Monday, February 29, 2016

A Daughter’s Resurrection



Scripture:

41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 

Observation:

One of the synagogue leaders, Jairus, reported that his little daughter was ill. Before Jesus could even arrive she had died. We can’t imagine the grief of this father at the death of his daughter. Jesus comes to the house anyway and goes in to see the little girl. This is when the scene opens and he takes her by the hand and tells her to be raised up. These words appear here in Aramaic which only happens in a few cases in the New Testament. These are the words Jesus would have spoken in the language that would have made sense to the little girl. “Talitha cum” — “Little girl, get up!”  These were life-giving words to a child who had died, and immediately she was healed and got up. The daughter of Jairus had been resurrected.

Application:

Little girls have not always been that highly respected by society. Often parents have wanted boys who could ultimately provide more security for the parents. Monarchies desperately wanted male heirs to the throne and more than one queen lost her life because she had borne a daughter too many! Under China’s one child policy girls were often selectively aborted in favor of having a male child. In the early years of Christianity during Roman rule they practiced infanticide — leaving unwanted (often female) babies to die from exposure.

The intentionality of Christ ministering to a little girl doesn’t go unnoticed. This is a resurrection story where the little girl, whose life may not have been seen of much value to society, is given great worth by the Messiah. The local language,”Talitha Cum” speaks to the very personal nature of this invitation into a resurrected life. Someone who would not have been held in high esteem by the world is given new life by Christ.

There are many who may be able to identify with the little girl. We may find ourselves feeling unwanted by the world, but that’s the beauty of the kingdom of God. Jesus was revealing the newness of life to be found in the kingdom of God. Every life is of great value to God! Jesus would die to bring life to all people. The words spoken to this little girl are words of hope for us. Jesus meets us, communicating with us on our level and then he reaches out his hand and invites us into life eternal.

When Jesus speaks simple words, the kingdom is revealed and the outcast is transformed into a beautifully resurrected son or daughter. This is the hope in which we journey during this Lenten season.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for loving all of us and having a welcoming reach to all!  Amen.

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Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Holy Place of Worship



Scripture:

Psa. 96:7        Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
        ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
8     Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
        bring an offering, and come into his courts.
9     Worship the LORD in holy splendor;
        tremble before him, all the earth.

Observation:

The challenge of the Psalmist is to "ascribe to the Lord." The people were to bring with them “Yahweh’s glory and strength, the glory due his name.” (Bratcher, R. G., & Reyburn, W. D. (1991). A translator’s handbook on the book of Psalms (p. 835). New York: United Bible Societies.) That’s what “ascribe” really meant — the bringing in with them this glory and this glory often represents the holiness of God. The people themselves were to be in a holy relationship with God so that when they entered the temple, the entire place would be filled up with his holy splendor. God’s holy people were to worship him in holiness and this resulted in a holy place of worship.

Application:

When I was a little girl we used to have  a three-way mirror in our home. It was back in the days when women teased their hair and mom needed to be able to see what the back of her head looked like! That’s why this mirror was so important.

Here’s a picture of me trying to do my hair in that old three-way mirror when I was just two!


I still remember playing with that mirror and I found it very fascinating. If you placed it in just the right angle you could look into and it seemed as if you could see forever. One reflection would lead to another which would lead to another which would lead to another. I often wondered if I were actually seeing infinity!

We are called to be reflections of Jesus Christ and if his nature is holy, then the reflection of him will be holy. As God’s people, who are reflecting him, gather together for worship, then they become the mirrors which are reflecting the mirrors, which are reflecting the mirrors. It goes on and on forever!

Could this be the message of the Psalm? When all of God’s people gather together and reflect his glory it becomes one reflection after another and the place of worship becomes a holy place of worship because of the intensity of the glory of God. Of course, this is only possible when God’s people are spending time with him — drawing closer to him — and reflecting him in a powerful way.

The Psalmist invites us into a holy place of worship. This is Sunday — a day when many will gather for worship. What will you experience today? If you don’t experience a holy place of worship — a place where the Lord’s holy splendor ministers to your heart — then maybe it’s time to have a spiritual check-up. When we don’t sense the presence of the Lord it’s not because of a pastor’s sermon or the type of music that we sing — but the reflections of Christ that we bring into the sanctuary.

May we worship today and  bring with us the radiant glory of our holy God.

Prayer:
Lord, please help me to seek you every single day of my life and draw closer to you.  Amen.
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Friday, February 26, 2016

One More Time



Scripture:

Mark 4:35   On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”  36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him.  37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.  38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”  39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.  40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”  41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Observation:

Over and over again in this chapter we have been reminded that it is God who divinely intercedes in life — whether producing a harvest of people coming to him — a spiritual harvest in our own lives — or overcoming the stormy seas of this world. From start to finish this gospel writer wants us to know without a doubt that God will take care of his children.

Just as the farmer couldn’t see anything happening with the seed, so the disciples couldn’t see Jesus doing anything about the storm. The wind was blowing and the waves were beating into the boat. Water was filling the ship and Jesus was fast asleep. The disciples jumped to the conclusion that they were perishing and that Jesus didn’t care. Had they not been listening his parables? Nothing that was accomplished was done by human power but by divine intervention. Why could they not believe that Jesus could and would divinely intervene in this moment.

This was about their faith and he challenged them directly at that point. The wind and the waves were powerless before Christ. One more time — he spoke and everything became “dead calm.” There had never been anything to fear but only Christ to trust.

Application:

Listening to the news these days is not for the faint of heart. We hear news of a weakened economy, nations warring against one another, refugees fleeing for their lives, people recklessly shooting guns, churches suffering from a decline in worship attendance, people becoming biblically illiterate and society embracing all things secular. Depressed yet? Sound like we’re in the middle of a storm?

And do you sometimes feel like asking, “Jesus, don’t you know what’s going on down here — and don’t you care that all of this is going to kill us?”

