Friday, July 31, 2015

When Our Hospitality Runs Out


Scripture:

John 2:1   On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.  2 Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”  4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”  5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  6 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.  7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.  8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it.  9 When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.”  11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Observation:

This, Jesus’ first miracle is one in which we seen his work in extending hospitality. It was the responsibility of the hosts to throw the party which should have lasted for days. People would come from all around to enjoy the hospitality which would include food and drink. To run out of supplies would be a horrible embarrassment to this family and Jesus’ mother knew that this was the case. Mary may not have known that Jesus would perform a miracle, but may have thought that as her oldest son he could slip off and do something about the situation. The problem would soon become more than just embarrassing for the hosts. Maybe they hadn’t planned well — or maybe more guests came than they had invited — but they were in trouble. Their resources for hospitality had come to an end.

Jesus did step in and respond in the midst of their need. He provided the needed wine so that the event could be completed. People were amazed and praised the host for the quality of this new wine which was served. When the hospitality of the host had exhausted his resources, then Jesus took over and the extension of the hospitality glorified God.

Application:
As a people of God we are expected to show hospitality but we may just find ourselves in the same position as the host family of the wedding party. We may be planning to reach out to those around us — minister to those who need to experience the hospitality of God. Suddenly we realize that we have been trying to minister out of our own personal resources and they will soon be exhausted. Panic ensues as we find ourselves in a very embarrassing predicament. Ministry to others isn’t going the way that we thought it might and we are tempted to throw in the towel.

Who knows what’s happened. Maybe we got over-extended in our invitations, thinking that we, personally, could fix everyone’s problems. Now we’re exhausted and instead of looking for ways to continue, we give up. Or maybe we simply didn’t plan well and we’ve run out of resources. Instead of confessing our failure we look for ways to cover up.

Mary knew where to go when the hospitality had run out. Our holy God invites us into a lifestyle of hospitality, one that depends upon the gracious resources given to us through the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who leads us into hospitality that is not a program, but rather a lifestyle that includes complete and total dependence upon God. It is only in this way that our hospitality will not run out for it is not about what we can accomplish on our own, but what we can do together with God.

Exhausted and tired of trying to do it all on your own. Are you finished with extending hospitality. Take a deep breath and enter into rest with the God of all hospitality and let his grace flow through you. He will provide the resources and it will be better than anything you could ever do on your own.

Prayer:

Lord, may I rest in the arms of your gracious hospitality.   Amen.



Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.




http://www.nph.com/nphweb/html/nph/itempage.jsp?itemId=9780834135277

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Living in Beulah Land


Scripture:

Isaiah 62:4
No longer will they call you Deserted,
    or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called Hephzibah,
    and your land Beulah;
for the Lord will take delight in you,
    and your land will be married.

Observation:

The prophet could see a day in which the Israelites would be completely restored.  What would that restoration be like?  Her land would no longer be deserted, nor would it be filled with ruins.  Instead, the land would again be filled with God's people -- the people being called "Hephzibah" -- I delight in you.  This was the name of King Hezekiah's wife, and the two of them represented a period of faithfulness in loving and serving the Lord.  God would again delight in his own people!  The land itself would be restored and would be known as "Beulah" -- which means married, and it would be consecrated to God -- married to him.  This is the picture of restoration for all the people of God.

Application:


Today happens to be our 32nd wedding anniversary and it's a time when I reminisce about the years that Chuck and I have spent together.  In reminiscing I pulled up this blog entry from two years ago. I’m sharing with you some of what I wrote a couple of years ago with a few updates along the way.

Our life journey has been beyond anything we could have ever imagined.  God is an adventuresome God!  On the day we married we also would never have imagined what our relationship would become.  Our love for one another and our partnership in life is more than anything we could have ever imagined.  I would say that we embrace the language of "Hephzibah" and we are glad to be living in "Beulah Land."

I find it interesting that throughout the Bible we are continually drawn back into marriage imagery.  The Bible opens with a scene of marriage between the original couple, Adam and Eve.  Throughout the word we see God loving his people and drawing them into a covenant relationship with him.  Sadly humanity continues to commit adultery and the relationships crumble. 

In Christ we find a renewed covenant, one into which we have been invited and where we again find Beulah land, for in this new relationship we are invited to become the bride of Christ.  Often we see this metaphor as referring to the Church, but it is also an invitation for us as individuals. 

We hear the language so often these days as the church in exile. These are troublesome days and yet, as the Church, we are to be the faithful bride of Christ.  The Church is to behave in such a way that the Bridegroom would delight in her.  Whether in exile or not. The Israelites had been unfaithful to the Lord and the prophets were constantly calling them back to fidelity. 

I think that we would have to challenge ourselves and ask whether the Church in exile is being faithful to her relationship with her Bridegroom?  I'm afraid that too much focus and attention has been paid on the Bride!  Could it be that modern culture has done that as well?  Look at all the crazy TV shows about "Bridezilla" or "Say Yes to the Dress!"  What's wrong with this?  What's wrong is the focus which is not on the marriage relationship but on what the bride wants!  Too many are not concerned about the marriage that will come after the wedding, but on the party at the wedding being "spectacular."  Wow -- how far can that analogy go to the Church?  Could it be that the Church has become too focused on being "spectacular" that she has left the Bridegroom standing all alone out in the foyer wondering whether anyone even cares whether he is there or not? 

The decay of marriage within the culture may signify something happening at an even deeper level.  Could it be that the self-centeredness of humanity doesn't allow us to be in, or make a commitment such as marriage?  And when this happens, then we see moral decay across the spectrum.  But what about this covenant on a personal level, one between Christ and me?  As a teenager I remember hearing the song, "Beulah Land."  It sounds like an old southern Gospel song, but it was actually written by Squire Parsons in the 1970's (during my teen years). 

I'm kind of homesick for a country
to which I've never been before.
No sad goodbyes will there be spoken,
And time won't matter anymore
Beulah Land I'm longing for you,
and someday on thee I'll stand.
There my home shall be eternal.
Beulah Land... sweet Beulah Land
I'm looking now across that river
to where my faith is gonna end in sight.
Theres just a few more days to labor,
Then I'll take, my heavenly flight
Beulah Land I'm longing for you,
and someday on thee I'll stand.
There my home shall be eternal.
Beulah Land, Sweet Beulah land

The truth about Beulah Land is that we can experience her now -- not some time in the future.  Christ is inviting us into this marriage relationship with him that is beyond anything that we can experience here on this earth and it is available to us today.  This is a relationship in which we are entirely committed to him, through and through.  But, it goes even deeper.  We can enter into Beulah land in the present and experience the very nature of Christ, his holy love, as it permeates every part of our being as we walk in fidelity to our relationship with him.  This is holiness!  And then our beloved looks at us and says, "You are my Hephzibah, I take great delight in you."

