Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Titus 2:1 But as for you, teach what is consistent with sound doctrine. 2 Tell the older men to be temperate, serious, prudent, and sound in faith, in love, and in endurance.
There must be consistency found in sound doctrine, and that consistency is to be found in a person's actions or behaviors. These are pointed out in the second sentence. Sound doctrine is to be revealed in a life of temperance, seriousness, prudence, “sound in faith, in love, and in endurance.” Words are empty if they are not supported by the actions of the preacher.
We may speak about doctrine, argue about doctrine and preach doctrine, but if we do not live doctrine our words will ring hollow.
Much time can be spent weighing in on issues of the day. We can write and speak about our opinions but there is a danger that this will so occupy our time that we forget that we are to be living out our doctrines. Our lives are living testimonies to that which we truly believe.
What does your life reveal about your doctrine? For me this is a sobering thought. If someone were to follow me all day long — watching what I do with my free time, examining what I eat, listening in on what I say and how I do my work — what would they think? Would my life be congruent with that which I preach?
Before I spend time worrying about what others are doing — before I speak or write a word — I need to examine myself. How am I living today? What does God need to work on in me? How do I remain sound in my faith, loving God and neighbor, and enduring through all the difficulties we face?
Doctrine revealed in action. This is the challenge.
Lord, please help me to live into your doctrine. Amen.
Sunday, June 28, 2015
Amos 2:6 Thus says the LORD:
For three transgressions of Israel,
and for four, I will not revoke the punishment;
because they sell the righteous for silver,
and the needy for a pair of sandals—
Amos had already listed the abominable activities of Israel’s neighbors but now he was pronouncing judgment on Israel. The people of God had become just as vile as the people of the world.
In this verse two activities are listed for which Israel must be punished. The righteous are sold for silver, a foreshadowing of Judas’ plot when he sells the Messiah for thirty pieces of silver. The poor and needy are sold off as cheap bribes — as cheap as a simple pair of sandals.
These are the transgressions of God’s people, willing to lose all that God had promised for silver and sandals.
Jesus told us that the law boiled down to loving God and loving neighbor. This is what the Israelites had violated. Selling the righteous for silver, the implication of the selling of Christ reveals a complete disrespect for God. No one who loved Christ would sell him for a few pieces of silver — would they? Or who would be willing to sell the needy for just a pair of sandals, shoes made up of a flat piece of leather with a few straps. Yet the Israelites were guilty of trading and using the poor and needy for the benefit of something relatively cheap.
What would selling the Messiah for a few pieces of silver look like in our context? Maybe it’s more about what we put in the place of the Lord. Maybe our silver is that sporting event that will take much more time and effort than the priority of worshipping God. Maybe our silver is our latest hobby. Maybe our silver is our children or our grandchildren. Our silver is whatever we would be willing to trade for the Messiah. We are quick to condemn Judas and yet, has the trade-off crept into our own lives?
But it’s more than just our love for God which is put to the test, but our love of neighbor. Reading today’s scripture I was drawn to the idea of the sandals and the needy — and the “things” which we purchase at such a reduced cost on the backs of the global poor. I feel convicted to think that my “cheap” sandals may have been made by taking advantage of others. If you begin to explore where our “stuff” comes from you will be troubled in your heart. We are selling the needy for a pair of sandals.
It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon of finger-pointing toward the Israelites. They had certainly not worshipped nor served God in the ways in which he commanded. May this be a challenge to you and to me to keep our eyes on Jesus. To love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. And if we are troubled by what we learn — convicted, then may God help us to change our behaviors and reveal our love for him and neighbor in our actions. The silver and the sandals — they’re not worth our souls.
Lord, lead me to your love and to your action. Amen.
Saturday, June 27, 2015
2Kings 13:20 So Elisha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. 21 As a man was being buried, a marauding band was seen and the man was thrown into the grave of Elisha; as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he came to life and stood on his feet.
While Elisha was living the Moabites had not attacked but now, probably a couple of years after his death, they went back to their normal practice. Evidently after his death there was no one with his power in the land and the enemy felt that it was safe to go back to their normal practice.
The usual invasions happened in the spring. This was just a common occurrence, that springtime was the time for war and without the presence of the man of God, the enemies went back to their normal activities and the people of God had to endure the usual invasions.
There will constantly be those who are ready to invade and so the point is not really about the invaders — for there will be the “usual” invasions — but about the spiritual state of the believers. While Elisha was alive there had not been any invasions because his God-received power was well known and experienced. The neighboring enemies feared Elisha and therefore respected God because of his spiritual life. Elisha didn’t spend his time worrying about the usual invaders — he spent his time focused on being a man of God!
The challenge is for us to focus on being the people of God that we have been called to become. If we are being attacked by the usual marauders or invaders, it’s probably because we have not kept our eyes on the goal of becoming like Christ. This is our daily calling — to be like him! We are to be his reflection to the world and the closer that we draw to him, the more powerful the reflection. Elisha had drawn so close to the Lord in life that even in death the power revealed through his remains was a foreshadowing of the resurrection power to be experienced through the life of Christ. His life revealed the power and presence of the coming Messiah.
You and I are called to be reflections of the returning Messiah. His kingdom — already and not yet — on this earth is revealed through you and me. The usual invaders will feel powerless when confronted with Christ. We don’t have to spend time worrying about just the usual invasions when we spend our time drawing closer to and participating in life with our Lord.
Lord, draw me close to you. Amen.
Friday, June 26, 2015
Jonah 4:9 But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.” 10 Then the LORD said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”
Jonah had preached to the prophesied to the people of Nineveh regarding their destruction. Unfortunately, as far as Jonah was concerned, they repented and then God in his compassion decided not to destroy them. Jonah had been gaining God’s perspective along the way because he had told the Lord that he feared that he would have compassion on the people. Jonah was not concerned about the people but about himself — his own reputation.
