Saturday, May 31, 2014

There is no Love without Action



Scripture:

Rom. 12:9 ¶ Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;
Rom. 12:10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.
Rom. 12:11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Rom. 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.
Rom. 12:13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Observation:

To be filled to overflowing with God’s love means that his love splashes out of us and into the world that surrounds us.  God’s love cannot be contained and so, as God’s holy people, those filled with his holy love, there is a direction action and reaction. 

Love must be genuine.  Love cannot be fake, or faked.  Genuine love is the very nature of God which is poured out into his people who invite him to fill every nook and cranny of their being.  That is why genuine love must be God’s holy love.  The result is an attraction to that which is good and an inability to be attached to that which is evil.  Holy love, by nature, repels evil. 

Those filled with God’s holy love are attracted to others who are filled with God’s holy love.  There is a “mutual affection” and desire that God’s best be done for one another.  We want to see one another succeed and so we honor one another above ourselves. 

Love in action cannot be restrained.  There will be an energy, drive and zeal to serve the Lord.

Love does not prevent or protect us from the evils of the world, but instead gives us the ability to “rejoice in hope” and be “patient in suffering.”  This is possible because we do “persevere in prayer,” for we have come to know that prayer is the way in which we are connected to that holy love. 

Love in action cares for the needs of others who are filled with God’s love.  These are God’s holy people and as a common people, we are to take care of each others’ needs. 

Love in action spills out on those we don’t know and suddenly we find ourselves among strangers, practicing evangelism, exhibited in the hospitality of the Lord. 

Application:

As a teenager I remember sitting up in the balcony at church, sometimes goofing off.  However, I still remember my Pastor, Dr. Gordon Wetmore, preaching a sermon on Romans 12.  Something about this chapter has been etched into my memory and my very being.  The entire chapter holds within it the message of transformation and the hope found in a life entirely devoted to God and filled with the Holy Spirit.  And none of this makes sense unless we understand the very nature of God as holy love — and that is where Paul takes us.  The holy love of God which fills us, transforms us, and moves us to action.

God’s holy people must act and react differently because the nature of God must be spilled out through us.  If there are those who claim to be “holy” and yet do not exhibit love, then how can they be holy?  They may be “holier than thou” but are they God’s kind of holy? 

The key to continuing in this life of holy love in action is found at the end of verse twelve; “persevere in prayer.”  There is no love without action, but there is no love without prayer. 

Seek God every day.

Abandon yourself to his love on a daily basis.

Move forward zealously, motivated by his love.

God’s holy people cannot contain his love, but will demonstrate who he is (God in us) by our acts of love. 

Prayer:


Lord, please fill me to overflowing with you and with your love this day.  Amen.


Friday, May 30, 2014

The Need for Advice



Scripture:


Prov. 13:10     By insolence the heedless make strife,
        but wisdom is with those who take advice. (NRSV)
10 Where there is strife, there is pride,
    but wisdom is found in those who take advice. (NIV)

Observation:

How often are problems created when there is pride involved, a pride that does not allow one to get advice from those around them.  The result is moving forward without heeding the warnings or direction of others and strife is found along the way. 

Those who are wise are willing to get advice.  They are willing to say, “I don’t know,” and then ask others for direction and ultimately they discover they are wise, not because of their own personal knowledge, but because they have gleaned from those around them.

Application:


I remember as a child that I hated asking my parents for help.  I wanted to prove to them that I could do it on my own! 

I also remember our little girls wanting to build a “house” of their own out in the back yard of our youth center in Russia.  They were taking scraps of wood from a building project and doing their own thing.  They didn’t want any direction or advice for this was their house.  Unfortunately they didn’t understand the concept of a strong foundation.  The sun-baked ground seemed like a good place to build and they literally nailed the building into the dirt.  This was okay until the evening downpour came and the little house fell to its side, flat as a pancake.

I think the girls learned a lesson that day.  It really does help to get some advice.  Today when my girls want to do something around the house they will watch a You Tube video to get instruction first before trying it on their own.  The result is that they are now much more successful at things like home repairs!  They are willing to take advice and learn how to do things properly.

In the practical sense this should be played out in our lives.  We should be willing to humble ourselves and take advice, learning from those who know more than we do.  At the same time this is even more true in our spiritual lives.  When we refuse to ask for direction or training we find ourselves in a place of pride.  This pride results in strife, or in this case, a poor reflection of Jesus Christ.  We must be willing to humble ourselves before the Father so that he can teach us, give us advice and correction, and only in doing so can his wisdom become manifest in us.

We all need advice.  Let’s slow down and be willing to learn so that we can be better witnesses to the work of Christ in our lives.

Prayer:


Lord, may I seek you, your advice, and your wisdom.  Amen.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Importance of Honesty



Scripture:

Prov. 11:1     A false balance is an abomination to the LORD,
        but an accurate weight is his delight.

Observation:


The wise people of God will live in such a way that the world notices the difference.  This includes being people of integrity when it comes to business dealings.  The Christian should never be known as a “wheeler-dealer” but instead should be one of the finest at what they do.  They should not lie or bear false witness.  They should give people all that is expected, or even more. 

The business person of the past was usually someone buying or selling in the market place.  Each city had their own set of official measurements that were to be used for transactions.  This included a measurement of length and/or an item of weight.  When weighing something it had to be weighed against the official weight.  If someone balanced out the scale with something other than the official weight, they could, of course try to cheat other people into paying too much for something, or by selling something that was under weight.  This did not please God.  Notice, he even calls it an “abomination.”  In other words, honest business dealings are expected of God’s children!  Yes, he is even delighted in those who do things the right way.  Honesty brings about the delight of the Lord.

Application:

Last week I was in a town that still had some medieval artifacts around the town square.  This included a metal rod that was attached to one of the buildings, and next to it a metal ring.  The rod was the official measurement of length for that town.  Everything that was bought or sold in terms of length was to be measured against this item.  If someone suspected that they had been cheated, they could bring the item to this official measure and check it out.  If it was proven that indeed they had been cheated, the offensive salesperson was brought to the same location where they were then tied to the metal loop where they would have to stand for punishment which often included the people pelting them with rotten vegetables.  Honesty in business was important!

The world is looking at God’s people and wondering if this Christianity is for real.  They want desperately to believe that we are good people, that we are honest, and that we will do a good job with all that we do.  Everything that we do in life becomes a living witness and testimony to the work of Jesus Christ in our lives.  If our business dealings even smack of dishonesty it will make people question our personal walk with the Lord.  And just as they did in medieval times, they will figuratively tie us up and pelt us with rotten vegetables — which may be found in the form of a barrage of social media content. 

And where is our witness?  Can it ever be restored?  

In the last number of years we have seen the fall of many “religious” leaders — cultural preachers of our day — which have become a bad taste in the mouth of the world.  They were dishonest in their business dealings.  They used their ministry to make money off of vulnerable people and their witness was destroyed.  May we not be found in that place.  May we be honest in all that we do.  May our measurements be accurate and may the Lord delight in what we do. 

Prayer:

Lord, please help my life to be one of honest dealings with you and with humanity.  Amen.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

My Help Is From God!



Scripture:

Psa. 121:1     I lift up my eyes to the hills—
        from where will my help come?
Psa. 121:2     My help comes from the LORD,
        who made heaven and earth.
 
Psa. 121:3      ¶ He will not let your foot be moved;
        he who keeps you will not slumber.
Psa. 121:4     He who keeps Israel
        will neither slumber nor sleep.
 
Psa. 121:5      ¶ The LORD is your keeper;
        the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
Psa. 121:6     The sun shall not strike you by day,
        nor the moon by night.
 
Psa. 121:7      ¶ The LORD will keep you from all evil;
        he will keep your life.
Psa. 121:8     The LORD will keep
        your going out and your coming in
        from this time on and forevermore.

Observation:

The pagan gods were strewn across the hilltops of Israel.  The people had allowed pagan worship to become a part of their society which God had told them to avoid at all cost.  The Psalmist lifts up his eyes and sees the gods of the mountaintops and proclaims that his help comes from the LORD, the one who made the mountains!  How much more powerful is the LORD who made the heaven and earth! 

Once we recognize the source of our help, the Psalmist goes on to proclaim the ways in which the LORD helps his children; his followers.

Application:

I’m in beautiful Colorado this morning and there is a tendency to look up at the beauty of the mountains which are so majestic.  At the same time, they are nothing compared to the One who created them. 

