Saturday, October 31, 2015

What Are You Waiting For?



Scripture:

Mark 8:11   The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him.  12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.”  13 And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.

Observation:

Jesus had just fed the 4000 and there were seven baskets full of food leftover. This was amazing and the people who had listened to his preaching were astounded at what he was able to accomplish. His love and compassion was being revealed in his daily activity resulting in transformed lives.

The religious leaders weren’t all that happy with what he was doing. This was not the kind of Messiah they were seeking. Instead they expected someone who would act like Moses and they were probably looking for signs similar to the plagues of Egypt. Jesus was a disappointment to them because he only healed the sick and fed thousands! They wanted to see hail, frog, locusts and death. Without the kinds of signs they anticipated, they would not believe in him.

The signs that were being performed at the hand of Jesus were not to convince the religious or government officials to let the people go. Jesus came to bring peace and save those who were lost. His signs were ones to draw people to God, not to scare leaders into submission. The Pharisees had it all wrong and the sign they were waiting for would never come. They had misdiagnosed their own personal need and in the process were missing out on everything that God had for them. They were waiting for the wrong thing!

Application:

Preconceived notions of the way in which God is to act will get us in trouble. We may find ourselves asking God for a particular sign when that sign may simply not be the way in which God is intending to act. We become so obsessed with the sign that we forget about the purpose of our journey, and that is to know God.

Jesus’ activity and the signs performed at his hand were a revelation of God’s love toward humanity. His acts were an invitation into a deeply intimate relationship with our holy God. This is the goal of life, to fall in love with God and to draw so near that we reflect the Image to the world.

If were were honest we might realize that we would find ourselves right there with the Pharisees looking for some big sign. Sometimes when it comes to making decisions or simply trusting God we want a big sign from heaven when all the while Jesus is right there beside us, loving us, and taking care of our daily needs in miraculous ways. We may simply have our eyes on the wrong thing.

We don’t need the big signs, we need to fall in love with Jesus. God’s prevenient grace is reaching out to us on a daily basis, drawing us closer to him. His desire us for us is to live in holy communion day in and day out and he is providing all that we need for this to happen.

Waiting for the big signs becomes a distraction from what God wants to accomplish in our lives.

What are you waiting for?

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the sweet and gentle ways I experience your love and care on a daily basis. Amen.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Damaging Power of Words



Scripture:

Job 19:1    Then Job answered:
2     “How long will you torment me,
        and break me in pieces with words?
3     These ten times you have cast reproach upon me;
        are you not ashamed to wrong me?

Observation:

Job’s “friends” had continued their verbal attack on him. Somehow, thinking that they were helping, they searched over and again for the underlying reason for his suffering. Their attitude became as harmful to him as his physical suffering. He was broken in pieces by their words.

Application:

Think of everything that Job had suffered — the loss of family, worldly goods and his health! This was all overwhelming and the pain that he was suffering on a daily basis was incredible and yet, it was these words from his “friends” which were pushing him over the edge.

We use words rather casually and often without thought of the consequences. These days we have multiple opportunities to share our words. In a moment of frustration we post something on Facebook. We tweet without a filter. Or, we take to a blog and we write in righteous ways about our thoughts, somehow convincing ourselves that everything must be known and it doesn’t matter who may be hurt in the process.

Long before the world of social media Job’s “friends” were immortalized as the example of words gone wrong! Words spoken in public, in private, on social media — they are destructive. They cut people into a thousand little pieces — and God is not pleased!

Job’s friends did not seem to be ashamed to wrong him. We should be ashamed when our words are destructive to the character and life of another individual. At the same time our words could also be used to bring healing. Let’s not find ourselves in the annals of history with Job’s “friends.” Instead, let’s be intentional about using our words to build one another up in Christ. May our words become the healing balm that knits the broken pieces back together.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to use my words for the building up of your kingdom. Amen.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Ministry in the Crisis




Scripture:
Acts 28:7   Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the leading man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days.  8 It so happened that the father of Publius lay sick in bed with fever and dysentery. Paul visited him and cured him by praying and putting his hands on him.  9 After this happened, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured.  10 They bestowed many honors on us, and when we were about to sail, they put on board all the provisions we needed.

Observation:


Paul was a prisoner on a ship that was to take him to Rome. Along the way they encountered a terrible storm and eventually the ship broke apart and all those on board safely made their way, some swimming and others floating on pieces of the ship to the island of Malta. There on the beach the people of the island reached out and helped those who were in desperate need.

Paul got to know Publius, the leader of the region.  When he discovered that the man’s father was ill Paul went and ministered to him. This provided Paul with an opportunity to minister to people on the entire island. It was the people who were sick with diseases who came to him because they had heard about his ability to heal. He healed those with diseases, ministering to their physical needs. The result was a relationship with a group of people whom he may have never known. Paul had been in a crisis but that crisis turned into an opportunity to reflect Jesus’ healing ministry to a community.

Application:
Paul had an uncanny ability to see unconventional opportunities. What do we do when we are shipwrecked in life? Paul could have become hung-up on the crisis, for it was huge. Yet, he saw opportunity in the crisis. This was a place where he had never been able to tell people about Jesus. We aren’t told whether he ever preached with words in this place, but instead we are told how he revealed Jesus’ healing power by healing people of their diseases. He ministered to the peoples’ physical needs in a time of crisis and it opened a door to future opportunity.

None of us are all too excited about having to face difficulties or a crisis and yet, it could be that God is opening doors in this type of a circumstance. We may be treading into uncharted waters and wondering what lies ahead. Paul had no idea and yet he simply continued reflecting Jesus in every single circumstance.

Seize the crisis in life and allow God to use it as an opportunity to reflect him. This is the challenge that Paul places before us. He encouraged us to follow him as he followed Christ. Ministry in the midst of crisis seems to reflect the Image.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to follow you daily into the messy situations of life. Amen.


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Monday, October 26, 2015

What Frightened Felix



Scripture:

Acts 24:24   Some days later when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him speak concerning faith in Christ Jesus.  25 And as he discussed justice, self-control, and the coming judgment, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present; when I have an opportunity, I will send for you.”  26 At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul, and for that reason he used to send for him very often and converse with him.

Observation:


Paul ended up being held in Caesarea for two years because Felix did not want to take action.  Somehow he felt caught in the middle with Paul who was challenging him personally and the Jews who were challenging him professionally.