God provided a bush to provide comfort for Jonah, but then it was attacked by a worm and it died. Jonah showed more emotion and compassion for the bush that died than he did for all the people of Nineveh. He threw a little tantrum before the Lord and said that he was “angry enough to die” over the bush!
Get a little perspective Jonah! You plead with God over a bush and yet are willing to see more than 120,000 people die all because you want to feel good about yourself.
Sadly, we may find ourselves responded just like Jonah.
We have to keep our perspective as we move through life. There will be moments when we will be discouraged — as if the bush were taken from us. We can be angry about the bush, and yet we must evaluate where it fits in the grand scheme of things. There is a bigger picture which God sees and understands and we are invited into his perspective.
Our focus in life must be on uniting with his perspective. This happens as we get to know the Lord better and become one with his work and movement in the world. The things that may not seem to make sense to us, will make sense from his perspective. Throwing tantrums when we don’t get what we think we want makes no sense. God’s planning, time and perspective are what make sense and he sees the greater need. We are to be partners together with God in his mission in the world.
As we seek God’s face, we gain his perspective. His ways are higher than our ways and therefore we must trust in him and his leading.
Lord, please help me to gain your perspective. Amen.
Thursday, June 25, 2015
Joel 2:28 Then afterward
I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.
The prophecy of Joel had included a time of terrible destruction for God’s people but then a time of victory when little by little everything that had been destroyed would be once again built up. The promise of the Father included a new era that would occur after the rebuilding. It would be a time in which the Spirit would be poured out, not just among the Israelites but among all people.
God’s promise of the Spirit would destroy all human barriers. No longer could the walls of this world serve as a barrier to God’s work. Instead the Spirit who would be poured out on all flesh. Both sons and daughters would prophesy, there would be dreams and visions and even male and female slaves would receive this blessing.
This prophecy would be fulfilled on the day of Pentecost and Peter would quote Joel. The Father promised a new day in which his chosen people would be those who would respond to his call to move from sin into a Spirit-filled life as his adopted children. The deliverance was from all that Joel described and even more. Emerging from the ruins new life in Christ would point us in the direction of things above.
Jesus had told the disciples that they should wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father. It was not until the day of Pentecost that the connection was made to this prophecy from Joel. They were to wait until they were “clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) This would change everything.
The challenge is for us to live into this promise. The promise has been made and the Spirit has been poured out but we may be living in the weakness of human flesh.
By living into this promise we live by the leading of God’s Holy Spirit and this means we walk in obedience. Obedience includes answering the call to ministry, or being a prophetic voice in the world. It includes listening to the voice and leading of the Holy Spirit, whether through dreams or visions, or in times of prayer, or through the words of another, but it means that we lean into and live into the directions in which God is guiding.
Living into the promise means that there are no longer any barriers or divisions among his people. Rich and poor, male or female, no matter our race or color, we are all the same in God’s family.
Living into the promise means that we make every effort to bring the Spirit of God living in us to a place where the barriers can be destroyed and God’s power is revealed in the unity and love among his people.
The promise was radical and it still is today if we will embrace it and the Spirit which transforms.
Lord, thanks for the promise. Amen.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
1 Timothy 6:6 Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment;
John Wesley said that godliness with contentment was “the inseparable companion of true, vital religion.” There is a concept here that truly is inseparable. The word for contentment has a root in the idea of self-sufficiency of an inward focus, of being all sufficient unto one’s self, not as a lack of desire for outward things. If the goal of one’s self is godliness, then the inward focus of sufficiency is based on a personal relationship with God in which we are being formed in his image.
Contentment comes when all of life is focused on the goal of becoming like Christ. We are content because the world can no longer distract us from what is truly important in all things.
What is distracting you today?
I could list a myriad of things that could be on my mind. Sometimes I have trouble in the morning keeping focused on my study of the word because I’m making a mental list of everything that I need to do that day. I’m checking the weather forecast and thinking about what I’m going to wear. I’m looking at yesterday’s finish of the Dow Jones and I’m wondering what today has in store for earthly investments. I'm checking my calendar for appointments, etc.
And then the Lord sends a gentle reminder that the focus of life is to become like him. It’s encouraging to know that Timothy needed the reminder as well.
We really do find contentment when we relax and turn our focus to the Lord; when we tune out the distractions of the world and spend time in his holy presence. Somehow when I think of the word “contentment” I hear a big, deep, sigh.
Let’s take a deep breath, sigh, and soak in a face to face relationship with our holy God, asking him to shape and form us today into his image. This is godliness combined with contentment. Relax in him — and have a good day!
Lord, thanks for the gentle reminder. Amen.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
1 Timothy 5:22 Do not ordain anyone hastily, and do not participate in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.
It could be that Timothy had a rather generous spirit, and was not as discerning as he ought to have been regarding ordination of those to the ministry, or restoration of those who had fallen. The warning here is to slow down and monitor the process so that you do not end up participating in the sins of others. Ordination is not to be taken lightly, but is sacred within the life of those who are called.
You can purchase your ordination on the internet these days for just a few dollars. We watch mass marital ceremonies on television done by celebrities who have been “ordained” just for this purpose. The entire process has become one which society views very lightly. But the church should not. The church should heed these words and not ordain hastily.
Ordination to the ministry is for those who have been called by God and have been affirmed by the community of faith. These are individuals who have studied and know the word and have shown in their personal lives that they are faithful followers of Christ. This is not just for anyone!
The Church has a responsibility to maintain the sanctity of ordination. May we heed the words given here to Timothy!
Lord, please continue to call people into your ministry. Amen.
Monday, June 22, 2015
1 Timothy 4:8 for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
There is value to caring for our physical bodies but this must be proportionate to training in godliness. In the Roman world physical training was a big deal and hours could be spent on working out and becoming extremely physically fit. This activity would only have temporal results. If Timothy were to apply the same energy to becoming spiritually fit, prepared for godliness this would benefit him now and for all eternity.