Who are we put our trust in the things of man?  Instead, as we look at awe upon his creation, may we be drawn to him who has promised to be our help in all things. 

God will sustain.

God will provide.

I lift up my eyes and the mountains remind me that He is the one in whom I will find help.

Prayer:

Lord, help me to keep my heart, mind, eyes and focus on you today and in all things.  Amen.


Monday, May 26, 2014

Oh The Deep Love of Jesus



Scripture:

Rom. 8:37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Rom. 8:38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
Rom. 8:39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Observation:

Paul has spent time expounding on the possibilities available to God’s people who are living in the Spirit.  The life transformation is radical as everything is focused, not on the flesh, but upon life in the Spirit.  It is the Spirit who leads into all aspects of life and living.  The result is that the love of God is poured in and through his people and this love becomes the very substance which brings all of who we are and what we do into cohesion. 

We are encouraged by Paul that we can be “more than conquerors.”  I have been traveling this last week through Germany and England and seeing site after site where people conquered one another.  It may have been the Romans, or the Anglo-Saxons, or one prince after another, but people were in the business of conquering one another.  However, conquering was just the beginning of a new reign.  As followers of Christ we are “more” than conquerors, for it is not just about winning a victory but about entering into a new life and lifestyle in the kingdom of God.  That’s why focusing only on the event of conquering leaves one without experiencing the joy and love that exists in the new kingdom.  How unfulfilling, but too many people find themselves there.

This love, about which Paul speaks, is eternal and reaches to every single pour of our lives.  God’s love can reach out to us at the depths of our deepest need.  Therefore in pain, sorrow, suffering and also at the moments of greatest joy, God can be found there!  The things of this world will not and cannot separate us from God’s love.  This is the depth of what he has to offer to those who are now in Christ Jesus — living in the new kingdom.

Application:

How often do we miss out on this incredibly deep love because we create our own personal barriers to him?  We don’t allow the love of God to flow into every pore because there are areas that we refuse to open up to his leadership.  We want to live in the kingdom — sort of — but not totally.  We like the idea of victory for what it may offer to us, but to fully live in the kingdom, that seems a bit uncomfortable.  We may try to have one foot in the old kingdom and one in the new.  What kind of victory is that?  There is no enjoyment of the new kingdom.  Too often we focus extraordinarily on conquering that we forget about what is to come.

God wants to pour out his incredibly deep love on us, a love that will permeate every part of our beings and our lives.  In this we will live life in the new kingdom and his love will reach to every moment of our lives, the good and the bad.  We must open ourselves up to this deep love.  Let God come.  Let God fill.  Enjoy the presence of Jesus.  Then you will know the peace of sitting and drinking in the deep, deep love of my Jesus. 


Prayer:

Lord, your love overwhelms me.  Amen.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Despising Discipline



Scripture:

Prov. 3:11      ¶ My child, do not despise the LORD’S discipline
        or be weary of his reproof,
Prov. 3:12     for the LORD reproves the one he loves,
        as a father the son in whom he delights.

Observation:

Receiving discipline should be part of the natural order of life.  It is those, however, who are filled with themselves, their own pride, that are unable to accept any form of discipline or reproof.  Because they desire to show the world that they are self-confident, they are unwilling to receive any type of help or redirection.  The Proverb reminds us that that it is important to be willing to accept discipline and reproof from the Lord.  Why?  Because just as an earthly parent takes the time to correct their child, because their desire is to teach them, so the “LORD reproves the one he loves.”  There is a direct correlation between discipline and love. 

Application:

The correlation between love and discipline is an interesting one and certainly one which may need to be examined in light of today’s culture.  The idea of physical discipline is one that is greatly embraced these days.  It’s time for us to take charge of our physical bodies, giving attention to exercise and diet.  This has almost become a religion to many, replacing time at church (for which we find it difficult to plan), and yet finding hours each week to spend at the gym or working out. 

While physical discipline seems to be the “in” thing, the idea of reproving someone’s behavior is certainly not.  Everything seems to go and there should be approval of all things for without this approval we are not being loving or tolerant.  The answer must lie somewhere in the middle of all of this. 

For the follower of Jesus Christ not everything is permissible!  There should be disciple which comes from the Lord and there ought to be self-discipline in terms of behavior.  Instead of bristling at the words of reproof or discipline, we should learn to actively seek out the Lord’s guidance.  Just as a small child learning to navigate their way through life has a parent there to gently lead them one way and then another, so the Lord is also present and would like to give us these gentle nudges.  The problem is when we don’t want those gentle nudges (which is all too often), we begin banging ourselves on the furniture of life because we refuse to allow God to help us. 

Children need discipline, for discipline is teaching and love.  If we do not discipline and reprove our children, we are not loving them.  It takes time and energy to train up a child. 

We need to be open to receiving discipline and reproof in our own lives.  The person who cannot receive any criticism, help or guidance in life will find themselves in a difficult place.  It is a sign of pride that will not allow someone to be open to learning new things.  Be willing to say, “I don’t know” and then learn from those around you.  Be willing to tell the Lord, “I don’t know” and then allow the Lord to teach you.  There is no place in life to be despising discipline.  It is for our own good.  We must learn to embrace God’s direction and leading and from those around who can be used to teach us as well. 

It’s time to embrace the correlation between love and discipline. 

Prayer:

Lord, thank you that you would love me enough to teach and discipline me.  Amen.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Obedient from the Heart



Scripture:


Rom. 6:15 ¶ What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!
Rom. 6:16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
Rom. 6:17 But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted,
Rom. 6:18 and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
Rom. 6:19 I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.

Observation:

Paul understood the dramatic change which could occur in the life of God’s children.  No longer were we to live as slaves as under the law, but we were to be adopted as children.  The attitude or relationship toward the Father immediately changes.  No longer do we serve him simply out of obedience to the law, but we desire to serve him as children.  The heart is changed and there is an understanding that we are a part of this family and as such, we desire to act like and be like the family; and this family is a holy family.  Therefore to be sanctified means to become holy and take on the very nature of the family.  This adoption is not just on the outside, but on the inside as well.  We become like the Father, in essence, taking on the DNA of the family — which is holiness.  This is nothing that we achieve on our own, it is something that is given to us through the presence of the Holy Spirit.  That’s why we want to present ourselves, wholly and completely to the Father so that we become slaves from our hearts.

Application:

Yesterday, May 24, was Wesley day.  It was the day in which he was on Aldersgate Street and heard the Luther’s preface to the Commentary on Romans 1 being read.  It was during that time that this man who had been trying so hard to find a method to know God finally had his heart “strangely warmed” and something empowering happened in his life.  He suddenly had confidence in his salvation.  No longer did he have to live in doubt as to whether he was saved, but instead, his heart gave him this assurance.  The change that occurred was an obedience from the heart — from a heart of love toward God in Christ.  While he went on to employ his “methods,” they were now for those who were assured of their salvation so that they could grow as members of the family.

Motivation has a great influence on our behavior.  If I am motivated by simply needing to fulfill a list of items out of a sense of duty, then I do it begrudgingly.  However, if I am motivated by a deep and fulfilling love, I do what I do only because it is my desire. 

I think of the old illustration of the woman who had a very difficult husband.  During the time of their marriage he made a list for her of all the demands he had in terms of their relationship.  It included her providing food at the right time, caring for his clothing, keeping the house in the right condition, etc.  She begrudgingly tried to keep the list, all the while feeling discouraged and angry.  It was a difficult list and rather unpleasant.  Eventually this husband died and after a period of time she remarried.  A few years after her second marriage she was cleaning out some cupboards when she found the old list.  Much to her surprise she was doing everything on that list, only now there were no demands.  She simply had a husband who deeply loved her and she loved him and it was her desire to make him happy.  She was now obedient from the heart.

This is God’s call to us in our personal relationship with him.  We serve a very loving God who simply wants to adopt us into his family and in doing so wants us to have this assurance from our hearts that we are his.  The result is an obedience from the heart that is motivated by holy love. 

Prayer:


Lord, your incredible love toward me is overwhelming.  I thank you, praise you, and worship you.  Amen.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Long Reach of Obedience



Scripture:

Rom. 5:18 ¶ Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.
Rom. 5:19 For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
Rom. 5:20 But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,
Rom. 5:21 so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Observation:

Here Paul is helping us to understand the work that has been done in Christ as compared to Adam.  The sin of Adam led to the bent toward sinning found in all of humanity but just as the act of disobedience left its imprint upon all, so Jesus’ act of obedience leads to justification for all.  Jesus’ obedience to the Father changed the face of everything that had been encountered because of disobedience.  As humanity was confronted with the law of God, the bent toward sinning simply revealed the fact that the human trajectory was leading further and further from God.  However, the more distant humanity became from God, the more his grace abounded, reaching across the chasm created by sin and providing the pathway home to eternal life.  Jesus is the one who stepped into this world in human flesh living out a life of obedience to the Father, setting things right for all of God’s creation. 

