Monday, May 30, 2016

At the End of It All



Scripture:

Eccl. 2:9   So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem; also my wisdom remained with me.  10 Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them; I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil.  11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and again, all was vanity and a chasing after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.
Eccl. 2:12    So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly; for what can the one do who comes after the king? Only what has already been done.  13 Then I saw that wisdom excels folly as light excels darkness.

14     The wise have eyes in their head,
        but fools walk in darkness.

 Yet I perceived that the same fate befalls all of them.  15 Then I said to myself, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also; why then have I been so very wise?” And I said to myself that this also is vanity. 

Observation:

What was it that the Teacher had learned about wisdom and folly? He had seen that folly had led the wealthy to obtain all that their eyes could see. As all of these “things” were considered; every toy that a heart could want was entertained and yet there was never a deep sense of satisfaction. It was like chasing after the wind.

Wisdom provided a way for life that was much better than pleasure. Having wisdom was like walking in the brightness of daylight while fools stumble around in the darkness.

No matter what path we have chosen for life there will come a time when we face the end of it all. If we have been too proud about the things we have obtained, or the wisdom we have, we will discover that it is all vanity.

Application:

At the end of it all we begin to evaluate how we have lived our lives. All the “stuff” that we have to maintain eventually becomes tiring. It takes more work to manage it all than it’s worth. Many of my friends are speaking of “downsizing” these days. As we look over all that we have accumulated through life I’m sure we have moments where we wonder why we have what we do!

Wisdom is different than stuff. We don’t have to clear it out of our homes for it goes with us to the very end. Investing in wisdom has the potential of a greater return, but only if it is lived in submission to the Lord. Seeking education or wisdom simply because one wants to be greater than others will also lead to vanity. We are not to take pride in the wisdom which we receive from God but it is to be used in humble service to the kingdom.

In those moments of introspection may we consider what it is that receives so much of our time, money and attention. Is it worth it? At the end of it all we may discover that it has been folly. What we are called to is a life of faith, with everything done in submission to the Lord. Seek first the kingdom of God! When that is the case then the end will come, as it does for all, but it will not be seen as vanity — but as reflection of the King.

Prayer:

LORD, please keep me from an distractions that would not lead to you.  Amen.

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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Persistence in Prayer



Scripture:

Luke 11:5   And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread;  6 for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’  7 And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’  8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

Luke 11:9   “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.  11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish?  12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?  13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Observation:

Just after teaching him followers how to pray — the Lord’s prayer — Jesus continues with additional instructions. Helping his followers then and now to understand the importance of persistence he tells a story. A friend will eventually answer the door and share his bread just because you persist in knocking. If this is the case with an earthly friend — who will share with you when you are in need — imagine the response of our heavenly Father!

We are to seek on-going and continuous spiritual growth in our lives. Persistence in prayer will take us further and further in that journey as the Father hears and answers our prayers. God will give the gift of the Spirit to all who ask and the spiritual blessings will continue. 

Application:

The encouragement for followers of Jesus Christ is to meet with God regularly in prayer. It is in the space of prayer that we learn to become persistent about the things of God. God molds us and shapes us because in prayer we spend time in fellowship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The persistence comes from the longing to return to that space in God’s holy presence. We are encouraged to ask, seek and knock because as we do, we are led into deeper spaces of participation with God.

Yes, God provides for our daily bread but then, so much more! We are invited into knowing God and experiencing life in the fullness of the Spirit. Do not give up! Be persistent in asking, abiding, and participating and your time in prayer will become the space of transformation.

Prayer:

LORD, I am awed by the invitation to spend time in your holy presence. Thank you.  Amen.

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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Avoiding the Chatter



Scripture:


1Tim. 6:20   Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the profane chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge;  21 by professing it some have missed the mark as regards the faith.
 Grace be with you.

Observation:

Paul had invested heavily in Timothy and was proud of the work that he was doing. He encouraged him to remain faithful to the teaching he had received. There would always be those around who would want to lead him in a different direction; those who enjoyed spending lengthy time in debate, but that time in chatter just might begin a trajectory that could lead in the wrong direction. It may have been the beginning of Gnosticism that was creeping into the Christian world, this emphasis on “knowledge” but Timothy was to have none of it.  What had been handed to Timothy was sacred and he was entrusted to be a good steward. In doing so, he was to avoid all the distractions that would keep him from the task at hand.

Application:

I think people have always been drawn to “chatter.” Don’t we love to grab a cup of coffee and debate the issues of the day — political and theological? Sometimes, however, we can get so caught up in the conversation that we fail to rise above and see the consequences of some of the trajectories of our thought. In the early centuries of Christianity there were those who came up with some interesting ideas about the Trinity and about the nature of Christ but taken to their end there would be no salvation. Those who were caught up in the chatter were unable to see the danger in the arguments and suffered from a bit of near-sidedness.

