Monday, November 30, 2015

Grace Enabled Fellowship



Scripture:

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.4 Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature.

Observation:

The mystery of discipleship is God’s grace and empowerment. God’s incomprehensible love for humanity is experienced in the sending of his son. Jesus’ very life becomes one of grace in which the corruption of humanity is again made holy by his divine presence. As a result, grace is extended to all of humanity and God’s divine power provides all that is necessary for life and godliness.

There is hope that humanity can live a godly life because of the presence of Jesus Christ and it is through his life, death and resurrection that we are provided with the opportunity for grace enabled fellowship with the Triune God. It is this grace enabled fellowship that allows us to become participants of the divine nature.

Application:


Too often we get things out of order and we somehow forget about the grace of God which extends to us a welcoming hand of hospitality into participation with the divine nature. What does this mean for us? We somehow believe that we are to be participating in God’s mission in the world without taking the time to know God!

Godliness does not come from our own ability to work hard! Godliness only comes from spending time and getting to know God. Everything that we need comes from knowing God in Christ and if we don’t begin there, we will not be capable of living the life that God desires for his children. Neither will we be able to escape the corruption that inevitably comes from living life in the flesh. We simply won’t be able to overcome temptations on our own! Knowledge of Christ comes through our daily encounters with him as we fellowship with our holy God. If we don’t take time to slow down and enjoy grace enabled fellowship our work “for” God will be in vain.

Beware of engaging in busyness for the sake of the kingdom without first knowing Christ. If knowing Christ does not become a priority in our daily lives we will burn out for we do not have enough strength or energy to be doing this on our own.

As we begin this journey into advent we anticipate the arrival of the Christ-child and all that he will bring to us and to our lives. It is the grace of God that goes before, even in this season of Advent that draws us into fellowship with him. Let’s not become so distracted by the events of the Christmas season that we miss out on the grace of God which draws us into greater fellowship with Christ both now and forever.

Prayer:

Lord, may I slow down enough to enjoy the power of your presence. Amen.


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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Doubtful Discipleship

Doubtful Discipleship

Scripture:
Matthew 28:16
But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Observation:

The commission from Jesus Christ is a set of instructions for his disciples. They are to continue his ministry by going out and making more disciples but only because the authority which has been given to Jesus. These disciples are to go and make more disciples and baptize them. Finally he reminds them that he will always be with them. While this all sounds really good, we read that the eleven gathered to worship him and receive these instructions but some continued to be doubtful. It is with this doubt that they listened to his instruction but it leads us to question whether they all overcame their doubt, or whether it led to doubtful discipleship.

Application:

I have to confess that I have never really paid that much attention to the verses preceding the great commission and was a bit surprised to learn that some of the disciples continued to be doubtful. Yet, I believe we may just find ourselves right there with the eleven, questioning our faith and trust in Jesus. We may be doubtful disciples, and the result may be doubtful discipleship.

The opening of the book of Acts leads into the activities of the disciples and their lives and ministry. We hear much of some of them, and others seem to disappear from the pages of history. Could it have been a difference between belief and doubt. The faith of the disciple may have a direct affect on their disciples. I'm afraid that doubtful disciples will raise up more doubtful disciples. Believing disciples will raise up believing disciples.

The faith of the disciples was witnessed by the fruit of those whom they discipled. This commission is for all of God's children, for we are all called to make disciples. But if we were to examine our fruit what would be found? Believing disciples, or doubtful disciples. Our own faith will determine our fruit and so, before we become frustrated with those around us and what may appear to be a lack of faith, maybe we ought to examine ourselves. If we were on the mountain with the disciples today would we be a doubter? If so, then we will be engaged in doubtful discipleship. 

Prayer:

Thank you, Lord for all you have done for us. Please help me in my unbelief and empower me to make disciples. Amen.

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Friday, November 27, 2015

Trust




Scripture:

1     Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,
        which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
2     As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
        so the LORD surrounds his people,
        from this time on and forevermore.

Observation:

Trust is found in our individual lives and in that of the believing community. When we live together in this community and trust in the Lord we will find ourselves surrounded by the mountains of God’s power and strength. The result is security for God’s people as they place their trust in him.

Application:

“Trust but verify.” It was a phrase made famous by Ronald Reagan during the Cold War. In reality, it meant we didn’t trust unless we verified that what was said was true.

This is not the kind of trust that we are to have in God. It is not a trust — if only God will do something in particular. God asks us to trust in him even when we don’t necessarily understand everything that is going on. His thoughts truly are higher than ours and there comes a place in which we are to trust in what it is he is doing in this world.

I’ve heard people ask, “What in the world is going on?” as they see what appears to be chaos surrounding them. There are refugees who are searching for a home. There are extremists who are wanting to disrupt our way of life. There are crazy weather patterns and conditions.

Yet, in the midst of it all God calls on us to trust in him, both individually and corporately. God is like the mountain that will not be moved. He surrounds his people, encircling them forevermore. He is trustworthy and it is in him that we place our trust even when we don’t understand what is happening. What in the world is going on? God is still on the move drawing all people toward him. God is in the midst of the chaos bringing his peace…if only we will trust.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for your encircling love that brings your peace. Amen.


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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Fulfilling the Purpose for Which It Had Been Built




Scripture:


Matt. 21:12    Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.  13 He said to them, “It is written,
    ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’;
        but you are making it a den of robbers.”

Observation:

The Temple was to be a house of prayer and the business that had sprung up around it revealed a corruption on the part of God’s people. When Jesus arrived he witnessed first-hand the commercialism and nationalism which had so permeated the place that God’s temple was no longer able to fulfill the purpose for which it had been built. It was not a house of prayer but it was a distortion brought about by the unfaithfulness of God’s people over time. They were so accustomed to what it had become that they didn’t know what was wrong. Jesus, on the other hand, was stunned for he knew exactly what the Temple was to have been and his desire was for her perfection — to be a house of prayer.