Application:

These past few days we have been enjoying the sights related to the life of John Wesley.  While touring the home of the Wesleys in the city of Epworth we learned about the influence of Susanna Wesley on her children.  She realized that radical obedience on her part was necessary to make a difference for her children.  Her husband was out of town at a meeting and had left another person in charge of the preaching on Sundays.  Susanna did not feel that the morning preaching was sufficient for her family so she began to have evening devotions in her home.  Little by little other people asked if they could attend and eventually she reported that up to 200 were coming, more than those going to Sunday morning services.  The gentleman left to preach wrote to Samuel Wesley, her husband, complaining about Susanna’s gathering.  The following is a quote from her letter to her husband, explaining why she felt she could not stop her Sunday evening meetings.

To your second, I reply that as I am a woman, so I am also a mistress of a large family. And though the superior charge of the souls contained in it lies upon you, as head of the family, and as their minister, yet in your absence I cannot but look upon every soul you leave under my care as a talent committed to me, under a trust, by the great Lord of all the families of heaven and earth. And if I am unfaithful to Him, or to you, in neglecting to improve these talents, how shall I answer unto Him when He shall command me to render an account of my stewardship ? —Clarke, Eliza. Susanna Wesley (Kindle Locations 1382-1386). London : W.H. Allen.

Susanna felt that her calling in life included the stewardship of the talents she had been given from God — her children.  Her radical obedience to God meant that she may not always conform to what society thought was “proper” and yet, her sons John and Charles went on to touch England and the world for Christ.  The long reach of Susanna’s obedience has touched even my own life. 

Jesus’ obedience made the restoration of all of creation possible and we are invited into his kingdom where we may experience his transforming grace.  Just as we are blessed by his obedience we must also recognize the potential reach of our obedience.  Whose lives will we touch; for whom must we be stewards?  Every believer who is justified is called to a life of obedience in Christ, the one who has demonstrated for us the long reach of obedience.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for your obedience and may I serve you today in faithfulness in all things!  Amen.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Filled to Overflowing with the Glory of the Lord



Scripture:

2Chr. 5:13 It was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the LORD, and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the LORD,
    “For he is good,
        for his steadfast love endures forever,”
the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud,
2Chr. 5:14 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God.

Observation:

Solomon had prayed his prayer of dedication over the temple.  All of the people were praising and worshiping the LORD.  As they praised him, his holy presence came and filled the place and once again the people of God saw the cloud of his glory.  The entire house of the LORD was filled with this presence and it was so thick that the priests couldn’t even stand to minister.  The place had become filled to overflowing with the glory of the Lord!

Application:


There have been moments in time when I have had the opportunity to sense the Lord’s presence in a very powerful way, when it just seems almost palpable.  When God’s people focused all the attention of their worship on the Lord, then God came and filled the house.  Nothing about this worship service had to do with the people that were worshiping or the way in which they liked to have a worship experience.  Instead everything that happened was focused on and toward God. 

The song that was sung reminded them of the very enduring nature of God.  God is good and his love endures forever!  This is what the praise of God focused on for the people of God.  As their all-out attention was placed on the one they had come to love and adore, he came to dwell with them.  This was now the dwelling place of God on earth and God came to settle in with his people.

God still wants to come and dwell among us today.  We, today, are now the living stones of the new temple.  As the people of God come together the dwelling place of God continues to exist here on earth.  Each person should focus their life and attention on the worship of God.  Every part of the human experience should be infused with the desire to worship God and a worship that is pleasing to him, not necessarily to us.  In worship the presence of God enters our being so that there is no room for me to continue to stand — for he becomes all in all!  When God’s people come together as his people and they are all filled with his presence the overflow is stunning.  The world looks on and sees the glory of the Lord among his people.  This is God’s desire for us.

What would it cost us in our personal lives for our focus to be so completely on him that there would no longer be room for us to stand for his presence and his glory had filled the place?  It may cost us our own personal wishes, but we would gain all of him and we, too, could be filled to overflowing with the glory of God.

Prayer:

Lord, may your steadfast love endure forever and may your presence fill your people so that your glory may overflow into our world.  Amen.




Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Foundational Pillars



Scripture:

1Kings 7:21 He set up the pillars at the vestibule of the temple; he set up the pillar on the south and called it Jachin; and he set up the pillar on the north and called it Boaz.

Observation:

Solomon’s temple is being built and within this structure there are to be constant reminders of God’s power and our continual need for dependence upon him.  Two pillars are set up in the temple.  They do not support the structure, but are instead visible reminders as to our dependence upon God.  The one pillar, Jachin means “he establishes” and the other, Boaz, “in him is strength.”  These were to serve as a daily reminder to the priests that it is God who has established all things and only in him is strength to be found.

They were to put all of their trust in God, and in him alone.  This had always been a temptation for the people of God, to put their trust in their own power and abilities but this was a visual reminder of the Shema, “Hear oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”  The singularity of the focus of the people of God was to be on God.  When one focused on God and the fact that he is the one who establishes all things, then there becomes the great realization that strength comes from him alone.  “Spiritual strength and stability are to be had at the door of God’s temple, where we must wait for the gifts of grace in the use of the means of grace.” (Henry)

Sadly the people of God did not remain true to what these two pillars represented and when the temple was destroyed these pillars were broken up into small pieces so that the bronze could be taken to Babylon (2 Kings 25:13).  The good news is that the new kingdom provides for us these same pillars which can never again be destroyed for they are now found in Christ.  He is the one who establishes and gives us strength, if only we will put our trust in him.

Application:


The foundational pillars are available for us every single day, if only we will look to them for focus.  These pillars are found in Christ and in him alone.  Jesus has now established the kingdom and his victory over sin and death means that we have the strength and power that are needed for daily living.  The kingdom into which we are invited is one in which there is Spirit power.  This Spirit power enables us to engage and work in the world today.

The priests needed a daily reminder of the foundations of the faith.  They had the pillars there as physical reminders of the work that God had done among his people and yet, they were unable to remain faithful.  The pillars of the kingdom are daily reminders to us of our faith, if only we will intentionally look to the pillars and seek the face of God.  He is faithful and will lead through the Spirit in our daily lives to the place where we can be transformed into the very likeness of Jesus Christ.  He establishes us and in him is our strength, if we remain in him, if we look to him, the foundational pillar.

Prayer:

Lord, we love you and praise you today.  Thank you for the strength and leading that we find in you every single day of our lives.  Amen.





Monday, May 19, 2014

I Am Not Ashamed



Scripture:

Rom. 1:16 ¶ For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 

Observation:

Going out on a limb as a follower of Jesus Christ has never been easy.  Paul went against the religious leaders of the day to put his trust and faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  What he and the other apostles were proclaiming was something different and to many people it seemed like foolishness.  However, he knew that Jesus was the rejected cornerstone and he was putting all of his trust in the gospel, the good news about Jesus.  This good news included resurrection power found in the activity of Christ which resulted in power for salvation to all. 

While Paul was well educated in the Jewish world, he also responded to the call of God to go and minister to the non-Jews of his day.  Again, this could have been viewed as being foolish, but Paul was not ashamed of the calling that he received from God.  

Application:

As I think about these simple words, “I am not ashamed” I wonder about the places in which I find myself as a follower of Jesus Christ.  As Christianity comes more and more under attack it seems that it could become more and more uncomfortable to talk about being a follower of Christ.  There are times when people look at you as if you are crazy to be a Christian these days. 

A research study was recently done by Pew regarding religious retention rates.  Those of us in the holiness tradition didn’t fare all that well with only 32% of those raised in this faith remaining affiliated with it in adulthood.  Now, quite honestly there were things that happened in the holiness movement in the mid 20th century with a strong turn toward legalism that left a bad taste in the mouth of many of those who attended and they have not felt comfortable in staying. 