Working out is an important feature of our contemporary lives. Many people that I know make a specific effort to work out at least 3-4 times a week. They may do this in a variety of ways including going to the gym, riding bikes, walking, or running. All of this takes intentional time and effort, along with some self-discipline.
While this much time is being set-aside for physical training, are we doing the same when it comes to spiritual work-outs? Do we have 3-4 times a week in which we spend an hour or more in the word and in prayer? Unless work-outs in godliness become as much or more of a priority as physical exercise we will be weak spiritually.
The goal of the Christian life is to be united with Christ — and to become like him. That’s godliness. We are to run the race and press on toward the goal. This takes intentional self-discipline for the Christ-follower.
How much are you working out? If you’re more interested in your physical body than godliness, maybe you need to take some time to reevaluate!
Lord, help me within the spiritual and physical disciplines of life. Amen.
Sunday, June 21, 2015
2Kings 6:20 As soon as they entered Samaria, Elisha said, “O LORD, open the eyes of these men so that they may see.” The LORD opened their eyes, and they saw that they were inside Samaria. 21 When the king of Israel saw them he said to Elisha, “Father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?” 22 He answered, “No! Did you capture with your sword and your bow those whom you want to kill? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink; and let them go to their master.” 23 So he prepared for them a great feast; after they ate and drank, he sent them on their way, and they went to their master. And the Arameans no longer came raiding into the land of Israel.
The king of Aram had come to attack Elisha but God had provided a way of rescue. Elisha prayed and God surrounded him with his own guard of protection. When the eyes of the people were opened they were stunned by what they saw surrounding them. But then they were blinded and Elisha led them into Samaria. They had no idea where they were going, that they were being led into a potential ambush.
The king of Israel had never expected the Aramean army to simply waltz into his territory in a state of confusion. He could have easily killed them all, and yet, Elisha stopped him. The king showed great respect for Elisha and called him “Father.”
Elisha reminded the king that the army was captured, not because of his great military might, but because of the power of God. Then he suggested something most unusual, an act which would foreshadow the teachings of Christ — he suggested that they love the enemy!
Instead of any form of punishment, they prepared for them a great feast. They gave them food and drink and treated them well and then sent them on their way. They loved them into discomfort and they left and did not return to raid the land. There was a period of peace between the two nations.
This incident is very unusual in the Old Testament period of time. Loving the Aramean army certainly did not seem normal.
Loving our enemies may not seem like the normal thing to do. We are built with a “fight or flight” response and our natural tendency is to want to go to battle. This is true personally and even corporately and yet there is something stunning in this story.
Elisha depended on prayer and God’s intervention to bring about the victory. There’s a deep level of trust that must exist for this to become a reality. Quite possibly we don’t experience God’s victory in our lives and we resort to the “fight or flight” because we don’t trust God to take care of things.
When the king wanted to finish off the victory which God had already provided in his own way — by killing the men — Elisha stopped him. The king was obedient to the words of Elisha and participated in loving the enemy. This must have been quite difficult for the king but he must have also had great faith in Elisha and Elisha’s God. Doing something completely out of character is only possible when we have the faith to believe that God is the one doing the leading, and we believe that God can do it!
The Aramean soldiers must have been terrified, expecting to be killed. Can you imagine their discomfort at having a party thrown for them! Our own enemies are probably waiting for a negative response from us. Jesus encourages us to throw them a party. Love our enemies. Pray for them. Seek them out. Help them in their time of need.
The Arameans went away with such discomfort that they didn’t return. There was peace.
When we love our enemies, peace just might break out. It’s God’s plan. Why not give it a try.
Lord, we pray for your peace today. Amen.
Saturday, June 20, 2015
2Kings 5:27 Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you, and to your descendants forever.” So he left his presence leprous, as white as snow.
Elisha has his servant there beside him in his ministry. Gehazi has been privileged to watch the power of God flow through Elisha’s ministry. The latest miracle, the healing of Naaman has been astounding. The man was completely healed of leprosy and was leaving the country as a new man. He was grateful and wanted to give thanks. Elisha wanted God to be glorified.
Sadly, Gehazi didn't follow the example of Elisha who was mentored by Elijah. Although he had every opportunity to observe, partner in and learn all that God was doing he got caught up in a moment of greed. Naaman had brought all kinds of gifts with him when he came to ask for healing. Elisha accepted nothing and yet, Gehazi saw an opportunity.
Greed took over the heart of Gehazi and he followed after Naaman and told a lie to get some of the gifts from him. He took advantage of a grateful heart and left with two talents of silver and two changes of clothing. When he returned home he stored the gifts and went to approach Elisha.
Elisha asked him where he had gone and now, to cover his tracks he lied to Elisha, telling him he had not gone anywhere. He had a moment — an opportunity in which he could have confessed and repented, but he did not. He had been lured away by the temptation of worldly goods and now he continued to lie to keep them within his grasp.
At that moment he received the very illness from which Naaman had been healed. Naaman had brought worldly gifts which he thought might buy him healing. God did the healing and didn’t need any worldly gifts in return. Gehazi accepted the worldly gifts and in return received the illness for which Naaman had been seeking a worldly treatment.
Gehazi was not seeking the LORD of his master, but was faced in the direction of the world and it derailed all future opportunities for his life and his descendants.
Succession planning only works when all of those involved become seriously engaged in the process. If the potential successor is only interested in their own personal success and not the success of the mission, the process will fail.
There must be a passion and love for the mission of God, not for a position. When we fall in love with the idea of a particular job and what we may perceive as the attention and/or accolades that go with the position we become distracted from the real leading of God.
I don’t believe that Gehazi’s failure began that day but that it must have begun in his heart when he allowed temptation to take hold and lead him away from the mission of God. By then he was willing to move in a direction that ultimately led to his destruction. He would never become Elisha’s successor.