Application:


The language of perfection is found here when we recognize that Jesus’ frustration was that the Temple was not fulfilling the purpose for which it had been built. In Jewish understanding this has much to do with the concept of perfection. To be perfect, or brought to completion, is to fulfill the purpose for which you have been created. The Temple was created to be a house of prayer, a place where God’s people come be in communion with him. The distraction of the buyers and sellers meant that the true function of the Temple could not occur.

Jesus preached that you and I were to “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)  When God is in us and working through us we are then led toward that perfection in our lives. We are to fulfill the purpose for which we have been created and when that happens, then we are perfect.

Just as there were distractions in the temple courts, so there may be distractions in our own lives. The changes may have occurred in such a subtle way that we didn’t notice but along the way we stopped fulfilling the purpose for which we were created. Jesus’ action was a wake-up call, a reminder to get back to what’s most important. Listen, spend time in prayer, and follow Jesus in the direction he is leading so that we, too, may fulfill the purpose for which we have been created. This is God's desire for us to be his perfected people and church.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me, by the power of your Holy Spirit, fulfill the purpose for which I have been created. Amen.
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Monday, November 23, 2015

Intentional Ministry




Scripture:

Matt. 15:29   After Jesus had left that place, he passed along the Sea of Galilee, and he went up the mountain, where he sat down.  30 Great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he cured them,  31 so that the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

Matt. 15:32   Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.”  33 The disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in the desert to feed so great a crowd?”  34 Jesus asked them, “How many loaves have you?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.”  35 Then ordering the crowd to sit down on the ground,  36 he took the seven loaves and the fish; and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.  37 And all of them ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.  38 Those who had eaten were four thousand men, besides women and children.  39 After sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.

Observation:

Just before this passage we have the story of the Canaanite woman who pleads with Jesus to heal her daughter. It’s the passage where she reminds Jesus that even dogs get to eat scraps from the table. All of this seems to be in preparation for Jesus moving his ministry beyond the Jews and to the Gentiles. That’s why this story appears here. It’s not a repetition of the feeding of the 5000 where the crowd was Jewish. This is a different crowd, and specifically it speaks to reaching out to the Gentiles.

These people are needy and they are willing to climb the mountain and in faith bring the sick to Jesus for healing. The result was that they praised the God of Israel. This was an evangelistic moment as the good news of God reached over to the Gentiles of the land.

Just as we saw the feeding of the 5000 as a foretaste of the final Messianic banquet, then we realize that the Gentiles will also be included at the table. This story is here as a witness to Jesus’ intentional ministry to all who were in need.

Application:

The Gospel writer wanted us to know that Jesus had intentionally gone to the region of the Gentiles to continue his ministry. This is in quite contrast to the preceding story where he seems to be reluctant, but it may actually be part of the intentionality. Little by little the story continues to expand and reach out to more people and Jesus’ ministry becomes a pattern for us as we follow him.

Jesus didn’t just leave his life and ministry to fate or circumstances, but he was intentional about what he did and the message that it would send. Those messages had to not only communicate in his time, but for all of time. It is in this way that the pictures that are conveyed become timeless.

The picture of reaching out intentionally to those in need is very clear. Jesus goes to the region of the Gentiles and word of his healing spreads. We are to follow him to the region of need. This means that we are called to the places where the religious officials may have felt rather uncomfortable. It is in this place that Jesus began first by meeting their physical needs. Only after he had met those needs were they willing and/or able to listen to his preaching.

If I follow Jesus into the neediest places of this world I need to be prepared to meet physical and emotional needs. We have resources that can meet the simplest of needs at our disposal. I think of the medical teams who would come to visit us in Russia. In those early days we would go to small villages that had had no medical care for a number of years. Those little red Ibuprofen pills were seen as absolute miracles. Just imagine being elderly and having no medication for the arthritis that is causing you pain in your joints on a daily basis and suddenly one little red pill makes you begin to feel better within an hour. Yes, folks, that is a miracle! It’s not a long-term healing, but it makes a difference and when the pain is gone, people are able to listen to your teaching and hear about the love of the true healer!

Taking the time to be intentional about following Christ is required to participate in God’s mission. There are moments when ministry just happens, but there is also the place for planning. Jesus had prepared the disciples when he fed the 5000 so that now they could reach out to the Gentile crowds. That was careful planning — they weren’t as nervous this time around.

The needs surrounding us are great and can seem overwhelming. It will take careful and intentional planning to reach out and to minister, but when God is in it, it can be done.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the witness of your work in the world. Please help me to follow you to the places where you would want us to intentionally witness. Amen.

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sheep


Scripture:


Matt. 12:9   He left that place and entered their synagogue;  10 a man was there with a withered hand, and they asked him, “Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath?” so that they might accuse him.  11 He said to them, “Suppose one of you has only one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath; will you not lay hold of it and lift it out?  12 How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the sabbath.”  13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and it was restored, as sound as the other.  14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

Observation:


The Pharisees were holding to the letter of the law, but in the meantime they were killing the very spirit which it intended. They waited, trying to catch Jesus doing something wrong. Then they pointed out to him a man with a withered hand. They were intentionally taunting Jesus and trying to catch him doing something they believed was breaking the law of the Sabbath.

Jesus then takes a little detour to make a comment about sheep. They would have understood what he was talking about because they valued their sheep. Sheep are simple creatures which can get themselves into trouble. They need a shepherd to care for them and they wouldn’t understand whether it was the Sabbath or any other day of the week and there is the possibility that one might just fall off into a pit. The sheep, being of financial value to the owner, would need to be saved. Waiting until the next day might mean the death of the creature (and financial loss to the owner). Of course, it would be ridiculous to think that one would not save the animal!

He pointed out to them that it is “lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” The alternative to doing good on the Sabbath is to do evil. Not to save a life on the Sabbath is to kill.