However, if the core of the message became legalism and not the freeing message of holiness we have a problem.  The incredible message of the transformational power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of God’s children should not be something about which we should be ashamed.  Paul was not ashamed of the gospel — the whole gospel!  He believed in the power of salvation for everyone and from this we understand justification by faith and God’s working in the lives of his followers.  The point is that Paul also believed in the message of holiness, for this was the whole gospel.  The calling from God was not just into salvation but into a holy life and for this Paul was not ashamed.  This was the salvation that was promised, a salvation that not only set us free from sin, but a salvation which transformed our lives on a daily basis, allowing us to become more and more like Christ. 

Are we ashamed of the potential that is available to us in Christ?  Why should we be?  Could it be because we got hung up on the wrong things and it’s time to focus on the true essence of the gospel?  Jesus has provided the power to transform our miserable lives into fulfilling ones caught up in the desire to follow Christ.  This is powerful news and Paul knew it.  We can know it and should not be ashamed to proclaim it to all those with whom we come into contact.  May we not be ashamed of the gospel which we have been blessed to receive!

Prayer:

Lord, may I share your gospel with the world around me today.  Amen.




Sunday, May 18, 2014

God’s Peace



Scripture:

2Th. 3:16 ¶ Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you.

Observation:

Paul wraps up this letter with a benediction for the followers in Thessalonica.  It is in this prayer that he specifically desires for them to understand the peace that can come from Christ.  Jesus is “the Lord of peace.”  The only way that we can comprehend the peace of Christ is to know Christ.  His peace is not the peace that the world understands, but it is a part of his nature which is beyond what we would normally describe. 

The simple beauty pageant answer of seeking “world peace” is not the peace of Christ.  We tend to describe peace as the lack of disruption and yet to know peace is to know Christ.  Knowing Christ doesn’t necessarily result in a lack of disruption in this world.  Instead, remember that Christ said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”  When we know Christ and we are participating in him we discover his peace, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be no conflict in our lives.  Instead, knowing the peace of Christ makes us realize that the things of this world, and even the world’s description of peace, will never be adequate. 

Paul wanted his followers to know Christ and the depth of peace which comes from being united with him.  This is far beyond the world’s understanding brings about a peace in the depth of our being which allows the disruptions of this world to become meaningless in light of him. 

Application:


The great focus of our lives must be on knowing Christ.  It is in knowing Christ that we become truly united with him.  We get to know him and his peace in ways that we never would have thought possible.   It is in the midst of the storms of life, the big disruptions, that we are blessed to know the Lord’s peace.  It is that moment when he sits down beside us, weeping, and holding our hand when our heart is breaking and simply showers us with his love. It is that moment when we don’t understand and we have no words to describe the unbearable pain and yet, he is there and his peace washes over us and gives us the simple and quiet confidence that we can go on.

God’s peace.  More than we could ever want or imagine and he extends it to us today and every day.  No wonder this was Paul’s prayer for his beloved friends then and always.

Prayer:

Lord, may I live in your peace today.  Amen.




Saturday, May 17, 2014

If God’s People…Then



Scripture:

1Kings 2:4 Then the LORD will establish his word that he spoke concerning me: ‘If your heirs take heed to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail you a successor on the throne of Israel.’

Observation:

Many times in the Scriptures we find what appear to be “If - Then” statements.  God is constantly reaching out to his people and calling them into covenant relationship with him.  His promises are given over and over again — if only the people would listen and response.  IF the people of God will simply be faithful to God, THEN he will take care of them. 

Here we find this promise again, made specifically to David.  IF his heirs will follow in the footsteps of David and have a deep and personal relationship with God, then he will make them successful leaders of the kingdom. 

The IF of the relationship including walking before God in faithfulness and the language that follows sounds quite familiar to something Jesus later says in the New Testament.  They are to be faithful “with all their heart and with all their soul.”  David had fallen deeply in love with God and while there had been moments in which he strayed, he always came back into alignment in terms of his relationship with God.  He walked before God in faithfulness, loving him with all his heart and soul.

Application:


This line of David is a foreshadowing of the relationship which is possible in Christ, the Messiah.  Jesus would come from this line of David, providing a way in which this covenant could be fulfilled in the lives of all of humanity. 

God’s desire over and over again has been for his people to walk before him in faithfulness.  The earthly kings failed, but the royal line now has the potential of being lived out in the royal priesthood of all believers.  We are now called into this royal lineage and are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. 

The earthly kingdom failed, but did it really? The result of the “failure” was that the covenant, the “If - Then” of God’s promise reached out to all of humanity.  There will always be a successor to David on the throne because Jesus rules eternally.  The earthly kingdom has become the heavenly kingdom.  The earthly relationship between David and God has become an eternal and heavenly relationship.  The “IF - Then” of royalty has been extended to all of God’s children who are willing to enter into the kingdom.  And so we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” 

The “If-Then” statement is a statement of the eschatological hope that we find in Christ; the bursting forth of the new kingdom within the old and one into which we are invited to participate.  The promise given to David long ago is one given to us today.  IF we walk before the Lord in “faithfulness with all [our] hearts and with all [our] soul” we will not fail to be royalty in God’s heavenly kingdom.  He has invited us in to become brothers and sisters of Christ, children of God, living in the new kingdom in the here and now. 

The promise is beyond our comprehension but the God of all creation has extended his “If - Then” covenant to us, awaiting our response.

Prayer:

Lord, I thank you for your covenant that continues to reach out to me today.  Amen.




Friday, May 16, 2014

Getting Ahead of God



Scripture:


1Kings 1:5 ¶ Now Adonijah son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, “I will be king”; he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him.

Observation:

Adonijah was now the oldest son of King David.  His father was in deteriorating health and there were those wondering who would take over the leadership of the kingdom.  In the vacuum of leadership Adonijah thought he would simply take the next steps necessary and begin acting as if he were the leader.  As seems to have been the case with David’s sons, Adonijah was handsome and used his considerable charm to convince a number of individuals to be a part of his team. 

Instead of waiting for things to become official, Adonijah began acting as if he were already the king.  He thought that this would surely make the people desire him and recognize his place of leadership.  The problem was that this wasn’t God’s plan and Adonijah knew it.  Instead of submitting to the system, his father’s leadership and God’s plan, Adonijah decided to get out ahead of the plan. 

Why not simply take upon himself the authority to rule the nation?  He prepared his chariots and horsemen so that he could make his way through the city looking as if he were king.  He had fifty men run before him — what an incredible show of strength, and yet, all the human strength in the world is nothing compared to the power of God. 

Just a show of power was not enough but Adonijah sought out the allegiance of top leaders and commanders in the nation.  Surely this young, good-looking and charismatic leader would make a good king!  A number of the leaders did not wait upon God nor the king, but instead pledged their allegiance to Adonijah.  However, there were a few, priests and prophets, who would not play this game.  Instead, they would cling to the God of all creation and seek his leading in the future of the kingdom.  They refused to get ahead of God’s plan.

Adonijah’s ambition got the best of him.  He lost the kingdom to his brother Solomon and even in defeat under the guise of peace continued to be ambitious and eventually became a stench to his brother and lost his life.  If only he had been willing to listen to God and follow God’s plan his life could have been so very different.

Application:

Whenever we try to somehow “help” God or manipulate situations we will discover that we are in deep trouble.  Trusting God is having child-like faith, and that means depending upon him day in and day out in his plans for our lives and the world around us. We are his children and we are his instruments.  We do not deserve anything and we are to learn day to day dependence upon our Lord and Savior. 

Getting ahead of God’s plan means that we are not trusting God and that self has been restored to the place of authority in our lives.  Learning to relax in God’s presence on a daily basis is where we will find ourselves safe and secure in his arms.  We are not to worry about life.  We are not to worry about what lies ahead.  We are not to try and “help” God work out his plans.  We are to know Christ.  That is our business and should be the focus of our lives every single day.  Seek the Lord with your whole being and trust in him and in this way you will not get out ahead of God.

Prayer:

Lord, may I trust in you each day — one day at a time.  Thank you for the daily bread and daily sustenance, just enough for what we need.  Amen.




Thursday, May 15, 2014

Hope in the Midst of Grief



Scripture:

1Th. 4:13 ¶ But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. (NRSV)

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. (NIV)

Observation:

There was a concern that the believers in Thessalonica were uninformed regarding what happens to those who die in Christ.  The pagan society in which they lived mourned terribly the death of their loved ones.  For them there was no hope — everything was finished.  The person was gone forever and therefore the weeping and the mourning rose to levels of intense grief.  Paul did not want the believers to be living in this ignorance. 