Felix was frightened by Paul’s message, one about justice, self-control and the coming judgment. This is an interesting collection of topics on which Paul preached. Over and over again in the word we are confronted with the concept of justice. Justice is important to God and injustice makes him mad. Felix was challenged with the idea of justice because Paul’s imprisonment was unjust and as a ruler awaiting a bribe, the way in which he managed his life and business was unjust. Shining light on this injustice made him extremely uncomfortable and, as we read, frightened.

Stepping further onto some toes, Paul began to speak of self-control. This was not a pleasant subject because people in positions of power were not accustomed to showing self-control. Instead they took advantage of everything and everyone that they could. Whatever they desired, they took.

Finally, Paul began to speak of the coming judgment. All of these behaviors would have consequences. Felix was not accustomed to anyone speaking to him in this way. And now he was genuinely frightened.

Somehow Felix could not maneuver through the situation and so he did nothing. An illegal solution would have suited him just fine but no bribe was forthcoming and so he lived in the state of inaction. In the meantime Paul remained in Caesarea.

Application:

Sobering thoughts about justice, self-control and coming judgement. The words from Paul are just as real today. We are confronted with the need seek justice. We live in a world of injustice and as those who reflect the light of Christ we are to shine his light into the areas of injustice — just as Paul did. The result may be the same — people frightened and uncomfortable. But that’s the nature of the gospel. Light is shone into the places of our lives that we wish we could hide. This includes our lack of self-control! The light of Christ not only shines into these cracks and crevices but begs us to engage in action.

What really frightened Felix was that Paul somehow understood what motivated him and was able to speak to those issues, and it touched a nerve. The result was fear.

We don’t have to respond in fear when the light of the gospel shines into the dark places of our lives. Instead we can reach out to our Lord and ask him to transform those spaces by the power of the Holy Spirit. Felix refused the good news and lived in fear. We have a choice as well.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to respond in your power when you reveal places in my life that need your help.  Amen.

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sometimes You Have to Just Stop Talking



Scripture:

Job 16:1    Then Job answered:
2     “I have heard many such things;
        miserable comforters are you all.
3     Have windy words no limit?
        Or what provokes you that you keep on talking?

Observation:

Job’s “friends” had been giving him all kinds of advice. These were his the “cup is half empty” friends. This is not what he needed to hear and he was expressing his frustration. They had gone on talking for far too long!

Application:


There will be times in life when we find ourselves in the position of Job’s friends. Someone will be in need of our comfort and support. Let’s take a cue here on how to respond to someone who is struggling and in need. Sometimes you have to just stop talking!

Job didn’t need their constant barrage of thoughts and excuses for what was happening to him. He was simply in misery. There are times when we need the companionship of a good friend who is willing to stop talking, stop trying to explain everything, stop trying to see the bad that you have obviously done to cause this difficulty — and sit in solidarity while listening.

This takes me to Jesus and his moment with Mary and Martha. Lazarus had died and was already in the tomb. Jesus arrived to find the two women distraught. He didn’t try to give them some lengthy explanation but instead we get the shortest verse of the Bible, “Jesus wept.” He stopped and silently stood with them in their pain and wept. Jesus knew when to stop talking and when to simply “be” with his friends.

When wondering how to respond to a friend in need and pain, consider the options. We can either be like Job’s “friends” who seemed to be provoked to keep on talking — or like Jesus who quietly joined with them in their pain. Maybe some of us need to simply stop talking.

Prayer:

Lord, help me to respond the way that you would respond to others. Help me to know when to talk and when to keep quiet.  Amen.

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Disruptive Nature of the Gospel



Scripture:

Acts 19:23   About that time no little disturbance broke out concerning the Way.  24 A man named Demetrius, a silversmith who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the artisans.  25 These he gathered together, with the workers of the same trade, and said, “Men, you know that we get our wealth from this business.  26 You also see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost the whole of Asia this Paul has persuaded and drawn away a considerable number of people by saying that gods made with hands are not gods.  27 And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be scorned, and she will be deprived of her majesty that brought all Asia and the world to worship her.”
Acts 19:28   When they heard this, they were enraged and shouted, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”  29 The city was filled with the confusion; and people rushed together to the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s travel companions.  30 Paul wished to go into the crowd, but the disciples would not let him;  31 even some officials of the province of Asia, who were friendly to him, sent him a message urging him not to venture into the theater.  32 Meanwhile, some were shouting one thing, some another; for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together.  33 Some of the crowd gave instructions to Alexander, whom the Jews had pushed forward. And Alexander motioned for silence and tried to make a defense before the people.  34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours all of them shouted in unison, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”  35 But when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, “Citizens of Ephesus, who is there that does not know that the city of the Ephesians is the temple keeper of the great Artemis and of the statue that fell from heaven?  36 Since these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash.  37 You have brought these men here who are neither temple robbers nor blasphemers of our goddess.  38 If therefore Demetrius and the artisans with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls; let them bring charges there against one another.  39 If there is anything further you want to know, it must be settled in the regular assembly.  40 For we are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.”  41 When he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.

Observation:

This is such an amazing story because you get details of a dynamic which was occurring in the city of Ephesus. Here we find a very large city and for the gospel to have such an impact on this city that it disrupts the economy — you know something incredible was happening.

The silversmiths of Ephesus began talking amongst each other and discovered that their profits were suddenly shrinking because people were no longer worshipping the goddess of the city, Artemis. Serving the one Lord was counter-cultural to this society. They considered themselves religious folks and were proud of their temple, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Now people were worshipping a God whom they could not see and for whom there would be no graven images. This didn’t even make sense to the popular culture and becoming greatly offended they began to cheer for their goddess, somehow believing that if they yelled loudly it might increase Artemis’ influence.

Suddenly this became a mob and they went to find those who were responsible for this new movement of “The Way.” Paul’s travel companions were probably in the wrong place at the wrong time and they got swept away by the crowd and into the theater. Paul wanted to go, thinking he could help the situation but was urged to stay away as he probably would have simply incited the crowd even more.

At this point the people are so riled up that others have joined in and don’t even know why. They are simply there and are angry - -at something that the gospel has done to their community. It had changed the status quo and now they were uncomfortable with the result. Life in Ephesus would never be the same, but that was God’s plan.

