get the better of us and at times they work to derail our faith.  These emotions can be good or bad.  In Peter we see a variety of emotions.  Sometimes he's excited, then he's angry, or maybe he's even scared.  However, after his experience at Pentecost we seem to see a different Peter.  Is it possible that when we allow our lives to come under the submission of the power of the Holy Spirit, God can even out our emotional responses?  He doesn't remove our personalities or the unique people he has created us to be, but by being empowered by the Spirit we can live a life of faith that does not need to flip flop on a regular basis.

I'm afraid we see too much flip-flopping religion these days.  Or, maybe I'm even more afraid that the world sees this type of religion and wonders what in the world is wrong with those Christians!  Maybe it's because we continue to allow our emotions to rule the day and refuse to allow ourselves to come under submission to the leadership of the Holy Spirit in all things.  Peter did finally come to this place and Jesus was able to build his church upon him -- upon the Rock.  What might he be able to do with us today if we would come to a place of complete and total submission to him?

Prayer:

Lord, may the Spirit lead my life every single day.   Amen.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Are your traditions standing in the way of Jesus?



Scripture:

Matt. 15:1  ¶ Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said,
Matt. 15:2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands before they eat.”
Matt. 15:3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?

Observation:

The disciples had broken a traditional rule.  They had eaten before washing their hands.  The Pharisees and the scribes were quick to point this out to Jesus.  Why did they not follow the traditions of the elders?  Jesus turned the question around and asked them why they were willing to break commandments for the sake of their tradition! 

Application:

Somehow the Pharisees and the scribes had allowed themselves to prioritize their traditions over the very commandments of God.  These rules about being ceremonially unclean really did not matter to Jesus.  Look at what Jesus did with the water for ceremonial cleansing at the wedding in Cana in Galilee.  He took that water and repurposed it -- for God's glory. 

Traditions are never to be the end all, and yet they can so quickly become just that.  We were so excited about the very first baptism in our church in Russia.  We had only been there a few months and the Lord had allowed us to meet a wonderful woman who had given her life to Jesus Christ.  We didn't have a beautiful church -- we had a rented hall at a horse stable!  The place was not very clean and nor did it smell very nice.  How were we going to have a baptism service? 

We looked around our little apartment and found a white throw blanket that we could lay on the floor so that the one being baptized could have something clean to kneel on and we took a crystal bowl in which we could put water to sprinkle on her for the actual baptism.  This was our best solution to the problem of not having anything else that we could use!  That Sunday we had a beautiful service and a wonderful baptismal time as we celebrated this sacrament.

Every time we had a baptismal we continued to bring the blanket and the crystal bowl with us, because this seemed to work well -- easy to carry to the rented facility where we were holding services.  However, after about a year and a half, at another baptismal service I began to overhear some of the church folks commenting.  "Ah, I believe the blanket is white because it represents the cleansing from sin."  "You must have a blanket on the floor for baptisms in the Church of the Nazarene."  "You must have a crystal bowl for the water to be holy."  My husband and I thought -- Oh no!  What have we done?  We had simply grabbed the blanket and the crystal bowl because they were convenient.  Now, the people believed that this was the tradition that HAD to be followed in order for there to be a baptism.  We worked hard to break them of that habit because the tradition mustn't overshadow the sacrament.

In a practical sense there are traditions that we sometimes allow to get in our way of our relationship with Jesus Christ.  How many young people that we know these days feel uncomfortable coming to church because when they arrive they experience particular traditions that might actually become barriers to their ability to worship God?  We may not think that they are traditions, but many of the things that we hold dear and believe are important are simply traditions -- and not commands of God. 

Early in our days of ministry we were working in an inner city of a large city in North America.  The children coming in on the bus ministry were very poor and needy.  They could not survive the Sunday morning Sunday School hour.  Honestly -- it was too boring, the teachers were frustrated at these kids' inability to sit still, and it was a major battle every Sunday.  We soon discovered that part of the problem was because these children were hungry -- and needed someone to give them more attention so they could learn.

As a team we brainstormed about running this ministry on Saturday mornings when we had a full host of individuals who could give them the love and attention that they needed.  We would begin the morning by feeding them breakfast.  Then they would move from station to station throughout a two hour period, keeping them stimulated and interested.  We wanted them to know that we cared enough about them and loved them enough that we would do this just for them.

But then came the big church meeting.  We were told that you couldn't have Sunday School on Saturday -- it just wasn't right.  We were told that we were messing with the tradition of the church.  How could we minister to kids on Saturday and not on Sunday.  Finally we were told that we could do this on Saturdays but would still have to run the buses on Sundays and do it that day too.  The Saturday program was a huge success.  But by forcing the team to bring the kids back on Sunday (where they weren't wanted) it became a  major struggle.  The Saturday team burned out after about a year because of the pressures of the "traditional" church.  And the community kids eventually quit coming. 

We must all examine our lives and determine whether there are traditions that we have worshipped rather than the Savior himself.  There should be no obstacles between us and him.  We should not create barriers for others to get to Jesus either!  What will we do to make the path clear for our blessed Jesus? 

Jesus was telling the Pharisees and scribes -- get the plank out of your own eye!  Make the way clear for Jesus!

Prayer:

Lord, please help me not to create obstacles to faith.  May you be clearly seen!  Amen.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Guilty Conscience



Scripture:

Matt. 14:3 For Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife,
Matt. 14:4 because John had been telling him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”
Matt. 14:5 Though Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded him as a prophet.
Matt. 14:6 But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and she pleased Herod
Matt. 14:7 so much that he promised on oath to grant her whatever she might ask.
Matt. 14:8 Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.”
Matt. 14:9 The king was grieved, yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he commanded it to be given;
Matt. 14:10 he sent and had John beheaded in the prison.
Matt. 14:11 The head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, who brought it to her mother.
Matt. 14:12 His disciples came and took the body and buried it; then they went and told Jesus. 

Observation:


John the Baptist was simply guilty of speaking the truth.  Herod, the ruler believed that he was above the law.  While traveling on a journey to Rome he had stopped at his brother Philip's home.  While there he began to have an affair with his brother's wife, Herodias.  They both plotted to dump their spouses and live together.  This was a scandalous affair.  Herod sent his wife away.  The only problem, she was a princess from another land.  Her father came back and later attacked Herod and his men over what he had done.  This resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives -- but Herod didn't seem to care, he wanted Herodias.  On her side, Herodias, who already had one child with Philip, decided to leave her husband and run off with his brother. 

