Sunday, May 31, 2015
Prov. 21:13 If you close your ear to the cry of the poor,
you will cry out and not be heard.
The poor have always been among us and they are crying out. Jesus reminded us that he was present in the one who needed to be clothed, fed and visited while in prison. Wisdom reminds us that we are to listen to what the poor are saying. We are to hear their cries for help and we are to respond for the day will arise when we need help. If we do not respond and hear what the poor are saying, no one will listen when we too are in need of assistance.
Walking through the streets of a large city it’s amazing all that the eye can see. It’s much different from getting in the car and simply driving from place to place, a bit insulated from the needs of those around you. While walking in the city one begins to see the needs of the poor on a different level. There are the homeless living out in the city square, crying out for help and justice. There are those who are begging for assistance on a street corner. There are simply the neighborhoods which “feel” different with the accompanying sights, smells and sounds.
Christ-followers are challenged to respond to the needs of these people and communities. The issues can be, at times, complex and God has gifted some to be able to wrestle with the complexities, while at the same time, we are simply called to be Jesus incarnate to those with needs!
The poor are saying that they need help. There will be a day in which we need help. Will we listen to the voices of needy around us today? Will we hear what they are saying? Minister today to the poor, and you are ministering to Christ himself. Listen!
Lord, may I live and respond today in your love. Amen.
Prov. 18:1 An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends;
he defies all sound judgment. (NIV)
1 The one who lives alone is self-indulgent,
showing contempt for all who have sound judgment. (NRSV)
It’s interesting how these two translations try to express the same truth. The NIV refers to the person being “unfriendly” and the NRSV as the “one who lives alone.” Ultimately both translations point to the fact that the person is selfish, either pursuing “selfish ends” or is “self-indulgent.” This means that the person has chosen to live in this particular way, without participating in the life of the community.
We were created to be in community. That’s why wisdom says that this individual “defies all sound judgment.” or shows contempt “for all who have sound judgment.” In other words, those who live together within a community are the ones who show sound judgment. Choosing to be a loner is unwise.
Choosing to be a loner is unwise from a spiritual perspective. This isn’t about living alone, it’s about doing life alone. We may be single and yet, we are always called to do life in community.
Church is to be a source of community for Christ-followers. In this way, the one who chooses to try and be religious on their own, is foolish. They are foolish because it is impossible to truly grow spiritually when trying to do it on our own.
There is much to be learned when living in community. The walls of selfishness come crashing down because when we interact on a personal level with others, we soon discover that there is a great deal of give and take in relationships. We learn that we can’t always have everything our own way, but that we must share with others. All of this results in sound judgment.
When we reach beyond ourselves and we get to know those around us we become aware of their needs. Their needs become our needs when we have compassion. No longer can I be selfish with what I have but I must invest in others to make a difference in their lives.
Choosing to be a loner is not an option for a Christ-follower. Christ will lead us out into a needy and hurting world where his generosity must flow through us.
Lord, may I live my life out of the overflow of my relationship with you. Amen.
Friday, May 29, 2015
23 Doing wrong is like sport to a fool,
but wise conduct is pleasure to a person of understanding.
It’s easy to get caught up in foolish behavior. Sometimes that foolish act can be followed by a rush of adrenaline and so the next foolish act is intentionally planned. It becomes a game and the fool derives pleasure from deceitful and sinful behavior. The addiction is physical and so foolishness becomes a sport played to provide the thrill.
On the other hand the person of wisdom receives pleasure by their restraint both in the present and the future. The wise person doesn’t have to deal with the negative consequences of foolish behavior. Wise conduct comes from an understanding of the big picture and doesn’t live in the thrill of the moment.
Many of us have encountered the friend or loved one who has become caught in the sport of foolishness. When continued the game leads to destruction.
Saved by the grace of God we are led to a life of wise conduct. Our new life in Christ means that we no longer desire to intentionally sin, which means we do not engage in the sport of being a fool. Foolishness is conduct unbecoming of a Christian and if we are enjoying the highs it provides — we must ask for God’s grace to release us from its grip and set us free! It is possible in the power and the grace of God’s holy spirit live a life of wisdom and understanding.
Lord, please release your children from foolish behavior. Amen.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Romans 8:37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul had just listed a number of items through which Christ-followers might pass. They included tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril and sword. None of these sound pleasant in any way, shape or form. Andy yet, Paul encouraged the believers to understand that all of these were worth conquering.
The goal of the believer is to know Christ and his love. This love is worth the conquering. If we are unwilling to endure hardships we will not know the love of Christ. At the same time, none of the hardships of life are large enough to separate us from Christ's love. No matter what the world may throw at us, his love survives, making us more than conquerors.
Just reading the newsfeed in Facebook is overwhelming. Today's news stories include massive flooding, the untimely death of the innocent, illnesses, economic concerns, earthquakes, war, etc. How do we respond in the midst of these situations?
Paul reminds us that all of these things are worth conquering in light of knowing the love of Christ. For us to truly believe this we must be in a deeply intimate relationship with our Lord. Just attending church on Sundays (occasionally) and maybe even participating in a Bible Study will not take us to that place of intimacy with him! To truly know the love of Christ we must maintain a relationship — in his presence — on a daily basis. This means time in prayer, worship, study of the word, fellowship with other believers and a genuine desire to organize all of life around our love of Christ.
Does this mean that it makes the troubles of life easy? Never! Does this mean we will never suffer through any of these difficulties? No! But it does mean that the love that we experience in our deeply intimate relationship with Christ can overcome all the obstacles that this world may throw our direction. It’s that love that goes with us through the deep, deep valleys of life that is worth the conquering — and nothing else.
Lord, please take me to the garden of fellowship with you today. Amen.
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Prov. 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Wisdom reminds us of the need to lean. We become weary and need to lean in some direction and the temptation is to lean upon our own wisdom, learning, knowledge and insight. This is the wrong way to lean.
We are to be dependent on the LORD and trusting and leaning are both words that represent that physical experience of support which we are to experience in our relationship to God. Trust in the LORD. Lean on the LORD.
In acknowledging our need for him, he will direct us in the pathways of life.
These two verses are ones that many Christians have memorized and heard throughout their lives. At the same time I’m afraid that we may not truly live by these words.
The imagery of leaning is powerful. When I lean on someone or something, I also trust and/or believe that they will be able to support me. They hold me up when I am in need.