Application:

While the ancient city of Ephesus is now mostly an archaeological site, the ruins themselves give us quite a history. We know that eventually large churches became a part of the normal landscape of the town. One of the early church council meetings was held there and it was a location of Christian influence. The silversmiths were right that things were changing and it made them nervous for their lives were disrupted by the gospel.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is disruptive to the status-quo. If we are trying to live a Christianity that does not reach out and question some of the acts of society, if we are trying to keep everyone happy, then we don’t really know what it means to live out the gospel.

When’s the last time you made certain businesses in your community angry because too many people were coming to Christ? Is the liquor store suffering in sales? Is the strip joint lacking customers? Is the check cashing business no longer flourishing? For the church to have an impact on a community there must be transformation — disruptive transformation. If, as Christ-followers, we are not disrupting our community then there is something wrong.

The good news of Jesus Christ changes lives and everyday behaviors to the point that it touches our communities and creates disruption.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to be a faithful witness to you.  Amen.


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Friday, October 23, 2015

Thoughtful Reflection




Scripture:

Acts 17:10   That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas off to Beroea; and when they arrived, they went to the Jewish synagogue.  11 These Jews were more receptive than those in Thessalonica, for they welcomed the message very eagerly and examined the scriptures every day to see whether these things were so.  12 Many of them therefore believed, including not a few Greek women and men of high standing.

Observation:


The Jews in Thessalonica became jealous of Paul and Silas’ ministry. In their frustration they went to find them, could not and so went after Jason, the man who was hosting them. He was dragged into jail and harassed because of his support of these missionaries. That night the believers in Thessalonica sent Paul and Silas off and they went to Beroea.

While the Jews in Thessalonica responded with emotion — jealousy and anger, the ones in Beroea took time to listen and thoughtfully reflect on what they were being taught. They knew the scriptures and so they examined Paul and Silas’ teaching in light of what they already knew. This was a completely different reaction from those in Thessalonica, many of whom became believers.

Sadly it didn’t turn out as nice as we would like because the people in Thessalonica heard what was happening in Beroea and came over to stir things up. The new believers had to send Paul away to save his life but Silas and Timothy remained. Their thoughtful attitude allowed them to reflect seriously on the word and it became transformational. They would not be ruled by their emotions, but would allow God to lead.

Application:

These two responses are ones that we encounter as well. There are those who engage with the scriptures in a shallow way and who are prone to an emotional response. This overreaction may result in those who argue out of ignorance but all stemming from an emotional engagement. These were the Jews of Thessalonica. They were more concerned about their reputations and the way that Paul’s popularity made them feel than they were about thoughtfully reflecting on what he had to say.

The people of Beroea didn’t let emotion win the day, but took the time to ask questions and seriously think about what he was sharing.

There is a word of caution to be found here, one that encourages us be careful in how quickly we respond to issues and/or people we encounter. It’s easy to become one of the crowd of Thessalonica. We hear bits and pieces of things and we jump to conclusions. Instead of taking time to thoughtfully reflect on what is really being said or done, we want to run people out of town.

When we take the time to listen and thoughtfully reflect we can become like the people of Beroea. Their lives were transformed as they became faithful followers of God. We are invited into this kind of relationship with our Lord when we take time to know him more.

Take the time to slow down and thoughtfully examine a situation before jumping to an emotional response. The result may not be what we expect but the experience may be become personally transformational.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for opportunities to learn more about you. Help me to be open to being stretched.  Amen.

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Singing in Jail



Scripture:

Acts 16:25   About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.  26 Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.  27 When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped.  28 But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”  29 The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.  30 Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  31 They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”  32 They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.  33 At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay.  34 He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.

Observation:

Paul and Silas were locked up in prison because of their faithful obedience to God. Instead of being angry, or taking it out on the jailer, they prayed and sang hymns to God. They kept their eyes on the goal of knowing Christ and didn’t let the frustrations of the day distract them from what was most important. The result was that not only were their spirit’s lifted, but they ministered to others around them. God worked through an earthquake and many were saved physically, and spiritually!

Application:

I can only imagine that Paul and Silas were tempted to be frustrated. How could God be in the midst of their being locked up in jail? Not only were they in jail — but they were in jail illegally! Can’t you imagine the possible indignation and desire to let those around them know that they were being held by corrupt officials. And yet, somehow their legal status doesn’t come out until the end of the story. Whether they shared this information earlier is not known. They may have believed that God could use their circumstance for his glory and so they chose to walk through the difficulties — and have a good attitude.

They sat in prison and sang songs to the Lord. You know what happens when we begin to sing to the Lord? Yes, the Lord is lifted up but our own spirits are lifted because our focus becomes God and not our circumstances. They were able to look to God and praise him — and others began to listen in. This was not the way in which people were supposed to respond in this type of situation.  But their response provided a way out. God was praised and glorified, the earth shook and they were set free. They could never have imagined that this would happen — they simply kept their eyes on the Lord.

There will be times when we won’t be able to see where things are heading. As far as Paul and Silas knew, their lives could have ended in that jail. But their goal was to reflect the image. They wanted to know Christ and so, we too are called to reflect our Lord. In the midst of those unforeseen circumstances we keep our eyes on the Lord, drawing ever closer to him, reflecting him and singing his praises.

Prayer:


Lord, I worship and praise you today.  Amen.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Abound in the Lord’s Work



Scripture:


1 Corinthians 15:51

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55  “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Observation:

What we experience here — what we see, feel and know in the material is not all that exists. There is more which helps us to understand that death becomes a victory. We may not understand that now, or feel it in the moment — but Paul seemed to see things from a different perspective. Death was the result of a life of a sin, victory was found in Christ. Therefore laboring for him might result in physical or material struggles, but the work would never be in vain.

Application:


This week my mind is thinking about Jim York, an amazingly sweet and humble man who left us to be with the Lord. He was such a kind person who served so many people. He used what he had in service to the Lord and others. I know there is incredible pain in the hearts of the family members who are struggling with the reality of what life is going to be like without him. And yet, today these words struck me as I thought about Jim. He was “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” His labor wasn’t in vain, for his life touched many in a variety of ways.

There is the sting of loss, but the victory of a life lived well that changed and shaped the direction of those who would come after him.

In the sobering moments of pain we are reminded that we are to be steadfast and immovable in the things that really matter. We do not labor in vain.

Prayer:

Lord, I pray for your sustaining love and presence with the York family today.  Amen.


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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Prayerful Expectations



Scripture:


Acts 12:5 While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him.

