Saturday, April 30, 2016

Waiting for Instruction



Scripture:

Psa. 106:13        But they soon forgot his works;
        they did not wait for his counsel.
14     But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness,
        and put God to the test in the desert;
15     he gave them what they asked,
        but sent a wasting disease among them.

Observation:

God had been revealed as faithful over and over again, constantly supplying the needs of the Israelites. However, for them it was never enough. They were impatient and didn’t want to wait for God’s instruction for their lives. They wanted what they wanted and they wanted it now! They forgot the God of the past and they didn’t want to consult the God of the future. They succumbed to their unsanctified emotions, tiring of the food and becoming frustrated with the leadership God provided. “There comes a point where prayer can become stubborn insistence on our own way and, as an act of just judgment God gives us what we insisted we must have.”  (New Bible Commentary) In this case they are reminded that yes, he gave them food but they were satisfied until they were nauseated! What we think we want may not always be the best thing for us.

Application:

It seems far too easy to forget about the wonderful ways of God. One week we are praising him for his answers to prayer and the next we are wondering whether God is really listening or willing to care for us! We chastise the Israelites and yet there are days when we find ourselves within their very camp.

Learning how to pray takes time and patience, awaiting in God’s holy presence. The more we spend time with him the more we begin to understand his will and how to pray. When we come to him with an insistence on our own plan we need to be careful, because God may just give us what we are insisting upon. The Israelites said they wanted something different to eat and so God gave them meat and they ate until they were sick. Manna from heaven provided them with health and well-being but it didn’t satisfy their selfish desires.

Waiting for instructions from God doesn’t satisfy our selfish desires. Instead, waiting for instructions from God brings about our own transformation. His desires become our desires resulting in instructions that will lead us into his kingdom work where he is already engaged. God is providing the way for us, we are simply to follow. Impatience will lead us to strike off on our own path and suddenly we will find ourselves in selfish territory far from the place where he is already at work. 

Don’t forget what God has done in the past and wait patiently for his leading.

Prayer:

Lord, I want to know your heart. I know I’m not always the most patient, but please, help me to wait upon you.  Amen.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Things We Treasure



Scripture:


Matt. 6:19   “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal;  20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Observation:


Jesus knew how easy it was to treasure the things of this world. His comments here focus on having things made of fabric and metal. The wealthy in Jesus’ day had several outfits of clothing — the poor did not. Clothing that goes unworn is susceptible to moths and metal objects unused or uncared for — to rust. In other words, he is speaking to those who have more than what they need and what happens to those items when they are stored up and unused. But maybe those aren't just physical robes but there are also the robes of office. Moths could also destroy these as well!

The word used here for rust could also be worm, which could be a reference back to the manna of old which could only be used on a daily basis. Too much manna and it turned to worms. The entire concept is one of complete and total dependence upon God who will supply our needs.

Real treasure is that which is incorruptible. Heavenly treasure is that which is transferable from earth and into eternity. This is found in relationships both with God and man and is defined by love of God and love of neighbor. This treasure cannot be stolen, nor can it be corrupted by earthly forces. We will be defined by the things that we treasure.

Application:

In the last five years we have moved twice. I really don’t like moving and all the work it entails but one thing it makes you do — is that you sort through all your stuff. Should you move the “stuff” or not? There tends to be a major purging with each move because as you look at the “stuff” you realize that there is so much that you don’t need. There are all the things you haven’t even noticed for a couple of years. Why do you have them? Why should you have them? Who knows! I love cleaning things out and getting rid of lots of stuff and just getting down to what we really need.

Spiritually we need to have these times of evaluation as well. Earthly treasures may not just be things that we accumulate but it may be the ways in which our calendars are filled. What has become most important to us? Is Church attendance still a treasure to us and our lives? What about spending time in the word? How much time do we spend in prayer?

The things that we treasure will define who we are and what we become. Whether we want to admit it or not our treasure pulls at our heartstrings. Therefore our heart can be given away to a sports team, a new car, a new home, another trip or to our well-deserved “free time.” In the meantime there is a world that desperately needs to know the love of Jesus. Sadly, they won’t experience the love of Jesus because the hearts of God’s people are too tied up with their treasures.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to treasure the things that you would treasure.  Amen.