For believers death was often referred to as “sleep.”  The two different translations above help us to see this comparison and the idea of sleeping in death is what brings us hope.  The word “Cemetery” comes to us from the Greek word “koimiterion” which means “sleeping place.”  It was a word that originally meant a place to bury the dead in a church yard and hence the terminology.  This is a very Christian understanding of death for to be placed in a Cemetery brings with it the hope and understanding of Christianity. 

Those who die in Christ die with hope for they simply fall asleep in him and are resurrected at his return.  Paul knew that there was pain associated with the death of a loved one, but he did not want the believers to carry on as the pagans who had no hope. He knew there was hope!  Yes, there is hope in the midst of grief because for the follower of Christ this death is only temporary and there will be a great time of reunion which lies ahead.  This is the promise for those who find themselves in Christ and is the comfort of hope in the midst of grief.

Application:

The God of all comfort loves us and wants to reach out to us in the midst of our deepest pain. God knows what it’s like to watch your son die. 

Jesus loved Lazarus and stood before his tomb and wept with the family. 

But in the midst of all the pain there was hope.  Jesus broke the power of death and was resurrected.

Lazarus burst forth from the tomb and while he is again “sleeping” he will rise again.

And we cling to this hope that we have in Christ.  The Cemetery is but a sleeping place where our loved ones await that day when we will all be gathered up to meet Christ in the air.  Yes, this truly is our hope.

He is Risen!  And his resurrection is our resurrection giving us a new hope that breaks beyond the bounds of this world.  There is hope in the midst of grief when we continue to seek his face and begin to see from his perspective.

Prayer:


Lord, thank you for the hope given to us in the midst of grief.  Amen.




Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Here Come the Saints



Scripture:

1Th. 3:12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.
1Th. 3:13 And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Observation:

This is a benediction prayed on behalf of the Thessalonians and within this prayer we find some simple nuggets of truth related to holiness.  Holiness is revealed in holy love because, as we love God with all of our being, then his love is poured out on us and the overflow reaches those around us.  Only when we are overfilled with his love does our love for others abound.  His holy nature, of holy love, transforms us into his holy people.  We are partaking of his very divine nature.

That’s why the prayer continues with the plea that our hearts are strengthened in holiness.  God’s desire is that we become like Christ and Christ is holy.  Of course it should be the prayer that all of God’s people would then be strengthened in holiness for holiness is revealed as Christlikeness.  It is those who reflect Christ who will be blameless before the Father. 

Holiness is reaffirmed when we are reminded that Christ will return with all his saints.  The root of the word saints and holy (or holiness) are all the same in the Greek.  Our Lord will return with the holy ones.  It is those who have been strengthened in holiness who will be in the company of Jesus.  Why?  Because these are the ones who have followed Christ, and whose lives have become a reflection of the holiness of Jesus. 

For the Thessalonians this includes those who have already gone before — those who have died in Christ.  But it also includes those who will be alive at the time of Christ’s return.  The prayer is God’s desire for all of his people, that they would all be his holy people, that they would all be his saints!

Application:

“Here come the saints!”  That’s something that should be said about all of us, however, somehow we have created a type of bifurcation of Christians.  There are those who are “saved” and then there’s the optional part “B” that we can be “sanctified.”  Much of Christianity is saying it’s okay for me to just be “saved.”  However, that’s never really been the case because throughout all of history when we take the time to thoroughly read the Scriptures we discover that it is God’s desire that we all become like Christ and are God’s holy people.  It’s not an option, it’s a part of the plan.

One commentator wrote this regarding today’s Scripture that the imagery of the coming of the saints is used,  “admonishing us that we are called by Christ for this end—that we may be gathered with all his saints. For this consideration ought to whet our desire for holiness.”  We may be surprised that this was written by John Calvin.  He understood that it was the calling of all of God’s children to desire holiness, for to desire holiness is to desire Christ!  There is no bifurcation and there is no optional part of the plan.  This is why we also read in Hebrews 12:14, "Heb. 12:14 ¶ Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. " 

There may have been times in the past when people said, “Here come the people who call themselves saints.”  In other words, there have been times when holiness folks enjoyed bearing the name, almost as a sense of pride.  They were “holiness people,” or God’s saints.  I don’t think that is the intention of what we find here.  We should not be branding ourselves as the saints, but when others see us coming they should note us as “the Saints” for they will have seen reflections of Christ, abounding in his love, reaching and touching the world.

The prayer for all of God's people is holiness for Christlikeness is the goal for all.  It's not an optional part of our Christian walk.  If we are not being drawn into a deeper walk and relationship with Christ then are we truly walking with him?  His love should be overflowing into and through our lives as our relationship with him is deepened on a daily basis.  This is the call for all of God's sanctified people.  When we reflect Christ the world will see us and say, "Here come the saints."

Prayer:

Lord, may my heart be strengthened in holiness and may your love abound in and through me to your glory.  Amen.




Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Depending On Your Own Resources



Scripture:


1Chr. 21:1 ¶ Satan stood up against Israel, and incited David to count the people of Israel.
1Chr. 21:2 So David said to Joab and the commanders of the army, “Go, number Israel, from Beer-sheba to Dan, and bring me a report, so that I may know their number.”
1Chr. 21:3 But Joab said, “May the LORD increase the number of his people a hundredfold! Are they not, my lord the king, all of them my lord’s servants? Why then should my lord require this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?”
1Chr. 21:4 But the king’s word prevailed against Joab. So Joab departed and went throughout all Israel, and came back to Jerusalem.

Observation:


God had given Moses instructions as to how the census of the people of Israel was to be taken.  What David suggested here was not in accordance with God’s command but was, instead, a desire to count his own fighting men.  It came from a sense of pride over his own leadership and abilities.  He wanted to know how powerful he was in his own right without consideration for his dependence upon God.  Therefore he told Joab, his commander of the army, to go and count his soldiers.

This is a surprising act on the part of David.  God had been faithful to David all along and brought him one victory over another.  Why, at this time, did David think that he needed to go out and count his own resources?  Why was it necessary to know the number of his own fighting men?

Application:

God wants to provide for us in life, but in order to do so, he wants us to be dependent upon him.  When we, ourselves, begin to count up our own resources we create problems for ourselves.  The problem is that we see the finite nature of our own resources.  We can become so fixated on the limits of our own resources that we fail to see that God is waiting to provide all that we need.

God had been in the business of providing everything that David needed.  Why would that change?  God had no intention of changing and yet, it is David who changes.  His success, through the power of God, led him to become prideful.  Suddenly he was no longer giving God the credit for what was happening, but was taking all the credit himself.  He had allowed God’s success through him to make him prideful, and this is what can happen to us. 

We must always give God the praise and the glory for what is being accomplished.  We are simply God’s instruments to be used to his glory.  We are nothing without him! 

When we begin to count our human resources we may be excited for a time, but there will be a limit to those resources.  God doesn’t need to provide us with an overabundance of resources, instead, he asked us to pray — give us this day our daily bread.  When we are dependent upon him, we only need what is required for this day.  Tomorrow is another day to be dependent upon him. 

David and the people were punished for counting the fighting men.  We are not to limit God’s actions to the resources that we can see around us, but we are to trust in him each and every single day.  To God be the glory!

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for your provisions of our daily bread.  Amen.




Monday, May 12, 2014

Does God Delight in You?



Scripture:

2Sam. 22:20     He brought me out into a broad place;
        he delivered me, because he delighted in me.

Observation:

This is a Psalm of David and you can find the corresponding Scripture in Psalm 18.  Here, however, it is found in the final chapters of David’s life and written as a personal song to the Lord.  It is in these words that we discover the very personal relationship between David and the LORD.  David spent much of his life as a warrior and he gave praise and glory to God for the victories,  God came and rescued him at the point of his need and brought him out of his difficult situation.

Where did God bring David?  To a broad place.  David had a scrappy band of warriors who knew how to use the terrain to their benefit, but so did his enemies.  To be in a broad place meant that there would be no place for his enemies to hide.  This was a safer place, out where he could see all that was happening around him and where there would be no ambush waiting to catch him.  God knew how and where to bring him for his long-term safety.

Finally we see in this deliverance that the Lord is delighted in David.  Why?  Because they were in a covenant relationship.  This was a deeply personal relationship where there was mutual love for one another.  The result was that God was simply delighted in David.

Application:

This little verse of Scripture provides us with a beautiful pattern for our personal covenant relationship with the Lord.  It is God who reaches out to humanity, who was willing to send his own son down to our level to save us.  We do not save ourselves and the idea that the God of all creation would reach down to pull us out is a beautiful picture of God’s grace.