Acts 12:12   As soon as he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many had gathered and were praying.  13 When he knocked at the outer gate, a maid named Rhoda came to answer.  14 On recognizing Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the gate, she ran in and announced that Peter was standing at the gate.  15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind!” But she insisted that it was so. They said, “It is his angel.”  16 Meanwhile Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the gate, they saw him and were amazed. 

Observation:

Peter had been arrested because of his work and ministry. The church folks did exactly what they ought to do — they went to prayer. One evening as the group was holding a prayer meeting an angel came to Peter in prison and set him free. He then made his way to the prayer meeting.

The likelihood that the folks at the prayer meeting were praying for Peter and his freedom is quite high. The irony is that while they were praying, he arrived at the home. The maid Rhoda was so excited over hearing his voice and realizing this could be an answer to their prayers that she forgot to let him in — but ran to tell the others about the answer to prayer. In the meantime those praying failed to recognize that the answer was standing right outside their door. They told Rhoda that she was out of her mind. They were praying, but couldn’t believe that God had answered their prayer.

Application:

What are our expectations when we pray? It seems that often we are surprised when God answers prayer. This seemed to be the case here with Peter. Even though they had gathered to pray for this need, they were shocked when the prayer was answered.

I believe this speaks to our attitude when we are engaged in prayer. Do we pray believing that God can make a difference? God can and does make a difference in our lives. Prayers may not always be answered in the way in which we think or imagine, but God does care and respond. Sometimes we simply have to open our eyes to see what it is that he has already accomplished and will continue to do in and through us and those around us.

Go into prayer expecting that God will answer. Then, be open to the creative ways in which God may want to respond — and don’t be shocked when he does!

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for answered prayer.  Amen.


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Monday, October 19, 2015

Trusting



Scripture:

Psa. 108:0   A Song. A Psalm of David.
1     My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
        I will sing and make melody.
        Awake, my soul!
2     Awake, O harp and lyre!
        I will awake the dawn.
3     I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples,
        and I will sing praises to you among the nations.
4     For your steadfast love is higher than the heavens,
        and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
 
Psa. 108:5        Be exalted, O God, above the heavens,
        and let your glory be over all the earth.
6     Give victory with your right hand, and answer me,
        so that those whom you love may be rescued.

Observation:

David was constantly confronted with difficulties. He spent a lot of his time fighting with enemies and living life on the run and yet, he trusted in God. He prayed to the Lord, spending time in worship, writing songs and experiencing a love that reached as high as the heavens. He believed that God would be exalted in all that was accomplished. David didn’t just pray for survival, but he prayed for victory. This was his trust in the Lord!

Application:

In the last week it seems as if there has been continual news of those who have gone on to be with the Lord. That realization makes one stop and think about the importance and value of living in the day. Today is a day in which to live and trust in the Lord. David’s heart was steadfast — he trusted in God. He chose to sing and make music to the Lord — even though there were enemies surrounding him. He was willing to pray for victory.

May we trust in God today for the victory.

May we live today in the peace of Christ.

May we live in the day and thank God for all of his glorious works!

Prayer:

Lord, we praise and glorify you today.  Amen.


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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Somewhere In the Middle




Scripture:

30 So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”  31 He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him.

Observation:

There was a place somewhere in the middle of this relationship where God was able to do his work. The eunuch had been traveling in the comfort which was provided because of his position. Along the way he was reading aloud, which was the way in which you read in those days. Somehow he had a portion of the book of Isaiah which was his reading material for the journey.

At the same time Philip was on the same road. He didn’t have all the nice comforts the eunuch had but would have looked quite poor in comparison. He would not have been worthy to even speak to the eunuch but something stirred him. He heard the words of the prophet Isaiah describing the Messiah.

Disregarding the social barriers Philip spoke to the eunuch and asked him whether he understood what he was reading. The man said he did not and then, reaching across the social divide, he invited Philip to come and get in beside him.

Application:

To be able to hear the good news of Jesus there had to be a meeting in the middle. The eunuch showed great humility, being willing to speak to Philip, and then inviting him into the chariot.

Philip, for his part, was obedient to the leading of the Spirit. The nudge of the Holy Spirit led him to stay near to the eunuch’s chariot. As he stayed near, he listened attentively and then jumped at the opportunity which was provided.

Obedience on the part of both men allowed for a meeting in the middle, a place where God’s work could be done. Somewhere along the way in our journey we may find ourselves in the position of either of these individuals. When God begins to call and do his work there must be a response of humility and obedience. It was the meeting in the middle where God did his work and the eunuch found transformation. Something synergistic happened when the hunger of the eunuchs heart was satisfied by the explanation of the word.

When God places a yearning in your heart — respond in obedience to his call. Be willing to be humble and close the gap between yourself and those who may have the answer. And if you have the answer, be prepared to speak up. Study up so that you can respond. Know the word!

Obedience leads to a meeting in the middle where the Holy Spirit is working and the result is transformation. 

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to be obedient to living in that middle space.  Amen.

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Saturday, October 17, 2015

Gnashing Teeth



Scripture:

Acts 7:54   When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen.

Observation:

Stephen shared his testimony which included quite a sermon. However, the people present did not want to hear the truth. Not only did they not want to hear it but it made them angry!

More than likely Stephen hadn’t really finished his message but they couldn’t take it anymore. They became enraged because his words had touched their hearts. This was too personal and now they began to gnash their teeth. They were furious and literally became like a pack of hungry and snarling wolves, grinding their teeth.  The sermon was over, and Stephen knew his life was over as well.

Application:

There are times when the truth of the gospel will not only frustrate people, but will make them angry. And not just a little angry, but possibly furious.

Stephen was martyred because he lived out is faith in every aspect of his life. God is calling up a people who are willing to be sacrificed in service to him. There are parts of the world today where people will lose their lives for the Lord. In other parts of the world Christians will be mistreated.

However, on the ordinary every-day level there will also be challenges — challenges to serve God faithfully in the midst of those who may be uncomfortable with our witness. Sadly, those who opposed Stephen were the religious leaders. They literally became rabid when confronted with the truth of the gospel. When we are presented with Christ and the light of his reflection begins to shine into the dark recesses of our lives, we can become pretty uncomfortable. God’s people who have consistently convinced themselves that they are doing okay spiritually while not wanting to deal with their spiritual deficiencies can become the angriest in the light of Christ. This is when the gnashing of teeth can begin.