John the Baptist would not mince words.  He had publicly denounced the relationship and declared that it was illegal.  It was! Herodias was still married, and besides marrying such a close relative was considered incest.  Therefore, two laws had been broken.  And while everything that John said was truth, Herod and Herodias didn't want to hear it.  Yes, they had a guilty conscience but it was easier to deal with that by pretending everything was okay.  Why not get rid of the one who kept harping on them about living in sin!  Therefore when Herodias had the opportunity she asked for John the Baptist's head on a platter. 

Application

Do we ever become defensive when someone points out the truth?  Sadly, this is a common response when we are "caught with our hand in the cookie jar," so to speak.  There may be times when we allow ourselves to become involved in behavior and/or decisions that may be for the wrong reason or motivation.  Sometimes it is innocent, but other times it may be quite purposeful.  Then, along comes someone who mentions that possibly we do not have the right motivation in mind.  How dare they!  And then we fight back, trying to defend our response and our actions.  Usually the louder and more fierce the defense, the greater was the offence. 

It is when we have a guilty conscience that we fight back and argue the loudest.  We begin to justify what it is that we have done.  We debate the pros and the cons and we try to get people to see our point of view. 

At the same time there may be moments in life when we have to play the part of John.  There may be someone close to us that has committed a sin, or broken the law and we cannot give their action tacit approval.  John was not willing to do this.  Instead, even without regard for his own life, he marched ahead with the truth.  In his mind, even a ruler was not above the law and should be held accountable.  Those in authority and who have power are not above the law.  They must submit to the laws of the land and to the laws of God, just as everyone else.  In the kingdom of God there is a level playing field.  John knew this and spoke out regarding Herod's sin. 

When we speak out regarding someone's behavior we must check our own motivations.  John was trying to call the people to repentance.  This included Herod.  John was genuinely concerned about the spiritual condition of the ruler's heart.  He did not call Herod and Herodias out because he wanted to embarrass them.  He called them out so that they might repent and live lives worthy of those who are called to lead. 

Sadly, the guilty conscience won the day.  We have choices as to how we will respond.  If we are not guilty, then there is no need to be defensive for the truth will set us free.  If we are guilty, maybe we ought to examine our own hearts and ask God to lead us, rather than lashing out at those speaking truth. 

Prayer:

Lord, may I be open to your truths.  Amen.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Stories that Revealed Great Secrets



Scripture:


Matt. 13:35 This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet:
    “I will open my mouth to speak in parables;
        I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.”

Observation:

Jesus had just completed an entire series of parables which helped the disciples understand that the spreading of the kingdom would be slow but methodical.  There would be seeds that would be scattered.  Some would take root.  There would be a field planted, but the enemy would come and sow weeds.  There would be a little yeast, but eventually it would be mixed throughout the entire dough.  And now, finally, our author decides to let us in on a little secret.  Jesus is talking this way on purpose.  He is using the parables or stories as a way to fulfill prophecy and to reveal great secrets.  It was Asaph the Psalmist who said:

Psa. 78:2     I will open my mouth in a parable;
        I will utter dark sayings from of old,

But there was a purpose in uttering the dark sayings, or in proclaiming the things that had been hidden.  Back in Deuteronomy we read, "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the revealed things belong to us and to our children forever, to observe all the words of this law. " (Deut. 29:29)  Jesus was now standing among the people, declaring in stories the great secrets of God and inviting all those who would listen into an eternal relationship with the LORD.

Application:

Do we ever become frustrated because we just don't think that God is speaking to us clearly enough?  We wish he would just spell it all out there for us?  The reality is that he is trying to speak to us in ways that we can understand.  How arrogant might we be to think that we could understand all the mysteries of God the way that God understands them.  We are told in the word that his thoughts are higher than our thoughts.  There is no way in our limited human understanding that we could grasp all the intricacies of God's understanding.  Therefore God has chosen to speak to us in a way that reveals himself to us. 

There are those who would write-off Christianity as being simplistic and only for those who are uneducated.  Sounds like the scribes and Pharisees again, doesn't it?  They didn't want to stop and think about what was being revealed about the mysteries of God in the simple stories of Jesus.  Jesus was revealing to those who would listen the secrets which had been hidden from the foundation of the world.  Those very same truths are available to us today if we will simply take the time to listen to what he is really saying.  His stories reveal to us the great secrets of the LORD which empower his children to live according to his law which is now written on our hearts.   By the stories, by his revelation, Jesus is inviting us into a deeply intimate relationship with God, the Holy Trinity, in which the mysteries of God himself will be revealed to us. 

Our responsibility is to move from the periphery -- where the religious leaders were standing -- and move into a place of intimacy with the LORD and allow the stories to penetrate into our hearts, revealing the great secrets of God.  He loves and trusts us enough that he is willing to share his parables with you and with me. 

Prayer:
Lord, thank you for your love, the stories, and the secrets.  Amen.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Miracles on Demand



Scripture:

Matt. 12:38 ¶ Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”
Matt. 12:39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
Matt. 12:40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth.
Matt. 12:41 The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!

Observation:


Jesus had just completed miracles of healing in the sight of these religious leaders but now, they had the audacity to stand before him and ask him to "perform" for them.  They had even accused him of being in partnership with the Devil.  But what they had seen was not enough for them and they wanted to be able to ask for "Miracles on Demand."  This angered Jesus and he called them out as an "evil and adulterous generation."  With whom had they committed adultery?  With God, himself, for he had declared in Jer. 3:14 “'Return, faithless people,'” declares the LORD, “for I am your husband. I will choose you—one from a town and two from a clan—and bring you to Zion."  They were no longer faithful to the Lord and yet they wanted the benefits of the relationship!

Jesus hinted that there would be a miracle they would soon encounter, but no doubt, it would still not get their attention.  Jonah had been sent a sign to the people of Nineveh and had spent three days and nights in the belly of the sea monster.  Jesus' time in darkness would end with the greatest miracle -- victory over sin and death.  The people of Nineveh got it.  The scribes and Pharisees did not.

Application:

It is so easy to sit back in condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees.  How could they be so ignorant and demanding of the Son of God?  And yet -- aren't we?  How often is our prayer life tainted with personal requests, instead of a deep desire to get to know the Messiah.  We, too, are looking for the miracles.  We tell God that we will believe in him if only we see one more thing.  I'm guessing he gets tired and wonders if we will ever understand that we have already witnessed the greatest miracle of all time. 

Jesus is Risen!  We are invited into a personal relationship with him in which we can experience the very power of his resurrection.  This is power to set us free from the bondage of this life.  How many more miracles do we need?  And yet, there are days when we slip back into the "miracles on demand" mode. 