The attitude of the Pharisees was disturbing to Jesus and this is more clearly relayed by the account of this story in Mark.

Mark 3:5 He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

Jesus was literally angry at the attitude of the Pharisees for he realized that they valued their sheep and their rules more than someone with great need.

Application:

I don’t have a big flock of sheep but I do have a pile of stuff. The reality is that some of my stuff may get in my way of being a faithful servant of the Lord. The poor person who is a part of our church community or the new stranger who has moved in down the street may be in great need. Unfortunately we’re too wrapped up with our own “sheep” that we may never see the need.

Our sheep may take the form of our car, or a planned vacation, or a new home, or clothing. The list may be different for all of us but we all find things that we consider of value. When we place them and the care of them above God’s children, we have a problem. We become just as guilty at the Pharisees in our sins of omission. The alternative to not caring for God’s little ones is to do evil — the alternative to not saving a life is to kill. But while the needy are lost and dying, we may be too busy saving our stuff…our sheep.

Whatever we prioritize above the mission of God in this world can become sin for us. Sheep in and of themselves are not bad. Stuff in and of itself is not bad. But it is when our sheep receive priority over God’s mission in this world then we are as guilty as the Pharisees and the Lord looks upon us and is grieved.

Prayer:

Lord, I don’t want to grieve you. Please help me to put you and your mission first and foremost in all I do.  Amen.

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Why Are You Judging?




Scripture:

Matt. 7:1   “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.  2 For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.  3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?  4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye?  5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

Observation:

This is a great warning from Jesus because we must recognize that any criticism that we are willing to give makes us vulnerable to the very same criticism. The things that we notice in others may be our very weaknesses and we are judgmental because somehow we think it makes us feel better about ourselves.

Jesus brings home the point when he makes us realize that we need to examine our own behaviors before we can criticize anyone else. Our actions speak louder than our words and we will be judged by our behaviors and not our words.

Application:

There have been a lot of words this week expressing a myriad of opinions, but maybe we need to look beyond the words and examine behaviors. Remember, we are not to judge others, but instead we are to live a life that reflects what it is that we believe.

Therefore we should live a life of generosity, graciously reaching out to those around us without a critical spirit. As we reach out with the overflowing love of Christ we will have an impact on our world. Love those who are unlovely. Pray for our enemies. Seek ways to share the love of Christ to those who may have differing opinions and, most of all, live out your faith in your daily life.

If we’ve spent too much time this week being critical of others maybe we ought to step back and examine ourselves. Besides our words, have we done anything to make a difference? Maybe it’s time to make sure that our actions speak louder than our words and allow what we do to bring peace. Once I have participated in the mission of God’s peace in this world I may be able to see clearly enough to help my neighbor with the speck in their eye.

Prayer:


Lord, please help me to live a life that reveals your reconciling love.  Amen.
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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Wrong Prayer?



Scripture:

2Cor. 12:9 but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. 

Observation:

Paul had just finished sharing about his thorn in the flesh. He had prayed three times that it would be removed. Was Paul praying the wrong prayer or was this all for a higher purpose? Paul’s thorn was not removed and as a result he heard the voice of God telling him that his grace would be sufficient and that his power would be made perfect in Paul’s weakness. Paul’s weakness provided space for Christ to dwell in him.

The higher purpose was Paul’s own spiritual growth. It was in the place of weakness that Paul realized that Christ would be revealed. The struggles made him strong in Christ. The prayer wasn’t wrong at all, for the prayer was answered by the strength of Christ.

Application:

There is great temptation to complain about the things that just don’t seem to be right in our lives. We all wish that we were better in a number of areas and I think most people work hard to hide their feelings of inadequacy. Paul, in his transparency was willing to admit that he had a weakness. He confessed that he didn’t like it and was praying that God would take it from him.

There are times when we pray for things that don’t come about the way in which we think they should. Paul’s thorn was not to be removed, but instead was to be used to reveal the power of Christ. If the cry of our hearts is to know Christ, then all other prayers will be answered in relation to knowing him. Paul wanted to know Christ at a very intimate level and his weaknesses became spaces for intimacy with Christ.

None of us like having weaknesses. Think about the “strengthfinders” exercises that we do — focusing on things that we do really well. The only problem with this is that we all do have weakness and it’s only when we are honest about our weaknesses that we leave space for God. When we constantly focus on what we can personally do well,we don’t have to rely on God. Of course, it is God who gives us our talents and abilities, but even with all the incredible talents of Paul, he had to learn to trust in Christ in his weaknesses.

His prayer was not unanswered, instead the prayer of his heart was answered in a beautiful way. Maybe we need to acknowledge our weaknesses and allow Christ to make us strong. Dependence upon him in every area of life will ultimately make us stronger than any strengths test may determine. The right prayer is to get to know Christ and leave the rest to him.

Prayer:
Lord, I want to know you.  Amen.
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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Generous Spirit



Scripture:


2Cor. 8:1    We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia;  2 for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.  3 For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means,  4 begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints—  5 and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us,  6 so that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking among you.  7 Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.

Observation:


Paul was using the churches of Macedonia as an illustration for the people of Corinth. No matter how difficult life might be in Macedonia, they continued to have a generous spirit. They were poor and struggling themselves, and yet they gave all that they could to share with others. Their first love was the Lord, and they saw him in those with need. Their overwhelming love for Christ compelled them to have a generous spirit.

Application:


Somewhere along the line we have created a dichotomy in our Christian thought. I had a man talk to me this weekend about his confusion in service to Christ. He said he’d read many books and some told him that Christian responsibility included feeding the poor, while others said that our responsibility is to preach the gospel. What I find confusing is that we would think that there’s a difference between those two statements, but I knew what he was saying. Somehow we’ve gotten into our minds that if we help the poor that we are being consumed by a social gospel which somehow forgets to actually preach Christ. But then I asked him what he would do if it were actually Jesus who lived down the street and if Jesus were the one that was poor and hungry — would he feed him? He almost chuckled out loud and said, “Of course I would!” I reminded him of these words…

Matthew 25:28 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?  39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’  40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

Being a Christ-follower means that we have a generous spirit and that we reach out to those in need as if they were Christ himself. We are to have a generous spirit, giving out of our abundance and even beyond to welcome those among us who are in need. The Corinthians struggled with a generous spirit — the Macedonians did not.