We are to guard that which has been entrusted to us, and it is precious in the eyes of the Lord! As followers of Jesus Christ we are stewards of the faith which we have received. We have a responsibility to care for and use it well. What will the Master discover when he returns? Have we minded the kingdom or have we let it go? Is there good fruit or is the kingdom overrun with weeds and garbage? If we live into the chatter we may become so distracted that we will forget that which is vital and essential.

Guard the faith. Avoid the chatter and live into God’s grace.

Prayer:

LORD, thank you for words of encouragement that reach our ears.  Amen.

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Sowing Mustard Seeds



Scripture:

Matt. 13:31   He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field;  32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

Observation:

For Jesus, trying to help the people understand the heavenly kingdom was not easy. They were consumed with the idea of a political kingdom and a Messiah who would lead them into a new era. Instead, Jesus continued preaching about the kingdom of heaven which was very difficult for them to comprehend. He would speak to the people in parables, telling them stories that just might help them comprehend what he meant. The kingdom of heaven was not large, nor was it visible in ways the people may have imagined or thought they wanted, and yet, it was to be transformative. Jesus had come to sow seeds of faith the size of mustard seeds. Yes, they were small and yet, when planted would grow into a large plant or tree. Jesus was planting those mustard seeds and the results would be simply astonishing. He was inviting his followers to join with him in sowing mustard seeds.

Application:

This week I have been enjoying the privilege of teaching a class on the history of early Christianity. Specifically from the time that the church became involved in the affairs of government, or when the Emperor began to be the one who called church council meetings. Instead of embracing the sowing of mustard seeds, Christianity became enticed by the power of kingdoms. In doing so Christianity lost much of her innocence and compromised the purity of her faith. She was seeing phenomenal results as hundreds of thousands of people converted. But was it for the right reason? Were people really living the way in which Christ would have been pleased?

Jesus challenges us to be sowers of mustard seeds. The world may not even notice because they are so small. They grow because of their particular cellular code— it’s the way God created them to be! Living into God’s mission may, at times, hardly be visible. The growth and the results are in God’s hands, not ours. We are simply to be busy sowing the mustard seeds.

Prayer:

LORD, please help me to live into your mustard seed kingdom.  Amen.

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Dwelling and Delighting



Scripture:

Psa. 37:3        Trust in the LORD, and do good;
        so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
4     Take delight in the LORD,
        and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Observation:


Again the Psalmist reminds us of the priorities of life. When we are consumed by our difficulties we are encouraged to trust in the LORD. In the midst of trusting we are to continue to do good and not to succumb to pressure. We are to dwell in the land which many ancient commentators believe refers to abiding or dwelling the Lord. David was a man who lived much of his life in exile and yet, he found a place to call home, and that was the heart of the LORD. He learned to dwell in the presence of God on high and here he enjoyed security. If you can imagine his life on the run there was not an earthly home which provided him with security but dwelling in God’s presence was a daily reminder that he was secure in the arms of God.

Resting and dwelling in God’s presence resulted in delight. When David trusted in the LORD, even in the midst of his difficulty he found joy and delight. The sun shone bright, the rain fell, daily life continued and there was delight in the little things. When we dwell in the presence of God then he brings a delight to our lives that we would not typically find possible. The result is that he gives us the desires of our heart.

For most days of David’s life he did not have an overabundance of luxury. Yes, there was a period of time when he did, but I don’t believe this was one of those times. Instead, the desires of the heart are those things which we need to sustain us on a day by day basis. Really, we don’t need too much — we need just enough. David knew how to dwell and delight.

Application:

Life can become pretty complicated but this Psalm seems to call us back to simplicity. When we live in simplicity we are able to take the time to dwell in the land — dwell in God’s holy presence. Seeking first his kingdom becomes the priority of our lives and therefore on a daily basis we seek out time to simply dwell with him. The enveloping presence of God’s peace can be overwhelming when we quietly dwell with him.

God’s character can be, at times, a bit of a surprise — an overwhelmingly pleasant surprise. There is joy and delight that we may have never imagined. God loves it when we spend time with him! We delight in him — and he delights in us. It’s mutual! In this time of mutual indwelling his passions become our passions and his desires become our desires. In this way he gives us the desires of our heart — which are the desires of his heart — and there is mutual satisfaction. We discover the joy of participating with God in his mission in this world. This can only come about by dwelling and delighting.

Prayer:

LORD, please help me to slow down in you today.  Amen.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Waiting With Confident Hope



Scripture:

Psa. 38:15        But it is for you, O LORD, that I wait;
        it is you, O LORD my God, who will answer.
16     For I pray, “Only do not let them rejoice over me,
        those who boast against me when my foot slips.”

Observation:


David had experience waiting on the LORD. His life was filled with many ups and downs and I’m sure he wondered, at times, when God was going to show up! However, he had also learned that he could trust in the LORD. God was faithful, from beginning to end. He chose to wait on the LORD. David also knew that there would be times when he might slip up and that there would be people waiting to gloat over him when he slipped. This he too brought before the LORD as he waited with confident hope in the one who had never let him down.