It’s in that moment that he looks at us, probably sighs, and wonders whether he needs to tell us one more time that he’s got this covered. We have our eyes on the storm and not on the Savior. We assume that he’s doing nothing to help — that he’s just sleeping or not paying attention, but Jesus really is still active and in charge.

“Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

The winds will blow and the boat may even be swamped but we are to continue trusting in him.  One more time, just to make sure we get it — God will multiply the harvest; God will grow the seed; God will calm the storm.

Prayer:

Lord, thanks for this reminder again — to trust in you.  Amen.

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Harvest Within



Scripture:

Mark 4:26   He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground,  27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.  28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.  29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

Observation:

In this fourth chapter of Mark, Jesus again talks about seeds and harvest. This time the harvest is one of spiritual growth within the life of the Christ-follower. Day by day we are to follow Christ, rising and sleeping, and faithfully care for the seed. But we are to remember that it is the Lord who makes the seed grow.

There must be a quiet, continuous and ongoing spiritual life where the seed is cared for and nourished, but there needn’t be anxiety. The seed will grow. How? Not by our own doing but by the hand of God. We can’t make ourselves grow spiritually but we can be faithful in caring for the seed, cultivating the right conditions,  and then by the power of the Holy Spirit, it will grow.

The harvest within is a promise which comes to us from the Lord. Not only is it a commentary on the spiritual growth of the believer, but also a realization of a final harvest — or final judgement. Those who cultivate the seeds within will be harvested in the last day.

Application:

I find it fascinating that Mark brings us two parables about seeds and harvest. The first was about the different soil on which the seeds may land and about the bountiful harvest that the Lord helps to produce! This is the second parable, and is only found in Mark. This brings us to a place of understanding the kingdom of God growing and expanding within our own lives. The seed which is planted within an individual will grow and develop, if it is cultivated.

We have a responsibility to care for the seed which is within us. Just as a farmer, day after day, cares for the seeds, so we are to daily nurture that which is in us. Jesus describes the gradual growth of the seed. We don’t become spiritual giants overnight and actually — at first it may not seem like anything is happening. As a matter of fact, there may not be anything to see at first, but just as a seed begins to germinate, so that which may seem dormant will eventually sprout and grow.

A number of years ago we were at home on furlough in Idaho and were enjoying the fresh peaches. Our youngest daughter and her cousin were not quite school aged and loved playing together. One day, after finishing our peaches the girls took their seeds out to grandma’s back yard and planted them. My father and I enjoyed watching the girls with their little endeavor. The funny thing was that we noticed the next day that the girls went out to check on their seeds. They came back in the house pretty disappointed that nothing had happened. We tried to explain to them that it took time but they wanted to see something right away. That day my father and I sneaked off to the grocery store and bought some apricots and peaches. The next morning we went out to the yard and we placed two apricots on the ground where the girls had planted their seeds. Then, we waited with expectation for them to go and check on their crop. Imagine their amazement when they went out and found these two small pieces of fruit. They were ecstatic about what their seeds had produced. We decided that the next day we would place peaches where the seeds had been and sure enough — the girls were amazed at what happened. Actually — they sort of figured out their mom and grandpa were messing with them but we all enjoyed a good laugh.

Funny thing, the following spring my mom told that me she was out working in her yard and thought she saw a couple of big weeds growing — only to discover that those seeds had sprouted and there were now two little peach trees growing in her back yard. The seeds had been there all winter long with nothing happening but, suddenly, there was growth. The growth continued and eventually my mother had to replant the two trees so that they would have room to grow. You can imagine our amazement when we returned on our next furlough to find two trees over six feet tall! I think the girls decided that the joke was on grandpa and mom!

God wants us to grow up into strong followers of his son, Jesus Christ. Don’t give up if you don’t see growth, for it will happen. Real spiritual growth will come when we allow God to do the work. But grow we must — for if we don’t, we will die and when the end comes, there will be no harvest.

This is the harvest within.

Prayer:

Lord, please grow your seed in me.  Amen.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A Crescendo of Momentum



Scripture:


Mark 4:1    Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land.  2 He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them:  3 “Listen! A sower went out to sow.  4 And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up.  5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil.  6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away.  7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.  8 Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”  9 And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

Observation:

Jesus explains this parable to his disciples, relating it to the preaching of the word. What I find fascinating is verse 8, where he refers to the thirty, six and hundredfold harvest. There are several things to learn here, including perseverance and persistence in preaching the word. John Chrysostom also reminds us to notice the difference in the readiness of the soil — for even there we find different stages of readiness. “The fault lies not in the farmer or the seed, but in the condition of the land itself, its disposition to receive.” (THE GOSPEL OF ST. MATTHEW, HOMILY 44.6.)

All of this sets up a scenario where the farmer is only responsible for being persistent in sowing the seed. The result of the harvest remains beyond the control of the farmer. Interestingly, we are told “Because of the primitive agricultural methods, an average harvest in ancient Palestine was probably no more than seven or eight times the amount of seed sown, and a good harvest probably was about ten.”  (Brooks, J. A. (1991). Mark (Vol. 23, p. 79). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.) Therefore a harvest of thirty, sixty or a hundred was outside the realm of normal, and was the sign of a growing crescendo of momentum within the kingdom of God. The way in which Jesus used this parable was a sure sign of divine intervention in the growth and harvest.

Application:

I don’t know how many people have told me that they have no idea how to tell people about Jesus. Over and over they have expressed the fact that they are not skilled personal evangelists. I don’t think that Jesus was raising an expectation that any of the disciples had to be skilled evangelists — they just had to be faithful. Jesus also realized that preaching the word was not the only way of planting seeds. Yes, sometimes it was with the spoken word, but Jesus went about preaching, teaching and healing. Sometimes he used words — sometimes he just stood and wept -- sometimes he healed! Jesus is the example for all of us to follow and we are to be faithful witnesses to his presence in the world. We are to reflect him in everything that we do — whether in word or deed.