Solomon was tempted to lean into his own understanding and at some point I’m afraid that he moved away from his own advice. It’s easy when we are new in the faith to be excited about how God is leading and we lean into him, but then the older we get and the more familiar it all becomes, there is a tendency to lean into ourselves.
Maybe it’s time to re-embrace this familiar passage. No matter how smart or how educated we may be, we need to lean into God. We need to trust him and his wisdom to lead us throughout the paths of life. We all need to lean — but in the right direction.
Lord, may I lean into you today. Amen.
Monday, May 25, 2015
Rom. 6:1 What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?
For Paul the idea of sinning and living in Christ were two incompatible concepts. Once someone is baptized and united with Christ they are living in the newness and grace of that life. It automatically raises the question of sin. Origen tell us, “it is clear that someone who has died to sin cannot remain a sinner.” That’s because the kingdom loyalties have shifted.
“To sin is to live to sin, and not to sin is to live to God. Therefore, when the grace of God through Christ and through faith came upon us, we began by the spiritual rebirth of baptism to live to God, and we died to sin, which is the devil. This is what dying to sin means: to be set free from sin and to become a servant of God. Therefore, having died to sin, let us not go back to our earlier evils, lest by living once again to sin and dying to God we should incur the penalty from which we have escaped.” (Ambrosiaster, Commentary on Paul’s Epistles)
To argue that a baptized individual would go on sinning is ludicrous in the mind of Paul. The life of sin has been left behind and the believer has entered into a new life, united with Christ. The direction of life is completely changed and there should be no going back. This is a real change that is transformational.
It seems that there are more arguments these days about why we humans fall short of God’s desire for us and why we continue to sin, than there are about why we don’t have to go on sinning. It’s become a crutch to argue that we can’t live without sin and for those who would argue that they can — that they are simply fooling themselves. We argue that we’re simply being “realistic.” Or, could it be that we are providing excuses for our own behavior and justifying the fact that we are not wholeheartedly united with Christ — we are not totally sold out to living for him — and therefore we will continue to dabble in sin.
There is no place in-between for the Christian. Paul talks about dying to sin and living in Christ. When someone dies, they really die!
Yesterday we celebrated the life of Dr. Rob Staples. He was an incredible man who made a difference in the lives of many people throughout the years. Dr. Rob Staples has died to this life. There is no coming back in the way in which he lived this life previously for he has moved on and would not want to come back! He is enjoying the very presence of Jesus Christ. To desire to return to the physical body with all of its struggles and weaknesses would be foolishness.
When we die to sin we leave the old life behind. It’s over. It’s finished. We are united together with Christ and transformed when we put on the new life. We are now new and different people. Why would we want to go back to the life of sin? Why would we want to “dabble” in sin anymore for it is no longer compatible with the new life that we have been given in Christ, which is just a little foretaste of heaven!
The arguments about sinning now make sense in light of the new life in Christ. The old is gone! It is dead! You and I — we are invited to live in the newness of our life in Christ. Embrace it. Live it boldly. Live in deep intimacy with the Savior and there will be no desire to sin.
Lord, may I live into the intimacy of my relationship with you. Amen.
Sunday, May 24, 2015
2Chr. 8:11 Solomon brought Pharaoh’s daughter from the city of David to the house that he had built for her, for he said, “My wife shall not live in the house of King David of Israel, for the places to which the ark of the LORD has come are holy.”
Solomon had a problem with women. He married far too many wives and married outside of Israel. This sin is especially difficult to accept for he marries Pharoah’s daughter. This means that he developed ties back to Egypt, the very place from which God had freed his people. This man of wisdom — Solomon — proved to be very foolish when it came to his own personal relationships.
At the same time he realized that there was something improper about this relationship. He saw that the places where God resided were holy and there was something “unholy” about an Egyptian woman in the midst of God’s dwelling. Trying to make himself look better he built a separate house for her to keep her away from God’s holy presence.
I believe that Solomon was going a long distance to try and justify his behavior. What he had done was clearly in disobedience to God but somehow he was justifying that if he didn’t contaminate God’s holy place with his wife’s presence, he was going to be okay. He goes out of his way to build her a separate house so that he could boast about the fact that she was not living in the dwelling place of the presence of God.
Instead of addressing the real root of his personal problem, Solomon was trying to make himself look good.
This practice continues today and quite frequently among “Christians.” When our concern becomes focused on what others will think of us, rather than our personal relationship before God we will do anything to cover up bad behavior and try to make things look good. Somehow we soothe our conscience when we keep up a good front, but underneath there is a decay which will ultimately prove to be destructive.
Solomon’s love of women had horrible consequences for all of God’s people. If we refuse to deal with the real issues and continue to try and make things look good, then we, too, will have to live with the consequences. God never told us to try to look good for the world…he told us to love him and love our neighbors…and that requires honesty and transparency which includes repentance and forgiveness.
Lord, please help me to be honest and transparent. Amen.
Saturday, May 23, 2015
2Chr. 6:32 “Likewise when foreigners, who are not of your people Israel, come from a distant land because of your great name, and your mighty hand, and your outstretched arm, when they come and pray toward this house, 33 may you hear from heaven your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigners ask of you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that your name has been invoked on this house that I have built.
Here in the midst of Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the temple he prays for a number of circumstances to be used to the glory of God. He prays for the foreigners who will come to Israel because they have heard about the great name of God. They have heard about the ways in which God is working in and through his people and as a result, people are drawn to the nation. God is not just blessing the people of Israel for their sakes, but for the sake of a lost world.
When the foreigners arrive they are to be welcomed and Solomon even prays that God will “do whatever the foreigners ask of you.” It is an evangelistic prayer. He wants the foreigners to experience the things of God so that they will worship and praise God and that the message will be spread among more and more people of the earth.
We begin to see here that immigration is God’s plan of evangelism. We pray for missionary movements and revivals to happen around the world (we do, don’t we?) — and we want to see God work in extraordinary ways. Yet, we fail to see that the extraordinary may be something we are encountering on a daily basis.
The foreigners who come to our lands are often drawn because of the resources that are available. When we become protective of those resources, concerned that there won’t be enough for all of us, then we fail to see the miracle that is at work. God, who multiplied the loaves and fed the 5000 is still at work today. He can help us multiply and share our resources when people are drawn toward us because it appears we have plenty. We need to ask God to help us open our eyes and see that this is his miracle at work.