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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Discipline and Holiness



Scripture:

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

Observation:


There will be difficulties for the life of the Christ-follower. There has never been a promise that things would be easy. These difficulties are to be seen as discipline. Every loving parent disciplines their children because if they do not, the children will never learn the boundaries within which to live their lives. Children without boundaries become a detriment to themselves and to society as a whole. It is through discipline that a child takes on the characteristics of the one who provides the discipline. The child’s behaviors begin to mimic those of the parent. For the disciple of Jesus Christ, it is through discipline that we take on the very character of God in Christ. That is, we become holy as he is holy. This happens because God, our Father, loves us and wants us to participate in his holy loving nature.

Application:

Today I’ve been hanging out with my daughter and son-in-law in Michigan. They happen to be parents to our only grandchild — Mackenzie, who is now 9 months old. Quite recently she has become extremely mobile and you have to keep an eye on her or before you know it, you will find her climbing on furniture, crawling into spaces where she’s not to be, or touching things she is not to touch. One of those spaces where she is not to be is the hearth of the fireplace. They’ve been teaching her that she is not to go off the carpet and touch the marble. Just this afternoon she was speeding across the room and made her way up to the marble. She stopped just short, lifted up her hand as if to touch, but first turned and looked at her daddy. At nine months of age she has already learned that some things are just not good for you and yet, she was testing her father. Just as she was ready to put her hand down where it should not be her daddy swooped in and picked her up, lovingly and gently telling her no. She got the message and didn’t return to that place.

My daughter and son-in-law are disciplining Mackenzie because they want the very best for her. She may not always appreciate the boundaries which they have already established for her life, but without those boundaries she would be in serious danger.

Our heavenly father loves us more than we can ever imagine and if we are going through difficult days and are feeling disciplined — thank him! He loves us and wants the very best for us — and that is to participate in his holiness. This is the very character of God and we are invited to participate in who he is. For us, it becomes transformational and provides us with hope while living in a very difficult world. Sometimes God’s work in our lives may seem painful, but the discipline comes out of sheer love and a desire for us to be his holy children.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to be grateful for your discipline in my life.  Amen.


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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Prayer and Action



Scripture:

1 Thess. 1:6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit,  7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.

Observation:

The followers of Jesus Christ in Thessalonica were inspired by the life of Paul and his ministry team. They were genuine and transparent in the way they lived their lives. They were a people of prayer, inspired by the Holy Spirit. This led them to be an active people of faith, living out and imitating the life of Paul. They had seen the ways in which he was persecuted but this did not stop them from boldly living out their faith. They combined their prayers with the imitation of Paul and of Christ — actions which spoke louder than their words. Their lives became an example to those in the entire region.

Application:

The daily challenge of the Christian life is the call to action. We are to rise up and follow Christ into the world. There is no promise that this will be easy, or that we will not face persecution. On the contrary, if we follow Christ, we will face difficulties — for Christ did!

Spending time in prayer with our heavenly Father empowers us for action. The followers in Thessalonica received the word of God and “with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit.” This was what empowered them for work and ministry. Their own lives became a living testament to the transformational work and power of the Holy Spirit.

After time in the word and in prayer, we are empowered to engage in Jesus’ ministry in this world. There may be seasons when we are called to prayer and we must wait upon the Lord’s nudging before moving and/or acting. But don’t use prayer as an excuse to not engage in action for the kingdom’s sake. Jesus often got away to spend time with the Father in prayer and then got up and to the business of ministry.

Prayer is the place where get to know the very heart of God, and then we rise up and follow his leading. In this way our lives, too, become an example for the believers. May God give us the grace to enter into this kind of a relationship with our loving Savior.

Prayer:


Lord, please help me to be joyfully inspired by the Holy Spirit and spurred into action for you.  Amen.

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Behind the Scenes



Scripture:

Col. 4:10   Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, as does Mark the cousin of Barnabas, concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him.