The church is pretty concerned that in some areas there doesn’t seem to be much harvest these days. Both church leaders and laypersons alike are troubled and want to find the root cause. The reality is that the real reason may be the poor soil — or, a lack of patience on our part. The overabundant harvest was a result of divine intervention. The best we could personally do might result in the eight-fold harvest — but that’s nothing compared to the crescendo of momentum that occurs when God is at work. Our responsibility is to keep planting seeds and trusting God for the harvest. If we try to produce the harvest on our own it will either be small — or we will fail.

We must persevere in sharing the good news about Jesus with those around us. We must reflect Christ in all that we do so that those who are in good soil will bear fruit. All of this must be bathed in prayer so that the power and presence of the Holy Spirit will go before us, leading us to the good soil. Then, we must not try to manufacture a harvest, but wait upon the Lord’s divine intervention so that we watch the harvest multiply in a great crescendo of the Spirit’s momentum.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to be faithful in persevering and sowing seeds for you.  Amen.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

When Kingdoms Clash



Scripture:

Mark 3:31   Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him.  32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.”  33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”  34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!  35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Observation:

The earthly kingdom came face to face with the kingdom of God in this moment. Jesus’ earthly mother and siblings came calling for him. The Old Testament law would have required Jesus to honor his father and mother — and to stop what he was doing and leave with his family. This moment intentionally allows us the opportunity to witness the kingdom of God being revealed and becoming the fulfillment of the Old Testament law. The priorities of God’s kingdom are different than those of the world and this is hard for the people to see or to understand. The old law is fulfilled in the life of the new kingdom where adoption into God’s family becomes possible. The call from the earthly family is replaced with the kingdom family. Jesus is not disobedient to the law, it’s just interpreted differently in light of salvation. And when it appears that this story is a clash of kingdoms, it is actually becomes the segue from the old to the new.

This story should in no way be interpreted to mean that Jesus did not love or care for his mother — or that Christians ought not to care for their earthly families. But it does reveal something regarding the kingdom — that even his own mother had to enter the new kingdom. Her physical proximity to him would not have brought about her salvation — she had to believe! She herself moved from the old kingdom into the new and it may have been this clash of the kingdoms which helped her and the family to realize that there was more to salvation than simply being related to the Savior! The clash of the kingdoms required an active response which led to adoption into the heavenly family and life within the kingdom of God in the here and now.

Application:

We may have our own moments when kingdoms clash. What do we do with family members who demand something of a believer which comes into conflict with the kingdom of God? I’m afraid this happens from time to time in marriage relationships. It’s that struggle when someone pulls out the scripture about wives submitting to their husbands and we fail to realize that this is written in the context of mutual submission of believers to one another. That’s a scripture related to life in the kingdom of God, not a scripture related to kingdoms clashing. The priority of a believer is to live in the new kingdom and sometimes that will be a problem for those refusing to be a part of God’s kingdom. But as followers of Jesus Christ, we have no choice and we follow his example, living in the already of the kingdom of God.

Kingdoms may clash on the job, in school, or even when we are just hanging out with our friends. We must consider how we will respond. Either we will give into the kingdom of this world, or we will live into the new kingdom. When we are living into the new kingdom we won’t respond in the same way that everyone else responds, but we will live as faithful members of God’s family. That is his desire for you and for me — when kingdoms clash.

Prayer:


Lord, please help me to live for you faithfully when the kingdoms clash.  Amen.


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Monday, February 22, 2016

Discipleship as an act of Love



Scripture:

1 Corinthians 4:17 For this reason I sent you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ Jesus, as I teach them everywhere in every church.

Observation:


Paul was admonishing the church in Corinth to take on the very nature of Christ. There were a lot of good things happening in the church but there were still concerns. Paul especially emphasized the fact that he was consistent in his teaching “everywhere” that he went and in “every” church. He’s not just providing something different for this church but has the same expectation for discipleship here that he does in every church that he establishes.

Paul’s love for the Corinthians becomes apparent because he sends them Timothy. This young man had become like a son to Paul, and Timothy had learned what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. He preached the word, and lived the life of faith. The requirement for leadership was to be faithful in the Lord. They were to live lives that could be imitated.

It would have been difficult for Paul to share this beloved son in the Lord with the church at Corinth but his desire for their discipleship was so great that he was willing to give up Timothy.  Everything that Paul did in life was consistent with his teaching and revealed the deep love that he had for his spiritual children and his desire for them to be discipled.

Application:

Just as Paul understood the deep need for discipleship, so did John and Charles Wesley. They were the founders of the Methodist movement and began to understand that living as God’s holy people meant a life of discipleship. The powerful image in this story from Paul is that he is willing to give up his spiritual son for the discipleship of the Corinthians. For Paul and for the Wesleys, discipleship was a priority and I don’t think that they could have imagined the Christian life without this emphasis. It cost them, and others to be genuine disciples of Jesus Christ.

Does our discipleship look like an act of love?

Is knowing and imitating Christ a priority in our lives?

If this was the top priority for Paul in every church everywhere — it seems that it ought to be our priority as well.  But discipleship takes time, effort, and a lot of love, and those things don’t always see instant results. We live in a world which expects things to happen quickly and if they don’t, then we are ready to throw in the towel. For many in the church we are watching the number of folks in the pew decline and in response we are trying to find a quick fix. I don’t think there is a quick fix and I don’t think that Paul would have advocated for one. He saw discipleship as an act of love from one person to another, guiding us into a deep relationship of holy love with Christ. This resulted in radical transformation and eventually into evangelization. True evangelization and church growth comes from discipleship. Jesus told us to go and make disciples!

If we love those within the community of faith — if we love our church — we will do everything that we can, give all that we have, for them to be discipled. This is what God did in sending his beloved son. This is what Paul did in sending his beloved spiritual son. May God help us to be his holy people, devoting ourselves to him and giving all that we have out of love to be his disciples.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for your sacrifice. Please, help me to live into that sacrifice and grow more in you.  Amen.