The miracle is that the mission field is moving closer than we would have ever imagined. Every day I am in contact with people who have arrived in my neighborhood from around the world. I’ve never been to Vietnam but I see and talk to people who are Vietnamese on a regular basis. Years ago weren’t believers praying for the war — that the walls would come down — that we could share Christ with people. Now it’s possible in my own city. Isn’t that a miracle?
Solomon in all his wisdom saw the miracle of evangelism that could occur when foreigners came to Israel because the word got out about God’s work in the land. Have we been living in the blessings of God? Is that for us to enjoy, or for it to be used to the glory of God and to bring the world to him?
Solomon’s prayer went beyond his own people. We are encouraged by his prayer and so we pray for us, and the foreigners as well. May God use all of us in his kingdom’s work!
Lord, thank you for the foreigners among us for they are a sign of your activity. Amen.
Friday, May 22, 2015
Psa. 99:1 The LORD is king; let the peoples tremble!
He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!
2 The LORD is great in Zion;
he is exalted over all the peoples.
3 Let them praise your great and awesome name.
Holy is he!
4 Mighty King, lover of justice,
you have established equity;
you have executed justice
and righteousness in Jacob.
5 Extol the LORD our God;
worship at his footstool.
Holy is he!
The holiness of God is something about which to sing! Our LORD is great and holy. The nature of holiness is revealed in God’s love for justice, equity and righteousness which is to be found among his holy people. Therefore we come before the LORD our God and we worship him — for he is holy!
God’s holy nature is to be reflected in his people. We are to be the likeness of God for the world. If he is reflected in us then we will respond to the needs of the world around us in the same way in which he responds.
Do we love justice? It’s amazing how holiness and justice are so often connected. God is a lover of justice and as his people we should be as well. The early holiness people fought against the injustices that they saw in the world because the very nature of injustice rubs against the nature of God’s holiness. The two are incompatible.
Not only is there a love of justice, but equity is established. What does that mean for a Christ-follower seeking to be a reflection of God’s holiness? We are to be fair and equitable to those who are around us for this becomes our witness. The ways in which we act, react and treat those around us is our testimony. The world is watching and wanting to know how God’s holy people will respond. When we become more concerned about ourselves and making sure that we are properly cared for — than for others — then we are not seeking the equity of our holy God. We must put others first, sharing with those in need! In this, God’s holiness is revealed.
We worship him when we are at his footstool, facing God and in his holy presence. Yes, “Holy is he!”
Lord, may my life be a testimony to you. Amen.
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Psa. 98:0 A Psalm.
1 O sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
have gotten him victory.
2 The LORD has made known his victory;
he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the victory of our God.
When a new chapter unfolded in the life of God’s people they wrote a new song. This Psalm is a foreshadowing of God’s mighty victory through the Messiah. This indeed is a new song and a completely new chapter for all of God’s people. God is praised for what he has done, is doing and will do into the future. He has revealed his ultimate victory and this is worthy of a new song!
It’s so easy to become focused upon the difficulties that we fail to see God’s hand at work in the world. God’s activity begs for a new song to be written and yet we can’t seem to see beyond our own personal frustrations. There is the temptation to become so mired in negativity that we fail to see God’s activity.
God is inviting us to write a new song. He is in the business of transforming lives and touching our world — but we just may fail to see it! If we fail to see it, we fail to celebrate it and there will be no new song for anyone to hear.
I rejoice in the hand of God that is at work in the world today. He’s not given up on us and a new song is being written in the lives of people all around us. Let’s celebrate. Let’s look to what he is doing in a powerful and mighty way. And let’s join in singing that new song.
Lord, may your new song be sung in my heart and mind today. Amen.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Romans 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.
Paul was certainly not ashamed of the faith that he had in the gospel. Imagine the distance he had come from persecuting the believers to openly admitting his faith and proclaiming it everywhere that he could. He may have been ashamed of what he had done previously but was certainly not ashamed of the new life that he had in Christ.
He had learned to follow Christ and realized the power of God, resurrection power, which was available for all of humankind. Jews and Greeks alike were provided with salvation through the good news of Jesus Christ. Paul wanted everyone to know!
The world isn’t overly fond of Christians these days. I wear my NTS pin nearly everywhere I go and there, proudly displayed in the center is a cross. It is a reminder of the Christ-centeredness of our understanding of holiness. I am not ashamed of Christ and yet — people look at that pin and sometimes immediately frown. It’s amazing to me how in such a short period of time being a Christian has become viewed so negatively by society.
At the same time, I am not ashamed! Just as Paul was called to share the good news of salvation to the world, so are we. We are challenged in the face of hostility to live the Spirit-filled life, reflecting Jesus to the world. I don’t want people to just see a cross on my pin, I want them to see Jesus living in and through me. My prayer is that if they see Christ they will see what Christianity truly is about — for it’s about him!
The challenge for Paul was to first seek Christ. This he did and spent valuable time in prayer and seeking the face of God. As a result, he was not ashamed of the gospel for he had already experienced its power. His own salvation story was extraordinary, but he continued to see the power of God for salvation in his daily ministry. He was not ashamed for he knew the reality of God’s transforming work in the lives of those to whom he had ministered.
It’s not time to be ashamed, but it is time to walk deeper with Christ, knowing him and sharing him with our world.
Lord, may I be deepened in my walk with you and may you lead me to proudly proclaim you on a daily basis. Amen.
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
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.
Paul’s benediction for the Thessalonians was that peace would overwhelm them. He identified the Lord as “the Lord of peace himself.” God’s nature of holy love reaches out and fills his people, resulting in peace.
The prayer for peace was for “all times and in all ways.” This permeation of peace was also in his message of sanctifying the people “through and through.” The connection between God’s holy love and peace is clear and distinct and it is Paul’s desire for God’s people.
This is only possible when the Lord is with God’s people and so this becomes the final word of Paul’s prayer. His desire is that the Lord be with God’s people in all ways and all times! The result is peace, both personal and corporate.
Peace can seem elusive. Just read the daily headlines and we are overcome with the negative and evil that is in the world. There is too much hostility between people. Why are we so angry with one another?
A group of biker gangs gathered in Waco, TX and shot at one another. We seem to not even notice this news and yet, how in the world did we get to the place where we behave in this way?
We have cities in America where there is no peace. Issues of race are tearing us apart and we have for far too long, had a deaf ear to what is happening. Where is the peace?
In the Middle East a group by the name of ISIS has seized another city. Innocent, ordinary people are having their lives destroyed because there is no peace.