Jesus is patient with us -- but maybe it's time to take him at face value.  Resurrection power is available to us today.  We need no other miracles to prove to us who he is;  he is faithful and he does save us! 

Prayer:

Lord, thank you so much for the miracle of the resurrection.  Please, help me not to doubt, or try to manipulate for "miracles on demand."  Amen.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Have You Fought the Yoke?


Scripture:

Matt. 11:28 ¶ “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
Matt. 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Matt. 11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Observation:


There was a great promise from Jesus to the people of his day that carries all the way to the present.  If we are tired and weary from carrying our burdens, he wants to give us rest.  As if we were a beast of burden he says to shake off the yoke we are currently wearing and yoke ourselves to him.  Why?  Because he wants to help carry our load.  He is the one who is gentle and humble and the result is that we will find incredible rest in him.  His yoke is like no other and the result is that when we are yoked to him our burden will be light.

Application:

The important thing to understand here is that every single person is yoked to something.  Most of us allow ourselves to be yoked to the burdens and problems of this world.  It means that not only are we carrying heavy burdens, but those burdens become even more difficult because of the type of yoke we are wearing. 

This term yoke comes up several times in the Bible.  Paul reminds us that we should not be unequally yoked.  Can you imagine two animals being yoked together who are not equal in size and strength?  What would that look like?  I'm guessing that would be a rather awkward picture. 

Copyright © 2005 by Pat McDonough

I doubt that these two were very successful in doing a lot of plowing.  They would constantly be out of step, the yoke wouldn't fit and one would certainly have to bear the greater burden.  This was why Paul said it was important not to be unequally yoked. 

Jesus said to come and be yoked to him.  I remember thinking when I was younger that I didn't want to be yoked to anything.  I wanted to have the freedom to do any and everything that I personally wanted.  What I didn't realize was that I was already yoked to something;  everyone is.  No one lives without a yoke.  We have yoked ourselves to the things of the world, or we have yoked ourselves to Jesus Christ.  For most who think that they are unyoked and running free, they will learn the hard way that they have been yoked to something that they could not even imagine, and it is not very pretty. 

Along the way we collect the burdens of life.  Many of the burdens we carry can be good burdens, but burdens they are non-the-less.  I carry along the love and concern for my husband and my children.  Along the way I've added sons-in-law.  My love for all of them means that I carry them along as a part of my life.  I've added the churches of East Ohio to my burden.  I love them, I carry them and there are times that I rejoice in them and others when my heart breaks for them.  My burden load keeps growing. 

Jesus says to come and yoke ourselves to him.  Get rid of the old yoke -- to an uneven yoke -- and connect ourselves to Jesus.  Why?  Because his yoke is easy and when we are yoked to him the burden becomes light.  This is because he is willing to take on him the heaviest part of the load.  When we are yoked to him our burdens become his burdens and we can trust him to carry them.  I can trust Jesus to love and care for my sweet husband, my daughters, my sons-in-law, my churches and every other detail in my life.  I don't have to be worrying about every little thing when I realize that he is in control. 

Why would I have ever fought against his yoke?  Only because of my own foolish self-centered nature!  If we are sick and tired of carrying around our burdens all by ourselves -- it's time to come to Jesus and allow ourselves to be yoked with him.  In this we will find freedom.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for your yoke.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I Love You More!


I Love You More!

Scripture:

Matthew 10:37-39
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

Observation:

Jesus is sending out the disciples to travel from village to village among the Jews sharing about the kingdom.  What kind of a message are they to bring?  It really comes down to what God has always said to the Israelites.  They are to remember the Shema...."Hear Oh Israel, The Lord your God, The Lord is one." There were never, ever, to be any gods before the God of all creation!  

Jesus knew that there were things that people might consider good that had taken over the place of God in the lives of his people.  This included the love of family members, or family life.  That is why he told them to preach that whoever loves a family member more than God is not worthy of God.  Taking up a cross meant being willing to stand against the Roman culture and getting  in line with kingdom culture.  This is God's plan for how we truly find life!

Assessment:

A dear friend, Dr. Diane Leclerc has spent a great deal of time and research looking at the issues of original sin.  For so long we have heard about pride being the source of original sin, however Leclerc asserts that it is actually idolatry.  Whenever anything becomes an idol in our lives, whenever something becomes more important than God, then this thing becomes an idol for us.  Jesus knew this to be true and today's Scripture is a reminder of the things that become idols in the lives of individuals, even today.

Over and over I hear pastors these days talk about the greatest threat to the church is children's sports.  There was a time when Sundays were sacred and we didn't play sports on Sundays but now, not only do we play on Sundays, we play on Sunday morning.  One pastor said that he has a large extended family in his church and when one child is in a wrestling tournament 30 people will be gone that day!  What have we done?  I'm afraid we have turned the sport, and that child into an idol.  

When we begin to use family and relationships for an excuse to not let God be first in our lives we have succumbed to idolatry.  This was true in Jesus' day and he knew it was a problem.  For us to be completely sold out to Jesus Christ we must be willing to be counter cultural and put Christ first in all things.  Does this mean that we don't love, care for, or support our children?  Never!  But we learn a healthy balance in which Christ still has first place and we refuse to allow the things of the world to dominate and control our lives.  And let's be honest, most of these kids will only play their sport for a few years (few become pros) and then they will move on with life.  Will they miss out on learning about Jesus during their formative years because they were too busy playing a game?  Will parents miss out on a deeper walk with Jesus over watching a game?  I know it's a touchy subject but Jesus is asking, what do you love more...your child, or me?

My husband and I are often traveling in different directions and we love to keep in touch by texting.  We often end the day by saying "I love you more!"  You see, I am deeply in love with my husband and I want him to know how much I love him.  However, I have to confess at I love Jesus even more.  Through the years I have learned that I can trust him to put him first...and I love Jesus, even more.  What about you?

Prayer:

Oh, how I love Jesus!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Wisdom in the face of Adversity



Scripture:

1Sam. 25:32 ¶ David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who sent you to meet me today!
1Sam. 25:33 Blessed be your good sense, and blessed be you, who have kept me today from bloodguilt and from avenging myself by my own hand!
1Sam. 25:34 For as surely as the LORD the God of Israel lives, who has restrained me from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, truly by morning there would not have been left to Nabal so much as one male.”
1Sam. 25:35 Then David received from her hand what she had brought him; he said to her, “Go up to your house in peace; see, I have heeded your voice, and I have granted your petition.”