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Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Physical Nature of Faith

Scripture:

Rom. 6:12   Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.  13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness.  14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Observation:

The Apostle Paul was convinced that Christians could be radically transformed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Sin was often manifest in the actions of people and in this case, in terms of sexual behaviors. He believed that faith in Jesus Christ would result in a change in human behavior.

Theodoret of Cyr described the relationship to sin in the flesh as either one of tyranny or the reign of righteousness. The point is that a tyrant rules without the consent of the people, but a monarch reigns when the subjects agree to and supports their rule. Sin tries to rule us as a tyrant, while Christ can rule in our hearts and lives and set us free. This includes freedom from sin in the flesh which is a manifestation of our faith.

We have been set free and do not have to live as slaves to our flesh because of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. This reveals the physical nature of our faith and his victory becomes our victory, creating a pathway which we can follow that will lead us to him.

Application:

There have been spiritual movements throughout time that have preached this message of freedom from sin and the ways in which our faith is revealed in our physical lives. When this message is preached and kept in balance it results in transformation which leads to freedom from the bondage of sin in the flesh. There have been times when the emphasis in preaching has been ill placed and a works theology has developed. Suddenly people think that they have to try and be perfect before ever coming to Christ and when they fail they give up in frustration.

Because of this frustration there have been times when Christianity has swung in the opposite direction focusing primarily on grace. The result is that everything becomes permissible and no longer is there a focus on the victory which Jesus provides.

Statistics tell us that far too much is going on within the walls of the church than we would care to admit. Pornography is a problem. Divorce is a problem. Sexual immorality is a problem. Extramarital affairs are a problem. Sex outside of marriage is a problem. These were issues in Paul’s day and they continue to be problems today. If we believe the message of Paul, that there is a very physical nature to our faith, then the ways in which we live our lives on a daily basis will be a reflection of our life with Christ. These are words of encouragement from Paul. We don’t have to live as slaves to the tyrant ruler of sin. We can be set free — and this happens when we seek the face of God. This is when we present ourselves as living sacrifices wholly available to Jesus Christ who then, comes with his transforming power and helps us live victoriously. However, this only happens when we assent to the rule of Christ in our lives.

Faith is not just a mental activity, but will result in a change in our physical lives. There’s no more time for excuses. We need to seek Christ and his transforming power which can help to set us free now. Slavery to sin need not exist in our lives.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to live in the power of your Spirit.  Amen.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Fragrance of Justice



Scripture:

Gen. 37:25   Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt.  26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood?  27 Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed.  28 When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

Observation:

It was John Chrysostom who referred to this event as “the fragrance of justice.” This is divine justice which is catching up with this family and its members who have not always made the best decisions in regard to relationships. Joseph is to be the savior of his brothers and yet, they are far too jealous to be able to see this truth. The entire story becomes a foreshadowing of the redemption which will be found in Jesus Christ and the rejection that he will experience as well.

Joseph was rejected by his brothers — his own flesh and blood. He had come to bring them food and in their jealousy they plotted to kill him. They sat and ate food while he, presumably went without while sitting at the bottom of a well. Instead of killing him they decide to sell him into slavery and the instruments of that pathway to slavery were the Ishmaelites. These were the rejected cousins of the children of Abraham. They had been discarded by Abraham and Sarah once their son Isaac was born. Interestingly they are called Ishmaelites and Midiantes, which the commentators believe is no mistake. These represent two sets of rejected family members — both Ishmael and Esau.

The fragrance of divine justice is about to fill the air as the rejected become the saviors for without the divine intervention of the rejected family members Joseph would not have been saved. He then becomes the salvation for more than just his family when he provides for all those who are suffering from famine. The Ishmaelites/Midiantes — the ones who would have been considered the pagans, are sellers of perfume, and they spread the sweet smell of justice producing a result that eventually provides an opportunity for all to become partakers of the bread of salvation.

Application:

God’s justice is fascinating and a lesson for us as we grow spiritually. It was the disgraced and discarded relatives who were used to save the day. This ought to make us think about those whom we overlook. Who is it that we throw away, and what if they are the very ones that we need for salvation?

The homogenous group of brothers could not save themselves. Instead they fought among themselves and without knowing were plotting their own self-destruction. It could be that our own homogenous groups may become our achilles heel, for we begin to only listen to ourselves and we talk and encourage ourselves into believing we are doing the right thing because there are no dissenting voices. There is power in diversity that helps bring about God’s justice in the world. For the kingdom to be fully empowered there needs to be intentional inclusion of all races and genders to bringthe necessary voices to the table, for this is the way in which God works.

The call of Matthew 25 is to reach out and offer a cup of cold water to those who are in need, for in doing so we will have reached out to Christ, himself. The fragrance of justice means…

We need the poor

We need the lost

We need the prisoners

We need the orphans

We need the widows

For in serving them we will discover that we are serving Christ and find our salvation. The fragrance of justice takes us to the most improbable corners of our world so let’s not be afraid, but move forward in radical faith participating with the one who sets us free.


Prayer:

Lord, may your justice prevail.  Amen.
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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Responding to Authority



Scripture:

Mark 1:21   They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Observation:

Jesus moved from Nazareth to Capernaum where he engaged in much of his ministry activity. As we begin this first chapter of Mark we are taken in rapid succession through a series of events that identify the life of Christ. This includes calling Peter to ministry, and then this scene where he teaches in the synagogue in Capernaum. Peter responds immediately to the call of Christ while the religious leaders do not.

Many small communities had synagogues which were used throughout the week as schools in which the Jewish boys of the community studied. If a community did not have a permanent rabbi then the synagogue would ask a visiting rabbi to teach on the Sabbath. Jesus was one of these visiting rabbis who taught on a regular basis. To add authority to their teaching the rabbi would often quote other well-known and well-respected teachers. When Jesus taught they were all amazed for he didn’t quote any famous rabbis, but simply spoke with his own authority. Peter responded to that authority and his life was transformed. The message went from his head to his heart. Sadly, this wasn’t the case with the religious leaders. They recognized the authority and listened, but didn’t give space for the word to soften their hearts and provide for real change.