Paul’s prayer is one that we need today. Holiness is what the world needs today. Peace is what we need today.
Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians is not one of a mediocre Christianity. The call and prayer is to a deeper walk with Jesus Christ and greater intimacy with the Prince of Peace. That deeper intimacy leads to entire sanctification and then God’s holy love flows from his people, transforming them into his people of holy peace. This is peace of heart and mind in the midst of trauma. It is also peaceful behavior in the midst of a chaotic war.
Rebecca Krikorian was a young Armenian woman who left Turkey prior to the first World War and came to America to raise funds for her mission back at home. While in America she received word of the atrocities her people were facing. Too many friends and family members were being murdered; and in ways which almost defy description. Overcome with grief she spent hours and hours in prayer and the God of peace ministered to her. He filled her heart with his peace and her desire in life was to return home and bring the good news of Jesus to the perpetrators of the heinous crimes. She worked tirelessly to raise money to go home with forgiveness and peace. Her peace could only have come from Christ himself, and of course it did, for she was intimately connected to him.
We need peace. Peace will only come when we know the Prince of Peace. This is for us, and should drive us to evangelize, bringing the good news of this peace to a world that is anything but peaceful.
Lord, may I know your peace. Amen.
Monday, May 18, 2015
2Chr. 1:7 That night God appeared to Solomon, and said to him, “Ask what I should give you.” 8 Solomon said to God, “You have shown great and steadfast love to my father David, and have made me succeed him as king. 9 O LORD God, let your promise to my father David now be fulfilled, for you have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth. 10 Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can rule this great people of yours?” 11 God answered Solomon, “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked for possessions, wealth, honor, or the life of those who hate you, and have not even asked for long life, but have asked for wisdom and knowledge for yourself that you may rule my people over whom I have made you king, 12 wisdom and knowledge are granted to you. I will also give you riches, possessions, and honor, such as none of the kings had who were before you, and none after you shall have the like.” 13 So Solomon came from the high place at Gibeon, from the tent of meeting, to Jerusalem. And he reigned over Israel.
Solomon had an intimate relationship with the Lord and in that space God asked him, “what should I give you?” Solomon’s prayer time was not filled with requests before God, but rather was a time when he was in God’s presence, getting to know the God of all creation.
While later in life Solomon strayed, we see that in his early years he recognized his dependence upon God. His prayer was not for anything worldly but for the spiritual. Wisdom was what he knew that he needed, not for himself, but so that he would be able to be the kind of leader that the people needed. He wanted to have God’s wisdom so that he could lead God’s people.
Solomon prays in earnest, and he also prays what he ought. God then answers his prayer and he is remembered as man filled with great wisdom.
Learning to pray for what we really need can be a challenge. Solomon learned how to rest in God’s presence. It was in that place of intimacy that God posed the question to Solomon. It wasn’t Solomon’s plan to ask for wisdom, but instead it was at God’s leading that he brought his request to God. There is something about this kind of patience that allows us to get to know the Father. Too often we are in a hurry with our prayer time that we fail to simply rest in the presence of God and allow him to search our hearts, minds and motives. If we would give God that space, then we would be able to hear his voice when he asks, “what do you want?”
Solomon didn’t ask for something for himself. Wisdom may seem like it’s an individual thing, but he only asked for wisdom so that he would be able to be a better leader for God’s people. In other words, he asked God to fill in the gaps of his own personal short-comings so that he could be a better servant.
Where does God need to fill in the gap in our lives today? We will never be good at everything and it’s important to acknowledge this before God. It is in our weaknesses that he is strong. It was God’s wisdom that was revealed in the life of Solomon that put people in awe of his abilities. God was revealed in Solomon. God wants to be revealed in our lives and that is what leads us to a prayer life in which our requests are made in earnest, but also filled with what they “ought.”
What “ought” we be praying for? Whatever it is that we are trying to do in our ability is what we ought to bring before God. He will provide the strength, wisdom, leadership, guidance that we may not have and through this, he will be revealed. That’s what we really need!
Lord, may I be dependent upon you today and every day. Amen.
Sunday, May 17, 2015
Psa. 95:1 O come, let us sing to the LORD;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
The invitation is for all to enter into the place of worship before the LORD. The songs and joyful noise are for the LORD’s sake. We are privileged to enter into his presence and should bring with us thanksgiving. The songs we sing are for him. The joyful noise in worship is for him!
This is Sunday and today Christians around the world will go to church. Why are we going? I think if I asked that question of a number of church goers I would receive a variety of answers.
I like the music.
I enjoy hearing the preacher.
I like seeing my family and friends.
I enjoy the fellowship.
I’m learning in my Sunday School class.
I’ve always gone and so it’s just a part of my routine. I’d really be missing out if I didn’t attend.
None of these are bad answers, but they may be indicative of the fact that we fail to understand that worship is about God. We go to the Lord’s house so that we may participate in worship of him. The service, the studies, the fellowship, are all ways in which we worship God. Everything ought to be pointing in the direction of God, our Creator, Savior and Sustainer.
We are invited today to enter his presence. May we go with thanksgiving and may we sing praises and make a joyful noise to the LORD! Remember, it’s all about him.
Lord, thank you for the privilege of entering your house today. Amen.
Saturday, May 16, 2015
I Thess. 5:23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound[f] and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.
This benediction is prayed for the Thessalonians and it expresses the goal of the Christian life. Paul prays that they would be entirely sanctified. He desires that they would be holy people through and through, a complete and total reflection of Jesus Christ in the world. This is possible through the grace of God who draws our spirit, soul and body ever closer to the original Image — Christ.
When Christ returns he will know us because we will resemble him! He is calling us to this life and drawing us nearer — and he will be faithful to continue to be entirely reflected in us!
Have you ever looked at yourself in a full-length mirror? The further we are from the mirror, the smaller our reflection in that mirror. The closer we are, the more our reflection fills the entire mirror and we look — huge!
Imagine that we are the mirror, created to reflect the Image of God — Jesus Christ. The further we are from him, the smaller his reflection is in us. To be holy through and through — to be entirely and completely holy we are so filled with his Image that his reflection fills the entire mirror. Only the frame is left — the unique character that God has placed in you and me as his people.
His desire is that we are entirely and completely filled with him!
Paul prayed this for the Thessalonians and it should be our prayer for ourselves and others today. Every part of our being is to be in alignment with Christ so that he is reflected in our words, our attitudes, our actions and motivations! It is possible — and God will do it!