Observation:

Abigail was married to a stubborn man by the name of Nabal.  He had been rude and unkind to David and his men, even after David's men had been good to him!  David was angry with this man and was coming to destroy him and his entire household.  Abigail, the wife of Nabal, knew how foolish her husband was and she didn't wait around for all of them to be slaughtered.  She knew that her life and those of the servants were in the hands of a very foolish man.  Abigail took action.  She organized a feast and went out to meet David and ask him for forgiveness.  Her tactics worked and David responded positively.  His response:  May the Lord be blessed; May Abigail be blessed by her good sense; May Abigail be blessed;  May David be blessed because he didn't shed any blood! 

Application:

Abigail responded in the exact opposite way of her husband.  He was the fool; she was the one who showed wisdom. 

There are circumstances in life where we must choose how to react.  Sadly there are those who choose to react as Nabal -- the "fool."  Nabal thought rather highly of himself and did not care to consider the words of others around him.  He would not take advice from anyone because he thought that he knew better.  He didn't care about the consequences of his decisions because he was concerned about looking like the man in charge.  He was not a caring master because the lives of his servants meant nothing to him.  For his own ego to remain in tact he was willing to let them all die!  What arrogance.

Abigail looked upon the circumstances and realized that someone had to show leadership in order to save them all!  She showed great wisdom in her response.  No, she did not tell her husband what she was doing!  Instead, she chose to take matters into her own hands and plan a strategy for success.  She was willing to apologize for the foolishness of her own husband if that meant saving the lives of hundreds.  She went to work and God was blessed through her response.

We have a choice to make in the midst of adversity.  Will we respond with wisdom or folly?  Will our ego get in the way of doing the right thing? 

Abigail left the scene in peace.

There is another underlying theme in this story that some may find disturbing regarding Abigail's relationship with Nabal.  There is a very loud voice in Christianity these days that is encouraging women to be subordinate to their husbands at all cost;  That this is her place and yet, here we find a story in direct contrast to that teaching.  And we find Abigail being praised for her actions.  How can this be?  Because her ultimate authority and head was God, not her husband.  Because somehow Abigail knew that someday she would have to stand alone before God and be accountable for her actions.  How could she allow hundreds to be slaughtered because of the foolishness of one man.  She had to take the action that she knew would be pleasing to God.  Her action was pleasing to God and her house was blessed with peace.  Her foolish husband is the one who suffered the consequences for his actions. 

Jesus has come and died for all of humanity and he is the one who is now sitting at the right hand of God interceding for each and every single one of us.  No human has an intermediary between themselves and God and one day we will stand before him and will need to give account for our actions.  Will we have acted with wisdom or with folly? 

Prayer:

Lord, please give me your wisdom for each day!  Amen.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

How Do We Treat Our Enemies?


Visiting En-gedi in 2010 and the cave where David and his men hid.

Scripture:

1Sam. 24:1 ¶ When Saul returned from following the Philistines, he was told, “David is in the wilderness of En-gedi.”
1Sam. 24:2 Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to look for David and his men in the direction of the Rocks of the Wild Goats.
1Sam. 24:3 He came to the sheepfolds beside the road, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave.
1Sam. 24:4 The men of David said to him, “Here is the day of which the LORD said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it seems good to you.’” Then David went and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul’s cloak.
1Sam. 24:5 Afterward David was stricken to the heart because he had cut off a corner of Saul’s cloak.
1Sam. 24:6 He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD’S anointed, to raise my hand against him; for he is the LORD’S anointed.”
1Sam. 24:7 So David scolded his men severely and did not permit them to attack Saul. Then Saul got up and left the cave, and went on his way.

1Sam. 24:8 ¶ Afterwards David also rose up and went out of the cave and called after Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the ground, and did obeisance.
1Sam. 24:9 David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of those who say, ‘David seeks to do you harm’?
1Sam. 24:10 This very day your eyes have seen how the LORD gave you into my hand in the cave; and some urged me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, ‘I will not raise my hand against my lord; for he is the LORD’S anointed.’
1Sam. 24:11 See, my father, see the corner of your cloak in my hand; for by the fact that I cut off the corner of your cloak, and did not kill you, you may know for certain that there is no wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you are hunting me to take my life.
1Sam. 24:12 May the LORD judge between me and you! May the LORD avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be against you.
1Sam. 24:13 As the ancient proverb says, ‘Out of the wicked comes forth wickedness’; but my hand shall not be against you.
1Sam. 24:14 Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Whom do you pursue? A dead dog? A single flea?
1Sam. 24:15 May the LORD therefore be judge, and give sentence between me and you. May he see to it, and plead my cause, and vindicate me against you.”

1Sam. 24:16 ¶ When David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” Saul lifted up his voice and wept.
1Sam. 24:17 He said to David, “You are more righteous than I; for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil.
1Sam. 24:18 Today you have explained how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the LORD put me into your hands.
1Sam. 24:19 For who has ever found an enemy, and sent the enemy safely away? So may the LORD reward you with good for what you have done to me this day.
1Sam. 24:20 Now I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand.
1Sam. 24:21 Swear to me therefore by the LORD that you will not cut off my descendants after me, and that you will not wipe out my name from my father’s house.”
1Sam. 24:22 So David swore this to Saul. Then Saul went home; but David and his men went up to the stronghold.


Observation:

This is such an interesting story from the Old Testament.  David is in a situation where he could have easily killed Saul, and yet he chooses not to.  Although he knows the man is determined to kill him, he continues to have respect for who he is and the position that he holds.  When Saul discovers that David has spared him, he is overwhelmed and realizes that David is more righteous than he is and that he has repaid evil with good.  Saul turns and leaves David and his men. 


Application:

David's response found here in this scripture is not typical for that day.  Normally one would have killed Saul and his men.  Instead, David brings about a foreshadowing of the new kingdom which will be ushered in with Jesus Christ.  David was a man after God's own heart and therefore in his behaviors and responses we see glimpses of the future coming Messiah.  Jesus would come later and preach peace; and love of enemies. 

The United States has had a very difficult week.  The bombings in Boston have left us staggering with grief and wondering what is in store for the future, not just of the US but for the world.  How do we, as ordinary Christ-followers, respond to the tragedies around us?  We may find ourselves on the run like David, and yet, even when his enemy continued in pursuit, David did not change his character.  He continued to call on God and ask God for guidance.  Instead of simply reacting in the corner of a dark cave where no one would have seen his actions, he chose to be faithful to God and to respect his leader.  His action was not destructive, but was life-giving.  We know the end of the story and Saul does eventually die, but not at the hand of David. 