Stephen remains an example for us all. His life and death was a testimony to his faith in Christ. We may experience some gnashing of teeth, but in that moment may we look above and see our Savior standing at the right hand of the Father, drawing us ever into his holy presence. Even in that moment, Stephen remained faithful and reflected Christ to the world. Gnashing teeth —  maybe. Faithfulness — always.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to be a faithful witness to you in all things.  Amen.

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Blind Animals




Scripture:

Malachi 1:7 By offering polluted food on my altar. And you say, “How have we polluted it?” By thinking that the LORD’S table may be despised.  8 When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not wrong? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not wrong? Try presenting that to your governor; will he be pleased with you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts.

Malachi 1:10 Oh, that someone among you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the LORD of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hands.

Observation:

The priests had deluded themselves into believing that they could offer shoddy sacrifices and worship to God. Probably in an effort to save money (or spend it on other things) they brought God the second-hand offerings. There were blind animals, along with those who were lame and sick.

What was brought before God would never have been acceptable to a government official, and yet, somehow they thought it was okay. It was not okay and finally in verse ten we are told that it would be better to offer no sacrifice at all rather than what they were doing.  God would not accept this from them. Shoddy worship was not worship. Blind animals were no sacrifice.

Application:

This is a powerful indictment on God’s people for it revealed their hearts. Our worship of God, the ways in which we sacrifice our lives before the LORD will be a reflection of our life in God. Do we love God above all else and are we willing to give God our very best?

Blind animals may not just be a physical offering, but may also be a reflection of our attitude. What is the defining characteristic of our giving to God? Could it be expedience or neglect?

Too many things have crowded out our worship of God these days. Maybe a contemporary example would be that we give sports our very best, and God gets the left-overs. We need to evaluate whether we are giving God our blind animals and saving the best for ourselves. This includes our spiritual lives on a daily basis, and our worship in God's house. God doesn’t want our second best!

Prayer:


Lord, please help me to give you my very best today and every day.  Amen.


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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Planted

Scripture:

Psa. 1:1        Happy are those
        who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
    or take the path that sinners tread,
        or sit in the seat of scoffers;
2     but their delight is in the law of the LORD,
        and on his law they meditate day and night.
3     They are like trees
        planted by streams of water,
    which yield their fruit in its season,
        and their leaves do not wither.
    In all that they do, they prosper.

Observation:

We are welcomed into this first Psalm which sets the tone for all the others. At the core it is an invitation into a settled, or planted, relationship with the LORD. Advice comes from the LORD, not from others. They are planted, nourished and cared for by living water. Prosperity is not from a worldly perspective, but from God’s perspective and there is the ultimate and eternal blessing.

Plant yourself in the presence of the LORD, delight in his law and be nourished by him alone — this leads to a prosperity about which the world knows nothing.

Application:

Planted and rootedness seem to go together. These days my husband has been doing a lot of planting and landscaping around our home. He has been concerned that these new plants are well watered so that they will live and thrive. He knows that these early days are critical to their survival. They have been planted, but now they need the streams of water so that their roots will grow and ultimately thrive.

We are to be spiritually planted, taking the time to slow down and spend time in God’s holy presence. We need the nurture that will allow our roots to grow. Just as the new plants seem to delight in the sprinkler (you can see them perk up!), just so when we are being fed spiritually we perk up as well. This is a patient time of waiting and slow growth, for healthy growth is slow and gentle. We are watering these plants so that they might look good next year, or the year after. For now they are small, but their roots are growing and becoming strong so that they can weather the different seasons ahead.

Slow down. Read the word. Delight in God’s law. Allow yourself to be fed by his holy presence. Plant yourself at Jesus’ feet and fall in love with him over and over again. And prosperity will come from God’s eternal perspective and you will be satisfied in his peace.

Prayer:

Lord, please nourish me today so that my roots might grow.  Amen.


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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Confession

Scripture:

Nehemiah 10:39b We will not neglect the house of our God.

Observation:

God’s people were rebuilding Jerusalem and after the public reading of the law they realized how far they had wandered from the truth. They had not lived as God’s people and their infidelity had caused them and God much pain. When they realized what they had done they recognized it was time to repent and confess of their sins.

The confession came in the form of profession and commitment to action. They recognized all that they had done wrong and were not just asking for forgiveness, but committing to a new lifestyle that would embody their faith. This embodiment could only come from a heart which was cleansed from its previous impurities. In their confession they committed to practices which would reveal their true commitment to God.

The final statement reveals where they had been deficient. Ultimately they had neglected both God and his house. The confession and declaration after all of the details is that they would not neglect God’s house — nor God’s priests or servants — nor worship of God — nor anything related God.

Confession led to real change visible in the daily on-goings of life in Jerusalem.

Application:

Those of us from the Wesleyan/holiness tradition — we are not good at confession. Somewhere along the line the word “perfect” tripped us up. This, along with the idea that we were to “claim” our place as entirely sanctified meant that confession of wrong-doing might actually mean that we were not “claiming” and living into the faith that we were sanctified. The result was sometimes a stagnation in Christian growth because the reality is that from time to time confession is needed. Jesus even included confession in his prayer when he taught the disciples to pray, asking for our trespasses to be forgiven.

The reason confession is important is because it leads to transformation. Confession is a part of the journey for the Spirit-filled believer. Along the journey we discover more about ourselves and more about God. It is in this revelation that we may discover areas which have not been given over to God. There may be attitudes which are not God-pleasing, or reactions toward others that are not Christ-reflecting. In God’s on-going and ever perfecting work in our lives there will be moments when we need to confess and be redirected. It’s the way in which we grow spiritually.

There are times when God’s people may need to corporately confess, just as the people of Jerusalem. The leaders helped walk the people of Nehemiah’s day through their confession, repentance and recommitment. Spiritual leaders may need to take the initiative to walk a church or congregation through a period of repentance and confession. Not all the decisions we’ve made in the past have been holy and a new generation may be suffering the consequences of previous actions or inactions. This was true for the people of Jerusalem but they were not willing to just blame those who had gone before, they were willing to take responsibility and be accountable before God.

Confession changed their lives and resulted in the visible expression of their worship of God. May the same be true for you and me.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to be transparent before you.  Amen.


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Monday, October 12, 2015

The Heart Knower




Scripture:


Acts 1:23 So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.  24 Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”  26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

Observation:

The disciples felt that they needed to replace Judas. Peter led the charge, quoted scripture and then they followed the method the religious leaders had for so long. They cast lots.

It seems odd that they would use such a procedure but it was what they knew. The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon them, and we realize that Pentecost becomes the defining moment. All things change and the power and presence of the Holy Spirit transforms even decision making.