The refugees of our world need to experience a Christianity that lives out what we read in our Bibles. Jesus called people to be radically counter-cultural. Our culture is telling us to fear, Jesus is telling us to love. It is when the community of faith lives out the word that the scriptures become authoritative. Without the witness of the community of faith to the lived realities of scripture, the preaching of the word will be powerless.

Where will we find ourselves today — in Corinth or Macedonia? May Christ’s love compel us to reach out to the stranger among us with a generous spirit of love. Remember, we are doing this not only for them, but for Christ. Welcome him in a spirit of generosity.

Prayer:

Lord, may I have a generous spirit, even when it is difficult.  Amen.


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Monday, November 16, 2015

Synergism




Scripture:

2Cor. 6:1    As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain.  2 For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you,
and on a day of salvation I have helped you.”
See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!

Observation:

Paul understood his partnership together with the Lord. In the previous chapter he had mentioned his role as an ambassador. The actual word used here to understand “work together” has at its root the word “synergy.” Paul seems to understand that we are to partner together in the work of the Lord and the result is a type of synergism, a catalytic relationship that releases energy. He is preaching the good news of Jesus Christ to the people and as a result is a participant in God’s prevenient grace, reaching out to those in need of salvation.  The synergism of God’s grace, combined with Paul’s faithful preaching resulted in the salvation of many.

Application:


We are invited to be co-laborers, working in a synergistic relationship with the Lord. This means that we need to be cognizant of bringing our best to the Lord. It is our best which partners with God’s grace to reach out to the world around us.

What if God were able to use all the talents that he has bestowed on his children to minister to the world? I believe that is his plan, if only we will bring to him the very best of all that we have and use it in service for God. This may mean that we need to evaluate our abilities in light of service to the Lord. We don’t receive our talents to be used for our own personal benefit, but they are intended to be God’s instruments in the world.

God’s co-workers need to be at the table, serving as ambassadors of the kingdom in all walks of life. That’s why we need to understand that everywhere we go, and in everything that we do we are reflecting Christ to our world. The synergy of co-laboring with God is more than we could imagine. We just need to be faithful to bring our best in service to him!

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to co-labor with you each and every single day.  Amen.

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

On Whom Are You Relying?



Scripture:

2Cor. 1:8        We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.  9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us,  11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

Observation:

Paul went through numerous times of difficulty in his ministry. Often these were physical threats to his own life because of his passion to faithfully serve the Lord in all circumstances. While he had experienced miracles throughout his ministry, he still had times when he was overwhelmed. However, it was in those moments of despair that he learned to place all of his trust in God. He needed to live in a state of complete and total reliance upon God. In hindsight Paul was able to confirm that he had learned to rely upon God and that the prayers of the community had been of great help. In the midst of it all God was glorified.

Application:

When we begin to follow Christ we discover that it can become quite a journey. Along the way we will either desire to know him more, or we will slow down when we hit our comfort zone. There comes a point where becoming stretched by God can be a bit painful and some people choose to not go that far in their relationship. The sad part is that when we stop moving forward with the Lord we miss out on getting to know him and his power.

But when we do continue to press on in our relationship with the Lord we will come to defining moments where there will be distractions. Our own talents and abilities can become a distraction to trusting in God. Loved ones can be a distraction to trusting in the Lord. Other believers can be a stumbling block to our faith. It is when we are tempted to give up that we are actually on the edge of going much deeper. Paul knew this and it was in that place of despair, when he had no hope, that God provided. The result was that God was glorified in and through his life. 

God wants to be glorified in and through our lives. If we are relying upon what we can accomplish in our own right, God will not be glorified. Relying on him through the difficult days and hours leads us to a personal place of peace and to our God being glorified.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the lessons you teach us. May I trust in you today in all things.  Amen.

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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Stand Firm




Scripture:

1Cor. 15:58        Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Observation:

The threat of physical death was not enough to shake Paul’s faith in Jesus Christ. He believed in resurrection power which removed the sting of death. This faith was foundational to his encouragement of others. Nothing which happens here on this earth should move us from our faith in the Lord. Instead we are to stand firm and continue to do the Lord’s work and this work is not in vain for it speaks to the eternal.

Application:

Every day brings with it the opportunity to shake our faith. Last evening there were horrific events in Paris, France. Watching the scenes unfold it seemed almost surreal to imagine the sheer terror which people were experiencing.

This just doesn’t seem to make sense — why would anyone want to hurt so many people?

The apostles faced the reality of evil in the world. Throughout history we have had moments when humanity has behaved in horrific ways. The temptation at that moment is to respond in anger, hurt and frustration. And yet, it is at these moments that a word written nearly 2000 years ago reaches out from history and speaks to us. Dangers have and will always abound. We must be cognizant of genuine evil which will battle against the kingdom of God. The battle is not new, it may simply taking different forms but the encouragement from Paul is to keep the main thing the main thing.

Paul didn’t allow distractions to keep him from the goal of knowing Christ and giving himself fully to the work of the Lord. Now, more than ever, God’s people must seek his face and live into the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. Instead of pointing fingers at others, we need to stand firm and give ourselves wholly to the Lord.

Today is a wake up call for all of God’s children, one which ought to cause us to examine our own spiritual condition in light of the Spirit. Our response should be to reflect Christ even more brightly than we ever have before. We can only stand firm, when we are growing deeper in our relationship with the Lord. To live like Christ is not to labor in vain. May we humble ourselves before our Lord today, seeking him and reflecting him in our response to the pain in our world.