Lord, please help me remain passionately engaged with you and your mission. Amen.
Friday, June 19, 2015
2Kings 2:13 He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.
Elisha had been following Elijah, learning from him. Now, he followed him to the place where Elijah left this earth. As Elijah left his mantle fell from him and Elisha picked it up. It was the transference of the prophetic cloak, from one to another. It was the badge of the prophet’s office and he put it on and wore it. It was a token of the Spirit which was also to fall on Elisha. He was to be Elijah’s successor and the mantle became an outward sign to all that he had been chosen, while the Spirit gave him power for the task.
Spiritual succession planning is vital and should be intentional. Elijah could have been jealous of the idea that Elisha would carry on his work and become, quite possibly, as well-known (or better-known) as he had been. He may have been concerned that Elisha would be able to do bigger and better miracles than he had performed and he could have clung to his cloak and taken it with him if he had been worried about himself.
Spiritual succession planning is not self-centered, but rather, God-centered. What is good for God is what is good for us. We must choose to be intentional about passing on the power, willing to give up to others and desiring the very best for them.
This is a best business practice, as well as a best church practice. Unfortunately I see too many people within the community of faith who choose to hold onto power, who won’t give up a seat on the committee, or on the board, or allow others to make decisions. Eventually those whom we could be mentoring leave because they feel that they are unwanted. They will go to another church, or they will leave Christianity altogether because somehow what they observe does not resonate with the words of Christ. And then we will age and we will wonder why there are no young people or children present and we will worry that there is no one left to take up the mantle.
Passing on the mantle began long before the moment when Elijah went up into heaven. Elijah intentionally mentored Elisha through his day to day life. Then, when the moment came he left the mantle intentionally allowing the world to see that this was the chosen successor.
There comes a moment when we must make visible the fact that we have a successor. We have to step back and let others see that the mantle of leadership is now on someone else’s shoulders. It didn’t diminish Elijah nor his legacy that Elisha became powerful. Instead, it glorified God.
Succession planning must be intentional. If we hang on to what we have just for ourselves we will not allow for a rich and full legacy. There are times to let it go and celebrate the successes of those who will come after you.
Lord, please help me be willing and able to share what you have given me with others. Amen.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
1Kings 20:35 At the command of the LORD a certain member of a company of prophets said to another, “Strike me!” But the man refused to strike him. 36 Then he said to him, “Because you have not obeyed the voice of the LORD, as soon as you have left me, a lion will kill you.” And when he had left him, a lion met him and killed him.
Ahab the king had been continually disobedient to the commands of God. Now, a prophet was to confront the king regarding his disobedience and unwillingness to strike down one of his enemies. To get the message across the prophet needed to be wounded. Approaching another prophet he shared the command of the LORD to strike him. The man refused, probably because it seemed like such an odd request and maybe out of compassion, and yet, it was disobedience to the command of God. To speak to Ahab, the prophet needed to have a wound. Because of the disobedience of the one prophet he was told a lion would kill him, and that’s exactly what happened.
I think I’m attracted to odd stories in the Bible. This is another one of those in which you wonder what God is doing. Would God really allow a prophet to be killed by a lion for not hitting another prophet?
It is more of an object lesson for those who would listen. I’m sure the story of the prophet who was killed by a lion spread far and wide — it even ended up in the scriptures! News of this disobedience surely reached the ears of Ahab himself. But Ahab didn’t want to listen and he didn’t seem to think that he needed any object lessons. As many ways as God tried to get the point across, Ahab kept ignoring him!
God calls us to obedience, even when it may not make sense to us. One prophet giving another a black eye seems a bit crazy. Maybe it was crazy, but it was God’s plan and he was seeking obedient followers to do as commanded.
Sometimes life takes some pretty negative turns. We don’t understand why it may seem that things aren’t turning out the way we would like. God may even ask us to do something that makes no sense to us. It would have been much easier for the prophet to have been obedient, giving the other a smack, than for him to be killed by a lion!
We are being called to radical obedience to the leading of God in our lives. There are consequences to disobedience. Don’t be eaten by a lion!
Lord, may I hear your voice and respond in obedience to your leading. Amen.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Col. 3:12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
This message is addressed to those who are already followers of Jesus Christ and Paul utilizes the wording, “holy and beloved” for they are special titles “used of Israel as God’s own possession in the Old Testament and of Christ in the New Testament.” (New Bible Commentary) As God’s holy children, we are to resemble Jesus Christ, clothing ourselves on a daily basis with Christlike characteristics. The result is unity within the body of Christ for overall we are clothed with love.
Sometimes I wish that I had a uniform and could wear the same thing every single day. To my dear Salvation Army friends — I think that sounds appealing! As I write this devotional thought this morning I am distracted by the thought of the weather today and what I ought to wear. I’m at a campground and it may rain for half the day and it’s kind of cool this morning, but could be warm by this afternoon — and all of these become factors in deciding what to wear!
Paul talked about the clothing of God’s holy children. Different items of clothing related to looking like Christ. Don’t forget to put on compassion today! Other items of clothing include humility, meekness and patience. Add to that forgiveness and finally over everything put on love which will pull all the colors of the outfit together making it into one beautiful whole. The result is a community of believers who are bound “together in perfect harmony.”
Deciding what to wear on a daily basis should not be hard for a Christlike disciple. Every single day we should put on Christ. It’s really not optional and if we forget to put him on — well — we just may be walking around naked. At least, spiritually naked — with nothing to show to the world. Wouldn’t we be stunned to see hundreds of people on a daily basis walking around naked? Of course we would — and yet, do we see the spiritually naked on a regular basis?
If we do not spend the time needed to get dressed in our spiritual clothing, we will spend the day walking spiritually naked. Take time to think about what to wear!
Lord, please clothe me in you today. Amen.