May we long for Beulah land each and every single day of our walk with him. 

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the blessing of 32 years of marriage, which is simply a shadow of the relationship I can have with you.   Amen.


Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.



http://www.nph.com/nphweb/html/nph/itempage.jsp?itemId=9780834135277

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

When’s the Last Time you Fasted?



Scripture

Is. 58:6        Is not this the fast that I choose:
        to loose the bonds of injustice,
        to undo the thongs of the yoke,
    to let the oppressed go free,
        and to break every yoke?
7     Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
        and bring the homeless poor into your house;
    when you see the naked, to cover them,
        and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8     Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
        and your healing shall spring up quickly;
    your vindicator shall go before you,
        the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
9     Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
        you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

Observation

This call to fasting in Isaiah is rather unique. It is not just a personal fast from food, but instead moves into a fast that touches others. This is a foretaste of Jesus’ approach to the law. Love of God must flow into love of others. Therefore fasting cannot simply be about my personal spiritual growth, but must also be a fast that points toward social engagement, loving care for the needy, and giving up “finger pointing” in return for personal action. It is in an active fast that touches our world that the light of God is reflected. In this way his light will shine before us, leading and guiding us through life.

Application

I am challenged by the words today. Fasting has never been easy for me and yet it is something we are called to do. Now, this scripture takes us beyond what we traditionally think of as fasting and challenges us to do so much more. How often have we thought about our actions towards others being a part of our fast — our spiritual discipline? Maybe not often enough.

The challenge for us today is take upon ourselves the self-discipline of fasting. This includes the type of fasting which helps us with our personal spiritual development. John Wesley our theological church father fasted two days a week — on Wednesdays and Fridays. It was his practice for his entire life. But he was also very engaged socially, pushing for change within his world. Years ago I heard Tony Blair on BBC radio refer to the impetus for social change in England, and that it from John Wesley and the Methodist movement, and should not be credited to a political party.

We are all called to fast. Our fast is to be a reflection of our love of God and love of neighbor. May God challenge us to reconsider our engagement with fasting.

Prayer

Lord, thanks for moving me out of my comfort zone today.  Amen.

Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.




http://www.nph.com/nphweb/html/nph/itempage.jsp?itemId=9780834135277

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Water on a Hot Summer’s Day



Scripture

Is. 55:1        Ho, everyone who thirsts,
        come to the waters;
    and you that have no money,
        come, buy and eat!
    Come, buy wine and milk
        without money and without price.
2     Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
        and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
    Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
        and delight yourselves in rich food.
3     Incline your ear, and come to me;
        listen, so that you may live.
    I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
        my steadfast, sure love for David.

Observation


The needy are hungry and thirsty and they have no way in which to satisfy their cravings. God calls out to the needy and by his grace offers a genuine welcome to come and rest in him. He will provide the water and the food without any cost. If only we will incline our ear to him, listening to his voice and leading — he will provide, for his love is extended to his children, whom he loves.

Application

It’s going to be another scorcher in Kansas City today. The weather is blisteringly hot and it’s necessary to be hydrated on days like this. It’s not hard to be hydrated because I can find water just about anywhere. But what if that weren’t the case and I were to try and survive in this heat without anything to drink. Just imagine what it would feel like in a very short period of time.

The people of God desperately needed physical water and food, but they also needed spiritual nourishment. We are living in a time when the hot summer sun of the world is shining down on God’s people. It may feel that we are parched and thirsty as a result of the issues which surround us. At the same time God says that he will provide water and food — for free! We are to lean into God during this time and follow him to the place where he will provide us with the springs of living water. This is his business and he will supply our needs in the midst of the trials of this world…IF we incline our ears to him.

We must listen to the still small voice of the Lord to follow his leading. He has a way for us but we must rid ourselves of the distractions that will keep us from following him. Then he will provide us with the water that we need for today — and every day!

Prayer


Lord, thank you for your living water.  Amen.

Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.



http://www.nph.com/nphweb/html/nph/itempage.jsp?itemId=9780834135277

Monday, July 27, 2015

Sharing the Good News



Scripture

Is. 52:7        How beautiful upon the mountains
        are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
    who brings good news,
        who announces salvation,
        who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

Observation

The people were awaiting the good news, hoping that salvation was coming. Runners would arrive carrying news — they were the mailmen! Looking to the mountains and awaiting the arrival of the news carrier there is praise for the one who will bring the message. This is the one who is running as fast as possible across the mountain heights to bring the news that God is victorious! Salvation has come — “Your God reigns.”

Application

Can you imagine what it must have been like to be the one who was carrying the good news that their army had been victorious and the people would be saved! Running with all that you have you would race toward home, knowing that the people would be anxious to hear what you have to say. The people would choose the best runners to be the ones to carry this news. Young men who could run with great speed, able to run and jump over anything put in their way — they were the ones with the beautiful feet.

We are all charged to be bearers of the good news. Do we follow the example of the messengers of Isaiah’s day? We are to run swiftly bringing the good news as quickly as possible to those who are suffering. Obstacles may be placed in our way but with training and practice we are able to make it past those hurdles and reach those who are desperate to hear the good news.

This is a challenge to our passion to share the good news. Compared to the messenger we may be looking a bit timid. The mountain may look too big. The obstacles may seem to great. Instead of taking the time to train we sit and evaluate all the difficulties and decide that it’s simply better not to even try.

The people were looking for any sign of a messenger of hope. They strained to look up at the mountains. People are straining today. Will they see someone appear over the hill?

We are challenged to share the good news that we have received. Disciples must be disciplined, toning their spiritual muscles and learning to maneuver the obstacle course of life so that we can bring the good news to those who are waiting. We have the best news ever to share with our world. Let’s not sit on it — but get up and get going — people are waiting!

Prayer

Lord, please help me to be your messenger.  Amen.

Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.



http://www.nph.com/nphweb/html/nph/itempage.jsp?itemId=9780834135277

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Hurling and Meddling



Scripture

1Pet. 5:6   Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.

Observation

The charge to the Christ-follower is to live a life of humility. Only in recognizing that we are humble servants of God will we be able to put our trust in him. When we think and/or believe that we have great power and capability to do things on our own we will fail.