Prayer:

Lord, draw me close to you and help me to stand firm.  Amen.


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Friday, November 13, 2015

The Greatest




Scripture:

1Cor. 13:13        And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Observation:

This entire chapter speaks to the need for love within the lives of the Corinthians. The culmination here reminds us of the place for faith and hope, along with love. Faith, hope and love are necessary for our relationship to God but it is love alone which defines the character of God. It is this love that reaches out to humanity and envelopes us in the holy hand of God for all of eternity. As we become partakers of the divine nature, the holy love of God draws us ever onward in a deeper relationship with our holy God. This is God’s love drawing and transforming his creation and this prevails for all of eternity.

Application:

Any kind of love which is defined outside of a relationship with God is not the greatest! This eternal love about which Paul is speaking comes to us from God. Everything in life becomes temporal as compared to this love from God.

When we make a fuss about things temporal — we are the gong or the cymbal — simply making a bunch of noise.

We are not the greatest.

Our child’s soccer game is not the greatest.

Our new car isn’t the greatest.

Our frequent flyer status isn’t the greatest.

Our spouse isn’t the greatest.

Our parents aren’t the greatest.

Our church isn’t the greatest.

My style of worship music isn’t the greatest.

God’s love is the greatest! Let all the distractions of the day be put aside and focus on the incredible love of God which is drawing us ever deeper into a relationship with him. There is nothing more important than knowing God. When we know God, we begin to experience that holy love which is eternal. Nothing should distract us from that which is the greatest.

Prayer:


Lord, thank you for your holy love.  Amen.

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

For the Common Good




Scripture:

1Cor. 12:7        Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

Observation:

The reminder again and again to the church in Corinth was that they were a body, one which collectively was to reflect Christ. Therefore as the Spirit bestowed upon them spiritual gifts they needed to understand that these were for the community of believers, not for their own personal edification.

The concern within the body of Christ is to live for others. The gifts are to be used for others and therefore there is no place for complaint. Whether larger or small, the gifts, when combined provide for the edification of the entire community and they fit together for God’s purposes. We don’t have capacity as individuals for all the gifts and that’s why they must be shared. The private gift becomes the common when it is lived out in community for it belongs to all. There is caution here as well for the greater the gift, the greater the temptation to boast. The gifts must be submitted in humility before God so that they may be used for the common good.

Application:


I’m afraid that this idea of the common good is often overlooked. In our society we praise and recognize those who seem to have extraordinary talents and abilities and glorify them. Just a few decades ago the heroes of society were those who had excelled and showed competencies in particular ares of their lives. They were the presidents, leaders, astronauts and those within their communities who had been able to accomplish something significant that helped the entire society. Today we have made reality stars our new heroes and those who can make the most noise and are revered simply because they can get attention. They don’t have to accomplish anything for the greater good.

Could it be that this kind of attitude has also swept into Christianity? Instead of looking at the substance we are enticed by those who can grab the most attention and use their gifts for their own personal good, rather than the edification of the community. Our gifts and abilities are to be brought into submission before the Father and used for kingdom purposes.

Never be deceived into believing that what you have is better or worse than what anyone else possesses. That last small piece of the jigsaw puzzle is just as important as those corner edge pieces because without them all, the puzzle would still have a hole in it! If God’s people don’t unite together to use their gifting for the common good there will be a hole in his work. Submit what the Spirit has given you to the good of the community of faith. This is God’s intent.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to serve you faithfully within my community.  Amen.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Joy of Going Home



Scripture:


Psa. 122:1        I rejoiced with those who said to me,
        “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”
2     Our feet are standing
        in your gates, O Jerusalem.

Observation:


People would anticipate their journey to Jerusalem for months or even years. Depending on where they lived, they would journey for days to get there. The final climb to Jerusalem took energy and they sang the Psalms of ascent along the way. This Psalm, however, was written for that moment when you passed through the gate and found yourself standing within the walls of Jerusalem. The climb was over, your feet were now solidly within the gates of the city, and it was time to go to the temple.

The reality was that the trip to Jerusalem was exciting, but entering the house of the Lord, that was the heart of the entire journey. They rejoiced when they understood that they had arrived and could now go to the house of the LORD. They were ready to abide in the LORD’s holy presence, to pray, meditate and bring sacrifices.

Application:

Going home, or the idea of finding home, for a third culture kid can sometimes be difficult. In my early years I was raised in Germany and then we moved to the United States. However, some of my fondest memories of Christmas have come from the years in Germany.

After my parents retired they returned to Germany to once again pastor the original congregation they started many years before. It was at that time that our family was serving in the former Soviet Union. I will never forget the anticipation — because my parents had invited us to come “home” to Germany for Christmas. They were living in the same parsonage where I had lived as a little girl. I couldn’t wait for my family to get to experience what it was like to celebrate the way that we had when I was little. We packed our bags and flew to Frankfurt — and then settled into the old house. It was absolutely amazing and my heart was filled with such joy.

The joy didn’t end with the house, but it continued through all the activities in which we engaged. I was waiting for that moment when we would go to church on Christmas eve and participate in the service. It was the same church building, and there we lit the candles as we sang songs celebrating the arrival of our Savior. 

The joy of that experience is nothing compared to the joy of abiding with our Lord. While the people of David’s day had to travel to Jerusalem, we are invited directly into the presence of our Lord. It was in their Jerusalem that they experienced the joy of the Lord, unity as God’s children and spent time in prayer. We are called to do the same. Even today we are invited to go home into the Lord’s presence. Our hearts are to be filled with that joyful anticipation of being with the LORD! It is in that place that we are united together with our sisters and brothers in the faith as we spend time in prayer. We are shaped by our Jerusalem when we make time to go home!

Prayer:


Lord, thank you for time in Jerusalem. Amen.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Exercising Freedom



Scripture:

1Cor. 8:9        Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.  10 For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols?  11 So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge.  12 When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.  13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.