As hard as it may seem we must seek the face of God in the midst of these tragedies. Not only in these tragedies but in the face of others who may be enemies to us in this world.  This may be right here on a daily basis in our personal lives.  We must ask God to give us leadership and guidance in our response.  We may need to show grace to some whom we feel have wronged us.  This is because we are ambassadors of his kingdom, the new kingdom in which Christ reigns supreme and no enemy can ultimately be the victor!  Jesus is already victorious and we are on his team.  So, how do I treat my enemy?  It seems that Jesus faced his silently and on a cross.  May God help us.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to love those who would believe they are my enemies.  Amen.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Is there fruit?

Scripture:

Matthew 7:15-20
A Tree and Its Fruit
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.

Observation:
This chapter begins with Jesus warning people not to judge others.  He talks about having a plank in your own eye and being hypocritical when pointing out the speck in someone else's eye.  He is speaking to those who saw themselves as spiritual.   Those who believe that they are doing everything right must be aware, for they will be identified by the fruit that they bear.  

There have always been those who have wanted to take advantage of people through their spiritual lives.  Sadly they appear to be concerned about others, when in fact, they are not.  They simply want to use others for their own gain.  What type of gain?  What about power?  There is something intoxicating about power and it can change the hearts of individuals who have been in tuned to God. 

The religious leaders had tasted power and now they did not want to give it up.  Jesus was threatening everything that they had established and this was a problem for them.  Jesus focused on the ordinary people and told them to examine the fruits of those who called themselves spiritual.  Were they thorny or prickly individuals?  Why were they trying to get grapes from those kinds of people?  You only get hurt by hanging around those individuals.  They poke you and yet, there are those who stick around them for they love to be among those who have the power. 

Jesus said to forget all of that.  Look for the good fruit -- the fruit that can provide sustenance and longevity.  In the long run those who are not producing fruit will be cut down because they will run out of resources and will die.

Application:

Jesus' words are very convicting.  We live in an era when people become famous and popular not because of what they have accomplished, but simply because they work hard to get attention.  Think about the popularity of people like Kim Kardashian, who is famous for working at being famous.  What has she really accomplished in life?  People don't talk about her accomplishments -- they just talk about her.  Society has become enamored with those who are able to generate attention.

Could this attitude seep into the church?  Clearly, I think it has.  A popular Christian culture has developed, one in which we have made certain Christian characters "famous" because they are able to draw attention to themselves.  Recently I was encouraged to watch the video tape of a "Christian leader" who has become popular by the "antics" he portrays in services.  Thousands of people show up to watch, what appears to me, to be a show.  He walks in front of the crowd shouting out "bam, bam, bam" and the people drop to the ground.  The sad part is that he is almost laughing and making fun of the people at the same time.  He brags about kicking people "in the spirit."  Really?  This seems like one of those prickly thorns!  Why would we hang out with someone who would hurt us?  Jesus wondered the same thing.

This situation I mention may seem to be the extreme and yet, could there be varying levels to which we allow ourselves to be engaged with these "popular" individuals?  Jesus was reminding us to be discerning.  We must not look for the popular Christian leader, we must look for the genuine Christian leader.  More than likely this individual flies under the radar screen, living their lives on a daily basis ministering to the world around them and bearing fruit.  Eventually those who are not bearing fruit will wither away.

May God help us to follow the leadership of those who are bearing fruit in this world!

Prayer:

God, please help us to have eyes of discernment as we follow you and those whom you have brought to lead us.  Amen.



Friday, April 19, 2013

What do your eyes reveal?



Scripture:

Matt. 6:22 ¶ “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light;
Matt. 6:23 but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

Observation:

This is another parable from Jesus.  He understands the need for humanity to be in right relationship with God.  When humans have turned from their sin and are seeking the face of God, they are facing in his direction.  Theirs eyes are seeking God and the radiance of God's glory shines into their very eyes. 

The way that humans see is through light entering the eye and being absorbed by the retina which is found on the back of the eye.  Your optic nerve then takes all of that light and converts it to data which is sent to your brain.  Your brain then understands what it is seeing.

In the Greek this Scripture actually says that the eye is "single."  This word can be translated several different ways, including the word healthy.  It also has a marriage connotation with it, in that the single focus of the relationship is on the beloved.  Yes, it is a healthy and clear eye that is only seeking the face of the one in whom we have fallen in love; and this love radiates through the entire being of the individual, lighting up every nook and cranny with the very presence of God.

At the same time humanity has the option to turn their back on God.  This is our free will, the ability to turn and go the other direction.  Again, the eye will only absorb that which is in its environs.  This "unhealthy" eye is the one which is turned toward the darkness.  The result is that the messages sent to the optic nerve are all dark, they are evil and there is no light in this individual.  There is not even a flicker of the presence of God and therefore the person finds themselves in a vortex of evil and darkness, pulling them down to ever deeper and darker levels of lostness.

Application:

Why is it that we think it's safe to "play" with the things of this world, allowing our eyes to wander off and explore the world around us?  The glory and the presence of God, along with the accompanying light, is what we so desperately need these days.  This light from the Lord gives us a vision to see the world in the same way that he sees the world.  This light reveals the darkness to us, not just for our benefit but so that we can lead those who are in darkness, into the light.  The light which we have been given ought to give us a passion to lead those who are lost out of darkness. 

This week we have experienced the terrible bombings in Boston at the close of the Marathon.  The videos show us the selfless way in which the rescuers ran to the scene and began treating people who had terrible injuries.  They ran to the chaos to bring help and assistance.  Why?  Because they had an immediate vision of the need and knew that they must help.

When we focus our eyes on Jesus Christ his light so fills us that we will be drawn to the injured and wounded lying in the darkness surrounding us.  We will run to their side and try to bring them to safety and into the light.  This is what happens when the vision of Christ is brought to light in our eyes as we focus on him. 

What are we focused on in life?  If someone were to look down deep into our eyes, what would they discover?  Are our eyes focused on the one we love -- are they soaking in the light of his  radiance?  Or have we become distracted by the things of the world and just might we be caught glancing off in another direction?  Our eyes are absorbing the light or the dark surrounding us.  May our eyes reveal the reflection of the one whom we are facing every single day.

Prayer:


Lord, may my focus be singular.  Amen.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Radiant Glory


Scripture:

Psa. 34:4      ¶ I sought the LORD, and he answered me,
        and delivered me from all my fears.
Psa. 34:5     Look to him, and be radiant;
        so your faces shall never be ashamed.
Psa. 34:6     This poor soul cried, and was heard by the LORD,
        and was saved from every trouble.
Psa. 34:7     The angel of the LORD encamps
        around those who fear him, and delivers them.