Application:


Sometimes it can seem difficult to continue to trust in the LORD. We want to take matters into our own hands. Somehow David had learned the lesson that it wasn’t worth it to try and take control of things on his own. He had learned the secret of the long haul, and that was to trust, day by day in the God of all hope. It’s better to wait on the LORD, than to try and do it yourself. This is why we are invited to join David in waiting with confident hope.

Prayer:


LORD, thank you for your promises and so, we wait for you.  Amen.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Ut migraturus habita



Scripture:

Psa. 39:12        “Hear my prayer, O LORD,
        and give ear to my cry;
        do not hold your peace at my tears.
    For I am your passing guest,
        an alien, like all my forebears.
13     Turn your gaze away from me, that I may smile again,
        before I depart and am no more.”

Observation:

The Latin phrase  “ut migraturus habita” is translated, live as if you were about to move. David knew this kind of life from personal experience. He cries out to God to hear his prayer for he is constantly living as if he were about to move. He has been an alien in the land and yet continually went to the LORD for refuge. Now, he begins to ponder his final journey. The LORD has loved his “aliens” — those who have sojourned in the land. God will provide protection for those who continue the journey, even to the very end of life.

Application:

The Christian walk is a journey, one in which we are in continual motion, moving toward the final goal. We are to live every single day, as if we were about to move. We are to live as aliens or refugees in the land, only carrying with us that which we need for the day. When we linger too long in one location we put down roots which may keep us from being ready to move when God calls.

God’s promise is one of provision for those who will sojourn with him. Just as the manna was provided on a daily basis in the wilderness so those who journey with the Lord will experience his faithful provision. We are God’s passing guest, and as such he will be with us and walk with us, hand in hand, for the duration of our visit. Weeping along the journey, the LORD comes and brings his peace.

We don’t know what tomorrow will hold and so we live today as if we were about to move. It may be our final journey but if we have sojourned with the LORD, he will lead us by the hand and we will be comfortable for it will simply be another step in our journey with him.

Prayer:
LORD, I am your passing guest and I am grateful for your provision.  Amen.

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Monday, May 23, 2016

The Refugee Finds a Home



Scripture:


Psa. 15:0   A Psalm of David.
1     O LORD, who may abide in your tent?
        Who may dwell on your holy hill?
 
Psa. 15:2        Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right,
        and speak the truth from their heart;
3     who do not slander with their tongue,
        and do no evil to their friends,
        nor take up a reproach against their neighbors;
4     in whose eyes the wicked are despised,
        but who honor those who fear the LORD;
    who stand by their oath even to their hurt;
5     who do not lend money at interest,
        and do not take a bribe against the innocent.

Observation:


David had experienced displacement in his life. He had spent plenty of time wandering and wondering whether he would ever be able to settle in at a place he could call home. Through this experience he discovered what it meant to sojourn and to find a place of abiding. No matter where he was geographically, he was able to abide within the tent of the LORD.

This Psalm becomes an invitation into the tent, or sanctuary of the LORD. This is a place where those who are not at home on this earth may find a place to settle down and rest — and to abide in God’s holy presence.

But who may enter that tent? Who can abide in that place with God? How does the wanderer — or the refugee find a home?

The remainder of the Psalm sounds a bit like a reiteration of the ten commandments. Those who abide are those who become a part of the LORD’s family, and in doing so take upon themselves his characteristics. To live on the holy hill is to be consumed by the very holy love which is the nature of God. The results of that abiding include all of the attributes mentioned. God’s people are transformed when dwelling on his holy hill.

Application:

We are all refugees, wandering and searching for a place to call home. We do not belong here but are citizens of the kingdom and therefore long for a place to dwell. We are drawn to the LORD’s tent for there we finally feel a sense of belonging.

We will encounter others who are looking for a place to call home. There are many wandering refugees in this world, both spiritually and physically. The church is to be the community in which we find our home. This gathering of God’s holy people becomes the place of transformation where people are invited to abide.

The church needs to be the place where every refugee can find a home. Even if we are dwelling in a country for which we have a passport — we are still a spiritual refugee and need to find a home. The world is teeming with people who are spiritual refugees, wandering day by day and looking for a place where they can finally belong. If the church is not that place they will look elsewhere and there they will abide.

Why should we stop short on simply considering the spiritual refugee? Today the world is full of physical refugees who are fleeing for their lives and looking for a place of safety. Where will they find the place where they can abide? What would happen if they found a sanctuary of God’s holy love where they might experience the transformational presence of the LORD? All refugees are looking for a home. God has already invited us into his home and in this way becomes an example for the church to follow. To reflect God is to become a sanctuary of his transformational presence for the wandering.

Let’s open our doors and invite those in who need to a place to abide.