Once we are able to live in humility before our holy God, then we are able to put our complete and total trust in him. It is in this condition that we recognize our need for God and this is when we learn to become dependent upon him. No matter the pressure nor responsibility in life we are to cast all our anxiety on him.

The idea of casting is really one of “hurling.” We are to throw, or hurl our anxiety on the Lord. The very here is the same one as those who cast their robes before the colt on which Christ rode. It is the very idea of throwing this anxiety with all our might on him. This is the advantage that comes from humbling ourselves before God.

We are then brought to understanding that he cares for us. This is not just a simple catchphrase of concern, but rather the word used here for care brings us to an understanding of “meddling.” In other words, his care brings with it action. His care results in God’s meddling in our lives — in a good way!

The humble Christ-follower will hurl their burdens and concerns onto God and God in his lovingkindness will meddle in our affairs, helping us with those burdens.

Application

We all have burdens in life. Some are self-inflicted, others are laid upon us by others, and some are hurled on us by the world. God has even called some to carry heavy burdens of troubled children, dysfunctional marriages, or leadership. The burdens are as varied as the individuals on the earth. And yet God doesn’t say to just cast some burdens on him — he challenges us to cast ALL our anxiety on him. Hurl everything in his direction.

I’m wondering what our prayer life would be like if we committed to hurling — and allowing God to meddle. I think it would be transformational. We may think that we are hurling our anxiety on him, but if we don’t allow him to meddle — to take care of things — then we will still be anxious. Hurling and meddling have to go together.

The command is simple, the act of faith is what comes next. Whatever may be making us anxious today, it’s time to hurl it to God. In humility, make space for him to meddle.

Prayer

Lord, thank you that you love us enough to allow us to hurl our anxiety to you — and please, co your meddling.  Amen.

Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.


http://www.nph.com/nphweb/html/nph/itempage.jsp?itemId=9780834135277

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Hospitality Extended



Scripture

1 Peter 4: 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.

Observation

This language of hospitality and service comes up again and again when referring to followers of Jesus Christ. There is something about the way in which we treat one another as Christ-followers that reveals the love of God to the world. The gifts which we have each received are not for our own personal consumption, but for the benefit of all. They are to be shared so that the community of faith may be built up.

Application

It seems that the traditional ways in which to extend hospitality have changed in the last few years. It seems quite rare to be invited into someone’s home these days. I remember the old traditional “Sunday Dinner.” That doesn’t happen all that often — and nor does just sitting around a table and having lengthy conversation. Instead we are caught up in our smart phones and trying out the latest new restaurant in the neighborhood. Hey — I’m just as guilty.

So what does hospitality among God’s people look like these days? Maybe it’s not the same as in the past, but it’s still the requirement for God’s people.

I’ve seen it expressed in the loving support of a church family to someone who has been diagnosed with cancer.

I’ve seen it in the love of a congregation toward their pastor — sending him/her on a much needed vacation.

I’ve seen it in the busy mom who went out of her way to help pick up her friend’s child so they can can participate in the day’s activities.

I’ve seen the community bringing meals to those who are sick.

But it may be that we have to be more intentional about new and creative ways in which to show hospitality in a changing world. If the people of God ever stop extending hospitality we will be in trouble, and I believe that we are on the verge of being tempted in this area. God’s people have always been and always will be called to serve one another. We must not allow the busyness of life to detract us from this calling.

Prayer
Lord, may I show hospitality today — and every day.  Amen.

Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.


http://www.nph.com/nphweb/html/nph/itempage.jsp?itemId=9780834135277

Friday, July 24, 2015

Getting Ahead of God



Scripture

Isaiah 40:31     but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength,
        they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
    they shall run and not be weary,
        they shall walk and not faint.

Observation

Probably the most important word in this scripture is “wait.” It is in the waiting that we learn to rest and trust in God. He will do what he will do in his timing.

The idea of renewing comes from the concept of changing or exchanging. It’s like taking off your clothing and putting on something completely new. We will take off our own strength and literally put on God’s strength. This is what happens when we wait on him. The result is then expressed in three different ways that reveal the the supernatural power of God. Waiting on God results in his supernatural intervention in our lives.

Application


I find myself wanting to get ahead of God. I want to tell him how to make things happen — and when. The problem is that when we get ahead of God we make mistakes. Abraham and Sarah didn’t wait for God’s solution to the problem of having children. Instead they chose to “help” God out. That didn’t work out so well! And yet, we tend to do the same thing. We want to “help” God work out the details of our lives and yet we are told to “wait.”

I’m afraid I’m not the most patient person in the world and yet God is teaching me not to get ahead of him. I love the idea that when we wait on him he gives us a fresh set of clothing — of “strength” because it’s his strength — and not ours. For this I am grateful. I don’t have to do all of this on my own.

Wait on the Lord today and rest in his full strength. He has more than we will ever need and when we rest in him, the results are more than we could have ever imagined.

Prayer

Lord, may I wait upon you today.  Amen.

Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.




http://www.nph.com/nphweb/html/nph/itempage.jsp?itemId=9780834135277

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Straining to Love



Scripture

1Pet. 1:22    Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.

Observation

Followers of Jesus Christ are to live in obedience to the truth. This requires a life lived in the grace of God, along with self-discipline as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Love of God and love of neighbor flows from our relationship with God, but it also takes effort. Not everyone is easy to love and therefore the language of this author is that we are to “love one another deeply,” and this can be translated as straining to love. We must be intentional about reaching out and loving one another. This is to come from our heart, and some manuscripts say “a pure heart.” The challenge of living as God’s holy people is to reach out to one another with the love of God. There are no exceptions listed — simply that we are to be obedient, reaching out, straining, in love.

Application

There are people within the community of faith that probably drive you crazy. They may have hurt you, frustrated you or made you feel like leaving the church. We can talk ourselves into being justified in our desire to cut these people off from our lives. This, however, is not God’s plan.

We must walk in obedience to God’s leading in our lives. Listening and being obedient to God is sometimes not an easy thing to do and yet, if we are to live the lives that he desires for us, we must be obedient. Jesus is truth and we are to walk in obedience to his leading, which leads us to participation in his holy nature. God’s nature is holy love and that is why this reflection of God’s love is so important. If we do not love one another, then we are not reflecting God’s love. God’s love never gives up on us. His love, reflected in you and me, never gives up on anyone.

We are challenged to strain to love those who may be unlovely. Push ahead. Reach out. Love those within the family of God and beyond. This is the challenge for those who carry the banner of holiness.