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Col. 2:20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”? 22 All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence.
Following a list of rules — the “do not taste, do not touch” list is foolishness. Paul reminds us that these may look like they are wise but they never get to the root of the problem — of “self-indulgence.” The root must be dealt with through the work of Jesus Christ. We are to live for Christ, focused on him and not on the things of the world. Self-imposed piety is foolishness without Christ.
During my formative years it seemed as if all the conversations around “what does your church believe?” centered on the rules. We would be in school and students would be talking about what they were and were not allowed to do. The usual list included smoking, drinking, dancing, card playing, and going to movies. It was as if we had a check-list and you figured out who fell where in the list of possible taboos. Maybe even in our young minds we were ranking one another’s spirituality by way of the list. But never did we mention Jesus!
That’s the danger with submitting to regulations alone, ones which have not come from our personal relationship with Christ. Piety for the sake of piety does not lead to Christ. Christ died to set us free and to live in the freedom of him — which takes us on a path toward Christlikeness. The ways in which we live come naturally from a deeply intimate relationship with him.
Get past the rules and find the Savior who is true wisdom.
Lord, may I know you more today than yesterday as you lead me into the paths you have prepared. Amen.
Monday, June 15, 2015
1Kings 16:31 And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, he took as his wife Jezebel daughter of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshiped him.
Ahab found it easy to do evil, as if he didn’t really think about it. He shirked off his responsibility and simply walked in the ways of those who had done evil before him. Then, again without thought he married Jezebel, a woman whose name is synonymous with the worst of all evil. Finally, without considering the consequences to his people he went and served and worshiped Baal. All, “as if it had been a light thing.”
Unfortunately there aren’t very many “light” things in life. There are consequences to the decisions we make in life, and especially those regarding the choice between good and evil. To think that it is a light choice to follow and walk in the sins of someone who has gone before is simply foolish. To not take time to consider the choice of a spouse and its resultant effect on our lives is also folly. To worship a foreign god when you are charged to lead your people in worship of Yahweh is stupid!
It all happened because to Ahab, “it had been a light thing.”
The secularization of the world has resulted in a “light” attitude regarding religion and a personal relationship with God. This “light” attitude has led to a spiritual coma in which we have come to believe that there are no consequences to our decisions and actions. Or, at least no sense of personal responsibility, as everyone can do as they choose.
Living our lives as it “it had been a light thing” means that we will not make thoughtful decisions and we will have to live with the consequences. Ahab’s decisions affected those whom he was to be leading and resulted in a dangerous situation for a multitude of people.
Nothing is “a light thing.” God’s followers are challenged to take life and our decisions seriously. The consequences are eternal and the reach broader than we could ever imagine.
Lord, please help me to take seriously your leading. Amen.
Saturday, June 13, 2015
Phil. 4:2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
The church in Philippi had been founded by women and more than likely continued to have strong female leadership. Two women in the church, Euodia and Syntyche seem to have had some kind of disagreement that was hurting the entire congregation. It doesn’t matter whether the leadership is male or female, if there are conflicts, it’s not good.
Rather than saying that this was simply inevitable, Paul addressed the problem. Disagreement in the church should be dealt with and the two in question should “be of the same mind in the Lord.” Sadly, it appears that they could not come to that place of union on their own and so Paul implored another faithful worker to help them. These women were hard co-laborers in the gospel and the disagreement between the two of them was hurting the rest of the church. Unity in the body was an important reflection of the nature of Jesus Christ that the world needed to see.
There will be disagreements in the life of the church. People will argue and fuss with one another along the way because we are different. We have differing temperaments, likes and dislikes but those should not become the defining factors when it comes to getting along with the body of Christ! Unity within the body reveals Christ to the world. When we don’t get along, they wonder what’s wrong with us.
Sometimes getting along doesn’t come naturally and so we may need a bit of an intervention. That’s what Paul was calling for, and intervention by his “loyal companion” who would be able to unite these two women in their struggles. Of course there are two important factors here. He is urging the two individuals to be of the same mind. There must be a willingness on their part to listen to an outside voice and to recognize that their behavior is destructive to the community. Second there must be enough love for the community that the “loyal companion” is willing to confront the two. Obviously they’ve already been quite publicly confronted by Paul in this open letter, and now the stage is set for further conversation.
Too often we are unwilling to confront the issues that are leading to division within the church. We allow people to go their separate ways and we’ve been doing this for so long that in some cases we are left with little to nothing within the body of Christ. Sadly it is often those whom the church needs the most that leave and those with bad attitudes that stay. For the good of the family of God we must be willing to confront our problems. In a Christ-like manner they need to be addressed and we must pray that those involved will have a willingness and desire to work out their problems. This is what should happen within the community of faith and the reflection of that unity will be stunning to the world.
We are urged by Paul for unity. We are the body of Christ, reflecting a unified and holy love to the world that surrounds.
Lord, may peace reign as we gather to worship today. Amen.
Friday, June 12, 2015
Phil. 3:17 Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us.
Paul saw Jesus Christ as the great example for his life. He wanted to be more and more like Christ — he wanted to know Christ! He lived his life imitating Christ, but then went on to urge those whom he had discipled to imitate him. Christ followers were to be living examples for others. Imitation of Christ and of those reflecting Christ was to be the norm.
Shop for a good purse these days and you may be wondering whether you are seeing an imitation or the real thing? Sometimes we encounter knock-offs so good we don’t know if they are the real thing or not. They have imitated the real thing to the point where the differences are hardly detectible.
Christ-followers are to be incredible imitators of him! The likeness to the original is to be so great that people will have to inspect to see where there may be differences.
There is a synergism between the grace of God which draws us in his direction and our desire and activity in imitation of him. Imitation is not a bad thing when it comes to imitating Christ.