Application:
The idea of challenging authority has been around for a long time. If not challenging authority, we may be questioning authority! When Jesus got up to preach, people questioned his authority. Who was this man and why was he teaching? They had never experienced his kind of authority and they were not sure how to respond. Jesus’ authority came partnered with holy love. He spoke truth in a desire to draw all of humanity back into a holy relationship with God. His words were powerful and produced a holy longing in the heats of many — but not all. There were those who wanted to refute his authority.

(https://www.pinterest.com/pin/343821752777717533/)

We are tempted to refute all kinds of authority and I believe that has created a challenge for us as followers of Jesus Christ. A lack of trust in humans and systems has produced a rather cynical world that doesn’t know what to do with authority. Maybe we question — what is REAL authority?  Real authority comes from authenticity. Jesus was so authentic that he didn’t need any outside sources to speak to his authenticity — or authority. He was the source — or author — of the truth!

In this first chapter of Mark we meet Peter, the people in the synagogue and then a man who is healed from an unclean spirit. All of these people encounter the authority of Christ and all respond in a different way. Peter submits to the authority of Christ and is transformed. Those in the synagogue recognize the authority but do nothing. The unclean spirit fears the authority and therefore flees. We have our choice as to how we will respond to the authority of Christ but only by submitting to his authority can we experience the life-transformation that we see in Peter.

Yes, that level of life transformation is possible today! Submitting to the authority of Christ in our lives leads us into a relationship with our holy God that we cannot begin to imagine. The blusterous Peter — the one who denies Christ — becomes the great preacher when filled with the Holy Spirit. Only because he responded to the authority of Christ did this occur. We will never be changed if we simply find ourselves enjoying the teaching of Christ but not submitting to his authority in our lives. We must let go of the controls and let Jesus do and accomplish all that he wants in and through us. This is how we respond to the true authority.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for your word of truth.  Amen.
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Sunday, February 14, 2016

What is in Your Heart?



Scripture:

Romans 10:8 But what does it say?
    “The word is near you,
        on your lips and in your heart”
(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);
 9 because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Deut. 30:14 No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.

Observation:


We find here this continuing story from the Old Testament and brought to fruition in the New. The scripture from Deuteronomy is quoted and a more full meaning is brought to Moses’ understanding. With the reality of Christ there is now a heart change. It is faith in Christ — the risen Messiah which is transformational. When Christ is in you, then the profession of faith is quickly and easily released from our lips. The adoption into God’s family is possible through the indwelling of Christ and not because of human descent. Eternal life becomes possible for all.

What is in the heart of the believer becomes confessed through the expression of a life of faith, lived out on a daily basis.  What is in the heart will affect what is on the lips.

Application:


It’s Valentine’s day and of course, it’s a day when we think about love. I very vividly remember my first date with Chuck. He actually told me it wasn’t a date and it was a pastoral call from the church. I had been there on Sunday and he was doing the follow-up call for the Sunday School class. Of course, he had a long-stemmed red rose in the car, but he told me he had just found that lying on the side of the road. We had a lovely dinner and he took me home — reminding me it wasn’t a date — but a call! I guess the real date followed :) — but I also remember falling in love. My heart was filled with love for him and I wanted to be with him and hang around him, and, of course, there were plenty of confessions of love! What was in my heart was expressed in my words and actions.

On this day as we think about love, we ought to be considering our relationship with Jesus Christ. There are many folks who are lamenting what is happening to Christianity and the fact that fewer people are attending church. I would argue that the behaviors we are observing are simply a reflection of the heart. Could it be that far too many, like the church in Ephesus, have forgotten their first love? Or, possibly, our love for the Lord has simply cooled and we find ourselves lukewarm. With no love kindling in our hearts, there is no confession in our actions. Remember — our actions speak louder than our words!

This cooling toward Christianity may be the result of a loss of love in our hearts. There are many who are wanting to “fix” the problem with the church — and try to fill the pews in any way possible! Could it be, however, that we simply don’t want to listen to sound preaching or teaching? A medical doctor can get lots of followers if he tells people that they can eat Krispy Kreme donuts every day and be okay! But listening to your doctor, eating right, exercising and showing some self-discipline isn’t that easy. Just so, showing self-discipline in our daily walk with Jesus Christ may not always be easy but there is a love there that must be nurtured or it will grow cold. When that love grows cold, the passion will be gone. God’s people won’t look or act like God’s people and the pews will be empty.

We don’t have a methodological problem (what’s the next best plan to fill the church) — we have a spiritual problem. Our behaviors are a reflection of what’s happening in our hearts. If we are not passionate about the lost, then I doubt we are passionate about Christ. On this Valentine’s let’s ask God to rekindle the fire of love for him in our lives and be willing to reflect him to our world.

Prayer:


Lord, please, draw me nearer to you!  Amen.
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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Learning to Be Content



Scripture:

Phil. 4:11 Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have.  12 I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.  13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Observation:

Paul had not always enjoyed the comforts of life. There were times and places in his ministry where he was loved, accepted, and well cared for, but there were other times when this was not the case. In some instances, even when he had experienced incredible days in the ministry and led many to Christ, there were those who would turn their backs on him. The ups and downs of ministry were difficult on him and he could have easily backed away and tried to protect his heart from being hurt. It’s obvious that there were those whom he had loved and trusted that eventually caused him great pain.

The joy of Paul’s life was to know Christ and everything else paled in comparison. The result was that he had learned not to allow the circumstances of life to become the barometer of his faith. He learned how to live in a state of contentedness. He learned to make do with whatever he had. The things of life were those what brought him joy; Jesus brought him joy! The spirit of contentedness led him to a all-encompassing dependence on Christ. No person could get credit for Paul’s ministry for he learned that everything that he was able to accomplish came from Christ who gave him strength. Learning to be content resulted in a Spirit-filled strength.