Observation:

Those who are living as Christ-followers have a responsibility for those around them who are weaker. That responsibility includes teaching and discipling others and also living as an example before them. It’s not just the words that we speak that lead people toward (or away from ) Christ, but specifically the actions of our daily lives.

Paul’s conviction was so great that he made the bold statement that he would “never” engage in doing something again if it made his “brother fall into sin.”

Application:

Paul, himself, was follower of Jesus Christ and he was constantly wanting to know more about Christ. While this was true in his personal life, he also understood that he lived out his spiritual life within a community of faith. He took responsibility for the community around him and realized that his actions became a model for the actions of others. Therefore if his actions may not have been a problem for his spiritual life, if it created a problem for others — it was still a problem. He understood his place within the body of Christ and that he was responsible not just for himself but also for others.

When we see ourselves within a context of spiritual community then we have to examine the ways in which we live our lives and the testimony that is revealed through our own behaviors. Early leaders of the holiness movement believed that this was true and it is the key reason that they were concerned with the drinking of alcohol. They were watching as alcoholism was destroying families, leaving women and children abandoned and without support. It was eating away at society and so the spiritual community, as a whole, chose to be a support system for those who were struggling. It’s why communion wine was replaced with juice, because there was an understanding that an alcoholic can’t even have one drink. Interestingly, Thomas Bramwell Welch invented Welch’s Grape Juice because he was a part of the Methodist movement in England and the United States, where they were outspoken in regard to the impact of both slavery and alcohol, and their desire that all people be free! The result was that the holiness community, in solidarity with those who struggled, and in a desire for all humanity to be free, has chosen not to drink. 

I’m afraid we have moved away from this corporate understanding of our faith and are much more focused on our personal spiritual lives. The result is that we are not as introspective regarding the far-reaching effects of our behavior. I hear people lament the fact that young people are not as committed to the church as earlier generations may have been. However, our “weaker” children have been raised with inconsistent church attendance. Sports and family events have become a priority and this message has been brought to them by the behaviors of adults that have told them that church is simply not that important.

I was involved in a study regarding the health of pastors and spouses in the Mid-west. We discovered that a majority of the pastors were obese. This is a new problem within the faith community — we are not physically healthy. Now the issue of eating (red) meat may be a serious question! What would happen if, as a community of faith, we took into account our pot-luck dishes and chose to help one another eat healthy!

Paul’s ancient words regarding meat offered to idols speak to us today and step on our toes as we begin to examine our own behaviors in light of the community of faith. Maybe we need to stop justifying ourselves and join Paul in doing whatever we must to help all those with whom we come into contact grow in Christ.

I’m preaching to myself today. Thanks for listening!

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for your challenging words. Amen.


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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Foolish, Weak and Lowly




Scripture:

1Cor. 1:26        Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are,  29 so that no one may boast before him.  30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Observation:

These words to the church in Corinth are a great reminder to those who may be proud of who they are or what they have become. Paul reminds them that no one is to boast in anything — except Christ. It is Christ who is at work in those who are his children. He chose to use those who were not born into position in life, but rather to raise up his own. Those who would be faithful in following Christ and being obedient were filled with the Spirit and wisdom and became leaders who would transform the world. It is Christ who can take people whom the world would deem as foolish, weak and lowly and use them so that all boasting is in the Lord.

Application:

God provides and sustains.

The call is to follow Christ and to bring him all of our weaknesses, allowing him to transform them for his use. He takes every foolish thing we’ve ever done and redeems it for his glory. He takes our weaknesses and fills them with the power of the Holy Spirit and suddenly they become our strengths. He takes those who have never been invited to sit at the big table, and raises them up to be a voice for those who have none.

Let’s live in humble obedience, walking daily with our Lord, trusting that he will provide — and then let’s boast in him with all our being! God is good and faithful — trust in him.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for taking my weak person and empowering me to follow you every day. Amen.

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Saturday, November 7, 2015

Self-Control and Lust



Scripture:

Gal. 5:22   By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,  23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. (NRSV)

Job 31:1     “I made a covenant with my eyes
        not to look lustfully at a girl.  (NIV)


Observation:

The work of the Spirit in the life of the believer brings about a real change. The fruit of the Spirit is evidence that this person’s life has been transformed. This witness includes self-control or self-discipline.

In another portion of today’s reading we discover the words of Job written long before the Epistle to the Galatians, however, he is arguing about his own faithfulness and it includes a foreshadowing of the fruit of the Spirit. Specifically, he is defending himself because of his self-control, and as he lists behaviors he includes the fact that he has exercised control over his eyes that they would not look “lustfully at a girl.”

When combined these scriptures bring us to an understanding that those who are filled with the Spirit exercise self-control, a personal covenant, if you will, that results in changed behavior. This change in behavior includes an intentional focus “not to look lustfully at a girl.” Therefore, to look lustfully at a girl would indicate that one is not living in the fruit of the Spirit.

Application:


This may seem like an odd topic for a devotional thought but I’m afraid it’s far too relevant. Statistics would tell us that too many people who call themselves followers of Jesus Christ are looking lustfully at girls. The rise of internet pornography has led to a multi-billion dollar industry of sex-trade and people who call themselves Christ-followers are be contributing to the problem.

We don’t like to talk about self-control. All of us have things in our lives that we may find are a struggle. And yet, Paul seems to suggest that by living life in the Spirit we can exercise control over those things which may be difficult for us.

Job specifically mentions not looking on a girl with lust. Historically many religions have dealt with this problem by cover up girls, but Job doesn’t put the blame anywhere else, he recognizes his own personal responsibility. Lust comes from the heart of the one lusting and there is the problem. It is a heart problem. If we have people in the church who struggle with pornography, it is a heart problem and one which we ought to address from a spiritual perspective. The reality is that it is a spiritual problem which becomes a physical problem because of the release of hormones that literally leads to an addiction. There is no separation of the “spiritual” and “physical” life, they are interconnected as we are whole beings and it is with our whole being that we are to be transformed.