Lord, lead me into greater imitation of you from day to day. Amen.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
1 Kings 12:6 Then King Rehoboam took counsel with the older men who had attended his father Solomon while he was still alive, saying, “How do you advise me to answer this people?” 7 They answered him, “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever.” 8 But he disregarded the advice that the older men gave him, and consulted with the young men who had grown up with him and now attended him. 9 He said to them, “What do you advise that we answer this people who have said to me, ‘Lighten the yoke that your father put on us’?” 10 The young men who had grown up with him said to him, “Thus you should say to this people who spoke to you, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you must lighten it for us’; thus you should say to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins. 11 Now, whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.’”
18 When King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was taskmaster over the forced labor, all Israel stoned him to death. King Rehoboam then hurriedly mounted his chariot to flee to Jerusalem. 19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.
King Rehoboam was counseled to be a servant leader. He was to serve the Israelites and seek their best interest in all that was to be said and done. They needed love and encouragement and the wise elders knew that this would foster a healthy relationship between the king and his people.
The young leaders gave him the opposite advice. They believed that leadership had to be wielded through the power of oppression and not of service.
In the end he listened to his friends and the people rebelled. The heavy hand of oppression may work for a period of time but it will never bring about a lasting peace.
Servant leadership reflects the incarnation life of Jesus Christ. He came as a servant — serving you and me and preparing a pathway for us to come to the Father. He becomes an example for us today.
This past week I have been traveling through countries which have experienced different periods of leadership. Some has been servant leadership and some has been oppressive leadership. The oppressive leadership comes to an end by way of the rebellion of the people. Eventually they can no longer stand the heavy hand which is powerfully controlling all that they do. They want to be set free and they want a leader who will care about their needs.
Any person who finds themselves in a position of leadership must focus on the needs of the people whom they serve. Leadership is not about accumulating personal power, but about giving up that power to the one who needs it today. It is empowering others to do their work and providing them with the authority and resources that are necessary.
I have recently had the privilege of spending time with a number of Christian servant leaders. They don’t necessarily make a name for themselves because they are more interested in building up others. Their work and businesses are thriving and they are loved by those who work for them. This reflection of Christ is a breath of fresh air in our world today.
Lord, please lead me to lead in the way you would desire. Amen.
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Phil. 1:12 I want you to know, beloved that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; 14 and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear.
The people of Philippi had sent Epaphroditus to care of Paul. They loved him dearly and were concerned about his condition. Now, he lovingly responds to the people of his congregation, letting them know that he is tolerating all that he has experienced. Not only has he tolerated it, but he believes that God has used it to allow him to minister to more individuals. He has reached people whom he never would have reached in any other way and he has become bold in speaking the word. As far as Paul is concerned, it has been worth it all!
I find Paul’s attitude quite amazing. He became consumed with the mission of God for his life. He wanted to let people everywhere and in every way know about Jesus Christ. He saw every circumstance as an opportunity to share Christ — and this is what he did. In that regard he was able to see the positive, even in negative circumstances. Had he not been imprisoned, he would not have been able to share his faith with the entire imperial guard. This was one way to reach a particular audience for Christ.
Lately it seems that every time I spend some time reading in the digital world there are blogs and articles about the state in which we find the Church. Christianity is struggling and people are very harsh and critical about the condition of worship and peoples’ attitudes toward the Church. As I read the Apostle Paul today I wondered about this letter as a blog post. I don’t see any like this — ones that look at the challenges of our day and in them are encouraged by new opportunities to tell the world about Christ.
We live in a world that is questioning everything. Why not help lead them in the direction of the one who has the answers! We live among nominal Christians who are struggling to see authentic faith. Why not pray that God will lead us into a deeper relationship with him, one in which we live out our faith on a daily basis in our actions. We may find ourselves sitting among a number of critics who are intent on pointing out the negative in Christianity. May God help us to be light and salt for these negative situations are really opportunities.
I want to be able to join the Apostle by saying it has been worth it all. I want to be able to continue to lead people in the direction of our Jesus. He has made it worth it all!
Lord, help me to look upon all the circumstances of life as opportunities for you to be glorified. Amen.
Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Song 4:9 You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride,
you have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes,
with one jewel of your necklace.
10 How sweet is your love, my sister, my bride!
how much better is your love than wine,
and the fragrance of your oils than any spice!
Song of Solomon has been read through many different lenses, one of which sees it as an allegory representing God’s love for his bride, the Church. While this takes it into a communal sense, it is the people of God who make up the Church and there is also the potential for an individual representation here for the the believer.
We are invited into a deeply personal and loving relationship with our Lord. It was Jesus who reminded us that we are to love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. While we are to love him, that love flows from an intimate relationship with him. Yes, the Lord loves you and me and the love language of this scripture is for us. He passionately loves his bride and wants us to know the depths of that eternal love.
Too often we just skim over, or skip Song of Solomon entirely. However, when we take a few moments and begin to think about the depths of the love story it can be a bit overwhelming. Too often we focus on the flaws that we find in the Church, or in our own lives, and so imagining this type of language from our Lord about us seems quite unbelievable. And yet, that’s what he wants us to hear — he wants us to hear the love song that pours out of God for us, his creation, his humanity, his bride!
The Lord loves us beyond anything we could ever imagine and is constantly reaching out and drawing us toward him. We are the ones who are putting up the barriers to that love, often by ignoring him. He is patiently waiting for us to spend time with him and receive that love from him. He wants us to love him.
We create our own barriers to that love. These barriers include a lack of self-worth which somehow makes us believe that we are not worthy of his love. His love can make us uncomfortable as it awakens feelings and illuminates areas of life which may have been hurt or damaged. But his love will not take advantage, instead it will lovingly embrace and bring a healing balm to the hurt and pain.
Yes, he loves us! His bride has ravished his heart and our love for him brings the Lord great joy. The invitation is to dwell in the joy and peace of that love.