Prayer:

LORD, thank you for providing a place for me.  Amen.

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Trinitarian Vision and Invitation



Scripture:

John 1:29   The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’  31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.”  32 And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.  33 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’  34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

Observation:

In this opening sequence of John’s gospel the full and complex nature of Christ is revealed. Jesus’ earthly cousin, John the Baptist was following his calling, baptizing with water and preparing the way for the one who would come after him. John is privileged to baptize Jesus and in that moment he has a vision of the Triune God. Jesus, the God-man is baptized and the Holy Spirit descends and the vision expands for John to be able to declare that this is the Son of God. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are all revealed in this climactic moment at the initiation of the work and ministry of the one who is called, “the Lamb of God.” The vision reveals the fullness of who Christ is and the loving engagement of God with those who are lost.

The vision will expand into an invitation through the sacrifice of the lamb. Through participation in Christ, humanity, empowered by the Holy Spirit may participate in the community of holy love revealed in the Triune God. John lays it out for us right here at the beginning. giving us a little foretaste of what will be unpacked throughout his gospel.

Application:

Today is Trinity Sunday when much of Christianity will celebrate the Triune God. I remember growing up as a child in the church and wrestling with this idea of the Trinity. We learned about it in Sunday School and in Caravans. People were always trying to come up with ways to understand the Trinity — like water being revealed as ice, liquid and steam — however, even these ideas and models seemed to always fall apart at some point. I later learned that some of these models were actually heresies and had been named as such centuries previous.

One of my most vivid memories is sitting in my first Systematic Theology class in Seminary and reading “Grace, Faith, and Holiness.” There I began to discover the richness of the Trinity and I had this aha moment when I understood why it would be the very first Article of Faith for our church. This understanding the truth is foundational to everything else that we believe. The holy and loving community found within the Trinity was an open invitation to me.

Kent Brower sees throughout John’s gospel a holy dance of mutual love within the Trinity. “John invites us to enter into just this kind of dance to enter into this unceasing dance of perpetual love, to be enveloped in the holy love of the Triune God and swept up into that most intimate of relationships. The words come out again, ‘Come, dance with us!’” The vision of the Trinity is an invitation to become participants in fellowship with the divine nature of God — and this is transformational.

God in the Trinity is a relationship of holy love. No wonder we are charged to love God and love neighbor for this is a reflection of all that is found within the Trinity. It is awe-inspiriting and it is overwhelming.

My tribe comes from the holiness tradition. Again — that aha moment sitting in class. If God IS holy love, then holiness becomes God’s desire for all of humanity. Holiness isn’t optional — for to opt out would mean to opt out of a relationship with God.

As we celebrate the Trinity this day may we be reminded that we are invited into the relationship of holy love. Christ will be revealed in and through those who are reflecting that in which they are participating.  The vision and the invitation are before us. Come — let us join in.

Prayer:

God, thank you for the invitation into divine fellowship. Your love overwhelms. Amen.

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Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Right Role Models

Scripture:

3John 9   I have written something to the church; but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority.  10 So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing in spreading false charges against us. And not content with those charges, he refuses to welcome the friends, and even prevents those who want to do so and expels them from the church.

3John 11   Beloved, do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.  12 Everyone has testified favorably about Demetrius, and so has the truth itself. We also testify for him, and you know that our testimony is true.

Observation:

Diotrephes and Demetrius — both men who were serving in the church and yet, one was a living example of what it meant to follow Christ and the other was not. We don’t know the exact circumstances or the basis of Diotrephes’ actions but he was holding fast to the power which he had somehow assumed. He took authority to judge people and even expel visitors. More than likely Diotrephes refused to preach what he had been taught by the Apostles and chose to preach his own teachings. Often this becomes the birthplace of heresy and the Apostles refused to be silent for this abuse of preaching, if not corrected, would corrupt the understanding of many others.

It’s common for people to look to others as their role models and imitate them in life. We are to be discerning about what is good and what is not. A good role model is one who reflects Christ. If their behaviors are not consistent with that of Jesus Christ then they should not be imitated. Demetrius was a faithful follower, just like the elder Gaius and worthy of imitation. His life reflected Christ and those around him testified to this truth. He was the right role model.

Application:

How discerning are we about those whom we allow to influence our lives? If Diotrephes had been alive today I imagine he would have had an incredible following on social media. I’m guessing he would have been blogging and posting almost all day long, sharing with others from his “great pool of wisdom,” whether it was consistent with traditional theological truths or not. Innocent and uneducated people would be star-struck by his uncanny ability to communicate and make them feel good and they would begin to imitate his behaviors, even if they weren’t consistent with the life of Christ.

People are hungry for good role models in life and it’s easy to become attracted to the most charismatic person around. This Scripture is a gentle reminder for cautious consideration when it comes to following others. Demetrius was known for the way in which he lived his life, not for the way in which he wielded power and influence. His life was seen as good and reflecting of the truth. He may not have had much time for social media because he was simply too busy serving the Lord.