Observation:
 
Paul sends greetings to the church in Collosae from  Aristarchus. He is a Macedonian from Thessalonica, possibly of Jewish ancestry. He journeys with Paul and during the riots of Ephesus is caught up by the crowd. Later we see him in Jerusalem when they return from Paul’s third missionary journey. Finally he goes to Rome with Paul where we discover that he is a fellow prisoner, jailed with the Apostle. Church tradition tells us that he is martyred in Rome by Nero. While this is all we know about him, he seemed to have faithfully served behind the scenes with Paul.

Application:


There aren’t very many people throughout history that are like the Apostle Paul. It seems that from time to time there will be a great religious leader through whom God will work to do powerful and amazing things. But these folks appear on very rare occasions. The day to day work of the Lord is accomplished by those who are willing to work behind the scenes, doing the difficult work, getting their hands dirty, and following Jesus out into the angry mobs.

Aristarchus took the brunt of the silversmiths’ anger in Ephesus so that Paul could be protected. He understood his role in the mission of God. He didn’t try to be Paul — but he appears to have done everything possible to make Paul’s ministry successful.

Social media tends promise to make everyone into a “star.” We can get attention for everything that we do — whether we want to or not. In some ways it feeds our egos, also producing a chemical response in our brains that makes us want to go back and get more and more likes — more and more attention — becoming validated by how the world responds to what we do.

I believe that Aristarchus intentionally served behind the scenes so that Paul’s work and ministry would be fruitful. He may have willingly gone to prison just to serve Paul. He gave his very life in service to Jesus and yet, most of us have probably hardly ever noticed his name.

Probably the most faithful servants of Jesus Christ are those who will never get the big “shout-outs” or attention. They are too busy serving the Lord faithfully, day in and day out to be bothered and so they continue to work behind the scenes, faithfully engaged in the mission of God.

Prayer:

Lord, I am grateful for your sons and daughters who faithfully serve you every day and may never be noticed.  Amen.

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Friday, April 15, 2016

In Zebulun and Naphtali



Scripture:


Matt. 4:12    Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee.  13 He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali,  14 so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
15     “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
        on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16     the people who sat in darkness
        have seen a great light,
    and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
        light has dawned.”
17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Observation:

The regions of Zebulun and Naphtali had belonged to the northern kingdom of Israel and fell to Babylon long before Jerusalem. The darkness of their journey was well known by the religious Jews and they were not held in great respect. Nazareth and Capernaum are found in Zebulun and Naphtali, certainly not places of great light in the eyes of the Jewish leaders. The prophecy of Isaiah was coming to pass as Jesus returned to this region and brought with him the great light of salvation. Amazingly it is often in the very worst places that God reaches out and brings his healing power.

This was the region of the shadow of death and the people had been sitting there for a long time. They’re not even on the move or trying to get out. Something has blocked their view of the light of God. They are not dead but they are overshadowed and remain in darkness when suddenly the light of Christ comes and begins to dawn. He proclaims that which is so similar to the preaching of his cousin, John. It’s time to repent for the kingdom is near!

Application:


We don’t have to physically go to Zebulun and Naphtali. We can end up there emotionally and spiritually when we turn our back on the Lord. It’s easy for the “religious” folks to scoff at those who find themselves at the very brink of destruction. Just like the good leaders in Jerusalem, we may be tempted to avoid those who are sitting in darkness. The reality is that it’s no fun living in Zebulun and Naphtali. People were born in Capernaum and Nazareth — and they had no control over the fate which they had received. They were poor. They didn’t have the benefits of Jerusalem. Life was not easy and so they just plugged along and sat in the shadow of death. They had no hope, and there had been no hope in their region for a long time.

All over the world we have people living in a modern-day Zebulun and Naphtali. We don’t want to go there. It’s not pleasant and we may even think that they deserve their fate. That’s not what Jesus thought or did. He went to the place that had suffered in darkness for the longest time and ministered there — bringing them his light.

As we follow Christ out in the world we must follow him to Zebulun and Naphtali. That place is different for everyone — but go we must. It’s in Zebulun and Naphtali that we will find Jesus already ministering and we are to go and join him in his mission. This is his great calling to you and to me. The shadow of darkness will lift for we will be bearers of his light.