He will do it, but too often we get in the way. There is that distracted glance from one side to another. The things of this world grab our attention and we can be drawn away and enticed. This is why we must pray that we will be sanctified entirely both in a moment and then every single day for the remainder of our lives.
Lord, may you be reflected completely in me today and every day. Amen.
Friday, May 15, 2015
I Thess. 4:11 to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you, 12 so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and be dependent on no one.
The Thessalonians were excited about the return of Jesus Christ. In fact, some within the community had quit their jobs because of their excitement and thought it no longer necessary to work. This was creating a burden for the remainder of the community because they had to provide for the needs of those who had chose to be idle!
This practical advice was meant to encourage them to be responsible individuals, even when awaiting Jesus’ return. They were to be respected because they were hard workers, living quietly and minding their own affairs. In other words, they were not to be stirring up trouble within the community.
Their own lifestyle was one which was to be a testimony to the outside world. The holiness of Jesus Christ reflected in them was to be visible in their holy living.
This advice is just as relevant for followers of Jesus Christ in the 21st century, as it was in the 1st century. Working hard and being responsible is a witness to the world.
Basil the Great, writing in the 4th century gave this advice:
The Christian should not make a display of dress or shoes, as this is indeed idle ostentation. He should use inexpensive clothing for his bodily needs. He should not spend anything beyond actual necessity or for mere extravagance. This is an abuse. He should not seek honor nor lay claim to the first place. Each one ought to prefer all others to himself. He ought not to be disobedient. He who is idle, although able to work, should not eat. Moreover, he who is occupied with some task which is rightly intended for the glory of Christ ought to limit himself to the pursuit of work within his ability. (LETTERS 22)
Basil has made me a little convicted today of my shoe collection. If I were honest, it’s far larger than it needs to be. The temptation to spend beyond what I really need is real. Yet what would happen if God’s children were cautious with all that they had?
In today’s language I think the writer of the Epistle would tell us:
Live within your means. Don’t use credit cards or go into debt to feed an unrealistic lifestyle. Show the world that Christians don’t need to have all the “stuff” of the world to be happy but can be content with having their needs met.
Work hard and be generous. Don’t expect the community of faith to take care of you if you’re not willing to work hard yourself. Put an effort into finding work and don’t reject a job because you think that you’re “above” that kind of position.
The world is watching and wondering how Christians will live. Holy living is displayed in our practical and ordinary every-day actions. May they be a testament to our Lord.
Lord, thank you for convicting my heart today. Amen.
Thursday, May 14, 2015
I Thess. 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. 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.
Paul was overflowing with love for the Thessalonian believers. He understood this as coming from God, for he had been filled with the Holy Spirit and therefore with God’s nature. This nature is holy love and it literally bubbled out of him, and reached out to the world around him.
This was Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians. He wanted them to know this love from God which he had experienced, therefore he prayed that the Lord would make their love increase. Then he connects this idea of abounding love with holiness in the very next sentence. Somehow abounding with love and being strengthened in holiness are related, for God’s holy love is the spring of true holiness.
The lessons from Paul are many. First we understand that he spends time in prayer for these whom he has led to Christ. The genuine nature of his love for God and others is evident in the way he literally prays in his letter. By his action we should be encouraged to action. Prayer is to be a major focus of our lives. We are to pray for those who need to know Christ, and then continue to pray of those who have come to Christ that they might continue to grow. Holiness, or the sanctified life is God’s desire for all of humanity. We are to participate in God’s holy work by being a people of prayer.
Paul had experienced the holiness of God in his life which was springing from holy love. God took a young man who was intent on persecuting Christians and transformed him by filling him with his Spirit. Now, instead of anger unleashed against those who had come to love Christ, he was “abounding” in that very love. It was as if the windows of heaven were opened and God’s love was poured out over and over and over again, filling Paul and spilling out and splashing on the world. Love of God and love of neighbor were the natural response, not because of Paul’s effort, but because of the presence of the Spirit in his life. The prayer wasn’t just for the Thessalonians, but for you and me too! We are to be filled to overflowing with God’s holy love.
The presence of God’s holy love within us is holiness. Holiness is visible in the ways in which we interact with the world. Holiness is putting others first. Holiness is God’s love that always seeks the best in others and the very best for the entire community. This is how we live when we abound with holy love.
Lord, please fill me today with your holiness. Amen.
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
1Chr. 21:28 At that time, when David saw that the LORD had answered him at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, he made his sacrifices there. 29 For the tabernacle of the LORD, which Moses had made in the wilderness, and the altar of burnt offering were at that time in the high place at Gibeon; 30 but David could not go before it to inquire of God, for he was afraid of the sword of the angel of the LORD.
David had disobeyed God by ordering a census of the people. The consequences of David’s decision reached far beyond David himself and to all of his people. The angel stood over Jerusalem, sword drawn as all the people would have to suffer as a result of David’s unwise decision. Recognizing his failure he began to plead before God, asking forgiveness for his actions, and the salvation of his people. It would have been customary to go to Gibeon to make a sacrifice before God, but David felt he needed to stay at the threshing floor of Ornan, and not leave the city of Jerusalem without an intercessor. He recognize that he had brought about the calamity, his actions were hurting the innocent, and so he did all he could to save them.
Our actions and our inactions have consequences, and often those reach far beyond ourselves. We may want to stand firm in our personal “rights” but that doesn’t mean that others may not get hurt. David could have argued with God that he had the “right” as leader of the Israelites to order a census. It was certainly within his rights as a king — other nations did it all the time. However, God had given him instructions that went beyond the rights of human kingdoms. David was to be obedient to God — a higher authority. In his disobedience to God his entire kingdom would suffer the consequences.
At this point David had two choices. He could have argued his “right” before God and stood in stubborn pride and arrogance and watched his people die, or he could admit his sin and work toward the deliverance of them all. David was willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of his people.
David recognized what he had done and was willing to take action for the greater good. He admitted what he had done and repented of his sin both before God and his people. David gathered together his leadership team, they put on sackcloth and bowed low before God. He followed God’s instructions and went and purchased the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.
David insisted on paying full price for the site, realizing that he needed to pay in full for what he had done. There can be no short-cuts to restitution. We can’t let someone else pay for the damage that we have done, but we must be willing to pay the full price, taking full responsibility for our actions.