The best role model for life may be someone you’ve never noticed because they’ve been quietly going about the business of serving God. Look for the person who can walk the walk, not just talk the talk! This is the kind of role model we all need in our lives.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the faithful servants whom I’ve been blessed to encounter. Please use them to influence my life. Amen.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Time to Rest



Scripture:

Matt. 11:25   At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants;  26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.  27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
Matt. 11:28   “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Observation:

Living into the mission of Jesus takes faith because it doesn’t always make sense in the eyes of the wealthy and powerful. Instead, we are to live in faith — as little children.

Jesus’ relationship with his Father is unique. The Son lives out the Father’s mission and we are invited to participate in the mission, as well as the relationship.

The burden of the mission can seem overwhelming and when we try to carry it alone we will break. During the time of Christ a yoke was used to lighten the load. Jesus’ yoke not only lightens the load but it helps us in the mission. Instead of working hard on our own, we are encouraged to find rest for our souls. When he leads -- he takes on the burden.

Application:

I’m preaching to myself again today because I can get pretty excited about serving in God’s mission. At the same time I have a tendency to try and carry the burden myself. Over and over again the Lord reminds us to trust in him and his leading. Not only are we to trust in him, but we are to rest in him. We are to take a deep breath, relax and realize that God knows better than we do what we need to be doing and where we need to expend our energies. The best thing we can do today is to draw nearer to our Lord. He graciously invites us to come and rest with him.

From time to time I have the privilege of snuggling with my grand baby. I love scooping her up in my arms and holding her close in my arms. When she relaxes she lays her head on my chest and we just enjoy the moments of bonding together. I believe this is the invitation that we are receiving from the Lord today. The burdens of life will wear us down if we don’t take the time to simply rest. Resting in the Lord rejuvenates us for the challenges of life and ministry. Let’s make space in our lives for the strength and mission which we received from him.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the promise of rest. Amen.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Divine Origin of Love



Scripture:

1John 4:7   Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.  9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.  10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.  11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.  12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Observation:

Love is not something that a human simply orchestrates in their own life, but it is of divine origin. The very nature of God is holy love and this is a gift provided for all of humanity. This love does not depend on what we do, but on who God is.  Jesus brings the very nature of God into the body of a human, providing a pathway for our participation with God. This act of Christ’s self-emptying is overwhelming and we recognize that the initiation of  love is always from God, not from humankind. Therefore, as we are filled with God’s love through participation in Christ, then that love is to flow from us to others. God lives in us and God’s love is brought to completion by reaching a lost world through us. God’s love proceeds from the heart of those who are being transformed into the likeness of the image of Christ. Pure and holy love, reflected in the lives of God’s adopted children who are bearing the family resemblance and therefore cannot help but reach out in love.

Application:

Not everyone we encounter in life will be lovable. Even good friends will, at times, frustrate and disappoint us. However, our reactions to these situations will be determined by our relationship to our holy God.  Also, our actions toward those who need our love will be defined by our relationship with God.

I find that I don’t cope as well with life when I am tired and I haven’t been spending the time with the Lord that I should. When I strike off on my own and try to make it through the day without having spent time with the Lord I will respond out of my own limited resources and not out of the deep well of God’s love.

Even ministering to others can become very tiring. Compassion fatigue is a very real thing which many face after giving of themselves to others for extended periods of time. Eventually, if we try to do this on our own we will simply become exhausted!

The divine origin of love is from God. We must remember that separating love from God is never really possible. We may try. The world around us may try. But anytime we do we trivialize what true love is and God’s divine act of mercy in Christ becomes lost.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to live in and through you today so that your love may be revealed in me. Amen.

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Living a life of Love



Scripture:


Eph. 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children,  2 and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Observation:

The Apostle Paul wanted the believers of Ephesus to continue to grow in their faith. He knew that a life without discipleship would result in stagnation; a life which certainly would not be reflective of Christ in this world. To be a disciple meant to follow Christ — to imitate him and to live like him. Christ’s nature of holy love exuded from every action recorded for us in the word. Therefore to imitate Christ meant to live a life of love and just as Jesus gave himself up for us, our imitation of Christ should result in our lives being a “fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” That’s what it means to live a life of love.

Application:

Back in the day we spent a lot of time talking about Sunday School! In my tradition this was one of the great founding features of our church. Not until the 1970’s did our church begin to record morning worship attendance. The health of the church had always been determined by Sunday School attendance.

Maybe we had something right there! Not that we would go back and do Sunday School like we did in the 1960’s, but perhaps, the emphasis on Sunday School, or discipleship as the primary work of the church was not all that wrong. As our lives become filled with more and more to do we have cut the amount of time that we devote to church - and, I believe, to imitation of Christ. It’s much more convenient to simply come to a worship service that doesn’t require any personal accountability than to meet with a small group.