Prayer

Lord, may your love shine through me.  Amen.

Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.



http://www.nph.com/nphweb/html/nph/itempage.jsp?itemId=9780834135277

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Prayer and Confession



Scripture

James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.

Observation

We are to live together in a community of faith, one which prays for and supports one another. This is the admonition that we discover in James. Because we are a part of this community of faith we are to grow together spiritually. For this to happen we must be willing to confess our sins to, and pray for one another. This is the way in which we can be healed, not only from physical ailments, but also from the emotional. If we are unwilling to confess what is happening in our lives, we will not be able to experience God’s forgiveness. It is this participation in the community which allows for accountability and healing.

Application

We don’t like to talk much about confession. In the holiness tradition we have been infected with the idea of perfection to the point that we feel confession just might be a sign of failure. Sadly, this can become a stumbling block to our faith because if we are to grow, there will be times that we need to repent and confess.

Confession moves beyond repentance and also moves into the sphere of profession or confession of our faith. Confessing Christ as Lord was a major theme of the early church. It went against the grain of society, being completely counter-cultural. Therefore we find that confessing Christ and prayer go hand in hand. The result is powerful and effective through the transformational work of the Holy Spirit.

What do we need to confess today? Christ as Lord? Something that we are hiding in our lives? Ask someone to join with you in prayer and allow God to his mighty work!

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the power of prayer.  Amen.

Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.


http://www.nph.com/nphweb/html/nph/itempage.jsp?itemId=9780834135277

Monday, July 20, 2015

Worrying About Tomorrow



Scripture


James 4:13   Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.”  14 Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.”  16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.  17 Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.

Observation

Strategic planning happens on many levels. We plan out how things should happen and yet we fail to realize that God is really in charge. Everything could change tomorrow. All of our plans could be derailed. But life shouldn’t be about the plans, life should be about the Lord. We are his and are to be living in and following his leading and guidance. He leads us into doing what is right and if we fail to do as he leads, we sin.

Application

I was with a friend recently and he asked this question. "Do you pray to ask God to bless your ministry, or does your ministry come from your time in prayer with God?" When I have planned out the ministry, (or anything else for that matter) then I begin to worry. I want God to step in and intervene and bless, so that my plans work out. Instead, God wants us to spend time with him and from that we are to seek his leading. The result is that whatever we do is his! When it’s his, we don’t worry.

So relax today in the Lord. Lean into what he has planned and follow his leading. 

Prayer

Lord, help me draw closer to you and follow you and your plans.  Amen.

Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.




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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Relax in God



Scripture

10     “Be still, and know that I am God!
        I am exalted among the nations,
        I am exalted in the earth.”
11     The LORD of hosts is with us;
        the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Observation

When it feels as if the enemy is attacking God’s people, it’s time to remember who is really in charge. Stop! Take time to relax in God. The stillness cleanses our mind of clutter, because when we are carried away with busyness, we can’t focus on God. But when we do, we remember that he is great among all the nations and in the earth. Our LORD is here among us.

Application

It’s Sunday and a great day to slow down. It’s always been God’s plan for his people to settle into his power and presence. God wants to care for his people, but so often it is we that do not allow him to do so. We get too caught up with the things that are happening around us and they become distractions from what God wants to do in and through us.

This is a great day to slow down and simply rest in him. Take time to listen to his voice and leading in our lives. Let the worries and anxieties of this life melt into our great LORD, who loves and cares for us. God is with us!

Prayer

Lord, thank you for your work among us. Please help me to relax in you today.  Amen.

Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.



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Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Danger of Complacency



Scripture

Is. 32:9        Rise up, you women who are at ease, hear my voice;
        you complacent daughters, listen to my speech.
10     In little more than a year
        you will shudder, you complacent ones;
    for the vintage will fail,
        the fruit harvest will not come.
11     Tremble, you women who are at ease,
        shudder, you complacent ones;
    strip, and make yourselves bare,
        and put sackcloth on your loins.
12     Beat your breasts for the pleasant fields,
        for the fruitful vine,
13     for the soil of my people
        growing up in thorns and briers;
    yes, for all the joyous houses
        in the jubilant city.
14     For the palace will be forsaken,
        the populous city deserted;
    the hill and the watchtower
        will become dens forever,
    the joy of wild asses,
        a pasture for flocks;
15     until a spirit from on high is poured out on us,
        and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,
        and the fruitful field is deemed a forest.
16         Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,
        and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.

Observation

The pampered women of society served as an example of the escapist attitude of society. Ignoring all the signs around them they chose to enjoy their wealth, luxury, crops, clothing and cities while the enemy was approaching. They abandoned God’s purpose for their lives and embraced the world. The result of their complacency would be destruction. However, there was hope for there would be a day when a spirit would be poured out and everything would be transformed. The desolate lands would become fruitful and justice restored.

Application

This message is not just for the women, but for all who choose to live in complacency. There are spiritual dangers surrounding us and living with God’s purposes in mind can become clouded by the things of this world. What has become important to us? The very same things that consumed these peoples’ lives.

We are busy with our “stuff” and it leads us to being complacent in our spiritual lives. We want bigger and better cars, nicer homes, more clothes, better schools, travel sport teams for our children, and maybe even a fancy vacation. The average American is over-extended financially and yet this brings us to a spiritual complacency that leads to distraction. Instead of living within our means we are struggling to survive, completely unaware of our spiritual condition.

We need to listen to the prophetic voices. Isaiah was calling the people to wake up and we, too, must wake up. If we are being lulled by our stuff, we will never be aware of what is happening around us. The enemy is in the woods and creeping ever closer. The good news is that there is a solution. We must awaken and become refocused on God.  It’s time for God’s church to seek life in the Spirit for only in this place will we find salvation and justice.

Prayer

Lord, please help me not to be lulled to sleep by stuff! Amen.

Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.





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Friday, July 17, 2015

Holy Grumblers Accept Instruction



Scripture

Is. 29:22        Therefore thus says the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob:
    No longer shall Jacob be ashamed,
        no longer shall his face grow pale.
23     For when he sees his children,
        the work of my hands, in his midst,
        they will sanctify my name;
    they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob,
        and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.
24     And those who err in spirit will come to understanding,
        and those who grumble will accept instruction.

Observation

The prophetic words of Isaiah speak to a future where God will be reflected in the children of Jacob. He will look on his children and he will see that they are the work of God, reflecting his image to the world. As a result God’s name will be sanctified and the world will stand in awe of Jacob’s God.