But that hasn’t happened yet, and there is something striking about Peter’s prayer. He prays to the “Lord, who knows everyone’s heart.” There is actually one Greek word here, “cardiognosta” — meaning literally, heart-knower. And interestingly, the prayer is answered. Matthias is chosen but never heard of ever again — but the one who knows the heart — eventually does choose a great apostle — Paul!

Application:

God knew the hearts of both Joseph and Matthias and while the apostles went through their human motions of casting lots, they also prayed a significant prayer. While they may have thought their prayer was being answered in the selection of Matthias, they did not realize that God was answering their prayer in a process which would take much longer. Paul would not become an apostle for quite some time but he would be the one who would be sent as a missionary to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.

God knows our hearts and understands our motivations and desires. Sometimes, from a human perspective, we make decisions that look good on the outside. When it comes to leaders we tend to be attracted to those who look and sound good on the outside. I’m sure that both Matthias and Joseph had great credentials. They seemed to fit the requirements which had been outlined. Paul never would have met those requirements! The job description had been defined and the right candidates selected. Now it was just a decision between the two. But God knows the heart!

The condition of our hearts is what matters most. It doesn’t matter how qualified a person may be, or how lengthy their resume, God looks at the heart.

The condition of our heart, or our relationship with God should be most important in our lives. Falling in love with Jesus should be our passion. As we fall in love with him we will follow him to the places where he wants us to go, live and serve! Our motivations for life must come from the heart — and that is to be a heart which is constantly turned toward God.

We may be able to fool those around us, but we can never fool God. He is the “Heart Knower” — who can see past any kind of facade we may have built. Don’t try and fit the mold, but be one who is intimately acquainted with the heart of God. When we know his heart, he knows our heart, and our desires become one and the same. This is what God desires.

Prayer:


Lord, I want you to know my heart as I know yours.  Amen.


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Saturday, October 10, 2015

Thankful for Friends




Scripture:

Nehemiah 4:12 When the Jews who lived near them came, they said to us ten times, “From all the places where they live they will come up against us.”

Observation:

Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem were trying to rebuild the walls. Detractors from every side were determined to sabotage their work. While the plans of the enemies included the psychological work of demoralizing the workers, at the same time, there were friends. Jews in the surrounding cities and maybe even to Samaria had their eyes and ears open, scouting out the plans of the detractors. Over and again they came to Nehemiah and told him what they had learned. This information was incredibly useful and allowed for them to set up a defense so that the work of building the wall could continue. It was the faithfulness of the friends living in the hinterlands and their determined efforts to bring news to Jerusalem over and over again, which gave Nehemiah a strategy for protection and successful completion of the walls.

Application:

We all need friends! The friends of Jerusalem were willing to put themselves in danger to help the work continue. The work would never have been completed without them and when we find ourselves in trouble, we, too, need friends!

Or, we may need to be the friend.

This business of life can sometimes be incredibly difficult. It’s too hard to go it all alone and we need those who are willing to come alongside us and help us make it. There are others that need us to do the same thing.

There are many scenarios where this may be played out and this may include our own personal lives. But it may also be a corporate response to the evil that our friends may be confronting. These may be our friends down the street, across town, on the other side of the country, or on the other side of the world. The scenarios are too many to mention but we may each find ourselves in a place where we need to consider the place of friends.

If you need a friend today — be willing to let them in and minister to you and your needs. If there is someone that needs your friendship — then go out of your way to be of help. It’s a good time to be thankful for friends.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the friends you’ve placed in my life. Help me to be a faithful friend in return.  Amen.

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Friday, October 9, 2015

Peace in Unity




Scripture:

Psa. 133:0   A Song of Ascents.
1     How very good and pleasant it is
        when kindred live together in unity!
2     It is like the precious oil on the head,
        running down upon the beard,
    on the beard of Aaron,
        running down over the collar of his robes.
3     It is like the dew of Hermon,
        which falls on the mountains of Zion.
    For there the LORD ordained his blessing,
        life forevermore.

Observation:

The unity found in the Trinity is to be reflected in God’s people. Often we talk about the individual nature of our spiritual lives and growth with the resultant reflection of Christ in our lives. But corporately, as God’s people, we are to grow ever closer to our Lord, ever being perfected, and in this case, we are to reflect the unity found in God. When this corporate reflection is noted, then it spreads in a way that brings the healing balm of anointing oil to God’s people and beyond.

Unity among God’s people becomes an eschatological vision, as refreshing as the morning dew and a foreshadowing the eternal. This future is anticipated in the coming of the Prince of Peace and all the while, God’s people are called to live into his unifying presence.

Application:

This Psalm is one which we can be sung, but also prayed. I believe that we are called to pray for unity among God’s people and to pray quite specifically for those who cause divisions. The enemy of our faith has no greater joy than to try and divide God’s people. When we are fractured and being overly critical of one another then there is no unity. I think the enemy works overtime on this project because I have seen some of the worst fractures and divisions in the church.

Let us pray that God will unite his sons and daughters within the church — and across denominational lines so that Christians will be the anointing balm that this world needs. As long as we are fractured we are unable to give witness to the Prince of Peace. Together, we can reflect the community of the Holy Trinity, wrapped up in holy love, and shine God’s light into the dark corners of our world.

Prayer:

Lord, I pray for unity among your children.  Amen.


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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Stunned into Silence




Scripture:

Ezra 9:1   After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said, “The people of Israel, the priests, and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.  2 For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and for their sons. Thus the holy seed has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands, and in this faithlessness the officials and leaders have led the way.”  3 When I heard this, I tore my garment and my mantle, and pulled hair from my head and beard, and sat appalled.  4 Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, gathered around me while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice.

Observation:


Ezra had tried to call the people back to faithfulness but they would not listen. When word of their infidelity reached him it was more than he could bear. He tore his clothes and pulled out some of his hair and then sat there in silence - appalled by what he had heard.

Application:


There are times when we simply don’t know how to respond. The news that reached Ezra’s ears was simply so devastating to him that he didn’t know what say so he sat for hours in stunned silence. Before he would know how to respond — how to pray before God, he had to just sit and think. Finally after that time he is able to come before God and to repent for his people.