Be willing to travel with Jesus to Zebulun and Naphtali — and proclaim the good news of the kingdom!

Prayer:


Lord, please help me be willing to go where you would send me.  Amen.


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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Perfect Image



Scripture:


Col. 1:15   He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;

Observation:

There is so much about Christ that is difficult for us to understand or to explain. Jesus “is the image of the invisible God.” As incarnate man he reveals to us the very nature of God and is an exact and perfect image of God. It is in the Scriptures that we read and discover all that we need to know about the Father, for the Father is revealed in the Son. In the Son we see the visible and the invisible nature of God. He is able to perform the works of the Father. It is through his power and activity that the Father is revealed. It’s not the physical image of the Father that we see, but it is the very perfect image of the nature of the Father which is revealed in Christ. The Father is seen in Christ because he performs the Fathers works. Jesus is not defined by what he became in the flesh alone, but by his nature; by who he is.

Jesus is the “eikon” of God. This is not just a symbol but it’s a term that means more than a symbol --  one that brings with it the actual presence of the object. Therefore he becomes the visible expression, or manifestation of God. Paul’s understanding is that Jesus bears “the image of the earthly, Adam, and the image of the heavenly, God. He was the unique manifestation of both God and man, always embodying the best of both wherever he was. In choosing the word ‘image,’ Paul stressed that God was present wherever Jesus was. He was the personal manifestation of deity.” (Melick, R. R. 1991) Jesus, the perfect image of the invisible God.

Application:

This blog is titled, “Reflecting the Image.” If we are going to reflect the Image, then maybe we need to understand a little more about the Image. In the early centuries of Christianity people tried to explain what it meant for Christ to be fully God and fully human. I believe that Paul was trying to explain this in this passage. In the opening chapters of Genesis we read about God creating humankind in his image. It is in Jesus that we see God and humanity coming together, providing a hopeful future for God’s children. Jesus came in the flesh, died and was resurrected so that we might draw closer to him — and reflect his image.

It is this perfect image that we are to reflect in the world. This includes the nature of the invisible God! The closer a mirror is to the original, the larger the original will be in that mirror. The closer we draw to Christ the more that we will reflect him and the Father’s nature and power. I’m afraid we see too little of God’s nature at work in the world these days and it’s not that God isn’t able, but it may be that we are too distant from him to be participating with him in these ways.

To get to know God, we need to be soaking in the scriptures and spending time in prayer. We need to be seeking his face and he will draw us closer to him. In this way the image of the invisible God will be reflected into our needy world. We become the instruments that God uses to fulfill his purposes. Get to know and reflect the Image.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to know you more.  Amen.

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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Sharing Christ’s Sufferings



Scripture:

1Pet. 4:12    Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  13 But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. 

Observation:

We don’t often like to consider the idea of suffering and yet we find it in scripture. Ordeals and difficulties are not something strange, but they are part of the ordinary of life. Christ suffered for us by way of his death on the cross. As we participate in the life of Christ we may also suffer for the life of Christ. The glory of Christ is revealed when he is clearly reflected in us. If Christ suffered for our sake, we may also be asked to suffer for the sake of others. This is Christ in us — and our participation in him.

Application:

Getting to really know Christ takes us to places where we may not feel comfortable. Jesus did not live a life of security within the walls of the temple in Jerusalem. He was God incarnate and he walked the dusty roads of his country reaching out to the neediest of people and touching them with his life. He suffered just so that he could minister. He was the object of ridicule and scorn and yet he remained faithful to the mission.

We are called to follow Christ and to remain true to the mission. We don’t talk about this much but it requires dying out and wholeheartedly sharing life with our Savior. We walk where he walks — we talk as he would talk — we minister as he would minister — and as a result, we share in his sufferings. This is simply a normal part of the Christian life; or at least it ought to be.

Making Christlike disciples in the nations — rejoicing with glad hearts because his glory is revealed when we look like him in all things. Therefore, I rejoice in my sufferings.