David remained at the threshing floor, interceding for Jerusalem. As king he would have liked to have gone to the high place of Gibeon, but he humbled himself, giving up the high place and staying in prayer for his people. When my actions hurt others, I don’t get to just pick things up and go along my way as if nothing ever happened. I may never again return to the “high” places, but if I love others, I’m willing to lay down my life for them. I’m willing to give up everything for them, including my position, reputation and personal comforts. This is true love for God and neighbor.
When my actions hurt others, even if I am within my rights, I need to evaluate my response in light of my relationship to God. It’s humbling. It’s not the way of the world.
Lord, please help me to see my actions in light of obedience to you. May I be willing to repent and make restitution when I have hurt others. Amen.
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
2Sam. 21:15 The Philistines went to war again with Israel, and David went down together with his servants. They fought against the Philistines, and David grew weary. 16 Ishbi-benob, one of the descendants of the giants, whose spear weighed three hundred shekels of bronze, and who was fitted out with new weapons, said he would kill David. 17 But Abishai son of Zeruiah came to his aid, and attacked the Philistine and killed him. Then David’s men swore to him, “You shall not go out with us to battle any longer, so that you do not quench the lamp of Israel.”
David was one of the greatest warriors the world had ever seen and he had been the one who had killed the giant Goliath. This was his area of expertise — he knew how to fight and to kill giants. Suddenly, another giant, Ishbi-benob, was nearing, intent on killing David. But this time David was tired and weary. He had been leading for a number of years and was unable to do it all on his own.
Abishai, one of David’s men came to his aid. He stepped in and took care of the giant. Even though David was the one with the reputation of being a giant killer, this time, he needed help. Not only did Abishai take care of the giant, but all of David’s men gathered around him and helped him set some priorities. They needed David as the visionary leader. the one who could keep the lamp of Israel burning. David needed to heed their advice and no longer go out to battle because he couldn’t do it all himself!
I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for David to step back from being involved in everything. He had been a war hero. He had killed Goliath. But now, he needed to recognize where he was needed. No longer was he needed on the front lines as a soldier, but he needed the protection of his soldiers so that he could lead all the people to God!
Life’s journey is not static. We have to learn and make adjustments along the way. This includes the roles which we fulfill. This scripture is a great lesson in leadership. There is the temptation of a leader to try to do it all…especially when the things that need to be done are the things that we think we do well! Can you imagine how humbling it must have been for David to have someone else kill the giant?
To be servants in God’s kingdom we must be willing to make adjustments and not think that we have to do everything ourselves. We are all gifted for different roles and purposes and at times there will be shifts and adjustments. Just because God has gifted us at a particular time and moment for something doesn’t meant that will be what we do for the remainder of our lives. Sometimes we have to be willing to let go of something that God gave us for a particular time and let someone else do it! It’s not ours for a lifetime, it’s ours for the moment. That’s part of the journey.
David had to learn to adjust and live in this new moment of his life. I’m going to guess that there was some emotion involved. Much of his identity was in being a soldier. Staying home may have made him feel like he was weak, and yet he needed to live into this next stage of his life. Had he tried to do it all, he probably would have been killed — and then have been of no use to anyone.
Laying down things that have been a part of our identity and trusting God for the journey can be difficult. Lean into the new that lies ahead and be willing to let go and let others do what you may have done before. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of trust in God alone!
Lord, please help me to trust in you step by step, moving forward, every day. Amen.
Sunday, May 10, 2015
But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.
(1 Thessalonians 2:7 NASB)
Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.
(1 Thessalonians 2:8 NASB)
(1 Thessalonians 2:7 NASB)
Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.
(1 Thessalonians 2:8 NASB)
It's interesting that the Apostle Paul uses this metaphor of a nursing mother for himself as he considers how he and the others who were traveling with him had cared for the people in the church of Thessalonica. Paul traveled during much of his ministry experience spending chunks of time in one place and then in another. Paul's spiritual leadership should be an example to all of us for his focus was not simply on teaching in an unattached setting with his students, instead he became deeply and personally involved in the lives of those whom God had placed into his care.
One of the greatest experiences in life was becoming a mother. I will never forget the day that the doctor handed me our oldest daughter Christy. From that first moment when I looked into her eyes I was in love and it was a type of love that I had never felt before in my entire life. Here in my arms was a little person that I would be willing to die for! As a mother I had the privilege of nursing her. This in itself is an incredible experience that God has created. In the busyness of life when it's time to nurse, there is nothing else you can do. You stop, you put everything else aside and you focus on that little person that you are going to spend the next few minutes with, as you are able to provide them nourishment, but also simply moments of lovingly looking into their eyes. When babies are small their focus distance is about 18" -- about the distance from the mothers breast to her eyes. This is God's intention, his plan for the nurturing of this little one. Quiet, sweet moments of nourishment and love. And this is how the Apostle Paul described his relationship with the new believers in Thessalonica.
Think about how we as Christians sometimes respond to those in the world who are living in sin. Young people today will often say they love Jesus but they hate the church. Why is that? Because, if we take a hard look at ourselves, we probably have not been acting like a nursing mother with the world. Unfortunately it is the people who do extreme acts in the name of Christ who get on the news. Sadly, the ones who do minister and nurture like the Apostle Paul do not get the press. But, it's not about getting the press, it's about being obedient followers of Jesus Christ and interacting with our world in the way that God intended.
Every follower of Jesus Christ is called to make disciples, who will make disciples, who will make disciples. Paul is our role model. He didn't just bring the gospel to people, he brought his very self. He didn't just teach on an intellectual level, he loved on a very personal level. If we are going to share the good news about Jesus Christ with our world, then we have to help the world see Jesus in us. The world is hungry to see the true Jesus interacting with them and this we can do if we will bring the good news, and also be willing to bring ourselves. We must be willing to invest in the people of this world on a very personal level; giving, sharing, loving and nurturing. God places people into our care that need to be loved just as a nursing mother stops and takes time to simply nourish and love on that beautiful baby which has been placed into her arms.
God blessed us with two beautiful daughters. I am privileged to be their mom. Soon I'll be a grandmother and I look forward to that day. I celebrate today and my prayer is that we will look upon this world with the love of a gentle mom.
Lord, may I pour myself out to love the world with your love. Amen.
Friday, May 8, 2015
34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’
The kingdom is everywhere for we find the Lord in the thirsty and the hungry. He is there in the stranger. He is the one needing clothing and the one who is sick. He is the one in prison who so desperately needs a visitor. And in these dark corners of our world we find the kingdom, for there we find him.