What would it mean for the church to rediscover discipleship, imitation of Christ, and living a life of love? It won’t happen if it’s not a priority and we aren't intentional. This week I attended a meeting where the people were wrestling with the concept of missional communities; intentional groups that are focused on discipleship, serving one another and living lives reflect Christ to others. It's getting back to this idea of imitating Christ that Paul was talking about.

The secular world may talk about living in love but Christians ought to dominate the conversation because imitation of Christ will result in Christ’s love being spread everywhere we go. Remember, Jesus had said that the world would know his disciples by the way that they loved!  Christ-centered love should dominate our lives, and this is genuinely revealed when that love points people to Christ — and never to us! And in this act, we come to a place of willing sacrifice for the sake of others. My life and my priorities are nothing in light of kingdom business. Jesus emptied himself of all his rights for you and me. We are called to a life of discipleship, of continual growth, as we reflect him everywhere we go.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to know you more today than I did yesterday. Amen.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Futility of Our Mind



Scripture:

Eph. 4:17   Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. 

Observation:

Many of the converts in Ephesus were Gentiles and yet, there must have been a tug on them that would draw them back toward their previous way of life. The result was a displacement of Christ in the central place in their lives. In this case their minds were not being used for contemplation of spiritual matters, but instead, a dependence upon human conscience surrendered to the flesh. The result is that our human minds, not submitted toward a holy God, lead us to a place of alienation where the good news can no longer be grasped. Our trust and dependence is upon ourselves as our own minds lead us into a place of futility, separated from the relationship with God who makes us truly human.

Application:

The finite nature of our minds will lead us to a dead-end in our thinking. This, in turn, becomes an act of futility for some of the issues of our day need solutions which may be greater than our human minds can comprehend. When we are united with our Lord, we are opened up to the limitless possibilities found in an infinite God. The futility of our minds is transformed into eternal possibilities found in our holy and loving God. The result is more than what we could ever ask or imagine as we trust in him.

These are good words to remember as we peruse the internet and check out the news of the day. From refugees fleeing for their lives to volcanoes beginning to rumble many of the problems bring us to the end of our own personal resources.

There are things that are out of our control!

I’m writing this as I sit in an airport awaiting the departure of a thunderstorm which seems to reinvigorate itself right above this airport over and over again. When will we ever be able to depart? No one really knows because we are limited human beings. In this case, even the airlines like to declare that this is an act of God over which they have no control (and no compensation will be made for the delays :) ). My human mind would like to try and solve this conundrum — so I check out the radar map and try to determine when there will be a window of opportunity for us to fly. Of course, they’re not going to ask me (which is a good thing!). I also go on-line to figure out all the alternative flights to get me to my final destination today but everything is dependent upon the length and intensity of this storm which seems to be either stationary or growing above us. Ah — the futility of my mind. No matter how hard I try, I can’t fix or resolve this!

Why not sit back, read the word and enjoy the time that God has given me?

When we give in to the futility of our mind, we become more distant from God and our dependence upon him. Paul knew that this would be detrimental to the faith of the Christians at Ephesus and it is destructive to our faith as well. No matter how educated or experienced we might be the finite nature of our minds will lead us to a place of futility. We are invited into a relationship of dependence upon our holy God who will open up for us more possibilities than our minds could never imagine. Futility is turned to eternal hope when we trust in Christ.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me today to continually turn to you and trust in your infinite wisdom — and help me enjoy this weather delay! May this time be used as an opportunity to know you and show your love. Amen.

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Preaching Christ



Scripture:

Eph. 3:7   Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power.  8 Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ,

Observation:


Paul was living into his calling. He recognized that God had saved him from a journey aimed at the destruction of those who were following Christ. This remained a humbling factor throughout his entire life. But while he had soundly rejected Christ, once he met him face to face on the road to Damascus, Paul was transformed. He embraced his calling to preach the good news of Christ everywhere he went, and specifically to the Gentiles. This was radical for Paul — a Jew among the Jews — with an incredible pedigree. He became not only a missionary, but a theologian-teacher. He left all behind when in obedience he preached Christ to the Gentiles, those whom the Jews had thought were out of the reach of God. Paul opened up the possibility of the incredible riches of Christ to those who were poor in faith. It wouldn’t have made sense to those in authority, but God was Paul’s authority, and so he lived in obedience and continued to preach the good news of Christ everywhere he went.

Application:

Think about the popular preachers of our day and the topics about which they preach. How often do we hear Christ preached? I’m not sure that it’s all that often because we are covering a variety of contemporary topics. That’s not necessarily a problem because I believe that Paul preached on the big issues of the day but always through the lens of knowing Christ. When he preached the good news of the “boundless riches of Christ,” he was sharing the ways in which Christ resources the needs of our day. But again, always giving perspective through Christ.