There is a temptation to immediately respond when we hear that bad news, or receive that really negative e-mail. Yet there is something about taking the time to sit in stunned silence that can be beneficial. Or then there's Ezra’s immediate reaction of tearing his clothes and pulling out hair — which was a sign of grief. In our era we might take some time to cry, allowing the grief to spill out of us and for the tears to be cathartic. It’s really okay to respond in this way.

But after we’ve taken time to regroup, then it’s time for action. After Ezra’s period of stunned silence, he took action. The time will come for action, but only when we have a clear direction from God. Sometimes sitting in the stunned silence is the best thing that we can do.

Prayer:

Lord, may I learn to be still and listen to you and your leading.  Amen.


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Kings and Presidents


Today's post is a guest blog by Tim Gaines who, together with his wife Shawn Songer Gaines, has authored Kings and Presidents: Politics and the Kingdom of God.

I happen to really like thinking and talking about God, especially when it comes to the beauty and hope of what God does to allow us to reflect God’s image.  It’s a wondrous thing to consider that we humans can actually bear the image of the divine.  And it’s a bit difficult to imagine how this can actually take place when you look at particular aspects of society.  Politics is often one of those places.

Can the way we approach political life have anything to do with reflecting God’s image?  If so, how, and what might that look like? 

Here are a few ideas in terms of how political life could be shaped and reshaped by a theology that allows for God’s image to be reflected in humanity:
 
1) We have to get the order right.
    Many of the issues we often face when it comes to politics and theology have to do with the order in which we place them.  Because political issues can seem so clear, so ‘in your face,’ and so real, we often make decisions about political issues long before we make theological decisions.  And that often means that we will look for a theology that matches our politics.  But what if we were to reverse the order?  What if we were able to lay all of the issues aside for a while, deeply consider who God is in light of Jesus, and then try to pick up the political pieces?  I suspect our politics wouldn’t only look and sound different, but they might be a bit more shaped by a more primary reality: God’s redemptive grace.

2) We should allow grace to shape our understanding of what politics is.  As folks who have been shaped to think of politics in terms of opposing ideas, candidates, and parties, we usually have difficulty thinking of politics in terms that aren’t oppositional.  Politics, in our minds, is synonymous with opposition and conflict.  And therefore, it’s usually about winning and losing.  But what if we began to think altogether differently about politics based upon a larger reality: God’s redemption.

What if politics wasn’t about me winning and you losing as much as it is about us both being able to participate deeply in the grace that God is giving us?  

John Wesley spoke about the political image of God being restored in humanity by God’s grace, but that political image was primarily directed toward living out the goodness of life redeemed by grace.  Reconciliation, not opposition, became the whole point of politics when it is meant to reflect the image of God.

3) Prayer: A Political Act.  Prayer is a strange and subversive political act for Christians.  Why?  Because of the way Jesus taught us to pray.  “Thy kingdom come” is more than clever wordplay; it is the way that we come to imagine what politics is for as followers of Christ.  And the more we pray prayers like that, the more it begins to do something to our political imagination.  Our political desires themselves might actually even begin to be transformed by our prayers, so that we come to desire no other kingdom but the one God is bringing “on earth as it is in heaven.” 

Are politics tricky?  Yes, but the power of God’s grace to transform us into beings that reflect the divine image is more powerful than politics is tricky.  And perhaps when we come to delight in that reality, even politics can be a way in which we can reflect the image of God.

 ****************************************************************************


Tim Gaines is asst. professor of religion at Trevecca Nazarene University and adjunct professor at Nazarene Theological Seminary.  His latest book, written with Shawna Songer Gaines, deals with a faithful approach to politics and is called Kings and Presidents: Politics and the Kingdom of God.
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Tim and Shawna Gaines used their time as co-pastors of Bakersfield First Church of the Nazarene to seek distinctly Christian approaches to pressing contemporary issues, and to apply those responses to faithful and creative ways in the local church setting. Tim now serves as assistant professor of religion at Trevecca Nazarene University. Shawna is a frequent speaker, author, and blogger. Her work can be accessed at shawnasongergaines.com.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

In The Lord’s Care



Scripture:

Psa. 5:0   To the leader: for the flutes. A Psalm of David.
1     Give ear to my words, O LORD;
        give heed to my sighing.
2     Listen to the sound of my cry,
        my King and my God,
        for to you I pray.
3     O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice;
        in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.

Observation:

The Psalmist had learned to put his trust in the Lord. He spoke words before the LORD, sharing the good and the bad of his life. Sometimes it may have been spoken words, sometimes sighs, and sometimes there were tears. It didn’t matter what the situation, David had learned to bring it all before the Lord because he had great confidence that the Lord heard him, watched over him, and cared for him.

Application:

As I write this morning my little granddaughter is laying next to me. She’s been awake for about an hour. When she first awakens she makes little noises letting us know that she is no longer sleeping  and is hungry. Her mom knows exactly what her cries mean and she cares for every need because she knows her voice. There are different sounds for hunger, a dirty diaper, and just plain unhappy! But her mother watches over her and cares for her. As a grandma, I just get to soak it all in!

God cares for us as a gentle mother, hearing our early morning cries and knowing just what we need. Remember in the midst of today’s trials that our loving God is paying attention to each of our sounds and cries and is ready to meet our needs. We are living in the Lord’s care.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for your loving care and the gentle reminder that you hear us.  Amen.


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Monday, October 5, 2015

Thinking About Giving Up?



Scripture:

Luke 18:1   Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.  2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people.  3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’  4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone,  5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’”  6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.  7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?  8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Observation:

This parable of a persistent widow provides us with a glimpse into God’s desire for his people. God is not the unjust judge. This judge is presented in complete contrast to God. The unjust judge was probably waiting around for a bribe. The poor widow had no money, nor anything else to provide as a bribe. While this may have been the case, she refused to give up. She kept coming before him, pleading for justice. Because of her persistence, he finally gave in to her request.

But God is nothing like this judge. God does not need to be bribed, nor does he need us to plead with him over and over again for something. Instead, he invites us to “cry to him day and night” as an attitude of continual prayer. It is an attitude, or a mind-set of on-going and continual focus on God. It is in this attitude that we can bring to God our requests, but not as the persistent widow had to with the unjust judge, but rather bringing and leaving our needs with him as they occur.

As we wait for the Son of Man to return, we remain in this attitude of prayer. We are to be persistent in our attitude and faith, not losing heart through times of difficulty. God cares and he listens. We are charged to not give up!