Application:

It’s easy to fall into bondage to the many things of this world. I’ll confess that I’m enjoying our lovely home this morning. It’s a cold day in Kansas City and I’m cuddled up in my recliner with the fireplace going and music playing in the background — and it’s nice! It’s really more than I need or deserve.

About twenty years ago I had an interesting moment in my life. I still remember where I was in our apartment in Moscow and listening to the news as our world was in turmoil. In 1993 we lived through several days of war in Russia as we suddenly had two presidents. In those days we would listen to the short-wave radio to get the news from the outside world! The United States government would use different channels to get news and information to citizens living outside the US. I was listening in on an incident in Africa and they were telling all US citizens to evacuate a particular country. The instructions were given to make way to a particular hotel and each person was only allowed one suitcase — nothing more! With all that was happening around us I began to realize that reality could become ours very soon. I remember that day looking around our apartment and wondering what it was that we would take with us if that call suddenly came to us. I looked at my little girls’ artwork from school. I fingered their clothing in the closet. I looked at the china cups from my mother…and the Lord and I had a conversation. I realized that I had to be ready to leave it all at a moments notice and I had to let it go. I can honestly tell you that God seemed to disconnect me from my stuff — and maybe I remain a bit too disconnected from it because I never really collected things from my girls’ growing up years. I think I was afraid of becoming emotionally attached and needing to let it be. At the same time, I believe that God began to work in my life to fill my life with other things…not nice earthly stuff, but the lives and stories of people who came to know the Lord.

I don’t think that I’m at the same place as Paul but I see him as a role model. I want to know Christ — not stuff. I want to be content with whatever circumstance I find myself in life. Whether I’m enjoying fellowship with dear friends who have enjoyed financial success in life, or whether I’m sitting on the old metal frame bed in a two-hundred year-old cottage in a Russian village, my prayer is that I will be content.

I also think that Paul wasn’t just talking about the stuff of life, but even in the emotional ups and downs that we have to learn to be content. Not everyone is always going to like us or be happy with us. There will be times when people will tell us “what they really think.” If our emotional well-being is attached to the ways in which others think about us, there will be times when we will be overflowing with nice and kind words, and then there will be times when we get — well, nothing! If we expect our lives to be powered or boosted by the feedback we receive from others, we will be disappointed.

Learning to live in the sweet-spot of contentedness is not easy and yet it has its rewards. Paul knew this and when he let go of the material and emotional things of this world, he discovered the strength that he had in Christ. That’s where I want to go, following Paul, who is following Christ and learn to live in sweet content.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for Paul who provides such an example for us.  Amen.
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Friday, February 12, 2016

Help These Women!



Scripture:

Phil. 4:2   I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.  3 Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Observation:

Some kind of struggle had occurred in Euodia and Syntyche’s relationship. Paul tells us that they were laborers together with him in his ministry. They were not bad people but were women who were seeking to serve God. Even so, something had happened to create a rift in their relationship and this was hurting the church. Paul “urges” them “to be of the same mind in the Lord.” He doesn’t command them to get along, but he simply urges them to consider where they are in their walk with Christ.

This is a question of spiritual concern and these two women are valuable members in the kingdom’s work. So much so, that Paul asks his loyal companion to help these women. If it would not have been of such great concern to the kingdom, Paul would not have bothered asking someone to mediate the situation.  They were all believers, followers of Christ and yet, there was dissension. The mind of Christ creates a spirit of unity among God’s children and this is Paul’s desire. Please, “help these women.”

Application:

Paul has sometimes been painted as rather negative toward women because of a few passages of scripture. I believe that when those “troublesome” passages are taken alone, outside of the context of the entire sphere of Paul’s writings, we get the wrong idea. In this passage we find the Apostle Paul affirming the fact that these two women have been working beside him in the gospel. They have been serving with him, laboring to share the good news about Jesus. Paul knew and had experienced that the work of the kingdom was more powerful when God’s sons and daughters were united together in ministry. The problem is division and disunity in the body of Christ, and the enemy knows that when division is created, there is a loss of power.

I believe that one of the greatest ways the enemy has tried to disempower God’s work is to disconnect women from being engaged in ministry. This may be vocational, or lay ministry, but when there are divisions, disconnection and distractions — the life can  be drained out of God’s kingdom work. Paul’s cry is, “help these women!”

For the kingdom to move forward in the ways that God has intended, there may be those who, from time to time, need to “help these women!”

Let me put this in a practical sense. Maybe in today’s context this isn’t as much about the two women not getting along, but about the women no longer working shoulder to shoulder with the men in ministry. Too many Christian communities have interpreted Paul in such a way that the women of their churches are not allowed to partner with the men in ministry. I believe this is a theological problem that goes back to Paul’s statement about having the “same mind in the Lord.” God’s sons and daughters are to have the same mind — the mind that was in Christ Jesus! This is the incredible transformation in which we believe. Empowered by the Holy Spirit we are drawn into the holy koinonia fellowship of the Holy Trinity — both men and women. It is in this place that his passions become our passions. Christ’s passion was for the lost of this world and he wants his daughters and his sons engaged in that mission.

“Help these women!” This cry wasn’t just about a couple of women who couldn’t get along, but it was a cry for the church, for if someone didn’t help the women to be empowered partners in the ministry — the church would suffer. Champions are needed in the church today who will stand up and help women to be equal partners in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul had to mention it specifically and I believe that the same request must be placed before the church today.