Does our Lord hunger and thirst? Is he who himself made everything in heaven and on earth, who feeds angels in heaven and every nation and race on earth, who needs nothing of an earthly character, as he is unfailing in his own nature, is this one naked? It is incredible to believe such a thing. Yet what must be confessed is easy to believe. For the Lord hungers not in his own nature but in his saints; the Lord thirsts not in his own nature but in his poor. The Lord who clothes everyone is not naked in his own nature but in his servants. The Lord who is able to heal all sicknesses and has already destroyed death itself is not diseased in his own nature but in his servants. Our Lord, the one who can liberate every person, is not in prison in his own nature but in his saints. Therefore, you see, my most beloved, that the saints are not alone. They suffer all these things because of the Lord. In the same way, because of the saints the Lord suffers all these things with them. (Epiphanius the Latin, Interpretation of the Gospels 38).
As I walk along the street I see the man begging for just a few coins and I am challenged to imagine that this is Christ. Do I walk by, turning a blind eye, or do I stop and interact as if Jesus were present?
A friend is convicted of a terrible crime and is incarcerated and the initial response is one of frustration and revulsion. Surely he deserves his punishment — and yet, what am I to do? Go and visit as if it were Christ, himself behind those bars.
We are overwhelmed with strangers — immigrants from all over the world with whom we find it nearly impossible to communicate! They are bringing all types of foods and cultures with them and changing the way in which our neighborhoods look, smell and responsd. The Lord is found among the new neighbors. If you want to know Jesus, get to know the people down the street who are very different from you.
You never know where you will discover the Lord in his saints. Kingdom work challenges us to love and care for all those whom we encounter for it is in these encounters that we will come to know Christ and his true nature. His true nature will expand in us as we respond the way in which he would respond. In the same way we will be ministering to God himself. The Lord is in his saints, ministering to the world, and the Lord is in his saints, receiving the ministrations of the beloved. And all the while, the kingdom reach expands.
Lord, may I serve you faithfully in your kingdom. Amen.
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
Psa. 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.
The awful moment of truth had set in and David realized the depth of his sin. He had committed adultery with Bathsheba and then connived to have her husband killed. It doesn’t get much worse than that! In this dreadful moment he realized the depths of his sin and his need for repentance and renewal.
David did confess and repent of his sin and asked God to place within him a clean heart and a new spirit. He recognized that his motivations were compromised by a selfish spirit, one which had to be replaced by God’s spirit. He also realized the need for a deep relationship with God on an on-going basis, a face to face — in God’s presence — kind of a relationship. It is this face to face relationship with God that allows for the holiness of God to be reflected in and through us. David needed to be entirely sanctified by the holy presence of God consuming every crack and crevice of his being.
The joy of salvation would return and he would be sustained by a willing spirit. Repentance brought about renewal and a new positive chapter would be written in David’s life.
It took a while for a new positive chapter to be written for David and there were consequences of his behavior. He had to live with the negative and he was in deep pain as a result, but allowed God to continue to move him to the place of the positive.
We may have lived through the negative and terrible pain of life, but God wants to do something deeply positive with the negative. His spirit of transformation can take the negativity that we have endured and make it positive.
Living behind the facade of “everything’s okay” will not lead us to transformation. Instead, we will live in the crushing weight of sustaining a false reality. The only way that we can move forward is to be willing to stand before God — in his holy presence — and confess where we have failed. This doesn’t seem very popular these days, but repentance is the first step toward renewal.
The next step may include restitution for the wrongs which may have been committed. Again, hiding from the past and trying to maintain a “fake identity” only becomes weighty and discouraging. This is not what God had in mind for his people. Let go and be willing to confess what we’ve done and go back and ask people for forgiveness, making restitution. Look at the example of Zaccheaus — who gave back to the people more than he had taken.
#Project positive is the result of repentance and renewal in the Spirit. God takes control and we submit wholeheartedly to his authority and leading which is transformational. When this happens we don’t have to fight for our own “rights” but instead, turn it over to God in whose presence we stand and allow him to shine through us.
Lord, thank you for your transformational power at work in and through your people today. Amen.
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Psa. 20:0 To the leader. A Psalm of David.
1 The LORD answer you in the day of trouble!
The name of the God of Jacob protect you!
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary,
and give you support from Zion.
3 May he remember all your offerings,
and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices. Selah
Psa. 20:4 May he grant you your heart’s desire,
and fulfill all your plans.
5 May we shout for joy over your victory,
and in the name of our God set up our banners.
May the LORD fulfill all your petitions.
Psa. 20:6 Now I know that the LORD will help his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven
with mighty victories by his right hand.
7 Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses,
but our pride is in the name of the LORD our God.
8 They will collapse and fall,
but we shall rise and stand upright.
Psa. 20:9 Give victory to the king, O LORD;
answer us when we call.
David could certainly have complained about his life. There were lots of rotten things that happened to him through the years and especially in his relationship with Saul. It would seem that the “system” was out to get him and to bring him down.
David continued to cry out to God for his help and salvation and he believed that his pride had to be in what God would accomplish. Notice that his pride was not in his human accomplishments, but “in the name of the LORD our God.” The things of this world and the ways the world does battle “will collapse and fall.” Only those who are living and serving in the LORD will “rise and stand upright.”
When he could have been very frustrated, David chose to be positive. When he could have looked at his own personal resources, he looked to God. When he could have felt that all was lost, he believed that God was the victor.
It’s time to be positive! There are plenty of things in this world about which we can be negative and it’s easy to feed on the negative, but there is also so much good! David could have wallowed in the negative in his life but he chose not to and he believed that God was the one who would get the glory and would see him through!
We serve the same God today that David served and I believe that God is challenging us to look beyond the horizons and not to be fixated on the negative. Bad news travels quickly and often supersedes the good that is being done in this world that glorifies God.
The past number of weeks there has been a lot of negativity within the kingdom. We are good at pointing out our short-comings and there is a proper time and place for that to happen. While Jesus was not remiss to point out the injustices that he witnessed, he also moved on to participate in his father’s kingdom activity in the world. A message or a parable pointed in the direction of the scribes and Pharisees was usually followed by a miracle! The world around Jesus celebrated what he was doing to touch the needy — feeding the hungry and healing the sick. Some of our favorite stories include the feeding of the 5000 and sight being given to the blind. God was glorified in the positive and Jesus’ works revealed to humanity God’s power which can break into our world and transform. That’s the positive.