Lord, please help me to enjoy the love you have lavished on me and then share it with the surrounding world. Amen.
Monday, June 8, 2015
Ecc. 9:4 But whoever is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion.
As long as we are alive we have the hope of knowing Christ and his salvation. Therefore the hope for the vilest of persons is great. The “dog” that is alive has the hope of salvation, while the noble “lion,” who may have enjoyed a life of personal righteousness, power and wealth has nothing if they are dead. Once dead, no matter who you are, there is no hope.
This takes us away from perspectives which may be embraced by the world, or even by Christians. We tend to reflect upon and respect those whom we view as being “noble.” The Lion, throughout life, receives an amount of healthy fear and respect from those whom he encounters. He is considered great and worthy of our honor.
In comparison to the lion we have the stray dog. We find them in numerous places, wandering the streets, sleeping under buses, hiding under a rock and always scavenging for something to eat. This seems like a terrible life and we know people who are living in this way. They’ve made bad decisions and choices in life which have landed them in the worst of circumstances.
If we had to choose we’d go and hang out with the lion and forget the dog. But when the lion dies, no matter what they’ve done in life, if they don’t know Christ, they must suffer the consequences. The “dog” who remains alive has hope.
As long as we are alive we have the hope of Christ. No matter who we are or what we’ve done, we have the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ.
Whether a dog or a lion, as long as we draw breath we can turn to Christ. We are given the opportunity of being joined with all the living for eternity. God incarnate — in Christ — is the hope for all humankind. No matter who we are, we need to respond while we have the time.
Lord, may every day be filled with you. Amen.
Sunday, June 7, 2015
Eph. 3:18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Paul’s prayer is for God’s people to know the very nature of God. All are called to the holy life, to become participants in God’s nature and to reveal his holiness to the world. As such, we are all the saints and drawn into a holy and loving relationship with God.
This love is greater than anything that we can imagine in the human realms, larger than the temple dedicated to Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world! No matter the great knowledge that has developed in the Greek world, God is even greater. And God’s people can be filled “with all the fullness of God.”
Ephesus was known for the great temple dedicated to Artemis. People traveled from all over the world to see this incredible work of human hands. But Paul knew that there was so much more to life to be found in the transformational power of the Holy Spirit. It is believed that his description of the breadth and length and height and depth — refers to the size of the temple to Artemis. That God’s love is so much bigger!
We are challenged by Paul’s prayer, to be filled to overflowing with the the very nature of God. His prayer wasn’t just for the Ephesians, but for you and for me. We are called to be God’s holy people in the world today.
Just this week I was traveling in Romania and there we saw the Parliament building, considered the second largest building in the world today. Yes, it is impressive and massive and yet, it is but a shadow of the love of Christ which we are invited to partake.
We become self-limiting in terms of our relationship with God if we try to put God in a little box. It may be our own fears which limit the working of God in and through us. He’s able to do much more than we can ever imagine. He’s bigger than the temple to Artemis — He’s bigger than the biggest buildings humans can build. God cannot be contained and he invites us to become partakers of his divine nature — filled to overflowing with God’s holy love.
Lord, please fill me with you. Amen.
Saturday, June 6, 2015
Ecclesiastes 2:14 The wise have eyes in their head,
but fools walk in darkness.
Wisdom leads us into a deep contemplation over life and what ultimately results. It is true that in the end we will all die, and yet there is a way in which we may all participate in the journey. We may use the gifts which we have received from God, or not.
The wise with eyes lift their heads to the face of God. They seek his face, his wisdom and leadership, the path illuminated with the light of God reflected in their own vision. The fool chooses not to use the resources that God has given, instead keeping their head down and walking in darkness, bumping into the temptations and stumbling blocks that life throws into the path.
The resources that are necessary for life are provided for us but we must take advantage of them or they will simply be wasted. The saying of wisdom is fascinating because all have been given eyes, it’s simply whether they are used or not. With eyes wide open we can follow the light, or we can choose to remain in the darkness.
God has given each of us gifts and abilities but we have to participate in the action. We are to follow our gifting and use it for his and our sakes. It is in using his resources that we are transformed into the holy people of God that he desires. Not only are we transformed but the world around us experiences God because we are willing to use what we have been given.
The limitations of our spiritual lives are often self-limitations. When we refuse to move into the fullness of the light and experience everything that God has for us, we will be limited. Could it be that there is much more available to use today and everyday than we could ever imagine. Let us use what we have and allow God’s powerful Spirit to flow through it, leading us evermore into his greater light.
Lord, may I walk in you and your light today. Please help me to trust in your resources. Amen.
Friday, June 5, 2015
Ephesians 2:21 In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.
In the past God had inhabited his temple in Jerusalem. He was there among the Israelites, but when Christ came and died on the cross everything changed. The kingdom of God had come to the earth and no longer was God to dwell in the temple made by human hands, but through the Spirit, to live within his people.
The beauty of this new temple was that it was made up of lovely and diverse members. On the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out the many nations of the world heard the word, responded and their lives were transformed. Now, the Apostle Paul was affirming the way in which the entire structure of the new and living temple, the “already” of the kingdom of God was being built and held together in the world.
We are to be a continual and on-going reflection of that new temple. The beauty of the kingdom is the diversity. Our churches our places of worship should also be filled with the diversity of the kingdom. The kingdom makes us new citizens in God’s kingdom which is counter-cultural to the world and unites us together as brothers and sisters. We should not be seeking places to worship which make us comfortable with our own personal culture. We experience the already of the kingdom when we are a diverse temple. This is heaven on earth, when the kingdom breaks in and breaks down our normal human barriers and unites us in culture, language, customs and traditions and we are knit together “into a holy temple in the Lord.”