The church desperately needs to realize that we have a spiritual problem which is at the root of a physical problem. God has called us to be his holy people, to reflect his holiness to the world. Only by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit can this be done. We shouldn’t be making excuses for our behavior, but we ought to be confessing and practicing spiritual disciplines which will lead us to an indwelling Spirit of transformation. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit and should be reflected in our lives.

Prayer:


Lord, thank you for spurring us on to a deeper walk with you. Amen.


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Friday, November 6, 2015

Feeling Far From Home



Scripture:

Psa. 120:5        Woe is me, that I am an alien in Meshech,
        that I must live among the tents of Kedar.
6     Too long have I had my dwelling
        among those who hate peace.
7     I am for peace;
        but when I speak,
        they are for war.

Observation:

The city of Meshech was in the far north of Israel and Kedar was in the Syro-Arabian Desert to the southeast. They were both known for being wild and barbaric and obviously he wasn’t physically in those places, but he was metaphorically. However, no matter how far away from home he was, and no matter how hostile the surrounds, he continued to be “for” peace. Every effort was made to live in peace and share the peace that he knew, even when feeling far from home.

Application:

Just like the Psalmist there are times when we feel far from home, even when we may be at home. Life can take on a hostile edge and suddenly we feel as if we are far from the comforts of home that make us feel at peace. It’s that diagnosis, or news from work, or the relationship that begins to deteriorate that send us to Meshech and Kedar.

The good news is that Jesus is in Meshech and Kedar. The Prince of Peace has made his dwelling in those barbaric and wild places and continually reaches out to bring us his comfort. Life may seem as if it is in favor of war, but Jesus is for peace.

When we find ourselves feeling far from home, it’s time to look for the familiar. Get to know Christ every day and when suddenly we are in Meshech we will discover the familiar comfort of our Lord. When he is present we are never far from home.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for your peace. Amen.


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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Bringing Value to Christ’s Death



Scripture:


Galatians 2:19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ;  20 and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  21 I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.

Observation:

Paul’s life in the flesh is transformed by Christ who now lives in him. He has been united with Christ, not through the law but through Christ’s death, the ultimate act of love and sacrifice. The truth is profound and sometimes hard to grasp but the result is visible by the way one lives their life in the flesh.

If this transformation is not a testimony to the power of Christ then Christ died for nothing. By being crucified with Christ, Paul’s transformed life brought value to Christ’s death. His daily life was a living testimony to the power that was unleashed through Christ’s death on the cross.

Application:


This testimony to the power of Christ’s work is not only to be visible in the life of the Apostle Paul but in every follower of Christ. There is nothing static about the Christian life, but it is to be on-going and transformational as Christ lives in us. The reflection to the world is to be Christ.

This can really hit home when we wrestle with living in Christ daily. It is the reputation of Christ which is at stake on a day to day basis. His reputation is scrutinized by the way in which we conduct ourselves in every avenue of our lives. This includes our professional lives and the ways in which we act and respond at work.

This week we had the privilege of hosting Mr. Bob Moore on the NTS campus. This man started a business just over 30 years ago with a handful of employees and today has more than 400. Bob himself is 86 years of age but goes to work every single day and knows the names of nearly everyone that works for him. He doesn’t fire people, but he finds the right place for them to work if initially it’s a poor fit. He shares his profits with all of his employees and has been doing this monthly for 25 years. Now, he’s choosing to give the company to his employees so that they will become the owners. His motto is “people before profits.” He takes Christ as his example on how to treat others. In Bob we find a reflection of Christ in the business world that doesn’t make sense to the normal business models. Bob rejects other models and chooses to remain in Christ.

When we bear the name of Christ and we are in him, then the world expects something different of us. The standard becomes higher because our transformed lives ought to bring value to Christ’s work on the cross. Bob was highlighted in the national news because of what he’s done. That’s the kind of news we want to see, not news that taints and smears the name of Christ as tends to happen with those who brandish the name Christian in odd ways.

In every ordinary and maybe not-so-ordinary event of the day we are to be in Christ. Our lives are to be a reflection of the extraordinary work that was accomplished for you and me and the world beyond. Do your best today for the Master and may Christ be powerfully reflected. Bring value to Christ’s death.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to live faithfully in you today. Amen.


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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Mocking Jesus



Scripture:

Mark 15:16   Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort.  17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him.  18 And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!”  19 They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him.  20 After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. 

Observation:

This small section of scripture abounds with irony. While the soldiers thought they were mocking him by giving him the purple cloak and the crown of thorns, they did not realize that soon the crowning moment of Christ’s life would become a reality. They did not recognize that he was the true King and that his life and death were ushering in a new kingdom about which they knew and understood nothing.

The irony continued as they spat upon him. Their spit, which they saw as an insult was actually an instrument of healing when placed into Christ’s hands. He had spit into the dirt and healed the blind man. The irony of the moment continues as the soldiers strip Jesus of his clothing. What they failed to see what that through his death he would place upon us the “cloak of righteousness that hides our sin.” (Cyprian) While they continue to mock him, he remains silent and ultimately those who judge Jesus are judged and he, the Word, remains silent.

Everything that the soldiers might do in mockery, God was able to transform and redeem for their very salvation.

Application:


The soldiers mocked Jesus through their words and actions and thought that they were bringing him down, ostensibly, to their level. They had no comprehension of who he was or what he would accomplish. Sadly, we also may not recognize what he wants to do in and through us. We may become reactionary or combative when we join in with the crowd, failing to see what God is really doing.

I’m afraid that mocking Jesus has become rather fashionable. The soldiers of Jesus’ day were probably having a good time, laughing and poking fun at this religious man. The world is poking and making fun of Christianity these days, which in reality is mocking Jesus. There are, however, a couple of questions we must ask ourselves; (1) are we contributing to the mocking, or (2) are we ministering to the mockers?