Application:

I’m afraid that too often we have come to think of God as behaving like the unjust judge. We think that we have to weep and wail before God for him to hear our prayers and petitions. If that’s the case then we have misunderstood the parable. We are not to give up hope, nor are we to give up on living in a spirit and attitude of prayer.

Persistence in prayer is not persistence in pleading, but living in an on-going relationship with God. It is this personal relationship where you are able to bring your thoughts, needs, requests continually before the Lord.

I live day in and day out with my husband and chat about everything that’s gone on in the day. Yesterday we were having a group of students over to our home and I was cleaning up in the kitchen. I thought I smelled the garbage and asked him if he would take it out. He asked me, “what garbage?” I told him — the garbage in the bin in the kitchen. He asked me to point it out to him so I opened the drawer and there was an empty garbage bin with a clean liner bag. He had removed the garbage without even asking, because he knew what we were doing that day — and the smell, it was the salad that I hadn’t put away yet that was sitting on the counter. I didn’t have to hound my husband about the garbage because he knew what I needed. (And he smirked because he was right!)

God doesn’t have to be hounded about your needs, but just like my husband likes me to talk to him and tell him what’s going on in my life, so does God. My husband took care of my need before I even asked because he knew what was happening yesterday. God takes care of our needs when he knows what’s going on in our lives. We are to trust God completely, not pleading, but simply remaining in relationship with him and never giving up.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for your love and desire to fellowship with me every day.  Amen.


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Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Final Great Hallelujah



Scripture:

Psa. 150:1        Praise the LORD!
    Praise God in his sanctuary;
        praise him in his mighty firmament!
2     Praise him for his mighty deeds;
        praise him according to his surpassing greatness!
 
Psa. 150:3        Praise him with trumpet sound;
        praise him with lute and harp!
4     Praise him with tambourine and dance;
        praise him with strings and pipe!
5     Praise him with clanging cymbals;
        praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
6     Let everything that breathes praise the LORD!
    Praise the LORD!

Observation:

This final Psalm is the climax of all the Psalms and a fitting doxology. In the end we are left with nothing but praise for our LORD!

We are invited into the sanctuary, or into the very place of God’s holiness where we are overwhelmed with his holy presence.

We praise God for all that he has done and the instruments are invited into this great hallelujah. The trumpets which are normally used for ceremonial purposes, gaining the attention of the people blast out the praise of God. The lute and the harp which were typically used in worship continue to play and the cymbals, clanging in happy and loud pronouncements — this is our God!

Wake up oh people of God, “let everything that breathes praise the LORD!”

This is the doxology — the great Hallelujah.

Application:

The message of God’s word is continually pointing in a direction where God’s people will dwell with him in his holy presence. The idea of being ushered into the very heart of God, into his holy sanctuary results in praise simply springing forth from every part of our being — the great hallelujah cannot be contained!

Many of us will go to church today to worship our LORD. We will be ushered into a physical sanctuary where we will have the opportunity to praise and to worship God. But while we may be in a physical sanctuary, we may not be in a place where the great hallelujah springs out of us. This can only happen when we enter the very holy presence of God — when all the obstacles to true worship are removed from our lives. The Psalmist spoke of a physical temple, Jesus spoke of God’s people as the temple. God comes and dwells in and among his people through the power of the Holy Spirit.

For us to praise God in his sanctuary is to praise him through us. We shouldn’t have to wait to go to church on a Sunday to praise the Lord. Nor should going to a church on a Sunday be the answer to our lack of praise of the Lord. We won’t worship God in church if we haven’t allowed God into the sanctuary of our own lives.

But when he does come and dwell in us, bringing his holiness to us, then praising God oozes from every part of our being. We will then praise him in the sanctuary, and everywhere else. We will praise him with the ordinary instruments of life and with his instruments of worship. It won’t matter what style of worship we have at church because our greatest desire will simply be to shout out the great hallelujah to our holy God, and when that happens praise breaks out on the trumpet, harp, lute, cymbal — and who knows what else!

Prayer:

Lord, may I praise and worship you in church today and everywhere else.  Amen.


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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Don’t Mess With What God Has In Mind



Scripture:

Ezra 6:11 Furthermore I decree that if anyone alters this edict, a beam shall be pulled out of the house of the perpetrator, who then shall be impaled on it. The house shall be made a dunghill.  12 May the God who has established his name there overthrow any king or people that shall put forth a hand to alter this, or to destroy this house of God in Jerusalem. I, Darius, make a decree; let it be done with all diligence.”

Observation:

The plan was to rebuild God’s house. The edict was coming from Darius and it was a reaffirmation of what had been decreed by Cyrus. While there were political powers who had become stumbling blocks in the process of rebuilding, the overruling hand of God still prevailed. Darius was now enacting a plan which would ensure the completion of the work.

This edict was not to be changed or altered in any way, shape, or form. However, there were folks who would have liked to have made adjustments. The Samaritans were fanatical and when that’s the case, there is always an objection to be made. At the same time Darius’ people would not have found this to be a very favorable edict either, for they were an idolatrous people who would not have supported the idea of a house of worship for people who claimed to be monotheistic.

The punishment for those who messed with the plan was severe. What God had in mind was to be completed and there were to be no obstacles. Woe to those who would try and stand in the way of the house of God. The punishment would be the destruction of their own home — the central pillar removed which would lead to its collapse. The site would never again be used for a home, but rather a place of excrement, reeking and vile.

Application:

When Jesus came he ushered in the kingdom of God. We are to be citizens of that kingdom, living into what God desires. And yet I believe that we can discover those along the way who would like to change the edict. Each has their own personal motivation and most would have convinced themselves that they were doing the right thing. Some are fanatical and insist on adding to God’s decrees regarding the kingdom. Jesus laid out the kingdom in his Sermon on the Mount, but for some that’s just not radical enough! Therefore, sometimes without realizing, they add to the edict and create boundaries to the kingdom which God did not erect. They begin to mess with what God had in mind and the results can be devastating.

The realization was that the enemy to the reconstruction of God’s house in Jerusalem was not necessarily an army from another kingdom swooping in to destroy the building. The most destructive force was that which might subtly try to mess with what God had in mind. The consequences of that action would be dire for the people of God and so the punishment was quite severe. The most destructive forces to Christianity today are not those from outside, but the subtle actions of those from within who try to make God’s plan “even better.”

The people were told to stick to the edict. We need to stick to the word of God and not mess with what God has in mind.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me live into your leading and instruction.  Amen.

If you would like to read more "Reflecting the Image"  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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