Our lives are to preach Christ. No matter what we are facing today we need to reference Christ. Christ becomes an example for us to follow, and the Holy Spirit empowers us for all that we encounter. If we are called to stand behind the pulpit and proclaim the good news — don’t forget Christ! The calling of Paul falls upon us as we continue to preach Christ to the Gentiles today. We have a world that may be just as illiterate about the Messiah as the Gentiles were in Paul’s day. His example may just be more relevant than we imagine. The world isn’t in need of the latest self-help manual, but needing to know Christ and the “news of [his] boundless riches.”

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, I am grateful for the good news which was preached to me. Please, help me be faithful in sharing the news of you with others.  Amen.

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Sunday, May 8, 2016

What Kind of Water?


Scripture:

Psa. 46:4        There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
        the holy habitation of the Most High.
5     God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
        God will help it when the morning dawns.
6     The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
        he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7     The LORD of hosts is with us;
        the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Observation:

Often in the Scriptures we find various descriptions of water. Right from the beginning of creation we read about the waters which seemed a bit wild. Over and over we read about the storms of life, or the tempestuous seas. Rough waters often symbolize the world in which we live; wild, and out of control. There are times when we feel that we may be consumed by these rough waters, wondering if we will drown.

Now the Psalmist introduces us to a different kind of water. This is life-giving water in the form of the Holy Spirit which makes "glad the city of God." The Holy Spirit continually pours forth from God who dwells in the midst of his people. After a long and anxious night the morning arrives with the refreshing presence of God's Holy Spirit. The world may continue to shake and tremble, the waters of the sea remain rough, but God's steam gives us life day after day and reminds us of his holy presence. The water of God's presence flows through the rivers, streams and into the surrounding lands. We follow the river of his Spirit in daily provision for life and ministry in the kingdom.

Application:

Oceans, lakes, rivers and streams -- they all exist in our lives. We can choose to focus on one kind of water or another. If we simply look upon the wild waters of this world we will become frightened and discouraged. We may even give up hope and simply succumb to the waves, but this is not what God has promised his people. The promise of provision is found in these verses. God's water will not destroy -- but will bring life. If our focus is on drinking from the waters of  the Holy Spirit then we will be sustained in the midst of the difficulties. Not too little -- not too much -- but just enough strength and leading for every single day!

God's desire is not for us to be drown by the storms of this life but to be sustained by his living water. What kind of water are we drinking today?

Prayer:

Lord, your daily provision continually reveals your love for us. Thank you.  Amen.

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Saturday, May 7, 2016

Making Today Count



Scripture:


Psalm 90:12     So teach us to count our days
        that we may gain a wise heart.

Observation:


Sometimes we live as if we had all the time in the world. The reality is that our time here on earth is limited and those who are wise will recognize the need to carefully navigate the ways of life. Make the most of the opportunities that have been afforded to us and walk in the truth of God. Sometimes it's awfully hard to make up for lost time.

Application:

There have been times in my life when I have been tempted to worry away the days. I'm really good at being a worst-case scenario planner! I like to think through the worst-case scenarios and be prepared for all of them. This not necessarily a good way to live and it can consume so much time that you forget to actually live out the day which you have been given.

The writer of the Psalms is reminding us to trust in God -- to unite with God in his mission in the world! In doing so we realize that every single day is a gift from God and is an invitation to participation in the kingdom. When we spend time in worry, we miss out on what God is already doing today. It's much more exciting to open our eyes and see God's grace moving ahead and preparing a way.

Wisdom teaches us to make today count. There are plenty of distractions that would sap away our time and energy but when God's wisdom is leading us, we just may move in different directions. Follow after God -- and make today count!

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the reminder about what really is important.  Amen.

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Friday, May 6, 2016

But God



Scripture:

Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 

Observation:

God's incredible grace and mercy is revealed in this passage for it comes in response to what we have done. We were dead through our trespasses and sins -- but God! We refused to live according to the leading of the Spirit -- but God. We lived according to the passions of the flesh -- but God. We were all born into sin -- but God.

Application:

This is the good news -- but God "rich in mercy," loved all of us anyway. The good Father never, ever gives up on his children and awaits them with his arms stretched wide open welcoming them home by grace. No one is ever worthy of this salvation for all are sinners and an infinite number of good works would never make any of us worthy. But God -- loved us anyway, and thanks be to God he sent his son to die for us. All can be made alive in him.

Prayer:

Lord, it's hard to imagine your love and mercy that reaches out to us but I am so grateful. Thank you for your abounding love.  Amen.

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Family



Scripture:

Heb. 2:10    It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.  11 For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters,  12 saying,
    “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,
        in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”
13 And again,
    “I will put my trust in him.”
And again,
    “Here am I and the children whom God has given me.”

Observation:

Photius reminds us that Jesus is God by nature and our brother by grace. (Fragments on the Epistle to the Hebrews 2.11)  When we begin to ponder the incredible impact of Christ's incarnation it becomes a bit overwhelming. His love for us compelled Christ to become what we are so that we might become like him. We are invited into family life, to take on the very holy nature of God and Christ, fellowshipping with the Trinity. This is life in the family.