Matt. 5:14 ¶ “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.
Matt. 5:15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.
Matt. 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Observation:

Over and over we are reminded of the fact that we are to reflect the glory of the Lord.  David had found himself in a very difficult circumstance, surrounded by the enemy.  What did he do?  He looked to God to deliver him.  He was seeking the very face of God -- turning toward the God that he knew loved him and would care for him in the midst of his deepest need.  As he looked to God his face radiated with the glory of God's very presence.  The result was that God heard his cries and rescued him from his difficult situation.

Moving to the New Testament we find Jesus preaching the Sermon on the Mount.  Again he talks about the light and the fact that now we are the light!  How do we become the light?  The light is from God alone and we must seek the face of God which results in us becoming  his light to the world.  It is his radiant glory that lights up the world and this is the light that no one can hide.  The entire house will be brightened, and as we walk through the world it will light the path before us. 

Application:

Whenever we read about God's radiant glory we know that he is present.  Moses is the ultimate expression of this radiance when he returns from the mountain, his face glowing.  The people were so disturbed by this that they asked him to wear a veil over his face. 

David knew that he was in desperate need of help from the Father.  He was a man who knew how to settle into God's holy presence, relaxing in the grace of God.  This is where we need to find ourselves;  we must seek the face of God on a daily basis, and only in this way can we experience the angels of God who will encamp around us in our times of trouble.  Notice that David was not without trouble!  His life was filled with trouble and difficulties, but he knew how to call upon God and then, even in the midst of the struggles he was surrounded by God's holy presence. 

Sadly, even those who call themselves "Christ-followers" seem to be trying to make it alone these days.  Taking the time necessary to seek the face of God seems to be inconvenient.  Instead we want something that will be a little faster and easier.  It was never fast or easy for Moses, David or Jesus;  why should it be for us? 

We have homes that need to be filled with the brightness of the presence of Jesus!  Have you ever walked into a home and felt the oppression and darkness?  How can this darkness be dispelled?  By having a follower of Jesus Christ in that home!  Even one person who is seeking the face of Jesus and is radiant with is glory can change the atmosphere for the entire home.  The light of one can light the entire home, helping the entire household find their way to God. 

We are not a people in need of new strategies for bringing people to Christ; we are a people who need to seek the face of God.  It is his radiant glory which will attract people, not to us, but to him.  And may the light of Jesus shine down upon us daily as we keep our eyes turned toward him.

Prayer:

Lord, today I seek you. I am in desperate need of your holy presence!  Amen.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Intervention of God's Holiness



Scripture:

Psa. 59:1  ¶     Deliver me from my enemies, O God;
        protect me from those who rise up against me.
Psa. 59:2     Deliver me from evildoers
        and save me from bloodthirsty men.

Psa. 59:3  ¶     See how they lie in wait for me!
        Fierce men conspire against me
        for no offense or sin of mine, O LORD.
Psa. 59:4     I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me.
        Arise to help me; look on my plight!
Psa. 59:5     O LORD God Almighty, the God of Israel,
        rouse yourself to punish all the nations;
        show no mercy to wicked traitors.    

1Sam. 19:23  ¶     So Saul went to Naioth at Ramah. But the Spirit of God came even upon him, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth.
1Sam. 19:24 He stripped off his robes and also prophesied in Samuel’s presence. He lay that way all that day and night. This is why people say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”


Observation:

Saul became terribly jealous of David, his son-in-law.  David had to sneak out of his home and run to safety in the cover of darkness.  He found Samuel the great prophet and the two of them went to Naioth at Ramah.  Saul was furious and chased after David, hearing that he had ended up in Naioth.   One can only imagine that David and Samuel were deeply engaged in a prayer meeting with God and as Saul drew closer he was overcome by the Spirit of the Lord.  God's presence, his holiness was thick there in the area and he was completely overcome.  Whether he stripped off his outer garments because he felt that the was in the presence of a holy God, or whether he stripped them off so that he could worship God more easily we do not know but we do know that instantly he was changed by the presence of God.  He couldn't go after David, but he was overwhelmed, laying down in the presence of God, worshiping and prophesying.  In the meantime David slipped away. 

Application:

In this moment we have a glimpse of the holy power of God.  David and Samuel were dearly beloved by God.  These were two men who had an intimate relationship with God, walking and talking with him on a daily basis.  They had fallen in love with God and were willing to serve him in all obedience and faithfulness and as a result, God was caring for them. 

There are authors who refer to this moment as a foreshadowing of the experience of sanctification which is to come in the New Testament.  Saul is sanctified for a day by the holiness of God.  God uses his holiness to intercede for David and Saul is simply overcome because the holiness of God is more powerful than anything he has ever experienced in his life.  For this one day Saul is made clean and turns aside from his obsession with the destruction of David and falls down flat on his face and worships God.  He is even given the ability to prophesy on that day -- but we know it is not Saul personally, but it is God speaking through him.  This is the power of God at work.

If this is a foreshadowing of the sanctifying work of God in the life of an individual, what does that mean for us today as believers?  It helps us to understand that the power of sanctification, the act of being made holy, is all about God and his power and holiness.  Saul did nothing to be a holy man of God -- he was simply a man who encountered the holiness of God and that power was so great that it transformed Saul for the day.  There is another Saul whom we meet later in the New Testament.  This Saul encounters the same power on the road to Damascus but this time the result is different.  Saul is transformed into Paul and it's not just for a day, but through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, it is for a lifetime. 

God's holiness was used to save the very life of David and the power of the Spirit was revealed in Saul's behaviors.  Today, the holiness of God is available to save us!  It is by living a life in the Spirit that we are transformed into the holy people of God, not just for today, but for a lifetime and it is this transformation which will save us from the world around us.  We must simply be willing to step into God's holy presence and allow him to do his work in us and we too can experience the intervention of God's holiness. 

Prayer:

Lord, I want to experience the power of your holiness every single day.  May I walk in obedience before you, and in your Spirit.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Proclaiming the Coming Kingdom



Scripture:

Matt. 3:1  ¶ In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming,
Matt. 3:2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Observation:

John was sent by God to call the people back to his kingdom.  He was their wake-up call!  For far too long they had been doing their own thing and not paying attention to the call to be God's holy people.  Now God was going to step into human flesh and create a pathway for the salvation for all humankind.  John's purpose was tell people to "Wake Up -- Pay Attention!"  And in the midst of all he was doing, Jesus showed up and the already of the new kingdom was begun.

Application:


What will it take to get our attention regarding the serious nature of our relationship with God?  Yesterday afternoon two bombs went off in Boston.  In an instant peoples' lives were altered and the freedom to which the United States has been accustomed may be changed forever.  There remains a very real presence of evil in this world and there are those who believe that acts of violence will bring about their desired result.  This act of violence should remind us of our very desperate need for God. 