God’s people are encouraged to embrace diversity in the kingdom for here we experience a bit of heaven on earth. Fear is but a barrier that keeps us from enjoying all that God would have for his children. The people of Ephesus and the known world of Paul’s day struggled with the newness of this kingdom which shattered so many of their traditional understandings but as they embraced what God had for them, they experienced God in ways which were transformational. May we do the same today!
Lord, thank you for the joy of your diverse kingdom. Amen.
Thursday, June 4, 2015
Psalm 34:1 I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
3 O magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together.
David wrote this Psalm after he had feigned madness before Abimelech. His enemy was still in hot pursuit and yet, David took the time to praise the Lord. Blessing the Lord at all times became a feature of his life. He was able to see God’s intervention in even the most difficult of circumstances and in and through this, he was able to worship and praise God.
The idea of blessing the Lord at all times may feel rather foreign to us. There are certainly times in life when I don’t feel like blessing the Lord and being angry and grumpy seem well justified. However, when we give into and justify our anger and frustration we only seem to become more angry and frustrated!
Blessing the Lord at all times is not just about God, but it also does us good! When we focus on God in the midst of our difficult circumstances, we are forced to turn away from our own personal frustrations and recognize what it is that God does for us.
God is the one in whom we should boast for he is continually and actively engaged in our lives. He loves us and is concerned about our well-being and what it is that we will be doing today and tomorrow.
When we worship the Lord our focus becomes entirely on him. We are to bless the Lord at all times. We are to boast in him. We are to invite others into a great exaltation of his holy name….”and the things of this world will grow strangely dim.” The struggles we are facing today will suddenly become much smaller in light of God. This was the secret that David had learned. Even in the face of enemies he praised and worshiped God on high!
Come, join me today in exalting his holy name.
Lord, may my life be a prayer of praise and worship to you. Amen.
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
A capable wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
This “Ode to a Capable Woman” is generally interpreted to be about a terrifically capable and faithful wife. However, commentators have also noted that one can interpret this as a reflection on the bride of Christ — the Church. Taken in this way it becomes a foreshadowing of what is to come. The Messiah, the Bridegroom, will come and will establish his Church — the Bride. She will be the ultimate Proverbs 31 woman, the capable bride of Christ.
Just imagine what would happen if churches around the world adopted the Proverbs 31 woman as a template for themselves! There are plenty of activities in which to be well-grounded, all pointing to the health of the family members and as a positive reflection on the husband — Christ.
Let’s read a few portions and substitute in the relationship of Christ and his Church.
A capable Church who can find? Such a Church is far more precious than jewels. 11 The heart of Christ trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. 12 The Church does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life…
15 The Church rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and tasks for her servant-girls. 16 The Church considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. 17 The Church girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong…. 20 The Church opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy… 23 Christ is known in the city gates, taking his seat among the elders of the land… 25 Strength and dignity are the Church’s clothing, and the Church laughs at the time to come. 26 The Church opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 27 The Church looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children rise up and call her happy; the Messiah too, and he praises her…
The challenge for the Church is to be this kind of bride for Christ. The call is to faithfulness and service which comes out of a deeply rooted love for our Savior.
Lord, may your Church glorify you. Amen.
Prov. 31:8 Speak out for those who cannot speak,
for the rights of all the destitute.
9 Speak out, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
These are the sayings of King Lemuel and reflect the ways in which he is to lead. Those who find themselves in positions of power and authority have a responsibility to speak up for those who are weak.
The orphan, the widow and the stranger are those who have no voice. They don’t know how to argue for their own rights and without a voice they can easily be forgotten. Responsibility lies on the shoulders of the person who finds themselves with a voice. Use your voice. “Speak out for those who cannot speak.”
As Christians we have a responsibility to “speak out for those who cannot speak.” This is our Christ-likeness in action. Not only is this advice or select words of wisdom from the Old Testament, we see this lived out in the life of Christ.
Jesus spoke up for the woman caught in adultery.
Jesus spoke up for the tax collectors.
Jesus spoke up for the poor beggars.
Jesus spoke up for those who were suffering with physical infirmities.
And often when he spoke up, and/or met these peoples’ needs he drove the religious officials crazy! They were unaccustomed to someone being an advocate for the destitute.
If Jesus is our example, then his followers must also become voices for the destitute. We reveal our love for God by the way in which we love others, and we demonstrate our love for God by speaking out on behalf of the destitute. It may be that when we refuse to speak out on behalf of the needy we are actually refusing to speak out for the Lord.
Being a Christ-follower is an active life that reveals our love for God. It cannot just be about a spiritual life, where we attend church and have a daily devotional, but it must be lived out in our words and actions on a daily basis.
Lord, please give me holy boldness to speak out for you. Amen.
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Prov. 2:13 The lazy person says, “There is a lion outside!
I shall be killed in the streets!”
This Proverb sounds something like a plot from a Dr. Seuss book. Instead of tending to the work to be done, the lazy person is full of excuses. Every possible negative consequence is imagined and this one is so ridiculous that it practically makes one laugh,“I really can’t go to work today because there just might be a lion outside!”
True, there might be a lion outside, but the chances of you running into a lion today are pretty slim! However, this is the way in which we cope with things we don’t want to do. We come up with excuses to satisfy our conscience.
We do this in regard to our spiritual lives and responsibilities as well. What if God is calling us to go into a place of mission and ministry that is not comfortable for us? We may come up with our own similarly ridiculous excuses.
When God calls, we are to respond. Imagining every single negative possibility that will impede our progress will do nothing but stymie our activity. Focusing on the imaginary lion in the streets means we will stay home, close the shutters and try to “feel safe” while doing nothing.
We serve a God who challenges us to go out into the streets, even if there is a lion present. He’s been known to shut the mouths of the lions, both figuratively and physically. Do we believe in our God? Wisdom challenges us to trust in the Lord. Leave all the negative possibilities at home and go out into the streets, leaning on the Lord.
Lord, thank you for closing the mouths of lions. Amen.