Prayer:

Lord, I want to know you and participate with you in your mission in this world.  Amen.
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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Just Enough



Scripture:

Ex. 16:13   In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.  14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground.  15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.  16 This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person according to the number of persons, all providing for those in their own tents.’”  17 The Israelites did so, some gathering more, some less.  18 But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed.  19 And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over until morning.”  20 But they did not listen to Moses; some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul. And Moses was angry with them.  21 Morning by morning they gathered it, as much as each needed; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.

Observation:

When you think about this amazing miracle of provision it is a bit overwhelming. As the people moved from place to place it would be difficult to feed them all. Carrying extra food with them would have been a challenge and so God provided exactly what they needed — when they needed it. There was no need to hoard any extra for God would provide again the next day. If they were obedient, he would provide.

Application:

Last evening my daughter sent me a video of our granddaughter playing in the bathtub. She was squealing with delight as enjoyed her toys and the nice warm water. As I watched that video I thought about God’s desire for us, as his children. My granddaughter doesn’t worry about anything. Her every need is provided by her parents. They feed her, change her and love her. They give her just the right amount of food when she needs it — and she never has to worry about where her next meal is going to come from. It’s all cared for!

Jesus reminded us that we were to be as little children. Over and over again in the Scriptures God has shown himself to be faithful. The Israelites discovered that they could depend upon him day after day to provide just enough. This was significant as well. Just imagine if my daughter and son-in-law would give our granddaughter all of her food for a week on Monday. That would be really ridiculous. What would she do with it? (Probably wear it) — And that would look silly.

Our spiritual growth and development comes when we depend upon the Lord for daily provision. This includes the spiritual and emotional strength for all that we will encounter. It is the provision of all that we need to serve him faithfully in the kingdom. It may not always be what we thought it would be — but it is what we need. God provides us with enough of who he is to match the challenges of every day. The Israelites would have enough to eat if they would go out and gathered it. We will have enough provision if we have our daily soak in his holy presence. In that place God will provide just enough.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for your incredible love and peace.  Amen.


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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A Constant, On-Going Action



Scripture:


4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.

Observation:

Judas has left the intimate group of disciples and is going about his business. In the meantime Jesus is giving the remaining disciples instructions that will help them survive all that they will face in the days, weeks, and years to come. They are instructions for them but also for all those disciples who will come later. Judas has chosen to separate himself from Jesus and the rest of the disciples. He has gone off on his own and the results will be disastrous. Jesus gives the remedy for this type of disaster and it has to do with abiding.

That one simple word “abide” can teach us much about our spiritual lives. The form of this word in Greek indicates a constant, on-going action. This is not a one-time occurrence, but this is a constant all day, every day on-going connection to the vine. Other translators have suggested that we consider the word “reside.” That may make even more sense to us — to take up residence in the house of the Lord and stay there!

The whole story is about understanding our dependence up on him. We must depend upon the Lord in all things. Branches that are not attached to the vine will have no chance of bearing fruit. “We are in Christ by grace; but we need to realize and accentuate the union by meditation and prayer. Waiting more absolutely for His impulses in intercession and action. Being silent for Him to speak. Drawing on Him by the constant appeal of faith, which becomes as natural as breathing. Looking away to Him for His commendation. Seeking only His verdict on what may have been said and done. So closely joined to Him, that He may produce in and through us whatever fruit He will for the refreshment of men and the glory of God.” (F.B. Meyer, Our Daily Homily)

Abiding.

Residing.

It’s not about a single experience, or even two experiences. This is about an intentional every-day, on-going action in which we are connected and dependent upon the vine.

Application:

The text is clear and it is also convicting. Abiding in him must be a priority in our lives. Paul said to “pray without ceasing.” (I Thess. 5:17) This is a form of abiding. It is a spirit or an attitude in our lives where we set up residence in our relationship with Jesus Christ. The result is that he is the leader in every aspect of our lives. We are simply the participants in his leading and guiding.

God gives us the grace to abide. This is not something that happens out of our own sheer will-power or self-discipline. Jesus reached out to his disciples with love and grace and welcomed them into this intimate fellowship. Once there, it was not a chore to remain. Yes, Judas slipped away but the others eventually did not. Peter denied Jesus before he got all the way to that point but Jesus never stopped loving any of them. He was constantly drawing them toward him and he is doing the same today.