The life of the sanctified is one in which the Spirit will rule. When the Spirit leads, there is an understanding of correction. Those who need correction may grumble, but they will accept the instruction — for they are God’s holy children and their desire is to be a beautiful reflection of his glory.

Application

I’m guessing most of us have spent time grumbling. We grumble because we don’t like what someone else does. We grumble because things don’t seem to be going our way. We grumble because someone suggests that we haven’t done things quite the right way. We grumble because our spouse comments on something we have or haven’t done.

Let’s just be honest — there are times when we like to grumble.

But there’s supposed to be something different about the way in which God’s holy people respond. Let’s call them “Holy Grumblers.”

“Holy Grumblers” are those who are willing to accept instruction. The ones who, when discovering something has gone wrong are willing to hear the truth and change.

We really don’t do very well at being “Holy Grumblers.” To be a “Holy Grumbler” means that we have to confess that we’ve done something wrong. God’s holy people — those who are sanctified — and reflecting his glory — are willing to be instructed. No matter how difficult, embarrassing or painful — the ultimate goal of being formed into God's image takes precedent. God’s children resemble God, and the only way for that to happen is to be corrected along the way.

If we are simply grumblers, we will never change. Even people who call themselves “holy” can be regular grumblers. I think we’ve all experienced these who love to grumble, pointing out everything that they don’t like, but never wanting to be told that may be they are the ones who need to change. Admitting mistakes or asking forgiveness seems out of the question for regular grumblers. Instead they stand their ground, wanting to prove that they are right!

But “Holy Grumblers” when they make mistakes are willing to place themselves in a corrective stance before the Lord. It is the “Holy Grumblers” who sanctify the name of the Lord by accepting instruction. What will you be — a grumbler, or a “Holy Grumbler?”

Prayer

Lord, please shape and form me into your image. May I be willing to accept your instruction.  Amen.

Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.




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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Mutual Love



Scripture


Heb. 13:1    Let mutual love continue.

Observation

The recipients of the letter to the Hebrews were already engaged in a Christian life which revealed God’s love. This is simply an encouragement that what they’ve already been doing should continue. Mutual love is to be a very normal reflection of the holy life. We are to serve God by serving others and when this happens, preserve what you have! Guard this mutual love and protect it for the precious gift that it is!

Application


The point is that followers of Jesus Christ are to love one another — even when they don’t always like what the other does!

This should be revealed in the life of the local church.

In a Christian marriage.

In a pastor - congregation relationship.

In a working environment.

In a worship service.

In a parent-child relationship.

In a neighbor - neighbor relationship.

In a leadership role.

This mutual love is a precious gift of God that the enemy would do everything possible to destroy. Guard this love. Put up every protective force that exists to keep it safe. Be intentional about expressing that love to others.

Only in this way will the love of our holy God be reflected in you and me. The mutual love found in the Trinity — shining out through the mutual love found among believers.

Prayer

Lord, please reflect your love through me today.  Amen.

Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.



http://www.nph.com/nphweb/html/nph/itempage.jsp?itemId=9780834135277

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Enduring Trials



Scripture

Heb. 12:7 Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline?  8 If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children.  9 Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness.  11 Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Observation

Trials will come about in life and will probably make us feel incredibly uncomfortable. God disciplines his children because he wants us to be holy. If this were not the case he would allow us to keep on making the same mistakes again and again.

Everyone has issues which need discipline, but not everyone is disciplined. A parent disciplines their child for the sake of the child, wanting to help set their young one on the right path. Our heaven Father does the same. Sometimes the discipline is incredibly painful and hard to work through, but if we take the time to get through it, we will bear peaceful fruit.

Application

Trials and discipline! Neither of these sounds like fun, but they are necessary for us to become God’s holy people.

There seems to be a lot of “junk” going around these days, and I hear the voices of many who are discouraged. Today’s scripture brings me to a different perspective. Could it be that the revelation of  “junk” is an answer to prayer? God disciplines his children so we can share in his holiness. We are a people who have claimed the phrased, “Called Unto Holiness.” If this is the case, then should we not expect trials and discipline in order to help us become God’s holy people?

We are invited to respond and learn from the discipline. That’s what we expect of our children. We don’t discipline them just to make them feel bad, but rather we discipline them so that they learn a lesson and they won’t fall into the same temptations again and again. So, we are to learn; we are to change our ways; we are to be repentant; we are to suffer the consequences; and finally we are to be trained by the experience. When we are trained by trials and discipline we will yield the “peaceful fruit of righteousness.”

Personally and corporately we are called to be God’s holy people. If this is truly the desire of our hearts, we will need to endure trials.

Prayer

Lord, may I be a willing child in your arms.  Amen.

Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.




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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Restless in Exile



Scripture

Heb. 11:13   All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth,  14 for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.  15 If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return.  16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.

Observation

The great faith chapter tells us the stories of those who have gone before us and have lived in faithful obedience to God. Interestingly one of the characteristics of those who have gone before was a sense of restlessness. The more they followed God, the more they realized they weren't at home here on this earth. Rather, they desired a new and different land. The earth was simply a place of exile for they wanted to be with their heavenly Father in the place He was preparing for them. The more they focused on the Father the more they realized that they understood they were simply strangers or aliens here in this land. The  exile would remain until they could truly go home.

Application

There’s lots of language about exile these days. I wrote about “hanging up our harps” recently when talking about a response to living in exile. The Israelites chose to stop playing their music — both for the Lord and for their captors. They refused to allow the time of exile to be used by God to strengthen their relationship with him.

The great faith chapter can be seen differently. Those who walked in faith learned how to live in the exile. They were restless because they realized exile was the place where all of God’s children would ultimately find themselves. The closer we draw to the Lord, the more we begin to realize that we do not belong to the kingdoms of this world — and we are aliens living in exile.

This begs us to consider what it means to live as children of the kingdom in exile. We may choose to hang up our harps — incredibly frustrated by that which we face, or live as people of faith. We are foreigners in exile — that’s the plan! We are not to try and be as much like the world as possible, but we are to live into the “better country.” We are to live as citizens of that “better country, ” "restless" and  drawing others in the direction of the heavenly kingdom.


Prayer


Lord, may I be restless in exile.  Amen.


Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.







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Monday, July 13, 2015

Step out of the Shadow



Scripture

Heb. 10:1    Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who approach.