Five years ago my husband and I were serving at Grace Point Church of the Nazarene in Fort Wayne, Indiana. We LOVED those people and LOVED that church. It was one of the best places in the world that one could serve in the kingdom. Our peaceful ministry there was broken one day by a phone call from Dr. Jerry Porter, General Superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene. Chuck and I were in different parts of the world but he got us on the phone and in a three-way conversation and told us that he was appointing us a co-district superintendents of the East Ohio District. This had never happened before — and we would be the first pioneer couple to figure out what that meant to serve as partners together, sharing this position. My husband would tell you that pastoring at Fort Wayne was right in his sweet spot and he had wanted to stay there until he retired. He also knew that this was a moment in time — an opportunity, not for himself, but for women. It was that day that the Lord brought him to this scripture in Philippians…”Help these women.” My husband has felt that his calling now is to do all that he can to open the pathways for women to be engaged in ministry in such a way that the power of God is unleashed. It’s not surprising that along the way he was my greatest encourager to follow my call. Our daughter Cara is now an ordained minister and our daughter Christy serves as a licensed minister in her local church.

Somehow this call to “help these women” seems to be spreading throughout our family. One sister-in-law is now an ordained elder and another is coming close to finishing her requirements for ordination. Two nieces have their local preachers license. I don’t know what’s happening but I believe that God is doing something in the spiritual realm and we’ve had this entire group of champions who have gone out of their way to “help these women.” I’m grateful for Chuck, Fred, Bill and Jay — and now I add Iain, Justin and Evan —  who somehow have answered the call to become champions and have partnered so beautifully in the gospel.

The doors of opportunity do not automatically swing open for our daughters who are called! Paul knew the power which was unleashed when God’s sons and daughters partnered in the ministry of the gospel. We continue to need those who will answer the call, “Help these women!” It’s not about the women — it’s for the sake of the kingdom. I’m praying that more women and men will answer the call to become champions who open the doors of opportunity for the Spirit’s power to be unleashed through the partnering of all God’s children in ministry.

Prayer:

Lord, I am grateful for the champions you have placed in my life.  Amen.


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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Discipline for Holiness



Scripture:

Hebrews 12:10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness.

Observation:

Earthly parents discipline their children because they want to raise them well. The purpose of healthy boundaries is to keep a child from becoming injured by their own actions or those of others. Most loving parents will discipline their children because they want to prepare them to live well. Without any discipline a child would die, for the ways of life would never be learned. However, a parent only has the opportunity to discipline a child until the child comes of age, or the parent is no longer a part of the child’s life. Then, the disciplining ends.

God’s desire for his children is holiness and because of this he disciplines us. This discipline establishes boundaries which keep us on the pathway that leads to participating in his holiness. This discipline never ends for we are invited to share in the holiness of an eternal God. This process of discipline will never end — always perfecting his children in holiness.

Jesus Christ, the holy son of God, came to earth so that we too might become like him. The Father disciplines his children — so that we too can receive God’s benefits and be holy.

Application:

I remember getting in trouble as a little girl. I think my mother was probably the parent who meted out the most discipline but that was because my father was often traveling. She would play the organ in church on Sundays and from her perch she could see all four of us, scattered with our adoptive grandmas across the congregation. We all knew that we were to behave in church and if we did not, we would be disciplined very quickly following the service. While this wasn’t the only time that we were disciplined, it was a reminder of how to behave in church. We also learned how to behave in many other instances of life because our parents loved us enough to teach us how to behave.

Most of us have spent time around children who have not been disciplined and it makes life difficult for all involved. I know young families who don’t feel that they can go out because their children won’t behave. The problem is that the parents have not chosen to teach their children how to behave. Unfortunately the children are the ones who will suffer in the long run because their behaviors will be deemed unacceptable by society. Is this truly a loving parent? A loving parent would be willing to put in the effort to discipline their children. Children who understand the boundaries and know how to behave will have a much greater chance of success in this world.

Holiness is not an optional plan for God’s children, it IS God’s desire for his children. If holiness is the very nature of God, then it is God’s desire that his children would reflect his holiness in all things. That means that his nature is to be our nature. As children, we are to be like the father.

Today is Ash Wednesday and we are beginning this Lenten season. The discipline of this season ought to lead us into the holiness of God. I’m not sure that any of us get too excited about discipline. We would like to believe that we can do everything right all the time — but that is simply not the case. That’s why, in love, our Father disciplines us, gently nudging us back onto the pathway so that we can participate in him, sharing in his holiness. Therefore let’s not grumble when we are being disciplined, but accept it, and continue following the Lord into his holiness.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for your discipline.  Amen.


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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

What Else Is There?



Scripture:

Philippians 3:8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Observation:

There seem to be moments when Paul becomes so filled with the idea of Christ that he has to share his passion again and again. There is nothing else in life that even comes close to knowing Christ. The things that he used to value — his reputation, prestige and education — they count as nothing in comparison to participating in Christ and becoming like him.

Paul’s theology informs his life and practice. He believes in the transformational work of Jesus Christ and he doesn’t just believe it — he lives into it. The result is a man who has discovered that above all else in the world there is nothing compared to knowing “Christ and the power of his resurrection.” As a result he is willing to sharing in his sufferings and follow the pathway of Christ in this world, reflecting the love of God. He knows that in the end he will receive his eternal reward but the participation in the eternal has already begun in knowing Christ.

Application:

If there is anything in life that takes precedence over knowing Christ then we are in trouble. Anything else is simply rubbish in Paul’s words.

We certainly don’t like keeping stockpiles of garbage around us — do we? Think of the smell and the health hazards associated with rubbish! And yet, we may be attracted to the things of this world which keep us from knowing the very best that God has for us. When all else becomes important it begins to accumulate, clutter and eventually cause a stink. The overwhelming nature of the rubbish can keep us from seeing Christ and ever getting to know him. The busyness of our lives can keep us from sharing in the life of Christ.

Knowing Christ needs to be the priority of our lives. This is an invitation into a deeply intimate space with our Lord where his heart becomes our heart, his passions our passions, resulting in every sphere of our lives moving in harmony with the direction in which he leads. Once we begin to experience the pull of his gracious and holy love there will be desire for nothing more. There really is nothing else in comparison to him!