Feeling the gentle nudge of Christ’s love we simply follow him to that place of abiding. We take a deep breath and realize that he is in control and that our responsibility is to follow. This is residing or abiding. It’s a peaceful place where we place all of our trust in the vine who provides and nourishes. It’s a constant and on-going action.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the promise and potential of abiding.  Amen.


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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Grace Empowered Holiness



Scripture:

1Pet. 1:13   Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed.  14 Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance.  15 Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct;  16 for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Observation:

Peter charges Christ-followers to be prepared for action and to be imitators of Christ. All of this can only be seen or understood in light of the first 12 verses of the chapter. If we fail to see the grace of God at work in his children we will be more inclined to see this as a type of “works salvation.” That is not at all what the author had in mind. Instead it is a grace-filled holiness to which we are called. As the grace of God reaches out to his children we are drawn into a deeper relationship with Christ. It is in this koinonia, or fellowship, that we begin to take on the characteristics of the one with whom we are fellowshipping.

The understanding here for obedience is unique. The Hebrew phrase sees “obedience is a mother, whose characteristics the children should inherit.” (New Bible Commentary) Again, this is a gracious act, one that is handed down to the children from their mother. The family likeness is revealed in the children as they reflect the Image. We are to become like the family and in doing so, we reflect holiness. This is holiness empowered by grace; a grace that draws us ever closer into a deeper relationship with our holy God.

Application:

Grace and holiness have not always found their way into the same sentence. Unfortunately holiness has been mentioned more often within the context of a list of obedient behaviors than it has with grace.

Holiness really is a part of God’s plan of salvation because it is God’s character. As dearly loved children we are to look like the family. Sadly, I see too many Christians making excuses for looking like the world. The idea of holiness seems far too foreign but it could be because we are not taking time to be with the family.

There are too many distractions from family life. I think of the numbers of families that I see at a restaurant, supposedly eating together. The problem is that they are all on their electronic devices, from young to old, and are not paying any attention to one another. The art of conversation seems to be lost! How will these people develop into a family if they are not intentional about being a family?

The same is true for our spiritual family. If we are distracted by the things of the world, we will be like the world. To be like Christ means we have to put down the electronic devices and spend time in his holy presence. It is there that we experience his transformative grace. It is this grace which empowers us for holy living, a holy living that reflects the very nature of God.

Don’t be overwhelmed by thinking that you need to figure out how to live the life of holiness; spend time with God and then reflect his character. This is grace empowered holiness.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to reflect you today.  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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Monday, April 4, 2016

Troubling Times



Scripture:


John 14:1   “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.

Observation:

Jesus knew what he was facing and that the potential existed for the faith of his disciples to be shattered. There is a direct connection to the final conversation of the previous chapter where Jesus predicts the denial of Peter and the next phase of his own journey which will end in death. That’s why this statement is so powerful, it is sandwiched between denial and death and yet he tells his followers to not let their hearts be troubled.

The words of comfort come in the very short statement, “Believe in God, believe also in me.” It is this connection, that Jesus, himself is God which is to be of great comfort to them. The power of God is in Christ and if that is true, then no evil will be able to prevail against them. They didn’t realize that they were on the brink of catastrophic failure and he was providing them with words of comfort in advance. Troubling times were about to prevail upon them and they were to remember that the power of God was also at work and in this they were not to allow their hearts to be troubled.

Application:

I’m not sure that we can even begin to imagine the pain which the disciples were about to experience. Jesus knew the path ahead and that it was going to be extremely difficult for his followers. He had tried to prepare them and yet, he knew that they were going to struggle.

The Lord knows all about the troubling times which we are facing today. He understands about the changing context of our world and what appears to be an increased hostility toward Christianity. The Lord knows about the onslaught of secularism and the things of this world which vie for our attention. He knows about the strained relationships and the pain that you are experiencing. His words ring true today. This is not a time for our hearts to be troubled because standing before us is our Savior, the risen Lord. Believe in him and you believe in God also.