At the same time we must realize that God wants to take us to that broad place.  David followed God to that place!  How many of us are still sitting in places of danger because we refuse to follow God out to the broad place.  Instead we continue to be surrounded by the enemy and temptations because we remain in the midst of danger.  God wants to remove us from that place and be our protector.  Our job is to respond to leading and go to that broad place.  It is in this place that we can grow and flourish as his beloved.

God delights in us!  That’s an amazing thought, that God could love us so much that he would actually be delighted in us.  When we respond to God and he is able to do good things for us, it delights him.  Just as a parent who loves to do good things for their own children and then watches them flourish in the midst of it all, so God delights in you and me.  This is the beauty of the deeply personal relationship which we can experience with him.  Just as David was the delight of God, so may we be also. 

Does God delight in you?  It all begins by responding to his gracious act of reaching out to us and offering to remove us from the place of danger.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the incredible truth we find in your word and the love that we experience from you.  Amen.




Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Best Promise Ever



Scripture:


Matt. 28:16 ¶ Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.
Matt. 28:17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
Matt. 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Matt. 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Matt. 28:20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Observation:

Jesus has risen from the dead and has been appearing to his disciples in many locations.  Now they are on the mountain in Galilee and as they are gathered together Jesus gives them the “Great Commission.”  This is the set of instructions they are to follow in the days, months and years ahead.  At the end of this Commission he gives them the incredible promise, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  At that moment they would not have understood what those words meant.  Jesus would soon ascend into heaven and be physically gone from their presence, but he would leave them with the promise.  The promise that he would be with them always was a powerful promise because he would be sending the Holy Spirit.  Through the presence of the Holy Spirit it would be possible that Jesus could be with his disciples always and “to the end of the age.” 

Application:

The Commission and the Promise were not just for the disciples of the first century but for all disciples who would follow after Jesus.  The best promise that was ever given was that Jesus would be with us always!

No matter what life throws our way we are never abandoned by the Lord.  Yes, there will be times when we do not understand what it is that is going on and yet, he will be there. The follower of Christ is invited to live into the Great Commission and through a lifestyle of discipleship experience the all-encompassing presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit.  This is the best promise ever and it will change the way in which we live every single day.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for this incredible promise and the joy of experiencing you through the Holy Spirit.  Amen.




Saturday, May 10, 2014

Rich Man, Poor Man



Scripture:

Matt. 27:57 ¶ When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus.

Observation:

Jesus had died on the cross and the world stood by as witness.  After his death a rich man by the name of Joseph steped up to provide a place for Jesus’ body.  Jesus had no will.  Jesus had made no funeral arrangements.  No one had expected him to die in Jerusalem.  His family was from Nazareth where there may have been a place where family members were buried but now, he had died so far away. 

Instead of just treating his body as an ordinary criminal, or as a poor man, Joseph stepped in and provided a place for Jesus.  The tomb that he provided may have been his own personal tomb and would probably have come at great expense.  He was willing to give up all of that for Jesus, for he had become one of Jesus’ disciples, which is interesting considering what Jesus had said about how hard it would be for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 

So often Jesus spent time talking about the poor and ministry to the poor, but it is obvious that he also ministered to those with wealth.  This man, Joseph, is a case in point, as is Zacchaeus. 

Joseph was the rich man.  Jesus was the poor man.  The rich man helped the poor man, who had just changed the world.  Together they made a difference.

Application:

We have gone through a time in Christianity where we have been encouraged to think about ministry by focusing on a particular demographic.  Build the church of one homogeneous group and it will work well, we are told.  The only problem with that is that it doesn’t look like what happens in the kingdom.  In the kingdom we find incredible diversity and in that diversity we find energy and synergy that changes the world.

There are some in ministry who do not want to reach out to the rich people of this world.  Today’s suburbs may be one of the most desolate places in the world.  There are people everywhere that need to know Christ and none should be excluded. There are others who are uncomfortable reaching out to the poor and so shy away from them and their needs. 

We need to ask ourselves how we will reach out to the rich man like Joseph.  Obviously Jesus had ministered to him and touched his life.  He was a transformed man who did not care about what others thought of him that he would willingly give his tomb for the body of Jesus.  Yet, he had been wiling to associate with a poor man — Jesus.  Together their lives became intertwined and remain so throughout history.  At the same time we must ask ourselves how we will minister to the poor -- and how do we bring them together?  There is a place for all in the kingdom.

What happens when the rich man meets the poor man?  The kingdom of God breaks in and we catch a glimpse of what lies ahead.  It is that moment of the “already” and “not yet” of the kingdom, a visible reminder of the tension in which we currently live. 

Today, may we join hands with all those who are being drawn to the kingdom, both the rich and the poor, and may the uniting of these begin to weave a rich and beautiful tapestry which will touch the heart of our world, pointing them toward Christ, the one who arose from Joseph’s tomb.

Prayer:

Lord, may I be faithful today and every day in ministering to those you place in my path.  Amen.




Friday, May 9, 2014

They Sang the Hymn



Scripture:

Matt. 26:30  ¶ When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Observation:

The disciples were together celebrating the passover.  It was on that night that Jesus passed to them the bread and the cup and they celebrated the “Last Supper,” an event which would be repeated to this day.  Throughout the meal there would have been places where they traditionally sang Psalms.  The Psalms helped to solidify the story of their faith and this was a part of the tradition.  Jesus continued with this tradition because we see here that they concluded their time together with singing the hymn.

What was it that they sang?  More than likely they concluded by singing Psalms 115-118.  As we take the time to read these three Psalms we discover prophetic words regarding Christ.  However, the disciples probably didn’t notice, for they had no idea what was about to happen.  However, for Jesus, this would have been a sobering moment as he knew that his actions would be the fulfillment of the hopes and dreams of those faithful followers of God who had gone before.  The enduring love of God would be revealed through the death of the Messiah. 

These last hymns were joyous ones and ones of thanksgiving to a God who had delivered his people.  They sang the hymn and praised the Father and with joy in their hearts and bellies full of food heading out with Jesus to the Mount of Olives where he normally went to pray.  It’s not that hard to imagine why the disciples fell asleep.  Jesus was agonizing over the days ahead.  The disciples were blissfully ignorant and had just enjoyed a delightful celebration with Jesus, unaware of the hints he was giving them as to what would lie ahead.  I can just imagine them dropping off to sleep while the hymn was still being sung in their heads.

Application:

What were the disciples singing that night?  We don’t know the tune, but here is a portion of that hymn, a song called “Forever” sung by Michael W. Smith. 




Over and over again we hear the line, “His love endures forever.”  It was on that night that Jesus would be arrested and we would see the enduring love of God pouring out his saving grace to all of humanity in a way that had never been imagined. 

Let’s return a moment to the hymn.  Why did they sing a hymn?  Because it was their tradition.  Jesus did not destroy their traditions, just as he did not destroy the Law.  Jesus said he didn’t come to destroy the Law, but instead, he came to fulfill the Law.  Could it be that he has also come to fulfill our traditions — bring them to life? 

We are living in a time where we struggle with traditions, even traditions in worship, such as the songs that we sing.  Jesus was ushering in something completely and totally new and this would change the way in which people worshipped God.  At the same time, he was anchoring the new to the old.  The old tradition of celebrating the Passover became the Lord’s Supper.  At the same time some of the ancient hymns became the Psalms of the early church and are even sung to this day. 

There is something here that we can learn about worship.  The traditions of the past are not all bad, but they may need to be celebrated or fulfilled in the new.  Jesus did not keep all the ancient traditions the way they were, but he brought new life to them.  He made them relevant to his contemporary context.  This is our challenge, to make the traditions relevant to the context.  At the same time the words of the hymn continue to speak to us today and teach us about God.  There are great old hymns which provide us with lessons that will be lost if simply toss them aside.  If Jesus had wanted, he could have skipped the hymn at the end, but he didn’t. 

Thoughtfulness and intentionality in worship were important to the Messiah and they should be to us as well.  Maybe we need to remember to sing the hymn.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the variety of ways in which you help us to learn about you.  Amen.