Contributing to the mocking
If we don’t take following Jesus seriously we are actually contributing to the mocking attitude toward Christ and Christianity. When we fail to live our Christian lives as a reflection of Christ, then we too are mocking Jesus. We are setting ourselves up for others to mock Jesus because there is no consistency in what is seen. The world will view Jesus through us and the way in which we live. If we are not following Christ day in and day out, then we are mocking him.

Ministering to the mockers
In the early period of Christianity a spirit of revival broke out among the Roman soldiers. This was after the day of Pentecost and as the church began to experience growth throughout the Roman world. Instead of shunning the soldiers, Christians began to minister to them. There were periods of time when the Empire struggled to feed and serve their soldiers. Christians would bring them into their homes and feed them. These early Christians lived out their faith daily in a lifestyle that most would see as stunning. They intentionally mixed with those whom others would have described as their enemies. Instead of distancing themselves from the mockers, they embraced them and the redemptive power of Jesus Christ began his transforming work.

We have an option as to where we find ourselves in the story. Do others use us an excuse to mock Jesus, or to embrace him? It’s a challenging question and a moment in which we may need to examine our position before Christ. If we were in the courtyard with the soldiers today, what would we be doing? Let us pray that we would not be among those mocking Jesus.

Prayer:


Lord, please help me to faithfully reflect you to those around. Amen.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Stumbling in Our Weakness



Scripture:

Mark 14:38 Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Observation:

Jesus had invited Peter, James and John to go with him to Gethsemane. They were to wait and pray while he went to talk to the Father. Jesus was agitated because he knew what was coming. When he returned he found the disciples asleep. He was not just concerned about his own well-being but that of the disciples as well. He urged them to keep awake and be in prayer. Jesus recognized that they would need the strength that comes from God to endure the difficulties ahead. If they pressed on in the power and strength from on high it would not seem a trial to them.

The problem with the disciples was that they were stumbling on in their weakness. Their spirit certainly wanted to participate with Christ but the flesh was weak. Our hearts and minds may want to be engaged in God’s work, but we live in these human bodies which can bring us down. The flesh is weak and we can stumble in that weakness.

Application:

It seems that there are times when we conveniently connect the spirit and the flesh and other times when we choose not to! However, how we live our lives in the flesh is the reflection of our life in the spirit. We may think that we want to live for Christ and our spirit is willing but then we fail to make the connection to how we live on a daily basis.

Christ knew that it was the flesh that was weak and would cause problems for the disciples — and for you and me. There are so many stumbling blocks which can occur, our physical weakness that needs to be brought before the Lord. But our physical weaknesses may also need to be infused with some self-discipline. If we are too tired, we will be tempted. If we are not eating healthy foods, we will be tempted. If we are not putting the right things into our minds, we will be tempted. If we are watching bad stuff, we will be tempted. And the list goes on.

We all have weaknesses that the enemy would like to use to become our stumbling block. Jesus knew this and was warning the disciples. Prayer and self-discipline would go a long way in helping them in their spiritual journey and to overcome temptations. The same us true for us today as we are encouraged to remain alert and pray so that we don’t stumble over our weaknesses.

Prayer:


Lord, thank you for sweet rest and a time with you. 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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Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Glimpse of Holiness




Scripture:


Mark 9:2   Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them,  3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.  4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.  5 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.  7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”  8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

Observation:

This is an interesting event in the life of Christ. At his baptism we hear the voice of the Father, and then again at this moment we hear the Father affirming the role of his Son. Jesus brings Peter, James and John with him to experience this event, one in which a glimpse of the goal of holiness is revealed to the disciples, for at the transfiguration they peer into eternal and on-going kingdom activity.

God’s goal for all of humanity is to be restored into the original image, a reflection of the Image — Christ. We are called to be like him and his entire life is a journey which is preparing the way for all of humanity to become God’s holy people. The holiness of God and the future for humanity is revealed in the white clothing. Purity is God’s desire for his people, a purity which is greater than anything that can be experienced here.

The presence of Moses and Elijah represent a vision of the kingdom of God. Moses was the great prophet and the one through whom God brought the law. Elijah was seen as the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah. In the holiness of God we experience both the law and a life of preparation for the Messiah. Our lives are to be a reflection of the Messiah, the one who is the fulfillment of the law. As we reflect the Image, we reflect kingdom values.

The glory of God surrounds them and they are terrified. Peter babbles and says something about a shelter, but maybe there is significance in his babbling. It is in the old tent of meeting where the glory of God was present in a meeting with Moses. The holiness of God is revealed in this glory which is experienced in the Old Testament by Moses and now the disciples are witnesses here. Perhaps Peter thought it possible to build another tent in which to contain the glory of God.

But this glimpse of God’s holiness and this foretaste of the kingdom is not to be contained in tents, nor is it only to be experienced on the mountain top. It is to be the hope of all humanity in the lived out day to day experiences of life. Jesus is affirmed as the Image and all that comes with that acceptance and understanding becomes transformational in the life of the believer.

Application:

The experience of Mt. Sinai was mind-boggling to the disciples. This was beyond their comprehension and it may be beyond ours as well. They experienced this because they simply followed Jesus and found themselves in the midst of a very profound moment.

We are invited to do the same. We are called to be God’s holy people but not because we, ourselves, figure out ways to be holy. It is only because we keep following Jesus wherever he leads, and sometimes that’s up the mountain. We are to open our eyes to what he places before us and reveals to us, and there we catch a glimpse of his holiness. It’s this holiness that he wants to reflect through you and me. The glory of heaven is holiness. When we are in a face to face relationship with our dear Savior, then we reflect the kingdom here in our daily lives.

Follow Jesus every day, step by step. Reflect him in all things and may the kingdom be revealed in and through you as you reflect a glimpse of God’s holiness.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the journey. 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.


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