Troubling times are subdued by resurrection power. What we are facing today is of no surprise to God and what we need has already been provided. Listen to what is being said and lean into the truth that is being given.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for your timeless promises.  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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Saturday, April 2, 2016

Smoke and Mirrors



Scripture:


Mark 12:18   Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, saying,  19 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that ‘if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.’  20 There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children;  21 and the second married her and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise;  22 none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died.  23 In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her.”

Mark 12:24   Jesus said to them, “Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God?  25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.  26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?  27 He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.”

Observation:

This whole scenario is a bit odd. The Sadducees were the wealthy individuals of the higher social class. They were materialists in the sense that they didn’t believe in life after death and therefore everything they did was for gain in this lifetime. There would be no real reason to come and question Jesus about the resurrection for the concept was of no consequence to them. What they wanted to do was to try and stump him with a question they felt would be too difficult for him. Somehow they were trying to disprove his authority with “smoke and mirrors” — talking about something that was not their real concern.

Jesus could not be fooled and he turns the entire question and scenario back on them. He makes it quite clear that they don’t seem to know their scriptures, nor do they know the power of God. This is quite an indictment of these men of standing in the community. They would have been very proud of their education and yet, he’s telling them that they are “quite wrong.” He is showing them that the idea of the resurrection could be proved by way of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’s relationship with God. God is a living God and by being in relationship with him, even the patriarchs have caught eternal life. Now, through Christ we are offered a new life that demonstrates the power of God. No smoke or mirrors — just a clear view of our Lord and eternal life through the power of his resurrection.

Application:


Sometimes we don’t want to let Jesus see what the real issue is in our lives. We cover things up by focusing on things that are not the real thing. It’s why people who call themselves Christians allow themselves to become distracted by arguments that protect them from having to take a hard look at their own spiritual lives.

Jesus isn’t fooled and he looks right beyond all the smoke and mirrors and gets down to our heart issues. Do we know the scriptures? Do we believe them? Why are we not acting like we do? When we live in a relationship with the resurrected Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, then we will know resurrection power. This power will allow us to live above the smoke and mirrors and deal with the real struggles that we are facing. God loves us and desperately wants to help us live in authentic and genuine ways. When we honestly and openly seek to know Christ we must stand transparently before him and allow him to do his work in us. This is when transformation occurs and his resurrection power is revealed in us.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me not to be tempted to hide behind the smoke and mirrors.  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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Friday, April 1, 2016

Remembrance resulting in Transformation



Scripture:

Luke 24:6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee,  7 that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”  8 Then they remembered his words,

Observation:

We know that Jesus had been teaching the disciples about the resurrection. This had occurred while they were traveling throughout the Galilee. We recognize here that the women had obviously been a part of the group of the disciples for they, too, had heard Jesus’ teaching. When the angels tell them to remember, they are being reminded of the words which Jesus had spoken to them. It is also an inclusion of the women into the close-knit group of disciples who had spent their time in service to Jesus. We see that not only are they encouraged to remember, but they do, indeed, remember what Jesus had told them. In the act of remembering they embrace his words and step into a life of discipleship and a new paradigm in which earthly barriers are destroyed in active kingdom living.

Application:

Family devotions were a regular feature of my life growing up. We would have breakfast together and then my parents would read from Egermeier’s Bible Story Book. Day after day, year after year, we read through that book. Years later I was sitting in a New Testament class in college and was rather pleased that I could remember so many of the stories of my childhood. They were there in my mind and had been pressed into my life because I had heard them over and over. Now, as a young adult the stories were not just stories, but they became transformational as they took on life and new meaning.

The stories of the scripture are meant to be real and life-giving. They are not just stories but when we remember and believe, they become transformational. In the case of these women they opened the door to a complete shift in societal understanding. They literally stepped into kingdom life where “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28, NRSV) When we see the opening chapter of Acts the women are there in the upper room praying. They are now in the central place, included with the disciples. It is in the moment of remembering Jesus’ words — that they were physically present with him — that everything is altered.

You and I are changed when we embrace that which we have heard. "Jesus is Risen!" Those are not just words — but they are an invitation into transformation.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the reminder and challenge to live into your life-giving words.  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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