Thursday, May 8, 2014

Give Me Oil In My Lamp



Scripture:

Matt. 25:1 ¶ “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.
Matt. 25:2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.
Matt. 25:3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them;
Matt. 25:4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.
Matt. 25:5 As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept.
Matt. 25:6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’
Matt. 25:7 Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps.
Matt. 25:8 The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’
Matt. 25:9 But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’
Matt. 25:10 And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut.
Matt. 25:11 Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’
Matt. 25:12 But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’
Matt. 25:13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Observation:

The ten virgins all wanted to be a part of the kingdom.  They wanted their lights to shine.  Unfortunately there were those who just wanted the world to see their lights.  They were willing to put in just enough oil so that their lamps burned for the day and it appeared as if they were ready.  Sadly, they were unwilling to put forth the time and the effort that it took to have enough oil for the future.  When the time came and the bridegroom returned their lights began to go dim.  They wanted to borrow oil from others, but this was not something to borrow, but something to be procured on their own and they were too late for the wedding banquet.

Application:

Do you remember the old camp song? 

Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burnin’ burnin’ burnin’ —
Give me oil in my lamp I pray (hallelujah). 
Give me oil in my lamp keep me burnin’ —
keep me burnin’ ‘till the break of day. 

Interestingly there’s an important truth to be found here.  Having oil in our lamps only comes from a daily walk with Jesus Christ.  He is the source of the oil which we need that will keep our lamps burning brightly.  Only when we are connected to him is it possible to burn brightly for him. 

In this parable we hear of the ones who don’t have enough oil and just want to burn brightly for the world to see, not for the long-run or the relationship with the bridegroom.  Unfortunately there are those who want to have just enough oil to look like a follow of Christ to the world.  It all becomes for show because there is not enough oil to sustain them until the time when Christ returns. 

As followers of Christ we must understand that we are in this for the long haul.  Our lamps will burn out if we don’t take the time with the Master to produce the kind of oil that we need.  Also, just going to worship on Sundays means that we are getting just enough oil for that day and then our lamps are burning out during the week and there is nothing for the world to see. 

Discipleship and spiritual growth require discipline.  The virgins with enough oil were disciplined enough to make sure they had what they needed.  They were intentional. 

If we are going grow spiritually, we must be intentional. 

If the Church is going to grow spiritually and burn for Christ on a daily basis, she must not just be interested in the quick fix, but on the long haul.  We must have oil in the lamp.

Give me oil in my lamp — keep me burnin’!  This comes with a price, a price which we must be willing to pay if we are not just to burn for a day, but for all eternity.  Every one of us needs the sustaining oil that only comes from the presence of Christ.  Take time every day to be steeped in him and allow him to produce his oil in and through us. 

Prayer:

Lord, give me oil in my lamp.  Amen.




Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Days of Noah

The Days of Noah

Scripture:

Matthew 24:37-39

For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Observation:

The behavior of humans seems to repeat itself.  Over and over again God is revealing himself to us and yet, we seem to reject him.

Jesus was talking about the need for on-going faithfulness among God's people.  He knew there would be a time when he would come again and yet, he recognized that humanity would again be unfaithful.

Even while Jesus was walking the earth people wanted yet more signs about the future.  The sign of the future was standing before them, but they wanted still more.

Jesus knew that those who would come later would still be looking for signs.  Instead of living a life of faith every single day, people would slip into the days of Noah.  They would become focused on enjoying life, eating, drinking, and celebrations to the exclusion of serving God.  Just as the rains began to unexpectedly fall for these people, for they had not paid attention to Noah, nor to the signs, so will be the danger for those who do not follow Christ.

Application:

The days of Noah sound eerily familiar.  As humanity is lulled into complacency we find our excitement in eating, drinking and our social celebrations.  These in and of themselves may not be bad.  However, when they become the focus of life and our relationship and service to The Lord become a distant second, or possibly third, then we have a problem.

There is a popular saying about the difference in focus of food between the first and third world.  In the first world we live to eat, while in the rest of the world they eat to live.  Much of the world wonders where they will find their next meal and have the strength they need to go on with life.  In the West we worry about obesity and the tendency to overindulge.  How often do we hear the question, "Where do you want to eat tonight?"  It becomes a matter of taste and personal preference rather than need.

The days of Noah are upon us as good people, those who call themselves followers of Christ, become drawn to the activities of life to the neglect of the spiritual. All the electronic gadgets that we have were supposed to give us more free time.  Instead they have created pressure to produce even more!  Will we be swept away by the coming of Christ?  Jesus' admonition was to pay attention and not to give in to the distractions of life.  Noah had to intentionally go against the norms of society.  So must we, if we are to keep working in the kingdom. The Lord's kingdom will seem out place, because it is.  As a result there should be a transformation in our daily lives, including the ways in which we eat, drink and celebrate.

The Son of Man is coming again.  Will we be ready or too busy celebrating the days of Noah?

Prayer:

Lord, help me to see with your eyes and protect me from the temptation to celebrate the days of Noah.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Hope of Restoration



Scripture:

Psa. 51:10      ¶ Create in me a clean heart, O God,
        and put a new and right spirit within me.
Psa. 51:11     Do not cast me away from your presence,
        and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Psa. 51:12     Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
        and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Observation:

David had committed a horrible sin in regard to Bathsheba and her husband Uriah.  Not only had he slept with someone else’s wife, but he had been cunning and conniving in playing with Uriah’s life.  What he had done was terrible and when the prophet Nathan visited with him and called out his sin David became a broken man.  Suddenly the depths of his sin became apparent and he realized the great chasm that had been created in his personal relationship with the LORD. 

Here was a man who had been intimately related to God and had yet, the more successful he had become, probably the less dependent he became on God.  All of a sudden he found himself staying home when he should have been out with his troops and he fell to temptation.  Not only did he fall to the temptation but he spent a great deal of time trying to justify and cover up his behavior.

Now, in contrition he pours out his heart to God.  It’s not good enough for his heart to simply be cleaned up or fixed, he needs to be restored.  He needs a new heart — a clean heart to be created in him.  The old must be gone and the new must be transplanted.  With the new heart comes a cleansing and infilling of the Spirit that sets things aright again.  The new and right Spirit of the LORD sanctifies his entire being.

David is desperate for the restoration of his relationship with the LORD.  While he has sinned, he now pleads for the grace of God to reach out to him.  He wants to be in the presence of the LORD.

Through these sinful acts David had lost his salvation and the realization of this loss is almost more than he can bear.  The salvation and confidence which he used to know in the LORD is now gone and his pray is for that restoration.  He wants to experience and know again the joy of the Lord’s salvation.  It is that quiet confidence of salvation for which he hungers and the joy that fills one’s life when walking with the LORD.  Not only does he pray for this restoration, but he prays for a sustaining spirit that will take him through the remainder of his days. 

The hope of restoration is his heart’s prayer and he believes that a clean heart, an infilling of the Spirit, and the presence of grace will result in a deep and satisfying joy brought into his life because of the deep love which may be experienced in God.

Application:

Failure. 

Oh, how we hate that word. 

Yet, there are moments in our lives where we discover that we have been a failure.  A relationship has deteriorated.  We have not kept our eyes on the LORD.  We have deviated from normal activity and allowed ourselves to be tempted.  Not only have we been tempted but we have acted on that temptation and suddenly found ourselves far from God.

Asking for forgiveness and restoration is not an easy thing.  Especially for those who have been raised in the holiness tradition.  Sure, we cling to the fact that we don’t believe in “once saved, always saved,” but do we possibly cling to “once sanctified, always sanctified?”  In other words, have we make it such a point that once someone is entirely sanctified that they will no longer sin that we make it nearly impossible to confess when we are struggling or have done something wrong?  Instead of the hope of restoration we’ve been left with a sense of hopeless coverup.  The joy disappears because we have succumbed to temptation. Sadly, to confess that we had any kind of an issue would mean to confess that we were not living the perfect life. 

We plod through life without the joy of salvation and our relationship with God deteriorates. 

Success.

Now, that’s a word we love to hear and success in our relationship with the LORD is possible when we turn to him with honest and contrite hearts.  David realized that he had lost what he had once had.  He couldn’t just be cleaned up, but he needed a new heart.  He needed complete and total restoration in his walk with God. 

Not only was restoration possible, but the sustaining grace of the Spirit’s presence was also possible.  The resultant joy of the Lord is a daily reminder of the peaceful presence of the LORD in a life that may have taken a detour. 

David had to come humbly before the LORD.  We must honestly face our failures and bring them before the LORD.  There is always hope.  There is always grace.  There is always joy.  For there is restoration.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you constantly calling us back to you.  Amen.