Too often we try to pretend that evil simply doesn't exist or rule in our world and that we can go along and live our lives with the thought that things will continuously improve.  Sadly, without God this will not happen.  What will happen will be more acts of violence because humans do have an innate bent toward sinning and we need God today in our lives, our communities, our nations and the world more than ever before.  This is not the time to turn our backs on him and think we can go this alone.  

At the same time this is when God's people should spring to action.  We should be a people of prayer who are lifting up all of those who have been injured and those who have lost loved ones in this terrible disaster.  We should be in prayer for a community which has been devastated by these actions.  We should be in prayer for those first responders who ran in to help others without regard to their own safety.  We should be in prayer for those medical workers who tirelessly treated the wounds of those injured.  And we should pray for our leaders who have to respond to this crisis -- that they will have the wisdom to bring God's response.

Beyond prayer, we must be the hands and feet of Jesus.  What can we do to represent Christ in the midst of this sorrow?  There are those today who will be the presence of Jesus in hospital rooms and homes across the Boston area.  Christ followers are needed to live out his gracious acts in the world.

These are difficult days and we are in desperate need of our God.  In the midst of this tragedy may we continue to reach out to the one in whose kingdom we do trust.  He has come, his kingdom is near, and we may participate with him in that kingdom today.  "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."  This is our only true hope.

Prayer:


Lord, please be with the people of Boston today -- those physically injured and those emotionally injured.  Please, help our elders and give them your wisdom in reacting to all that has been done.  Amen.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Let the Nations Know They Are Only Human



Scripture:

Psa. 9:19      ¶ Rise up, O LORD! Do not let mortals prevail;
        let the nations be judged before you.
Psa. 9:20     Put them in fear, O LORD;
        let the nations know that they are only human. Selah

Observation:

David had experienced numerous victories in his lifetime -- all with the help of God.  While David had skills and abilities in his own right, he placed them in the hand of God so that he could be God's instrument.  His battle with Goliath became foundational to understanding how God would use him throughout his life.  The victory over Goliath was God's victory.  No sword was drawn for that battle, but simply a young man who believed he was God's instrument was obedient and a small stone brought down the giant. 

That is the way in which God works!  He uses the improbable to make a difference in the world.  The nations of this world believe that they are bold and they are powerful.  More than likely those who lead begin to believe that they are invincible.  And yet God can bring them down.  Whether it is the nations, or whether the people, they must recognize that they are not God, but simply human.

Application:


There is a story from history which tells us that when one of the the great Emperors of the Roman Empire would go to an official function before the people he had a servant whose responsibility it was to remind him, "You're only human."  And what a great reminder that is, for when people rise to places of leadership it becomes easy to believe all the "press" about you.  There are world leaders today who have become so enamored with themselves that the power they experience has become intoxicating.  No longer can they see the world through realistic lenses, but instead they have a distorted image of themselves and their invincibility and of the world.  This becomes very scary for all the world, because these types of individuals become unstable through their own twisted vision of things.

But mortals will not prevail.  Whether it's a government leader, or any other type of leader, there must be a sense of understanding of our own humanity.  We are not God!  We are to live in fear and humility before our God and in doing so we will not put our trust in human powers.  Human powers and human governments will never be able to correct all that is wrong in this world.  Therefore as followers of Christ we must remember our place as God's creations, his humans, placed on this earth for his purposes.  We are accountable before God for our responses to the world.  It is the responsibility of a Christian leader to seek the face of God and get to know him.  The Christian leader then leads from the place of  submission before an all-powerful God.  In doing so we don't pick up the sword, but allow ourselves to surrender to the idea of a small stone, which in God's hands can slay the giant. 

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to know you more.    Amen.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mountain Top Experience



Scripture:

Matt. 17:4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
Matt. 17:5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”
Matt. 17:6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear.
Matt. 17:7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.”

Observation:


Jesus took the "inner circle" of his disciples with him to the Mount of Transfiguration.  Here they experienced something that they had never experienced before -- the very presence of God.  Peter was probably a little ADD -- and always had something to say before really thinking about the situation….but he is interrupted by the voice of God.  In this moment Jesus -- the Messiah - is declared to be the Son of God.  The disciples are instructed to listen to him.  They are overcome with awe at the moment of being there and they fall to the ground.  But Jesus touches them, encouraging them and tells them to not be afraid -- and so they come down from the mountain.

Application:

Last evening was one of those mountain top experiences here in Estes Park, Colorado.  Maybe it seems that way because we are up here in the beautiful Rocky Mountains -- or maybe it's because the presence of God settled down upon us in such a powerful way.  I don't think I've ever been to a service where the presence of God was so thick that no one wanted to move.  We sat there in holy hushed silence soaking in the very presence of God.  Every now and then a single voice would begin to lead us in a song of worship before our God.  This went on for -- actually I don't even know how long -- time seemed to stand still in the kairos of God. 

There is a sense of being strengthened and encouraged by having been in the very presence of Jesus but today we will go back down the mountain.  It's been an incredible time and yet now Jesus is coming to us and saying "Get up and do not be afraid."  Our mountaintop experiences strengthen and encourage us and prepare us for what God has in store.  But after those experiences we must pack up our bags, head back down the mountain and go in the strength and grace of God. 

I'm grateful for these mountaintop times -- but I will rise up and move forward and not be afraid -- for he is with me.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for allowing us the privilege of being blessed by your holy presence.  Amen.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Would You Pass the Test?



Scripture:

2Cor. 13:5 ¶ Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless, indeed, you fail to meet the test!

Observation:

The goal for all of God's children is Christlikeness.  How is this possible?  According to the Apostle Paul -- by having Christ in us.  This was his encouragement to the Corinthian church.  He wanted them to test themselves and see if they were truly living lives that would reflect Jesus Christ to the world around them.  If they were living this kind of life then Christ would truly be living in them.  But then again -- there would be those who would not pass the test. 

Application:

The big question for us today is whether or not we would pass the test.  The life of the Christ-follower is supposed to be different!  Throughout my lifetime I have encountered many people who liked to talk about things in the Scriptures and about holiness but at the same time they were not very nice people.  How in the world is that possible?  I think that Paul was seeing the same thing in the Corinthian church.  There were those who could expound on all the things that they had learned and they would be happy to share that with the world.  What they did not do was reflect Jesus Christ in their daily lives;  and this is the ultimate test.

We must also recognize that there is something significant in our personal engagement in Christlikeness.  That happens as we participate in the holiness of Jesus Christ -- by Christ being in us.  This is where imitation of Christ becomes important.  If I want to be like Christ -- why would I not want to emulate him?  Therefore I do all I can to be like Christ while at the same time having Christ in me.  Ultimately what the world sees is Jesus Christ -- and that is our desire.  That is the way in which we can pass test -- Christ in me. 