Application:

Some of my best memories in life come from hanging out with the family. I have always loved spending time with my parents and brothers. It's not often that we all get to hang out together but when we do, we have a blessed time. There's always a lot of laughing and reminiscing.

Favorite memories of family time with our girls will take me to our apartment in Moscow on Ulitsa Mariy Ulyanovou. I can see us sitting around our breakfast table, talking and having devotions together in the morning. I loved walking to school with the girls when they were little. Picking them up at the end of the day was the best because they talked non-stop all the way home, filling us in on the day.

Playing table games together is also a fond memory -- or watching the latest video we had been able to procure. Listening as Chuck sat on the couch reading the "Chronicles of Narnia" to the girls out loud in the evenings was great. Just being together as family was such a warm and safe feeling.

Jesus came to bring us into the family. All the rights and privileges of family life are ours when we enter into this relationship with our holy God. Time to settle in and embrace all that it means to be a part of this family!

Prayer:


Lord, thank you for the incredible love shown to us through you.  Amen.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Not The Same Results



Scripture:

Matthew 13:23 But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Observation:

The parable of the sower gives us a glimpse of the different kinds of responses that can result from sowing seeds. There are those who will simply continue to live in the carnality of their own life and desires. There are others who will be distracted by their wealth and the things of this world. There will also be those who truly hear the word and are transformed. As they follow Christ out into the world they will reach out ministering in his name. The results for each of God's faithful followers will not be the same. All of the yields are greater than the normal human harvest and therefore they are dependent upon God. As long as one hears, understands and is faithful, the size of the harvest remains in the hand of God.

Application:

There were plenty of farming methods available to the people of Jesus' day and they understood how to apply those principles, but even the best farmer might only yield an eight fold harvest. Lots of hard work, study and strategizing could be seen as successful but it had its limitations. Those who are laboring for the Lord often feel the need to produce results and be successful in both the worlds' and the church's eyes. We measure results and these days we are hopeful that there may be a two-fold harvest. Instead, when Christ tells us that the one who hears the word and understands it will have a harvest greater than what they could have imagined.

Hearing the word and understanding it takes time learning from Christ himself. This doesn't fit our patterns of busyness in the kingdom. We think that we have to follow the latest plan or program which has been laid out for us but the reality is that we need to spend time with the Lord! When the Lord gets involved then the results are his -- not ours. In God's creative imagination the results of kingdom work vary from time to time. Just because one has a hundred fold response and another thirty doesn't mean that one worker is better than another. Both of these results are greater than simple human effort and therefore the Lord is glorified -- and should get the credit!

We are not to compare ourselves by human standards, but we are to live in complete and total obedience to the word. Listen to where God may be leading this day and follow into the harvest which is already being prepared. The results belong to God.

Prayer:


Lord, may this be a day of listening to your leading and guidance.  Amen.

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Truth and Holiness



Scripture:

Psa. 93:5        Your decrees are very sure;
        holiness befits your house,
        O LORD, forevermore.

Observation:

In the midst of the raging waters of this world God’s truth remains the same. The world will change her mind and things will be in and out of season, but God’s holiness doesn’t change with the styles of the world. God’s holiness is just that — God’s holiness! The very nature and character of God and when God dwells in the house, then God’s nature fills the place. Your temple, both personal and corporate, is to be a place of God’s dwelling. When God is in the house it becomes a holy house, cleansed from sin and reflects the beauty of God’s holiness. “It is the holiness of God’s house that secures it against the many waters and their noise.” (Henry) God’s truth set the Psalmist free as he lived into the very nature of the God with whom he fellowshipped.

Application:

The promise of this passage is transformation into the image of God and living in his holiness for all of eternity. God’s truth leads us to a place of all encompassing submission to God’s leading in our lives. There must be complete surrender to our own personal desires and submission to God's.

We do live in a time of questioning -- when we begin to wonder if there is any such thing as truth. The word tells us that Jesus is truth. All truth can be found in him and therefore to know truth, is to know him in a personal way. To know the decrees of the Lord is to know the mind of Christ. His thoughts become our thoughts and he begins to infuse our understanding with with his very nature and character. God begins to dwell in and through us and in every facet of our lives. The nature of God befits our house -- for God dwells in our house.

What dark corners of our house are unbefitting holiness? They are the ones in which we do not allow the truth of Jesus to enter. I'm guessing we all have those areas of our lives where we would like to remain master. Submission to God must become a natural part of our daily walk with the Lord. The Psalmist had to learn his own lessons and so do we. It's that daily invitation -- keeping the doors of our personal lives unlocked and allowing the Holy Spirit to freely dwell in every part of our being. God's holiness becomes ever-present, permeating our lives, and leading us into an everlasting relationship with our holy God.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to walk in your truth.  Amen.

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