Monday, May 5, 2014

Self-Righteous Arrogance



Scripture:

Matt. 22:1 ¶ Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying:
Matt. 22:2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.
Matt. 22:3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come.
Matt. 22:4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’
Matt. 22:5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business,
Matt. 22:6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them.
Matt. 22:7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Matt. 22:8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy.
Matt. 22:9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’
Matt. 22:10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
Matt. 22:11 ¶ “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe,
Matt. 22:12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless.
Matt. 22:13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Matt. 22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Observation:

This parable provides us with great insight as to God’s activity in reaching out to a lost and dying world.  The invitation is given over and over again to come and join the wedding banquet.  Finally there are those who are willing to respond to the generous invitation. 

During the time of Christ guests were provided with attire for the celebration by the host.  White robes were the normal attire for a wedding and everyone wore them.  Therefore the invitation also came with the wardrobe. 

When we discover in verse 11 that a man has entered the celebration in his own clothing there is no sympathy.  It is not that the man cannot afford the wedding attire, it is that the man has, in his arrogance, refused to put on the clothing provided by the king.  Thinking his own rags were “good-enough,” he is dumbfounded when confronted.  Surely he didn’t have to really change into the wedding garments!  Wasn’t his own clothing “good enough.” 

The arrogance is really concerning personal righteousness. The man believed that his own personal righteousness was good enough.  What he did not seem to comprehend was that his own righteousness appeared as rags in the presence of the beautiful garments prepared by the master.  He is stunned into silence as he recognizes his arrogance has made him a fool and realizing he had left the wedding garment provided for him unused. 

Application:

It seems that human nature doesn’t undergo too much change for even today we have those who believe that their own righteousness will be enough to get them a place at the wedding feast for all of eternity.  But just as the man looked out of place, our self-righteous arrogance looks out of place in the presence of the Lord. 

God reaches out to all of humanity through his prevenient grace.  His desire is that all will come to him and we are invited to respond to that invitation.  However, response to the invitation is not enough.  God also provides for us the proper garments for participation in the kingdom.  Jesus has provided the white robes, made clean through the shedding of his blood.  Not only are we to respond to the invitation but we are to put on the white robes.  These are the robes of Jesus’ righteousness and in comparison to our own, they are magnificent. 

If we believe that we can be righteous on our own, we are fooling ourselves.  We must be willing to put on the robe of Christ — to literally put on Christ.  This white robe is his holy robe.  That is why all of God’s followers are called to holiness.  Everyone is called to put on the robe of holiness, but it is only provided through Christ.  For far too long we have thought that we could turn our tattered ordinary clothing into something beautiful by following a list of “holy” behaviors.  If we continue on this path we will find ourselves at the wedding banquet looking ridiculously out of place with the master wondering why we failed to put on the clothing provided by him.

May God save us from our own personal arrogance and may we respond to the invitation and slip into the garment of Jesus’ holiness provided for us as we live and serve in the kingdom.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for all you have provided for us.  I am eternally grateful.  Amen.




Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Spirit of Ingratitude



Scripture:

1Chr. 19:1 ¶ Some time afterward, King Nahash of the Ammonites died, and his son succeeded him.
1Chr. 19:2 David said, “I will deal loyally with Hanun son of Nahash, for his father dealt loyally with me.” So David sent messengers to console him concerning his father. When David’s servants came to Hanun in the land of the Ammonites, to console him,
1Chr. 19:3 the officials of the Ammonites said to Hanun, “Do you think, because David has sent consolers to you, that he is honoring your father? Have not his servants come to you to search and to overthrow and to spy out the land?”
1Chr. 19:4 So Hanun seized David’s servants, shaved them, cut off their garments in the middle at their hips, and sent them away;
1Chr. 19:5 and they departed. When David was told about the men, he sent messengers to them, for they felt greatly humiliated. The king said, “Remain at Jericho until your beards have grown, and then return.”

Observation:

David was trying to be kind to Hanun whose father had died.  Disregarding the fact that his father had a good relationship with David, the young ruler allowed his inexperienced advisors to give him some bad advice.  Sadly, he listened to them as they could only imagine that David had an ulterior motive.  They did not know David and did not bother to know him, nor his messengers. 

Unable to receive the consolations of David with gratitude, Hanun had David’s men seized and humiliated.  Their ingratitude led to an over reaction on their part which in turn led to war.  David had wanted to show a simple act of kindness and the stubbornness and pride of the young leader resulted in the death of thousands. 

Application:


How often do we read something into someone’s behavior that simply is not there?  And then we react in a way that results in further destruction! 

I have to confess that early on in our marriage I used to try to “read into” my husband’s behavior.  Surely he meant something by the way in which he was acting (or not acting).  The problem with this was that I was usually wrong.  Generally there was nothing insidious going on, but instead, he was just going about his business not thinking about how I may interpret his behavior.  I could either jump to conclusions about his attitude and behavior, or accept at face value that there was nothing to interpret.  I learned to accept him with gratitude and not a reaction from over thinking everything. 

What about our relationships with our friends?  It seems that we can also jump to conclusions about peoples’ motives when it comes to relationships with others.  It’s sad to say that in the church we may even respond in this way.  We are certain that people are acting or reacting in particular ways because they have some kind of motivation to do you harm.  David had no intention of harming Hanun.  He wanted to show him kindness and sympathy.  There are people around us, our friends and loved ones who often want to show us kindness and yet they are rebuffed because we cannot accept what they have to offer.  The result is that everyone gets hurt. 

Our distrust of leadership may also have cataclysmic results.  When we begin to second guess every decision of leaders and wonder if there is a secret conspiracy behind their activities we will become just like Hanun.  His advisors went from a man showing kindness to his motivation being to “search and to overthrow to spy out the land.”  This was never on David’s mind!  He thought they were friends and yet, their wildest imagination of a major conspiracy got the best of them and they intentionally humiliated the very ones who had come to bring them help.  Realizing they had become “odious” to David, Hanun went and hired an outside army to come and protect them.  This failed and thousands lost their lives. 

We may not be in the business of killing one another physically these days in response to a spirit of ingratitude, but we may be in the business of destroying thousands of relationships by our attitudes.  One bad attitude and response can have a ripple effect that will destroy hundreds or even thousands.  The result for Hanun was a shattered kingdom.  The result for us may be a shattered marriage, broken children, lost friendships, or even a divided church. 

Was it worth it for Hanun to jump to conclusions and humiliate David’s servants? 

God’s people should seek out the best in one another and not try to find a conspiracy story hidden in every behavior or action.  With a spirit of gratitude let us accept the love and generosity we should be showing to one another.  If not, we may miss out one what God is sending our direction by simply having a spirit of ingratitude.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for what you have done in my life.  Please, give me eyes to see and a spirit to accept what you send my direction.  Amen.




Saturday, May 3, 2014

Sitting Before the Lord



Scripture:

2Sam. 7:18 ¶ Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and said, “Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?

Observation:

This one little sentence gives us a glimpse into the relationship that David had with the LORD.  The great leader, King David “went in and sat before the LORD.”  It was in this setting that David had an intimate conversation with the Lord, spending time in prayer about the future of the kingdom. 

Application:
When reading about David it becomes obvious that he had a deeply intimate relationship with the LORD.  This wasn’t the first time that he had gone and “sat before the LORD.”  His relationship with the LORD was one such that he was able to go and sit before him on a regular basis and he and the LORD could have deep conversations.  The LORD loved David and David loved the LORD.  Throughout his life this relationship continued to be developed until David’s heart began to be like the LORD’s heart. 

Did David do everything right in life?  No, sadly he did not and it appears that when he failed to spend his time before the LORD that he, at times, ended up in trouble.  However, when he received correction from the LORD he was willing to listen and obey because he was constantly drawn back to the quiet place in the presence of the LORD. 

Once we taste the beauty of dwelling in the LORD’s presence, we desire nothing more than sitting with him.  We want to return to that place day after day and simply soak in the LORD.

The LORD hasn’t gone anywhere, but is patiently waiting for us to come and sit before him.  The intimacy of the relationship found between David and the LORD is available for us as well, if only we will take the time to sit before the LORD.  It requires us slowing down and taking the time to soak in his presence on a regular basis.  Without this type of saturation of his presence we will be unable to fulfill all that God has intended for us.  Even David, the mighty warrior, knew his limitations and that he needed his time in God’s presence, seeking the leading of the LORD in all things.

Prayer:


Lord, I love you and am so grateful for your love and leading.  May I never become too busy to sit before you.  Amen.