Would you pass the test today?

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to pass the test on a daily basis.  Amen.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Rise Up



Scripture:


Eph. 5:14 for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
    “Sleeper, awake!
        Rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”
Eph. 5:15 ¶ Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise,
Eph. 5:16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil.

Last evening we began our Come to the Water Conference for Women Clergy here in Estes Park, Colorado.  What a beautiful sight to see a room packed with God's daughters and a few sons, ready to praise and to worship the Lord.  This morning I will be sharing a message that God has been birthing in my heart for a year and a half.  The Lord and I have been up talking about this for quite a few hours already this morning and I know there are a lot of people praying. 

God is challenging me to not be complacent in my spiritual walk.  He is encouraging me to walk in the light that he has created, to turn my face toward him and be reflection of him to the world.  The result of this is a life lived in obedience to him on a daily basis.  It is a life in which we are serving him out of our deep love and gratitude toward him and all that he has done for us. 

God is calling his daughters and his sons out of our sleeping state and he is telling us that it's time for us to rise up.  We are to rise up and be the hands and feet of Jesus to hurting world.  Loving God requires loving others.  This is the call of God's holy people. 

The call is to each of us -- Rise Up.  The response is up to each of us -- will we? 

Prayer:

Lord, it's a scary prayer to ask you to challenge me to rise up -- and yet, I want to walk in all the fullness of my relationship with you -- so please, lead me daily in obedience to you.  Amen.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What are you putting up with?



Scripture:

2Cor. 11:19 For you gladly put up with fools, being wise yourselves!
2Cor. 11:20 For you put up with it when someone makes slaves of you, or preys upon you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or gives you a slap in the face.

Observation:


Paul was writing to his dear Corinthian church, but there were lots of problems.  These people were constantly changing directions whenever anyone new came along and had a more exciting "show" than Paul had.  Paul had laid down his life for these people, he had discipled them and yet, he was not the flamboyant charismatic leader to whom they were all attracted.  He just wasn't flashy enough for them.  He was an ordinary, probably rather unattractive man who was deeply in love with God.  He spoke truth to them and encouraged them to live lives of holiness.  But shouldn't following God just be a bit more exciting than a daily life of self-discipline?

So, the people of Corinth were willing to submit themselves to what may have been some pretty crazy preachers just because they were more "popular" than Paul.  Paul was not amused and at the same time he was sadly disappointed.  He knew that they were getting advice from "fools."  These were people who used the church in Corinth for their own personal benefit -- they were charlatans.  They used the people, manipulating them, expecting to be treated as someone of high standing.  They people of the church even allowed themselves to be slapped in the face by these individuals -- because somehow they were enamored by them.

Paul was sickened.  What would it take for the people to understand the Truth found only in Jesus Christ? 

Application:

Sadly we find that people today continue to be enamored by those individuals who have all the "bells and whistles!"  How often have I heard people say that they have to leave their church because their children need one in which there's more to offer; they need a more exciting children's department or they need a teen group that has more exciting events.  But what if the church that doesn't have all the bells and whistles has the presence of the Lord?  Should it really matter that these other things aren't present?  The people in Corinth went after the fancy things and in the midst of it all were losing out on what God had really intended for them. 

Sometimes being enamored by someone is not just about a spiritual leader -- but may be about an individual.  Too often I have seen women who are so desperate for a relationship with a man that they are willing to set aside the Truth in Jesus Christ for male companionship.  They have been willing to put up with fools.  They have been willing to become someone's slave -- allowing the person to prey on them, take advantage of them and even slap them in the face (or worse).  Why in the world would we do this?  Why would we be willing to allow our spiritual lives to suffer for this type of human companionship? 

Jesus commanded us to love God and to love our neighbors.  He brought it down to a very relational truth.  However, it seems that the intimacy of that relationship with God makes us uncomfortable and therefore we are drawn to "surface" relationships.  These are the ones that we may think look really good on the outside but don't do much for us on the inside.  Just as Paul was encouraging his followers to break free from these types of relationships, we must as well.  This is not what God wanted for us.  He intended us to have a deeply personal and intimate relationship with him on a daily basis. 

Don't put up with junk!  Run from it and into the arms of Jesus!

Prayer:

Lord, please help me be discerning about the junk in my own life.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How Easily We Forget

How Easily We Forget

Scripture:

1 Samuel 10:17-19
Saul Proclaimed King
 Samuel summoned the people to the Lord at Mizpah and said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all the kingdoms that were oppressing you. ’ But today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your calamities and your distresses; and you have said, ‘No! but set a king over us. ’ Now therefore present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and by your clans.”

Observation:

The people had cried out to Samuel that they wanted an earthly king.  This had not been God's intention. His plan was that they would be his holy people and that he would be their king.  They rejected God so that they might be able to look like an earthly kingdom.  

They gathered at Mizpah for their new king to be revealed to them.  This is the very place where Samuel had raised the "Ebenezer," the rock that was to remind the Israelites that God was their helper.  And yet, there in the shadow that reminder, they rejected God, their strong helper, their rock and cried out for an earthly king.  Whom did they want for their savior?  A young man, tall and good looking, but shy and hiding away from the crowd.  Their choice was there before them; God who had been their rock, or a man who might look the part.  They rejected God, forgetting what he had done for them and placed their hopes in what looked acceptable to the world.

Application:

I have often been critical of the children of Israel, wondering how they could have experienced so much of God and yet turned their backs on him.  At the same time I must be cautious to be too harsh because I myself have, at times, failed to remember all that God has done.  

There a those Ebenezers in my life; great reminders of the times when God has been my strong helper.  There have been the nights when The Lord  has awakened me  and called  me to come and have conversations with him.  There in the stillness I sense his presence and he speaks peace, wisdom and direction into my very being.  How could I ever forget those hours?  And yet when struck by the rays of daylight there is the temptation to forget those experiences in the very presence of God and look for human answers.  

The Israelites wanted to look acceptable.  We want to be acceptable in the eyes of the world.  Why would they want to trust in a God who is unseen?  They wanted something very material to grasp...they wanted an earthly king.  We too seek for the material.  We want to be able to understand and rationalize the things of God, and yet, when we do this we take the very nature of God and confine him within the limits of human understanding.  God is so much greater.  God is our rock.  God is our helper.  God is our sustainer.  God will never let us down.  And yet, we so easily forget.

Prayer:

Father God, forgive me for my doubts.  Amen.