Observation

The law was simply a foreshadowing of the Messiah. When Christ came we experienced the advent of a new covenant. The law could not be made perfect or bring to completion that which God had intended. This is only accomplished through the work of Jesus Christ and he declares, “It is finished!”

Chrysostom reminds us that the shadow is much like the outline on a painting. It points us in the right direction, and yet there is much greater beauty when the bright colors are added. It’s only at that time that it truly becomes an image.

Application

Without a deeply personal relationship with Christ we will only be living in the shadow. We are invited to step out of the shadow and into a beautiful, colorful and vibrant relationship with Christ. It is in this relationship that we become living, multicolored and vivid reflections of our holy God. This is the full and complete picture. Living with less does not satisfy.

Sadly, too many us are living with less. We have become satisfied with living in the shadow, trying to live a Christian culture, rather than hungering for the depth of a transformational relationship with God. The real thing is much more than we can ever imagine and yet, it is available for all.

If you find your religious life unfulfilling, step out of the shadow and into life with the Son!

Prayer

Lord, I don’t want to live in the shadow —please help me to walk in all the fullness of a relationship with you! Amen.

Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.






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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Heaven Itself!



Scripture


24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 

Observation

Heaven itself — the very throne room of God is where Jesus resides. He is there now, appearing on our behalf. The sanctuary and earthly worship are to be a copy of what happens in heaven. Because of what Christ has done our worship is no longer simply a copy of what may be happening in heaven, but we are ushered into God’s presence as a result of Christ’s work. There exists then, a connection between heaven and earth, between the sanctuary made by men and heaven itself, made possible by Christ.

Application

The life of holiness includes participation by way of fellowship with the divine nature. We are invited to fellowship with the Triune God and this leads us to a heavenly worship. Christ is in the heavenly sanctuary and our worship here on earth should be a reflection of the divine worship in heaven. If we are personally reflections of Christ, then we are, corporately reflections of what is happening in the sanctuary of heaven.

That brings us to a question about worship. Does our worship in an earthly sanctuary reflect what is happening in heaven? If we are all truly on a journey which takes us deeper with Christ — this is what the world will see.

Over 1100 years ago now the prince of Kievan Russ sent out emissaries in search of a religion for his people. When they arrived in Constantinople and went to worship at Hagia Sophia they reported that they had discovered heaven on earth. They had never experienced anything like that worship. As a result an entire people became baptized as Christians.

If people came to visit our churches today would they describe our worship as experiencing heaven on earth? There were no evangelistic methods or church planting strategies that happened when the emissaries arrived in Constantinople. They simply experienced a community of faith reflecting  heaven and this led to their conversion and that of an entire nation.

Christ has already entered into the sanctuary of heaven. We are invited to participate with him but this only comes as we step into a deeper walk with him on a daily basis. This is the challenge, to seek him and his face more and more each day until the reflection of heaven becomes so clear in us that it draws the world toward him. Heaven itself — Jesus is there, interceding on our behalf! Let’s participate with him.

Prayer

Lord, please help our community of faith to be a reflection of heaven itself. Amen.

Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.





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Saturday, July 11, 2015

True Worship and the Real Sanctuary



Scripture

Hebrews 8:5 They offer worship in a sanctuary that is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly one;

Observation


This portion of Hebrews is pointing out the radical difference between the old and new covenant. The priests in the time of Moses were worshiping in the tabernacle, which was simply a “sketch and shadow” of what was to come. This was a very simple and small representation of the heavenly sanctuary. When Jesus came, as the new High Priest, everything changed and he now serves as the true tabernacle. Therefore true worship is of Christ and he is the real sanctuary. This new reality changes everything in the lives of these Hebrew believers.

Application


If we are not careful our modern worship could also be a very poor sketch and shadow of God’s intention. True worship is focused on Christ alone. He is the real sanctuary.

What does that mean for us on a practical level? The Holy Spirit ushers us into the very presence of Christ who intercedes on our behalf. This means that true worship comes about when God’s people allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide them into a deeper walk with Jesus Christ. In a nutshell, it’s what holiness is all about. We are guided into a continual and on-going deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. The result is an overwhelming desire to praise and to worship him. No longer is the focus of worship the ways in which I like a particular service, because all that we do becomes about pleasing Christ for we are in his sanctuary, for we are in him.

Tomorrow many will enter into a sanctuary for worship. To be prepared to worship we must spend time with Christ. Let’s prepare our hearts by focusing on Christ before we ever enter a building for corporate worship. Then, while gathered together, remember that there is but one God who is the audience. It’s not about you or me — it’s all about him. This is true worship!

Prayer

Lord, please prepare my heart for worship in your sanctuary. Amen.


Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.




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Friday, July 10, 2015

Experiencing Forgiveness



Scripture

Mic. 7:18        Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
        and passing over the transgression
        of the remnant of your possession?
    He does not retain his anger forever,
        because he delights in showing clemency.
19     He will again have compassion upon us;
        he will tread our iniquities under foot.
    You will cast all our sins
        into the depths of the sea.
20     You will show faithfulness to Jacob
        and unswerving loyalty to Abraham,
    as you have sworn to our ancestors
        from the days of old.

Observation

God’s love is revealed in these descriptions. He is constantly reaching out to his children, desiring to drawn them back into a healthy relationship with him. As a result, even when he has been hurt, he will forgive them for their transgressions.  In his compassion he will stomp on our sins and remove them far us. His justice will prevail and he will remain faithful to the covenants made with Jacob and Abraham. Through this forgiveness we experience God’s holy love and restoration as his people.

Application
Open and transparent conversation is not always comfortable, and yet, to be healthy it is necessary. I’ve recently been reading a book on leadership called, “The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business” by Patrick Lencioni. His premise is that far too many organizations worry about tactical skill, but don’t take the time nor energy to invest in being healthy. Being healthy creates an environment for honesty in regard to shortcomings and failures. A place of transparency allows one to “ask for forgiveness” so to speak, be able to make corrections, and move on. The result is that the organization becomes self-corrective and healing and is able to perform at a much higher plane than simply those with technical skills. In other words, an ability to be honest with others allows for the entire team to work toward wholeness and health. However, an inability to admit short-comings, or to feel that you can confront the “boss” with serious concerns may ultimately lead to the demise of the organization, no matter how much talent may be present.