So, while some of us (especially us Nazarenes) have been a bit consumed by the negative, what would happen if we celebrated the positive?
Today I would like to suggest that we take a little time to participate in project positive! What are some of the great things that we are witnessing in the kingdom?
1) An incredible response by Nazarene Compassionate Ministries to the earthquake in Nepal. Check out this story, "The Man Who Stole The Rice."
2) The Florida Nazarene District assembly which celebrated the new ministries and are committed to planting 60 new works by 2020. They are celebrated a time of “pray and plant,” as they reach out to an ever-changing world. Dr. Gustavo Crocker ordained elders last evening in three different languages! That’s amazing.
3) The Church in Eastern Europe — making a difference and trying to break the chains of sex-trafficking. Have you heard? Check out my sister-in-law Teanna Sunberg's blog: "Across Cultures."
4) Joel Tooley, Nazarene minister, writing sometime around 5pm this morning on Facebook says: “Opening an emergency shelter, pastoring a church, taking care of widows, and making sure your kids remember who you are sometimes equals 21-hour days. Pray that the Lord of the harvest will send workers!”
What would you add to my list today? Join me in project positive. God is doing great things in and through the Church of the Nazarene and beyond. Some may take pride in horses and chariots — but let’s take pride in the Lord. Add to my list — and share a positive story.
Lord, thank you for what you are doing and may you be glorified! Amen.
Monday, May 4, 2015
Matthew 21:43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.
Speaking directly to the religious leaders Jesus let them know that if they were not producing spiritual fruit, they would lose the kingdom. We know the rest of the story and the gospel became a message of salvation for all — Jews and gentiles alike!
There was an expectation that God’s people would be an evangelistic people! The gift was not for them alone to hoard. What God had provided was to have been shared with the world around them so that others might know the one, true, living God.
Production of fruit was the sign of a healthy and growing relationship with God. No matter how hard the religious leaders tried to look good on the outside, Jesus could see right through them and tell that they were not producing the fruits of the kingdom.
If Jesus were here today, what would he say to us? Are we producing the fruit that he expects from one in a healthy relationship with him?
There is the fruit of the Spirit which is to be evident in our lives. This should be seen every single day in our interactions with those around us. But there is also the fruit — those who are coming to Christ — which ought to be evident.
I’m running into more and more Christians who will have never led anyone to Jesus Christ. They’re absolutely terrified at the idea and so, they quietly go about their business, almost hoping that their Christianity remains under the radar screen.
The reality is that the fruit of the Spirit will lead to other fruit as well. When we are living in the fullness of the Spirit then it’s almost impossible not to have the love of Christ spill out of you and touch others that need to know him!
It’s that waiter/waitress that you talk to in the restaurant that’s having a bad day and suddenly they notice your compassion and want to know more. It’s the people you run into at the grocery store, or the barber shop. It doesn’t take a memorized plan of salvation to show someone the way to Christ — it’s the way in which we live on an everyday basis that ought to open doors for those conversations.
How will Jesus respond to us? Will he look at us and tell us that the kingdom will be given to those who are producing fruit? May God help us to be in a fruitful relationship with him!
Lord, please help me to see those around me the way that you do. Amen.
Sunday, May 3, 2015
Matthew 20:34 Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they regained their sight and followed him.
Jesus had healed so many different people and their responses were not always the same. Probably most went home to share with their families and loved ones what had happened to them. They may have been physically healed and yet failed to realize how much more they had received from Christ.
A handful probably became true Christ-followers, but not many, and that’s what makes this story unique. These people didn’t run home, they really got it — they understood the significance of what Christ had done for them. They immediately followed him.
The question for us today is whether we really get it? Christ has done so much for us and we get to witness his activity in and through our lives on a daily basis — and yet, do we really get it?
The temptation is to go on with life and not to follow him in a radical way. He is ready and willing to heal us of our blindness, a blindness that does not allow us to see beyond ourselves and our personal needs. He wants to heal us so that we can see the way in which he sees. He sees the hurts in our world — the pain that leads to the protests and frustration seen in cities across America — and he invites us to be healed and then to follow him! Where is he found today? He’s found in the very midst of the hurt and the pain and he says — “come and follow me.” We may want the healing, but we may not want the following. It’s comfortable to go home and show others what God has done for us — but not to follow him where he and his presence are desperately needed. God in us — that is the hope.
Really getting it means we accept the healing that he provides and immediately follow him. Jesus never played it safe. He went to the places that were struggling and his presence brought peace. If we really “get” it — we will immediately go with him.
Lord, may I follow you where you lead — today. Amen.
Saturday, May 2, 2015
Matt. 19:30 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.
The way things function in the kingdom is simply not the way of the world. Jesus spent a lot of time teaching his disciples these truths. He had just been teaching them about the struggle that wealthy people would have in entering the kingdom of God. The disciples wanted to know where they fit into the picture and Jesus talked to them about the last being first and the first last.
In the kingdom of God things don’t function the same way that they do in the world. Winning by the worlds standards — getting the most money or the most powerful position — may not make anyone “first” in the kingdom, but instead, it may result in being last!
Jesus was constantly revealing the kingdom to his followers. Little glimpses of the kingdom of heaven allowed them to understand the direction in which Jesus was leading them and the way in which God planned to transform the world. God doesn’t work by the world’s standards and that’s why it was so important to understand, “for mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” (v. 26)
If this is true, why do we continue to fight battles in a worldly manner? Let’s be honest, we love to adopt the tactics of the world which include power and money to accomplish our goals. And maybe that’s the problem — we want to accomplish “our” goals, which are not necessarily God’s goals for humanity. Getting our own way and winning the day doesn’t quite sound like Jesus, does it? In moments of weakness his disciples were tempted to fight in the ways of the world. Peter struck the man in the garden, cutting off his ear. That was the worldly response — fighting back and doing some damage. Jesus healed the man.
The temptation to fight like the world is great. We are angered when we experience injustice and we want to right the wrongs. There are times to become engaged, but never without the participation and leading of our holy God. In the kingdom the last shall be first and the first will be last. It’s the upside down nature of the kingdom and it’s the way in which God works. We can’t necessarily figure it out and that’s where faith must become a part of the equation. Only with God is all of this possible and that’s why we are told to first seek the kingdom of God and when we do that, he will take care of the rest.
If we are trying to “win” from a worldly perspective, we will ultimately lose.
Lord, please help me to seek you and your kingdom. Amen.