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to know you more and more each day. Thank you for your power and presence.  Amen.
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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Removing the Veil


Scripture:

2 Corinthians 3:18

And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

Observation:

The Holy Spirit has the power to remove the veil from our faces. Now, we are invited into a face to face relationship with our Lord. His glory is reflected in our lives as we draw closer to him. We are ever drawn closer to him, step by step, and glory by glory. There is never an end to the journey with our Lord as we are transformed into a reflection of him.

Application:

Remember when the bride used to walk down the aisle with her face covered in a veil? There was something about the moment when the veil was pulled back to reveal the beautiful bride, face to face with her groom. The church is the bride of Christ and yet when we read these words of Paul we realize that there had been a veil that had separated God from his people. In the Old Testament the glory of God was too much for the Israelites and so they asked Moses to cover his face his face with a veil. They looked upon God through a veil and this remained, creating a divide between the bride and the bridegroom. But just as the veil is removed from the face of the bride, so Christ has come to remove the veil. We are invited to look lovingly upon him in all his glory.

Sadly, the Israelites wanted the veil. The light of God's glory was too bright for them to bear, and maybe it shone too brightly on the wickedness of their lives. But now the Holy Spirit has come and can remove the veil...but only if we allow it to be removed. It could be that we find ourselves within the camp of the Israelites, satisfied with a practice of religion that does not challenge us to look God in the face. Just as it would never make sense for a bride to spend her entire life with her face veiled away from her beloved, so it doesn't make sense for God's people to veil themselves away from him. God's plan or desire for his children is that they would be holy and reflect his holiness. With the veil on there is a faint resemblance of his glory, but not much. Jesus can only be reflected when the veil is totally and completely removed.

Are we living a veiled Christianity? The unveiled beauty of Jesus' glory may be a bit overwhelming but it is also transforming. His desire is for us to be ever transformed to become more like him from one glory to the next. This begins with a deeper walk with Christ, where the veil is removed, and then an on-going journey throughout the rest of our lives. The bride, ever united to the groom in a life of constant fidelity.

Prayer

Lord, please continue to draw me close to you and never to allow a veil to cover the things that I find uncomfortable in my own life. Amen.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Hungering for Good Food



Scripture:

John 6:41   Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”

Observation:

The Jews were frustrated with Jesus. There was too much about what he said that bothered them. How could he have been bread from heaven? That claim sounded too much like manna which had been provided in the wilderness — and that came from God. Surely Jesus could not have been equating himself with God! The problem for the Jewish leaders was that they had no appetite for the type of Messiah that he was. They weren’t hungry for his type of bread ”for this bread requires the hunger of the inner person.” (Augustine, “Tractates on the Gospel of John 26.1) When the inner person is not hungry for good food, they won’t recognize it, even when it is served up right before them.

Application:


We have all seen the advertisements for heavenly desserts! The pictures are tantalizingly delicious and our mouths water at the very sight. It is that sight that makes us hunger for the delicious flavors which are available to us. I’ve been known to go out of my way to the Cheesecake Factory or one of our Kansas City Frozen Custard shops, just because I’m hungering for one of their incredible creations.

We will partake of that for which we are hungry. When we are hungry to know the Gospel of Jesus Christ we will go out of our way to dine on the richness of the word of God. I think that the problem may lie in the fact that we may have become so accustomed to eating mediocre spiritual food that we don’t hunger for the good food. Somehow we may have lost our appetite because we have forgotten what really good spiritual food tastes like.

This is what happened to the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, and it’s a warning to us. We may be tempted to complain about the good and rich spiritual food which is available because we have simply lost our appetite. If we get in the habit of eating religious fast food, we will be overwhelmed by the richness of real food when we have the opportunity to eat it. Maybe it’s time to realize that our fast food may be killing us, and that we need to get back to the real thing.

Jesus truly is the “bread that came down from heaven.” He is the manna which we need on a daily basis to sustain us and this is good food. We need to pray that God will heal us of our poor appetites and that we are once again able to stomach all that he has for us. It’s time for us to hunger for good food.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for providing the rich variety of your spiritual food for us.  Amen.

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Monday, February 1, 2016

I Believe!



Scripture:

Hebrews 11: 5 By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and “he was not found, because God had taken him.” For it was attested before he was taken away that “he had pleased God.” 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Observation:

The great chapter on faith draws us into history by speaking of those who have lived by faith. With Enoch we learn of a man who walked so closely with God, so pleased God, that he was taken and didn’t experience death.  At the conclusion of the affirmation of Enoch’s life we receive this bit of instruction which informs the way in which he lived. Faith lies at the core of pleasing God. We must believe in God and who he is and the result is the reward which Enoch received. Enoch is eternally walking with God and by faith, by believing in God we are also invited into that same eternal reward. Enoch was unafraid to declare that which he believed.

Application:

While Enoch was unafraid to declare that which he believed, sometimes I wonder whether we really know what it is that we believe. Could Christians really affirm their beliefs, if they had too, or are we so infused with ideas, thoughts or concepts from the world around us that we don’t really know what we think or believe.

Early in Christian history believers would take time to affirm in the lives of new believers, or of children being raised in the church, our creeds. Those were the “I believe” statements which became critical to faith.  The Apostles Creed is one of those and it begins…

I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth:


The great faith chapter challenges us to speak up for God, in whom we believe. “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Living the Christian life in a time when the world around us is not all that receptive to putting our faith in things unseen is not easy. It never has been easy, and yet it’s the call of the Christ follower. We are to declare that which we believe and live into that faith. That kind of a life reaps its rewards, both now and eternally. I say now, not because we will have an easy life or we will have great material gain, but because those who have faith lead a different kind of life. This is one which is not encumbered by the long-term effects of sin. That itself, is a great reward.




What are you willing to declare today? Can we join in with the “I believe” statements of historical Christianity? When we build our lives on this foundation of faith then we will live lives pleasing to God.

Prayer:


Lord, I believe in you and want to serve you.  Amen.

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