We may be incredibly talented people with numerous skills that God has given us, but unless those are placed honestly before God they may lead us in the wrong direction. God is our loving Father who will gently lead us in the right direction, if only we are willing to come before him in the areas in which we need his help (which is every area — by the way). Experiencing his forgiveness for what we have done wrong does not inspire wrath, but the gentle nudge of a Father who simply wants our best. When our abilities are put under his leading and control — under his gentle nudges of direction — we can become more than our personal talents and abilities would reveal. Instead, we begin to thrive and we become healthy under the loving leadership of the Holy Spirit.

God doesn’t hold grudges, but instead seeks our best. That’s why, when we honestly come before him and ask forgiveness, he moves right on to nudging us in the right direction. He doesn’t dwell on what we’ve done wrong. (And Lencioni would say the healthy organization does the same thing -- doesn't dwell on the mistakes) He stomps it under foot, throws it into the sea and forgets about it. The past doesn’t have to derail the future. Experiencing God’s forgiveness is life-giving and healing. Don’t let pride get in the way of confessing our need for God.

Experiencing his forgiveness is a step toward health. Make a move toward wholeness today!

Prayer

Lord, may I be transparent before you, seeking your help in the areas of my need. Amen.

Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.



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Thursday, July 9, 2015

An Anchor of Hope



Scripture

Hebrews 6:19 We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain,  20 where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Observation

The writer to the Hebrews is challenging the believers to grow in their faith, and in doing so to cling to the incredible hope found in Jesus, the Messiah. Jesus is a “high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” He comes to us from outside the natural order and leads us into life in the kingdom. He has done this and already we are able to live in the kingdom and anchor our hope in Jesus.

Application


We need to anchor our hope in Jesus Christ. Hope in Christ will not allow us to be carried back and forth by the storms. There are plenty of storms that bring with them agitating winds, but when the anchor is in Christ, the boat does not sink.

The Church has weathered many a storm and yet has not sunk. We are invited into this hope, the hope that anchored deeply on Jesus, our Messiah. He is the Son of God and intercedes on our behalf to the Father. He provides us access into the very presence of God and a life already in the kingdom.

When we become overly distracted by the storms, we forget about the anchor. The storms simply become a distraction from what is really important. Jesus, our Messiah -- he is the one on whom we are to focus. This was the call for the Hebrews, and for us today. Continue growing in your faith until you are firmly anchored and focused on following Christ. 

This is our hope, that we are citizens, not of this world, but of the Father’s kingdom. We are invited to follow him into the kingdom, behind the curtain, and live in the hope of what is and what is to come. This hope is never deterred by the storms of the world.

Let the storms rage as we remain anchored to the hope we have in Christ.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the hope you provide. Amen.


Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.


http://www.nph.com/nphweb/html/nph/itempage.jsp?itemId=9780834135277

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A Call to Praise



Scripture


Psa. 100:0   A Psalm of thanksgiving.
1     Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.
2         Worship the LORD with gladness;
        come into his presence with singing.
 
Psa. 100:3        Know that the LORD is God.
        It is he that made us, and we are his;
        we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
 
Psa. 100:4        Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
        and his courts with praise.
        Give thanks to him, bless his name.
 
Psa. 100:5        For the LORD is good;
        his steadfast love endures forever,
        and his faithfulness to all generations.

Observation

God’s people are called to praise him. We are to make a “joyful noise” to our Lord as we enter into his presence. This is the imagery of entering a throne room, giving God the honor he is due. In praise we recognize that the “LORD is God,” our father. He is our creator and we are his children.

The gates of the kingdom are opened for his children and so we enter with great praise. Not only do we enter the kingdom but are ushered into his very courts — into his presence. We give him thanks, recognizing the goodness of the LORD. He has drawn us into his holy presence and here we experience his steadfast love which reaches out to us and to the generations to come. For all of this, we give him praise!

Application

We are called not only to praise the Lord, but to live a life of continual and on-going praise to God. This is only possible when we have entered his gates and are residing in his courts. We are called to a nearness, a proximity, to our Lord. It is in this place that we experience him in ways we never thought possible and praise becomes a way of life.

The converse is also true. When we find ourselves grumbling we may discover that we have wandered from the presence of the Lord and have become filled with sadness and complaint. I’ve heard a lot of complaint lately about the state of our world and the condition of Christianity, but I haven’t heard a lot of praise. Does that speak more to our proximity to the Lord than it does about the condition of our world?

The Psalmist had times of trouble but seemed to know that the focus had to return to the deep and loving relationship to be found in our holy God. God is drawing us toward him and we are encouraged to respond. Enter his courts today — enter with praise. Thank God for all the good which you see and experience and for his love which draws ever closer to him. This is the good which can will be celebrated.

Let us praise him!

Prayer

Lord, thank you for your hand which we can see at work in our lives and in the lives of others. Amen.


Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.
http://www.nph.com/nphweb/html/nph/itempage.jsp?itemId=9780834135277

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Are You Getting Enough Rest?



Scripture

Hebrews 4:8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not speak later about another day.  9 So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God;  10 for those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labors as God did from his.  11 Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience as theirs.

Observation

The ultimate sabbath rest is to be with the Lord for all of eternity. Joshua ordered the people to experience a sabbath rest. This rest from human labor here on earth was to be a foretaste of eternal rest. The promise of an eternal sabbath awaits the people of God who serve him in obedience. In the meantime, practicing and living sabbath can lead us into eternal rest.

Application

I’ve been doing a bit of study and reading lately about the need for rest — real, true, physical rest. Studies are showing that people are not getting enough rest. We don’t slow down long enough to sleep as many hours as our body needs to function properly. The result is that we are tired, irritable, unable to concentrate and physically ill. I have been convicted that as a Christ-follower, it is important to care for myself physically, and this includes getting enough rest.

When I evaluate those things which may be keeping me from my rest they don’t seem that important. I may be on my computer, mindlessly flipping through the news, or the weather, or Facebook and suddenly time has passed. Or, I may be watching television, or even just staying up too late working! At some point we have to stop it all and enter into rest.

Learning to enter into rest now becomes a foretaste of eternal rest. When I put it all away and I get enough sleep, I’m able to cope better with everything. When I put all the stuff away and spend quiet time in God’s presence, my batteries are recharged and I realize I don’t have to do all of this on my own, but I do have to follow him in the ways in which he is leading. If I don’t take my rest, I keep on charging ahead without his leading — expecting God to follow where I’m going!

Practicing rest isn’t easy in our frenzied world…and it is a frenzied world! We have too much stimulation and technology is providing us with more than our brains can handle. If we are to survive, we need to unplug. Yes, God knew what he was talking about — his people need a sabbath rest. We have to be intentional about taking time away and turning it all off.

The question for today is — are you getting enough rest?

Prayer

Lord, please help me to make rest and recharging a priority. I need you and your strength and leading. Amen.

Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.
http://www.nph.com/nphweb/html/nph/itempage.jsp?itemId=9780834135277

Monday, July 6, 2015

Where is your love?



Scripture

Hosea 6:6     For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
        the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Observation

God isn’t judging us by our sacrifices but by our steadfast love for him. Historically this word “love" has also been translated “mercy,” indicating the depth of this loving action which is to pour forth from the life of one who is a child of God.

God does not want sacrifices — he want us!

Jesus quoted this verse when preaching. God has constantly been drawing us into a deeply loving relationship with him in which we know him on a very intimate level. This is what he desires rather than all the “things” that we can “do” for him! 

Application

We may feel called to “do” numerous things for God. Sometimes we feel that we have to defend him. We may feel that we have to be working hard at the church 24/7. We may think that we have to do volunteer work so that God will be happy with us. All of these may be extremely good things in which to engage, but if they are done out of the overflow of a heart full of love for God, they are nothing.

Where is your love?

Love comes from the overflow of time spent in God’s holy presence. We are to be a healthy and whole people who slow down and soak in him. Spending time day in and day out spinning our wheels means that we think that everything depends on us. Bathing in his presence reminds us that it’s all about him and then from that time with him, we will know where he wants us to spend our time and energy.

Love for God will be displayed in love for others. God doesn’t need us to defend him, he wants us to love him. Steadfast love, an on-going an intimate relationship with our holy God, is what should guide and direct all that we do.

Where is your love taking you today?

Prayer

Lord, may I live in and soak in the love of your holy presence this day. Amen.

PS Nazarene Publishing House has just released "Reflecting the Image," a book which combines numerous blog posts and other writings around this idea of reflecting Christ in this world. It is not a devotional book, but more of a study book. You can check it out here:

Reflecting the Image

Blessings!

Friday, July 3, 2015

How Not To Act in Exile


How Not To Act In Exile

Scripture:

Psa. 137:2     On the willows there
        we hung up our harps.
Psa. 137:3     For there our captors
        asked us for songs,
    and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
        “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

Observation:

The children of Israel were living in exile and as they journeyed their captors asked them to sing their songs of Zion. There was no joy in their hearts and they had no desire to perform for those who had taken them into captivity. In public protest they took their harps and hung them on the willow trees. The harps were not hidden away under bushes but hung up for all to see. The had lost their songs. Their joy was gone. But sadly, as they refused to sing for their captors, so they refused to sing to God.

Application:

Just yesterday my friend, Kathy Mowry mentioned this scripture as she spoke about the church in exile. I had written a blog post on this this last fall but now I wanted to go back and think about these verses again. We are living in a time in which people are describing the place of the church as being in exile. If this is true, then there are things which we need to learn from the Israelites, both good and bad.

There are those who would say that the church is under attack and that we need to be on defense. But defense is what the Israelites did, and I would argue that we are to be focused on offense. In the midst of cultural change, it is God who remains the same and who should be the focus of all we do. This is not the time to just give up in frustration. It's not a time to stop praising the Lord or to stop going to church. If we do, we will be reacting just as the Israelites, hanging up our harps in protest and hoping someone notices that we're not using them.

The major problem for the Israelites was that they saw playing their harps as performing for their captors. However, their music should never have become a performance for anyone, but should have always been a way of worship before God. In hanging up their harps they were really demonstrating what was happening in their hearts. They made their captivity and the despair they felt all about them and not about God. They were sad to no longer be in Zion. They were sad to be held by the captives. They were miserable!

As my friend Kathy said yesterday, we have found ourselves in "Oz." Nothing looks like "Kansas" anymore. The church finds herself in exile and hungering to go home.

But the exile for the Israelites had been of their own doing.

Had they always been playing their harps and singing to worship God, they would have remained faithful to him. This exile was really to save them as a people. It became a wake-up call to their infidelity. The best thing they could have done was to keep on praising and worshipping God.

The Israelites were to have been an evangelistic people. By hanging up their harps they gave in to their despair. Had they sung, they may have led some of their captors into worshipping God. Their act of hanging up their harps, while couched in the language of despair, actually was selfish. It reflected their personal frustration and also withheld the beauty of the worship of God from those whom it may have transformed.

If we find ourselves in exile, let's grab our harps and keep on singing praises to our God. Our focus should always be on him and never on ourselves or even the circumstances that surround us. God is to be praised. He is lifted to be lifted up and we can serve as an evangelistic voice in a foreign land, and the exile may again become the cure for God's people.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to sing out my song for you!  Amen.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Encouragement for the Hard-Pressed



Scripture

Jude 24   Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing,  25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Observation

Living as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ has never just been “easy.” In the first century Christ-followers were viewed as radical people. This closing benediction is a reminder and an encouragement for those who are living hard-pressed in ways which are counter-cultural. It is a triumphant response that reminds us that God is still on the throne and empowers us through the Holy Spirit to stand firm in our faith.

Application


This encouragement is for today, for we all come to those moments when we feel hard-pressed. The sources of the pressure may vary greatly but when we stand with God, he empowers us. This happens as we turn our faces toward him, praising and worshiping God on high. He is the only one who is worthy of “glory, majesty, power, and authority.” He has already been at work, will continue to work in and through us and those to come for all eternity. He is our great God and he encourages us today when we are hard-pressed. Let us worship and praise him.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for your encouragement. Amen.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Avoid Stupid Controversies



Scripture

Titus 3:9 But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.

Observation

Reflecting Christ is the priority of life and anything that becomes a distraction to that goal is simply that — a distraction. Becoming engaged in debates without considering the outcome is futile. The Lord doesn’t not ask us to labor in vain, but instead to focus our energies on his kingdom work. Chrysostom referred to these stupid controversies as “sowing upon a rock.” In other words, it will ultimately accomplish nothing so why waste your time. Instead, work in soil which will produce; spend your time and energy in places where it will make a difference.

Application

Evidently not too much has changed since the first century. This may discourage us, or maybe it can be an encouragement to us because the admonition to the Christ-follower remains the same. There will always be controversies, quarrels about the law, and disagreements among people. These things don’t change and so why waste time in arguments when we can be actively engaged in kingdom business that is transformational.

The real work of the kingdom is rarely in what we say, but primarily in what we do.

Prayer

Lord, please help me be engaged in what you are doing in this world today. Amen.